Oct 212016

Akashic Mysteries


It has been coming for a long time – the completed Akashic Mysteries book, which clocks in at a mighty 97 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 92 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


So, what is this? The simple reply would be “fixed incarnum with a Silk Road flavor.” If that does not ring any bells, let me reiterate. Akasha is a type of magic that is utilized most commonly via veils that are channeled through conduits in the body called chakra. Every creature is supposed to have a finite amount of essence in their being, which is called essence pool. Essence is typically not expended, but veils and other akashic effects require it for activation and thus, essence needs to be assigned to a specific function. This is done by investing essence into the receptacle, which can be a veil, an akashic feat (more on these later) or ability. Reallocating or investing essence, unless otherwise noted, is a swift action. The process of harnessing veils is called veilweaving and thus, the classes here are known as veilweaving classes. Progressing in these unlocks new chakras, which allow for veils or function of veils or other akashic abilities to be used in ways that are based on the veil in question. Each veil is associated with a chakra and veils do not interfere with magic items worn in that slot, but no two veils can occupy the same chakra. However, some veils may be employed in different chakra, often with different effects depending on the chakra used…however, one veil may not be in use for two or more different chakras. You can only ever have one veil of a given type in effect atone time. The general chakra available are Hands, feet, Head, Wrists, Shoulders, Headband, Neck, belt, Chest, Body – though some classes can gain unique chakras. Veils interact with magic as though they were magic and SR applies against most effects, but not versus auras or AoE abilities unless otherwise noted. Veils overcome their own SR automatically. Veils manifest as physical constructs that may temporarily be sundered and suppressed, with hit points and hardness of the veils depending on the level of the veilweaver.


Concise rules are provided regarding descriptors, identifying veils, etc. Now there are a couple of more basic terms we need to cover: Some feats and veils require the binding, rather than the investment of essence – this means that the essence is “stuck” in the receptacle for 24 hours or until the user shapes veils anew after resting. If such a receptacle is sundered or disjoined, the user takes essence burn equal to the total of the invested essence. Essence burn eliminates essence and requires 1 minute of quiet contemplation per point of essence burn to recover. Temporary essence points, if granted by anything, are burned first and may not be recovered. Veils do not require active concentration to maintain, but upon the veilweaver falling unconscious, they are suppressed until he regains consciousness. Veils sundered while the veilweaver is unconscious are destroyed and cannot be redeployed until he has rested. Finally, there would be essence capacity, which denotes the number of essence points that can be invested in any given veil, feat, class feature, etc. – these would be 1 for the first 5 levels and then increase by +1 at 6th and every 6 levels thereafter.


Veils are generally described in a format, that provides their name, descriptor(s) (if any), class that may form it, slot(s), saving throws, a brief fluff text and then the benefits of the veil, followed by an essence benefit section for invested/bound essence. The Chakra Bind section denotes the chakra and the class level at which it becomes available for the class in question (very handy reference!), which minimizes page-skipping. (G20 for Guru 20, for example.) Kudos!


Okay, the first thing you’ll note is that that the terminology has been cleaned up when compared to the earlier WIPs – the respective verbiage makes sense, is self-explanatory and if this sounds complicated, rest assured that it isn’t necessarily once you have grasped it: Basically, you have points that you move around to make magic stuff. Sometimes, you need to fix the points, sometimes you temporarily lose them, but generally, you’ll be pretty flexible in moving around your points of magic stuff. The veils can be powered by the magic stuff and you learn to use them in more ways as you gain experience. Much like a cool button or temporary tattoo, the effects of veils depend where you wear them. That’s about as simple as I can explain it.


Anyways, we obviously need to re-evaluate the 3 akashic base classes released so far in order to ascertain whether/how they have improved. If you are not interested in this section, skip ahead. The text is modified, where appropriate, to reflect the changes made (quite a few!), but if you’re already familiar with the akashic classes and don’t care about the nit and grit, go ahead. It should be noted, though, that the classes have changed quite a bit since their original iterations.

***Class Breakdown-section***

Daevics gain d10, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, all armors and shields (but not tower shields), full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves. The veilweaving here is different from the other two classes, but there are similarities – the DCs, if appropriate, is DC 10 + number of essence invested in the veil + Cha-mod (making Charisma the governing attribute here and decreasing the DC from the WIP to more generally palpable levels), but there is a crucial difference to default veilweaving – the veils granted at 1st, 4th, 9th and 15th level must be selected from the list of the chosen passion, whereas the other veils gained operate like standard veils, meaning the progression is from 0+1 to 4+4 over the 20 levels of the class. Essence is gained at 1st level, increases at 3rd and scales up to 10 for a net of every 1/2 progression. Chakra binds begin at 2nd level and scale up to 6, with progression being Feet, Hands, Wrists, Shoulders, Belt, Neck, Chest. On the minor engine-tweaks, 5th level nets +1 to saves versus enchantments, which scales up by +1 every 3 levels thereafter.


Now I noted the existence of passions – these are chosen at first level. When a daevic invests essence into a veil of a passion (called passion veils), it counts as being invested in all passion veils, meaning that the very scarce essence pool makes investing points here more efficient. However, at the same time, power escalation is prevented by an explicit rule that forbids synergy with veil-specific feats, effects or catalysts, though you CAN also bind them as normal veils and circumvent these restrictions (but also foregoing the passion veil benefits), adding a further dimension to these veils. Three sample passions are provided, and all modify the list of available passion veils to choose from, the class skill list and all ultimately change how the class plays, so what are they?


The first passion would be desire – which allows 3rd level daevics to use Charisma for Appraise and may replace both Dex and Int as prereqs with Cha for the purpose of feat-prerequisites, offsetting some, but not all strain that would otherwise be burdened MAD-wise on a full BAB character. The in-game rationale for this, while not perfect, at least is sufficient for me – why do I mention this? Because I get pimples from the default “I’m so good-looking I hit foes”-rationale employed by some abilities out there. So kudos! Bonus-feat-wise, they gain Precise Shot and Willful Throw. An interesting option – at 6th level, a passion mutates into one of 2 choices – here, this would be love or avarice. Love provides an NPC-companion that is pretty powerful (-2 levels or -3 CR for less humanoid ones…) – but it does not stack with Leadership. Furthermore, as a balancing caveat, eidolons and similar creatures are dismissed on behalf of the paramour and the character thus chosen may not be a full spellcaster (or full-spellcasting equivalent class like the veilweaver). Daevics that follow the passion of avarice add the returning and called abilities if within the daevic’s possession for more than 24 hours – however, the abilities are lost again upon willingly giving them to another creature. On the nitpicky side, there are some minor formal glitches here. At 12th and 18th level, this ability improves regarding action economy and adds unnatural lust to the weapon thus thrown, respectively.


The second passion to choose would be dominion, which focuses on two-weapon fighting with a shield. (TWF at 3rd, Improved Shield Bash at 5th, Shield master at 8th, if you want to know the details.) The 6th level selection allows for the choice of either benevolence or tyranny, with the former providing a scaling, temporary teamwork-feat-granting ability, while the latter provides demoralize support as swift actions with scaling bonuses.


The final passion, wrath, has some nasty tricks: Whenever the daevic bull rushes or overruns a foe, he may execute an AoO against the foe before moving the foe, though this powerful effect is somewhat countered by the lack of gained bonus feat – instead CMB and CMD increase at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Wrath may transform into justice or vengeance at 6th level, with justice providing access to the vital strike feat-chain…and the option to execute the Bull Rush/overrun-granted AoOs with Vital Strikes added. As for vengeance:1/round full-attack against a target when succeeding a Bull Rush or Overrun, but only with natural weapons and only against said target. This ultimately boils down to a meat-grinder -only shreds and gooey bits remain in the path of such a daevic. The changes to the passions made here are unanimously awesome and help keeping the daevic powerful sans being too strong. Absolutely beautiful, as far as I’m concerned.


At 9th and 15th level, the essence capacity of the passion increases by a further +1.


The Blood Bind ability’s write-up fails to mention that it’s gained at 12th level (which one glance at the table confirms, but still a minor aesthetic hiccup) – but it *is* interesting: It provides essentially an additional slot, into which the daevic can bind Neck, Head, Headband and Body slot veils, but whenever he does that with a non-Blood veil, he takes twice the essence invested damage each round and when reassigning veils, which means it can’t be abused. Nice! The capstone is a boring native outsider-apotheosis and can reassign veils via 1-hour meditation. Odd – the daevic gains the body-slot at 20th level, which means that prior to this level, he can bind body veils only to the blood slot.


All in all: Vast improvement over the original iteration. Let’s move on to the guru, shall we?


The Guru base-class gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor and simple weapons, but not shields and enhance these based on class choices made – more on that later. Chassis-wise, the guru receives a 3/4 BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. They begin play with 1 veil and scale that up to 8 and 1 essence, which increases to up to 20. The veilshaping of the guru has the DC equal to 10 + points invested in the veil + Wis-mod, making Wisdom the governing attribute.


I really enjoy the first level ability gentle touch – if a guru invests at least one point of essence into this ability, all damage he does with a weapon becomes nonlethal, but also receives + Wisdom-modifier bonus damage, rewarding not killing everything that crosses the PC’s path. A guru may invest into this ability as a swift action, and for each point assigned, the nonlethal damage inflicted increases by +1d4, though it can only be used in conjunction with weapons granted proficiency-wise by the philosophy of the guru…one of which contains shuriken. Because that didn’t yet have enough exploits. Then again, the ability specifically says “a weapon” – singular. Which would mean ONE shuriken…and I’ll stick with that reading…in dubio pro reo and such…


1st level Gurus also choose a philosophy,. which grants a linear progression of abilities at 1st level and every 3 levels thereafter. Philosophy abilities tend to burn essence points, which means that the essence cannot be used or reassigned until the guru has had a chance to meditate, providing a complex game of resources between flexibility and power – you can’t write player agenda in larger letters. Additionally, gurus of first level get stunning fist, but with some tweaks – the benefits can be applied to weapon attacks made with gentle touch and the guru can burn three essence to regain 1 use of stunning fist 1/day, +1/day at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 2nd level nets chakra bind in the progression of Hands, Feet, Head, Headband, Neck, Belt, Body. 4th, 10th and 19th level increase the essence capacity of chakras by +1.


At 2nd level, gurus learn to sunder veils particularly efficiently, allowing them to expend stunning fist uses in conjunction with gentle touch to suppress veils/spells and deal damage to undead or constructs, in spite of them being usually immune to nonlethal damage.


The 3rd level guru may interrupt the chakras of foes when executing an attack – this works as a standard action pretty much akin to vital strike and has a DC of 10 + Wis mod, +2 per essence invested in gentle touch, which allows for a pretty nasty escalation of DCs – penalizing one attack mode, decreasing movement rate, decreasing shield and Dex-bonuses and high-level blinding, stunning and exhausting foes can be found amidst these effects. These last for Wisdom modifier rounds and a single target may only be affected by one such disruption at any given time.


7th level nets an autohealing ability determined by the amount of essence bound, though essence invested in this limited-use ability cannot be reinvested until rest. So yeah, no abuse! Yay! 8th level allows gentle touch to act as sunder-attacks that ignore 1/2 hardness AND allows for the damaging of constructs. As a minor nitpick, we once again have to consult the table, since the ability doesn’t say the level it’s gained. 16th level provides the option to expend Stunning Fist uses when attacking foes to double as what amounts to a single-target disjunction that leaves items intact. As a minor complaint here: The pdf sports several spells not italicized and captalizes gentle touch here as though it were a feat, not an ability…but this is aesthetics and doesn’t impede the book’s worth.

The capstone provides healing and even temporary essence to the guru when e.g. disjoining foes – cool and surprisingly powerful!


Now I mentioned philosophies – a total of 3 are provided, with each granting its own set of uncommon weapon proficiencies. The first of these would be the Akasin. When meditating in an area of bright light, they can gain a pool of temporary essence that is burned first by the respective philosophy abilities and amounts to 1/2 class level, which it may never exceed. Essence burn taken to activate an ability nets this guy 5 times the burn taken temporary hit points. In addition, the akasin can take 1 essence burn to execute veil of positive energy as an SP at full caster level. At 4th level, healing blindness is possible via 1 essence burn, as is shooting rays – which deal an untyped damage that is more potent vs. the undead. Not a fan of the untyped damage here, but the save to negate blindness and halve damage is neat. Higher level akasins further marginalize the poor shield bonus to AC, bypassing it alongside 2 points of AC with blades of light – it should be noted that expenditure of stunning fist uses can further upgrade this ability with brilliant energy. As a pretty cool note, though – the mirrored property does help against this, which eases my grumbling.


The akasin may also use an essence-burn-powered raise dead, thankfully with a daily limit at 10th level – oh, and it has a no-negation caveat. 13th level provides immunity to blind and dazzled and provides a daylight aura that can be resumed or suppressed. At 16th level, I am not complaining about taking essence burn of up to class level to add as bonus damage that ignores all resistances and DRs, though factor 5 is NASTY. I think adding a daily cap would be in order here for reasons of preventing (relatively inefficient) one-strike-builds. Now this *looks* much worse than it is in game – it is spam-proof. See, that’s why I playtest these classes – this one looks much more powerful than it is. So yes, I like the ability, though I believe it could be one that will sooner or later end in undeserved pointed fingers. Finally, 19th level nets at-will teleport between light sources


The sineater philosophy is somewhat problematic – it allows for the regain of essence burn via attacks of gentle touch when used against targets with an Int of 3+ . The ability also allows for the reflexive burn of essence to negate damage that would bring the guru down to below 0 hp – interesting, since the amount of damage negated is significant and would be overpowered, were it not for the restriction, thus making the guru a good candidate for last man standing. While the Int-caveat avoids failure of the kitten-test, I’m still not 100% sold here – though the rest of the philosophy is balanced against this – limited DR and limited fast healing/regeneration for essence burn make sense regarding the established, steep costs while allowing the guru to work as a functional tank. Burning essence to increase the damage dealt to evil outsiders, aberrations and undead on a 1:5-basis at 7th level is brutal and allows for damage outputs that dwarf paladin smites, but only on singular attacks. So yeah, the guru is brutal here. 10th level provides atonement and 13th level nets Grab that can be applied to larger sized creatures depending on essence invested, while also increases the grappling capacity. 16th level provides AoE unarmed attacks and 19th level nets a paralyzing attack for Stunning Fist expenditure that also restores essence burned one a failed save. It now has a hex-style caveat, which is neat.


The third philosophy would be the Vayist, who would be the agile trickster to the sineater’s tanky playstyle – via 1 essence burn, they can tie themselves with aether to foes, penalizing them and gaining bonuses against them…and targets thus affected that miss him result in essence regain. He can have one aether tie in effect at any given time, +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. These ties last for Wisdom modifier rounds, which, by action economy and the power of math, makes kitten-ing the ability not a smart move. At 4th level, vayists may use essence burn to increase the range-increments of ranged weapons or blur or mirror image themselves. 7th level nets essence burn for getting back up as a free action, even when it’s not his turn (nice ship around of the free action ambiguity!). 10th level nets alter winds, air walk and river of wind and is solid. 16th level features the option to make at-ranged whirlwind attacks with weapons teleporting back and 19th level provides a continuous freedom of movement. Significantly tightened concept-wise!


All in all, in every way superior to the previous iteration of the class!


Onwards to the vizier, shall we? The vizier receives d6, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor, bucklers and simple weapons. The class has 1/2 BAB-progression and, uncommon for a full caster, but not unheard of, good fort and will-saves. The vizier’s veilweaving is governed by Intelligence and follows the 10 + essence invested + Intelligence-modifier formula for save DC calculations. The vizier’s levels count as arcane caster levels for the purposes of qualifying for feats, PrCs, etc. Viziers may invest essence in wands, staves or wondrous items that use charges, with the usual essence capacity limit modified by improved essence capacity (+1 at 3rd, 11th and 19th level – note that save DCs for veils also increase by the same amount at these levels) at later levels still applying. Essence thus assigned is considered to be bound and may not be redistributed, but the essence does act as charges for the item in question, though 9th level spells may not be activated with it. Items with essence invested in them do not require UMD-checks to utilize. Still not 100% sold here.


What do I mean by this? Warning: Nitpickery afoot. Surprisingly, I’m not complaining about items with few charges being left as treasure to have some “smart bombs” here; What I’m not sold on is simply the flat-out “no UMD”-section AND the non-scaling nature of this ability. What if the players find a wand with precious few charges or a unique staff and can just flat-out use it? I am aware that these are fringe-cases, but it would theoretically allow the vizier to utilize charge-based items beyond his level’s capacity (if the DM foolishly drops them into the treasure…) – and there is a pretty easy solution that prevents the issue: Just make the highest spell level of the item the governing factor for whether or not you have to UMD and make it scale with class level progression, by e.g. tying it to twice the character’s essence capacity. Now, yes, the base ability isn’t broken, but I maintain that such a solution would be much more elegant and prevent fringe-case abuse.


A 1st level vizier begins play with 2 veils and 1 essence and increases that to a total of 11 veils and 30 essences at 20th level. A vizier may invest up to character level essence in a given veil or receptacle.


Viziers receive instant access to all veils on the vizier’s list. Chakra binds are gained at 2nd level in the progression of Hands, Feet, head, Wrist, Shoulders, Headband, Neck, Belt, Chest and Body. The vizier does gain access to a unique veil slot: The Ring slot, which is unlocked at 9th level; at 15th level, viziers may bind and shape up to two veils in the Ring slot. At 3rd level, viziers gain veilshaping and may use a move action that provokes AoOs 1/day to unshape and instantly reshape an existing veil, though the rehsaped one can’t be bound to a chakra until the vizier has meditated for 1 hour. At every 4 levels beyond 3rd, one additional veil may be reshaped and the ability can also be used an additional time per day.


The capstone allows for at-will instant veil-reforging via aforementioned veilshaping – and whenever the class uses the veilshaping ability, he regains 3+Int temporary essence that lasts for 3 rounds and may only be used to power the veils just formed.


Viziers also receive a kind of bloodline-ish linear ability chosen at first level – a total of 3 are provided. These are called paths of mystic attunement and they very much define how the class plays.


The Path of the Crafter grants a bonus equal to 1/2 class level on all skill-checks made as part of the crafting process and may bypass crafting requirements by increasing the DC. That is *pretty* powerful. Allies within 30 ft. that activate a magic item to cast a spell, treat the caster level and DC of the activated item as +1. That is nasty, but will also make the vizier rather popular with his adventuring companions. Okay, where things get rather unique would be in one particular ability – transfer the essence. This allows you to meditate on items and exchange their bonuses and special abilities. – Found a cool weapon, but don’t have the proficiency for it? Just exchange the enchantment with those on your trusty sword. I applaud the fact that you can’t cherry-pick abilities and really like this component. Now, on the other hand, wand/staff charges can also be exchanged if the items have the same highest spell level – a fitting restriction, but one I’d suggest to be supplemented with an analogue caster level (or lower) restriction to prevent spells that increase their potency with caster level having their charges cheaply upped by using charges from items that do not scale with CL. Once again, not a bad glitch, but rather one that can easily be fixed. The ability does feature a caveat that prevents use with artifacts or cursed/intelligent weapons, though. The path also grants item creation feats and a decreased craft-price at higher levels.


The path of the ruler is all about granting a scaling 30 ft.(60 ft. at 9th)-Will-save/Sense Motive debuff aura, with selective exclusion of up to Intelligence modifier allies, who also get a bonus instead. Enforcing a reroll at high levels is nice, but when compared to the benefits granted by the other paths, the path of the ruler feels pretty bland to me.


The path of the seer increases movement of all allies within 60 ft. by +5 ft, +5 ft. more at 9th and 17th level – neat. Now the interesting part comes next – the seer learns teamwork feats and for each point invested, the class may share ALL teamwork feats granted by this ability (1 is gained at 1st, 5th, 9th and 13th level) with one ally within 60 feet. Additionally, veils tied to Hand or Feet may be shared alongside with allies, who may invest essence in them, but not benefit from veil bind in the shared veil and they neither gain the benefits of the seer’s invested essence. High-level (17th) seer-viziers may freely retrain the teamwork feats. See, that one is a competent, powerful commander-style path and once again, mops the floor with the relatively uninspired ruler-path.


Once again, some nice revisions made here.


***End Base Class Section***


One crucial difference that sets apart Akashic Mysteries from similar alternate magic systems is the sheer wide openness as a central factor of the design – this system was made to allow for dabbling, gestalting and similar processes and as such, this book does contain a lot of options for classes beyond the 3 I have covered so far, so let us dive in and take a close look, shall we?


Okay, so the first class covered would be the psionic aegis, who gains 2 1-point, 4-point and 3-point as well as a 4-point customization: Beyond the obvious chakra bind and veil shaping, there are some cool mechanic twists here that make me really grin; contemplation, for example, lets the aegis expend power points to make receptacles or veils counted as though they were invested with essence, providing a nice game of resource management I enjoy. Making essence via the ectosuit similarly is a neat concept. Speaking of cool: The Buraq animal companion (yep, you read right!) archetype basically replaces several of the usual tricks with some veilshaping, emphasizing the instinctual and universal nature of akasha: Two thumbs up!


Barbarians looking to tap into the power of akasha will like the rageshaper, who replaces 5 of his rage power with veils and temporary essence while raging, which also makes for a great representation of the trope of the hero who can only tap into supernatural powers while raging (as seen in a gazillion anime). The resonant song bard replaces the base performances with the Hands of the Bard veil and 1/4 (min 1) class level essence. Now here is where things become interesting: At higher levels, the veil separates from the bard for a kind of spectral, externalized threat. The psionic and criminally underestimated cryptic class replaces the enhanced disruptions with veilweaving at -3 levels and a fluid realignment of altered defense tied to his veils as well as a power point/essence-interaction akin to that shown by the aegis. Once again, this makes for evocative gameplay and interesting tricks. The swarm master dread gains the pretty awesome vizier’s veil-selection (at a lower progression, obviously) as well as the Pestilence Cloak veil, which, once again, he can utilize in utterly unique ways, separating from the dread and even becoming real! Oh, and swarm form at higher levels! Heck YES! The hashasheen gunslinger can cling to walls, generate akashic bullets (somewhat similar to my own etherslinger) and fire on the run – apart from the class I wrote myself, this certainly now ranks as one of my favorite gunslinger options. The akashic warrior fighter is the first archetype here I don’t really like – it basically replaces bravery with an akahsa-based variant and allows the character to invest essence in armor or weapons, but ultimately, the archetype doesn’t add much beyond at least some numerical flexibility. Better than the base fighter, but not as amazing as most archetypes herein.


The snake charmer magus is a whip specialist who blends arcane power and spellcasting, losing spellstrike, spell recall, etc. – however, for arcane pool points and essence invested in the whip, he can generate cool defenses – a neat take on the whip-wielding, quick magus. The adaptive gunner marksman gets the cool contemplation psionic power/essence-combo game and uses the amazing Hand Cannon veil, getting even a unique style to interact with that one, which lets him doe amazing psionics/veilweaving-combo-stuff, like combining both cannons into one when expending the psionic focus for increasingly devastating blasts. The mysterial monk once again features a complex and evocative game of resource-management that is based on the interaction of veilweaving and ki as well as featuring a neat array of veilweaving in lieu of e.g. slow fall. The yaksa caller summoner binds lesser daeva (the entities associated with the daevic) instead of eidolons – said beings have veilweaving and said yaksa may bin essence in the caller, enhancing spell slots and veil sharing is also part of the deal. Pretty neat veilweaving summoner variant. Fans of Path of War may enjoy the veiled lord warder, who regains essence when performing gambits as well as limited number of day veilsharing with allies – beings affected by this that crit, generate temporary essence. All in all, neat.


The book also contains 13 talents for rogues, investigators as well as slayers that provide a neat array of tricks to dabble in veilweaving for these characters. Note something? Like the lack of complaining about them? Yeah, the options here are damn cool! The pdf also sports 2 PrCs, the first of which would be the 10-level Amplifier, who gains 1/2 BAB- and Will-save progression, d6 HD, 2+Int skills per level as well as full spellcasting/veilweaving progression – the amplifier basically is a akasha/spells-theurge…and if you’ve followed my reviews, you’ll note that I’m usually not too impressed by these guys. However, for one, he works with psionics as well and when spell and veil descriptor match veils, the class gets some cool benefits to choose from that scale with the levels, providing a cool game of mechanical interaction that actually makes the PrC interesting to me.


The second PrC covers 5 levels and gets 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Will-progression, d8 HD and 2 + Int skills as well as full veilweaving progression. These guys gain touch attacks that deal 1d8 per class level + Con-mod, which also grants temporary hit points and temporary essence. This temporary essence can, at 2nd level, be used to create debuffs zones. Thereafter, the PrC learns to render those it defeats into zombies, poison the essence of foes (unique mechanics) and finally, create undead via his tricks. Neat!


The pdf also contains new races, the first of which would be the amazing gamla you can see on the cover – yes, camel folk. Yes, they are cool. These guys get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Dex, are Large, have a speed of 30 ft., use undersized weapons (nice balance), gain desert strider, endurance, gain +1 bonus essence and a sickening spittle usable 1/minute. A powerful race, but still within the acceptable frame and one that gets a wide array of core class/akashic class and warder FCOs. The race also supports two alternates, the Alqarn (rhinofolk), who gains +2 Str and Con, -2 Wis (making them more physically lopsided than I like them), but slow and steady does somewhat diminish what would otherwise, thanks to ferocity and gore, be too close by the barb-race. Feelkha get +2 Con and Int, -2 Dex, are similarly slow and steady and gain a trunk that can be used, much like the rhinofolk’s horn, in conjunction with essence more effectively.


The second race would be the reptilian sobek, who gain +2 Str and Cha, -2 Wis, slow and steady, water adaptation, +2 to Stealth in certain environments, a natural bite attack at 1d6 that can be enhanced via essence and a sweeping tail. Once again, we get FCos for the core classes and the akashic ones. The nameer and sohofaat are alternates here – the tigerfolk nameer are warmblooded, have regular movement and camouflage in other environments and the race does have essence-enhanceable claws. The solhofaat (turtlefolk) get +4 Con, -2 Dex and a shell that can be enhanced via essence, a bite that can’t be invested with essence, but a shell that can be. I usually tend to hate +4 as racial modifiers, but considering the slow swimming speed as well as the fact that Con does not allow for a lot of abuse/powergaming, I’m mostly good with this and leave it with my usual “Take heed!” warning for GMs of low-powered games.


The suqur get +2 Dex and Int, -2 Con, 20 ft. land movement, low-light vision, 1 point of bonus essence and may glide. They gain talons and investing essence in the gliding wings lets them fly, which represents an investment I’m willing to give a pass; obviously, this can cause problems in low-level modules, but the totality of the race’s traits is sufficiently subdued to make this work for me. Once again, we get nice FCos and the race comes with two alternatives: The Hibkha (Ibisfolk) get +4 Int, -2 Str and Con, has 30 ft. movement and ignore non-magical difficult terrain, which makes the Int-powergaming more ridiculous. Not getting anywhere near my game, this one may be the first thing in the book I actively dislike. The Nisr vulturefolk get +2 Dex and Con, -2 Cha and may fortify their iron stomachs with eseence to resist poisons and diseases and eat about anything. Age, height and weight tables are included for our convenience. Favored class options of the new classes for the core races (minus half-orc/half-elf, plus orc) can also be found.


Alright, but one of the main draws of Incarnum back in the day was the relative ease by which other characters could dabble in its tricks – a component akashic mysteries translates masterfully to PFRPG by not only aforementioned class options, but by the vast array of feats. Basically, you can learn to access chakra slots via these and, as hinted at above, feats with the Akashic-descriptor can be invested with essence for greater effect, fortifying the body, spells, enhancing charges…Building on Deadly Aim, rage, studied strike, channel energy – basically, you name the class feature and there will be some unique trick that you can enhance with these feats – the handy table covering the feats alone is 1.5 pages long. Essence-based, less boring variants of Toughness that count as Toughness for purposes of prereqs are neat. Unfortunately, there is also some problematic content here: Life Bond, for example. This lets you basically transfer hit points via touch to allies. Solid, right? Well, for each essence invested in the ability, you increase healing by +5 hit points, which means that two or more folks with this healing each other can generate infinite healing. It’ll take a while and probably won’t break the game in most rounds, but I know that I’ll put hard cap on this feat in my game…but consider this just a tentative complaint, since otherwise, the array of options presented herein are evocative and make for a LOT of tinkering options – the chapter adds a massive tweaking strategy to everything, considering that most feats grant essence!


Now, the veils…this massive book contains basically ~20 pages of these and they are, ultimately, what makes of breaks the system…and they are amazing. No, seriously. Unlike many an alternate system, Michael Sayre has provided a significant array of unique benefits that you otherwise never get to see – like vorpal-immunity. I also mentioned the friggin’ handcannons, right? What I can’t really possibly hope to convey is the nature of these: Take a veil that grants you a tail slap – so far, so boring, right? Well, for essence, it also nets swim speed and for chakra bind, we gain 5 ft. AoE-trip as a unique attack! Even relatively conservative skill-boosters get such unique tricks, with one providing very high-level viziers a means to become truly frightening rulers, commanding up to 100 HD of creatures…Dr and Ac-granting defenses, temporary hit points that slowly regenerate, gauntlets that deal “electric” (should be electricity), sonic and cold damage, miss chances, spell-interactions for chakra-bound veils, mantles of insects. A nice touch: even the veils that employ veilweaving level instead of BAB have a rationale for how viziers and daevics can end up at the same potency when using the veil -it may not be much, but it is these nice little touches that show how much the authors care about a sense of in-game coherence. Oh, have I mentioned the Spiderman-style spinnerets? Now, personally, I’ll add a cooldown to the dragon-like breath-weapon-granting veil, since I really don’t consider infinite AoE-damage, even in small cones, to be something I like, but this is, again, a rules-aesthetic decision, not one based on me considering the veil OP. Oh, want veils rather by slot than alphabetically? Guess what: Second table included. Breaking each of these down in their components would exceed the frame of this review, considering that I already talked about quite a few of them in my review of the previous books; just note that no infinite healing exploits sprang right at me, though healing options are included.


A total of 3 weapon special abilities, akasha-enhancing catalysts, blood chakra-interactions…these items generally work well…but are only half the deal. You see, the mirrored property I mentioned before? It’s included herein. As are a selection of spells and material that act as reference material to avoid annoying book switching. Kudos and thank you for that.


Where was I, oh yes, beyond the items, we get two new monster subtypes, the akashic and daeva…and new monsters, including a new akashic dragon! The monsters sport amazing artworks and, as many are daeva, provide gorgeous, original artworks that evoke unique twists on Hindu-deities and other, lesser-known mythological creatures, like the Yaksha. These monster builds can generally be called “challenging” and range from CR 5 to 22, sporting unique tricks even before the whole veilweaving thing comes into place. This brief bestiary, if anything, made me want a whole bestiary of such creatures and should be considered a worthy closer to this book.



Editing and formatting are a bit hard to talk about here; you see, this review is not based on the “this will go to print version” of the book, but rather on the pdf-version prior to that. The positives first: Considering the length and density of the material herein, I am pretty excited to note the precision of the rules-language. Formal glitches are also pretty few and far in between, with e.g. the first “Alignment”-line in the book being one of the exceptions. One of the most prevalent issues would be that, unlike all “finished” Dreamscarred Press titles, I noticed quite a few formatting hiccups, like non-italicized spells and minor internal incongruencies regarding some of the material. These are universally not game-breakers, though. Dreamscarred Press has a history of cleaning up their books before going print, so I’m willing to give the company a pass on that for now; it’s just something to bear in mind when you’re expecting to dive right i. In my usual qualification, this would be situated between good and okay in that regard. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, printer-friendly version – kudos for providing that! Artworks are a mix of stock art and original art in full-color and particularly the original art deserves being mentioned as high-quality and amazing. Srsly, making the camelfolk look cool is truly great! The pdfs come with excessive, nested bookmarks that render the use on electronic devices very easy.


Lead designer Michael Sayre, with assistance from Andreas Rönnqvist, Andrew Stoeckle and Jacob Karpel has created a monument here. Yeah, I know, sounds like hyperbole? I’m not kidding, though. When I think “alternate magic for PFRPG”, akashic mysteries is now right up there with psionics, pact magic and the numerous systems crafted by Interjection games’ Bradley Crouch. The overhaul the classes got in comparison to the previous releases shows a quickly improving grasp of mechanics of top-tier complexity and the ability to sift through feedback to garner the gems amidst the complaints and invalid bickering – the final book presented here blows its WIP-components straight out of the water. The beauty of the mechanical tweaking and math underlying the system is impressive and the reason I adore this book more than quite a few options out there: It doesn’t matter if you’re playing a low-powered 15-pt-buy or nigh-superhero 25-pt-buy; it doesn’t matter if you’re going for low/rare or high magic – the akashic system supports a vast selection of playstyles and is ingenious, smart and just rewarding.


Beyond that, it may be one massive array of exceedingly dense crunch, but it is one that doesn’t leave other classes behind. Finally, the system actually manages to evoke, in spite f the scarcity of fluff, a unique thematic identity that you may easily reskin/eliminate, yes – but you can also roll with it. The number of components I’d consider problematic herein are TINY considering the density and size of this book. Oh, one more thing: I *HATED* the fluff of Incarnum. I *hated* its execution and only used it for gestalting back in the day; this one, I love. It is refined, strong but still balanced and one gigantic beast of evocative material. This will become a staple in my games for years to come and establishes Michael Sayre as one crunch-designer to *really* watch, as one in the highest echelon.


If anything, I want the expanded and augmented sequel book now and a full-blown bestiary and NPC book to boot. Yes, I actually like this that much. The fact that the system, in spite of the vast amount of moving parts, doesn’t crumble under its own weight is impressive indeed. I’m rambling. What I’m saying is: Get this, you won’t be disappointed! It’s not (yet) perfect, but it is one of the most inspired crunch-books to land before me in the last couple of years. My final verdict will clock in at unsurprising 5 stars + seal of approval and denote this, even sans improvements, as a candidate for my Top ten of 2016 and an EZG Essential. Now excuse me, I have *a lot* of tinkering to do…


You can get this amazing book here on OBS!


Youc an directly support Dreamscarred Press by joining their patreon here!


Endzeitgeist out.


Oct 212016

Four Horsemen Present: Yet More Horrifically Overpowered Feats


This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages…though these are further reduced by 1 page-version of the cover and a pretty bad 1-page piece of stock art, bringing this down to 8 pages, so let’s take a look!


All right, so I explained these feats in the “Even More...” review of Horrifically Overpowered feats, so I’m not going into that aspect again…however, this does have a new idea added to the fray: Metagaming feats. These feats allow a player to intercede in game and perform deity-like feats…but they require the player to own a focus of gaming awesomeness like the Red Box, Blackmoor or similar legendary books. Thankfully, I’d classify thus…so what do we get? 20 horrifically overpowered feats and 10 metagaming feats, so let’s dive in!


The horrifically overpowered feats follow a similar route as those employed in the “Even More”-book – with a unique twist for some. Take Admixture Elementalist. This one not only nets you a second elemental school; it also lets you mix the two energy types and activate the secondary elemental powers from the schools. Bull Rushing adjacent foes alongside the primary target is pretty awesome and something I will actually modify and use in my game. Combining sneak attack and Cleave similarly, while horrifically overpowered, works pretty amazing for the angle of the legendary assassin etc.


There is one ability that I’d never allow for players – Compound Special Ability lets you combine the numerical effects of any number or all daily uses (like bombs) in one use, enhancing the nova-phenomenon to the n-th degree. It may sound stupid, but I just can’t figure out any game in which this would enhance the flow of the game or do something beyond ridiculous numerical escalation. Not a fan.


I am, however, a fan of the feat that makes the skull of foes hit with bludgeoning weapons explode on crits. It’s got Tim Hitchcock written all over it, is powerful, exceedingly so, but I can see it work in some games rather well! Disintegrating any foe reduced to 0 HP is one that all my soul reaving bastard villains will get. Similarly, learning spells just from seeing them is cool – utterly OP for the spontaneous casters, sure…but I can see that drive a campaign of the brilliant sorceror-paragon. Oh, want to be part of a second race? Covered.


On the down-side: There is a bit of overlap here: While “Even More’s” Fringe Dogma lets you take any additional domain, regardless of deity, Master of Domains nets you one from those available, but can be taken multiple times. The feats do different things, yes…but still, the concept remains pretty similar. 3/day, looking at a spell’s damage dice and taking the highest damage, multiplying it by dice rolled is appropriate. I also really like taking -1 to atk when sneaking for the option to maximize one of the sneak attack dice – depending on the power-level of the campaign, this one can be used as a quick rogue power-upgrade hack.


Now beyond feats like this, let’s talk a bit about the Metagaming feats. They are outrageous in a good way. Forgotten Bonus? Add a retrospective bonus to a throw. “Invoke Thakko” takes us back to the THAC0 days…and is hilarious, since it comes with the caveat that if the GM can’t calculate the new AC in time, you automatically hit. I could, just fyi – THAC0 was ETW0 in Germany, but I did the calculation more times than I could conceivably count. Oh, and yes, invoking the good ole’ Weapon Speed (remember THAT?) is also part of the deal!


Loaded Die changes 1s to 20s and can be loaned to other players and Rules Lawyer lets you 1/day ignore any rule by basically stating “it does not say it can” and yet another feat lets you reforge items into other item slots…which is utterly OP. For a less OP version, look at DSP’s Steelforge Book I, just fyi. Then again, this feat is significantly less involved and works for groups that handwave such matters. 1/day undoing an event would also be one of the metagaming feats here.


Pretty amazing: Wild shaping of allies and reflexive disarm all feel appropriately OP. The Wild Magic take is similarly powerful and pretty OP; though at this point, I have seen that component done better for regular gameplay.



Editing and formatting are good, though oddly inconsistent – the subtypes of the feats aren’t bolded, while some paragraphs and entries in the table are, regardless of viewer I use. Cosmetic, sure, but somewhat aesthetically distracting still. The pdf sports mostly solid stock art and the original cover – the one-page explosion artwork is pretty sucky and blatant page-count increase…not sure why it’s here. Then again, the pdf is fairly priced for what it delivers. The pdf comes with bookmarks, but only for headers, not for the individual feats.


I like Tim Hitchcock’s Horrifically Overpowered feats more than any of the last 4 or so releases in the series; I consider the metagaming feats pure gold for fun beer-and-pretzels-style gaming and the totality can be employed for *cue in Monty Python* something completely different. I like that. Very much. Similarly, if the rogue fixes out there (like Legendary Games’ excellent “Legendary Rogues”) are too much work for you, just slapping one or more of these feats on the chassis should help. On the downside, I do think that e.g. the internal balance isn’t always perfect and that there is some minor thematic overlap in style, if not in execution, with what we’ve seen so far. Personally, this is among my favorite Horrifically Overpowered-books…but if the metagaming feats don’t interest you, this may feel slightly less appealing to you than it was for me.


If anything, this book made me think of one thing: If you’d take the superhero-flavored feats from “Even More” and this book and took the old-school style feats and the Metagaming feats and combined them in their respective books, you’d have two superior books than what we got with “Even More” and “Yet More”; the suggested combination would be more succinct and thematically consistent than what we got, but this does not render this pdf or “Even More” bad by any stretch of the word; instead, consider this a fun, inspiring little book, which, particularly with “Even More”, can provide the tools for some really fun throwback-nostalgia gaming with PFRPG’s rules. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


You can get this neat pdf here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Oct 202016

Letters from the Flaming Crab: Coins and Credit


This installment of Flaming Crab Games’ oddball Letters-series that deals with unconventional topics clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


Coins. Money. Gold or the Euro or the American Dollar. The stuff that binds civilization together and makes completely foreign nations that would otherwise hate each other engage in trade. Coinage has a role as important to our development as a species as few other inventions – and it is EVERYWHERE in our games. The dragon’s hoard. The orc’s pocket. Heck, it could be argued that from a certain 3-adventure arc in Kalamar to RotRL or the legendary Halls of the Mountain King, coins and money play a pivotal role in gaming. It is then quite amazing to realize that we don’t really have any supplements depicting the peculiarities of currency exchange and details in gaming…in spite of Abadar’s inquisitors being called archbankers (which is awesome).


This pdf sets out to fill this gaping hole – after all, even for most adventurers, it’s all about the bling. After a general introduction and notes on bimetallic and mixed coins, we begin with the DC’d tables to hand-craft coins and how to make them – sample DCs for Craft (minting) provided. Similarly, dies, which are used to press currency, do come with their own table and processes of making coins, from stamps to presses and magical crafting are provided. Coin dies sooner or later break and deteriorate and thus, depending on the metal they’re crafted from, we get different uses before they wear down; similarly, coin blanks, screw presses and stamps are introduced as items with properly codified rules. The pdf also introduces a magical solution to the problem of making coins – the minter’s rod, which creates exactly ONE type of coins from the raw material instantaneously. It also works basically immediately…so why not go for it? Well, as magic is wont to be, it is simply less reliable: It requires a Craft (minting) check to use and on a failure, it produces coins unfit for circulation, basically ruining them. This allows for quick influxes of currency when needed, but at the same time retains the need for specialists proficient in wielding the tool properly – the magic complements mundane solution rather than undercutting them – love it!


Now, for as long as there has been money, there has been counterfeiting – the mundane aspects of which are already evident from the above; however, in a fantastic realm, the note on permanent image‘s ambiguity, illusions and fabricate are noted as well. Here, a note – there is an exploit left in the Craft rules and the fabricate spell that has been there since the 3.X days of yore, though in reduced severity in PFRPG. This pdf reads the spell’s wording correctly: The spell uses the singular: “You convert material of one sort into a product that is of the same material.” ONE. This means fabricate can make exactly one coin per casting. Yes, this level of detail and close reading are something I wholeheartedly appreciate.


Beyond this, the pdf contains the anatomy of coins, based on avoirdupois system of measurement – in case you wondered, the system is based on a pound of 16 ounces (or 7000 grains) and originated in the 13th century and was used for wool trade historically…but I digress. Dimensions, denomination, etc. are all covered (note: The more valuable a coin, the smaller it is) and maximum coin holding for pouches, backpack, etc. (and the weight if they’re stuffed to the brim!) are provided for our convenience and generate a mischievous grin on my face. One adventure my players still talk about featured a slain dragon. They were happy about all the loot…then I asked them how they’d transport the coins. Figuring out magic logistics was an amazing trip indeed. And before you ask, maximum capacities for bags of holding can be found…and there are two new coins introduces: Mithral and Adamantine pieces.


After this, we dive into the nit and grit of foreign and ancient coins and the pdf features notes on how to handle multiple currency in e.g. metropolises like Absalom or Freeport and thereafter, we tap into the types of banks that exist (and yes, you *should* have banks in your game – think of all the cool heist/anti-heist adventures you could run!) – banks are codified as private, government, religious or illegal and the pdf does feature notes on the stigmatization of usury in certain religious contexts. Beyond that, 2 account types are discussed – transactional and investment types are featured and a note of cost and charges similarly helps. Loans, thus, similarly are talked about and codified and the pdf does note account tiers for different clients. A handy table of percentile chances to find banks in a given settlement helps and finding loan sharks willing to gouge those in need also can be found.


Beyond this massive array of qualification and quantification, we get 9 different, unique banks provided in their own fluffy write-ups, with notes on account costs – from the Iron Vault to the Great Tree Bank owned by elves, these are unique and intriguing. The pdf also contains a new monster, the CR 3 bank gremlin, who enjoys eating metal. You do the math. Cool! There would also be vault satchels banks loan to trusted clients to transport coins directly to their vaults.


The second aspect herein features credit and secured/unsecured tabs, with GP multiplier rates and NPC attitudes included and forgery/sidequest-notes talking about the adventuring potential here. Letters of Credit and Promissory notes, as two crucial means of handling currency are similarly depicted with notes on forgery provided for our convenience and yes, banknotes are part of the deal. The pdf then concludes with two magical items that tie in well together – the bonded ledger of credit and the bonded letter of credit, which basically can work as a kind of magical credit card-y system in a magical context.



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf provides neat, original b/w-artworks I enjoyed. The pdf comes with full, nested and detailed bookmarks, making navigation easy indeed.


Matthew Carroll, J Gray, Lucus Palosaari and Jeffrey Swank deliver one amazing, humble pdf here. This is an unpretentious and yet so NEEDED little pdf that is a must-buy for simulationalist GMs. Even for GMs who don’t like micromanaging the details, there is so much adventure-fodder in this little pdf, it retains its value even when you don’t want to track teh details. Beyond that, this pdf managed to actually be educational and well-researched, both in historic details and in the reading of rules…and, in addition, its takes on adding the fantastic to coins and credit, it does not devalue the mundane components, using magic as complementary options that enhance the game rather than replacing the nonmagic options. This humble pdf covers its subject matter perfectly -and thus deserves a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval. Amazing and well worth the fair asking price!


You can get this excellent little pdf here on OBS and here on tabletoplibrary!


There also is a KS in the final 4 hours for more of these unique books – please, take a look at it here!


Endzeitgeist out.


Oct 202016

Four Horsemen Present: Even More Horrifically Overpowered Feats


This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of the pdf, so let’s take a look!


It’s been a while since we had Horrifically Overpowered feats or options in a book, so, here’s a quick history lesson: These options were crafted as an April’s Fool’s offering once, being broken by the very sentiment of their design, far eclipsing all of the tenets of what we expect from a feat’s power – to the extent where one of these feats basically increases CR of a creature by at least 1. So no, even in the mythic context/direct comparison, they exceed power levels of mythic feats for the most part. They were designed as instant upgrades and super-level “who cares ’bout balance”-style gameplay…purportedly. You see, the thing is that Rogue Genius Games’ Horrifically Overpowered feats have seen quite some use in my games for BBEGs, extra-high-powered one-shots and the like. Why? Because they still have some frame of reference.


It is a sad truth that I can mention several options out there that are less balanced than these feats. But I’m not here to embark on an epic rant; I’m here to take a look at this book. Anyways, so these feats are obviously horrifically overpowered and as such, can only be taken at the GM’s discretion and should be restricted to very high-powered gameplay or used as a means to upgrade the often woefully underpowered villains in published modules.


Unless I have miscounted, the pdf contains a total of 35 such feats, collected for your convenience in a feat-table. The feats within, to give you an idea, begins with Army Fighting, which makes you immune to flanking (!!!) and even makes enemies not count as flanking you AND it does not mean autohit on natural 20s against you anymore. Oh, and foes can’t aid each other against you. This feat pretty much perfectly encapsulates what I was getting at in the above: This is powerful as hell and the feat basically eliminates a significant assortment of builds and changes a basic truism of how the game works. At the same time, it lets you play basically Conan, Red Sonja or any Dynasty Warrior character jumping into the enemy lines.


Speaking of changing truisms: Clear Rage lets you still use Cha-, Int- and Dex-based checks and abilities while raging and eliminates the penalty to AC. On its own, this may no look bad, but give this to a decent optimizer and you’ll see a devilish glimmer in his/her eyes…there’s a reason for that. If you ever thought that barbs don’t deal enough damage…allow this feat and wait what happens. What about a full-blown sorc-bloodline or domain? Expansion of smite evil to all chaotic and evil creatures with bonuses versus CE foes (and antipala variant)? Yep. Adding familiar benefits to the animal companion (or vice versa)? OUCH! What about two bardic music effects in play at a given time?


That being said, the pdf does offer one series of feats which will actually see play in quite a few games that contain powerful races far beyond the potency of the core races, the so-called paragon feats. Grognards will appreciate them as well. Why? Well, the dwarven feat nets you immunity to poison, SR 11 + HD (or +5 to SR). Eleven Paragon makes you immune versus enchantment, nets you sight 4 times as good as that of a human and eliminates range penalty to Perception and makes you immortal, negating all age-penalties. Super-crafter gnomes that can attempt Craft and Profession as though they had HD ranks and are immune to illusions. These feats basically represent the more powerful takes on the core races and can bring them up to that insane multi-headed and armed ooze-thing your fellow player wanted to make.


There are some options I wouldn’t employ, regardless of the power of the game, at least for PCs – Fluid Style would be one such feat: It lets you enter the stance of ANY fighting style of a style feat…any style feat, even ones you don’t know. Oh, and switching styles? Free action. Yeah…I can see the uses, but this one most certainly should not fall into player hands in most campaigns. Instant crafting of magic items (1 day) can make sense in some games.


DR and Immunity versus damage types at the expense of vulnerabilities can be found alongside gaining bonuses to atk versus foes after missing them and even potential crits after several misses – this looks like a cool houserule for some games that emphasize cinematic action. There also is a crazy prepared feat (not the best I’ve seen – the concept can be done sans being OP) and an option to dismiss non-dismissable spells and change the precise type of spell cast – e.g. changing the fire shield employed.


If that doesn’t yet sound too amazing – let me present Meld: A teamwork feat that lets you and your allies combine into a gestalt entity, which is pretty cool…with one complaint: I think presenting a mechanic on which player gets to do what would have been more than helpful here. Another feat nets you. As a minor nitpick, Permanency could use a slightly cleaner wording: The feat nets you a spell or spell-like ability with a duration permanent…which *could* be read to include the “Duration: Instantaneous” spells it obviously was intended to exclude when “non-instantaneous” would have made it watertight and airproof, but it’s still clear enough.


Speaking of “clearer wording” -Stubborn has a troubling sentence in its wording: “You ignore any potentially negative effects of failing a skill check.” Does this extend to Acrobatics, Climb, etc.? Anyways, this probably would be one feat I’d disallow in ALL of my games, no matter how ridiculously high-powered I’d go, but if you really have players that deal badly with failing, even failing forward, this may be for you. Still, even in the Horrifically Overpowered context, I consider this one OP.


In case the above have not made that clear, both Super Strength (massive Str-boost) and Super Speed (+ 1 move action) should make clear that the power-level here is appropriately off the charts – this book’s theme is basically superhero style gameplay with the PFRPG-engine.



Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to RGG’s 2-column full-color standard with solid stock art. The pdf has bookmarks, but only for the table and basics, no individual bookmarks for the feats.


Stephen Rowe’s feats herein fall in basically two categories – takes on old-school gaming style for Pathfinder (which ends up increasing the power significantly!) or superhero style gameplay. The latter features some minor hiccups here and there, though none are grating and I’m not too fond of all options, there is bound to be some serious usefulness for some groups and GMs out there. The powerlevel remains, with some minor exceptions internally consistent within the design paradigms; when compared to the totality of feats herein and already in existence, there are some that transcend what we know from these feats…but then again, you’re reading a review of a book that blatantly states its intent in the very title. How to rate this, then? Well, I do like this pdf, but I have seen master Rowe handle things slightly better in the past; as a whole, this is a good pdf, bordering on the great, but slightly short of it. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


You can get these cool feats here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Oct 202016

Lost Lore: The Headhunter


This installment of the Lost Lore-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


The headhunter as depicted herein is a 10-level prestige class that grants 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort- and Will-save progressions, d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and can be qualified for at 5th level. The first important aspect here pertains the fact that carrying carrion heads around does not really always go over well – a sidebar deals with the cultural implications and what happens when you e.g. carry a foe’s head to a creature. After severing a defeated foe’s head, the headhunter may select one of the creature’s class or special abilities, extraordinary or supernatural abilities, feats (regardless of prerequisites), but sans spells “growth points” or abilities that summon creatures. This ability may be used once as a standard action and if an ability has an indefinite duration, it instead lasts character level rounds. A total of 1/2 class level (minimum 1) heads may be carried around. Weird – the ability suddenly mentions a Craft (taxidermy) check, when no such check was rolled upon harvesting the head, making me thing that something went wrong here – the ability should specify making the roll not only in the example, but also in the ability itself before suddenly mentioning it. 2nd level nets Cha-mod times /day gentle repose. 6th level unlocks ant haul as an SP.


Starting at 3rd level and every other level thereafter, the PrC may take a headhunter secret – these include a +1 bonus to Intimidate checks per head carried. Others unlock undead heads as viable targets or the option to make use of spells or SPs as if a scroll or use it in conjunction with spontaneous are prepared spellcasting, which can be pretty powerful. Using the head as a bane weapon versus the social group associated (table by size included) or gain a severed head familiar. Weird: The class is generally spell-progression-less, but mentions the head acting as a familiar sans specifying the familiar-progression. Also odd: Formatting is different for that secret when compared to the others. The head is created by applying a template included in the pdf (including sample head). Head-weights are btw. provided.


At 4th level, the headhunter may carve (with another Craft-skill) primitive bone rings that grant CR temporary hit points to the wearer. 8th level nets the ability to make skull masks that duplicate skull masks. As a capstone, the Craft (taxidermy)-result no longer depicts the number of days a given head lasts. At 10th level, the headhunter may share the benefits of heads with allies via skull cups.


Really odd – the class features a total of 7 abilities that I *think* are headhunter secrets – oddly, though, they have a different formatting than the first secrets provided. These include transferring heads to animal companions or cohorts and another one has a bardic performance granted per head. Also odd: A secret that allows the headhunter to use a “Skill as if it was a class or racial ability” – what is this supposed to mean? Oh, and one secret makes heads last as long as they do by the base ability, longer when kept dry and vermin-free, making the secret useless at 10th level.


The pdf also features archetypes: The face-marking warrior is broken as hell: “When a barbarian would normally gain a rage power, he may instead select the abilities of a foe slain within the last year that does not require an action to activate and gains the ability during rage.” ARGH. This is so horribly broken, I’m not going to dignify the archetype with anything else. Broken. Next.


The Head-taker archetype replaces the 2nd level bonus feat with the option to incur a -4 penalty to atk and incur an AoO to perform an attack that deals 1d4 rounds of sickening; on a crit, the ability also deals 1d6 points of damage to ALL mental attributes AND staggers the foes. WTF. Next.


The Mystery of the Head’s revelation has some abilities that could use an activation action, but also has the extremely evocative trick of removing a victim’s head, keeping the head alive…which is pretty awesome. Also cool: The capstone lets you take off your head! Yes, this, while having only limited use as a player, is a cool ability to scavenge. The head-shrinker shaman can use shrunken heads to counterspell, with the slain foe’s CR acting as caster level for the dispel attempt and gains a severed head familiar. Torques of Blade Turning prevent decapitation and head-severing effects…but does that extend to granting immunity to vorpal weapons? No idea.



Editing and formatting are uncharacteristically jumbled for Frog God Games – there seems to be something seriously wrong with the head hunters formatting, to the point where it impedes the functionality of the PrC. Layout adheres to FGG’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf has a neat b/w-art. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Jeff Erwin’s headhunter, alas, is a mess. In case you haven’t noticed – the PrC and the mechanics herein are based upon the deeply flawed called shots system, but lack the mechanical precision and scope to make the content really work. The material isn’t horrible and in fact, very flavorful, but it is all over the place. Synergy with classes exceedingly unlikely to take the PrC (per se nice, but only when the bases are all covered!), internal balance between secrets all over the place, flawed formatting, confused presentation. And then there would be the fact that, beyond the called shot-based issue, the pdf also falls on its face regarding the balancing and proper codification of abilities stolen from vanquished foes; one-use makes them potentially OP and the pdf fails to specify how that works with feats. Additionally, the sheer wide-open nature sans detailed notes of codifying abilities render this wide open to PGing and GM ruling. This does not mean that it doesn’t work – it just means that it doesn’t work even near the level of precision I expect from a crunch-supplement, no matter how flavorful and cool the abilities are. It is the ambition and flavor of these abilities and the scavenging potential are the saving graces of this pdf. My final verdict clocks in at 2 stars.


You can get this pdf here on OBS and here on tabletoplibrary!
Endzeitgeist out.


Oct 202016

After School Adventures: Adventures in Wonderland #2 – Down the Rabbit Hole (5e)


The second module in the Wonderland-inspired series of mini-modules for the youngest gamers clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


This being an adventure-module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion. Young ‘uns – sneaking a peek here can spoil your fun – don’t do it, okay?



All right, so the PCs have chased the white rabbit through the forest in #1 and this module begins as the players fall down the rabbit hole…wait, no, they are not…they basically are floating, with no means of propulsion and the sides of the tunnel too far away to reach. As the PCs ponder their predicament, a blue dictionary will float over…you know, it’s hungry and wants to be fed with words from A – Z. This little vocab test, including an Intelligence or Wisdom check to help them for the more difficult words, is a fun start. Then, things get more difficult with the letter “I”: The next array of words needs to have the letter AND two syllables. Once the PCs reach “R”, they will have to work backwards from Z to S. Oh, and the read-aloud text of the dictionary is intended to be sung to “Pop goes the Weasel” and rhymes appropriately. And yes, I had to look the tune up. XD


As the party finally floats down, they will reach a table with a drink and a cake…and we all know what these do, right? But there’s a twist: A) If the PCs are itching for a fight, the table will happily oblige. And B), the doors open to show the peek-a-boo – a unique monster that has the proper key to pass…and it teleports to other doors when the PCs try to take it from its mouth. Here, multiple strategies help: Making the creature laugh, guarding doors, using logic, making it cry – oh, and the module does use this chance to teach the players about using attribute checks to determine information about creatures – which, however, sports a minor hiccup – it refers to Intelligence (Lore), which should probably be (History) or (Nature) instead.


Bypassing the friendly creature in this game concludes the adventure for now and should see the PCs reach level 2.



Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no issues apart from aforementioned little hiccup. Layout adheres to Playground Adventures’ beautiful two-column full-color standard with Cheshire Cat on top and all. The pdf’s art is sparse, but similarly child-friendly. Spells etc. are hyperlinked to the PRD for your convenience. In spite of the module’s brevity, it features bookmarks – nice. This time around, the module has no cartography, but it doesn’t really need maps for the encounters herein.


J Gray’s second Adventures in Wonderland-module is more rewarding than the first: Where the first module focused its efforts via a boardgame-like playing field on teaching the very basics of roleplaying, this one focuses a bit more on the actual roleplaying aspect and problem-solving skills of the kids that play it. This renders the module more palatable for older kids as well. The content herein is btw. appropriate for kids ages 4 and up (with my suggestion being that players ages 8+ will probably start having less fun with this due to its cute tone) and even the most scaredycat, sensitive child will not be frightened by this one; this is pretty much the definition of wholesome and harmless, with literally each encounter focusing on unobtrusive engagement of the mental faculties of kids rather than just rolling the dice and defeating foes. Even the optional combat is not something anyone would consider problematic.


So yes, this very much achieves its goal; it has versatile challenges, nice visuals and is a fun romp. My one complaint would be that a hard-mode version for the challenges would have been nice for particularly smart kids, but then again, one can easily improvise the like on the fly, based on the material that is provided here. (The syllable angle can be easily expanded; I had them actually spell the words…but only do that if the kids are already reading a lot and capable of spelling…you know your audience best, GM!)


So, how to rate this? As mentioned, I consider this to be better than the first module and while older kids won’t have as much fun with this as the young ones, for the target demographic, this is awesome indeed. The unobtrusive educational angle’s here and the locations are unique. The small hiccup and the fact that the conversion of the creatures is a bit more conservative than I like is all that costs this version the seal of approval, leaving me with still a final verdict of 5 stars.


You can get this cool little module here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.


Oct 192016

Lost Lore: Eminent Domains


This installment of the Lost Lore-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


So, domains – in theory, they are supposed to depict a certain theological focus for the respective deities and their servants; in practice, that does not translate too well, though. There are subdomains and Rogue Genius Games’ exalted domains as a means to further emphasize particular concepts. This pdf features a different, multi-pronged approach to the subject matter – in short, there are 3 feats: Domain Affinity grants you an at-will SP as part of preparing a given domain spell. As soon as you cast the respective domain spell, you lose the SP, rewarding players for not casting the domain spell at once – which is a pretty cool idea, considering how these spells usually are pretty powerful when compared to the standard list. Here’s the thing – the options gained actually are pretty intriguing! Characters with the air domain, for example, can, for as long as they retain the ability to cast obscuring mist, cause a creature within 60 ft. to move to an adjacent square on a failed save, potentially moving allies or foes – but, to retain balance, sans provoking AoOs. Generating an arbitrary symmetry in the actions of opponents, heating the feet of foes. The effects here are varied, creative and cool.


The second feat would be Domain Channel, which provides a variety of effects – unlike e.g. Rite Publishing’s Divine Channeler or variant channeling, the respective benefits are more varied: For one, a domain has an automatic benefit: E.g. divine channeling by clerics with the Fire domain lets you suspend ongoing fire damage or fire/heat damage for a number of rounds equal to the channel dice. Now here is where the abilities get awesome – not only does the general framework manage to keep the complex rules-operation flawless, channelers with this feat may exchange channel dice for effects – each of the domains features effects for 1, 2 or 4 dice to be exchanged. Good clerics could e.g. make all evil targets glowing evil for one die as though seen through detect evil. For 2 dice, you can generate an anti-evil somewhat sanctuary-like bubble. For 4 dice, you may add a bonus to atk and checks made against evil targets, with bonus depending on aura-strength. The benefits provided here add fun flexibility and resource-management to the channel mechanic beyond anything I’ve seen so far and does so with panache, elegance and no fear of complex concepts.


Finally, Domain Loyalty allows you to gain a unique benefit governed by the domain whenever you only prepare domain spells from the domain. These include airy rivulets that can carry objects and keep them in easy reach, gaining minor benefits (with a flexible choice) when provoking an AoO and similarly unique tricks.


These feats are NOT the end, though – the pdf also sports 3 spells: Fast Favor (1st), Borne for Battle (2nd) and Battle Benediction (3rd). The first two spells are personal, while the third can affect a creature touched. Like the feats, each of these spells has a completely unique effect for the respective domains: Fast Favor for the air domain, lets you blast with agile jumps around, while borne for battle adds bull rush to attacks. Finally, battle benediction even nets you an extra 5-foot-step and manages to get the complex rules-operation required right.

Oh, but that’s not all: The domains featured here also have a variant holy/unholy water included – earth, for example, nets a gunk that causes those that step inside to treat any terrain as difficult terrain. Patient coals wherein the embers still smolder can also be found here alongside black and white standardized sand.


But what domains are covered? Good, Evil, Chaos, Law, Air, Earth, Fire and Water.



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ two-column full-color standard for the series, with nice, original b/w-artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a minor comfort detriment.


Uhrgh, another domain-book? To say that I was not excited for this would be a serious understatement. Well, guess what – this is absolutely glorious. Hal Maclean’s eminent domains are precise, varied and add whole new tactical dimensions to the domains, rendering them more distinct and exciting – the options provided are varied, fun and brilliant. They do not cut corners, use no cookie-cutter designs and use rules in a creative, fun manner.

…and my one complaint here is that we need more. In fact, I want *ALL* domains covered with this simple, elegant and fun system. This is an unexpectedly awesome pdf, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval. We need sequels. That’s right: Plural.


You can get these cool options here on OBS or here on tabletoplibrary.com!


Endzeitgeist out.

Oct 192016

Mythic Magic: Occult Spells


This installment of the Mythic Magic-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page of SRD, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


We begin this mythic upgrade for the glorious occult spells with an alphabetic list of the spells, including hyperlinks, before going into the spell descriptions. The upgrades of the respective occult spells to mythic levels of power follow by now well-established standards – analyze aura allows for instant information on auras, for example. Apport Animal increases the distance it can travel and extends the target creatures to Small or smaller animals. The mythic iteration of bilocation allows for the 5th tier augment to increase the action array available at the character’s disposal.


The more unique spells also feature some interesting tricks – create mindscape lets you choose slow or rapid time, interacting well with the cool concept. Mindscapes can also be detected with the respective spell through divination-blocking effects. Longer durations, increased chances of getting useful information via grave words…some solid upgrades here. Mythic mind swap‘s allows for decreased duration self-bind after a swap and then reverse the swap at a moment’s notice, adding a cool tactical dimension to the spell. Better object possession and possessing objects that kill you reflexively feel frickin’ occult and damn cool!


Remaining only stunned while using psychic image, using psychic surgery to aid in retraining…very cool. One of my favorites, though, would be withdraw affliction, now with the option to hold the affliction in your hand and hurl it at foes…or use mythic power to make them traps or use them more often, spreading curses. Absolutely glorious!


Now, psychic spellcasting does have some peculiarities -in case you were wondering, undercast psychic spells can be mythic, but is always treated like the lower-level version. Mythic psychic spells can only be undercast as mythic spells when the character knows the lower-level mythic spell. Spontaneous psychic spellcasters that choose to lose an earlier version of a spell that can be undercast, the mythic spellcaster can no longer cast a mythic or augmented version of that lower-level spell. And yes, Mythic Spell Lore works just like for arcane and divine spells. The different scaling psychic spells tend to share a mythic version regarding effects, which means that augments there sometimes are limited to the version they work for; still, I would have preferred different augments within the sequences. That. may just be me, though.



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches herein. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard and features some nice full-color pieces of artwork, though fans of Legendary Games will know a couple of them from previous publications. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Jason Nelson, Amanda Hamon Kunz and Jonathan H. Keith deliver a more than solid take on mythic, occult spellcasting – formally, there is not much to complain here, particularly considering the increased difficulty of designing both with occult and mythic spells. I am a huge fan of Occult Adventures as a book, as you may have noticed – I love the aesthetics, rules, focus – everything about this book is awesome in one way or another. If anything, my only gripe with this pdf is that I would have loved this pdf to make slightly more use of the unique ideas of the hardcover. That being said, there is genius and evocative material herein alongside more conventional designs. My final verdict hence will clock in at 5 stars.


You can get these spells here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Oct 192016

Lost Lore: Schools of Thought


This installment of the Lost Lore-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


So, what is this? In short, these are wizard schools, not organized by spell school, but instead by theme; they otherwise work just like the regular arcane schools, including opposed schools that need to be chosen, etc. The schools thus introduced would be commercial, court wizard, entertainer, hedge wizard, investigator, lord, mentor, mystic. Beyond the spell-lists provided for the respective schools, there is some guidance for GMs to integrate spells in these schools, which include the rule of fun/pun – the associated spell-lists, thus, do make sense and generally are rather well-constructed.


The schools follow interesting paradigms – one would be one that can be explained via the commercial school: The base ability allows you to use detect magic to determine the value of items. Starting at 5th level, the school allows for the suppressing of magical item abilities – as a minor complaint, the mechanic here uses an opposed caster level check, which is uncommon for PFRPG and not something I fancy too much due to the swingy nature of opposed rolls. Said suppressed spell may be prepared by the mage, with higher levels unlocking progressively more powerful magical items to be thus manipulated. Intriguing – the school can generate a slow bolt that becomes faster if the target does not keep his distance and 8th level allows you to booby trap items. The abilities, even in cases where I do not 100% love the specific execution, the abilities are not lame, boring or uncreative – they utilize complex tricks and let the wizards do things not otherwise possible, which is a big plus for me.


Court Wizards let the caster add aid another to the recipients of spells, even at range and another one, allows the respective wizard to use his magical force to move targets out of harm’s way and, at 8th level, exalt allies with flexible bonuses. Entertainer wizards can generate magical, nonlethal damage causing streams of rotten fruit or, at 8th level, generate a kind of illusory spotlight, which is pretty cool. Hedge Wizards are problematic – you can prepare spells with random numeric variables and affect them to deliver minimum results…but with a Spellcraft check, the spell is not expended. I am not a fan of this one, since it allows for infinite spellcasting of petty spells. An increasing DC would have helped here, as would a check that is not as easily maxed as a skill. That being said, I do like the option to enhance cantrips or endow magic in mundane items for other characters to use and while I disagree with the particular rules-solution here, it at least is precise.


The Investigator school is cool, allowing for better interrogation of targets or the addition of trailing acidic paint to targets is cool. Oh, and the school has the means to capture foes alive and bind them into nonmagical items that then grant bonuses to the wizard! Yeah, that can be spun in really nasty or really benevolent ways…cool!


Lords are all about controlling targets, coaxing them into action and leech power off them -you get the idea. Mystics of 8th level can suppress mind-affecting effects and, as a whole, I really like the creativity the respective schools did exhibit here, from the teacher’s role of the mentor to the other ones – there is merit to be found in all of them -so kudos!



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Frog God Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice, original b/w-artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a slight comfort-detriment.


Hal MacLean’s schools of thought are intriguing. While there are some components I disagree with in their respective execution and some minor bits here and there that could be slightly more precise and while adding other spells to the schools is a bit of work, the schools do provide unique options and playing experiences, which is a pretty big thing for me. At the same time, this does mean that the pdf is harder to employ and requires some work for the GM to use in the long run.

While not perfect and slightly more work than I like to see, as a whole, this is a creative and fun offering well worth of a final verdict of 4 stars.


You can get these alternate schools here on OBS or here on tabletoplibrary.com!
Endzeitgeist out.


Oct 062016

Creature Components Volume I


This massive book clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page inside of front cover, 3 pages of detailed ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with an impressive 50 pages of raw content, so let’s take a look!


This book has been moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review. I actually have had quite some time to digest the pre-release version (with only layout missing) and tried to get the review done before my trip. Alas, there were some delays and thus, the final version only hit sites after my departure. I do have a policy to cover only finalized books with proper reviews, though, and thus, I did the only thing I could – sit down and type away at this review whenever I had the chance – in the evenings, after a long drive; in the breaks; when my lady was at the wheel. I don’t have my laptop with me, so please bear with me regarding any glitches/typos. This is pretty much the raw on-the-road edition of reviewing. 😉


All right, that out oft he way, this begins with a flavortext in character that renders the book a nice read – and the flavortext, at least form e, has a touching component, but let me elaborate. Once in a while, Rite Publishing’s late mastermind Steven D. Russell would go one step above and beyond in his 101-series. Sometimes, he would deliver a book of raw creative potency that blew even the generally very high standard oft he series away – this book is, in dedication and also in flavortext, a nod to his creativity and person, as it employs the proper appellations and nomenclature; in a way, this book is a take on his concept of power components and special materials, a book he never had the time to write, but always wanted to.


So what are these components? Well, there is a disjunction in d20-based roleplaying I never was too comfortable with – said disjunction would exist between the huge diversity of critters that exist fort he game we all love and cherish and the non-information; nay, the sheer mundane nature of how their vanquishing is handled. Think of Sigfried/Sigurðr – bathing in dragon’s blood rendered him nigh-unstoppable. Think of Hercules and his golden fleece; of the medusa’s head; oft he basilisk’s blood and the manticore‘s stinger; think of a wyvern’s poison…think of all the hundreds of glorious remnanty of fantastical creatures our own mythology has bequeathed upon us…so why in all hell is defeating such foes so mundane in Pathfinder and similar systems? Where is the gravitas, the „realism“, the magic? The components used herein elevate defeated foes from being simply collections of XP with a mechanical coating. The pdf does this in a variety of ways, so let’s examine them.


Number one would be the use as optional power components – using a component to enhance a spell. Number two would be to aid the creation of magical items…but before the components can be used in any way, they have to be harvested. A simple table and guidelines, with CR as guideline and associated prices provided, does offer a massive help for any prospective GM who wants to add a slew of Geralt of Riva’s fantasy aesthetics to the game. Beyond even that, essence vials for capturing parts of ephemeral creatures and the willing gift of components is covered herein as well. Concise guidelines are provided to help the GM handling creature components in a given game.


For purposes of spellcasting enhancement, the pdf provides several broad categories that help classifying the components and their effects on spellcasting – and yes, they do take into account the variety of prepared vs. Spontaneous spellcasting, as just one example; optional, GM-controlled downsides for grittier games are mentioned as well and using items to modify magic items or reduce the cost of creation provide a truly concise and comprehensive framework to make the process as smooth as possible: A GM who wants to steer his group towards a certain module that features foes the PCs are reluctant to engage can thus easily employ these components a spart oft he treasure of even main objective: In order to break through defensive dweomer XYZ, you will need that ettercap’s silk-spinnerts…


So, this would be the basic framework the pdf offers – sufficient to generate a ton of material and ideas for adventures, for whole campaigns, even. However, the main meat oft he book does not lie within the general, but nevertheless interesting guidelines presented thus far – no, it lies in the massive catalog of components featured thereafter: we basically take the first Pathfinder bestiary and its creatures and provide components for them. Andy es, aasimars are included; and no, you can’t „milk“ these fellows- the non-abuse/GM-control clauses in the general section make sure of that and even provide a reasonable justification in the spiritual component required for these items to work. Trust me, it makes sense as featured in this book.


Anyways, we begin with aasimar blood, which can add Flaring Spell’s effects to any spell with a light-descriptor. If you’d expect now a one creature, one component breakdown oft he material herein, you’d be surprised to realize that there is often more than one component provided – aboleth mucus and cerebral fluid are included as two components, for example; similarly, while angel blood does have general properties, the individual creatures and their vital fluids actually offer different tricks fort he discerning user. The modifications often feature metamagic effects or a cost reduction; however, it would be a gross and unjust miss-characterization of this book to only expect cookie-cutting effects; quite the contrary, actually.


Let’s stay with „A“ for a second and talk about the ankhegs, some of my favorite critters; Their saliva, when used to cast a spell with an acid-descriptor, increases the damage-die type by one step (max 1d12); however, when used to enhance a spell of 3rd level or lower, the user also becomes immune to acid damage for 1 round upon casting the spell, adding a brand new tactical dimension to the casting. How is such a component presented? Well, we have an alphabetical listing, with the general potency (as introduced before), component class (think oft hat as the type oft he component) and spell that can be augmented noted; similarly, prices have been provided. Whether you employ balor essence or horn makes a significant difference in use, for example, though both are components with a potency of greater.  Want to enhance a spell or effect that causes the nauseated or sickened condition? Hezrou sweat is the way to go! Replacing caused diseases with devil’s chills? Possible. If you add mimic spittle to spells that grant DR or an increase to touch AC, you may also increase the CMB for grapple purposes…well, I could go on like this forever. Basically, this book takes the essences of creatures and codifies them in a quasi-alchemical component system that makes the creatures feel more…well, alive. Believable.


Speaking of which, notice how I mentioned that the x-blooded races would be kept in check to avoid the abuse of harvesting components? Beyond feats that build on the system presented herein, there also are feats that allow a character with a certain bloodline to properly harvest his own blood, but thankfully with a proper cap.


This is, however, not even close to the totality of what this book offers – in the spirit of „waste not what you’ve killed“, the book also features a significant plethora of magic items based on components as well as variants of existing ones reimagined within the framework of this book; suddenly, the cloak of resistance is no longer the most boring magic item ever, but „the item we made from that owlbear that almost killed Yorvan“ – but beyond that, e.g. a remorhaz forge deserves special mention…sans fuel, fantastic…and absolutely stunning to look at. Look at? Well, guess what? This is the first Playground Adventures book not specifically targeted at a younger audience and oh boy, it is BEAUTIFUL. As in „Usually, we only see that in Kickstarters“ level of beautiful. The component section features several quasi-anatomical renditions that evoke the spirit oft he classic Vetruvian man and real life bestiaries. (In case you didn’t know – in less enlightened times and long before even daguerreotypes were a thing, cataloging of creatures both mundane and fantastical was done in such tomes.) In the item-section, the artistic style is deliberately changed to provide renditions of many oft he items included in stunning full-color; and we’re talking about the same quality as the cover. Yeah. This book is BEAUTIFUL.


But I digress – note how I mentioned the famous Sigfried myth? Well, in the end, even some special properties may be modified…so yes, actually using dragon’s blood to enhance your armor will yield results…



Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups and, considering the length of this book, that is quite a feat. Layout adheres to a gorgeous 2-column full-color standard that blends well with the aforementioned glorious art-direction of this book: Jocelyn Sarvida’s art complements BJ Hensley’s layout really well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with individual bookmarks for all critters, making navigation really comfortable.


Daniel Marshall’s books so far have always had the right creative spark, but stumbled somewhere along the line; I’m not sure if the development by Stephen Rowe or just a natural growth as a designer or both are responsible…but guess what?


THIS IS AMAZING. Congratulations are in order!


Know how I always complain about fantasy feeling mundane? About the fact that we have these tropes of requiring some unique components, but no mechanical representation? Well, this is it. This is the book fort he GMs who are tired of monsters that just feel like mechanics; the book fort he groups that want to craft their own equipment; the groups that want it to matter what kind of foes they defeated; this is the book fort he Geralt of Riva fans; this is the book for all the groups who want to play rare/low magic and make the defeat of those mighty foes matter. The book fort he collectors, the scavengers, the groups that want an unicorn’s gift horn and self-sacrifice matter; that want devil’s blood to have repercussions; that want a touch of our myths, our fantastic tropes in the game. This is a book fort he fans oft he occult that want their fantasy to feel real. While feasible for any system, particularly fans of darker fantasy will consider this book a must own purchase.

In case you were wondering – the above all, in some extent or another, holds true for me. This book is a touching monument, a great tribute and beyond that, it frankly is one inspiring tome. Honestly, even before all the „OMG, it is so beautiful“-artwork and layout, I read the plain ole‘ doc and was grinning from ear to ear; to be honest, it’s one reason I managed to sit down after hundreds of miles at the wheel, dead tired and write this.

I wanted to draw attention to this gem. Immediately. This book is a fantastic resource for groups of all ages, for various games; it is an exceptional resource that very much will become a default staple in pretty much all of my games once I return home. There is a chance you just want to kill things and their names and flavor don’t matter to you; perhaps you’re fine with just nameless, mass-produced cloaks of resistance – that’s fine, I don’t judge. But you’re missing out on something wonderful.

I will always prefer the item with the story, the personal attachment. I will always adore the smart caster from our novels, the one who has the component tool to modify his spell in unique ways. This book provides all of that. It may be a crunch book, but it, like the late scribe Russell’s offerings, is a great read and manages to inspire.

So please, please, please – if what I mentioned above even slightly resonates with you, take a look at this, buy this and support Playground Adventures so weg et more. I know that I can’t wait for Vol. II and hopefully a lot, lot more – this is very much the innovative,game-enhancing crunch book we need. To paraphrase Saint-Exupéry, this book is very much the spirit breathing upon the clay oft he mechanics to create more soul for both items, magic and creatures. There is narrative potential for years in the system presented here and I absolutely love it to bits. This book is stellar and deserves a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval, is a candidate for my top ten of 2016 and receives the EZG Essentials-tag.


You can get this fantastic book here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.