Jun 302014
 

The Genius Guide to More Barbarian Talents

126664

The expansion for the superb talented barbarian clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page credits, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

A total of 4 new edges are provided – one to make an animal whisperer (wild empathy, then non-magical charm effect -wrap your head around that!), one to further improve cleaving, one for a mule-style barbarian with more carrying capacity/better str-checks and one to grant immunity versus compulsions, but with the caveat of including a higher-HD-by-4-caveat similarly to how sneak attack versus those tentatively immune to flanking is handled.

 

A total of 24 talents are also part of the deal, covering wild empathy, being able to appraise non-magical objects/getting a kind of pidgin means of communicating simple concepts, speaking with animals of her form while skinwalking at will, one that lets you treat a very select array of weapons as a lighter category, improvise objects, becoming harder to get by failing respective saves and gaining bonuses while under negative conditions. The latter is a problem, at least a minor one – while I get the design intent here, the reality of the game will see more than one barbarian with this talent asking his/her compatriots to inflict e.g. bleed damage on them to get the melee damage boost (hey, +2 to damage ain’t that shabby…) – too metagamey in the way it will be (mis-)used for my tastes. Kind of weird would be head smash – unarmed attacks with the head, executable sans AoO and even when grappled or pinned, but deals half damage to the barbarian. Again, I like the idea, but the execution would probably not see me ever take it unless I had a DM who used super-grappler foes all the time. On the other end, half damage from all falls and never landing prone when falling AND +2 to CMD versus trips? Yeah, can see that one.

 

Rather disappointing for me was also the way in which blood oaths are portrayed herein – when below half max hp (Hello, 4th edition design!), a barbarian may once per day choose one of 4 bonuses – none of which are too strong and require line of sight with the target of the oath and a relatively short duration, but still. Kind of anticlimactic and not like an epic blood oath of vengeance, more like a minor revenge theme. Better bracer-fighting and a talent that nets bonus hp when not wearing armor and the like, on the other hand, help quite a bit with some character concepts. One of the 4 greater talents allows you to execute two combat maneuvers at once as a standard action and -2 to either. A complex one here…on the one hand, there is nothing per se wrong with this one per se thanks to the action-economy-caveat, it is still one that somewhat leaves me with a bit of hesitation, especially with the grand talent that 1/round allows the barbarian to add yet another maneuver to a combat maneuver or attack – and since there’s no other caveat, that means potentially three combat maneuvers in one attack – and I *know* there are some creature/build combos that can do very nasty things with combos like that… Getting a final attack when being downed or killed on the other hand is a rather neat one.

 

We also get 7 new rage powers and they are interesting – more CMD and more importantly, an AoO if a maneuver fails against the raging barbarian (even if otherwise not provoking one from the barbarian) -yeah, these I can see. Draw Aggression deserves special mention – when a foe the barbarian threatens targets a foe other than the barbarian with a spell, ability or attack, the barbarian gets an AoO – add reach, have fun. Seriously, nice way of making the aggression drawing work. Getting a free round of rage for being critted, on the other hand, at least theoretically fails the kitten test in a very minor way – while theoretically, the rage could be infinitely prolonged by crits of declawed kittens, in practice, it’ll be hard to maintain. Still, not particularly elegant design in my book. Getting a shaken-inducing defense versus mind-inföluencing effects on the other hand – yeah, neato! Ditto for inciting minor, detrimental rages and a fast intimidate (swift or immediate action) upon entering a rage.

 

The pdf concludes with a list of the edges, talents etc. by theme – nice to have!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ 2-column portrait standard with thematically fitting color stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

 

Hmm…this one left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the further exploration of skinwalking/animal-whisperer-style tricks is cool – as is the fact that some of the abilities herein make vambraces more viable and help unarmored barbarians. The thing is – they, at least in my book, don’t do enough to offset the downside of not using armor in the long run – some further talents/edges to improve this conceptual path would have been more than cool. After all, unarmored barbarians, frothing at the mouth while charging those pansies in their shining mail are a staple of fantasy art – a step further in that direction would have been awesome. Usually, the “More X Talents”-series has provided some of the more iconic, cool talents, unique options etc. – and this one does so as well…but also uses quite a bunch of rules-solutions that are slightly less elegant than what I’ve come to expect from the series. Overall, a few of the talents herein left me either shrugging or simply not sold on their viability. Now don’t get me wrong – chances are, you’ll find at least some cool tidbits to use herein, but compared to previous installments, this one’s mechanics felt a tad bit less streamlined to me, with some reflexive abilities tied to negative conditions and the like. While the wording is water-tight enough to prevent copious abuse, some minor metagamey moments might well arise from this one. All in all, I can bring myself to rating this higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform, with the caveat that talented barbarian-fans should probably still take a look, but carefully check with their DM regarding the talents herein.

You can get this expansion to the awesome original pdf here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 302014
 

Rite Map Pack: City by the Sea

128825

This map pack depicts a City by the Sea on 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving 14 pages for the maps, so let’s take a look!

 

 

The first map depicts a massive, walled city by the sea, with streets connecting organically gates with the area around the harbor and one section of the city on a hill. It should be noted that unlike Port Shaw, Freeport etc., there is no huge harbor here, but rather the harbor can be considered just one part of the city, not one of its defining, center features.

 

The second page also has the city, this time depicted horizontal – with a truly jarring white box of text on the parchment-like header and a similarly jarring list of important buildings. Layout-wise, these white, angular boxes on a background of parchment are a total disaster that thankfully only mars this one rendition of the map – until you click on it, when the white box disappears. Printing it out, the boxes disappeared, but for those of you aiming to use this incarnation of the map online or via tablets should be aware of that.

Edit: I’ve been made aware of the fact, that my copy seems to be the only one suffering from this glitch, independent of the system on which the pdf is opened. Some weird personalizer-issue, I guess. So ignore that part

 

6 pages each, both in b/w and full color, depict the city in a larger version.

 

Conclusion:

Tommi Salama is a glorious cartographer, and he obviously is just as at home with city maps as with battle maps – and this one comes beautiful indeed – craftmanship-wise, tehre’s nothing to complain. A minor downside would be the lack of bookmarks to e.g. the b/w-version -while a marginal gripe, it still would have been nice to see.  The pdf is also accompanied by an array of 4 cool high-res jpegs with and without labels. Internal logic-wise, I also have a minor gripe – for a city constructed so all roads lead towards the harbor, said harbor is VERY small when compared to the size of the city. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

You can get this nice city map here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 232014
 

The Genius Guide to the Talented Barbarian

125938

The first of the much-applauded “Talented”-treatments under Owen K.C. Stephens’ new Rogue Genius Games clocks in at an impressive 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 35 (!!!) pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So let’s take a look at the class, shall we? talented Barbarians must be of non-lawful alignment, get d12, 4+Int skills, full BAB-progression, good fort-saves and proficiency with all simple and martial weapons and light armors. They also get a so-called edge at first level, 2nd level and then at 5th level and every 6 levels after that. Barbarians also get a so-called talent at 1st level and every level except 5th, 11th and 17th. Starting at 10th level, advanced talents become available and starting at 20th level, so-called grand talents are there as capstones. So far, so good – that’s essentially what you had expected after the previous installments of the series.

 

Now where things get really interesting is with the new level 1 ability Primal Reserve. A barbarian starts play with 4+con-mod points of Primal Reserve and adds +2 points. Primal reserve can be used to automatically stabilize. All core-resources that would increase rage rounds instead net primal reserve points. These, as you can imagine, make for the basic resource of the talented barbarian.

 

Generally, a certain type of ability-tree can be gleaned herein -while primal reserve powers all the rage-like edges (rage, cod fury, berserker and also savagery), only one can be chosen – savagery allowing btw. the barbarian to add +1d6 to ability/skill-checks based on two chosen attributes other than Int for a more canny/versatile adversary. Additionally, rage powers and the like can be used by barbarians with this edge even when not in rage. This makes for an interesting inherent design-decision, also by adding additional benefits according to the rage chosen – berserkers getting e.g. free proficiencies and the like. Skinwalking and the oracle-mystery-wildering totems also are part of the deal -and before you get out your power-gaming utensils – skinwalking/totems have a caveat that helps them not stack at the lower levels, but which still makes it possible to combine them, should you wish to. Skinwalking? Yep, essentially wild-shaping fuelled by primal reserve, opening a vast array of new character concepts. And before you ask – the ability is balanced re animal modes of movement and attacks, requiring higher levels to turn into predators and the like – nice! It should also be noted that barbarians are explicitly allowed to wilder in the rogue’s talent selection via a specific edge, increasing your potential arsenal even further.

 

Among the talents, armored swiftness, using improvised weapons, longer non-combat wild-shape, crowd control (with a caveat that addresses the problematic wording of the origin ability!), ignoring bad weather – rather awesome, very extensive selection, though personally, I had hoped the Titan Mauler’s ability to wield oversized weapons and one-hand two-handed weapons and all the confusion surrounding it had been cleaned up in a similar manner as aforementioned crowd control. Oh well, guess you can’t have everything. And before you ask – yes, rage power is now a talent as well, allowing you access to the list of rage-powers, which still apply their potential additional prerequisites. Have I mentioned the ability to use foes grappled as weapons to bludgeon others while in rage? What about rerolls of failed saves versus conditions upon drinking alcohol? Of course, totem rage powers are also included herein – with the totem edge (which may be taken multiple times) offering potentially access to multiple rage totem powers. Beyond the alignment-based/obvious beast totem powers, the fans of Midgard will surely enjoy the world-serpent totem powers or the hive totem, the latter of which is a godsend if your DM’s just as evil as yours truly and loves throwing deadly swarms at the poor melee characters after the AoE-spells of the casters are drained…

 

We also get an index that groups the respective content according to theme. Very interesting indeed – beyond the by now traditional advice on how to handle synergy between talented classes, we get essentially a suggestion called heroic warrior, who is a synergy of fighter, barbarian and cavalier for those who wish to play in all toolboxes sans breaking the game -really like that one, though a full-blown table for the class would probably have been nice.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to RGG’s printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with thematically-fitting stock art and is EXTENSIVELY bookmarked with nested bookmarks for each edge, talent and rage power. It also comes hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com, though not with the perfect bookmarks, but rather the automated ones – I doubt that customers require “GM” to be hyperlinked and more than once, I clicked by accident on a hyperlink, in the end printing this out to avoid just that. Oh well, at least the hyperlinks per se aren’t obtrusive.

 

Back to a more positive topic – the content. This takes the slobbering, wrath-filled barbarian and, as the intro suggests, separates it from the savage warrior, essentially allowing for non-raging barbarians from less urbanized cultures to civilized people who need anger management classes to shamanistic warriors that may slip in and out of animal skins – the barbarian as reimagined herein is much more versatile than the base class it inspired, offering much, much more in the variety of character concepts it supports – and that, ladies and gentleman, is why this one, much like the other talented classes before, now is the standard at my table. f problems can be found herein, they are minor at the very best and not the result of the class, but of the base archetype-abilities the framework took and adapted. And, let me emphasize this, even these minor hick-ups do not detract from the usefulness of this class in the slightest – final verdict: 5 stars + seal of approval.

You can get this cool version of the Barbarian-class here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 192014
 

And now for something completely different – today I’ll take a look at Kobold Press’ Real Scroll-series, which portrays one spell per installment in a lavish, hand-crafted calligraphy.

 

Each of these pdf is 4 pages long – 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page regular text of the spell and 1 page for the real scroll calligraphy version of the spell.

 

These reviews are not about content – they are about aesthetics and as such, much more so than my regular reviews, I invite you, the reader, to take these as just that – my personal preference and opinion regarding these. Got that?

 

Great! It should be noted, that the scrolls don’t contain arcane gibberish, strange runes or glyphs or the like – they contain the spell’s description and rules, rendered in lavish calligraphy – and that’s it. whether these are worth it for you as a customer depends very much on how excited you can get about beautiful calligraphy, here rendered by Kathy Barker.

 

So let’s check the spells!

129396

#1 is all about the iconic fireball, with massive Initials, wonderful ligatures and the text superimposed over the awesome rendition of a fireball, with the scroll itself having a somewhat scorched, parchment-like look and a caveat on the proper storage of these scrolls at the end – glorious 5 star + seal of approval material in my book.

129397

#2 depicts battleward and is more light -with two small heraldic crests depicting a portcullis and a sword-like icon superimposes on a sun-light background flanking the spell’s name, ethereal blueish wisps stretch towards the middle of the text from the upper right corner – per se very elegant, but I miss the custom background, this scroll having only a stark white background and the scroll has too pronounced white borders for my tastes. The two lavishly rendered, beautiful initials of the text deserve mentioning, though. 4 stars.

129398

#3 portrays Fire Under the Tongue, with somewhat organic/leaf (or flame)-like embroideries to the side of the spell. As an awesome touch, several of the letters feature flame-like extensions and the penultimate “f” of fire in the line that includes the mythic and augmentation options rounds perfectly the space of the page. The scroll comes with a fitting, red border and, as with the previous installments, the ligatures deserve special mentioning for their aesthetic value. Instead of one-letter initials, we have bolded letters in this case and personally, I prefer lavish initials over the (comparatively) common bolding of first words in a paragraph. 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.

129400

#4 is all about Gear Barrage, with a lot of swirly, brown lines at the top and bottom of the spell, each of the brown lines ending in a turquoise dot and spirals adhering to a similar schematic denoting the respective lines of the mechanical information for the spell.. The spell’s title is the star here – with turquoise letters and brown borders of said letters, the title is just a beauty to look at. The borders of the scroll this time around are brown. While the embroideries and spirals of the text this time around rank among the best I’ve seen in the series, this scroll also suffers from there just not being that much text – the scroll features significantly large borders, with the text being not perfectly centered and more left-aligned, lending to an impression of the scroll being simply not that well-used – larger letters, more pronounced embroideries, something like that could have made this one truly stand out. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.

 

Now If you enjoy artfully crafted calligraphy or have tried your hand with it yourself, if you’re an aesthete, then these will be worth the asking price indeed. If you’re just out there for the crunch, then you might want to skip these. Personally, I hope the series continues – for I’m convinced that RPGs ARE art and crossovers/crosspollinations of different types of artistry tend to result in favorites of mine. I know I’m looking forward to when I can hand out a scroll of fireball to my players and watch their astonished faces!

You can get the fireball here on OBS!

You can get the battleward on OBS here!

Fire Under the Tongue can be found here!

And finally, Gear Barrage’s scroll is here!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 162014
 

Path of War: The Warder

125512

This installment of the Path of War-series is 45 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 42 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Okay, one thing out of the way – I assume at this point that you’re familiar with the terminology of PoW, that you are aware that now per-encounter abilities have a precisely in-game defined time-frame and that PoW does NOT represent standard Pathfinder-balance – the aim of this series is to add power to martial characters, with special martial-arts style maneuvers and new classes. This means that balance, by design, is different from what you’d get in regular PFRPG. I’m not going to criticize the increased power of these characters, since that’s the design-goal. Relevant for DMs would be the fact that with these guys around, war of attrition no longer works – since maneuvers can be (with some actions required to regain them) performed ad infinitum, resource-depletion as a strategy akin to dealing with spellcasters no longer works with PoW – or at least, is significantly less effective. This caveat out of the way, If you’re interested in the basics, check out my previous PoW-reviews.

 

That out of the way, let’s take a look at the difficult concept of a defensive warrior, herein exemplified by the new warder base-class. Warders get d12, 4+Int skills per level, good fort and will-saves, full BAB-progression, proficiency with all armors and all shields and start game with 5 maneuvers known, 3 readied and 1 known stance. Over the 10 levels, these expand to 16 maneuvers known, 10 readied and 6 stances. Maneuvers expended can also be regained by this class in a unique way, by entering the so-called defensive focus. First, there is a passive benefit – warders get the combat reflexes feat and use int-mod instead of dex-mod to determine AoOs per round. Recovering maneuvers as a full-round action, the warder gets an interesting ability – he sets up a defensive perimeter, threatening an additional 5 ft., + another 5ft. per 5 initiator levels (not sure whether that’s intended and shouldn’t be CLASS levels instead – multiclassing warder/warlord/stalker and having this one grow at full force seems excessive to me). Until the beginning of the warder’s next turn, he may make AoOs against targets provoking them in this increased perimeter. The warder may still move as part of these AoO, but only up to his speed – this feels a bit powerful when compared to similar defensive builds, but I guess that’s intended. Finally, the warder imposes a penalty equal to class level + int-mod to acrobatics-checks made to prevent AoOs from the warder. At 10th level, this becomes worse – the warder’s threatened area becomes difficult terrain for foes and his own movements don’t provoke AoOs anymore when in defensive focus.

 

Not provoking any AoOs by moving anymore can break A LOT of builds – which doesn’t seem so bad. Want to see these get truly scary? Reach weapon + creature with reach + size-increase (the latter especially for PCs) – deadly. I’m seriously not sure whether +25 ft. reach IN ADDITION to all the reach-increasing tricks out there isn’t…well…insane.

 

Warders also increase their ally’s defenses by mere proximity, granting a +1 morale bonus to AC and will-saves to all allies within 10 ft., scaling up to +5 at 17th level and increasing range to up to 30 ft. Nothing to complain about the defensive aura here. At 2nd level, the Warder also gets an ability called Armiger’s Mark   -usable 1/2 class level + int-mod times per day, and no more often simultaneously than against 3+int-mod targets, as a free action, warders damaging foes may mark them to force them to attack the warder for warder’s int-mod rounds at -4 (scaling up to -8) to atk and with a spell failure chance increased by 10% +1% per 2 levels. No save. Which brings me to an issue here – I GET the idea of this ability – it’s intended to force a target to attack the warder (and not the healing-spamming cleric/druid/oracle). I actually applaud that! What I don’t like is that there’s no scaling, no success/failure-dichotomy here – personally, I think the ability would be more rewarding (and exciting and balanced), if the target got a save to negate the penalties imposed by the mark BUT NOT the ability’s crux, i.e. still have to attack the target. Now at 9th level, a warder can expend two uses of this ability to impose the penalty to all creatures within 30 ft. on a failed will-save for int-mod rounds. While being limited by a save and being language-dependant (meaning unlike the mark, it does not work against animals etc.), I still think that this debuff as a free action is a bit excessive. At 16th level, warders may regain maneuvers by dropping marked foes to 0 hp.

 

The class also receives a bonus combat (or teamwork) feat at 3rd level and every 5th level thereafter. At fourth level, warders may use int instead of dex to calculate their ref-saves and initiative (making them essentially a 3 good save-class – which is excessive). In contrast, reducing armor check penalty by 2 over the whole class feels not that impressive. Personally, I’d nerf the former ability and improve the latter – also to allow for slightly more varied char-builds – i.e. dexterous warders instead of strong warders.

 

Extended defense unfortunately doesn’t work – 1/day (+1/day every 3 levels) as an immediate action, warders may designate a counter readied, which the warder may then execute as a free action at will until the start of his next turn. The thing is – free actions can’t be RAW performed when it’s not your turn. So we have a conundrum here – also regarding the counter itself; It *could* be spammed infinitely since there is no caveat there – if one presumes a free action to work also on another’s turn (which it doesn’t), action economy gets all jumbled for the counters (not to start with implications for other free action tricks of other classes…). A more elegant solution would have imho be to simply allow the ability to let the warder execute the counter at will as a substitute to regular AoOs provoked by his opponents – simple, elegant and sans this action economy labyrinth the ability opens.

 

At 7th level, warders can expend one use of their mark to expend int-mod readied maneuvers and replace them with an equal amount of known maneuvers as a full-round action. At 15th level, a warder may make fort-saves against the atk that would reduce him to 0 hp or below and instead have an item absorb the damage, potentially getting the broken condition…per se cool. The problem is, what happens to indestructible armor/artifacts etc.? Seriously, a warder with these is a force to be reckoned with… while not 100% foolproof, at 15th level, the ability comes late enough to make me still consider okay. In direct comparison, gaining +int-mod to AC versus crit-confirmation rolls at 19th level feels rather anticlimactic. The capstone again is rather epic though, allowing the maintaining of defensive focus as a move action, while also netting aegis bonuses, immunities and preventing death from hit point damage – he is “unable to die from hit point damage” – each round consumes aegis marks, though, and at the end of this ability, he’s exhausted, which can only be cured by rest. per se cool…but: The warder’s immortal via hit point damage – so far, so good. Does that mean that a 200 hp dragon-flame blast hitting the warder simply does no damage or that he can’t die from it if his hp are down to 49? What after the blast? Assuming the warder would die at -16 hp, would he be at -15 hp and unconscious (meaning the ability would cease immediately?)? Would said warder be stable or die the next round on a failed check? Or is the warder locked at 0 hp and staggered? Or is the warder’s hp locked at 1hp for the duration of the ability? Some clarification would help make this cool capstone really awesome…

 

All right, next up would once again be the short primer on the Knowledge (martial) skill (still sans info which non-PoW-classes should get it as a class skill…) and new (and old) feats from the PoW. So let’s see how these fare! General feats to specialize on disciplines, learning more maneuvers etc. and letting other classes wilder among the maneuvers presented as well as offering the finesse etc. feats already known from the previous installments. The feats also include one that doubles the duration of the aegis mark ability. One feat. Doubled duration. Even within PoW, this is BROKEN. Extra marks is okay – as is the option to make foes demoralized and marked flee from you (which is probably smart – two massive debuffs don’t make for a good melee…) and finally, the feat that nets temporary hp in exchange for a penalty with full attacks is back; While not broken, it’s also not particularly awesome – it’s essentially a free array of temp hit points as long as full attacks are performed, which makes for a very strange in-game logic indeed…

 

Next up would be the maneuvers – Golden Lion and Primal Fury you’ll know from the Warlord (covered in my review there), Broken Blade from the Stalker (ditto) – but there’s also a new discipline, namely Iron Tortoise. I will ONLY cover Iron Tortoise in this review.

Iron Tortoise’s associated skill is Bluff and it requires proficiency with shields. This discipline is defensive in nature – which I applaud. I also enjoy that NONE of the maneuvers uses a skill check for attack-mechanic! Yeah! One of the most powerful counters allows the initiator to make an opposed attack roll + shield bonus versus the incoming attack as an immediate action – success negates the incoming attack, while failure still nets you a DR of 50/- against it. Yeah. Ouch – but the true joke is – not that much better than the level 6 version, which does essentially the same, but “only” nets DR 20/- on a failure.

Remember that this ability can be refreshed relatively easily. See what I meant in the beginning with PoW adhering to a different power level than standard Pathfinder? Still, within PoW’s frame. Another boost of the discipline allows the initiator to heap cumulative penalties against targets other than you upon foes for each successful attack you hit them with. What’s fundamentally broken is burnished shell – which renders all spells requiring attacks utterly useless – by succeeding an attack against CASTER LEVEL (lol, 5? 10? Even for 20 – The discipline cannot possibly fail this one!), the maneuver negates the targeted spell. Disintegrate? Pfff! The check is the same for all spell levels! Its DC is ridiculously low at ANY level range! Oh, the maneuver is LEVEL 3. Seriously? Even in PoW’s increased power-level, this is utterly, completely INSANE. Not all maneuvers have problems, though – whirlwind shield-bashing foes? Yeah – works and is cool. I also LOVE that there’s a maneuver that lets you add shield-bonus to fort and ref-saves against specific attacks- simply because that’s one of the iconic things that shields ought to be able to do: Fireball incoming: Hiding behind the shield may save you from being burnt to a crisp! Yeah, that one works neat! Another high-level attack I like can attack multiple foes with one shield bash and massive bonus damage, knocking foes back! an opposing attack roll including movement to negate attacks on allies also works rather neatly! In contrast the shield bash attack to negate incoming non-spell/power attack-level 1 counter once again somewhat rubs me the wrong way, though here mainly because of the d20 vs. d20 fluctuation. This is a matter of personal preference, though, and unlike the skill vs. attack complaining I did (which does have massive issues), attack vs. attack will not cause me to rate this pdf down.

 

I do like the stance that makes your armor count as one step lighter, shield throwing and yes, the inevitable defensive position-style stance. Overall, I have surprisingly few issues with the whole discipline and consider it perhaps the best one so far…if you can deal with one concept.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice significant glitches, though here and there ambiguities have slipped past rules-editing. Layout adheres to DSP’s two-column standard and artworks are mostly thematically-fitting stock-art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Chris Bennett’s growth as an author is quite interesting to observe – the warder feels more concise than the previous classes and makes for a very interesting take on the defensive fighter, with a lot of interesting abilities and some rather cool ideas. That being said, while it doesn’t fail the kitten-test this time around, there are some rough edges in this class as well, though decidedly less than before.

 

The same can be said about Iron Tortoise – gone from this discipline are the 3.X-relics, all vanished in favor of more PFRPG-oriented mechanics. While personally, I’m not a fan of opposed attack rolls (why not resolve it versus opponent’s CMD?), I can live with attack versus attack since they adhere to the same scaling mechanism and thus can be balanced against each other. The vast majority of the discipline works rather well and while there are some components which can use some balance-tweaking, overall, within the increased power-level of PoW, I can see it working well.

 

This pdf is the so far most refined Path of War installment. That being said, as written, one can create a terror-inducing tank indeed – I could hand this to one of my players and get a strong, but balanced character. Much like the other PoW-books, I could also hand this to one of my number-wizards (get it? spellcaster-analogue…Okay, I’ll hit myself now and put 2 bucks in the bad-pun-jar) and they’d utterly break balance with the other classes.

 

So overall…Yes, there’s some filing off of rough edges to still be done here – though less than before. Another note I feel I should mention would be the concept of aggro – many abilities herein force foes to attack certain targets and reward/penalize certain actions on behalf of the warder’s foes. While personally, I don’t necessarily mind the concept (though I’d penalize the hell out of a player not properly rping WHY s/he draws the foe’s ire/how s/he interposes her/himself into attacks!), I can imagine certain DMs being annoyed by this – I’m mentioning this primarily because two of my playtesters were exceedingly annoyed by this. It should also be noted that this class is VERY linear; Not much choices class-option-wise.

 

How to rate this, then? I actually like the class abilities (and, even if the class isn’t revised/further streamlined, will scavenge the hell out of it!), but some of them as written, require some finetuning. The same goes for the new maneuvers, some of which vastly outclass others in power/usefulness. The good news here is that these glitches, unlike previous complaints I had in the series, can be VERY EASILY fixed – they require no incision into central mechanics or the like and boil down to minor fixes, though the amount does accumulate. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 -with the caveat that if you mind neither the glitches I noted, nor the strength or the aggro-drawing concept, you should DEFINITELY round up to 4 stars instead. A moderately talented DM can smoothen the rough edges him/herself.

 

One final promise – I *will* revisit ALL maneuvers in the final, inevitable compilation and once again see whether this series manages to become the legendary book it sets out to be or whether the minor rough edges remain.

You can get this installment of Path of War here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 132014
 

CLASSifieds: Centaurian (Cavalier Archetype)

123836

This installment of the CLASSifieds-series is 6 pages long, 1 page front cover/SRD, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so what is this about?

 

The centaurian archetype replaces ride with knowledge (nature) and does not gain proficiency with heavy armor. Instead of challenge, the centaurian receives the so-called Tauric Shape – essentially a wild-shape variant, choosing a lower torso of a quadruped one size larger than the character. This increases size category by one step, but avoids the weapon-size debacle by simply also granting the undersized weapons creature ability of the centaur. The cavalier also gets a +2 bonus to Str and a +10 ft enhancement to base land speed. Equipment worn on lower torso and feet melds with the form or shows up in pouches, ready to be used. While in this form, cavaliers may wield lances one-handed and deal double damage with lances when charging as if mounted. This is a polymorph effect that lasts 1 minute per level (probably should be class level). At 3rd level and every 3 levels after that, the centaurian can assume this form an additional time per day. While personally, I just would have made it possible to shapechange in increments of 1 minute, but nothing wrong here.

 

In lieu of a mount, centaurians may 3+cha-mod times per day, as a swift action command allies to grant them a +2 morale bonus to attack rolls against ALL foes the centaurian can perceive. Yeah…this one’s too strong. No range? This is arguably better than bardic performance and since the only limit is being able to perceive foes, makes the cavalier very strong in open warfare. Not strong enough to make me yell broken, but too far on the power-scale for my tastes. This increases to also providing +2 to damage and a +1 dodge bonus to AC at 4th level…so yeah.

 

At 3rd level, instead of cavalier’s charge, the centaurian is treated as if having the mounted combat feat and gains the benefits of aforementioned ability while in tauric form. At 5th level, centaurians may, as a swift action con-mod times per day, gain the benefits of a haste-spell for 1 round per 2 levels (which, again, should be CLASS levels) – as an extraordinary ability. No suppression. After the burst of speed, a centaurian takes a -1 penalty to atk and AC and a -10 ft penalty to speed. However, I should note that this ability is NOT restricted to tauric shape as written…not sure whether that’s intentional.

 

At 12th level, the centaurian’s bonus to str in tauric shape increases a further +2 and they may initiate an overrun attempt sans AoO at +2 when hitting a target as part of a charge. Weird here – I *assume* this only works in tauric shape, but as written, a base-form centaurian could overrun smaller creatures with this just as well when not transformed. At 14th level, merely initiating a charge may make enemies that fail their save shaken. This extends to all enemies that can perceive you (again: very powerful in open warfare); More interesting – the ability fails to note that it is a fear-inducing effect, which becomes relevant for paladins et al.

 

We also are introduced to a new cavalier order, the order of the centaur (good, since the centaurian doesn’t get the challenge of other orders)…ähhh…wait. This order also provides a challenge. Whenever using a move action when moving 10 feet or more, the cavalier gets a +1 dodge bonus to AC against the target of the challenge for one round. The bonus scales. Okay, though you have to bear in mind that the centaurian doesn’t get this challenge! The order also reduces the AC-penalty when charging. At 8th level, 1/day when hit by an attack, the cavalier may make an acrobatics-check to negate the damage – NOT a fan of skill versus incoming attack. I’ve discussed in length before why I consider skill versus atk-roll problematic and I don’t like repeating myself over and over, so yeah.

 

We also are introduced to 4 new feats:

-Tauric Mount: Carry allies into battle as if a mount, use tactician to grant them temporarily mounted combat or archery.

 

-Improved Tauric Mount: Allies may make full attacks after a charge while riding you. See, this becomes problematic – I assume the player character riding can only make one attack after charging sans this feat if s/he’s delayed/readied an action, but I’m not sure. The feat’s text could be read to imply that the rider gets the full attack in addition to the one they could potentially execute after your charge in their initiative order. Usually, the mount in mounted combat is subsumed under the rider and relegated to mostly moving/minor attacks. Here, with one player taking control of the mount and the other being the rider, things get more complex since a mount usually acts at a rider’s initiative score. This problem also extends to the regular tauric mount feat, but becomes more pronounced here.

 

-Tauric Weapons: These gain you 2 primary natural weapons at 1d4 bludgeoning or slashing while in tauric form.

 

-Tauric Pounce: Make a full attack at the end of a charge, but only with your natural weapons. Urgh. Pounce is evil. The restriction keeps this somewhat in check, but I’m positive, that this can hurt in the hands of the right player.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good; while I’ve noticed some minor glitches in the rules-language, nothing too serious did crop up. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games’ elegant 2-column greyish/brown-standard and is a joy to behold. The color cover artwork is nice to see as well. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Tyler Beck’s Centaurian is a cool archetype indeed, allowing you to play a centaur without the size-issues/ladder-climbing etc. – and its mechanical execution is mostly solid. Regarding the archetype, my mayor complaints boil down to the lack of range limitations regarding their buffing capability and another issue: Weight. Does the centaurian’s size-increase also increase weight? If so, by how much? I *assume* standard guidelines here, but I’m not sure and when traversing brittle bridges or galloping over a recently frozen river, that becomes relevant. Another issue I have would be with carrying capacity -quadrupeds can carry A LOT more than bipeds, so doe carrying capacity increase while in tauric shape?

 

Now let’s be honest, these points are essentially nitpicks, but with the supplemental information, things get a bit…ugly. The new order is fine, if nothing special…but why not create an order specifically for centaurs/centaurians? The archetype eats challenge and similar abilities all up, so some customization would have been nice here, especially for the poor cavalier who already the shortest possible end of that stick. Now where things turn ugly is with the feats to carry allies into battle. Sounds easy, right? Well… it’s not. Mounted combat is already not too simple with the mount doing the move actions and the rider acting. When taking two players AND providing feats that mix up the action economy, the wording better be extremely precise. here, it’s not -as written, they just don’t work…at all.

 

So, how to rate this, then? All in all, we get a neat archetype with nice ideas and Tyler beck once again shows that he is a promising designer. But on the downside, this could have used an expert rules-editing to make the feat work, a clearer distinction re class/character levels for many abilities etc. This does not make this pdf bad, but it precludes it from reaching the higher echelons of my ratings. Hence, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

You can get this archetype here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 132014
 

Rite Map Pack – River Rapids

127563

This map-pack is 35 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 16 pages of full-color map and 16 of the same as b/w.

 

So this would be a new gorgeous full color map with a gorgeous grid – so what is on this map? We get a river, full of dynamic-looking foam and different depths, with several large rocks jutting out of it and a short section of sands on both sides – at least up to the beaver dam that can be found in the upper third of the river – the river making its way through two massive breaches in the dam.

 

The maps come with a grid.

 

Conclusion:

Water is hard to get right on maps and Tommi Salama creates water that is gorgeous – whether the dam, the jutting rocks – this map is beautiful indeed and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, which is a definite plus. This map-pack is gorgeous – Tommi Salama can be considered the heir apparent of map legend Jonathan Roberts if this pdf is any indicator. Now, personally, I think a version sans grids (or with hex-grids) would have been nice to have, but all in all, that’s not enough to rate this down a whole star – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this cool map-pack here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 122014
 

Bill Webb’s Book of Dirty Tricks

bill-webb-book-dirty-tricks_large

This book for the mean DM is 82 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 74 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So…Bill Webb has somewhat of a reputation for not only being FGG’s mastermind, but also for being a capable and deadly DM – one I didn’t yet have the honor to play with, but from what I’ve heard – wow. And this book, well, it contains some of his nastiest tricks – which makes for an interesting read, so let’s see if even jaded DMs like your truly can draw some neat tricks out of this one!

 

The pdf kicks off with an introduction -and something that makes the book rather interesting in sensibility – Bill’s game is a blend of old-school, Sword & Wizardry and 3.X/PFRPG sprinkled in and hence, throughout the book, Skeeter Green has boxes, where he explains changes in terminology in the system, provides spell-conversions into a given system and generally elaborates peculiarities, making this book MUCH more useful than it would be otherwise. All right, got that?

 

One glorious house-rule herein is rather interesting -XP for GOLD SPENT. No, seriously – think about it: Clerics building temples and sniffing good incense, paladins giving alms, rogues and fighter gambling and whoring -it makes for a great way to handle e.g. XP gained via downtime etc.- even better if you want to have leveling actually take some time and entail some…things that happen. A great roleplaying catalyst! Alternate weapon damage, attributes and bonuses, travel etc. are also provided, though these will probably primarily be a godsend for DMs who want to defuse the rules-heaviness of PFRPG’s crunch, for they represent essentially concise, but still a bit quick and dirty simplifications. Now the “got lost” charts and rolls on the other hand are truly awesome and simple for just about every system they’re used in -especially thanks to proper survival DCs etc. also provided.

 

Simpler rules for food and drink, foraging etc. are also in here – more interesting and yet another godsend-level table would be the concise 50-entry-three column table to generate unorthodox door opening mechanisms – so simple and yet so flavorful – awesome! This also extends to actual specific trigger-mechanisms for traps.

 

We all have been there – the moment where players just are incredibly LUCKY. I once had it happen that a PC could ONLY survive by a) winning initiative (enemy rolls 1, he a 20) – he did that. Thereafter, he had to crit the foe and confirm – two twenties required, both rolled. THEN he still had to roll max damage with a d10 and 5d6 AND then, in order to not be destroyed by his godlike adversary, he would have to roll a 10 on a d10 (indicating fatal head wound) and then a natural 100 on a d% in order to manage an instant-beheading according to the crit rules I used back then. Every other outcome would have seen him SLAUGHTERED. Well, do the math – I did not expect this character to survive. He did. Players are lucky…and this one suddenly had the regalia of literally one of the most powerful warrior-lords EVER to walk the lands, plus his fortune as by custom of trial by combat.

 

Where I’m getting at with this anecdote is – sometimes players are lucky, deservedly so – but the consequences might prove to become issues for the balance of the campaign. Hence, the next chapter is all about handling players with too much treasure via quite an array of options – several of them rather nasty, but concise and best of all: They make sense -both in a historical context of fantasy and in-game – just think about all those times in the stories and comics Conan got a fortune and was subsequently deprived of it (when he didn’t squander it to convert gold to XP, that is!) – yeah, that level of loss. Now here’s a huge issue I have as a reviewer – I *could* go into detail regarding all of the tricks, as I usually do – but that would somehow defeat the purpose of this book.

 

As soon as the tricks as made obvious, players are more likely to consider them as such and not as just a concise development of the campaign – by exposing them, I’d hurt their effectiveness. So I’ll refrain from that – just one thing: Whether it’s an AP kind of on the wrong side of a despotic city’s law, a certain mythic incursion into an abyssal landscape or a certain kingdom-building experience – there’s a fitting trick for just about every context here.

 

The next chapter is called “Situational Advantage” – and is glorious – generally, it is a DM’s primer for some cool environmental hazards/modifications/tactics, with neat mechanics to supplement them – and you gotta love the Pepé-Le-Pew giant skunk-entry. Now there are also some other glorious terrain books out there, but this chapter still makes a great supplement for some rather nasty hazards…

 

Next up would be a chapter that my players would HATE – because I’ve used similar tricks: Magical keys that do nothing, Unobtanium and similar nasty tricks and time wasters are exceedingly efficient at making players not analyze EVERYTHING – but there’s another benefit: A DM can use these tricks as blank spaces to later revisit and improvise contexts that weren’t there before, retroactively fit in storylines and the like – and no, not going into all the details of this chapter. Once again – less effective if players know what they’re up against.

 

The next two chapters also are smart – Wolves-in-sheep’s clothing and vice versa – with these, you can drive home the fear of the unknown, read advice on unkillable (no, seriously! You CAN’T kill these! Yes. Pointy sticks and arcane fire aren’t always the solution!) monsters or traumatize your players to be afraid of mold. No seriously – my players start gibbering and running whenever something mold-related comes up. Demons? Pfff. Bring out the unmoving fungus! With the tips herein, you can make YOUR players afraid of whatever you like! (And if you require further assistance – drop me a line!)

 

Now the trick-chapter is also interesting -from stacking certain hazards/obstacles to puzzle-style combat to tesseracts and portals – a lot of goodies here.

 

Finally, we have a great chapter called “Greed is bad” – from pointing towards the timeless “Don’t drink two potions at once”-table from 1E (seriously – hunt that one down!) to some other…interesting tricks to make players stop succumbing to Karzoug’s favorite sin, this is a fitting conclusion to this nice booklet.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard reminiscent of small booklets like digests. The print-edition, which is btw. of top-notch quality, does also adhere to this size.The pdf provides ample, cool and iconic old-school b/w-artworks. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Wow, this was an uncommon ride for me – mainly because reading this book was somewhat a blast from the past, with many tricks implicit in the old-school of adventure design properly and concisely spelled out. While the house-rules herein may not be to everyone’s liking, DMs and groups looking for simplification got one awesome resource here. Furthermore, some of the tricks are glorious, while others elicited a “D’unh” from me – the latter though, as I realized, mostly due to me coming from kind of (though not wholly – Bill Webb’s old-school credibility vastly outclasses mine!) this school of DMing. I.e. my game is lethal, PCs die and the world is not conveniently CR-stacked for PCs to slaughter. I started thinking, and relatively soon realized that most new-school modules simply don’t use tricks like these – and worse, were limited to the module, whereas most of the tricks herein actually help keeping a campaign going, not a simple module.

And as every DM who ran something that was not a plot-driven AP can attest, it is campaigns, with freedom, strange choices and especially sandboxes that can provide the problems this booklet combats. As such, and due to the ridiculously low price, I can wholeheartedly recommend this useful book – even if you’re a better Dm than me and know every trick in this book already, it still makes for a cool blast-from-the-past-style reading and should inspire some rules-changes/refreshing of the mentality at the heart of FGG’s success. Congrats to Bill Webb and developers Skeeter Green and Matthew J. Finch – well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

You can get this cool little booklet full of nasty tricks here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Endzeitgeist out.

Incoming search terms:

  • webbs book of dirty tricks review
Jun 122014
 

Gossamer Worlds: The Nightmare Kingdom

127313

The third in Rite Publishing’s series showcasing the infinite worlds of the Grand Stair, this one clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So what is the Nightmare Kingdom? Well, the nightmare kingdom is, as the in-character narrative postulates…strange. Even for the Grand Stair. There is a theory postulated (which may or may not be true) that the Nightmare Kingdom can actually reach places without using the Grand Stair, drifting through shadows and luring unsuspecting beings in. Touching the infinite worlds via closets and subverting doors, the hellish conglomerate of the fears of a thousand times thousand worlds is a domain, yes, but it is also a curse that may actually claim characters as its master…though the current master/slave of the realm, the entity known as the Ghoul, might not take kindly to such an intrusion. Fears made flesh, the boogeymen, which can include anything from the legendary man with red hands to cthonic horrors, the slender man or just about any other dreadful creature you can concieve, populate this deadly place and hence, 3 different takes on handling horror in LoGaS are provided herein for a given group to use.

 

And yes, tinseltown Hollywood, a Stephen King-inspired small town in Maine and the dark, dark cousin of NYC are provided as sample places that exist physically in the Nightmare Kingdom. Have I mentioned that in this world, psychic sustenance actually may nourish you, heal wounds and even change reality via the shaping of fears?

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to LoGaS’ 2-column full color standard and the artworks by Trung Ta Ha, Liew, Henry Toogood, Malcolm McClinton and Vince Ptitvine are glorious – I have seen neither before and think at least the cover is original – in any way, they are GLORIOUS and drive home the creepy atmosphere of this world.

 

Matt Banach’s Nightmare Kingdom, indebted to Ravenloft in concept and flourish, makes for a great, terrible place to introduce to one’s campaign and offers infinite potential for deadly horror of all shapes and forms in your LoGaS-game – combined with the great mechanics and writing, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

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

Endzeitgeist out.