Aug 292014
 

And now for something completely different:

 

As you may have noticed, I read *A LOT* of roleplaying products in my function as a reviewer. The logical conclusion of this vast amount of material is that my campaign is suffused with unconventional races, classes, monsters, feats – you name it.

 

My players see a lot of weird classes in playtesting and are infinitely patient with my constantly refreshing pool of options that I throw at them. One of the issues I have with many playtesting practices is that they happen in a vacuum – that way you can check math, sure. But actually *playing* the classes is where the glitches show or where a one-dimensional focus becomes apparent. A class that can’t do anything worthwhile in non-combat becomes significantly less enticing. Hence, they have to put up with a lot of playtesting scenarios.

It is no surprise then, that a *LOT* of great 3pp classes have and continue to enrich my player’s gaming experience. From Rogue Genius Games Talented classes, to Dreamscarred Press’ Psionics, Kobold Press’s New Path-classes or Radiance House’s Pact Magic and infinitely more – there are many cool options to which my players have been exposed. Then, one fine day, one guy called Bradley Crouch started making truly “advanced” classes – highly customizable and a tad bit weird, with their own, strange systems and unique tricks.

 

Little did I know that playtesting was about to get more complex for me and my group. Take the Ethermancer, perhaps the best warlock-class currently available for any d20-based system: When we tested that guy, I was stunned to see the class actually work exceedingly well, in spite of its constantly refreshing mana-style pool. Gone were the “nuke and cover”- evocation overkills and in game, it proved to be exceedingly fun. So fun that one of my players went for the class for the campaign.

Over the course of the following weeks of gaming, he enjoyed the class enough to write an optimization guide for the beast. If you want to have this pdf, just drop me a line via endzeitgeist.com’s contact-tab and I’ll send it to you! Alternatively, you can check it here by simply clicking!

 

That has never happened before. The level of commitment was interesting and so, I took a look at the system, started tinkering and experimenting with ideas.

Cut to some weeks later and a lot of exchanged e-mails about ideas on how to file off some rough patches, making some options more viable etc. – and suddenly, Bradley asked me whether I’d be game for a kickstarter that expands the options of three cool classes and their unique systems that have been enriching my game. I said immediately “yes.”

 

In case you’re wondering whether this book will be worth it, here are the reviews of all the constituent magic systems, all of which are greatly enhanced with new material galore:

Truename Magic

Ether Magic  (& its first expansion)

Composition Magic (& its first expansion)

 

Now 2 of these guys are Candidates for my Top Ten of 2014. Yes, that good. Even before expansions and further streamlining.

The resulting book is live, progress on each class is fast and thorough and this book will be glorious! So if you will, drop in and take a look – and if you’re looking for balanced, cool alternate systems, a Tome of Magic that actually works – well, here you go!

 

Click here to go to the Strange Magic Kickstarter Page.

 

Next week, I’ll talk about some of the cool things I’ve got up my sleeve for this project and explain the design intent behind one of the classes, the etherslinger!

 

See you then!

 Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 292014
 

B18: Three Faces of the Muse

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This module clocks in at 51 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Before we begin, I should mention that this is an adventure review and as such contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

 

All right, still here? Okay, first of all, all you history and art-buffs out there, especially those with some knowledge in Renaissance art and the greats will have a field day here: Imagine a vast cathedral, where an artist called Michello, known for his superb magical crafting prowess died while making his epic fresco. Remind you of something? Yeah.

 

Now in a fantasy world, that wouldn’t be too big of an issue – alas, the cathedral has since been haunted by strange phenomena and the artist’s soul remains lost. Enter the PCs, as they explore the massive cathedral – fully mapped and coming with player-friendly maps, btw. And these renaissance-style drawings reminiscent in style and execution of DaVinci’s famous drawings are simply AWESOME, even for the high standards of AAW Games.

 

Now while the goal is clearly defined in the resuscitation of Michello, in order to succeed, the PCs will have to brave the cathedral, which proves to be surprisingly deadly – choirs of madness-inducing allips (complete with sample insanities) and various, cool foes make for a challenging if not exceedingly lethal first part. Where the module becomes thoroughly awesome is with the second act – turns out, an asura called Aprame-Vara-Dharme, muse of Michello, has (kind of) claimed the artist’s soul. Via some detective work and clues, the PCs will find that taking the pigments and completed brush of Michello to finish the fresco.

 

Upon completion, the PCs have to venture into the thus opened demiplane in one of the most iconic scenes I’ve read in a while and brave the dangers of the Elysian fields and vanquish diverse, weird threats and finally the asura to free the soul of Michello. The module also provides an xp-per-encounter run-down and a new item as well as statblocks for both D&D 3.5 and PFRPG for the challenges herein.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a drop-dead, gorgeous 2-column full-color standard, testament to Joshua Gullion’s prowess and talents – they will be sorely missed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the cartography by author Michael Allen is superb and fits the module’s theme.

 

Wow. Even by AAW Games’ standards, this module is one glorious blast – the encounters are inspired, the theme is uncommon, the hints and nudges towards real life are there, but unobtrusive and not distracting at all and the added twist of the fate of Michello and the cool villain make for an overall cool experience. Now if you’ve read “Gallery of Evil” – this is essentially superior in just about every way. It’s smarter, the encounters are more diverse and the second act is just weird in all the right ways. Author Michael Allen delivers in spades here – this is a great module and worth every cent. We need more unique modules of this quality – 5 stars + seal of approval: A module not only for art and history buffs, but also for everyone who looks for a thematic change of pace and truly iconic imagery.

You can get this evocative, cool module here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 292014
 

Paladins of Porphyra

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This supplement clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 10 pages, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

In Porphyra, paladins are servants of the NewGods and thus, we get archetypes for specific deities – Aleria, the love of life, for example, gets a paladin that receives an modified steed that is under constant pass without a trace, may speak to animals and recieves at higher levels an aura that severely penalizes all melee attacks executed nearby her – including her own. Surprisingly cool one! Codionic Knights of Gerana are more martial and inclined towards intimidation, not diplomacy. They also may shield others and partially replace mercies with power attack and cleave and gets a menacing aura at higher levels. Once again, nice.

 

Ithreia’s Order of the Gyrfalcon (which strangely lists a patron-prerequisite the former two entries lacked) learn to deal cold damage via lay on hands (tied to uses per day and in damage-potential, to class level) and generally can be considered a more aquatic type of paladin. Solid. Now antipaladins following the apocalyptic deity Mâl receive a concentration-disrupting anti-arcane aura and sicken foes hit by their weapons and communicate with just about everything -to corrupt it. Again, neat. The Dreamcatchers of Neria become immune to illusions at 2nd level – the ability can be suppressed as a swift action. *sigh* To what does this immunity extend? Simply seeing through everything? Does it require interactions? Only extend to spells cast upon the paladin? Does e.g. mirror image work against the paladin? Even in exchange for divine grace, potentially a VERY powerful ability that imho needs further clarification. Apart from that, the archetype’s prophecy/dream-focus is neat.

 

Rajuk Amon-Gore’s Deathdancers gets bonus feats and command undead and at high levels dance of thousand cuts as a spell-like ability. Toma Thule’s Darksiegers don’t get detect evil and replace smite with a constant to atk/damage-bonus and receive bonus feats instead of mercies and get improved defensive fighting. Rules that align these paladins with the unorthodox paladin-rules from “Strategists & Tacticians” are also provided.

 

Next would be a total of 7 oaths – and these are interesting: What about an oath TO addiction for antipaladins that results in a poisonous aura and resistance to harmful substances? An anti-chaos oath? An oath that makes an antipaladin a herald of conflagration and fire, allowing you to radiate damaging heat? An oath that makes you a herald of light? One against deforestation (which is replete with roleplaying potential galore) – including the ability to quench fires and blunt weapons? Sons of Kaliban that swear the Oath of Submersion can be considered somewhat like the folk from the iron isles in “A Song of Ice and Fire”, only with added swim speed and the deadly power to smite land-dwellers. Antipaladins of Korufo the Shadow may misdirect, blur and are masters of subterfuge.

 

We also get two new spells, one to detect faithful and one to imbue others with addictions (nasty!) – and we also get a new drug, the dread daemon seed as well as level 9 paladin and a sample level 8 antipaladin. As a nitpick – both miss their CR-ratings. As icing on the fluff, we get two awesome battle-hymns – the Dirge of the Hands of Doom and the Song of the Righteous Warriors – all lyrics ready to recite. Two thumbs up for this cool fluff!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting can still be considered good, but aren’t perfect -I noticed a couple of minor glitches, but no significant ones. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested, extensive bookmarks.

 

Perry Fehr is a wildcard author for me – he can write great fluff, but his crunch fluctuates wildly between the awesome and the sloppy. I’m not sure whether it’s due to a daily shape of author and editor/developer or some other weird phenomenon, but that’s irrelevant anyways. What I’m trying to say is – I did not expect to be wowed by this book. And yes, the abilities of the paladins are a bit on the conservative side here, but the wording of the crunch is actually solid, really solid. The same holds true for the oaths – and all the rest herein. The oaths are evocative and fill important niches, the sample characters are nice and the hymns are the icing on the cake. While the minor glitches would usually make me good for a 4 star rating, the great fluff of the songs and the mostly awesome oaths just wouldn’t make that a just verdict. hence, I will settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 – author Perry Fehr delivers here.

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

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 292014
 

The Blessed and the Hunted: The Story of the Usa-Chan

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This little supplement by Storm Bunny Studios is 4 pages long, 3/4 of a page SRD/editorial, leaving us with 3 1/4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

We kick off this little pdf with a short origin-myth of the new race of the Usa-Chan – who are essentially bunny people in the style of Usagi Yojinbo (and if that does not ring any bells, google it!) and ties it neatly in with an alternate origin legend for the kitsune.

 

Usa-Chan get their own subtype, +2 Dex and Str, -2 Int, +2 to climb, -2 Disable Device & Sleight of Hand, +2 to initiative and run as a bonus feat, get a base speed of 40 feet, always treat as having a running starts, may move freely through any undergrowth and 1/day as an immediate action, these guys can enter a rage for +2 to Str and Con and will saves, -1 to AC, maintained for con-rounds.

 

As far as FCOs are concerned, we get those for barbarian, cleric, druid, monk, ranger and oracle and we also get alternate racial traits: Spell-like abilities (disrupt undead, guidance, stabilize, protection from evil OR detect poison, know direction, longstrider, pass without a trace) 1/day, +2 to acrobatics, no penalty to AC when raging, better shadow-bloodline/darkness domain cha-score/CL, two primary natural attacks at 1d3 or +4 to CMD versus bull rush and trip.

 

As a variant, some Usa-Chan are born with Black Furs – these are small, get +2 Cha and Wis, -2 Con, chooses two skills to always be class skills AND gets +3 to both, +2 to initiative and run as a bonus feat, +2 to climb, -2 to Sleight of Hand and Disable Device, normal speed AND burrow speed 20 feet and can move unimpeded through undergrowth. They also get their own FCOs for the cleric, monk, oracle, rogue, sorceror and witch-classes.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to ana easy-to-read, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with a drop-dead gorgeous piece of line-drawing b/w that is almost worth the price alone. The pdf comes sans bookmarks, but doesn’t need them at this length. The pdf comes with a second, hyperlinked version that sports the good, unobtrusive type of hyperlinks.

 

This is one of *those* races. On the one hand, the writing by Cleveland English and Jaye Sonia is awesome, the races are high-concept and cool. But damn, are they BLOATED AND OVERPOWERED. These guys mop the floor with just about all ARG-races. Yes, that bad. They are geared towards classes in stronger ways than the races of Rhûne (and this setting includes races that are literally made for certain purposes!) and overall feel like a typical Mary-Sue-race. One has this concept one loves, adores and all the cool stuff a character of this race ought to be able to do. Well, it’s NOT the job of a race to do that. What can’t be done via classes, feats etc. – THAT is what a race should do. And this one fails. The power is beyond tieflings, aasimar etc. – far beyond them. The superb mobility (Hey, let’s have them have the most useful power of a friggin’ druid in wilderness at low levels and devalue this class choice!), burrow speed at first level. URGH. Remember, that means EVERYONE of the Usa-Chan can do these things. To quote Sam & Max: Let’s all bow to our lagomorph overlords.

Another thing that irks me to no end would be the lack of an age, height and weight table: How old do these guys get? What branches can sustain them? Don’t know. Finally, if you’re halfway adept at Japanese, you’ll know that -chan as a suffix denotes something cute and is usually used in a patronizing way or to refer to e.g. a cute girl, a sister etc. For guys, you’d usually use -kun to achieve the same end, unless you really wanted to emasculate them. I know that in my game, my players would never, ever stop complaining about this, but let’s face it – in the presence of these overpowered races, that is a nitpick, though one I felt compelled to mention since some people might be annoyed to no end by it.

 

Personally, I only got fluff out of this book. I wanted to like it and ended up loathing the overpowered crunch. I’d strongly discourage all but the races-wise most high-powered games from using these fellows. The fluff is glorious, though, as are the production values and the artwork and bang-for-buck-ratio save this from being trashed to smithereens by yours truly. Since I have to take all of these into account as well as the possibility that you just might happen to be looking for this insane power-level, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded slightly up by a margin to 3. If you want to get this for a balanced race and not the fluff, though – steer clear.

You can this glorious fluff (or for high-powered campaigns) here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Aug 272014
 

I lost a friend today. Joshua Gullion, a pillar of the Pathfinder community, has passed away.

 

I met Joshua, like many others, on the Paizo-boards in my function as a reviewer under his handle KTFish7 and when my health faltered, he kept us all informed with great reviews.  Unlike others, though, we started talking, sharing experiences and he always was a pleasant, magnificent person in his interactions with me. I was extremely glad when he moved on from reviewing to doing the layout for AAW Games and you can see the positive impact he had there.

Thanks to him, I got to know Jonathan Nelson, who is one of the finest people in the industry and someone I’m glad to call “friend”.

 

But Joshua did more than that.

 

When I heard he had a stroke, I buckled up and called him in hospital. We had never spoken to each other before and talked for HOURS. I will eternally be grateful for this call – beyond him asking me to join one of the most fun design experiences I’ve ever been in with Rise of the Drow, his positivity and can-do attitude, the utter lack of whining and complaining – that is what inspired me. And I mean “inspired” in the truest sense of the word. That’s the type of person Joshua was.

 

Joshua has changed my life for the better with his joy, his friendliness and his honesty. He has taken more bitterness and cynicism off my shoulders in a scant few hours than I could deem possible. I am not exaggerating when I say that I’d be less of a man today without him.

 

It is my eternal regret that my financial situation never permitted me to fly to him over the pond and roll some dice with him. I can hardly fathom how hard to bear this loss must be for everyone who had the pleasure and privilege to have known Joshua better than I was blessed to.

 

Joshua’s ability to create joy lives on in his craft, his books and friends. It suffuses the pages and to know that one’s legacy survives, that it continues to bring to joy to people world-wide, that’s something glorious.

 

Joshua, I told you in private what you did for me. I’m not good at being emotional. Rest in Peace, my friend. My condolences go out to all those blessed to have had Joshua in their lives. Let’s roll some dice in his honor and may what he has wrought in us never come undone, may his spirit live on.

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 272014
 

Prepare for War: Basic Training

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This module clocks in at 42 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So this module is unconventional – based on Amora Game’s Player’s Guide, the PCs are regular average Joes and Janes of the Thaddean Empire who have just enlisted in the military to serve their grand empire. Hence, the structure of this module diverges vastly from what one would expect and slaughters quite an array of sacred cows:

 

first of all, it uses RGG’s apprentice-level character rules (and provides all necessary bits and pieces) – this means you start this module as a level 0 nobody. Secondly, and more importantly – this module is by its very nature necessarily a railroad. Think of basic military boot-camp-style intense training and you’re pretty close to what the PCs will go through in here – this is a railroad by design and the restricted choices indeed are part of the module’s very design.

 

So I’m not really spoiling the basics when I’m giving you a brief synopsis of the plot and tell you that the PCs will have to do push-ups, properly reply to military naming structure and conditioning. The training by Sgt. Lithgow in the notorious Compound 13 (fully mapped, btw.) includes not only checking the knowledge of the empire’s religion, but also obstacle courses and climbing walls – most of which btw. are depicted in complex skill challenges. Now the interesting thing here would be, that special achievements can result in specific traits – doing well at these challenges will reflect in your PC’s capabilities. Conversely, sucking or just refusing outright may result in your character earning drawbacks. Beyond diverse skill challenges for just about every skill and various story feats can be gained this way as well – take e.g. one that allows you to not provoke AoOs with unarmed strikes – not as strong as proper improved unarmed strike, but damn cool as a bonus.

 

Add to that formation training (with rather cool tactical benefits), weapon training etc. and we have a cool training – even before infiltrating a village of a drunken goblin clan and extracting their leader as a kind of covert ops test and the surprising finale that hints at the things to come, this module proved surprisingly interesting.

 

The pdf provides full stats for all characters, a DM-check-list for achievements/drawbacks and formations and 4 pages of full-color player-friendly versions of the maps.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good – I didn’t notice any significant glitches that would have spoiled the module. The layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column, full-color standard and the pdf’s maps are solid, and working, but not particularly beautiful. Artworks are okay. The pdf comes sans bookmarks, which is a comfort detriment the pdf didn’t need imho.

 

Designer Greg LaRose lies to us on the first page “This adventure is going to suck. Just quit reading.” You can read these words on the first page and they’re wrong – while military training is surely no cakewalk and not exciting in the traditional sense due to the rigid structure the module imposes, it turned out to be anything but sucky. In fact, especially DMs who have a hard time with rp-dialogue improvisation will marvel at the exceedingly detailed read-aloud text, which comes with blue text for regular read-aloud text, red text for speech directly addressing the PCs – which is nice to have a visual cue for the instructor-voice. Indeed, the dialogues and instructions are exceedingly detailed and provide ample help for the DM.

 

In fact, I thought the respective skill challenges would be much more boring, the meta-plot and characters seeping through and suffusing the experience rather in rather cool ways. Now it’s been quite some time since the release of this module and while it, at the time of me writing this review, is not certain whether we’ll ever get the follow up modules, this one can easily be taken as a nice beginner’s module to depict a party in service to some elite organization or military – reskinning is all it takes, so yes, this remains relevant.

 

This module is gutsy indeed – in structure, in daring to be different. And while it will not be for everyone, if you ever wanted a great “becoming heroes”-module that takes the form of a quasi-military intense training, then this will be exceedingly awesome for you. This is many things – unconventional, brave, different – but it does not, I repeat, it does not suck. While not perfect due to a couple of glitches, the non-too-impressive maps and the lack of bookmarks, it is an innovative, cool module that dares to be different and with its cool ideas (I *want* more formations and see them in battle!), I sincerely hope that we’ll one day see the follow-up modules. Until then, I remain with a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

You can get this very unconventional, cool module here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 272014
 

CLASSifieds: Shaman of Humanity

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This druid archetype clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages, so let’s take a look!

 

The shaman of humanity is a druid archetype that is available exclusively to those with human ancestry (including half-breeds). They alter their proficiencies and may actually wear metal armor, but also receive slightly diminished spellcasting. Their empathy only applies to domesticated animals or those under the effects of the anthropomorphic animal effect. Unlike the regular effect, though, the shaman learns to cast this as a spell-like ability that lasts for quite some time on his companion and said companion takes on the proficiencies of the shaman of humanity, which, for multi-class characters, may easily be exploited. While I get the design-intent, just taking on the proficiencies of the shaman of humanity class would have been enough, especially since the animal retains non-limb-based natural attacks such as gore when transformed by this ability – generally, a nice change from the spell. Also nice: Barding and armor and the effects upon transformation are covered (In short: Barding changes, armor donned while anthropomorphic does not), as are suggested lists for summoned weapons for anthropomorphic animals.

The shaman’s animal companion gets quite a power-upgrade in the guise of a selection of rather nasty bonus feats – for which the animal needn’t fulfill the prerequisites. This caveat makes quite a difference and not one I’m comfortable with in all cases, to be honest.

 

Summoning anthropomorphic animals via nature’s ally is fine with me, though honestly, it could have been worded a bit tighter – as phrased, the ability implies that summoning nature’s ally is only freely anthropomorphized when cast spontaneously. Why not provide some small benefit for actually preparing the spell? And yes, that’s a nitpick and not something I’ll hold against the pdf.

 

High level shamans of humanity may make anthropomorphic animals permanently anthropomorphic and protect one whole community (!!!) via mass sanctuary. Tying that to the settlement size, imposing a strict limit and requiring a very high level means that I actually really like this one. (And no, the truly vast sprawls can’t be protected thus… Still, DMs should take care that not too many of these shamans populate one’s world…) The alternate class, alas, lacks a proper capstone.

 

We do, however, get two feats, one that allows summoned anthromorphs to come with martial weapons and use them, the other rendering their attacks magical.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay, I didn’t notice significant issues. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games’ two-column, full color standard and the pdf comes hyperlinked with the good type of hyperlink and has no bookmarks.

 

Tyler Beck provides an interesting alternate class, all centered around making one spell work – and it succeeds at that. On the other hand, the class feels a bit thin, concept-wise, to me. Is that all there is to humanity, making animals walk upright and shoving weapons in their hands? Don’t get me wrong, that’s cool and all, but still, I do feel like this class had more potential: Take the community protector aspect, the low level domestic animal tricks and we have areas almost never covered. What about teaching more tricks, and faster to animals? Making domestic creatures stronger? lending some of human adaptability to non-human races? All of this falls somewhat by the wayside, when it needn’t have. The companion with the extensive feat-selection proved, in-game, a tad bit too strong in playtesting, at least for my tastes. The ability to ignore all prerequisites for the bonus feats is nasty and their int of 3 means they no longer require tricks to handle. With a slight nerfing of the companion in favor of a more diverse skill-set (community focus sooner, not as powerful, for example…), this class would have rocked hard – as written, it feels a bit niche, one-dimensional and slightly too strong. In the end, this is not a bad choice, but neither did it blow my mind or could be considered sans its flaws. My final verdict will clock in at 3 stars – a solid, perhaps too tightly focused class.

You can get this archetype/alternate class here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 262014
 

Mythic Monsters: Sea Monsters

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This installment of the Mythic Monsters-series clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of how-to-use/introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

As has become the tradition with this series, we kick off with a kind of supplemental content appropriate for the theme of the issue, this time in the guise of 8 feats to expand your aquatic combat options for mythic creatures (and if you need further oomph for non-mythic aquatic foes, check Alluria Publishing’s Cerulean Seas-books – they’re awesome!) -sporting the very much required swim-by-attack (both regular and mythic), faster swim speed (potentially powered by mythic power for impressive bursts), the ability to share breath with land-dwellers (now that one’s iconic!) and feats that make you count as having a running start from water to e.g. smash on foes and superior flanking options in the water make sure that these feats are actually awesome and should be considered non-optional for DMs looking for more tools for mythic aquatic foes (or players!).

 

But you’re here for the monsters, aren’t you? At CR 4/MR 1 Bunyips essentially get an amped up version – their roar for example can deafen foes. AT CR 15/MR 6, the Clockwork Leviathan gets a reflexive ability to temporary counter the electricity vulnerability it has via mythic power – damn cool! But that’s not all – the Legendary Games masterminds went all-out on this beauty – what about a kind of ionic reactor, including meltdown upon its destruction? Deadly grinding? Immunities conveyed by orichalcum alloys? A breathw eapon? This one is so glorious! Two thumbs up!

 

At CR 5/MR 2 Devilfish may emit clouds of deadly fiendishly infused blood…cool upgrade, especally considering how low level critetrs don’t have as much room to maneuver in. The CR 11/MR 4 Dragon turtle may execute AoE-bull-rushes (YEAH!!!) and a shell that may deflect rays et al – AWESOME! The CR 12/MR 5 Draugr Crew is awesome – a type of troop, these guys get ship-based spawn-making, press gang mortals and generally makes for one of the most awesome creatures I’ve seen so far in the Mythic Monsters series – not even the relic “XX Melee damage is unusually low” that was forgotten in the melee line does not in any way impede my enjoyment f this beast of a creature. This is on par in creativity with what one usually sees from Rite Publishing – and yes, I think that is a compliment.

 

At the lowest end of the spectrum, CR 3/MR 1 Incutilis may not just puppeteer the dead – they paralyze and animate foes as lacedon-like creatures that nonetheless aren’t undead. Now *THAT*, ladies and gentlemen, is how to make a low CR-creature feel mythic and awesome. Two thumbs up! The CR 22/MR 9 Kraken is a beast I was looking forward to – and what can I say, the beast can throw creatures from ships and even make the friggin’ sea TURN TO BLOOD. That inflicts bleed damage. Fans of the Scarred Lands – you need this! NOW!

 

The CR 4/MR 1 Seaweed Leshy is adept at strangling foes by turning into a kind of Sargasso-variant of assassin vines – and comes with bonus information on how to grow these guys yourself. Awesome! CR 5/MR 2 Mythic Sea Hags not only gain great hexes (by taking the Salt Wife trope -do some research on the term and e.g. the Farese Islands for great alternate origins for these beasts…) and a cursed gaze, they also are masters of their own hexed harpoons. The CR 15/MR 6 Sea Serpents get superb bursts of speed AND optional nondetection, making tehm superb hit-and-run predators and they also learn to generate deadly vortexes. Two thumbs up! (Also: Nice 1-page artwork depicting it!)

 

At CR 6/MR 2, the Selkie is an incredibly persuasive creature, but when compared to the other creatures herein, falls slightly short of its potential. The CR 17/MR 7 Great White Whale is intelligent and superb at smashing vessels…and call me a nerd, I don’t care – I would have loved a proper nod, ability-wise, to Moby Dick here – a curse of obsessions, a comment on the nature of wrath, something like that in the guise of an ability. And no, I won’t hold it against the pdf that it did not indulge in my need for literary allusions.

 

At CR 8/MR 3, the new creature herein is the Jorganth. Oh boy – first of all – the one-page artwork of this beast is one of the finest artworks I’ve seen in ages – a vast, eel-like, tentacle studded deep-sea predator aberration from the oceans of the lands of the fey. Electrical fields, capability to emit deadly beams, reflexive attacks and the ability to create will-o’-the-deep servants and feed on fear – this creature is glorious in its statblocks and the superb full-blown write-up superbly supplements one of the best creatures I’ve seen in quite a while, even within the exalted ranks of the new creatures Legendary Games provides for the Mythic Monster series. The full-blown fluff that accompanies it makes it oh so much more awesome and I stand by the claim that Paizo’s bestiaries would be so much more awesome if they all featured proper full-blown write-ups like this one does. This beast made me come up with 3 adventures while reading its entry – without trying in any way. That good.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – while I noticed one relic, that’s not enough to rate this down. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with 2 original full-page artworks, both of high quality. The pdf is hyperlinked for your convenience, but has no bookmarks, which is an unnecessary comfort-detriment in my book.

 

Jason Nelson and Alistair Rigg have surpassed themselves herein – the creatures are so cool, so iconic, I don’t ever want to use their non-mythic equivalents ever again. Ever since the advent of Mythic Adventures, I’ve used the rules to make bosses more challenging in my game (they tend to get killed in 2 rounds or less otherwise…) and these beings just blow my mind. The unique, cool abilities this pdf offers for so many creatures just can be considered glorious, even before the new creature, which is just the icing on the awesome cake. This installment, in spite of the lack of bookmarks, is so far the apex of the series for me and is well-worth 5 stars + seal of approval and should be considered a must-buy for anyone running aquatic adventures – this pdf is worth the asking price for ability-scavenging alone. That good. Get it.

You can get these awesome aquatic beasts here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Aug 262014
 

Village Backdrop: Refuge

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This Village Backdrop clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

All right, by now you know that Village Backdrops come with full settlement statblocks, do you? Well, now you do. 😉 The village also features information on the village’s economy, customs, nomenclature etc. and provides information on movers and shakers. Beyond that, short tables of rumors and events to enliven the place work as neat additions for the DM to develop into adventures.

 

Okay, let’s get something out of the way – this village is a pirate’s haven on a tiny, crescent-shaped island with a volcano on top. The local consortium’s ships sail out there and thus, whispers and rumors as well as events supplement this playstyle – the population is dependent on trade and piracy – and thus, this settlement indeed provides refuge for the hunted and unwanted and whether your PCs are there due to being hunted themselves or due to seeking someone – their stay will not be pleasant. Danger modifier +30. Yeah. Ouch.

 

That being said, if the set-up wasn’t ample clue enough, this village *BEGS* to be inserted into a Rzaor Coast-campaign – right down to the CR 4 sample character, who happens to be, you guessed it, a were-shark.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf’s b/w-cartography (of which you can download player-friendly versions on Raging Swan’s homepage for free!) is just as awesome as I’ve come to expect from the series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

 

Greg Marks delivers a village that simply BEGS to be included into a given Razor Coast or Freeport campaign – whether as outpost, as competition, this village backdrop can actually stuff a certain plot-hole in one of the Heart of the Razor-adventures. Alternatively, If you’re looking for a spot to test the waters (haha!) whether your players would enjoy such an environment, this makes for a great RC-light-version. This is a glorious, fun village – deadly, cool and extremely useful, this is worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

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

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 222014
 

Magus of the Jade Oath

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This pdf clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

We kick off this supplement with a short piece in-character prose and continue this approach in the respective discussions of magi throughout the book, as written by one member of the Forbidden Mantis, formerly of the Beautiful Silk Tigers -and indeed, in lavish, captivating prose, we are introduced to the respective magi traditions of the diverse factions of the Lands of the Jade Oath. And indeed, the blend of arcane and martial feels as if predestined for a proper in-depth look in such a setting and here and there, the combinations of the schools, factions and abilities just rock – take the Jade Griffon Guard, who may, via a new arcana, deliver spellstrikes via their mounts, offering more storytelling potential via these traditions than one would expect – indeed, the wealth of organizations and ideas in the discussions of these alone suffices to power at least one, potentially more campaigns set either in the Lands of the Jade Oath or similar Asian settings.

 

Now I can’t get into the awesomeness of the fluff in detail sans bloating the review beyond all compare, but rest assured -it is glorious indeed and writing-wise actually quite a step upwards from the HotJO-main book. The pdf goes on to provide favored class options for magi and all the uncommon races provided in the Heroes of the Jade Oath setting.

 

Now the first archetype would be the curse-eater, who receives the misfortune oracle curse and may identify curses, spellblights etc. This curse essentially increases the botch-range anyone nearby experiences – think of the class as a kind of herald of misfortune akin to TPK Games’ Malefactor. As a damn cool idea, any beneficial spell cast on an ally that is 3rd level or higher carries either a curse or a spellblight with it – and no, these cannot be beneficial -DM-control is maintained and ensured. Now at 5th level, items in possession of the curse-eater become cursed and infected with spellblights as well. Now the catch is – as long as the curse eater wears his/her white ceremonial mask, spellblights and curses don’t affect the character. Now beyond that, the curse eater may, of course, eat curses – and that’s easy to screw up, mechanics-wise, especially since the curse eating, while requiring the expenditure of , spells, potentially regains arcane points. Alas, I found no way to break this via curses or hexes and at higher levels, the ability even can be used as an immediate action.

 

The archetype also features 6 new, specialized arcana – from acting as a magnet for curses and hexes and the like to opting to gain temporary DR instead of a point of arcane pool, temporary SR versus curses, locate creatures via the scent their magic items and spells leave on them and even steal prepared (or otherwise available/ spells known) spells from target foes temporarily – awesome! THIS is how archetypes should imho be – this one is so damn full of style and wrestles with highly complex and hard to phrase abilities managing to properly pull of the concept of curse-eating sans breaking the narrative potential inherent in these hazards. Wow. Seriously, one glorious beast.

 

Next up would be the Lantern Warrior, who gets diminished spellcasting and loses spell recall, but gets access to a cavalier’s order and at 4th level, also the challenge class feature. Nice. The next archetype would be the martial alchemist, who may utilize craft (alchemy) analogue to a full-blown alchemist – including extracts! No spells, as you can imagine, but a modified list that thankfully includes crucial classic of the magus spell-list. At 4th level, he even gains access to a discovery, but, of course, mutagens are out of the question. 4 exclusive arcana that include fast drinking, poison resistance and use and swifter poisoning are also part of the deal – one glorious take on the swordsman with the magic bottles/travelling apothecary/swordfighter.

 

The Menmonic Warrior gets access to 8 unique arcana – from tongues per arcana point expenditure to a confusion inducing touch, a wildcard teamwork feat (changeable as a standard action), a defensive prescience, better skill checks by delving into the akashic collective unconscious, temporary blindsight or inciting fear with a touch. High-level mnemonic warriors may even induce terribly crippling pain with a mere touch. At 5th level, they gain an adaptive feat they may change via the expenditure of arcane pool points. Here, a minor glitch has crept in – the end of the ability specifies “he gets another adaptive feat at 5th level and another one at 17th level.” -The 5th and “another” don’t work here – at 5th level, the ability is gained in the first place. At 11th level, delving into the collective unconsciousness for a selective amount of times per day is possible for minor auto-buffing. The archetype does pay for this flexibility with 3 bonus-feats, though. Once again, a glorious beast of an archetype, full of iconic fluff and cool crunch, but also one slightly on the strong end of the spectrum – the adaptive feats are powerful indeed, but at least they require the expenditure of finite class resources.

 

The Threadcaster has diminished spellcasting and imbues thread with arcane pool points to make mere thread into a lethal, terribly sharp weapon – through which the threadcaster may also deliver spells. 4 unique arcana further enhance the tricks the threadcaster has up her sleeve (haha) -using threads to supplement her acrobatics, climbing and flight, better entangling and grappling spells, dominating foes via a touch (puppetmaster-style) and whispering wind can be found among her tricks They may also spontaneously create snare traps with the threads (with or without a leash). Web of Defense is also glorious – by setting threads in the threadcasters square, she may increase her defenses and even generate a chance foes become grappled. This archetype is awesome in so many ways it almost hurts – all those iconic spider-themed ninja and characters you know from anime and WuXia-movies, all those deadly thread-users -FINALLY a way to play that! AWESOME! And yes, diminished spellcasting, less armor proficiencies and no knowledge pools feel like appropriate trade-offs. I NEED to try this one out.

 

The Warrior of Fortune is also awesome in many a way, gaining access to “improbable” abilities from Rite’s glorious luckbringer class as a kind of specialized arcana, spending arcana instead of moments of chance to power the respective arcana. Now while all the eligible arcana are provided (often with fluff-descriptions of the respective abilities!), here I can muster a nitpick – the abilities don’t explicitly state the amount of points or arcana they require, though a default of one can be assumed.

 

As a bonus for those using the rather cool sutra-casting rules from “Sutra Magic“, we get the new sheathe sutra that can actually temporarily make objects akin to bags of holding. The two spells also rock, with one creating a temporary bond of life between two characters that allows one to save those reduced below 1 hp by sacrificing their own vitality, whereas the second one can turn the tide of yin and yang by turning natural 20s into fumbles/failures.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch – I noticed next to no glitches in this pdf. The pdf adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column, full-color standard and is easy on the printer in grayscale. The pdf comes excessively bookmarked and the artworks provided are copious and diverse in style, but also stylish, thematically fitting and nice – and I haven’t seen them in other publications – kudos for the neat art.

 

Frank Carr has so far been mostly prominent with his work on Arcana Evolved, but this pdf is either testament to his exceedingly quick mastery of the system or the impressive editing and development prowess of Søren K. Thustrup. Either way, I did not expect to like this book. Once you’ve read as many magus archetypes as I have, you get bored easily. You get the “been there, done that”-feeling -fast. This books avoids this trap by actually being a good read. Seriously, even if you don’t plan on using it – the prose is captivating enough to carry the book on its own, the diverse organizations meaning that there is so much going on, so much to scavenge storytelling-wise, that you just WANT to read this. If you’re even remotely interested in Asian WuXia/WuShu-style setting. Now admittedly, this fluff takes up quite some space, but it is space well used and not something I’d consider a downside. Now the crunch is what I dreaded – and was absolutely WRONG to do so: Not a single one of the archetypes herein is bland or boring; I haven’t seen even one of these done before in this manner. The Threadcaster and a couple of other archetypes herein have to wrestle with rather complex abilities , wording-wise, and actually manage to get them right. Furthermore, the supplemental material, whether they be spells, the sutra, the luckbringer-crossover (which does not require you owning the luckbringer to use) – all of these conspire to make this pdf actually one that I WANT to use.

 

These days, getting me excited about an archetype book is hard; Getting one in front of me that actually makes me get pen and paper and immediately make a character – now that is even rarer. This pdf did exactly that. THRICE. While I’m still on the fence about the wildcard-style feats of the mnemonic warrior, the lost feats proved to in-game to be a harsher penalty than expected on the paper: It’s essentially the pay-off of depth versus flexibility and I’m game for that. This book surprised me in the most positive of ways. A highly-recommended must-have for fans of the magus, WuXia, the Lands of the Jade Oath or simply those enjoying complex archetypes that are more than just abilities, that live and breathe and…inspire. That’s the word. Inspiring. This pdf is glorious in all the right ways and hence receives 5 stars + seal of approval.

You can get these immesely flavorful options here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.

Endzeitgeist out.