Jul 312014
 

Mythic Monsters: Undead

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This installment of Legendary Games’ Mythic Monster series clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages introduction to the product line, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

 

We kick in with a short introduction by Jason Nelson before delving into expanded versions of mythic spells related to undead – whether its mythic animate dead, lesser, a new augment for the mythic ghostbane dirge or size changing via sculpt corpse‘s mythic version – the 10 additions are nice and provide even adventure hooks and ideas here and there!

 

That’s not what you’re here for, though, right? So let’s take a look at the undead: The mythic Baykok (CR 11 /MR 4) is the 7th version of the Baykok for a d20-based game I’ve seen, so it better live up to its dreadful reputation…and it does. Hail of arrows versus all targets within 110 feet? Yeah. Add paralyzing howl and arrows to the mix and we get a truly deadly, nasty foe and one of my favorite iterations of the creature so far. Have I mentioned that these guys can spend mythic power to make slaying arrows? Yeah…frightening indeed!

 

The Mythic Demilich at CR 17/ MR 7 may not be on par with what these guys once were (and ought to be!9, but at least it’s closer than the neutered default PFRPG demilich: Adding the good ole’ crumble to dust-effect to wail of the banshee, for example. The Cr 13/MR 5 mythic devourer gets a negative level-inducing AoE-breath weapon that even staggers on made saves (OUCH!) and can permanently destroy souls and fuel crackling waves of negative energy with said essence. Nasty! Now the one I’ve been most excited about in here would be the CR 9/ MR 4 mythic dullahan – whether via placed, penalty-inducing markers or a paralysis-inducing gaze, these guys are deadly and cool – alas, Rite Publishing’s Headless Horseman-template imho delivers the slightly superior version here, with the nigh unkillable aspect and rp-based ways to exploit the creature as well as supremely deadly melee making for the more deadly adversary. The provided artwork (which also includes the next creature, the CR 10/ MR 4 Mythic Mohrg) is awesome, though. Mythic Mohrgs may use mythic power to confirm crits and unleash massive,, extremely deadly circles of death – and even the non-mythic version of this spell is nasty, as 3 dead PCs in my current campaign can attest. Especially cool since it thematically enhances the mass murder-aspect of the mohrg’s origin lore.

 

CR 2/MR 1 mythic ghouls and their CR CR 3/MR 1 ghast-brethren get the option to spend mythic power for faster coup-de-graces and also receive a paralytic aura. I wish the ghast had a unique ability, but oh well. The CR 2/MR 1 pickled punk may now turn to stone and temporarily turn hard as stone – also getting the option to flat-out negate attacks via mythic power, rendering this being a very interesting adversary at low levels. CR 9/MR 3 mythic spectres get a cool, iconic ability – dealing damage by moving through living targets. Their aura of desecration is nice as well, if nothing to write home about. The mythic wight at CR 4/MR 2 btw. also gets this aura, but no other unique signature tricks.

More interesting would be the Mythic Totenmaske (in case you wondered – that’s German for Death Mask) at CR 9/ MR 3 may use mythic power to instill a permanent staggered condition due to ennui on targets drained of charisma. Much cooler – the creature can actually make use of the senses of those subject to its flesh-shaping and dominate its victims. Neat and so full of story-telling potential…

 

The CR 11/MR 4 Witchfire may cause its cursed flames to actually BURN the targets (amen…that one was overdue from the base-creature…) and foes attacking the creature in melee constantly risk catching the cursed spiritual fire…nice! Have I mentioned the ability that lets the witchfire use mythic power to automatically hit and inflict max damage (ref save halves)? Yeah, OUCH! The Wraith at CR 6/MR 2 surprisingly gets some very cool abilities – a shroud of darkness that negates the vulnerability to sunlight while also dealing cold damage and the ability to inflict con-bleed damage on hit targets.

 

Now the Mythic Monster-series usually has its climax at the end with the new creature and this time, we get the CR 12/MR 5 Jigsaw Man – no, these guys do not catch people and put them through strange tests, they are called thus because they’ve been quartered for being serial killers – with their fractured anatomy, they can use mythic power to completely negate attacks, disassemble into a swarm form as well as a particularly lethal, rusty blade – that turns into an instrument of swift death in the hands of the jigsaw man. (In case you need a neat idea how to effectively scavenge this guy’s rules- slap a ninja-level or two on of these, a add some telekinetic-focused psion-levels/psi-like abilities and you have a great representation of Metal Gear: Revengeance’s Monsoon…)

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to legendary Games nice 2-column full-color standard. The 2 pieces of original full color artwork (one being the new creature) by Ivan Dixon and Steve Wood are awesome. The pdf unfortunately comes sans any bookmarks, making navigation less comfortable than it ought to be.

 

Jason Nelson and Tom Philips deliver an installment of Mythic Monsters that has some true stars – the new mohrg, the baykok, totenmaske and wraith are all damn cool, and, as almost always, the original, new creature is superb. That being said, the ghasts for example, and to a lesser extent, dullahan and demilich just didn’t feel that much improved to me – perhaps because I’ve seen too many versions, I don’t know. These got me all stoked up and while there’s nothing wrong with them, they are pretty conservative takes on what you’d expect from mythic versions of them. Don’t get me wrong, that does not make them bad, but it also makes them not as awesome as their further enhanced brethren herein. Generally, this book feel like it’s situated on the upper edge between good and awesome, but the lack of bookmarks as a serious comfort detriment makes me round down – my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

You can get these Undead here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzteitgeist out.

Jul 312014
 

Purple Duck Storeroom: Alternate Class Abilities

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This pdf clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/explanation, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so what are these alternate class abilities?

 

Essentially, you could think of them as micro-archetypes – to learn one of them, you have to give up a class ability of a equal level when you level up or retrain. Bonus feats and divine auras do not qualify and spellcasting progression potentially counts as such an ability. In the end, the DM has the final say. Got that? Good!

 

A total of 18 1st level abilities are provided and range from access to a mount (which works as a full-blown animal companion!) to poison use, throw anything as a bonus feat or gaining animal empathy. All those nice little abilities like trapfinding, familiars etc. are part of the deal, as is the unarmed AC bonus of the monk.

 

At 2nd level, 5 are provided, with uncanny dodge, favored enemy and stand up some more powerful options coming into the fray.

 

For 3rd level, only maneuver training and trap awareness are available, whereas at 4th level, expert trainer, favored terrain adn slow fall become options. AT 5th level, you may go for solo tactics, at 6th for evasion and swift poisoning, at 10th for opportunist and at 12th for camouflage or stalwart.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I did not notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no art, but needs none at this length. The pdf does have bookmarks, which is awesome to see.

 

Author and mastermind of Purple Duck Games Mark Gedak provides a surprisingly complex system here for next to no cost -essentially, these can be considered a way to make all classes talented in a limited manner. And that is awesome – thief with cantrips? Done. Cleric with trapfinding? Done. And so on. The options are diverse and solid indeed, covering important abilities, but not the signature ones and thus enrich the list of valid character concepts. Now that being said, I do have gripes with the pdf – for one, the balancing is off regarding some of the options: bonus to craft versus gaining a mount that will eclipse at low levels its rider? Hmm, which do I take? Or take evasion – arguably one of the most useful defensive abilities in the game, it is too easy to get as written. Seriously, though – that can be handled by a DM. Another oversight would be that, as written, nothing prevents the stacking of these class abilities other than the usual convention. Witches with two familiars, druids with two companions. Urghs.

The concept is glorious and would warrant further expansion/ a proper, full-blown book with streamlined balancing. As written, this is still a great resource as long as you as the DM keep a tight control on what which character can exchange – a notion the pdf admittedly calls attention to. For the expansion of options and due to the low price, I will hence settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this inexpensive pdf here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 302014
 

Threats: Dawn of the Dwimmerlaik (Diceless)

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The second of Rite Publishing’s ecology-style sourcebooks detailing threats for the LoGaS-setting is 26 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

As per the tradition by now, this sourcebook is written in glorious in-character-prose and depicts documents of the dwimmerlaik – a narrative by one of these threats in LoGaS, taking a cue from LPJr Design’s “First One”-pdf and doing something smart – establishing from the get-go that, what follows, are lies. The origin-myth depicted, analogue to Shakespeare’s Tempest blended with several classical topoi from mythology, starts with the ascension of the race, elevation from shackles and wilderness and the overcoming of an all-powerful, Typhonian god-like father-figure (though the latter should be taken not in the nourishing way…) to the awakening into autonomy and a new racial self-consciousness that resounds even in nomenclature: The Dallaik became the Dwimmerlaik, “That which is superior.” From there, the race set out to erect their world-spanning empire.

 

Now it should be noted that 2 cool 5-point powers for exalted channeling are provided here as well – one to project one’s astral self to other worlds (and if you require inspiration there, just read the weird fictions of old for a vast array of potential hooks to use this…) and one that allows astral projecting dwimmerlaik to place marks while projecting – these work as a kind of tracing beacon…and if you don’t have about 20 different great ideas for stories resolving around the combination of these powers by now, think harder or drop me a line. Seriously, these are narrative gold.

 

Now the weapons/artifacts of the first Dwimmerlaik, those that vanquished and consumed Eos, are also are depicted in here, as is a list of the 8 houses of the race – a kind of rigid, caste-like system. However, the genesis of the race demanded retribution from the nigh-all-powerful Typhonians. While the battle was fierce and indeed, yet another of the beings fell, the resulting onslaught saw the dwimmerlaik at the verge of extinction, with reality, the grand stair or *something* intervening and saving them, destroying Selene, their adversary – at terrible cost for their homeworld Caliban as well as for numerous worlds.

 

Since then, the Dwimmerlaik have taken back to the stairs…and the Gossamer Lords and Ladies have appeared – here, though, the stair turned against the Dwimmerlaik, offering an uncomfortable possibility that some time, the age of human Gossamer Lords may end as well…still, the war rages between teh Dwimmerlaik and the Lords…

 

We also are introduced to a ruthless meritocracy as a culture, placing strength above all and seeing lies as a means to end, as a device to prove cultural superiority and expose weakness – a compelling dystopia. The somewhat ancestral worship-like basis of their religion is interesting – the dwimmerlaik essentially create a Grand Narrative in the traditional term – their devotion belongs to the conglomerate history they create, the representation of the collective of their achievements and failures as well as their own unconscious, by the very definition of their object of worship. Glorious and potentially enlightening, this takes the concept of a historic pluralism and makes it work in context of a society by acknowledging the need for a grand narrative on one hand, while on the other putting it into a relativistic perspective by their ideology regarding truth. Glorious and so full of potential!

 

Birth and Death, life and recreation (like psychic duels called Shayde) are also explained. The Gossamer Lady that delivered this document gets btw. full stats, as does Cicarus, the legendary Witchknife dwimmerlaik assassin and the guardian of Caliban, the oldest of Dallaik and final chronicler of the race. Yeah. Awesome.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RiP’s two-column full color standard, with most of the artworks being top-notch original pieces of the highest caliber, while some others are thematically fitting stock. the latter is the minority, though. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Writing an ecology on arguably the primary antagonists of the LoGaS-setting must have been a daunting task – first one requires a society that is sufficiently unique to not elicit yawns when compared to similar races throughout fantasy. Secondly, LoGaS, more than any other setting, thrives on ambiguity, on the option to develop ideas and determine truth. These seem to directly contrast what one would require from an ecology-style book.

 

Author Andrew Peregrine found an elegant and exciting way to circumvent this conundrum, by providing ample doubts…and via a subtle trick: Much of the respective narrative potential rises from the deliberate blanks in the interaction of potential truths in here, weaving a stunning panorama of world-spanning and epic confrontations, strange creatures and a society alive and organic…and mysterious. This book is an inspiring joy to read an well worth 5 stars + seal of approval, not only for LoGaS-players and DMs, but also for those starved for inspiration for their own world/plane-spanning antagonist empire…

 

You can get this supplement here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop – unleash the Dwimmerlaik!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 302014
 

Random Encounters: Wilderness

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This pdf clocks in at a weighty 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page advice of how to read statblocks, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

We kick this pdf off at a list of statblocks by CR, encounters by terrain, by EL (spanning the gamut from EL 2 to 12) and by designers. Wait, what? Yes, for this pdf is the child of Raging Swan Press’ freelancer call and as such offers us the winners of said contest. Hence, I will provide the author alongside the discussion of the encounter. Got that? All right! After author biographies (which imho wouldn’t hurt ALL RPG-companies – name-recognition for designers = good thing!), we kick off with Jesper Andersen’s “Canoes & Crocodiles” – and what a glorious first encounter it is: The premise is simple – crocodiles (which can be replaced by just about every aquatic critter, should you so choose) versus, you guessed it, canoes. What makes this encounter such a joy to run would be the quick and easy summary of base vehicle rules, concisely and coherently summed for all intents and purposes – the same, of course, goes for the terrain and the canoes. I’ve never run such an easy vehicle combat – two pages of the pdf are literally all you need and even if you usually shy away from them, this one is a cakewalk to run – even sans preparation. Two thumbs up!

 

Now Jeff Erwin’s “Death-Dealer of the Gloaming Hills” is something less straightforward -it’s essentially a miniature tragedy – featuring death, foreshadowing, a mini-mystery and a shapechanger – and that is all I will spoil here, in case players are reading. Still, experienced DMs will consider this one a been-there-moment.

A neat sidequest indeed and especially nice if the PCs are frequently travelling e.g. between settlements etc. Richard Bennett’s “Hunters as Bait” is all about one two types of beast fighting one another – with the PCs used as a means to spring an ambush of one of the parties, so the other monster can annihilate its competition. Nice, though probably an encounter you should foreshadow accordingly. Full-blown buff-suites included. Jacob Trier’s “Lost Love” is about a bard seeking his stunning beauty – who is not all she seems to be – and alas, heart-break will resume, should the poor sap survive finding his beloved… Still, as much as I hate to be that guy – the encounter is great, the writing neat…but I’ve seen this particular storyline done quite a few times before.

 

Fabian Fehr’s “Mourning Monster” once again has this touch of the absolutely special – guarded by her crestfallen young grey render, a wizard’s mortal remains lie in a circle of standing stones – will the PCs dare to loot her body? Of perhaps, they require her to be resurrected…but how do you explain that to a faithful beast, determined to guard its mistress, mad with grief? In Denver Edwards Jr’s “Secrets of the Swamp”, the PCs may save a doe and inadvertently stumble into both the undead, sinkholes, a degenerate tribe of lizardfolk and the globster-ooze they worship as a deity…Neat!

 

F.D. Graham’s “Stuck in the Mud” deserves special applause – good encounters don’t necessarily mean that there will be massacres and monster-blood galore – in this one, the PCs may aid a kind halfling free his wagon and horse from the mud in a thoroughly compelling and awesome change of pace. Two thumbs up for being this brave and daring for something completely different! Also by Fabian Fehrs would be an encounter, where the coolness lies in the details – a clearing that houses abandoned brownie-tunnels now is the home of a wasp swarm and may collapse as soon at the PCs step inside -great insult-to-injury encounter, with the tunnels of the fey lending the special touch to everything.

 

Jacob W. Michaels’ “The ants go marching in” is very much a question of morals – the PCs happen upon the gruesome execution of a faun, buried and covered with honey, via ants – slow and agonizing, while two inquisitors watch – whom to help, whom to trust – and the ants march ever onwards.

The final encounter, Brian J. Ratcliff’s “The Gray Grove”, comes with color-blighted creatures, fey and the true source of the forest’s blight, a color out of space. And I *LOVE* the interaction of fey/lovecraftiana here, I really do, but I wished this were a full-blown module; For one encounter, the resolution and scope feel too grand and somewhat too stuffed together. that being said, I very much hope to see such a module one day!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, as almost always in raging Swan Press-products, are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience and in two version, with one being optimized for screen use and one to be printed out. Artwork consists of thematically fitting stock art you may have already seen in other RSP-books, but oh well – take a look at the low price and page-count: Still superb in the production value department.

 

Random Encounters: Wilderness provides excessively-detailed encounters that range from very good to stellar . while some of the encounters here have basic plots that are a bit old, while one is slightly beyond its scope, you only notice this because they are so good – the respective encounters have many a thing going for them, with “Canoes & Crocodiles”, “Mourning Monster” ad “Stuck in the Mud” being my favorites – especially the latter, which is so fun in its utterly mundane premise, which manages to be exciting in spite of no creature-feature overkill and no deathtrap-9000-killer-combo, is just awesome – because it is about very pure roleplaying without sacrificing tension. Now I may have seemed complain-happy throughout this review, so let me make this abundantly clear – this is a neat selection of encounters and well worth 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval. And it has done one thing: Make me universally look forward to the things these authors put out in the future. So go ahead, check it out!

 

You can get these cool encounters here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

 

Jul 292014
 

Into the Breach: The Oracle

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This installment of the “Into the Breach”-series is 25 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 black page with a quote – nice to look at on-screen, very bad for the printer!), 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

We kick off this pdf with a new archetype, the Karuna Sattva (which translates essentially to compassionate being) is a VERY interesting archetype – in lieu of a regular oracle’s curse, these beings take the curse-eater trope and can actually use their class feature “Take Thy Burden” – with it, they may, with a touch, take a given affliction from a target and lift the target’s affliction, instead temporarily getting one additional oracle curse depending on the affliction as well as increasing spell failure chances – problem is: Oracles usually don’t incur spell failure unless they multiclass – so if that one was supposed to be a balancing factor, it doesn’t work as written as soon as any arcane class-combo comes into play, since there are ways to cancel and mitigate arcane spell failure chances – how do they interact? Do they stack? Do reductions of arcane spell failure also work for this dissonance? Why is the table and phenomenon not called simply “spell casting dissonance” and presented à la: “This works like ASF, but extends to all spells the oracle casts, regardless of whether being divine, arcane or psionic […]This does/does not stack with arcane spell failure chance and cannot be mitigated in the same way..”

 

Another issue would be that the ability does not explicitly specify the action it takes – yes, it mentions “touch”, but does it require concentration? Can it be interrupted? Why I’m harping on this? As written, the archetype allows no save/has a “willing target/harmless-clause” – i.e., the oracle could take a beggar’s handicap against said beggar’s will, hampering his/her livelihood. Another issue – while RAW not explicitly stated, it is heavily implied (and handled like that in all games I know!) that an oracle’s curse is the price they pay for their powers – in games with such a lore established/implied, taking away an oracle’s curse would cripple them. But that is just fluff, nothing to fault the archetype for and hence will not influence the final verdict.

 

What I CAN fault the archetype for is that the afflictions cured contain insanities, addictions, haunts and even possessions – no scaling. Oh, only evil possessions, btw. – no angels merged with humans, lawful or chaotic creatures. The lower planes get the short end of the stick here, in spite of no good-alignment-restriction. King’s possessed by a demon lord? One touch and gone he is! Plus, your oracle gets a free curse (which translates to more power!). Insanities, lycanthropy, addictions etc. often make plotdevices and just canceling them sans any check or the like is broken. “So you saw Great Cthulhu? WHO CARES! We have a Karuna Sattva!” Jekyll/Hide-scenario? Pff, solved with a touch. This ability NEEDS a scaling mechanism! And it needs balancing – curses tend to evolve into bonuses and even having two (been there, done that in my game!) translates to quite a power-gain. Having up to 5 (!!!), even with the spell failure, is problematic. And yes, while curse no 5. amps the latter up to 60%, 4 still means only 30% spell failure. A more strongly escalating spell failure chance would help balance here. Another issue here is that this WILL be exploited like all hell by players. “Hey, we need curse xyz’s ability! Let’s do nasty, nasty things to our bags of kittens and have our Karuna Sattva take care of it!” Massive fail of the bag of kittens test. (Picture it: PCs summoning demons into cute kittens to have them exorcized…*shudder*) Also: The extension of spell failure gained at 7th level fails to specify the type of action it takes to initiate. I assume standard action, but I’m not sure. I *love* the idea behind this archetype, but the execution is sloppy, prone to abuse and needs a much tighter wording to prevent excessive and potentially game-world-logic breaking ramifications. Also: Why can’t the archetype mitigate diseases, poisons etc.? Why not tie the ability to DCs? Why not actually balance this? 2 abilities, much potential, none works as intended – not gonna happen anywhere near my table.

 

The second archetype would be the Diplomatique, available for exclusively good oracles. Their code of conduct specifies they lose all supernatural abilities upon reducing a living being’s hp or affecting them with a harmful condition, subject to DM’s approval. So this opens a huge can of worms – is e.g. paralysis, daze etc. harmful? Pathfinder has quite an array of conditions and a concise list (à la “non-permanent blinding of people, daze, stunned, paralyzed etc.) would have been easy to compile. Also, being allowed to only deal non-lethal damage is harsh, even though the archetype gets a feat to at least offset the -4 penalty to atk. Now the supernatural ability the archetype may lose would be pacification, which essentially is a permanent sanctuary, at-will suggestions and further increases of the defensive sanctuary. At 3rd level, the archetype learns to lay on hands as a paladin level -1, opening quite an array of possibilities there as well. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – I LOVE the idea of heroes not killing everything. In my campaign, being “good” means NOT killing the bastards and instead incarcerating them etc. Mercenaries, neutral guys – those are the killers, the soldiers. So in theory, I do like this archetype. It essentially takes a basic concept from the book of exalted deeds and seeks to properly balance it – neat. BUT: Conditions need to be defined; Grappled is a condition, for example. Usually, violating a code of conduct results in all class abilities stripped, not just those of two class abilities. While understandable, this design decision there feels a bit inorganic to me. Additionally, the very strong restrictions imposed to balance the powerful abilities feel too rigid for my tastes – you can essentially make ONE type of diplomatique, there’s no choice. Actually getting to choose from pacifications, i.e. a list of various abilities, would have been much more compelling. Not as problematic as the former archetype, but also no stroke of genius here.

 

The Enigma Warden would be next – the archetype gets silent spell as a bonus feat at first level and stops increasing the level when using this feat at 5th level. If the archetype speaks, s/he loses access to the supernatural abilities – the only one of which would be this silent spell and another one gained at 3rd level. Thing is – it’s not clear whether the silent spell bonus feat is also lost? Generally, this restriction gets rid of the curse at low levels and breaking the vow doesn’t even need an atonement, which means low level characters will be breaking it nonstop – after all, silent spell is next to useless until the 5th level upgrade comes – unless you’re playing a very infiltration-heavy campaign. Now at 3rd level, things stop working – the oracle may choose from ANY revelation, as long as s/he has an equal amount of revelations from the secrets mystery, which is btw. obligatory for the archetype. Oh, and +2 revelations, for a total of 7. That means 3 freely chosen revelations, no penalty. If an oracle breaks the vow of silence, are these additional revelations lost? Do the other revelations still work? Do only revelations from the secrets mystery still work? I have no clue at all! This archetype needs some clarification and streamlining – cherry-picking revelations PLUS paltry drawbacks don’t feel balanced.

 

The ordained scion replaces the mystery and revelations with a sorceror bloodline and its powers, skills and spells. Okay way to wilder in another spell-list and ability-set – nothing to complain here.

 

Next up would be an alternate base-class, the warlock. The Warlock gets d8, 4+Int skills per level, good will-saves, 3/4 BAB-progression, proficiency with simple weapons, light armor, shields (not tower shields) and no spells. At 2nd level, warlocks add their cha-mod to one save of their choice, +1 at 6th and 10th level. The ability is called luck, but doesn’t specify the bonus-type – I assume, it’s a luck bonus, but still. The main theme of the warlock, though, remains blasting foes – blasts start at 1d6 and scale up to 10d6, increasing by +1d6 at third level and every 2 levels after that.

 

So how does blasting work? Essentially, it is a ranged attack that provokes AoOs, is hampered by spell resistance and has a range of 60 ft. Two noteworthy things about blasts – the damage they deal is negative energy damage, rendering the warlock absolutely useless against undead and allowing next to no resistances, unlike other damage types. The text also specifies that these rays can be cast defensively via concentration, but no equivalent spell level is given, rendering a key tactic of blasting foes unusable as provided. Worse, the text fails to specify whether one concentration-check per blast or per round is in order – I assume the former, but I can’t be sure from the text. Additionally, within 30 ft., the warlock may resolve these blasts as ranged touch attacks – which is very powerful. I’m not particularly sure the blast should remain a supernatural ability – while not duplicating a spell’s effect, it shares more traits with spell-like abilities than with supernatural abilities. Furthermore, the blasts cannot be countered as written – a glaring oversight that ought to be rectified to at least offer SOME protection against the neverending array of blasts, especially since they offer no saves.

 

Why is this relevant? Because at every even-numbered level, the warlock gets access to a so-called blast evolution. These are grouped into essences and forms and start with least, unlocking lesser modifications at 8th level and greater modifications at 14th level. Now what do these do? Well, one, for example, deals positive energy damage and dazzles foes – while lacking the word “damage” at one point, it should be noted that I *assume* it’s like with channel energy here – i.e. no healing, just damage. The other least blast essences reduce damage die from d6 to d4 and add the entangled condition, deal non-lethal fire damage and add the fatigued condition, increase damage to d8 or trail a fog-cloud-like effect. Duration tends to be one round per damage die of the blast – and none of the conditions have a save. While each blast can only be modified by one essence and one form, this looks just as strong on paper as it proved to be in playtesting – while not utterly crippling, the sheer unlimited amount of blasts is problematic at best, with touch attacks and no-save debuffs added for even worse overall balancing. “But the range is so limited!” Least Form: Dart increases the range to 180 ft (later even 360 ft; 60 ft. touch attack range).-Yeah. Suck on that, archer. The forms tend to be problematic – a cone allows for a ref-save (Good!), but doesn’t specify whether additional effects are negated upon a successful save. The warlock may also make his/her blasts melee attacks that don’t provoke AoOs or create a blast-glaive: These have reach, deal blast damage + cha-mod AND are resolved against touch attacks. COME AGAIN??? Remember, the blast counts as a weapon and as such may be modified with all the feats – you can essentially make those killer pole-arm builds should you so choose AND choose spontaneously between that and regular melee/ranged combat with blasts that allow no saves…oh and your melee attacks are resolved versus TOUCH. This is incredibly, terribly, horribly BROKEN.

 

Lesser essences allowing for ranged combat maneuvers (not a fan!), apply permanent sickened/nauseated or deafened conditions (no duration!) or deal the SAME damage minus one dice again next round – hello, vital strike and consorts. Urgh. Blast Chain is also problematic, allowing blasts to spring from target to target within 30 feet – at a cumulative minus 4 to atk and half damage (this one, strangely, not being cumulative!), yes, but this will devolve into a dice-rolling orgy that puts the game to a grinding halt akin to 3.X’s handling of cleave. Furthermore, the ability has a line that has me utterly stumped: “Each target that is hit with an essence which has an effect that allows a saving throw is entitled to a separate save with a +4 bonus.” In addition to any save? What constitutes a secondary effect? Negative conditions? Only those that allow for saves? Also those that usually don’t allow saves? Now remember, this is a form, so all essences may be applied AND since it is an attack, theoretically, it can be combined with all the feats you’d like. Broken. The fireball-style blast grenade modification works wording-wise, so kudos – especially since this and some other forms make the blast a standard action instead. Now adding the blast to unarmed attacks is also a cool idea, but how does it interact with improved unarmed strike? I *assume* that unarmed damage and blast damage stack – which is broken even before adding in ki-tricks.

 

There are also blast essences that have wording issues – hurricane blast specifies: “The eldritch blast damage is changed from 1d6 damage at every odd-numbered level to 1d4 force damage and 1d6 cold damage at every odd numbered level.” So does that mean +1d4 force damage or +level/d4 force damage? In the former case: Too weak, in the latter: Broken. Remember, that can be applied to e.g. the glaive form: At 14th level, a warlock could deal 7d6+14d4+cha-mod (this latter FORCE, one of the best damage types!) damage PER HIT – without even trying to game this and additional feat/equipment tricks to boost damage further – resolved as a TOUCH ATTACK ad infinitum. Insane.

 

Warlocks may also sheathe themselves as a standard action in an elemental shroud, granting them elemental resistance of 5, scaling up to 20, first for 1 round per warlock level, later up to 3 rounds per warlock level. Per se nice, but as written, it can be stacked, which should probably be noted as something to be fixed – warlocks with access to all elements via essences could sheathe themselves in the elemental + negative energy resistances. Also: The ability should specify the eligible damage types – as written, the class can net itself force resistance (since the blasts can deal force damage), depending on your reading.

 

Now while the central feature of the class is horribly broken in more than one instance, the warlock does have a nice treat -class-level + cha-mod antimagic points to counterspell spells, potentially even without identifying them (at least, that’s how the ability’s written, but I’m not sure that’s intended…) by just wagering spell-level points; You need to spend more points than the spell’s level. At higher level, weak micro blasts can accompany these counterspells and some spells can even be reflected on the caster.

 

Now that is NOT all – the warlock also gets one revelation PER LEVEL – of ANY mystery. In addition to the blasts. Yeah. take a GOOD look at what’s out there. Yeah, ouch. This would be very strong even without the blasts being broken.

 

There’s no way around it – the warlock, as written, needs to go back to the drawing board – it allows you to cherry-pick revelations at every level, has an insane damage output and doesn’t even require any ingenious combination to break. Just a cursory GLANCE at revelations is enough to make this simply not work as intended. The blasting is too strong and requires at least some balancing. “But Endzeitgeist, a sorceror can blast better!” Yeah, but a sorceror has limited spells, which can be counterspelled, is fragile as all hell, can’t wear armor etc. (yes, eldritch blasts don’t have arcane spell failure – go figure!), doesn’t have a weapon that dwarfs even the soulknife’s flexibility in comparison (choose your blasts freely, every blast!), doesn’t get 3/4 BAB-progression and sure as hell doesn’t add the ONE attribute that counts for the class, cha to just about all saves.

*rant*

And don’t start the whole “But casters dominate all encounters”-bullshit with me. If you as a DM can’t bleed casters dry and let the group rest after every encounter, then you’re doing it wrong. I’ve been DMing for more than half my life and forcing casters to think when to unleash arcane destruction is a basic tactic that seems to be lost on quite a few number-crunching whiners that point to the paper and complain that casters are oh so much better.

*/rant*

What I’m getting at with this rant – the warlock has no resources for his/her primary attacks and as such needs to be compared to all other limited-resource-less classes – and instead of falling somewhere in line at the upper power echelon, it essentially boots even the casters out of the water.

Another gripe of a completely unrelated topic- during playtest, it turned out to be fun for one of my players, mainly because said player enjoyed wasting any CR-equivalent threat…but he badgered me to include in this review that he “got bored, fast, because there is no strategy here.” You have your tools, you use them – that’s it. Interjection Games’ Ethermancer, with its unique buffs, spell pool mechanic and various modifications does everything this class tries to do infinitely more compelling and IS BALANCED and requires some forethought on how long your battle will wage, of when to buff and when not. It’s not a perfect class, but it’s not as OP as the warlock, it rewards tactical planning of the expenditure of etherpoints and still manages to portray the blast-all-day-long class without utterly breaking the game by offering sufficient drawbacks. It also tackles counterspelling and offers options beyond blasting everything to smithereens. The Ethermancer works, this does NOT. This class is BROKEN and needs a revision. I can’t recommend this class even to utter n00bs entering a game of pro-number-crunchers, since the wording ambiguities make many an ability harder to understand than it ought to be. I’ve rarely seen a base class that can break a game this easily. Steer clear.

 

Next up would be a 10-level-PrC, the Covernborn. Coverborn get 1/” BAB-progression, 1/2 will-save progression, 2+Int skills per level and require class features from sorc, oracle and witches, namely accursed bloodline, coven hex and oracle’s curse, requiring essentially one level sorc, witch and oracle – and the consumption of a hag’s heart. Now essentially, this class is a theurge-like class, offering +1 level of spell-progression for both arcane and divine casting at all levels except 1st, 4th and 7th, where the class instead gets fixed divine or arcane progression or, in the case of level 7, has to choose which one to take. It should also be noted that the covenborn needs to choose which arcane class to progress – sorc or witch. The PrC also gets an array of hag/fey-themed spell-like abilities to choose from and may “choose between Fortitude and Will based saves for her spell-like abilities.” That’s not how spell-like abilities work. Also: Does that mean it’s ONE choice or can the Covenborn choose for each individual ability? How can charm monster be based on FORT? Makes no sense to me. The capstone allows the covenborn to transform into a hag, complete with all spell-like abilities etc. – do they choose which save to use here as well? While I get the requirement to offset the dual casting progression, the kind of dead level of one of the arcane base-classes is a bit weird design-wise. An okay theurgish PrC, I guess, though not particularly compelling to take. It also has minor formatting issues like “3 a day” instead of 3/day, but that’s just minor nitpicking.

 

Next up are 5 new mysteries – Intoxicant, Sand, Secrets, Volcano and Wrath, all coming with nice icons, though I don’t get why some get a sample fluff-line, whereas other don’t. The intoxicant mystery is actually rather cool – shrouding yourself in euphoria-inducing smoke, hallucinating items into existence – cool ideas here, though the wording of the latter is problematic – -“When under the effects of an intoxicant the oracle may make a DC 15 Will save to believe an item is real. If failed the item functions as normal but has no effect on other creatures.”[sic!] I don’t get it. Could the oracle hallucinate a key to a door and open it? A weapon? Could a weapon be made to attack an object, but not a person? Can the oracle opt to fail the save? Is the item generated upon a success or failure or either way? Why are there so many punctuation glitches here, rendering an already confused and imprecise ability even more confusing? Using blood to poison others with consumed intoxicants on the other hand is rather cool. I really, really like this mystery, but many of its revelations require some cleaning in at least formal criteria, partially also in wording. The Sand mystery lets you e.g. look through solid surfaces and over all can be considered solid, if not particularly strong – still: Kudos!

The Secrets mystery generally is about knowledge and secrets, with frightening, maddening effects and the like. It also has a very weird ability that replaces dex-mod with cha-mod to AC and ref and “Your armor’s maximum Dexterity bonus applies to your Charisma instead of your Dexterity (see FAQ.”[sic!] So, does that mean an armor can hamper bonus spells, DCs and the like? Where is the FAQ? Why isn’t it included in this pdf? I’m NOT going to google the web for information required to run a particular pdf. One note to ALL designers: If your wording requires a FAQ, that’s bad enough, but can’t be avoided in some cases. Not including said information in your product and forcing your customers to search it and potentially bump site-hits is NOT a way to generate a faithful fanbase. If it’s required to run your product, INCLUDE IT IN THE PDF or go back to the drawing board and make a better ability. Now apart from that gripe, the mystery per se is nice – somewhere between knowledge and dark tapestry in style. The volcano mystery allows you to conjure forth a 20 ft. x 20 ft. micro volcano that deals 2d6 non-scaling fire-damage, half on a failed save and +1d6 points of damage for 1d3 rounds after that. Solid per se, but a) why doesn’t the damage scale? b) Do those who succeeded the save still take the damage on subsequent rounds? Is the conjured lava an instantaneous effect or does it remain as long as the +1d3 rounds take? Lava Fists also don’t work as intended – the ability allows you to 3+cha-mod times per day make sunder attempts with your bare fists “at no penalty.” But unarmed strikes AND sunder-attempts provoke AoOs sans respective feats. And unarmed attacks do a whopping 1d3 points of base damage! Usable 3+cha-mod times per day? Where can I sign on? /*sarcasm off* Seriously, needs power-upgrade…badly. The wrath mystery offers a nice adaptive aura, damage-dealing mist etc. It should be noted that an imprisonment effect sends targets off to Gehenna to be held and driven mad – slightly awkward if your game still features that plane from the 3.X days of old, but nothing to fault the author for. Overall, this one works somewhat better than most crunch herein, though wording also offers problems here – see Pillar of Salt: “You may call down a pillar of corrosive power as a full-round action. This pillar may target a group of enemies, no two of which are more than 30 feet apart.” So… does the pillar hit all in a 30 ft. radius? can it zigzag from foe to foe if they’re no more than 30 feet apart? Are these individual strikes? Define the amount of eligible targets? Utterly obtuse and incomprehensible. Also, it deals 4d8 acid damage +2 per oracle level – I assume the level-based bonus damage ought to be acid damage as well. Utterly insane: “Everyone with line of sight to the targets (note the plural here!) must make a ref-save or take 2d8 acid damage and be stricken blind for one round per class level. Required class level: 3. Now compare ANY damage spell from ANY list with that. It can be used cha-mod times per day; Too strong. Don’t believe me? Open plains, flying, warfare – this revelation can blind whole armies! Broken!

 

The pdf also offer 4 new curses – The Addled curse is a nice take on the addiction curse. The distracted curse allows you to impart the shaken/later dazzled and at +1 save, confused) condition on ALL targets that fail a will-save against your spells. No duration given for the additional effect. Doesn’t work/too strong. Madness allows you to somewhat mitigate confusion et al and can drive creatures psychotic, as per the new CR+1 template. The Ominous curse is all about intimidation, penalizing almost all other cha-based skills with -5, but netting +5 untyped bonus to intimidation – too big a penalty and too big a bonus for my tastes – you can already make demoralization monsters sans such a massive boost. Not broken per se, though.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting could have required another pass – next to no spell names are italicized, punctuation glitches abound and bolding and similar minor issues are partially inconsistent as well. Layout adheres to an easy to read 2-column full-color standard and sports much less blank space than the magus-installment of Into the Breach -good and kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, with two dead bookmarks relics labeled “Bookmark 53 &54” respectively, but these don’t impede usability.

 

Designers Frank Gori, John Belliston, Jeff Harris and Matt Medeiros have good ideas – the concepts behind the archetypes and e.g. the intoxicant mystery are solid and show a speck of brilliance here and there. A speck. I won’t mince words here – this took me forever to get done and not due to page-count or the like, but due to the amount of issues. Balancing is completely all over the place – from ridiculously weak options to utterly overpowered ones, which constitute btw. the majority of this release, this feels like an alpha. How most of the content herein could get past any playtesting is beyond me. Several options will even be overpowered in the most high fantasy of games. The Warlock class needs to be scrapped and rebuild from scratch – it is the most broken class I’ve seen so far for PFRPG in any publication. The archetypes offer issues. The PrC is weird. Even mysteries and curses aren’t flawless and sport the other crux of this pdf: Ambiguities. A LOT of them. If the balance-concerns you might have, that aren’t even consistent within one mystery or archetype, don’t break this pdf for you, the latter will. There are so many imprecise wordings and glitches in here, it’s painful, partially taking cool concepts and rendering them unusable or unnecessarily obfuscating what exactly an ability is supposed to do. Scaling either exists and is OP or doesn’t and makes for utterly ridiculously weak options. Crunch-writing is all about getting math, syntax and semantics right and this one doesn’t for any even remotely consistent stretch of text.

 

And no, I did not complain about all glitches in this review. I hate dishing out verdicts like that, especially if good ideas are this present, but this pdf has nothing that would warrant any mercy, no mitigating, flawless gem at the bottom of this crackerjack box – 1 star.

You can get this pdf here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop if you want to practice balancing abilities and ideas.

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 292014
 

Mythic Minis: Feats of Seafaring

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This Mythic Mini clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

This time, we’re all about sea-themed feats, so let’s check this out!

 

The mythic version of “Corsair” extends its benefits to any aquatic environment and doubles the bonuses while on board of a ship and also allows you to treat foes as flanked via mythic power. Solid. The “Hoist the Colors” mythic feat allows you to intimidate foes via your flag and, with mythic power, even whole crews/vessels and similar military units – and yes, more power, more severe fear-effect. Awesome, mythic – nothing to complain about!

 

Naval Commander comes as a regular and mythic-augmented version – it allows you to aid another ALL target allies on your ship. Which is damn cool even before expending mythic power to make the bonus LAST. Two thumbs up, especially since bonus to atk is still limited to once per ally/turn!

 

Savy Seafarer also offers two versions – the regular one offering bonuses to ship/repair/survival-themed actions, increasing the bonus with familiar vessels. The mythic version further increases these bonuses…and allows you to TRACK VESSELS OVER WATER. Yeah. THAT is what I want in mythic – epic options, more roleplaying potential, stunning derring-do, doing things that transcend the powers of regular PCs. Two thumbs up!

 

Finally, mythic Sea Legs kilsl most penalties to acrobatics and climb and also lets you move sans delay through water-themed terrain, but does not protect you from it. Solid.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

See, this mythic mini is what I’m talking about -feats that are bland and subpar in their regular, non-mythic version get better and worthwhile. The new feats are glorious and actually vastly increase roleplaying potential while breathing the spirit of mythic gaming, offering both rules and simply new hinges on which to base storylines and scenes. This one’s just awesome and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval – if your mythic campaign goes anywhere near pirates and similar themes GET THIS!

 

You can get these glorious mythic feats here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 282014
 

Under the Knife: The Grafter, a Tinker Prestige Class

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This Tinker-expansion clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let’s check out the Grafter!

 

Mechanically, we have a 5-level PrC with 10 ranks heal, 7 ranks knowledge (engineering), skill focus (heal) and 3rd level invention/blueprints as prereqs. The class gets d8, 3/4 BAB-progression, good will-and fort-saves and 4+Int skills per level, but ONLY heal and intimidate as class skills. They also get full invention-progression, with the important caveat that BP per blueprint DO NOT increase via grafter level.

 

Got that? All right. At first level, a grafter gains a grafting pool equal to class level X 3. These points can be used as BP to apply inventions to the grafter’s own body when preparing inventions and do not replenish, unless the grafter removes a given graft to free points. Inventions with limited uses per day refresh upon blueprint-preparation and at 3rd level of the class, the grafter may apply grafts to others as well. Inventions that require activation also require at least int 3 (no grafted oozes, sorry) or int 11 on behalf of the controller in the case of controlled unintelligent foes (like undead). This also provides an interesting precedent for similar master/minion relationships with other creatures such as constructs. A given creature can maintain a total of grafter’s int-mod in BP as grafts at a given time.

 

Now there are restrictions – skill bonuses, class skills and proficiencies cannot be granted via these grafts and any untyped bonus for an automaton becomes an enhancement bonus for an intelligent grafted creature. If a graft requires a given feat via an invention and the base creature also has that feat, it can take the follow-up invention as a graft, but graft-granted abilities cannot be used as prerequisites to qualify for feats etc. Got that? Good!

 

At first level, the grafter also learns to add int-mod to wis-mod regarding heal-skills (NOT a fan of two attribute-mods to one skill). As you may have noted, grafters can be somewhat neutered in their grafting capabilities by their graftees simply walking away – this is remedied at 3rd level, when they get full control over their grafts, allowing them to declare them obsolete when resting and thus making them break/reclaim their grafting BP…which allows for nice roleplaying potential: “Yes, Mr. Ogre…I can graft you so you can eat those knights in the castle.” *ogre flies off with rotor* “I declare it obsolete.” Ogre falls…far. (Though this does, unfortunately, not work – design-inventions can’t be grafted…)

 

At 4th level, the class nets those grafted with 5 BP or more one of 5 bonuses (HP, CMD, fort, COn or natural armor) as long as they remain enhanced by you. At 5th level, the grafter may artificially increase his graft-pool temporarily by expending his infuse automaton ability, allowing for even more flexibility in that regard.

 

It should also be noted that the grafter at 2nd level learns a so-called implant, essentially an invention that can only be applied to organic beings and not automata. He also learn another one every class level after that (though it should be noted, that, like regular inventions, only one of a kind can be applied to a given being, i.e. no doubling of a given implant on a creature). Some of these have level restrictions as well.

 

I was talking about implants. What about an adrenaline injection unit, that nets a bonus of +4 to Dex (or Str…) for one round as a swift action class levels x 2 per day times? Vastly improved carrying capacity? A nose-installed flame-thrower? (If you’re like me and grew up with Sonic, remember the final boss of Sonic & Knuckles and chuckle…) A limited use +5 insight bonus to attack? Limited times per day auto-succeed saves versus toxins and diseases, even if you have failed the save? Immunity to fear at the cost of gaining no morale bonuses? Fortification-like metal plates that help versus sneak attacks? Simply more Hp? Auto-heal via stimpack when reaching 0 hp (but not when dying immediately)?

 

The most powerful of grafts allow you to grant yourself (and others) dragon-like energy lines (and even cones!) as breath weapons and implant artificial brainstems that temporarily revive your minions as double HD fast zombies that retain their weapon and armor proficiencies – great if your villain just has to run…or if your fighter has no scruples about that sort of last ditch-effort to take down a villain…

 

Now, I know what you’re asking – how does the PrC play with all those inventions? Well, there are (as can be imagined in such a wide field) some cases, where the interaction between inventions and implants, for example, take a VERY experienced player to handle. Take Augmented (or Definite) Structure: +1 Hp per HD of the base-creature at 2 BP cost. Does that one stack with the structural augmentation implant for +5 maximum Hp at 1 BP? (Answer: Yes it does – bonus-types stacking…) What I’m trying to say here is -know the rules, tinker and this book – this is complex as hell.

 

It should be noted that by now, prior ambiguities as to e.g. arms/legs etc. and inventions have been cleared up and via the now established transparency between implant and invention-usage, another source of potential confusion has been streamlined away.

 

The revised rules also properly cover action economy for graftees of varying intelligences by being treated like an alpha using the invention, thus eliminating some of the ridiculously action-economy breaking potential builds I could construct. Great to see this smoothed and made work!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Artworks are thematically-fitting stock.

 

Okay, Bradley Crouch’s Grafter’s V.1.0 struck me as awesome, but unrefined. I wrote a review and then, life happened. For a time, I was actively out of the reviewing game as you may know and then, I get back and I find this beast. I check back…and by now it actually works. At least I couldn’t, from the top of my head, break it and reading this revised edition provided no angle for me to break this beast -and this deserves accolades. No, seriously. Fixing glitches to provide a better experience for one’s customers is great, especially when always trying to stretch the boundaries by trying insanely complex rules-stunts and classes and actually getting the job more than done deserves applause. The grafter as such took a mind-bogglingly complex base class and made it more complex while also opening its benefits up to other classes, adding some significant value to your tinker-class in game. Well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this complex, cool Tinker-PrC here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 282014
 

Mythic Minis: Universal Path Abilities II

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This Mythic Mini clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

This time, we’re all about more universal path abilities after the first, awesome installment, so let’s check this out!

 

We begin with 4 different 1st tier abilities, with two of these netting bonus feats from Mythic Magic: Core Spells. Yeah – while I get why they’re here, let’s call them out for what they are – filler. So what about “Dramatic Reveal”. This one is all about roleplaying potential – whether a birthmark or another characteristic – something marks you for greatness and revealing it helps immensely in social skills. While mechanically none too awesome, the potential and concept BREATHES mythic for me, so yeah – as far as I’m concerned: Cool! The final 1st tier ability, “Planar Scholar” makes you a savant of planar knowledge, allowing you detect portals and decipher information about them. This ability is damn cool and carries a LOT of roleplaying potential while feeling distinct and suitable for mythic characters. Two thumbs up!

 

We also get 3 different 3rd tier abilities and oh boy…neat: Take one that nets you contingency (or its mythic equivalent, depending on your tier!) as a mythic power fueled ability. Yeah! What about being eternally young, including age-disguising/changing and yes, the immortal ability is also granted at higher tiers. Neat! Gaining endure elements and know direction on other planes and further expanding your planar knowledge, this one is a neat follow-up that delivers narrative potential galore: Two thumbs up as well!

 

The one 6th tier ability allows you to grant one mythic monster ability to your eidolon, companion etc. Solid and versatile, yes, but nothing that utterly wows me.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Jason Nelson’s second universal path-centric pdf offers quite a few cool abilities that range from awesome to filler. While the majority of path abilities herein belong on the winner side, the second column of the pdf is 1/4 empty, offering ample space for additional content and the two feat-granting abilities feel like filler to me. Generally, the overall path abilities can be considered cool, yes, but still, the last spark didn’t jump over to me. Make no mistake – this is a cool, nice pdf, but falls short of true greatness due to both the relative brevity and aforementioned points. Overall, a quintessential “good” pdf and thus well worth 4 stars.

 

You can get these cool abilities here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 252014
 

Journey to Cathreay

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This is #3 of my Top Ten of 2014!

Journey to Cathreay clocks in at a massive 115 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 112 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

The module begins with a massive explanation of the module for the DM – essentially, the module provides an extremely helpful explanation of the module’s structure, making the modification on the fly very easy on the DM. A total of 5 maps are provided and a table of all encounters with CR, treasure, XP to be seen at a glimpse. It should also be noted that the pdf also comes with a 25-page NPC-book that has versions of the NPCs of varying strength depending on the number of PCs your party sports – one statblock for 4, 5 and 6 PCs. Indeed, DMs have an extremely easy time with this book – a reference for all animal tricks, beasts, items, rules and spells used in the module is part of the deal – i.e. you ONLY need this book when running it. No book-flipping. (And yes, these take up quite a bunch of pages, but a massive 67 is still left, making this a long module. This being a journey-module, we also get a massive write-up of a caravan resting, with rules for slashing through tents and the like as well as stats for bisons and their handlers – and yes, we actually get multiple stats for guards and handlers, making these guys more versatile than what most modules would provide.

 

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion – believe me, you’d hate spoiling this one.

 

Okay, still here? Roco P’loma is a man with a reputation for making the trip to the domain of the Crimson Khan a couple of times and bringing back curious wonders – and now, his guards have ran off, claiming the caravan’s haunted. P’loma, imbued with the power to negotiate by the Khan, offers a significant reward for the PCs and after signing the contract (yes, paperwork etc. would be part of the module’s realism, though you can skim over this fast) and after that, the first subplot immediately kicks off – Acomat, the brother of Tegana and an important part of the caravan, is about to have the time of his life with gorgeous gal named Daisy. And after that, the worst, and last time of his life. In truth a doppelgänger, the creature wants to infiltrate the Khan’s court and her plan is lavishly detailed. Know how usually in a module, such a plot works like “He is killed and replaced, the end.” Well, here we get a full write-up, step by step of the infiltration process and thus also ample opportunity for the PCs to foil the gambit. This level of realism (including, btw., plainly hilarious moments of unobtrusive humor) is mixed with an uncommon assassination weapon (a giant rot grub – yeah…nasty) for the best handling of such an operation I’ve seen in quite a while. Whether the infiltration works or not much depends on what you as the DM want to do with it and how perceptive and paranoid your players are. After this, the PCs will have to make a short 4-mile trek to a dwarven bison ranch and escort bison to the caravan – in a dynamic skill-challenge type escort. And yes, bison are not that easy to ride or lead and accidents may well happen… This journey already uses a level of detail nigh unprecedented – take potentially poisonous berries bison may or may not eat, a wizard practicing his fierball-spell and unintentionally creating a stampede

 

The journey hasn’t even started yet. Now if I go through the day-to-day things that happen, this review will become bloated beyond repair. So let me tell you: Yes, EVERY DAY of the 5-week journey has its own write-up of small things happening, landscapes changing, stops at settlements, interactions with ratfolk traders, taking down a fire drake so the caravan may safely progress (in its disturbing cave of 500 eyes) – there is a LOT going on and beyond these effects, it should be noted that 7 NPCs in here are of particular interest -interacting with them and driving forward their respective plots allows for maximum customization options for the DM. And yes, these interactions are relevant, but more on that later. Assaults by very smartly planned div-assailants and wonder galore await on this journey – what about an oasis, where peacock-feather-like reeds grow and turn towards those closer, making it look like the plants are watching you? (Including a neat, challenging combat here that makes nice use of the strange place…)

 

What about a Jiang-Shi that has managed to stowaway among the people of the caravan, making for yet another complex foreshadowing and multi-part plot that may see an innocent man and his goat exiled. Rescuing a desperate man from a cyclops? Crashing an arranged marriage via trial by combat and potentially winning the freedom of a lady by besting her less than enthusiastic husband to be’s champion? An Elk-hunting mini-game with a megaloceros? The wonders of the journey are plenty and varied indeed.

 

On day 32, the PCs finally arrive at the Khan’s winter palace to a roaring welcome party…during which, their employer bites of more than he can chew and unintentionally makes a bet with the Khan that he (or another of the NPCs with their various plots that the PCs unearthed during the trek) and the PCs can take on Sennacherib. What is Sennacherib, you ask? Well, it is a legendary Tendriculous. , dare I say, MYTHIC adversary. Yeah. And before you say anything – I’ve been using mythic foes as legendary adversaries in my campaign for quite some time and they make for superb bosses against non-mythic groups. However, they imho require proper foreshadowing and the module does a superb job – a fully depicted legend of the creature, extensive and superbly written, makes clear from the get-go that this beast is indeed something to be feared. Even the end of the creature, should the PCs and their NPC-ally prevail, is the stuff of legends. By the way, this is not the only legend provided in the module – remember the fire drake’s cave? I failed to mention that another legend the PCs may have encountered hides the true treasure of the place in an unobtrusive puzzle. Yes. This module has it all.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch – I only noticed 2 minor typo-level glitches à la “Ncps”. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column standard that is exceedingly easy to print out. The module comes with a handy NPC-book, varied stats, includes all the rules required to run it, is extensively bookmarked with nested bookmarks and has two versions, one optimized for the US-standard and one for the A4-default used in Europe – awesome! A total of 6 solid full color maps are provided, also as high-res jpgs and the artwork is provided, handout-style, in the back of the module, allowing you to print them out and hand them to your PCs. The artwork is solid, btw., and adheres to a very old-school aesthetic.

 

The last 2 modules by 4 Dollar Dungeons made my top spot of my top 10 list of 2013. “Horn of Geryon” can be considered an apex of the art of wilderness sandboxes. “Panataxia” is one of the best dungeons/planar modules I’ve ever read, regardless of system. Then this one hit my review-list and I was concerned – caravans? Urgh. Two massive potential issues seem to be ingrained in such a scenario – a) the caravan-rules introduced in Jade Regent just aren’t that good and b) such modules are by definition railroads.

 

“Journey to Cathreay” deals with both issues remarkably well – by ignoring the caravan-rules and replacing them with STORYTELLING. You know, with developments, cool wilderness-scenery and a ton of things to do. The second gripe is harder to handle, though – how do you change that up? Via great NPCs and subquests galore the DM can introduce on the fly, by providing varied challenges and options to amp up or slow down the pace whenever required. Then, there would be the potential issue with the final boss and its mythic nature (and no, you don’t eed mythic adventures to run this module – all rules required are provided) – the module manages to properly foreshadow it and makes for a truly epic final fight that is challenging, yes, but NOT unfair. Each combat, each encounter comes with round-by-round tactics, interesting terrain-features and at the end of each section, all relevant skill-checks/DCs are collated into a handy box, available at a glimpse.

 

Richard Develyn seems to be out on a quest to demonstrate mastery in all types of module possible – this journey breathes the spirit of wonder so often lost in fantasy, the sense of exploring a truly different world. The level of detail provided is simply staggering and the world feels ALIVE. It may be ugly at times, it may be hilarious – but over all, these NPCs and places feel like they truly exist, like you could just fall from this world and wake up in the pages of this module. The diverse choices of the PCs and how they matter, the simply astounding, great writing, the unobtrusive, realistic puzzle (that can be brute-forced), the bison-herding mini-game, the hunting mini-game – adventuring is not always a fight to the death and this module shows exceedingly well why one would embark on such a career. PCs actually get to do something that may be considered fun not only for the players, but also for the characters. Add to that the copious amount of read-aloud text, legends, ridiculously easy to use format, the fact that NOT ONE ENCOUNTER in here is boring/common, that creatures get smart tactics and actual background stories/reasons for their actions and we get a module that is on par with the superb predecessors, perhaps even beyond it.

 

Want to know how good this is? My players actually were sad when the module was over. They’ve been badgering me about more 4 Dollar Dungeon-modules ever since Horn of Geryon, and this module took them a long time to complete and unlike every caravan module I’ve ran before, not one of them lost interest even for a short time – invested from beginning to end, this module just blew them away. This beast is long and never loses its stride. When your players refuse to get up from the table at midnight, even though they have to go to work on the next day, when they ask for more roleplaying sessions because they are so into a module, then you realize you have one glorious beast of a module on your hands. This module cements Richard Develyn as one of the best, perhaps even the best, adventure-writers currently active for PFRPG. It’s hard to describe what makes this so impressive, how this quasi-realism and wonder go hand in hand – let it be known that there are few modules that breathe the spirit of old-school gaming to this extent and combine it with all that is great about new school gaming for a result that can only be described as master-class.

 

Modules like this make reviewing worthwhile. Seriously. And then there is the ridiculously low price, the fact that you need no other book to run this. And the rather interesting fact that this module surpasses its predecessors in length. If this review is short on the actual story of the module, then only because I want YOU to experience this beast like I did – with eyes wide open at the wonder that oozes from every page, chuckling at the humor, grinning at the smart encounters and all the details. The writing is so captivating, it also makes for simply a great experience to read and honestly, I’ve read a lot of fantasy novels I found less engaging than this.

 

You won’t find a better bang-for-buck-ratio anywhere. Seriously. This is, by any scale I apply, the apex – if there were 10 stars, I’d slap 10 stars + seal of approval on this book. This is the best caravan/journey-style module I’ve ever read. This is a must-purchase. This module makes me run out of superlatives to slap on it and, at least as far as I’m concerned, may actually surpass its predecessors. This is a hard contender for the number 1 slot of my Top Ten list this year and, barring the means to rate it higher, I’m going for the highest honors of 5 stars + seal of approval. I guarantee you’ll love this module if the idea of a caravan even remotely interests you, if you’re looking for this sense of wonder the old grognards always complain about being absent from most current modules – here is where it lives and breathes and has been blended with all the comfort we now expect.

 

Why are you still reading this ramble? Seriously, buy this.

You can get this ridiculously awesome module here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Jul 242014
 

Mythic Monsters: Abyssal

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This installment of Legendary Games’ Mythic Monster series clocks in at a massive 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages introduction to the product line, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

After a short introduction to the matter at hand, we are introduced to an extremely cool introductory text that serves as a frame narrative – essentially a lecture on a newly discovered species of qlippoth, before we are introduced to options available for those who want to conjure forth these antediluvian threats of evil – including a new way with the so-called qlippoth talismans (in case the sacrifice of pregnant women is not an option for your vile villain…) – no less of 10 such talismans are provided and they essentially make calling these dread beings via summon-spells possible. Neat!

 

After this cool supplemental material, we kick off with the respective creatures – Baregara get a mythic version of CR 15/MR 6 that has truly devastating grapples (including a maw that consumes targets, automatically dealing damage on grapples, which they can maintain one-armed, and also providing AoE-demoralizing. Essentially, all basic abilities have been upgraded to be more lethal – nice.

 

Second would be the CR 13/MR 5 mythic bebilith, and these foes are even better at dismantling foes armor (including natural armor) and their rotting bite is truly devastating. At CR 23/MR 1o, shaggy demodands are terrifying forces indeed – blocking any channeling in the vicinity (unless the target succeeds a very difficult save), these are mythic monsters at their best, taking a relatively bland base creature and slapping a vast array of signature abilities on the creature – towards a more concise monster concept, that one being the anathema to divine casters. Two thumbs up and kudos for improving the base creature like this.

 

The Mythic Slimy Demodand at CR 20/MR 8 can add stun as insult to injury (when foes bleed and take acid damage…) and even highjack channeling and temporarily sever divine casters from their powers – better yet, said duration can be further expanded with the aptly-named “Where is your god now?” – glorious and once again a HUGE improvement over the relatively bland base creature. AT CR 16/MR 6, the Tarry Demodand is slightly less awesome, but continues the theme of anti-divine outsiders, but their sense of faith and entangling tar-like secretions make them powerful hunters – including an anti-divine smite.

 

Need something at lower levels? CR 4/MR 1 mythic howlers have quills that drive those embedded with their quills insane and furthermore, heal via drained sanity. Evil! TA CR 18/MR 7, the Kauen-Taka can ROT THE EYES OF THSOE THAT SEE THEM. That’s damn creepy even before their carrionstorms get mythic templates added… As a minor complaint – the mini-statblock for flesh-mansion-less Kakuen-Taka could have used a better formatting/some highlighting. But then again – mere presence induces hallucinations? Animating flesh piles and withering plants? This one is disturbing indeed! And while the base creature was awesome, unleashing eyeless hounds and killing foes at short range via ethereal hails of soul splinters round out an epic creature indeed.

 

Speaking of which – AT CR 15/MR 6, the Chernobue Qlippoth may be a cool upgrade, but in direct comparison to the former critter, it falls a bit flat. Then again, cythnigots-spawning poison is cool – that might be the Qlippoth-fanboy speaking… Speaking of which – these clock in at CR 3/ MR 1 and their spore-infested wounds can entangle, even entrap targets! Cool and rather lethal low-level mythic threat that works well in that context. The Nyogoth (At CR 13/ MR 5) can attach itself to targets via its intestinal limb bite attacks and upgrades the acid spray with poison – neat!

 

AT CR 9/MR 3, the mythic shoggti no longer just clouds the minds of foes – it can now utterly dominate them and even stun those subjected to its wis-draining powers. OUCH! Have I mentioned that breaking targets free of the control may see them attack you in a murderous rampage? Yeah – nasty, indeed! The CR 19/MR 7 mythic Xacarba learn to mix their poisons (Yes!) and even spray them over an area – neat improvements of the base creature!

 

Finally, at CR 16/ MR 6 we get the Mythic Ylyrgoi – huge, hydra-like, multi-stingered monsters studded with countless shrieking maws and eyes. This creature is brand-new and oh boy – an aura that reduces gestation periods of infections, parasites and diseases, improved demon killing, stingers that regenerate, insane reach, egg-implants – utterly disturbing and oh so awesome – its signature abilities taking up more than 1 full page – that does not count the statblock! Add to that the extremely awesome artwork and we have a truly glorious beast here!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I did not notice any glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games nice 2-column full-color standard and the two pieces of original artwork by Ivan Dixon are awesome indeed, with the new creature’s artwork taking up a whole page so you can show it to your players. Now, layout-wise, like Mythic Monsters before, this one has some blank space at the end of one monster’s entry, which is nice if you just want to print out one, but also means that printing this out is slightly more wasteful on the paper than it could be. It’s a matter of preference whether you prefer this or a more “cluttered” approach, so that won’t feature in my final verdict. Now what does feature in it would be the glaring lack of bookmarks, which renders navigation more difficult than it ought to be.

 

Jason Nelson, Tom Phillips and Alistair Rigg provide a glorious collection of uncommon abyssal foes – and deliver in spades. You know, mythic can be often taken as a bland “faster, harder, wider”-contest and yes, some creatures can be seen as a relatively straight progression. The vast majority of abyssal threats in here, though, is not content with such a treatment, instead developing the base creature, often into something truly distinct that works so much better than the base beast – with signature abilities emphasizing niches and foci of the monsters herein, there is not one critter in here that has not been massively improved, with the abilities of demodands and their thus much tighter focus making them my favorites in here and, perhaps for the first time in ages, actually DISTINCT. The new qlippoth is one glorious beast as well, and were it not for the lack of bookmarks, this would be immediately 5 stars + seal of approval. Their lack means I’ll refrain from putting my seal on this, but still consider this one superb purchase that any DM who thinks the players should FEAR the denizens of the abyss should get – even if only to scavenge signature abilities…of which there are soooo many…

You can get these terrors from the abyss here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Endzeitgeist out.