Feb 242014
 

Companions of the Firmament

114091

This book is 188 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with182 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Full Disclosure: This review is mostly based on the Hardcover of the book, which I got for backing the Kickstarter. With just a minimum delay and communication throughout the process, I might add. I was in no way affiliated with the production of this book.

 

That out of the way… Before you click on another page due to the book’s price: WAIT. Just a second, okay? Please read on, I guarantee you won’t regret it. This book is filled to the brim with crunch and in order to avoid bloating this review unduly, I promise I’ll try to be as brief as possible, given the matter at hand. Let me ask you a question to begin:

 

Have you ever wanted to run an aerial chase, dogfights on dragons, with manticores, chimera and giant eagles crashing into one another, while their riders duke it out in free fall as their mounts try to rip each other asunder? Have you ever wanted to blast after a dragon-riding villain and perhaps even ride your own dragon to face the tyrant as your army and the forces of darkness clash below you? Have you ever wanted to jump from the highest window of the sapphire tower, jewel of Hashk-Kanep in hand, only to land on the back of your trusty Pegasus, while the sultan’s enraged men cover the sky with hundreds, nay, thousands of arrows and bolts? If you have ever wanted to do something like that, then by all means, read on.

 

Do you know what all of these scenarios have in common? They don’t work properly in PFRPG.

 

But more on that in a very short bit – after all, this book is about helped, personal flight – from the means to achieve it, broken down by class and taking various archetypes into account, this pdf leaves, from the very first page, no doubt on how serious it handles the topic: If you have ever had a flying PC or taken any amount of time to concoct a story-line featuring the lofty skies, you’ll realize one thing as soon as you take a look at PFRPG’s flight-rules. They’re there. Somewhere.

This pdf organizes them in a way that actually make them USABLE. Don’t believe me that the basic rules are just not that well-organized?  What about encumbrance for flying creatures that are quadrupeds? Why is this relevant? Flying mounts can’t fly in medium or heavy barding – which doubles as counting as medium/heavy-load equivalent. Which means only light load, otherwise no dice for your flying mount to carry you aloft. I just wished I had this book prior to having to pierce this together from sentences throughout the core rule book. Now different playstyles have different preferences and hence, just about EVERY set of rules has three options – a simulation-style approach, a hybrid approach and a cinematic approach that is more focused on what’s cool. Tables of mount sizes and rider sizes in comparison to show how many passengers they can carry, negotiation with intelligent mounts -all of that is concisely broken down and explained in a clarity that would have spared me about 2 weeks of frustration, book-switching and browsing through boards. Yeah, go figure.

 

We get three classes in here – the magical beast rider (a cavalier archetype),who can teach his/her mount arcane talents and choose from selections as exotic as the winged cat & dog Bixie and Hainu to Griffons and Spider-Eaters. The airshaping sky pilgrim alternate monk, in the meanwhile, feels like an expertly-executed nod towards “The Last Airbender”, gaining the option to shape winds, fly etc. and, in fact, working much better than the rather lame monk base-class. (Hint for Owen K.C. Stephens should he read this – I’d love to see this made “talented”…). Now speaking of former Super Genius, now Rogue Genius Games – their Dragon Rider base-class is powerful, but many people don’t particularly like the amount of actions they eat. For those of you looking for an alternate take, herein is the Wyrm Rider, an alternate cavalier that rides on a domesticated, less dangerous species of dragon, which, while not as powerful as a regular dragon, also doesn’t eat your actions for a different playing experience.

 

 

This book being about flying companions, we get concise lists of animal companions that can fly, with entries on being ground-suitable, aerial trip CMDs, options to carry things (and people), full companion stats etc. – there is a LOT of work in these tables and they cover regular dragon cohorts gained via leadership and also faithful companions: The latter are rather ingenious options for characters in aerial-heavy campaigns that want a flying mount, but don’t have the suitable class – faithful companions can be rescued, raised etc.  and, while not as efficient as animal companions, make for awesome pets. The rules here are once again an example for concise, easy to grasp material.

 

New race-wise, we get the Half-Fey – which comes with 6 variants that feature an ARG race-point break-down for each and range from their point values from 1 at 10 points to 4 11-point builds to 1 20 point-build for higher fantasy campaigns. Aforementioned Bixie and Hainu also get full statblocks/bestiary-style entries, as do so-called lesser chimera, which essentially are flying animals that have a rather simple template added. oh, and we get a one-page easy-to-grasp overview over flying constructs with a streamlined single look, you have all information handy on one page.

 

At this place in time while writing this review, I was honestly feeling like I was failing – why? Because I just can’t mention everything this book does, the level of detail it provides – take weapons – not only do we get new ones, this book also deals with the question what happens when flight is common in a setting: The importance of ranged combat and the proficiency thus required, a whole page of bardings, signaling kites, slow-burning smokesticks, aeronautic balloons – and all of these even before brooms of flying or even Thunnorad, Thor’s chariot (WITH properly spelled names for the two rams – the scholar of Scandinavian literature rejoices!) or flying Vardos enter the fray with concisely-worded and at the same time iconic rules. Oh each, OF COURSE, also are all collated in tables with appropriate NPC levels / PC levels to have them, gp value etc. – If only the regular rules were that well organized!

 

Now if you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll know that I consider vehicles to be underdeveloped and this book also has some ideas here – first of all, it proposes a less insane driving-DC (which I’ve house-ruled ages ago); secondly, from balloons to alchemical skiffs and air barges to batman-style kite-gliders, we get some cool additional vehicles. Yay! Suffice to say, once again, the rules are almost painfully concise and easy to grasp in their presentations.

 

Now remember the example at the beginning, with the sultan’s archers? Want to fly over an enemy army and rain death on them? enter missile mooks! By providing concise rules for volley-shots of large quantities of archers/crossbowmen and no less than 4 (!!!) pages of tables that include perception, CRs, XP-values, ACs, atks and damage, we get mooks for literally EVERY situation, spanning the Crs from 1/3 to 18! This chapter will get a tremendous amount of use, not only by me.

 

Have I mentioned concise lists of flying mounts by their terrain that cover the first 3 bestiaries 8the 4th hadn’t been released yet…), the extensive rules on creating storms with wind-speeds, rain, climate, clouds, max visibility and special occurrences like lightning, hail and turbulences? Oh, for EACH SEASON and THREE CLIMATES? a concise system to create weather hazards on the fly?

 

What comes up, must come down, as the saying goes, and falling-rules, from simulation-style half-rounds to cinematic style options to ground-catch or mid-air catch targets are not only explained, their pros and cons are weighed and individual systems are provided for your preference. so yeah, if you always thought that Superman’s arms should have sliced Lois Lane clean in three parts – here are rules for that as well as one-glance tables that show you the amount of damage caused. And yes, unconsciousness, the diehard feat, ferocity, being big and rings of feather falling – all in here, all taken into account.

 

Now how to handle this grid-wise? The book actually also has various ways for you to handle this, with sidescroll, top-down, full-blown 3d via two maps and tables of vertical reach summed up cleanly for you. If you don’t want to go full-blown simulation, there are varying and all feasible abstract grid-options with corresponding rules to be found in here as well, including abstract ranges, movement etc. The Fly-skill’s maneuvers, including u-turns of varying degrees on a more simulationalist grid are also perfectly explained and detailed alongside ascending/descending. And yes, they are expanded from the basis provided to include e.g. 135°-turns, the concept of expanded flight and different ways of dealing with the problem of the face of creatures  -whether you want to keep it or get rid of it – this book has you covered. Have I mentioned strong winds, flying through canopies etc.?

 

Gamemasters aren’t left hanging in the cold stratosphere either – this pdf literally has thought EVERYTHING through: The repercussions of common flight, from preferred weapons to the role of small folk like halflings and gnomes, the costs of maintaining herbivore/carnivore armadas of flying creatures, trade winds, guild-systems, flags & pennants, politics, ley lines, artforms (GEOGLYPHS!), strategic cliff-dwellings, food pyramids, overland travel via fly-speed distances (again, in 3 different forms) – this chapter is a world-builder’s dream and perfectly summarizes key question of what would change in a world if flying was really common.

 

That is not where this book stops, though – Fly maneuverability templates and companion/cohort-sheets for just about EVERY CREATURE as well as token galore for the creatures, a missile mook sheet, a rules-checklist (so you can recall which of the various options you and your players settled on – e.g. a world with trade winds, but no organized sky guilds?) and finally, a concise summary of fly, ride and handle animal-skills  -all of these can be found in here as well.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are SUPERB – I only noticed two minor typos, one of which was my nick in the backer-list, but who cares – at this length an impressive achievement. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, easy-to-read 2-column b/w-standard that makes the tables herein (and there are A LOT) easy on the eyes. The b/w-artwork, of which we get a LOT is rather cartoonish/very old-school in many places, whereas some pieces are downright awesome. It took me some time to get used to it, but it does have its charm. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and if you can track one down, get the hardcover – it is solidly and very professionally produced. I’m not 100% sure whether all the creature-sheets of the KS are included with this book on non-KS-venues, so I can’t include those in my final verdict.

 

This book left me utterly, completely flabbergasted. I backed this when I wasn’t as dirt-poor as I’m right now on a whim and honestly didn’t expect to ever see it. One company that never released a supplement prior to this one, what can one expect? I had honestly forgotten about this book when it found its way into my mail-box – not due to excessive delay, but simply due to much on my plate. In an age where kickstarters by established RPG-companies sometimes are overdue by more than 2 years and often lack anything resembling regular communications, this was one surprise. It went promptly on my shelf in favor of daily reviewing and only after some time found its way into my hands. I read it and my jaw just dropped, smashed through the floor and hit the floor of the cellar.

 

I’m living on the 8th floor.

This is a once-in-a-blue-moon-book that is not only a testimony to Neil Carr’s dedication and passion to the topic of flight, but also to his work ethics: To think that ONE designer made this is mind-boggling.

 

Let me spell it out: This book belongs into the library of every PFRPG-DM. No exceptions. Ne leeway. This is the Cerulean Seas of the sky and does what Cerulean Seas did for underwater adventuring (albeit aesthetically slightly less appealing) for flying, aerial combat, aerial campaigns etc. I’m going a step further: Players wanting to play flying characters should get this and get their DM a copy. This book is a milestone, a glorious beast that came from nowhere and that shows that having no track-record is never an excuse for faulty rules-language: This is as tightly worded, as concisely phrased as any book by Paizo, perhaps even beyond it. It covers all topics, intelligently and in varied ways and manages to deliver something for ALL playstyles, with huge amounts of customization-options. This is a RULE-book to judge all rule-books, a supplement that ups the ante, a book that is a superb example on what kickstarter can deliver – “Companions of the Firmament” is as important for PFRPG as Cerulean Seas, as the APG or Psionics Expanded; This is a Rulebook of the highest caliber that will be used all the time – you have no excuses; Unless you don’t want to cover flight at all (then why are you reading this?), this book should be considered one of the best possible investments into rules one can currently make. This is revolutionary in much the same way as Ultimate Campaign is when combined with Legendary Games’ stellar supplements to actually make the system work.

 

Unless you’re very focused on artwork/layout, this pdf, and that I can guarantee, will NOT disappoint you – the sheer amount of useful rules, options etc. herein mean that there is no way I could rate this any other way that offer the highest praises. If there were ten stars, this would be 10/10. If there were 6, this would be 6/6 – by any scale I apply, this ranks among the apex-books in its usefulness, coolness, level of detail it covers and foresight. This must be a 5 star +seal of approval, a hot contender for the no. 1 spot of my Top Ten of 2013 and the most furious, impressive first product I’ve seen any 3pp produce in ages. Miss this at your own peril.

You can (and should) check this book out here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

ezglogo-header3.jpg

Endzeitgeist out.

Feb 242014
 

Wilderness Dressing: Snow & Ice

123389

This installment of the Wilderness Dressing-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Without much ado, we jump right into the first massive table, one 100-entry-spanning beast of minor events to liven up the explorations of your PCs in the frigid north or wintry realms – from gathering lemmings staring at frozen rivers to frost wights sitting around fires, mastodon families crossing and fissures, there are a lot of different events awaiting your rolling of the bones here.

 

The second massive 100-entry table features specific dressings – glacial bridges across chasms, sun cups, icicle curtains, entrances to the demiplane of ice, miles upon miles of taiga – the overall entries do well in capturing the harsh majesty and danger inherent in the frigid, beautiful landscapes of snow and ice, often, much like the event-table, coming with skills to identify particular pieces.

 

The penultimate page of the pdf contains 12 sample random encounters spanning EL 2 to 17 and coming with nice notes for the respective encounters, partially also suggesting the young and advanced creature template for slight variations. Overall, the encounters are okay, but more or less what you’d expect – white dragon, frost linnorm, ice giants, undead…the usual. I do like the inclusion of a glacier toad, though!

 

The final page then deals with the DM cheat sheet for terrain features à la chasms, icy trails, snow, blizzards etc. – and is extremely useful. And as much as like the artwork of snow-covered peaks, I wish it had been omitted for more – a short summary of exposure damage/rules would have made this page even more useful (and eliminated skipping books from the equation).

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, as usual in offerings of Raging Swan Press, is superb – I did not notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes in two version, one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer. Both are fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Brian Gregory gets the frigid landscapes, their majesty and dangers and it shows in this supplement- this indeed is a cool (haha) supplement that especially with WD: Extreme Weather, provides some nice synergy. That being said, the installment also feels like it falls slightly short of what it could have been – the random encounters are not that impressive and the DM-cheat-sheet could be slightly more detailed – what about falling icicle hazards and the like? Still, bear in mind I’m complaining at a very high level here – my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform for a great supplement, but one that could have used slightly more space to develop its material (e.g. by cutting the none-too-exciting encounters).

You can get this neat supplement here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Endzeitgeist out.

Feb 182014
 

Hej everybody,

 

sorry for being AGAIN slow with reviews – long ramble short: For once no significant catastrophe. I’m just on a business/health-related trip right now and my mobile HD with the review-backups has died on me – thus no new reviews until I get back to my desktop-PC. Sorry for keeping you all waiting.

 

Have a good one, my friends and see you soon!

Endzeitgeist out.

Feb 142014
 

The Reaping Stone

117571

This massive mega-adventure clocks in at 206 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page advertisement and 2/3 of a page SRD, which leaves one with a massive 201 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

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

 

All right, still here? Set in the metropolis of Maerh Varza (which comes detailed in a short appendix and with a full statblock), the PCs begin this module in a tavern of all places – and are dumped right into the action, as deadly adversaries enter the tavern and drop a vial – one, as it turns out, of many simultaneous strikes throughout the city, the contents spread a deadly magical plague that resists curing – the Reaping Sickness. Where did this come from? Well, once upon a time a good king got rid of a deadly cult of fertility and disease worshipping the dread queen of rot Maramaga – his men slew the cult’s members and all associates. Alas, they also slew the family and friends of one of the most powerful cultists (hey, evil cultists can have families as well, right?), who then turned towards an excessive plan for blood, death and vengeance.

 

Following the cultist’s trail through wererat-infested sewers (whether to find a cure due to being infected or to prevent a plague zombie apocalypse…), the PCs will find the operation place, from where the simultaneous strikes were  -launched: The burnt-out remnants of a haunted orphanage, burdened by dread tragedies of crimes past (including great terrain hazards and haunts) not only conceal some cultists, the PCs will also have a chance to lay the dread spirits of the place to rest and even save one particularly foolhardy child from certain demise/madness. From here on, the PCs will also encounter the first of the numerous skeletal champions spellcaster from a sisterhood of undead skeletal spellcasters aligned with Maramaga’s cult. Conveniently, the cultists have a map including a safe house noted down – at least for me, that hits a pet-peeve – any villain with an Int of >8 does not get such papers in my campaigns…

 

While the other plague strikes could be explored by the PCs, the module more or less linearly leads them to aforementioned safe-house, a mortuary now under the control of the cult – via magic etc., the explicit details are rather well explained, which also brings me to a point I will further elaborate in the conclusion – this is very concisely written. The mortuary, including crematorium etc. once again drips details galore and from the hints gleaned here, the lead brings the PCs to essentially a desecrated paladin-come-saint’s shrine, which doubles as a final resting place for the dread remains of the undead that spawned from the paladin’s betrayers. Fighting through the undead-ridden catacombs, the PCs dive into the underdark, where they explore a gigantic cavern (including ruined, cursed dwarven ruins and a tower ablaze in hellfire) and fight or negotiate with a deadly dwarven dullahan to finally reach the ultimate stronghold of Maramaga’s cult.

 

The final dungeon is complex and sports not only deadly cultists, undead and vampires, it also delivers two deadly artifacts and perhaps the hardest climax I’ve seen in just about every commercial module – for once, the final battle would not require me amping up the challenge – this is a finale your players will remember for years to come, as multiple phase encounters, with magical terrain and deadly adversaries conspire to push even well-crafted PCs to the limit – at least if a DM has enforced them not being able to easily retreat throughout the module.

 

Among the appendices, we get all new monsters, a short write-up of Maramaga etc. It should also be noted that the module contains information to scale the encounters down to work for less than 6 players – nice!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but by far not perfect – room’s headers tend to miss apostrophes when requiring them and I noticed multiple instances of line breaks in the middle of sentences and similar minor glitches. The bookmarks are okay, though nested bookmarks for the respective areas would have made navigation more comfortable. My print copy has an issue with the second half of the book, with white paper near the binding and the text closer to the borders – something seems to have gone wrong on the printer’s end, at least with my copy. This won’t influence my verdict, though, since I can’t ascertain whether this is a unique problem or extends to all copies. The cartography by Richard A. Hunt per se is AWESOME, though the maps of smaller locations (at least in my copy) tend to be slightly pixelated in both print and pdf, with the grids partially being superimposed on the walls instead of being below them – the big maps are high-res and do not have this issue, though. Artwork is generally solid, original b/w-artwork. One final complaint regarding the maps – in almost all examples when the pdf mentions that a foe is on a specific locale on the map – don’t bother looking for the “x” or similar letter – they have been mostly forgotten – a rather unpleasant detriment.

 

Soooo, this module is very linear and does not kick off particularly enticing – a tavern, followed up by a sewer-level does not blow Endzeitgeist away…. Nor does the very linear storyline and structure allow for much deviations or excitement, essentially putting crawl back to back with crawl – this is a slugfest if there was one – however, that derogatory moniker does NOT fit “The Reaping Stone”.

 

Why? Tom Phillips. The author *GETS* horror and dark fantasy and what makes it tick – each trap, each of the numerous haunts and treasures, from hidden caches to buried corpses – all has a meaning, a story to be unearthed, rewarding exploration and curious players with multiple tidbits that make experiencing the challenges herein actually very fulfilling – the logical, often very tragic storylines herein border on grimdark and paint a vision of bleak desperation against truly abominable foes. Speaking of which – another bonus herein is that this module is HARD. TPK Games is not known for easy modules, and inexperienced players will have their severed, undead, plague-ridden buttocks handed to them – apart from the handicap of the plague (which your PCs WILL contract in one of the numerous chances throughout the module), we get smart foes that, while adhering to certain themes (which enforce an identity via e.g. the skeletal champion sisterhood), offer enough diversity to keep things interesting. The respective dungeons/locales are creepy, spooky and will challenge and creep out your players – when moaning sundered ones, silver-tongued sociopaths and headless dwarven lords attack, your players will be challenged indeed.

My favorites among the adversaries would be the multi-phase battles – for once, we get multi-phase fights, e.g. preceded by haunts or traps; Particularly the boss battles, with unique terrain, multiple phases and often downright BRUTAL challenges are simply glorious to behold and made me chuckle my most sadistic DM-grin – also thanks to most NPCs actually feeling very organic and coming with at least short background stories. This also extends to the monsters – thanks to various mutations, variations and the like of established creatures, the fights have a lot cool, small tidbits to offer  -and no, they don’t stop at old, obese dire rats or 3-tentacled otyugh-mutants… So combat-wise, this is GLORIOUS. The vast plethora of small stories, the atmosphere of the respective locales is excellent as well.

 

But the module also has its weaknesses: The one puzzle of the book is rather simple – but hey, one easy puzzle is better than none. My other issue would be pacing and meta-storyline. So we have an outbreak of a zombie-plague in a metropolis – an incurable zombie-plague, nonetheless! AWESOME!! But the module does next to nothing with it – when compared to e.g. “Seven Days to the Grave” or Necromancer Games’ 3.X plague-saga “Shades of Gray” (stop giggling – that was before a fanfic turned phenomena gave BDSM a bad name…) better moments, the sense of urgency is somewhat lost as PCs hurry from superbly crafted creepy vignette to vignette. There is next to no investigation, almost no chance to meaningfully use diplomacy (though more often than in several crawls I’ve read) and the threat to the city remains an opaque one – don’t expect your players to experience mounting unrest, chaos, quarantine or the like in the city. No looters, no doom-speakers…and hence, the terror of the plague loses some of its gravitas.

Essentially, the PCs have a clear task and no timeline adds urgency to the plot. In fact, one of my issues is that, if you enjoy non-instantaneous level-up, this won’t work: Your PCs are assumed to level as they go – which wouldn’t be too bad, but in the combination with the lack of consequences for dawdling, that takes away from the threat of the adversaries and their vile plan- their plague-gambit essentially waits for the PCs to stop it. Maybe it’s just me, but I was thinking that a sense of constant urgency, with consequences for each retreat, each resting, could have made this module a truly nailbiting, legendary experience.

 

So how to rate this? Oh boy, this is HARD – one the one hand I absolutely LOVE each and every locale herein – they’re creepy, dark, logical and made me grin all the time – and then they’re over, suddenly, the meta-plot’s flimsy premise ripped me right out of it and towards the next location – where the whole game repeats itself. The pieces of fabric are among the most beautiful you’ll see, but the yarn that holds them together is frayed at best. Add to that the issues with the cartography and the slightly less expansive bookmarks than what the module would have warranted and you have a module that is more of a mixed bag than I would have liked. “The Reaping Stone” has some truly awesome, grim moments and iconic locales, but the meta-plot requires serious work on the side of the DM to keep from showing its weakness and thus ending the sense of urgency the players hopefully feel. In the end, my final verdict hence has to clock in at 3.5 stars, though I’ll round up to 4 for the purpose of this platform – just be aware of the rough edges in the production value department and the fact that the meta-plot needs serious work by the DM to produce the sense of gravitas it deserves and make the transitions from location to location more compelling.

 

You can get this module (or scavenge it apart for its contents…) here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Feb 142014
 

NPC Arsenal: Kitsune Mistress of Manipulation

123839

This new series by Abandoned Arts offers you one NPC-build, a complex one – 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page character, so what do we get here?

 

The Kitsune Mistress of Manipulation at CR 7 is a straight level 8 sorceress of the Maestro bloodline – and at first sight, as an enchantment-specialist, that seems not particularly impressive complexity-wise. Where this build shines is in the small moving parts – from racial traits to feats, the character is thoroughly geared towards being a master-spy if there ever was one; With 4th level-spells at DC 23,a hat of disguise, a total of +45 to disguise and smart feat-choices that make this possible in the first place, this mistress should be considered an exceedingly good at evading/setting up PCs. Add to that the fact that the build is relatively neutral and you could either have a superb benefactor or deadly manipulator – in any way, she is guaranteed to be one of the top brass in any given social situation – though in combat exceedingly vulnerable and fleeing won’t be an option, lacking any movement-related skills or thieving capabilities.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a landscape two-column standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

This kitsune is a master manipulator and top-brass in her given field, yes. However, as an agent/courtier, I don’t think she works quite as well as she could, mostly due to not having any tricks beyond great disguises/social skills/enchantments. No stealth, no sleight of hand – as written, she is a great social manipulator, but not as cool/versatile an agent as she could have been. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars – a good, but VERY specialized build.

 

You can get this deceiver here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Endzeitgeist out.

Feb 132014
 

Hej everybody!

 

I’ve been made aware of the fact that featured reviewers (an illustrious circle to which I happen to belong) on OBS (Drivethrurpg & RPGNow)  usually don’t post bad reviews there – i.e. no 1 or 2-star ratings. From a business standpoint, that’s a valid decision on their part.

The OBS-guys and gals have shown me nothing but kindness and hence I will follow this request – especially since I have been asked in an exceedingly civil manner and am still free to post all my reviews, including the low-star-rating ones here and in the other places like Nerdtrek and GMS magazine. So no, my ratings will in no way be compromised, but you’ll see the bad ones no longer on OBS.

This means that in the future, you’ll have yet another reason for checking this site here and/or getting the RSS-feed etc. 😉

Still, I wanted to make you aware of this change in my reviewer’s policy and apologize to those of you who primarily read my reviews on OBS for the added inconvenience of having to check this site. I’d also like to apologize to those publishers that have assured me that even bad reviews tend to garner them slight spikes in revenue for not being able to publish low rating-reviews on OBS anymore.

 

Finally, I have a question: Sometimes people ask me what books I consider essential in my campaigns – is there an interest for lists of those products here?

Tomorrow, I’ll have another BIG review (plus a short one) in the pipeline – see you then!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Feb 122014
 

Razor Coast: Fire As She Bears

113418

This system for naval combat is 98 pages long, 1 page front cover, 4 pages of advertisement, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page ToC and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 88 pages of content.

 

So here we are – by now the third naval combat system for Pathfinder – after Paizo’s system fell flat of my expectations and after EN Publishing’s book thoroughly disappointed me, let’s see whether this supplement can do the trick!

 

We kick off this sourcebook, as is only prudent, with an explanation of the terminology used as well as a handy diagram that explains how a ship is positioned in relation to the wind. In order to have a ship, one requires ship construction-rules – these are very concisely-presented here: Essentially, each vessel has locations, which could be thought of as  20-foot cubes that can be individually targeted by hostiles. How you place your locations is mostly up to you, though you have to adhere to certain conventions regarding length and breadth and height, allowing you to also add additional decks by stacking multiple locations atop one another. It should be noted, that one hull location could contain one or several decks, though! Each location-cube belongs to one of two classes – hull or rigging. Both types have different stats, costs etc. and their relationship has crucial consequences regarding the ship’s attributes.

 

Attributes? Yes, ships have a str-score of 30+no. of hull locations + build modifiers and they also have a dexterity of 10+rigging locations-hull locations + build modifiers. (The latter, in case you’re wondering, offer the choice between sleek and broad hulls. Ship armor-class is calculated just like with a regular character, though rigging is slightly harder to hit. It should also be noted that the rules depict not only touch AC (should you ever require it), but also the susceptibility of a ship from below the waves in a rather interesting manner and that they aren’t silent on this matter either regarding AC. Carrying capacity, hit points – all of that is very intuitive and makes creating ships and grasping the system exceedingly easy.

 

Now where things get slightly more complex would be with movement – your ship has 3 movement rates, or speed values. Each point of speed roughly corresponds to 20 feet of movement – but why not simply go with the movement? The answer’s simple, really – you actually could do that. But speed is also a resource AS WELL AS a restriction. Ships have no brakes in the traditional sense and thus you *HAVE* to move the value of your speed rating each round – furthermore, naval maneuvers like turns etc. have an associated speed cost. You thus have to actually plan movement rather carefully, adding a VERY cool tactical dimension to the combats that is easy to learn while offering opportunities aplenty for strategies and finesse – after all, sailing against and with the wind modifies your available speed. Putting essentially resource and restriction into one value is, in my humble opinion, a stroke of genius. Of course, ships also have a maneuverability and your ship’s load influence how agile your vessel turns out to be – again, the rules here are very much n line with how characters work.

 

Now if you’re like me, then you tend towards a relative preference toward simulationalist approaches – I tend to have my PCs track rations etc. For people who prefer this additional spike of realism we get advanced rules herein – the first of which would be the impact of wind speed on a vessel’s speed rating. More complex, yes, but rather easy to grasp. And if you don’t think that can be utilized for maximum awesomeness, I once ran an adventure based on the absence of wind – essentially stranding the players on the equivalent of the Méduse’s grisly tale – no combats, just slow psychological descent into madness as the veneer of civilization started to crumble. Glorious. Of course, the more obvious use would be to handle ships sailing before a storm, as the sidebar “Riders on the Storm” suggests. Now beyond sails, engines (both steam-powered and alchemical, in varying efficiency-classes) and oars are also handled, and once again parallel to characters, ships get their own CMBs and CMDs and saves.

 

Saves? Yep. Though as objects, ships are immune to will-saves, ref and fort-saves, while hard to do, can be rationalized – which the pdf btw. also guides a DM through, explaining how to narrate a successful save. As you could glean from me spilling the beans about alternate means of propulsion, there are a lot of customization options here – 8 sizes of cannons, rams, crow’s nests – it’s easy and essentially just like equipping your character – locations having a certain amount of space, i.e. slots. There you go – elegant and intuitive. Where there are cannons, there better be grape shots, chain shots and the like and yes, for everyone who despises gunpowder in their games, reskinning is always an option here. Speaking of options – while cannonballs of a uniform size are the default simplification for fun’s sake, there are rules to explain how to handle different cannonball-sizes, if you want that level of realism. the same holds btw. true if you’d prefer realistic load times – these have been, due to the presence of magic and to keep cannons cool, significantly shortened to between 1 and 3 full-round actions. For once, that’s a simplification I will keep in my game.

 

Now I’ve mentioned grape shots. I shuddered upon reading this, for while the mechanics of the grape shot are solid, they don’t take individual ACs into account. Well…UNLESS you take a look at yet another alternate rule that lets you take these into the equation as well! Even before ship armor, miscellaneous equipment like fire pumps, specific locations and the like come into the equation, we a thoroughly customizable base system of rules that is concisely presented and easy to learn, while providing just the level of realism you choose for your group.

 

Specific locations? Yeah, from smuggling compartments to brigs, captain’s quarters etc., we have quite a few customization options here.

 

But a ship is only an object – we also need a crew. Recruiting a crew is done via relatively simple rules…but what about morale? We are introduced to a new loyalty-score, which is modified by the captain’s level, his/her cha-mod and the mods of navigators, chaplains etc. – oh, and lost battles, pay, time at sea, charms and dominates – all of these are taken in. Additionally, charismatic captains may actually inspire their crews! Now we all have seen this: A basic issue in most naval combat systems would be that they degenerate into a one-on-one between DM and the captain’s player.6 officer roles, all with benefits and vacancy penalties and special actions in combat does an excellent job in engaging the WHOLE PARTY, even beyond the capabilities of the respective classes that fill the roles. Now how does that work? Essentially, your players roll initiative twice – once for the level of their characters and a second, naval initiative wherein they may make the respective naval actions, ensuring that they don’t have to spend actions to encourage the crew when they’d rather be flinging fireballs or swashbuckle through the riggings. It seems counterintuitive at first, but in play it works wonders – also due to each role using certain attribute-modifiers for their respective naval initiative. Food, crew placement, crew advancement, officer and enlisted roles – there isa neat level of detail going on here.

 

Now how does naval combat work? First, the most upwind ship may claim the weather gauge, which nets some bonuses (tough e.g. the +2 speed bonus may not fit in all strategies…once again, careful deliberation…) – but only until another ship manages to steal the weather gauge via skill or luck: Again, we have a neat dynamic herein that expands the tactical possibilities of naval combat. After that, the combat (with the exception of naval initiative) works much like a regular combat – but there also are 13 special naval actions introduced alongside 5 special attacks (including crossing the boards). We also get a handy table for spotting ships, some new skill uses (Can you disguise a ship? Yes, you can!) and an abstract, but relatively elegant way to determine losses among the crew (and prevent them, if you’re a ship’s surgeon. Of course, there is also the final resort of self-destructing engines, if available – and yes, the consequences are dire and the situation narrative gold.

 

Of course, as you’re probably noted by now, specialists could have a field day here and yes, if you’re so inclined, then a  total of 9 feats allows you to improve your capabilities in that specific field – which is awesome, for while the system does not require such an investment, it rewards those that do. Now magic and naval combat is where a certain other naval supplement came totally apart – so how does FaSB deal with it? In one word: Perfectly. Instead of spamming us with useless over-specialized variants of spells, we get new uses for spells: Chill/Heat Metal+ cannon = useless cannon for duration of the spell. Zombie-crew? Possible. Control Winds vs. Control Weather? Covered. Fabricate? Repairs ship-location. Prestidigitation can btw. be uses to flavor gruel if food is scarce, thus offsetting the loyalty-penalty for eating gruel all day. We also get 9 spells, one of which temporarily transforms a part of the sea into GLASS., potentially trapping ships… Oh, and yes, there also is a ghostly crew for the wholesome necromancer captains among us.

 

Not content with all of that? Why not build levitating ships? Ships made from bone, coral or locations perpetually engulfed in flames? Masts that prevent casualties by means of feather fall? Enchanted bowsprits? Sails that steal souls? On the character level, what about enchanted rum? Magical hammocks? Tiny mechanical monkey with an extradimensional holding space? Harnesses that conjure forth ghostly whales to draw the ship? Yes. All here.

 

Now so far, we’ve limited ourselves to combat, ship-building and crew – but what about pursuits? Fully covered. Terrain obstacles for naval pursuits? Easy creation guidelines, various samples provided.

 

Don’t want to stat a lot of crew? We get quite a bunch of sample statblocks (though it should be noted that they use Razor Coast’s simplified gunpowder-rules), but thus no gunslingers. The book mentions “Brace of Pistols” as a great supplement and I concur, though I consider the absence of gunslingers still a huge pity. Now while there are a lot f relatively generic statblocks, the occasional weird one is in here to spice all up and sample characters galore accompany this chapter.

 

Beyond a pirate’s song to sing and animated cannons, we also get full-color ship record sheets, 5 sample ships and finally, a 1-page appendix of sample ship names.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is still very good, though a couple of minor typo-level glitches could be found herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous two-column full-color standard. Artwork is mostly thematically fitting stock art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The hardcover of the book has solid production-values, though the paper feels slightly thinner than in other FGG-releases. The cover-illustration is a bit blurry in both the pdf and hardcover and was probably not intended as such.

 

*Ähem* In case you haven’t noticed…look what’s absent from this review: Yes. Serious complaints. This system is hilariously easy to grasp, working with established design-tenets and expanding them in a smart way that borders on being brilliant. Neither in 3.X, nor PFRPG have I ever seen such a concise, well-presented naval combat supplement – creating ships is exceedingly easy and fast, naval combat proved to be engaging for the whole group instead of for just one player and this supplement, unlike some books I’ve recently reviewed, does a splendid job at NOT creating logic bugs in-game. At working with the system and producing something that transcends and mops the floor with each and every naval combat system I’ve seen so far, offering a surprising amount of easy customization options and actually rewarding tactical combat decisions. Strategy, fun, easily implemented and presented in a truly concise manner, Lou Agresta & John Ling’s “Fire as She Bears” is THE system for naval combat: Whether it’s “Skull & Shackles”, “Razor Coast” or something completely different – this supplement is a, let me emphasize that, MUST HAVE.

 

Seriously. Naval combat has never worked so smoothly, so seamlessly, so elegant. Heck, if I ever run En Publishing’s Zeitgeist-AP, I’ll ignore “Admiral o’ the High Seas” and stat the ships with this. In spite of the work, the result will make it worthwhile. This is the perfect blend of options, solid rules, toolkit and makes for an extremely tight supplement, one I can’t praise enough. I wouldn’t be Endzeitgeist if I had no complaints, though – the lack of sample gunslinger-characters is a very minor detriment and honestly – I wished this had been a massive 200+page book with even more options, items, naval actions, magic items and sample ships.

 

…Yeah. That’s about all the negativity I can muster against this superb book. This is non-optional. I want sequels…plural. Enchanted viking-ships, perhaps? After all, the Northlands Saga is impending…

 

This belongs into the library of each and every DM who only contemplates running naval adventures, a superb offering if there ever was one and the system that banished Mongoose’s 3.0 “Seas of Blood” and Paizo’s own system into oblivion. It’s that good. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars +seal of approval, in spite of minor flaws here and there as well as  this being a candidate for my Top Ten of 2013. From here on out, this will be the only naval system that sees any use at my table. Congratulations to the authors for a superb job!

You can get this awesome naval combat supplement here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Endzeitgeist out.

Feb 112014
 

CE 5  -Silent Nightfall

121800

This Campaign Element for the DCC-rules is 25 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank, 1 page SRD, ~ 1/4 of a page editorial, leaving us with 21 3/4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS: Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

 

Still here? All right, the first thing you’ll notice here would be a freaky nursery rhyme and a skipping rhyme, setting the scene appropriately – why? Well, once upon a time, there was an advanced society on this planet and said society had access to nuclear power. When magical energies confluxed and made a core snetient, heavy water was used to seal deep tubes in the earth – codename silent nightfall. Millenia, perhaps even aeons passed and a wizard and the whispering stone found the complex, degenerating into something thoroughly DIFFERENT. More time passed and the owl-like humanoids, the gallistrix, that have since settled in the complex have turned into aggressive predators, hunting in triads. All the while, the sentience still broods.

 

Now I’ve mentioned that said Wizard has changed – he is now the Shaft Crawler, a dread fungoid shoggoth-like slithering abomination, smothering any failing str or agility-checks and worse, infecting tehm with deadly rhizomes. To add insult to injury, it heals itself when consuming ongoing spell-effects, making this 111 (!!!) hp monstrosity a behemoth at this level., one the PCs better try to outrun or at least battle smart…otherwise they’ll perish.

 

The sentient nuclear core meanwhile has developed into something like a demi-patron; Problematic here is that the demon seeks to explode – annihilating everything within miles. We also get 4 complex spellburns for silent nightfall – these include whole-body sunburn and a shadow burnt into the closest wall and similar close to home effects that drive home an uncanny sense of familiarity. The whispering stone in the meanwhile haunts the complex with sentences like “doom”, “fall” and similar proclamations of impending death and, once found, makes for a dangerous (read: gaslighting) bonded object. Oh, and it’s over 2000 lbs heavy. Transporting this thing will not be easy and test your PC’s ingenuity.

 

Worse, the Grallistrix actually not only levitate and move in perfect silence, they also can make perfect use of the massive shafts thus, potentially resulting in the PCs falling to a very real death. Worse, the gallistrix elders and firstborn and deadly violet fungus zombies roam here as well – 3 levels, all horror, atmosphere and choices – add to that a d30 table of aberrations, 4 sample mutated creatures, teh radiant brotehrhood as a new organization and we get quite some bang for our bucks.

 

Will your PCs survive the deadly tactics of the Gallistrix? Will the crawler swallow them? Will they unleash all-destroying nuclear-fire or fall prey to the insane gibbering of the stone? Only you can answer that – by diving down into the dark shafts, past ancient languages warning about “Silent Nightfall.”

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to PDG’s printer-friendly b/w-2-column standard and the original pieces of b/w-artwork are neat for the low price. The maps are serviceable and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Daniel J. Bishop is fast becoming one of my favorite authors for adventures – any adventure, mind you. His writing skirts seemingly effortlessly the border between horror and dark fantasy, has a playful characteristic and is simply brimming with imagination – so much so that I find myself looking forward to each and every module he creates –  while his crunch may be good, it’s in te end his imagination, the sheer chutzpa of his ideas that make his writing time and time again, fun and surprising to read – ONE of the imaginative premises would have been enough for a lesser author. In Silent Nightfall, we essentially get no less than 3 themes, each of which would have been enough for a module, masterfully blended into a module/supplement that has me grinning from ear to ear and demanding more: Superb, awesome and available at a price-point that is almost ridiculous, this is well worth 5 stars +seal of approval and should be bought (much like PDG’s other DCC.supplements) by DMs/judges/GMs of other systems as well – you’ll scarcely find better idea-mines.

You can get this awesome module/setting supplement here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Endzeitgeist out.

Feb 112014
 

Shadowlands: Secrets of the Tainted Adventure Arc

113265

This module is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover,1 page SRD, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 blank pages, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

All right, still here? So what are the “tainted”? Essentially, the Tainted are the downtrodden of the big cities, those rejected that live underground, ins ewers, at the fringes of society. As a group they may select one of the 6 exclusive traits herein – all of which deliver what one would expect, i.e. minor bonuses/class skills or circumstantial bonuses when underground/fighting in cramped quarters. We also are introduced to 3 short fluff-only write-ups of different tainted groups and a short piece of fiction about the Tainted.

 

This being the beginning of the adventure-section of the review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the end of the SPOILER-section.

 

Still here? Well, the Black Hand has managed to steal a particular wand from the Brotherhood of Magus – and the PCs are contacted by one Jervo in the employ of Sergius Paco, to obtain the wand. The thieves broke into his store via the underground and the PCs have to venture down there. In the darkness, the PCs may track the thieves and find the remains of dark creepers etc. and also fight some thugs from the Viper-gang. They will also have a chance of saving a ratfolk merchant from his catfolk stalkers and thus find their way to the only glanced over, intriguing Baubletown, which remains dreadfully opaque. Travelling through skulk-territory (again, remaining rather opaque), the PCs arrive just in time to board the Blue Barnacle, defeat the sailors and retrieve the semi-burnt-out artifact. It should be noted that both the ship and the docks are lavishly mapped by cartography-legend Jonathan Roberts, though some may know these maps from the Fantastic Maps-series. As a help for DMs, this final encounter is given a 5-round round-by-round breakdown.

 

/SPOILERS.

 

The module comes with suggested random encounters for the underground as well as 25 1-line random events to make the underground come to life.  We also get the alternate urban ranger class: d10, 6+Int skills, 4 levels of spellcasting, good ref-and fort-saves. The alternate ranger gets a stray companion, urban fighting prowess in crowded areas etc. We also get 4 sample weapons.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column standard in full color with unnecessary blank pages, but also with gorgeous artworks (though you may know some of these from other Shadowlands-books) and superb cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.

 

Author John Maki offers an eclectic mix somewhere between sourcebook and adventure here and generally, the idea of the “Tainted” is a nice one, but unfortunately, the adventure fails in every conceivable way – it is rather generic, not particularly steeped in Shadowlands-lore, less detailed than your average Season 0 Pathfinder Society Scenario, uses a tired angle, offers intriguing ideas only to railroad the PCs away from them etc. – there are so many nice locales in here, but NONE of them are driven by interaction with the players. They do something and then watch the cut-scene – apart from the combat, this is the FMV-school of adventure-design: Press a button/roll a dice and watch. Not many options here, no alternate ways of handling things – nothing. Neither the trek through the underworld, nor Baubletown get sufficient levels of details (or options to interact with them!) and the combats are at the very best uninspired.

The module hints at abstract, intriguing vistas without fleshing them out, though these would have been the only way to salvage the excessively clichéd story-line. Add to that the simply unnecessary, bland alternate class that lacks ANY reason to exist (having NO exclusive tools to speak of – it’s essentially a cosmetic reskin sold as an alternate class) and the boring weapons and we have a supplement/module that may have top-notch production-values, but apart from that, NOTHING going for it. And I’d settle for a final verdict of 2 stars – were it not for the grossly inflated price that puts the artwork/cartography into perspective and makes this look more like a cash-grab than anything else – a short piece of fiction/supplement, blown up with a generic adventure if there ever was one, supplemented by a boring class-reskin and some weapons? For 8 bucks? You can buy two of 4 Dollar Dungeons SUPERB modules (like Panataxia or Horn of Geryon) for that price, each of which will entertain you infinitely better (and much, much longer) than this exceedingly short snore-fest. Final verdict? 1 star.

 

If you’re a Shadowlands completist, you can get this pdf here on OBS.

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

 

Feb 102014
 

Ultimate Psionics

124281

Sooo…this is it – 453 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement… 448 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

All right, to properly preface this – I’ve been using psionics for about 80% of my DMing career – from 2nd edition to the rather poor 3.0 version (and its kind-of-fixes by Malhavoc Press) to the great 3.5-version…and this is when I found Dreamscarred Press. I liked what I saw there and got just about everything. Fast forward to pathfinder and Psionics Unleashed. It might sound weird, but without this book, my campaigns would simply have missed a central ingredient, like a dish missing salt. It was then I supported the diverse subscriptions offered and got Psionics Expanded – and at first ripped some of the content a new one. The resulting book, though, remains one of my favorite rulebooks ever, on par with the APG. So yes, I was very excited about this book, but alas, the KS came at a bad time for me and thus I don’t (yet!) have the hardcover in my hands.

 

Now there have been quite some errata over the years and getting essentially the “final” up to date version, with new artwork etc. is great. In case you didn’t know – this book doesn’t stop by collecting the information from Psionics Unleashed and Expanded – it also contains new material galore, which was also made available to customers of the former books in a very fairly priced expansion called Psionics Augmented Vol. I. All of these books have one thing in common beyond their themes, content etc.- I’ve already reviewed them – in excruciating detail. Were I to go into this level of detail here, the review would probably clock in at well over 30 pages and let’s not kid ourselves – no one would read that. I’m already surprised that some people read my lengthy ramblings.

 

So what I’m going to do instead is give you a brief synopsis of what to expect – 10 psionic races, including old favorites like the blue goblins and new ones like the half-construct forgeborn – all of which come with age, height & weight, attitudes to other races, favored class options and yes, alternate racial traits. Furthermore, each race gets an array of exclusive racial archetypes, often making use of the unique talents of the respective race.

10 psionic 20-level base classes, all of which are superior to any prior incarnation – the soulknife no longer sucks, to just give you ONE example. The classes are also very customizable and some of them rank among my favorite classes for PFRPG – PERIOD.

 

Basic concepts like the psionic focus, psionic displays etc. – all explained very concisely and thoroughly, with the latter even coming with an extensive, comprehensive list of sample visual, auditory, mental, material and even olfactory displays are provided – as is essentially a beginner DM’s guide to how psionics work and how to introduce them to your campaign, including a sample reskin should you not enjoy the flavor of psionics. Skills are also covered, as are feats – how many? The table alone spans 6 (!!!) pages! And yes, having all of them in one chapter instead of three books is a major comfort-plus. The same holds btw. true for the powers. How many do we get? An insane amount. No, really. No less than 100 pages of the book are devoted to powers. now take into account that unlike spells, psionic powers can be augmented, thus requiring less variants of one spell concept than spells and you’ll get an inkling of how many options are herein. Have I mentioned all the legendary items (not the mythic ones) – powerful magic items that increase in power over the levels, all with unique artworks and stories to discover? (Yeah, I’ve reviewed all of them as well…)

 

There also are no less than 19 Prestige Classes to be found herein and no less than 56 pages of magic items…oh, and beyond that, we also get a glossary that explains terms…and one fact I enjoy tremendously – the book offers astral construct stats and similar player-relevant monsters, but unlike the previous iterations, psionic monsters will be released in a separate bestiary, making this book fully and completely player compatible. Two thumbs up for that!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting of this massive tome are of a surprising quality – excellent and top-notch by any realistic definition. Glitches indeed are thoroughly minimized to the point of being almost non-existent. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous full-color two-column standard and the pdf comes with a vast array of mind-blowing, awesome, beautiful artworks – and a Wayne Reynolds cover. Can’t get much better than that in the art-department! The pdf is lavishly detailed in its bookmarks, making navigation simple – as is required by such a massive tome.

 

Sooo…what we have here is interesting: It’s a bit like reviewing the CORE-rules or the APG: We’re talking about what essentially is a completely non-optional book in my opinion.

Every campaign that shirks psionics not for flavor, but for by now completely inaccurate accusations of balance-issues is missing out on one of the most rewarding expansions for Pathfinder.

While this is not my personal opinion ( I enjoy both for what they do), I do feel obliged to point out that my players consider unanimously psionics to be the superior system when compared to vancian spellcasting (even though at least one of them dislikes the flavor) and in multiple years of using Dreamscarred Press’ psionics have we not once encountered any crucial difficulties. Now this book collects all these nifty bits and pieces from 3 massive tomes in one book that is greater than the sum of its parts by sheer utility, by scope…and superb production values.

While I don’t enjoy EVERY component part (see my individual reviews for that), the vast majority of the content should be considered simply stellar – awesome and a book that will enrich just about every game it is introduced to. Were I to complain about one thing, then that would be that the book has no index, at least in the pdf version on which this review is based since I don’t yet have the hardcover.

 

So let me make that abundantly clear: If you have the component books, this is useful. If you don’t have any of them, then this ranks among the best possible purchases you can make to expand your game and I stand by that. For me, this content of this book, whether as the  component books or the superb Ultimate Psionics, is non-optional. It is as much part of the game as vancian spellcasting, as much part of my concept of Pathfinder’s identity as a distinct system as the APG. Psionics Expanded, one of the component books, made it on my Top Ten-list of that year  -and this is THE ONLY reason this book is not a candidate (and let’s face it – high ranker or even winner) of 2013’s list. Rare is the book that so wholly transforms the game, feels so concise and well-presented, offers so much and in this quality – rare indeed is such a monumental grimoire of crunch and much like Paizo’s APG, this book does infinitely more to establish the identity of a distinct, diverse fantasy full of options than just about all crunch-books I’ve read. If you have so far shied away from psionics-  here’s your chance: Take it! If you have the component books, wager utility (all in one book) versus price point. If I may: The book is beautiful; personally, I’d go for the slightly more expensive full color version – the artwork’s worth it. Final verdict? Unsurprising 5 stars + seal of approval.

You can (and should) get this massive tome of awesome psionic goodness here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Endzeitgeist out.