Nov 282014
 

Ultimate War

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This is #10 of my Top Ten of 2014!

The third expansion of the kingdom building/mass combat rules presented in Ultimate Campaign, expanded by the very man who wrote the original rules, clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages on how-to-use/what to expect, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 36 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This supplement kick off by eliminating two of my most serious gripes with the base mass combat rules from Ultimate Campaign. Number one: Ultimate Campaign does not distinguish between ranged and melee capacity, instead subsuming both under the termino umbrellone of OM, Offense Modifier. This resulted potentially in ridiculous scenarios of elven archer beating orc berserkers in melee. Ultimate War gets rid of OM in favor of separate Melee Value and Ranged Values, abbreviated MV and RV. YES!!! Secondly, the hit points as an abstract measurement to determine an army’s deceased is replaced with casualties – which can be tracked individually/separately for sub-units etc., allowing much more detailed and finer tactical nuances. Best of all – both allow for easy downscaling back into Ultimate Campaign’s base system, if you prefer the simpler take.

 

Leadership Bonus of a commander is equal to +1 for every full 5 ranks in Profession (Soldier) and high BABs (+6, +11, +16), Wis or Cha modifiers, certain feats etc. can further increase this bonus. The rather rudimentary selection of command boons is also expanded by this supplement – and the boons are great – Battlefield illumination (or making light-conditions worse!), autosupplying itself, con/desecrate battlefields, divine healing or barrages, smoke screens or particular proficiency when deployed against aerial armies – glorious! Have I mentioned the awesome effects of war chants or the option to execute precise, less damaging assaults via surgical strikes? Brilliant!

 

Speaking of which – combined arms. Where the general army as a base unit type would be the catch-all default, the rules provided herein allow for a finer distinction. Via these rules, armies are made up of units, which in turn can be made up of several divisions. This is analogue to the distinctions between fleet->squadron->ships. The number of soldiers in a unit is the same as the one in the default rules’ army. Creating a unit follows, according to these rules, simple steps – you pay and gather them, you assign a commander (with PCs being particularly potent!) – which influences the amount of divisions in a unit a commander can handle – 3+ cha-mod, max 5 divisions can be contained and losing a division penalizes the unit. Each division can take casualties equal to its ACR before being defeated – this concludes that each unit has hit points equal to ACR times 5. Divisions reduced to 0 hp can be healed normally, but additional damage annihilates them. MV and RV are ACR+leadership bonus of the commander, provided the unit is properly equipped. If not all divisions are equipped to execute one type of attack, the overall value suffers – cool!

 

Morale score is the kingdom’s loyalty divided by 20, min 1, max 10 and determines all the psychological components. A default value and advice for using morale sans kingdom building (Kudos!!) can also be found here. Determining overland movement, scouting capacity, camouflage, name and home-base – in 12 easy steps, just about every DM should be able to create an army – on my first try, it took me less than 5 minutes to properly apply these rules and generate a unit – WITH double-checking that I got everything right.

Each army may contain a number of units equal to the general’s cha-mod+3, further increased by leadership, certain boons, etc. Battle Phases are influenced by the new distinctions between ranged and melee values – hence, a concise run-down of the phases is provided, thankfully including proper inclusion of not only the new casualties mechanic. It should also be noted that recruiting armies works perfectly in synergy with Ultimate Rulership as well as the base system. Applying simplified combats between aerial and naval ships etc. would also be discussed here. Now I’ve already mentioned aerial combat and indeed, aerial reconnaissance, altitude levels, visibility, concise effects of different wind strengths – the peculiarities of aerial combat are well addressed in sufficient details – from balloons to flying carpets and floating fortresses, this chapter adds the third dimension to mass combat – war rockets, solar sailors – every companion of the firmaments-using campaign should consider this the way to add mass combat to their arrays – glorious! (Be honest – you always wanted to fight dragons while aboard a war rocket!) And yes, this does provide full DVs, cover, dmg, stall, crash etc. values – and if that doesn’t mean anything to you by now, then only because you don’t have the pdf before you – the system is ridiculously easy to grasp and concise in its presentation.

 

Easy to grasp stats for vessels with drift speeds or those being able to climb altitudes, hovering etc. – all here and supplemented further by 12 unique tactics – from soaring sweeps to dogfighting and strafing runs, aerial combat has scarcely been this awesome and tactical! Now, of course this opens a whole new field – i.e. the combat of earthbound units versus airborne assailants – and from options like digging in to using grapnel shots, a whole new dimension, literally, is added to mass combat. Now if that isn’t yet enough for you, let’s take a look at yet another expansion – the one to the sea. “But wait, EZG,” you say “I already have 3 systems for naval combats to choose from and didn’t you say that Frog God Games’ “Fire as She Bears” was absolutely awesome? Yes, I did, and I still consider the system the best naval combat system available for any d20-iteration. However, we’re not talking about skirmishes between a couple of vessels, we’re talking about the clash of whole fleets! And for that, well, let’s just say that the rules herein apply the same thoroughness to naval warfare as to that in the skies – depth zones (which allow for submarines and magical threats), wind effects and naval units…ask and ye shall find herein. By the way: All you require, once again provided in detail including required buildings to procure them (forgot to mention that regarding aerial units – yes, when used with kingdom-building, required buildings etc. are provided!) alongside massive tables of sample vessels in one handy tome. Want to know the level of detail these rules support – the difficulty of fighting back once your vessel’s been sunk may impose a massive penalty, but it doesn’t mean that your unit can’t take down a hostile ship.

Which also becomes relevant since the system utilizes one unified frame of rules. Why is that important? Let’s say a unit of sahuagin on board of a balloon has attacked your galley; You manage to put down the balloon and it crashes into the sea – you can continue playing all levels of combats like that with one single system. Want to play the fantasy-equivalent of the D-Day? Go ahead, these rules have you covered! Now while there is bound to be some overlap with the aerial tactics, I should not fail to mention that naval combat also receives quite an array of unique, naval tactics that add even more options to the fray.

 

Now sooner or later, assault on fortifications is bound to happen – and if you ever tried to use ultimate combat and campaign in one and the same campaign, you may have noticed some discrepancy there – instead of assuming abstract siege engines to be a part of a given unit, we receive a special, Knowledge (engineering)-and int-based LB to determine how commanders of units of artillery work – which makes MUCH more sense and allows for generals to specifically target these weapons…

Speaking of strategies – the array of ranged and close-quarters siege weaponry and the vast array of associated strategies, from bombardment (e.g. via smoke, plagued corpses, etc…) to infiltration and scatter volleys makes for a superb selection of choices – even before the 7 new magical siege weapons – like apocalypse zombie siege shots, adamantine rams or ooze-siege shots – glorious!

 

The pdf also comes with a neat index of the tables for quick reference and it should be noted that perfect rules-synergy with Ultimate Campaign, Ultimate Rulership and Ultimate Battle is maintained.

 

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard with awesome full-color artworks. The pdf is relatively printer-friendly and comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf also contains the good type of hyperlink, making the rules presented even easier to grasp.

 

Jason Nelson took a *long* time making this final piece of the triumvirate of expansions and refinements to Paizo’s kingdom building/mass-combat system (which he also wrote, just fyi). It is not a big surprise then, that the resulting books, unfettered from the limitations of page-count and relative simplicity, have been an utter BLAST to read and use. Offering options to get rid of some overly generic simplifications of the base system, the first two books were beyond superb and managed to add so incredibly much to the base systems I never, ever want to play kingdom building and mass combat without their options again.

 

Now the thing is – Ultimate War was pending and its task was to close the final gaps and cover the true clash of armies, remembering all the small modifications AND refining the base system. I’ll make this short:

 

If you even remotely plan to run mass combat BUY THIS NOW. The additional options, even if you use neither aerial, nor naval or siege combat, are GOLD: The fact that they work perfectly together makes for truly dynamic mass combat. the vast expansion of boons and tactics translate to mass combat that is infinitely more exciting, strategic and ultimately fun. Now it’s perhaps due to approximately 15K points of warhammer miniatures in my attic, but I expect some tactical options from a given system and Ultimate War’s expansion fits the bill perfectly – indeed, the variance and peculiarities of aerial combat and naval combat allow for a finer gradation in these areas.

 

The most impressive component of these rules, beyond their modularity and synergy, though, would be the fact that this one system supports not only all those particular special cases, it allows for transparency and overlap between them – ships that can turn aerial? Why not! Cadres of wyrms rising from the waves to take to the skies, then land and wreck havoc among the elven archers?? Go for it, with this book, you can properly portray that – and the dogfight between the draconic assault and the giant eagle riding knights in the air! The assault of the gnomish submersible-riding saboteurs on the siege-weapon bearing frigate. This book is glorious, a must-buy for everyone who considered the base rules of Ultimate Campaign too simple, too rudimentary – with this, you could conceivably play a thoroughly compelling, interesting, strategic CAMPAIGN of warfare – and honestly, I’d probably have a nerdgasm if Legendary Games released a full mass combat-AP using these rules. For now, I have to plot, devise strategies and generate *a lot* of adventure material; I just have resolved to up the emphasis on war in my current campaign!

 

This book is brilliant, a worthy successor to its stellar companion books, and well worth a final rating of 5 stars + seal of approval + nomination as a candidate for my top ten of 2014. An absolute must-buy-level tome and one that also receive the endzeitgeist essential-tag as one of the must-have tomes for a campaign!

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Nov 282014
 

Town Backdrops: Wolverton

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This pdf clocks in at a massive 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page statblocks by CR-index, 1 page advice on how to read statblocks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

First of all, this is a kind of full circle for me – when I started reviewing, Raging Swan Press’ free mini-setting The Lonely Coast immediately grabbed my attention and made me buy Retribution, their first module. Now, hundreds of reviews of Raging Swan Press-supplements later, this book provides the fully detailed information on the largest settlement in that remote stretch of land, the town of Wolverton. Hence, it is only appropriate that we begin this book with a proper introduction to the stretch of land, including traveling distances, weather etc.

 

Now, if you know the village backdrop-series (and you SHOULD!), you’ll be familiar with the formula used for this town – we receive a full-blown town statblock, information on what magic items can be bought, town lore, nomenclature, dressing habits, etc. However, as befitting of a larger settlement, Wolverton is more than just a village on steroids.

 

This becomes readily apparent from the extremely detailed map to the sheer number of notable places provided. (As always, player friendly maps can be downloaded on raging Swan Press’ homepage.) 28 different notable locations at a glance are provided, and for conveniences sake and to help navigation, we also have them grouped by type – see, THAT is considerate! Wolverton is a walled city at the coast, situated atop some cliffs and the castle of the local pseudo-aristocracy, the Lochers, situated on a promontory. The town features a quarter separated from the rest of the town by cliffs (keep the rabble out) and sports a massive river flowing through it, the Arisum. Hence, the town also features several bridges that span the river and the town is fortified with solid walls.

 

So far, so good – but what is going on in the place? Well, a metric ton of things: let’s begin with whispers and rumors – as opposed to just 6 for a village, we receive a FULL PAGE of 50 rumors, each of which has the potential to spark a full-blown adventure! Another example for this pdf going above and beyond would be the inclusion of information for kingdom-building and using Wolverton in conjunction with such a campaign. Festivals and traditions like “Wolf’s Night” provide more than just a bit of local color, in the aforementioned example, townsfolk bake wolf-shaped biscuits and children get to eat fang-shaped sweet bread while adults in wolf skin walk the streets to scare children. Now if you can’t use this festival to e.g. convert something Halloween/samhain-themed or make a lycanthrope-plot more interesting, I don’t know! Weekly markets and a total of no less than 50 entries of sights and sounds (think of them as mini-hooks, dressing, etc.) spanning two-pages further enhance the unique and detailed perspective one gets of the glorious town.

 

Of course, if you prefer hooks to be less subtle, perhaps the 50-entry strong, two-page spanning table of events might do – from street urchins trying to steal from the PCs to being recruited for the theatre to pouring rain that renders the muddy roads difficult terrain, these events not only are interesting, they are, most of the time, downright inspiring, especially for the brevity with which they have to work. Oh, and if THAT still is not enough, you’ll be happy to know that properly and fully developed hooks are interspersed throughout the whole book.

 

Now the town itself has plenty of truly interesting locales and places to inspire the prospective DM – take an inn, ” The Hare and the Ass”, which has recently been taken over by a half-orc. Said half-orc was raised by dwarves and thus knows the recipe of the Thunderhammer clan’s famous beer, seeing quite a few visitors as a result – in spite of the latent xenophobia exhibited towards the green-skin.

 

While at no point obtrusive, fans of Raging Swan press will rejoice at e.g. small Easter-eggs and tie-ins with Hosford and other locales in and around the Lonely Coast. What this pdf acts like, can be best described as the massive linchpin that ties the whole of the Lonely Coast and its peculiarities together, rendering the whole picture more concise – while adding flourishes to just about every component of the area.

 

The various taverns, people controlled by intelligent helmets – we have *a lot* going on here – including strange experiments, no less than 3(!!!) major smuggling gangs (including their own conflicts, moralities, leaders and headquarters), burgeoning sorcerous power among those that should not e able to exhibit it (and some intrigue there…) – we have * A LOT* going on in this town – enough to cover a bunch of PC-levels!

 

Beyond this extremely detailed town, though, we also receive statblocks of its inhabitants – from merchants and peasants, reeves and high priests, rulers, veteran watchmen and a whole slew of smugglers and low-lives can be found herein – including the signature detailed fluff to supplement all of the named NPC-statblocks – background story, personality, mannerisms, distinguishing features and character-specific hooks – anything you ask for, it’s here.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I did not notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ b/w-two-column standard, is printer-friendly and generally nice to look at. The artworks range from thematically fitting stock art to pieces I haven’t seen before and the cartography is awesome – the town makes sense and looks rather neat. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use, one to be printed out, and both come excessively bookmarked.

 

I can’t comment on the print-edition since I do not own it (yet).

 

John Bennett delivers the final missing piece of the puzzle that is The Lonely Coast and much like many a puzzle, this one piece makes the whole picture seem all the more enticing. As a hub full of adventuring potential, Wolverton elevates the other pdfs in and around the Lonely Coast by serving as a plausible, cool town full of local color, nice customs and adventuring potential. Even when used on its own, though, the town shines – Wolverton has taken to heart all the little improvements of the “small” series- extremely detailed, with rumors, sights and hooks galore, it also provides a multitude of flavors of adventuring it supports: Wilderness? No problem. Dungeon? Why not. Coastal caves? Covered. Courtly intrigue? Possible. Shadow War? Jup, feasible. You name it, this place has the means to provide an extremely detailed canvas for your brush.

 

Wolverton is more than just an oversized village backdrop – it is a full-blown, thriving, pulsing town rife with adventure potential, a place filled to the brim with details and local color, expertly crafted to serve as a hub for PCs, to support a plethora of playing styles…and still retain a unique identity. An impressive feat indeed and well worth 5 stars + my seal of approval, as well as a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2014.

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Nov 282014
 

Animal Races: Clan of the Cat

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This installment of the Animal Races-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

We kick off this pdf with a superbly-written piece of in-character prose, provided by a feline therian, extolling the virtues and peculiarities of cats and their experience – for example the custom to measure time in 12-hour-cycles. The level of detail provided for the feline therians is up to all expectations – age, height and weight-table, relationships, adventuring – all covered.

 

Rules-wise, we receive two different attribute arrays – medium catfolk receive +2 Dex, -2 Wis, while small catfolk receive +2 Dex, -2 Str. Small catfolk receive a base speed of 20 ft., medium catfolk the normal 30 ft. Members of the clan of the cat also receive low-light vision, scent, natural armor +1 (increase to +2 at 10th level), a primary natural bite attack of 1d4/1d3 (M/S) and have these base traits modified by the chosen clan:

Cats receive +2 to Int and may choose Cat Clan Heritage as a rogue talent, cheetahs receive +2 Cha and may use Cha as governing attribute for monk class features and receive the Cat Clan Sprinter-feat as a monk bonus feat. Leopards also receive +2 to Cha, which somewhat conflicts with the fluff, which asserts their toughness and athleticism – was Con intended here? Anyway, they may choose Cat Clan Lurker as a rogue talent. Lion Clan members also receive +2 Cha and may select Cat Clan Heritage as a rage power. Lynx Academy members who left their clan receive +2 to Int and may opt for Cat Clan Heritage as an alchemist discovery. Tiger clan members receive +2 Int and can select Cat Clan Heritage as a witch’s hex.

 

Now the modularity of the race goes beyond that – the three aforementioned feats (Cat Clan Heritage, Cat Clan Lurker and Cat Clan Sprinter) can be taken multiple times and allow for the progressive accumulation of additional racial traits, which include claws, climb speeds, faster movement etc. – the interesting component here would be the fact that e.g. adding the grab quality to bites, increasing bite damage etc. – the available options scale within the feats: Upon taking a feat a certain amount of times, your selection is broadened to include advanced tricks and options Pounce, rake etc. – all possible, but only at the investment of a significant amount of resources -as they should be. I tried hard to break these three feats and balance-wise, they withstood my endeavors -kudos!

 

Now, as with the Clan of the Dog, proper heraldry is provided for the clan, and we receive a deity-write-up, this time Ishtar, and the folkloristic take on somewhat feline monsters – from the borrowed pugwampis to shiras and silvanshees, we receive a lot of rather damn cool pieces of information that help ground and root the Clan of the Cat within the framework of a campaign. Now, if you haven’t read my review of Clan of the Dog, you should be aware that aforementioned heraldic symbols also double as traits to choose from. Relationships among sub-species and with other clans are also covered.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, easy to read and elegant two-column b/w-standard well complemented by the fitting b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

 

Eric Morton’s Animal Races-series ranks among the most impressive discoveries that has landed on my virtual desk in quite a while, at least as far as race-pdfs are concerned – so far, I have read two and both provided superb content, extremely modular, balanced races – and much like the pdf on dogs, the feline therians just brim with imagination, style and wonder. Studded to an almost unprecedented brim with grand ideas, this pdf offers a varied and distinct take on catfolk – to the point where, for the very first time, I consider catfolk more than just elves with fur and will allow them in my game. Not only thanks to the rock-solid rules, but mainly due to this pdf generating a distinct, viable identity for these feline fellows. If my gushing wasn’t indication enough – this pdf is a true steal and well worth the low asking price – final verdict: 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this damn cool take on catfolk here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

Nov 272014
 

My dear readers,

 

while I am no American, I do think that Thanksgiving is a wonderful idea – so here we go; I hope you excuse my indulgence in hijacking this tradition, so here we go:

 

I am thankful to the following 3pps:

 

-Rite Publishing: Steve, you gave me my first complimentary copy. I probably wouldn’t be reviewing without you and most Rite Publishing books still tend to land on my “must play”-pile. Love your work both as a publisher and writer. Also: Thank you for the spot in Pathways!

 

-Rogue Genius Games: Owen’s company taught me *A LOT* about good crunch, ingenious design, etc. I have no other 3pp that has so many allowed PC-classes in my main campaign. That and talented classes rock my world. Also: Owen, thank you for your professionalism.

 

-Frog God Games: You people are not only professional and nice, you keep on creating the awesome, big and gorgeous mega-tomes I want. It goes without saying that I’m extremely happy about  all of them. When I read the “thank you”-shout out in Slumbering Tsar back in the day, I teared up a little. Also: YOU MADE RAZOR COAST HAPPEN. Thank you.

 

-Raging Swan Press: When I’m burned out on crunch, when I don’t want to read anotehr module, I turn to Raging Swan Press – no other 3pp has made my DMing so much better and easier. Although I still have to translate the tables, villages etc. on the fly, the go-play aspect of your stuff is awesome. The Dressing-books changed my whole DM-style for the better. I salute you folks.

 

-AAW Games: Thank you for allowing me to be a part of Rise of the Drow, a Pathmaster-judge and for the support ad continued friendship – you are class acts! (Especially considering how I bashed your earlier, less refined modules!)

 

-TPK Games: Thank you for providing the crit-system I know and love as well as gritty, dark fantasy goodness. I’d also like to thank you guys for allowing my insane designs within your book.

 

-Interjection Games: Thank you for making some of the most beloved base classes at my table – without them, our game would be poorer. Also: Thank you for making me a part of the design-team for Strange Magic from the get-go. I learned *a lot* about complex class design and work has been an awesome experience.

 

-Purple Duck Games: Thank you for making some of the coolest, most underrated classes and supplements out there and for making legendary items work properly. Also: Thank you so much for introducing me to Daniel J. Bishop’s superb work!

 

-Legendary Games: Thank you for all the great plug-ins, for making mass combat as deep and rewarding as it is and for providing all the mythic rules I need!

 

-Dreamscarred Press: Thank you for psionics and being class acts, even in the face of diverging opinions. I look forward to seeing what you create in the future!

 

-Radiance House/Everyman Gaming: Thank you for Pact Magic – without it, my games would be so much poorer.

 

-Kobold Press: Thank you for making Midgard and providing source-books that breathe this tangible spirit of the fantastic!

 

-LPJr Design: Thank you for making gorgeous, inspired and downright weird pdfs; I find my campaigns enriched by the cool ideas you bring to the game.

 

-Little Red Goblin Games: Thank you for providing my “And now for something completely different”-setting, Necropunk. I love what you have done and achieved there!

 

-Forest Guardian Press: Morgan, thank you for the Direlock – it’s my favorite gish-class and sees *A LOT* of use at my table! Your Savage will join ranks here, I presume.

 

-Misfit Studios: Thank you for making me a part of Bite Me! back in the day!

 

-Mór Studios: Thank you for making a surprisingly captivating saga so far; I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes!

 

I’d also like to thank Abandoned Arts, ICOSA Entertainment, Fat Goblin Games, Zombie Sky Press, Storm Bunny Studios and every other 3pp I have forgotten who has sent me complimentary copies of pdfs at one time or another and taken my criticism to heart without being rude! Thank you for your patience! (I know, I’m slow…but catching up!)

 

I’d especially want to thank those 3pps who went the extra mile and sent me a physical copy at one point or another – you guys rock! (Even though sometimes, I wished I could have rewarded that with a better rating, I know you value integrity and sent the books nevertheless. And that is just awesome.)

 

But most of all, more so even than to thank all the authors and publishers, many of whom I’d call friends, I want to thank YOU. Yes, you. The person sitting in front of a screen, clicking on reviews. The guys and gals who read my ramblings. I want to thank all of you who dropped me a comment at one time or another, telling me I made a difference. You can’t fathom how much that means to me, how often it has elevated me from a place of doubt back to high spirits. And when the rare complete stranger surprises me with a random act of kindness with a donation of a file, a book, or just plain money, that is when I realize I have much to be thankful for – and it is all due to you.

 

I also want to thank everyone who has corrected one of my mistakes in the past  – I’m not perfect, but you ladies and gentlemen help me on my continuous quest of self-improvement. So thank you. As per the writing of this post, my official review-counter stands at 1750 reviews. To anyone who has ever read even ONE of them, even if you disagreed with me and consider me a doucheback – thank you for your time.

 

Have a wonderful day and see you, hopefully, tomorrow, with 3 new reviews!

Endzeitgeist out.

Nov 272014
 

The Savage (Alternate Base Class)

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This alternate class clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

No the terminology might be considered a problem from the get-go – the word “Savage” constitutes more than a direct opposition to “civilized men.” Hence, the 1st page is devoted to an explanation that acknowledges that this pdf is not based on any real life cultures -I applaud this maturity. If you’re interested in the genesis of the development and meanings associated with this particular dichotomy, feel free to drop me a line.

 

The Savage class is an alternate class for both barbarian and monk, meaning that multiclassing into either is prohibited. The class receives d12, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with axes and generally, stone age-style weapons – a comprehensive guideline for savage weapons and armors would be included here, allowing for further, campaign world specific customizations of proficiencies. When wearing medium or heavy armor, the savage loses both fast movement, furious blows and the AC-bonus. It should also be noted that the savage can add two skills of their choice as tribal lore to their array of class skills.

 

The class also receives full BAB-progression, good fort and ref-saves, an AC (and CMD!)-bonus scaling up to +5 and increased movement rate scaling up to +60 ft. What are furious blows? Well, at first level, the savage can execute +1 attack, imposing a -2 penalty to all attacks. These scale upwards at 8th and 15th level and these attacks may only be executed with savage weapons. Interestingly, the ability manages to get two-weapon fighting rules-interaction right – there is none this time around and this is good in this case – the ability is rather powerful, though thankfully, certain massive weapons have an additional penalty applied.

 

Now the savage may also enter a primal state as a full-round action that provokes AoOs. Said state can be maintained up to 24 hours and provides +2 to Intimidate, Handle Animals and Sense Motive skill checks and Improved Unarmed Strike as a feat, which also works for the purposes of feat-prerequisites – nice catch! Additionally, the state can be expended to power abilities and feats, somewhat akin to how psionic foci work – the lists of feats/powers contain the necessary information for which needs the expenditure. Instead of a rage, savages may enter so-called rampages for up to 4+con-mod rounds per day, +2 per additional class level. While in a rampage, savages receive +2 to will-saves, acrobatics, climb and swim-checks. Now rampage also offers temporary hit points equal to foe’s HD for every enemy reduced to 0 hit points or below – surprisingly, the ability comes absolutely kitten-proof – no way to abuse this! Gloriously done!

 

Now the next thing would be a bit complex, so bear with me – savages of 2nd level (and every even level thereafter) may select a monk’s bonus feat or a barbarian rage power as a savage power, though the latter only work while rampaging. Evasion and improved evasion may be chosen as well, the latter thankfully with a level-cap. A massive list of rage powers from core, APG and UC are provided and yes, the pdf is smart enough to prevent combinations of different totem rage powers. The class also receives uncanny dodge at 2nd level (improved at 5th) and a scaling danger sense that translates to a bonus to initiative and a bonus to AC when being attacked by ranged weapons in the surprise round – nice spider-sense! Savages also receive scaling bonuses versus diseases and poisons that turn to immunity at very high levels.

 

Also rather nice – savages may learn to receive bonuses versus particular spell schools (including psionic ones!), but this is not where we stop:

 

At 4th level, the savage receives a pool of feral points equal to 1/2 class level +con-mod. As long as the pool contains at least 1 point, rampaging savages may have weapons count as magic for DR-purposes and at 9th level, also as cold iron/silver. When in primal state, a savage may expend 1 point from the feral pool as a swift action to increase movement by 20 ft for 1 round, +2 natural AC for 1 round, +20 (!!!) acrobatics for jumping purposes only or +1 to critical confirmation rolls for con-mod rounds. Additionally, 4th level savages may expend feral points to quickly heal non-lethal damage or diminish the duration of some negative conditions.

 

At 7th level, savages heal even without resting at an increased natural rate and increases the amount of conditions they can diminish. Where math became complex for me would be the option to expend 2 feral points for +1 round of rampage – think of all the combinations possible…

 

At 11th level, savages receive ferocity and the truly high-level savages may enter blood rages. The capstone makes the savage tougher and makes criting them very hard – but this is not where we stop; This pdf also provides quite a few archetypes, first of which would be the Dread Savage. Instead of entering a primal state, these guys may enter a kind of death-like trance that has them count as undead, but still allows them to be healed by positive energy – provided they succeed a concentration-check. Their rampage allows them to render targets hit by their wight strikes shaken, allowing the dread savage to expend rounds of rage for additional slam attacks (no synergy with furious blows, though) and the archetype also receives a debuff aura , increased saves versus level-drain etc. The dread pool the archetype has, also allows for wholly unique benefits and 3 new rage powers complement the package.

 

The second archetype would be the Noble Savage – noble savages receive an unleashed presence in lieu of rampaging, use their cha-mod to determine their pool and may expend said points to grant themselves cha-mod as bonus to saves for 1 round. It should be mentioned that the presence has the bonuses applied to completely social skills and that it’s governed by cha as well. Almost perfect negotiators, they can grant themselves massive bonuses to bluff, but thankfully not for feinting purposes.

 

Next up would be a special treat with the phrenic savage alternate class, a psionic alternative to the base savage – these guys receive changed save-progressions, a limited array of power points (scaling from 1 to 70), governed by wisdom. The phrenic savage also receives unlocked talent and a pretty limited array of psionic tricks thus, later learning to use wis to govern it instead of cha. Phrenic savages may expend power points to temporarily grant them rapid metabolism and similar feats, including a kind of DR versus ability score reduction (somewhat unfortunately named “ability”, making it slightly more opaque than it should be). The improved fiery discorporation capstone at 20th level is also rather nice, though the phrenic savage pays for the psionic tricks with both the flurry-like trick and the rampages. Still, would have loved the class to mention for what it is an alternate class – I *assume* full multiclassing potential, but I’m pretty sure the class probably ought to have some limit. The 4 psionic feats used by the alternate class and the two psionic powers are provided in here as well.

 

We also receive a final page of primitive weapons, courtesy of Little Red Goblin Games, ranging from the great macuahuitl to the gunstock club – these are all solid.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – while, in some instances, wording is slightly less precise than I would have wanted it to be, over all, the pdf manages to handle the complex content rather well. Minor issues like the “st/nd/rd/th” missing behind the numbers in the class level table of the Phrenic Savage can be considered generally cosmetic. The pdf comes with glorious, original full-color pieces of art and the 2-column b/w-standard generally is printer-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Morgan Boehringer (lead developer), with Jim Wettstein (and additional content by Keil Hubert and Christos Gurd), just delivers. There’s no way around it, the savage may be the most interesting melee-base-class I’ve seen in quite a while – it is powerful and I was honestly surprised that it fared so well in playtest and turned out to be rather well-balanced. This is honestly the level of awesomeness I would have expected from each and every ACG-class. The savage has more options than either monk or barbarian, without invalidating the parent classes. The additional content just represents the icing on the cake. The psionic variant class is also solid, though it feels slightly less inspired – mainly because the class does not have that many tricks up its sleeve – the unlocked talent route does not necessarily provide a selection of powers to use, which the pdf seems to imply. Unlocked Talents nets the phrenic savage exactly ONE power, which is prescribed by the pdf. Why not provide at least a slight array of e.g. psychometabolism choices?

 

The psionic savage is simply not half as interesting and flexible as the base class and thus, would be one of my minor complaints. Another minor issue would be the 19th level of the savage class, which is a dead level. Now are these minor issues? Yes. Is the overall class AWESOME? HECK YEAH! The savage constitutes a damn cool addition to any kind of group, is fluff-wise easily implemented, complex, yet easy to grasp and would be 5 stars + seal of approval were it not for aforementioned minor glitches. With the slight imperfections, which in no way spoil this otherwise damn cool class, I will instead settle “only” for a final verdict of 5 stars. Consider this the monk/barbarian-class the ACG should have delivered, but didn’t.

 

You can get this damn cool class here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Nov 272014
 

Lucien’s Guide to the Black Files

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If you read this review, one of the following is true:

 

1. You’re me. Hello, handsome devil!

2. I have shared this information with you – don’t screw this up!

3.You have stolen this homepage – I have been notified of your identity and location.

4. You have killed me. Good for you, but you have eliminated the ward that left a whole bunch of nastiness in check.

5. I have died and you took up my mantle – good for you, but I hope I’ve had the chance to provide the keys, because I wasn’t joking in 4.

This intro mirrors (in less vivid prose) how this guide begins – to give you an inkling of the level of quality of the writing. The pdf clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 12 pages of raw content, so what is contained in these pages?

 

This pdf blasts off with a rant that actually had me laugh – on the nature of scholarship and misidentifying artifact and relics as Typhonian – only to provide what can only be called a cornucopia of diverse theories regarding the nature of Typhonians – as in the best of LoGaS-supplements, the content herein is all about potential – the theories are provided with cues to what is or may be true, but no universal monolithic truth is prescribed – we receive ideas: How the Typhonians and the grand stair interact, for example. What actually constitutes a Typhonian as to opposed what makes one an Echidnan – the added diversity makes for a truly compelling addition to the lore.

 

The second file contains information on a civilization kind of lost – the Ildari. A vast star-spanning empire that has been subject to a cataclysm, much like Warhammer 40 K’s empire, it still looms strong, if not as powerful as before – having mastered space travel, the Ildari may make for a cool addition to one’s world, especially since the Grand Stair as an alternative (including the opposition that uses it) may very well see a massive conflict brewing…awesome! Especially since proper mechanics for Ildari supplement the information provided -secret realms, arrays and cosmos make for great additions for the DM to weave stories around!

 

The third file kicks off with an amusing rant on the cliché of an evil overlord who called himself “Harbinger” – alas, the irreverent tone of the narrator is only half justified – unlike many similar pseudo-villains that think they’re big shots until a Gossamer Lord/Lady puts them in their place, this guy actually had a very powerful patron – an entity called Matekai. This entity gobbles up world. Yes. And the irreverent tone might be justified, but on the other hand, this creature may be a Typhonian…or something completely different.

 

Speaking of different (and to me, profoundly frightening) – Basta. A plant that controls the biome of its whole world, the size of a town, which must have consumed an entity of significant power, receiving impossible knowledge. Worse, its strange psychology makes for a difficult decision on whether it is benign or simply amoral…and it’s rooting on other planets…. *shudders*

 

The modification Basta-controlled for worlds and attributes for lesser and greater basta are provided.

 

A total of 4 diverse mini-hooks of outstanding Black Files are also provided before we’re introduced to the Black Office -and the caretaker of the files, one lady Kitabu, fully portrayed in all her glory as an NPC servant of Lucien.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes studded with GLORIOUS full-color artwork of the highest quality. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

It is, in one word, ASTOUNDING how many awesome ideas Rob Donoghue has managed to cram into these pages – the content herein is universally inspiring, top-notch, and each and every Black File quoted herein can fuel an adventure, perhaps even a campaign. This book is one brilliant, superb supplement full of awesome ideas and should be considered not only a great buy for LoGaS-fans, but also for any DMs looking for inspiration (or simply a good read!) beyond what one usually receives in pdfs.

 

Final verdict? A must-buy LoGaS-pdf, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval!

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Nov 272014
 

Flaws II

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This pdf clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so what do we get?

 

Well, if the title wasn’t clue enough – more flaws. What are they? They can be summed up as anti-feats. They can be taken at 1st level and every character can only have two flaws Each flaw grants 3 skill points or one bonus feat, but if a character takes 2 flaws, he may choose each benefit only once. Flaws can only be taken at first level as written, though DMs may elect to grant them later – at their own peril.

 

Now each flaw has a specific type of penalty associated with it and a cost to buy it off. Unless I’ve miscounted, a total number of 30 new flaws are contained within these pages. So what do flaws do? well, take the one that makes you an orthodox druid who may not use metal, tools as well as a -3 penalty to all cha-based interactions with civilized folk, with violations potentially increasing this penalty even up to -5. At 5th level (and no sooner), Skill Focus (Diplomacy) as a feat accompanied by atonement may buy off the flaw.

 

Now if you’ve read the original pdf on flaws, you’ll notice something – the minimum level requirements to pay them off. This is perhaps my favorite piece to be added to the concept herein – in the original pdf, some flaws could immediately be paid off. This, while easily handled in a mature group, somewhat opened the system towards being gamed, while the new flaws do not have that…flaw. Yeah, sorry, I’ll put a buck in the bad pun jar.

 

Now back to the concepts – being in debt, cursed, addicted (with scaling benefits/penalties!), being too flirtatious or frail or being a monk with an inner turmoil – the flaws herein are generally not only superior to the first book, they are better balanced among themselves and the selection of class-specific flaws is glorious! Being lovelorn, an honor-bound paladin – several of the flaws herein just ooze style and enhance a character’s personality. Phobias, kleptomania, suffering from tribal taboos – the respective array of options is diverse, unique and fun.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked in spite of its brevity – nice!

 

Robert W. Thomson’s Flaws are damn cool – I’ve been playing with the original ones for some time and my only gripe with them was that they could be gamed sans gentlemen’s agreements. The new flaws do not suffer from this drawback…at least to this extent, which brings me to the *one* thing I do not like about this pdf – Paizo has since introduced minor and major drawbacks in Ultimate Campaign and a short note for each flaw on whether this would be more in line with either for a tighter synergy of systems would be awesome to have. That being said, I am of the firm conviction that the flaws herein can make for more interesting characters and concepts, with plenty of hooks enhancing them, while providing tangible benefits for the players to take them. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 due to the low price.

 

You can get these flaws for an exceedingly low price here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Nov 262014
 

Subterranean Enclave: Severed Umbra

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This first installment of Raging Swan Press’ Subterranean Enclave-series 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 us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

What is this series about? Well, in one sentence: “Village Backdrops for the Underworld.” That’s the truth in theory – i.e. you’ll find a settlement statblock, a market place, a couple of notable folk and places, lore and rumors, sample events – by now you know the formula that works so extremely well. In practice, this is rather different beyond the formal criteria. Once, when the slums of the city of Fairhaven plummeted into the underdark, squashing an enclave of dark folk and subsequently cutting off the survivors from both the upper world and the realms below, people were forced to work together – the result being a most unlikely constellation:

 

In Severed Umbra, now once again opened and a vibrant trading spot with the realms below, regular folk coexist with the enigmatic dark folk, having adopted their mannerisms and habit of dressing. Surrounding a lake that is the home to weird phosphorescent fish makes for a cool general location and the village is also sporting a place where lizards are cultivated for their meat as well as a dark rag outfitter, psychotropic shroom addicts, a psychotic halfling evoker ( level 9, fully statted) and a fully statted dark stalker co-leader of the town. Beyond these obvious hooks, acclimatization to the dark and actually kind dark stalker healers (!!!) make for further odd, yet pleasant peculiarities.

 

Better yet, aforementioned sample events prove to be pretty helpful in driving home the special considerations a place like this requires.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w–standard, with superb cartography in b/w. As always, you can download player-friendly maps on Raging Swan’s homepage. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer, with both being fully bookmarked.

 

I couldn’t have imagined a more suitable writer to kick off the new series – Mike Welham’s Severed Umbra is delightfully unconventional and distinct, with more hooks than you’d imagine to find in the pages of such a supplement – possibly even enough to base a whole campaign on this camp of former outcasts, forged together into an unlikely unity. The one problem I see with this pdf is that it sets a very high standard for the whole series and the pdfs to come – I hope other authors can match this cool locale. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval for a great place indeed!

 

You can get this awesome underworld enclave here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Nov 262014
 

The Genius Guide to More Ranger Talents

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This pdf clocks in at 11 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

A total of 7 new edges are provided – which sounds like not much. Well, they cover pages 2 -5: What I’m trying to say is – they are LONG. A total of 16 companion tricks, from trample to grab etc. – all those NASTY monster qualities, are for example part of the tricks! Or what about more hunter’s tricks like one that prevents AoOs from spells or spell-like abilities? What about upgrading movement to flying, but with the caveat that you have to end your movement on solid ground or fall – WuXia-rangers, anyone? Oh, and fighter feats. Yeah.

 

A total of 13 new talents are also provided – including unnatural auras, a revenge smite for killing animal companions, fast stealth in the right terrain, etc. 5 new advanced talents, allow you to make overland chases hard for your enemies (Yeah!), see through plant matter and even using level-checks to temporarily disable abilities of favored enemies.

 

We also receive a massive 8 new Grand Talents – restoring favored allies from the dead, adding the advanced template to animal companions, free withdraws after hitting foes for ultimate skirmishing… the options are deadly and nasty indeed! Or want to make your spells supernatural? There you go!

 

The final page groups the talents by theme and does something awesome – it provides advice for using Rogue Genius Games Ranger’s Knacks and the talents of Kobold Press’ Spell-less Ranger. Nice shout-out and cool to see!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with nice stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

 

The options provided in this expansion of the talented ranger are powerful – some of the animal tricks, especially when taken out of context, can result in really nasty tricks and the same goes for some of the other options herein – so yes, imho this is a power-level upgrade for the Talented Ranger. Owen K.C. Stephens has obviously left the more experimental pieces for this expansion, nut unlike the book on the barbarian, the talents herein feel more inspired, more unique and more streamlined than the expansion for the barbarian. While I do think that the edges and talents herein can be used to craft deadly rangers indeed, I failed to make anything truly broken – and e.g. the ability-disable strike requiring prior knowledge of a monster’s capability rewards the good ole’ “The more you know…”-G.I. Joe trope and is something I really like.

 

Overall, that’s the gist – the options are powerful, but damn cool and often just…interesting and uncommon. Hence, my final verdict for this expansion will clock in at “only” 4.5 stars, still rounded up to 5, mainly because the options herein may need a bit of scrutiny from DMs, but are too neat to leave by the wayside.

 

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

Endzeitgeist out.

Nov 262014
 

Sorceror Bloodlines

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This pdf clock in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

So, this book introduces us to an array of more bloodlines for sorcerors…so how do they hold up?

 

The ancient bloodline is all about the spirits of the past, but more in a “tapping into the ancestor’s knowledge”-way. More interesting would be the crystal bloodline – fire rays and shards, refract illusions – nice one!

 

The lycanthropy bloodline nets you beast shape and claws/bites – the former do not explicitly specify whether they are considered primary or secondary natural attacks, though the bite’s caveat it can be used as secondary makes me think that they are primary weapons. This slightly opaque wording here, explicitly stating how many attacks you can execute with them, which, while precise, deviates somewhat from how one would expect such an ability to be delivered – it’s more in line with a spell in its wording than a granted natural attack. While this is not perfect in my book, I get the rationale behind it and thus, this will not influence my final verdict. On the plus side, the scaling of them is awesome – increasing damage type and even netting bleed damage at higher levels.

 

The martial bloodline allows you to have a kind of arcane shield and store spells in your weapon – generally, a surprisingly cool bloodline! Inspired by the planar merchants, the mercane bloodline is about displacement, invisibility and the like – neat! The musical bloodline allows you to countersing, erect walls of sound etc. The phantasmal bloodline makes it possible to use mirror image-like decoys, daze foes or unleash phantasmal killers on foes. Particularly regal, even among sorcerors, the royal bloodline is all about glory and comes with a touch buff and an arcane bond.

 

The sand bloodline nets burrow speed and sand blasts…but I’ve seen this concept done better before. The same cannot be said for the swarm bloodline-squeezing into spaces, distracting foes with pseudo-swarm-like particles – damn cool! (And yes, assuming swarm form and apotheosis are high-level options for this one!)

 

The Time bloodline may have a bit of a killer ability at first level – at a touch phase an enemy from the time-stream for 1 round. While not that impressive on paper, in combat, this can be very powerful. Thankfully, the 1/24 hours/target-caveat prevents abuse, but I would have loved to have information on what happens if the space of the creature phasing back is occupied. The Toymaker bloodline can entangle foes with strings, summon toys etc. – nice, though not as cool as Dreadfox Games’ Puppetmaster. The Xill bloodline receives claws (same ramble as with the claws granted by the lycanthropic bloodline), paralytic bites etc.

 

We also receive 2 archetypes – the cunning sorceror who exchanges bloodline powers and arcana for more skills and feats and the Battle Sorceror. The latter receives d8 HD, some weapon and armor proficiency sans spell failure, but pays for that with less spells. Additionally, they may select combat feats instead of bloodline feats. Solid.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the artworks are solid b/w stock. The pdf comes with minimum bookmarks, but a few are better than none.

 

RJ Grady’s Sorceror Bloodlines are more than solid – in spite of having seen MANY of these, this pdf has managed to provide a couple of cool options I haven’t seen before and utilizes solid crunch and wording to deliver its concepts. That being said, for my own tastes, the capstones result a bit too often in apotheosis-style transformations and immunities – while in line with the tradition, this also means that the capstones not always can be considered as awesome as one would like it to be – not all bloodlines reach the awesomeness-level of e.g. the swarm-bloodline.

 

HOWEVER, over all, this is a nice pdf for a more than fair price-point and the mini-archetypes, while not too uncommon, make for solid micro-toolkits to add to the sorceror. My final verdict hence will treat this pdf as a good pdf on the verge of, but not completely, in the territory of greatness. Thus, my final verdict is 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.