Apr 302012
 

101029[1]

The second installment of Fehr’s Ethnologies from Purple Duck Games is 8 pages long, 1/2 page artwork/editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving about 5 1/2 pages of content for the Hhundi, so let’s check them out!

First, something to note: If you play with Germans or any speakers of German, you’ll have to rename these. “Hundi” is roughly the equivalent to (cute) “doggy” and my players would have burst from laughter. Oh well, onwards to the new race!

Hhundi are crouched monstrous humanoids, get +2 to Dex and Wis, -2 to Cha, darkvision, light sensitivity, scent, natural claw attacks for 1d4, the ability to cast reduce person on themselves and a natural armour bonus of +1.

The Hhundi are a race of stalkers and hunter, not entirely benevolent, but neither bestail, just…welll…somewhat alien. They lay eggs, have some interesting social protocols. The ecology-section per se is well-written. The Hhundi get 4 race traits that don’t feel overpowered and specific enough to make the race flavourful. & alternate racial traits are also part of the deal and range from less penalties when using stealth while moving fast, to negating scent (via a new spell aslo included in the pdf) and I liked most of them – one, though, is severely over-powered: Wary defender replaces scent and lets you roll each perception-check twice, taking the better result. That’s stronger than most FEATS, let alone traits! Not gonna happen!

Speaking of feats: The 4 new ones herein are neat, one in particular, which enables the hhundi to temporarily become small, is neat indeed. The pdf also covers how the race views classes and features favoured class alternatives for 8 different classes.

The sample Hhundi is actually…a gunslinger! Yes, you heard right! Hhundi love the black powder and a masterwork backpack as well as the crude Hhundi silencer are included with their stats – cool supplemental material and the seeming contradiction in the race and the fondness for technology makes them more interesting.

Conclusion:

editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to PDG’s rather printer-friendly 2-column standard and comes with full bookmarks. The artwork of the Hhundi is nice. Apart from the stupid name, I did actually enjoy the race quite a bit – the Hhundi are not easily pinned down into a stereotype and offer a wide array of roleplaying possibilities without dissolving into featurelessness. Rules-wise, they are also rather solid and, with the notable exceptions mentioned above, neither too powerful, nor too weak. On the other hand, said rules are there and feel a bit off and quite frankly, I would have loved to see a bit more on the products they create, as goods say a lot about a culture. The race unfortunately lacks an age, height and weight table. The low price is a plus, but as written; I can’t go higher than 3 stars on this one – check it out if the idea of some strange stalking race intrigues you!

Endzeitgeist out.

Fehr’s Ethnology: Hhundi is available from:

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Apr 292012
 

100800[1]

The fourth installment of the “Swfsa”-line from Raging Swan Press is 23 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC/foreword, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 16 pages of content, so let’s check this one out!

Whereas the third in the series presented stuff for sale in dwarven communities, this one is focused on elven settlements. It should be noted that each type of village comes with a “spellcaster for hire”-entry that notices the highest level of spell available. Among the items to be purchased are a total of 48 cursed items and it is here that a distinction from the former installment can be seen – the curses no longer do only “standard” things, but include e.g. hair changing colour permanently, growth and shrinking etc. Seeing how scarce space for these curses is, I applaud author Julian Neale for the effort.

We also get sample towns, 2 from thorps up to small towns and 1 per larger settlement. In total, we get 25 lists for thorps, 22 for hamlets, 15 for villages, 12 for small towns, 9 for large towns and small cities respectively, 7 for large cities and then we thankfully get 8 sample lists for communities of metropolis-size.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I only noticed an awkward wording in one of the sample towns. Layout adheres to RSP’s tried and true, elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with a version optimized for the screen as well as one for printing. The pdf is fully bookmarked. In contrast to the last installment, this one felt a bit more brave and unique in its curses and the sample towns rock. However, I still can’t help but feel a certain fatigue of reading through these – where e.g. “So what’s that hoard like, anyway” provided strange and uncommon treasures and “So what’s that shiny thing, anyway” was downright brilliant, this one is more conservative. You won’t find any enchanted garter-belts or the like in these lists, which mostly contain rather conservative magic items. Don’t get me wrong, the lists are great and the focus on elven items is nice, I just wished that the pdf would go a step beyond, introduce a new weapons class, a new item, something more out of the magic “ordinary”. If you e.g. took an Iron flask and reskin it as a flute, you could still write “flute xyz (works like the Iron flask)”. But perhaps that’s only me. The pdf per se does what it sets out to do and I don’t really have anything to hold against it and in fact enjoyed the curses of this one more than those of the predecessors. Thus, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

So What’s For Sale, Anyway? IV is available from:

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Apr 252012
 

98604[1]

This installment of “The Sinking” from 0one Games is 15 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover and 1 page SRD, leaving 9 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

This being an adventure-review, the following text contains SPOILERS, so potential players should jump to the conclusion.

Still here? All right! After the PCs have supposedly found the gold-filled tomb of Furam (see the Plumb Line), a kind of gold rush has started on the sinkhole which has seen many a person hurt. Subsequently, the army has taken to guarding the place against intrusion, but sometimes, things just go wrong: A mercenary of the notorious Bloodfangs, a bugbear named Karoc Skullsplitter to be specific, has killed a captain of the guard and now the military is hard-pressed – immediate repercussions by them will be seen as revenge by the Bloodfangs and thus, the PCs are tasked with capturing Karoc Skullsplitter. There are irreconcilable factions after the murderer, though: The Kharel and the influential widow of the victim and both want the PCs to procure the fugitive.

Time is of the essence, though, as the bugbear has been seen entering a gang headquarter – which proves to be an elaborate trap that might take the gang leader as well as the PCs to the grave, while Karoc uses his allied gang of thugs, the winged angels to try and escape the city. In order to catch the perpetrator, the PCs will have to succeed in a neck-breaking chase through the streets while being peppered with arrows, caltrops, alchemist’s fire and the like. When they finally catch up with the escapee, they’ll be between the fronts – Karoc’s trail in the wilderness leads right into an owlbear’s cave and two dangerous opponents can thus be used against one another -just hope your players are smart enough not to get caught in the middle…

Once they, via any means, have returned the bugbear to their employer of choice, they will have made at least one powerful enemy, though…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. The layout adheres to a 2-column standard and comes with some nice pieces of b/w-artwork as well a bookmarks. The fast-paced chase presented in this installment makes for a neat action-romp that is on the upper scale of difficulty without being unfair. The tie-ins with the metaplot of the Sinking are subtle and very much appreciated, as they start to evoke a sense of continuity, which I hope will be expanded in future installments. What can I say? Tough decisions, a neat chase and a furious finale -for less than 2 bucks. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better bang-for-buck ratio out there and thus my final verdict will be 5 stars – a great little scenario and apart from the extraordinary “Politics Unusual” and the weird “Animation” one of my favourites in the season so far.

Endzeitgeist out.

The Sinking: Bear Hunting is available from:

rpgnowlogo_sized43433333333333333333[1]

 

Apr 252012
 

100462[1]

This pdf from Misfit Studios is 73 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 69 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

If you’re anything like me, you breathed a sigh of relief when PFRPG got rid of skill synergies. They were clunky, overtly complicated and often forgotten. In summary, I don’t know a single player or DM who actually liked how they worked. Now that I’ve established that, let me assure you that the skill synergies herein work nothing like those in the 3.X-days of old, instead providing us with a wholly original system: Essentially, you can opt to modify skill checks with your primary skill by complementing them with a secondary skill, for example making feinting via Bluff easier if you succeed at an acrobatics skill check. These secondary skill checks, however, are anything but a sure bet: Each of the secondary skill uses has 9 potential outcomes that range from utterly failing (Dc missed by 15+) the second skill check to utterly rocking it (DC surpassed by 20+), making the additional skill use a gambit. Furthermore, the original skill DC is modified depending on the action you try: Using acrobatics to enhance your climbing, for example is against the DC of the climb check -5. Note that these secondary skill checks do not supplant the original skill checks, but add options to handling skills. The possibility to gamble and modify your primary skill checks definitely opens up some interesting new options, if you are willing to run with the additional dice-rolling they require. Advice on how to handle skill synergies and e.g. using them depending on classes are included in the deal as well.

This is by far not where synergy stops, though: The next section provides us with feat synergy-rules. To give you an example on what that actually means, I’ll take the very first of the synergy effects, adamantine lungs. To qualify for this synergy, you have to have the feats athletic, great fortitude and endurance. If you have these 3, you get the benefits of adamantine lungs, making it possible to hold your breath for 50% longer than normal. This is one of the simpler synergies, though, several other needing a selection of up to 6 feats that e.g. open up the option to use whirlwind attack to force enemies surrounding you to step back from you.

What this does cannot be understated: First of all, it provides tangible benefits for characters who take feats that may not be wholly optimized, but fit in line with an organic character development. Secondly, the synergy effects could easily be considered special fighting styles and tactics that could easily be utilized as non-monetary rewards by a DM. In fact, you could also make these synergy effects regular feats if you don’t like the general idea. While reading these effects I did not notice one I’d consider broken or uninteresting and in fact, am enjoying the whole section and the way in which the material presented can easily be modified to suit your and just about any individual game.

Chapter 4 details class synergy, which is one big love-letter to multiclassing: Essentially, the synergy-effects once again are based on having access to different prerequisites, but instead of feats, we now are talking about class abilities like sneak attack, mutagens etc. Need an example? If you’re an alchemist/barbarian, you can benefit from the Liquid Rage-effect and brew a special mutagen that restores a limited amount of rage rounds or even extend your current rage! Even more so than the stellar feat-synergy-section, this chapter opens whole new possibilities and incentives for multiclassing and customizing your characters and, once again, could also be used as story-rewards, organization-benefits etc. – in fact, you could probably craft a whole setting of cool organizations from these synergies.

Chapter 5 goes further by providing magic synergy effects, something that I bet has come up in your game: Ever had your players e.g. try to brittle structures, weapons etc. via fire and cold damage? With the rules provided in this chapter, you have now the option to make elemental physics matter in your game without being unbalancing – concise rules for all the synergy effects are provided and ensure that using magical tactics in the fights of your group finally matter. Add to that the options these synergy effects provide when interacting with terrain and you’re in for a couple of pages of sheer awesomeness. It should be noted that weird combinations like a paladin/barbarian-cross-over are included, but the author has explained that this strange combination, prohibited by alignments, will make more sense with an upcoming release.

Less obviously awesome, but nevertheless brilliant is the final chapter, which is wholly devoted to craft synergies. If you’re playing in a low magic campaign, this chapter is essentially a must-have and reason enough to justify the asking price in and of itself. Essentially, the chapter provides additional crafting rules to add mini-templates to your equipment. As with the skills, failing the second craft-skill has potentially negative consequences on the item’s usability, making adding these special qualities a gamble. The added modified properties range beyond armor-ruining weapons (which can be found here, though!) and include special vials that deal their splash damage in a larger area and even weapons that have been specifically tailored and weighted to your individual character. In order to use these synergies, though, the crafting character has to once again, fulfill certain criteria, ensuring that not everyone can craft these modifications.

The pdf ends with several pages of reference sheets to facilitate usage of the new rules herein.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect – I noticed several misplaced blank spaces and other minor glitches. While not impeding my understanding of the rules or generally being a hindrance, another pass at editing would have been nice. Layout adheres to a full-color 2-column standard and the artworks are a bit cartoony for my tastes. if you own “The Spellweaver”, you know what to expect. The pdf comes with a printer-friendly version as well as a separate reference sheet pdf. What can I say? Whether you like the new skill synergy rules will depend mostly on whether you consider the additional dice-rolling a pro or a con, but enough rules and variants are covered to tailor the content to your game by restricting the usage of the synergy skills.

While I’m still a bit undecided on the section on skill synergy, the other synergies covered are gold and no-brainers – whether you include feat-synergy as story-rewards, feats or flat-out synergies, the chapter is a definite winner. the same holds true for class synergies and finally, magic and craft synergies, which provide options galore as well. Even better, while all of these synergies could be added to your campaign, the rules are open and versatile and enable you to introduce them in just about any way you like to your campaign, cherry-picking and customizing the content.

Supremely ambitious in scope, Misfit Studios’ second pdf is a challenging design that retains top-notch customizability while providing easy to insert, fun and smart rules to your game, making this humble pdf a true winner and very hard, if not impossible, to dislike. In fact, my only gripes with the massive and extremely versatile content lie in the minor editing glitches and a personal dislike of the art-style. Usually, I’d go 4.5 stars and round down to 4 due to aforementioned glitches, but that would, quite frankly do injustice to the stellar design and content herein, where in fact one chapter alone would make for an excellent supplement, let alone that many brilliant ideas. I really enjoy this book and would love to see a POD, as I consider this pdf worthy of being printed and while I’m not 100% sold on the skill-section, I do still consider this pdf an excellent example of stellar crunch-design. Thus my final verdict will be 5 stars, with the seal of approval missed by only a margin and remain with a definite recommendation. Congratulations to Steven B. Trustrum!

Endzeitgeist out.

Superior Synergy: Fantasy is available from:

rpgnowlogo_sized43433333333333333333[1]

 

Apr 222012
 

99859[1]

This selection of char-sheets from Silver Crescent Publishing is 56 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover and 54 pages of char-sheets, so lets check them out!

If you happen to own the Realms of Twilight campaign setting, you know the basic layout of the char-sheets, if not, I’ll try to sum them up to the best of my ability: At the top, we have boxes for name, class, age, height, weight, hair and eye-colours etc. as well as a box for deity and alignment. On the right at the top, we have an already filled out box that contains the name of your class, a box for the level in it and below that, 3 boxes for archetypes.

Below these pieces of information, the physical attributes Strength, Constitution and Dexterity are lined up in roughly three not clearly separated columns. Below them are the skills corresponding to the attributes with a black box for class-skills and a white box for cross-class skills. The skill-sections feature the total value closest to the skill’s name and, separated by a grey margin, the rank and misc modifiers. Below Strength, we get the loads the character can carry as well as the general melee-attack. Below Constitution, we have the fortitude-save (in the same format as the skills, but separated from them by a margin), a heart-shaped box for the HP and a box for wounds. Below the Dexterity-score, we get the reflex-save-boxes, initiative and ranged attacks-boxes, which follow the format of the other saves/attacks in presentation. Below constitution, the Realms of Twilight-logo makes for the centre of the sheet. To the left of the logo, below Str is the information for the BAB and the speed of the character. Below the logo, from left to right, Wisdom, Intelligence and Charisma follow the same format as their physical counterparts.

Below the Will-save, below the Wisdom-skills and score, the information on CMB and CMD is covered. Below that, we get a box with 5 rows for weapon proficiencies (including boxes for “all simple” and “all martial” above) and to the right of that, Armour Class, boxes of proficiency for armour categories as well as shields and boxes for spell failure chance, touch AC and flatfooted AC.

The lowest section of the sheet is devoted to 4 rows with 9 columns each for weapons, including a column for threat ranges, range, type, weight, ammo, etc. This is the first page of the sheets and it is mostly identical for all of the characters. I do have some gripes with it, but more on that later.

The second page contains the more class-specific pieces of information for the respective classes, but each sheet starts with 3-column: To the left, we have the gear-column. In the middle, there’s the magic items-column and to the right, we get either spells, formulae, special abilities or feats, which is somewhat of a strange decision – some classes feature the feat-table below the gear-column, some below the special ability column. On the back-side of the char-sheets, we, when applicable, can find the place to fill out our eidolon/familiar/etc. stats below the gear-section. Coins by type get their own box, as does jewellery/misc treasure and spellcasting/manifesting gets columns for the DC, which is odd when compared between the psionic and the magic classes – the psionic sheets all read “DC = 10 + Box + level”, whereas the sheets for casting characters read “DC = Box + level” – an inconsistency that can be confusing to new players.

The pdf does provide sheets for all the core-classes, the APG-classes, the Magus, the Ultimate Combat classes, the Combat Alchemist from the Realms of Twilight campaign setting and the psionic core classes from Psionics Unleashed (Psion, Psychic Warrior, Soulknife and Wilder), which makes for quite a lot of sheets.

Conclusion:

This pdf is fully bookmarked and the sheets come with a greyish background. I would have enjoyed a printer-friendly version without the grey. Additionally, the sheets are not form-fillable on your computer, which is a major bummer. The ability to edit the sheets prior to printing them out would have been nice. I can see the reasoning behind putting the skills below the corresponding attributes, but I consider it a bad idea – what if you can use another attribute modifier for a skill due to some ability/feat? The sheets don’t cover that.

My very first impression of them was: Wow, these are cluttered and this impression never really left me. There is a reason why usually attributes are presented in the sequence Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha. – We’re used to it and while putting skills and everything attribute-related together sounds like a great idea, it’s really not: It just splits information you need across the sheet. DM calls for a skill-check? To quickly find the skill, you have to know which attribute it corresponds to and then look there, instead of just going to an unified skill-section. That is not an improvement in my book, nor is the fact that the traditional sequence of attributes has been broken up to cram them in the first page.

If one of your fellow players is ill and you have to manage his character as well, the non-unified second pages of the sheets make finding feats harder than it ought to be. Advanced Talents, major and grand hexes and similar higher-level abilities don’t get their own sections. And then there’s the internal inconsistency between the DC-information of psionic and magic classes. Finally, the sheets completely break down once you multiclass/enter a PrC – since the skills are aligned not in their own section, but below the attributes, confusion regarding class-skills is sure to ensue and the extra and class-specific abilities just don’t fit on the already cluttered sheets.

When all’s said and done, I’m not impressed by these sheets – to me, they are unpractical due to not being usable on the computer, eat more ink than necessary due to being grey, are cluttered and feature a layout that makes it hard to distinguish between different boxes/sections of the sheet – were there more space and perhaps a third page, a different layout – these might work. For me, though, they failed, are counter-intuitive and constitute the worst char-sheet I have seen for any derivative of d20 so far. One of my players has created better sheets in his spare time and they don’t cost 9 bucks. If you totally love the idea of the attributes in non-sequential order with corresponding skills and don’t want to multiclass, you can try them. The only other positive thing I can say about these is that they feature nice front and back-cover artworks. My final verdict will be 1 star.

Endzeitgeist out.

Realms of Twilight Character Sheets is available from:

rpgnowlogo_sized43433333333333333333[1]

 

Apr 222012
 

100791[1]

This pdf from Purple Duck Games is 8 pages long, 1 page SRD and 1/2 a page artwork and editorial, leaving 6 1/2 pages of content for the Ith’n Ya’roo…so what exactly are these beings?

The Ith’n Ya’roo are an interesting new race that capitalizes on a the idea of regression – via mating with yetis, humans have transformed into these strange humanoids. If you now expect another evil culture to abhor, you’ll be in for a surprise, though – the Ith’n Ya’roo are actually epitomes of the noble savage, being mostly LG and suitable as a PC-race. While their customs include cannibalism, there is no taboo in being eaten and in fact, the usage of one’s bones in the crafting of a tribe is considered to be a great honor, especially for weapons – for the Ith’n Ya’roo are perhaps the best bonecrafters in the known world – thus rules for bone weapons and armour are part of the deal.

The horned, tall, shaggy-furred Ith’n Ya’roo get +2 Str and Wis, -4 Int, are monstrous humanoids, medium, gain darkvision, +2 natural armour, hooked horns for a 1d6-natural attack, resistance to cold 5, vulnerability to fire, a bonus on craft checks related to bone and the ability to cast a new spell from this pdf 2/day. While they are fearsome-looking and culturally limited, I think DMs should be careful when allowing such a PC – over all, their abilities seem to be very strong and should be balanced via social stigmata or the like.

ESPECIALLY when using one of the 4 racial traits, or 6 alternate racial traits, some of which are simply OP: Yaroo Bloodspear grants you the Splintering Weapon FEAT. Trait. Feat. There’s supposed to be a difference in power, isn’t there?. Worse, the Blue Hair alternate trait makes them IMMUNE AGAINST COLD. A trait. Immunity against one whole energy type. At first level. Not gonna happen in my game. Ever. Another trait, where I doubt the usability, is Growler: You sacrifice your starting languages for a 1d3 bite attack. that’s worse than the horns. And it’s not clear whether this is a primary or secondary natural attack. Either way, it doesn’t do enough damage when compared to the attack the race already has. The ability to use a trait to cast icicle dagger and shield simultaneously is also to powerful for a trait. Or it would be if it specified what action this special casting takes – the information is missing.

The 4 racial feats, when compared to the traits, fall almost insultingly flat and range from an ice-based version of stonecunning to using Wis as governing attribute for two of your knowledge skills. Especially when directly compared to the traits, these feats feel like they are actually too weak. We also get 8 favoured class alternatives, a discussion on how they relate to classes, but no information on an age, height and weight table, which is a bummer. Instead we get another trait, 2 spells (an icicle dagger and one to reinforce temporarily brittle bone equipment) and a sample NPC.

Said sample NPC, I gladly admit, is my favourite piece of the pdf – an Ith’n Ya’roo alchemist who uses acid-filled bladders instead of exploding flasks and who is a refreshingly non-optimized build. If I do use them in my campaign, I’ll be sure to include this cool alchemist.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though some rules need clarification. Layout adheres to PDG’s printer-friendly 2-column standard and also features a truly beautiful full-colour artwork I didn’t expect to see at this price-point. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, which is another plus. I’m kinda torn on the Ith’n Ya’roo – on the one hand, I love how the fear of degenerating into something wild has been married to the stereotype of the noble savage and what I could glean from their culture interested me. However, their bonecrafting remains somewhat underutilized and, moreover, the race suffers from what I’d call a bit wonky balancing – as written, a DM should be willing to put some stones in the way of the Ith’n Ya’roo PC in order to counteract the increased power when compared to the core-races. And then there are the broken traits. And I mean BROKEN. I like powerful traits that matter, I really do. But they have to be restricted in order to remain what they are supposed to be. Good examples would be RiP’s “101 Pirate & Privateer”-traits. In contrast, the Ith’n Ya’roo traits are almost ridiculously powerful, while their racial feats frankly suck. All in all, I’m missing the crucial age, height and weight-table (when do they crash through the ice?), perhaps some unique items and some fleshing out of the whole culture (what about starting wealth?). On the other hand, the pdf is very cheap. Going over it again and again, I can’t bring myself to rate this higher than 2.5 stars, though – there are too many mechanical hick-ups that add up and tarnish the per se great idea of the race. Unfortunately, I feel like I have to round down for that one.

Endzeitgeist out.

Fehr’s Ethnology: Ith’n Ya’roo is available from:

rpgnowlogo_sized43433333333333333333[1]

 

Apr 212012
 

97910[1]

This pdf from Open Design is 117 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/SRD, 1 page ToC and 1 page back cover, leaving 112 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

This pdf consists of a gazetteer in the truest sense – it starts with an account of the history of Zobeck, the by now famous clockwork city. From a history steeped in mystic lore and the interaction of the infamous Stross-family with the shadowfey to the recent rebellion that made a free city out of Zobeck, saw the advent of gear-forged guards and the freedom of kobold miners, the history-section of the book is written in compelling prose and provides enough fodder for campaigns aplenty alone. Current Zobeck is a vibrant city and thus, we first get an account of the city and its structures as a whole, from government, guards etc. to the unique festivals of the city. Life and culture in the city of clockworks is detailed in excruciating, vibrant detail, bringing to life one of the most iconic cities of Midgard and neighbours like Morgau and Doresh, the near Margreve and the Ironcrag dwarves will ensure that Zobeck never runs out of the need for adventurers.

Perhaps the most iconic district of Zobeck would be the Kobold Ghetto and it is detailed herein in as of yet unseen detail, including a vast variety of (often humorous) traps and hassles for the big folk to encounter. The cartways and different districts of Zobeck are covered in similar, yet not as extensive detail and their locations provide adventure hooks galore for enterprising PCs. If that still does not satisfy your locale-needs (have I mentioned the shadow-fey embassy?), the surrounding area also gets a brief glance. Of course, all these locales have to be inhabited by people and said people tend to organize – from weavers using automatic spiders to gangs, the spy-networks of the mouseking and the spyglass guild, the diabolist cloven nine and several other cabals and guilds, there are plenty potential intrigues waiting for the involvement of your PCs in tha tangled webs that are the city’s politics – and that’s before the gods, cults and religions (fully detailed, btw.) of the city come into play. It is also here, the great crab-divining of the Kariv is detailed alongside patron saints, relics, reliquaries and of course, Rava’s great oracle, which guides and protects the city’s destiny. The “Denizens of Zobeck”-chapter provides us with fully stated characters, including golden-scaled kobold paladins, the infamous mouse-king and other movers and shakers. Since Zobeck features two distinct sub-schools of magic, gear-magic and the star & shadow-school, the magic section of the gazetteer is well-developed and provides additional oomph for casting characters alongside spell-lists for the core and APG-classes, but not for the poor magus.

The pdf finally closes with a selection of magic items for your perusal, many of which deal with the shadier and unique characteristics of Zobeck.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting could have been better – Open Design needs to get more proofers/passes at editing, for the writing is superb, but more than once broken by easily avoidable glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column b/w-standard in full color in the pdf. I don’t understand why the print version is b/w, though. The artwork used throughout the book is stellar and should satisfy the most discerning of purchasers and comes with a mix of abstract, grimy and clear, classic pictures, most of which are b/w. The pdf is extensively bookmarked. So this is it – my favourite city in Pathfinder gets its own gazetteer. And it’s a tantalizing read – in the positive and negative sense. On the one hand, the lecture of this book provides you with information and hooks galore. On the other hand, this information refers to a lot of other books, unfortunately including the now no longer available first Open Designs. I can’t tell you how badly I gnashed my teeth each and every time I read “See Steam & Brass” or “See Castle Shadowcrag”, the two I couldn’t as of yet get my hands on. Additionally, I now hope even more so than before for a PFRPG-conversion of “Courts of the Shadow Fey”.

Moreover, the pdf often refers to two as per the writing of this review not yet released books, the Crossroads Player’s Guide and the Midgard Bestiary, leading to further teeth-grinding, but also joyful anticipation. The writing in this book is superb and befitting of the great content Tales of Zobeck, Streets of Zobeck etc. have provided…which brings me to a major bummer, at least for me: While it is nice to have the information compiled, a lot of this book is a rehash of old material – KQ-articles, information from Tales of Zobeck (updated to PFRPG, though) and Streets/Alleys of Zobeck are heavily quoted. Especially the former two have whole slews of characters, including statblocks, just reprinted, artworks reused etc. And I don’t get why. they are written for PFRPG and freely available. Why take so much of the content from these books instead of providing new one?

Don’t get me wrong, I love AoZ/SoZ, but I would have loved to get even more new content or rephrased old one – perhaps a rule for a certain mother of gorgon’s blood-infusions or more unique cultural practices like crab-divining, something along those lines. It is due to this, at least in my opinion, slightly exaggerated recycling, that this book loses another half star. Combined with the avoidable editing glitches, we thus arrive at a final verdict of “only” 4 stars in spite of one of the best writing jobs I’ve encountered in a setting sourcebook and still a definite recommendation.

Endzeitgeist out.

Zobeck Gazetteer is available from:

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Apr 212012
 

100841[1]

This pdf from LPJ Design is 22 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 4 pages of advertisements, leaving 16 pages of content for the new, revised Machinesmith-class, so let’s check this one out!

The Machinesmith is a new base-class that gets d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with light armours, greatworks-weapons (see below), simple weapons and repeating crossbows, a special kind of spellcasting (again, see below) of up to 6th level and medium BAB as well as good fort and ref saves.

The spellcasting of the Machinesmith is tied to INT and works pretty much like a wizard’s spellcasting, but with some tweaks – essentially, they create small devices from blueprints, so-called prototypes which duplicate spell-effects. These and other abilities of the class are powered by the machinesmith’s inherent magical energy, the mobius energy. Machinesmiths can create blueprints from magical spells they encounter, but wizards cannot extrapolate spells from blueprints. Prototypes also use costly materials if the spells they’re based on do so . Prototypes remain active for only a day and can exclusively be used by the machinesmith that created them. Making a prototype takes one minute and in contrast to wizards, a machinemsith can thus e.g. leave a significant part of his daily prototype-allotment uncreated and make them as the adventuring-day requires them.

Additionally, a machinesmith creates a greatwork at first level, which improves over time. The machinesmith can choose from 3 different greatworks that automatically improve over the levels, with the first being the Analyzer: Most of its abilities work on a at-will-basis, while other use up charges. An analyzer has 3+Int mod-charges that automatically recharge every day and over the progression of the class, add progressively more sensorial enhancements to a machinesmith’s arsenal. Starting with humble detect-spells, the analyzer get more and more divination-style-abilities. It should be noted that the analyzer has received a major overhaul – it now mostly uses charges (a godsend to DMs who don’t want XYZ numbers of divinations to constantly track) and has gotten some neat new tricks, but more on them later

The second choice is the Mechanus, which could be considered an equivalent of the a summoner’s eidolon. 4 base-forms are available (humanoid, aquatic, serpentine, quadruped/tracked/wheeled) and the Mechanus gets 15 HD over 20 levels, +15 BAB, +5 saves, up to +11 AC-bonus and a str/dex-bonus of +8 during the course of their progression. A mechanus also get 3 major upgrades which include a breath weapon-style cone at 15th level, which makes the mechanus devastating against minor foes. It should also be noted that the mechanus can be made larger and later changed. The mechanus now caps in size at huge. It should be noted that the destruction of the mechanus requires it to be re-crafted and costs money. And that machinesmiths get the ability to use an improved version of mending via his/her repair-ability, usable 3+int-modifiers per day, thus potentially making the team Machinsesmith/Mechanus a deadly force.

The final choice the Machinesmith gets is adding a mobius core to a weapon, thus creating a weapon of terrible destructive capabilities. On a basic level, the weapon comes with Int+0.5 x class-level charges and could e.g. utilize these charges to grant temporary access to a selection either melee or ranged feats while wielding the weapon. With the respective upgrades, the Machinesmith can add more feats to the respective feats available and choose multiple feats at the same time, as well as using charges to get luck bonuses and even expending charges to confirm critical hits automatically at higher levels.

Machinesmiths, in case I’ve forgotten to mention that, are good at dispelling magic via their Axiom ability.

That’s not all, though: The Machinesmith gets more craft-feats and at 7th level, can transform prototypes into dispel magic-like effect. Also, the machinesmith gets access to a selection of gadget-tricks, some of which are augmentations for their greatworks and can only be taken by those having the respective greatwork.

A total of 24 different gadgets are included in the deal and feature e.g. turrets than can be fitted out with different kinds of crossbows. The turrets can be further upgraded to have multiple ones and increase the magazine-capabilities of the individual turrets. Also included in the selection is the option to fire explosive ammo via mobius weapons, creating an invisibility cloak a magnetic grappler that can use telekinesis on metallic objects, the option to boost your mechanus into overdrive an even alchemist-fire-powered portable ornithopters! Especially the latter is an awesome gadget in its iconicity. I am happy to report that the analyzers have received a bit more love via these gadgets and may now steal spells they successfully dispelled. While I still prefer the Mechanus and the Mobius Weapon, now I can see someone taking the analyzer.

After that, we are introduced 14 new spells for the machinesmith, which includes tiny bladed drones the machinesmith can redirect to attack other foes. The tiny drones can be destroyed btw. Other examples include alchemist’s fire clusterbombs, irritating guardian drones, force shackles and a music box that spits out tiny constructs each round. Thankfully, the utterly broken “Hand of the Marksman” has been replaced with better, new spells and the drones now have all the information necessary to run them, which makes these spells awesome! This section has seen massive revision and now ROCKS!

LPJr Design is not pulling any punches here: The last bits of crunch depict now 4 archetypes instead of the original 2, the Bombardier and the Technologist. The bombardier gets bombs like the alchemist instead of a greatwork and now comes with all necessary information. The Technologist capitalizes on the science vs. magic-trope and can, by explaining his disbelief, grant his spellcraft as a save to his allies much like the bardic countersong, but less limited. The technologist may also grant himself spell resistance by expanding his repair uses. The formerly broken automatic resistance of his creations has been nerfed by making the components illegible to being enchanted or the creation of magic items. but what are the new ones? The Arcanamechanist is an archetype exclusively for machinesmiths with the analyzer and represents a machinesmith searching for lost, arcane technology. To reflect this, he can use Mobius energy to enhance e.g. wands and staffs, apply metamagic effects to spells cast from wands by expending additional charges and later even to scrolls. I liked the archetype, no balance-concerns on my behalf. The second new archetype is the combat engineer – proficient with medium armors and weapon training, this archetype represents the frontline tinkerer and thus gets e.g. better initiative, and the option to quickly activate gadgets and greatworks, but also diminished prototypes and no axiom-ability.

Even better, we now also get a new 10-level PrC, the Transmechanical Ascendant, who gets full BAB, medium fort-saves, 9 levels of prototype progression) and who seeks to become a machine by implanting a mobius core into his body and slowly turn less human and more like the machines he seeks to emulate. The PrC is a nice metamorphosis-class and comes with 2 new machinesmith tricks and unfortunately also the only remaining, but rather major blunders I could find in the revised version of the Machinesmith: The PrC lacks information regarding its Hit Dice and its skills-per-level, which constitutes a major blunder.

The pdf closes with a description on how machinesmiths work in the world of NeoExodus.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting have been thoroughly revised – Jeffrey Erwin has done a great job and made the whole pdf clearer, more appealing and much more professional. Layout is beautiful, adheres to NE’s full-color 2-column standard and the original pieces of full color artwork by Carlos Herrera Portilla are beautiful. The pdf now comes with extensive bookmarks, which is awesome. Clockworker/tinkerer-classes are notoriously difficult to do and the machinesmith, a kind of spiritual successor of HHG’s Clockworker tries very hard to do it. Now, in the revised edition, I’m extremely happy to report that the pdf actually succeeds in bringing us all a tinkerer-class with rock-solid rules, iconic options galore and cool ideas. ALL of my major complaints have been addressed, the formatting glitches (italics etc.) have been purged, wording has been clarified AND new content has been added. Quite a lot of it, actually! And quality content to boot! In fact, now this pdf actually can be considered a must-buy among the classes out there and I’d immediately go 5 stars plus seal of approval – were it not for the lack of HD and skill-info in the new PrC, which cost this pdf a star for a final verdict of 4.5 stars. I hope to see more of Jeffrey’s excellent work in the future and am quite impressed that the team of LPJr Design has managed to pull this class off in the revised edition!

Endzeitgeist out.

Classes of NeoExodus: Machinesmith (revised) is available from:

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Apr 202012
 

97484[1]

This adventure from Sneak Attack Press is 23 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisements and 1 page SRD, leaving 19 pages of content, so let’s check out this latest adventure by Sneak Attack press!

This being an adventure review, the following text contains SPOILERS. Potential players might want to jump to the conclusion.

The Golden banner is an urban investigation adventure set in a rather generic city and is thus easy to insert into a given campaign: The basic storyline is that once upon a time, a relic, the Golden Banner, was key in defending against a humanoid invasion. The banner was the key symbol for the 3 dominant religions involved in repulsing the invasion and was subsequently lost. The faiths were a good sun-goddess, a neutral god of war and a rather lawful evil entity called the Tyrant. A new age has begun and the banner was lost for quite some time, the Tyrants has been mostly eliminated from official history. However, his faithful haven’t forgotten and thus, bad omens accompany the resurfaced banner. Now in the hand of a rich philanthrope, he plans to bequeath the artefact to one of the two beliefs that lay claim to it, while the Tyrant’s followers want the banner and are willing to go to almost any lengths to realize their “rightful” claim to the relic.

Anticipating trouble, the rich man hires the PCs to uncover any conspiracies and defend the banner from any who would steal it. The problem is: The banquet is scheduled for the evening and time’s ticking. The list of retainers, priests and high-society people is long and the PCs might have to split to get their legwork done in time. Each of the character write-ups is located in one of three districts and tracking the time it takes to go from a) to b) as well as waiting for receptions will be essential and necessitate smart planning. Add to that a strike-force of Tyrant-worshippers and the PCs have a lot to uncover: From hallucinogenic mushrooms in the pheasant (the cook is being blackmailed), noble-born tyrant-sympathizers and the wall of silence around the involvement of the Tyrant in the banner’s history (and thus the identity of the assailants) make for a lot off juicy bits of information to uncover, which may actually lead the PCs to the hidden temple of the tyrant, which along-side the dinner itself, might constitute the climax of this investigation.

My only gripe with the adventure is the wimpy nature of the antagonists, who can’t hold a torch to lvl 6-7 PCs and the fact that the named NPC-foes are mechanically rather on the boring side.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are ok, I noticed for example the amount of levels missing from some statblocks and other minor punctuation glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard, the artwork is stock and the maps provided for all combat encounters are not pretty, but do their job. The pdf comes without bookmarks, but features two handouts -neat. The investigation per se is open-ended, PCs have multiple ways and degrees of success and the story per se and its presentation is concise and well-written. In fact, this adventure is a very good example of how I tend to run my less complicated investigations and features ideas galore and some intriguing detective work without slacking the pace and action-aspects too much.

If the glitches were not there, I’d gladly go full out on this cheap, well-written little adventure. Seeing, though, how crunch-wise the enemies are rather bland and taking into account the lack of bookmarks, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 4 stars instead. With a hearty recommendation to all of you out there: Add some cooler villains and you have a neat go-play investigation for a very low price.

Endzeitgeist out.

The Golden Banner is available from:

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Apr 202012
 

83279[1]

This pdf by Super Genius Games is 11 pages long, 2 /3 of a page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving 9 1/3 pages of content, so let’s check this one out!

If you’re a regular on these boards and to reviews, you might recall my first review of the Vanguard – which admitted to being unfair. The class came out before the Magus and I judged it in direct comparison to Paizo’s class. Now, my verdict then was that the Archon is more interesting and that I didn’t see a good reason for this class. Now, this is the REVISED edition and I wrote it in capital letters for a reason. The pdf has been given a major overhaul and thus I also re-evaluate my take on the class.

For those of you new to the party: The Vanguard is a gish-class (arcane caster/fighter-hybrid) with 3/4 BAB, d8, 4+Int skills per level, good fort and will-saves, proficiency with light armors, shields and martial weapons and Cha-based spontaneous spellcasting of up to 6th level. The release of the magus-class has impacted the vanguard in more than one way – essentially, the abilities have been completely rewritten and expanded upon. But let me elaborate first: The Vanguard bonds with a specific weapon that essentially becomes the material component of his spellcasting and which can even be enchanted at higher levels.

The weapon being essential for a vanguard to work, this is both a strength and a weakness and thus destroying/disarming a vanguard is a hard feat to pull off, with abilities like iron grip etc. preventing it and the weapon actually “healing” damage. Of course, delivering touch attacks via the blade is an option and the vanguard becomes consecutively more adapt at channeling touch spells via his weapon of choice. The vanguard also gains access to vanguard tactics, which enable him to use his intelligence to the benefits of his allies via his tactics and then there’s the vanguard blast – essentially a kind of unerring, magic missile style blast, the attack improves over the levels and may even deal elemental damage.

This reliable output of damage, coupled with tactical prowess and an arcane bond is neat. What’s even better, though, is that the once linear progression of the class has been abolished in favor of more customizability: A total of 9 spell maneuvers, special abilities that range from the ability to block spells (dispel them) to the option to increase casting time for an added oomph are included. The ability to cast some spells as swift actions each day is retained in the new version.

A total of 10 feats (where formerly were only 3) are also part of the deal and let you expend spells for temporary protective magic auras, expand upon your bonded weapon’s enhancements and even add a first-level sorceror bloodline power to your roster of tricks. Oh, and arcane smite can also be expanded: Arcane smite lets you expend spells to store damaging energy in your blade and discharge it upon unwilling foes – for painful results!

The pdf ends with 2 spells that summon an arcane bonded object and a box that elaborates on the usefulness of multiple gish-classes in one setting.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to SGG’s 3-column standard. the artwork is stock and nothing truly exciting. The pdf comes without bookmarks, which is a minor bummer. Oh BOY! I complained about the linearity of the class – it’s gone. In its place are options galore. I complained about a lack of signature abilities. Now we have multiple ones. I complained about a lack of feats. Now, the additional feats open up whole avenues of different character concepts. This new Vanguard is up to the times – smarter, better, cooler in every way and armed with a plethora of abilities that make it stand out from the Archon and the Magus, this revised edition is mind-boggling in the sheer amount of ways in which it is better than its predecessor. For this review, I sat down and compared the old and the new pdf and am happy indeed to pronounce: This revised edition is so far superior to the first one, it’s not even funny. In fact, I’m extremely glad to see this – author Marc Radle has taken a class that had become out-dated and infused it with a whole new spark of life, a complexity and a wealth of iconic options that make this revised edition truly stand its ground and make the class a great one. This is beyond an updated version. This is not simply an overhaul. It is one of the most expansive and well-made revisions I’ve yet to see of an rpg-product. Product support like this is scarce indeed and I’m still a bit baffled by the lengths to which this revision goes to make the class not only appealing, but an iconic one that makes you immediately want to try it. I am deeply impressed and since all my gripes have been taken care of and since this class now truly deserves it, I’m happy to revise my verdict and give the revised vanguard 5 stars plus the Endzeitgeist seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

The (revised) Genius Guide to the Vanguard is available from:

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