May 202015
 

Mythic Monsters: Masters of Chaos

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This installment of the Mythic Monsters-series clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

As always, we kick off this installment of the Mythic Monsters-series with a supplemental piece of content – this time around with a massive, neat piece of fiction that works rather well to get you in the mood for the things to come….which would be chaotic outsiders of various shapes and sizes, first of which would be the Bralani Azata at CR7/MR 3. The first thing you’ll notice here, is that the layout has been streamlined, making it slightly easier and crispier to process – so kudos for that. Ability-wise, bralani can shoot merciful arrows and instill charms via their arrows, powered by mythic power. Reflexive healing as they drop to 0 hp via mythic power also fit nicely alongside the wind-themed abilities. Neat one! At +1 CR, lillends can sequester targets in focecages and use finale-themed SPs as immediate actions – and they can charm those constricted – once again, I like the emphasis on nonlethal damage. The CR 16/MR 6 Ghaeles get immunity-bypassing gazes and better bursts of light – however, the winnder here would be the mythic power-based strobe-form, which is a true beauty – complex and unique, it is glorious. Finally, the CR 3/MR 1 Lyrakien not only receives a beautiful full-color illustration, they may also ease the exhaustion of the weary traveler and set up a kind of combo alarm/teleport, while also blowing foes asunder va blasts of starlight Solid, neat low-level build.

 

Of course, these guys aren’t the only CR 3/MR 1 creatures herein – the voidworms, again, with a GLORIOUS unique artwork, receives not only full rules for acting as a familiar, it also receives a rather awesome, versatile trick that allows for reach manipulation and short-range teleportation – think of it as spatially flexible. I love this critter! There are more proteans – the CR 8/MR 3 Naunet is a beauty – these guys receive the option to engulf foes in a second form consisting of roiling protoplasmic mass and making coalescing masses of chaotic vapors in concert are great and the melee-enhanced, freedom of movement-suppressing tail slap is awesome as well. Imentesh (CR 12/MR 5) also receive this tail-ability, but more importantly, they can unleash deadly warpwaves and shape them via mythic power. Additionally, telepathic babbling and madness-inducing mindlinks render this one awesome. Speaking of which – the CR 21/MR 8 Keketar, lavishly rendered in a glorious piece of original artwork feature a nasty debuff aura that can entangle and deal random attribute damage. Furthermore, these proteans. Creating things from thin air, generating quasi-real mirage arcana and countering teleportation via temporal stasis – all cool, but they pale beyond the awesome imagery of a dimension door blended with deadly black tentacle-like strands of frayed reality.

 

There also are non-protean/azata creatures within these pages – the CR 8/MR 3 chaos beast, for example – a relatively linear, ironically so, progression of the base creature. Solid, but not special when compared to aforementioned creatures. The Crayhound, CR 6/MR 2, also sports one stellar rendition, deadly criticals , thunderbolt-like barks – and they are impossible to constrain – neat mid-level creature! At one CR less, the Zentragt may eat metal to heal themselves and shred armor asunder. Okay, I guess.

 

The low-level CR 4/MR 1 Pards may temporarily phase out, damaging creatures it passes while in this state – a cool low-level ability!

 

The new creature herein clocks in at CR 5/MR 2 and sports the glorious artwork also featured on the Mythic Mini #50’s cover – the Crassodovs are deadly lupine killing machines – these humanoids have been bred by elves on a distant material plane to exterminate dwarves – and while said world has been torn asunder, rifts infusing the crassodov with their odd power, the race can exhibit its full loathing of all things elven for the imposed servitude in murderous rampages. Hunters and slayers, Crasodov are glorious and interesting -and manage to bring something new to the table, in spite of their conservative imagery. Their psychology is definitely exceedingly interesting, making them great catalysts for certain types of stories.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no significant glitches apart from some minor formatting hiccups here and there. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ nice two-column full color standard, streamlined and developed further – and for the better. The artworks by Bob Greyvenstein, Christopher Kimball, Chris McFann and Rian Trost are not only original and beautiful – there also are A LOT of them to be found here, signifcantly more than the usual 2 pieces of great artwork the series sports – so production-value-wise, one step up! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Jason Nelson, Todd Stewart, Alistair Rigg, Jonathan H. Keith, Mike Welham – a lot of authors, a lot of creativity, and it shows – with the notable exception of the comparatively lame chaos beast, just about every creature herein is inspired, unique and fun, with azata and proteans receiving abilities that help unify them identity-wise, while still maintaining a racial cohesion, tenuous though that has to be for these chaotic critters. I’m not going to rant longer – this installment of Mythic Monsters is great and ranks among the best in the series- well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this awesome installment of mythic adversaries here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 202015
 

Vathak Hauntings: Red Rose Manor

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This supplement clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so what do we get?

 

Well, first of all, we get a short run-down of the background story of red rose manor – when a grove of dryads bit off more than they could chew, a rather nasty wizard cut down their trees and made them into the very wood that was used to construct red rose manor. If your PCs are wise, they’ll be doing leg-work before entering such a place – if they botch their gathering of information, they may hear a kind of wrong rumor, whereas exceeding the DC provides secret, additional information.

 

The haunts herein range from CR 6 to CR 8 and generally, they do one thing exceedingly right – each haunt tells a part of the story. You see, what I like about haunts, why I adore them so, can be summed up easily by the means in which they can enhance a story – unlike most traps and hazards, haunts, by their very design, are supposed to be means of indirect storytelling, miniture exposition dumps, if you will – and the pdf gets this right.

 

When a door whispers seductively to partake in wine, the instance tells a part of the story and ties in with a sequel haunt that is directly associated with the wine itself. When a miniature tree turns out to be the cut of legs of a dryad, planted and created into a kind of facsimile tree via the utmost care, one can taste the madness that consumed the man behind the tragedy. Chests and drawers made from pieces of dryads, with bodies contorting in the wood, doors with wooden knots that once were eyes, narcissism-inducing eternal fireplaces, rugs of woven dryad hair that reflect the despair they felt. The final haunt has a rather unpleasant, but not lethal effect as well – though one that actually managed to chill me: A dominate effect suggesting that the creatures ought to plant themselves – but with what further repercussions? Yes, slowly starving with feet embedded in the earth would be the obvious consequence, but still – I would have liked at least a suggestion here.

It should be noted that some of the haunts actually can be tricked.

 

The pdf also provides suggestions for 4 optional “encounters” – these can probably be likened to suggested set-ups for related encounters.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not perfect – I noticed a couple of grammar glitches and the like. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games’ beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has a gorgeous front cover artwork. The pdf comes with rudimentary bookmarks.

 

Were this a piece of fiction, I’d bash it to smithereens. No, seriously – this pdf is hard to review for one simple reason: Structurally, it is awesome. The haunts make ample use of interesting spells that thematically fit, admittedly to the point where I would have liked unique effects and modifications for the haunts itself.

 

The haunts themselves sport interesting imagery and this would be Kiel Howell’s triumphant strength – he *gets* indirect storytelling via haunts. And he can craft utterly disturbing vistas – seriously, I have read a lot of horror supplements and when such a humble pdf can still elicit a reaction from me, that’s when you realize that the imagery the respective haunts evoke is AWESOME.

 

The creative, imaginative potential, the one component that cannot be learned, is there. At the same time, though, the pdf has one massive issue – the prose simply isn’t that good. As awesome as the set-pieces of the haunts and their interaction are, the prose linking them feels clumsy at times and did detract from the awesome imagery in places – take this sentence from the set up: “Their souls are bound to the wood, forever reminded of their failure to protect their trees, their failure to trick and enslave the wizard Renald Houssman with fake love, and their failure to move on in death.” Sure, not bad, but far, far from the awesomeness of the concept “Here’s a door that has the friggin’ EYES of dryads, disguised as knots, set in the wood.” At the same time, the haunts and their concepts are glorious, but the set-ups do somewhat detract from them. The good news here is that writing more compelling prose can be learned and is a matter of experience and practice.

 

To sum it up -super concepts and glorious imagery are slightly bogged down by prose not 100% up to the imaginative potential herein. Slightly more defined and varied mechanical effects would have been nice to see as well. In the end, this is an inexpensive collection of cool, thematically linked haunts, which any DM worth their salt can craft into one chilling module. While not perfect, it made me look forward to future offerings in the product-line as well as excited to see how Kiel Howell’s writing improves – for his twisted mind definitely has a knack for conjuring up some chilling imagery. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get these haunts here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 202015
 

Tides of War – Mounted Charging Feats

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Flying Pincushion Games has regrouped and is back with a 6-page pdf, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

After a brief introduction, we are left with the premise of the pdf and the content – essentially, we have here feats for mounted characters that elect NOT to use a lance – which is pretty much the only truly efficient option as per the default rules, so let’s take a look at those feats!

 

-Bloody Axe: Deal +1d4 bleed damage when using an axe while using a mounted charge. Nice!

 

-Brutal Axe: BAB 10+ prereq sequel-feat, upgrades bleed damage to 3d4.

 

-Driving Hammer: Adds an AoO-less bull rush when using a hammer in a mounted charge and hitting the target. To my pleasant surprise, the feat gets interaction with e.g. mighty charge right.

 

-Dazing Hammer: BAB 10+ follow-up feat; adds +1 round daze to opponents hit by Driving Hammer; save DC scales with you BAB. Solid.

 

-Toppling Flail: Works pretty much like Driving Hammer, but for flails and aligned with the trip manuever instead.

 

-Staggering Flail: Like Dazing Hammer, but for flails and adds the staggered condition for 1 round one a failed save. Note how staggered/daze have different values as far as detrimental conditions go and that stagger + trip = something akin to daze, but slightly below it regarding action economy. This is VERY fine-grained balancing done right – the combined effects of maneuvers + feats even out perfectly.

 

-Sickening Blade: Sickens targets hit by a mounted charge executed with heavy blades for 1d4 rounds if the target fails a save that scales with your BAB.

 

-Nauseating Blade: BAB 10+ follow-up-feat; adds 1 round of nausea before the 1d4 sickened rounds.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to an elegant two-column full-color standard and the pdf actually sports some pieces of beautiful full color art. The pdf has bookmarks, but they are called “blank page” – not bad at this short size, though.

 

I’m so happy. For the first time after reading a Flying pincushion product, I can say “Get this!” – If you’re like me, you’ve always been annoyed at the fact that there are next to no options for non-lance-charges while mounted and this pdf delivers just that – with unpretentious, well-balanced, diverse feats that make mounted charge weapon selection something other than a non-choice. With this pdf, the choice matters and adds a tactical dimension to the fray. I have NOTHING to complain here – Frank Gori and Mark Nordheim did a great job and one that exhibits some very precise balancing within the feat-groups. This is one of the humble pdfs that really surprise me with their cool bits and pieces -get this for all those mounted warriors if you’re fed up with barbarians that attack with lances. I’d love more of these feats, perhaps signature tricks for specific weapons, not just weapon-groups in a sequel? Anyways, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval – congratulations!

 

You can get this collection of feats here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

May 202015
 

Compendium Arcanum Vol. 4: 3rd-level Spells

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This installment of the Compendium Arcanum-series clocks in at 114 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 110 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

So what is this series about? In a nutshell, the compendium arcanum-series takes the concept of 3.X’s Arcana Evolved for the option of heightening/diminishing spells and translates that to PFRPG. This means a spell can be cast as one level higher or as one level lower. The series covers all spells from the core-book, APG, UM and Ultimate Combat. If a class has no level lower (i.e. no cantrip slots), you can’t cast the diminished spell and the heightened effects require you to be able to cast the heightened spell level – obviously preventing classes from casting a heightened spell that would e.g. be 10th level for a full caster or 5th level, for a paladin, to give you two examples.

 

Now at this point in the series, I have already rambled long and hard about basic scaling mechanisms, so in case you’re not familiar with my other reviews of the series – the heightening/diminishing can work via various means, first of which would be a modification of the spell’s numerical values, which is usually referred to as numerical escalation. Secondly, one would find some spells with modified target/reach/durations in several spells, with some allowing for what amounts to effects akin to the (communal) spells. Another scaling mechanism modifies the casting duration, though that one is admittedly a rarer one – still, heightened absorbing touch receiving a duration of permanent is pretty much a completely different assumption. Beyond these, this series sports what is termed a merger, usually denoted by a specific icon and a special note – in instances like that, multiple spells have been merged into one, usually for conciseness’s sake to prevent redundancy between collated less/regular etc. versions. Other spells do not extend/diminish the spells in depth (i.e. does not in/decrease numerical values), but rather go into the breadth, providing additional options not possible with the original spell. It should also be noted, that this book covers 3rd level spells and as such, some spells that are second level for some classes (and thus were featured in the previous installment) will necessarily make a new appearance herein, only for different classes.

 

So, let’s see whether this installment of the series has inherited its direct predecessor’s at times off balancing also haunts this pdf or whether it represents a return to form. Reduced duration and granting all simple weapon proficiencies to anthropomorphic animals constitutes an interesting take in my book, for example. Now I know that you’ll be rather excited about the iconic spells, so let’s take a look at animate dead, shall we? For once, this and its lesser brethren have been merged and the lesser version now covers essentially that base. The heightened version treats variant zombies/skeletons as their regular HD now – which is a solid take in my book. Black tentacles slightly increase their general performance and now also render targets prone in their improved version, whereas blink’s diminished effects reduce the misses down to 20%/10% respectively – interesting and not much to complain about. Said spell’s heightened version now also allows for the reliable phasing through solid objects, which also renders it an interesting scaling in my book.

 

Now I have a pet-peeve with create food and water – I do NOT like the base spell, since it pretty much renders survival-style scenarios less challenging, but its heightened effects herein, which make the food last for 1 day/level, allow for the short-term stockpiling of resources, which, while not OP, can certainly be rather unpleasant and undermine the effects of the duality of famine and disease in a fantasy world – where before, one could use spells to alleviate one, now the option to short-term stockpile resources allows for the combat of this dual threat in a significantly easier way, provided enough clerics of sufficient level are at hand. not bad per se, just a pet peeve of mine you should be aware of. Now adding no-save damage for creatures damaged by sunlight to the daylight spell’s heightened effect feels a bit like it doesn’t really fit – a) the damage is not enough to make it a good option at level 4, and b), it is extremely disruptive to a very specific breed of foe – a “dismiss to deal x”-take would probably have been the more interesting option here.

 

AoE dimensional anchor as a heightened effect may be powerful, but also rather appropriate, but what about dispel magic? +/- 4 to the check, which is okay, I guess, but at 2nd level for the diminished version, still pretty strong. Now where the scaling of damage and types becomes pretty odd, is with e.g. force punch – its diminished effect still deals full damage, but does not push the target. Force punch deals force damage, d4 per caster level, up to a maximum of 10d4. Compare that with the cap of similar 2nd level spells. Notice something? Yeah, they cap earlier AND sport a weaker damage type. See, and that is an issue. Fireball’s 2nd level version caps out at 5d6 as well, yeah, but it still outperforms quite a few of the regular 2nd level spells by virtue of range and AoE, so there we have another issue. Conversely, a second save to avoid catching fire for the 4th level version is interesting, but I’m not sure whether it justifies the additional level. Thankfully, the game-changer haste’s heightened effects of +4 initiative are not that strong, but the diminished version? Range touch and only one creature still means haste for lower levels – probably one of the most powerful spells in the arsenal…no, this needs further nerfing.

 

On the more positive side – rendering helping hands incorporeal and allowing them to pass off messages per gestures etc. is a stroke of genius and well worth of two thumbs up for the author! Now I absolutely OBJECT to greater invisibility becoming available as a second level spell, even with a duration of concentration/max 5 rounds – regular invisibility is strong enough. Invisibility Purge’s heightened version even allows for the negation of non-magical, extraordinary invisibility, which is another thing I’m not comfortable with. Lightning bolt‘s scaling suffers from issues similar to fireball, though its heightened version calls for a FORT-save in addition (two different saves = higher fail probability for either!) to avoid becoming staggered for 1d4 rounds. Overkill much? Once again, scaling. On the plus-side, the rather powerful litany-spells featured herein receive pretty solid scaling. Magic Circle‘s denying their trapped creatures the option to test them via their SR is an interesting choice – not balance-wise necessarily problematic, but a significant change on how magic works, so DMs should contemplate the ramifications – it works differently for a lot of summoned beings, changing ever so slightly, but significantly the way outsiders ought to interact with mortals.

 

Neutralize Poison’s heightened effect also is such a game-changer – it can reverse the detrimental effects of poison encountered in the last hour, rendering explorations into inherently poisonous areas much more feasible – once again, not necessarily a bad choice, but one that changes some basic assumptions on the working of spells. Obscuring multiple objects is a pretty interesting idea for a heightened effect. Purging Finale‘s heightened version, on the other end, which allows for the removal of a condition in a significant area, feels over the top and like quite literally a spell that can, in one blast change the entire tide of a battle. Now more of a personal gripe, I don’t like remove disease’s heightened version, which also cures disease-caused ability point damage – rendering diseases even less effective/frightening than they already are…not a fan, but will work great for campaigns and groups with less gritty tastes than mine. Sepia Snake Sigils can now be attuned to specific creatures or creature-types, for once again a rather interesting array of options, while e.g. slow thankfully does not receive a significant upgrade in power….which brings me to another problem with the new heightened/diminished spells that came up in play – can diminished spell-versions be used to counterspell their antagonist spells, even if said spells are the regular/heightened versions? Could e.g. a diminished haste be used to counterspell a heightened slow?

 

By the way, remember me complaining about new effects not receiving the correct descriptor in a review of a previous installment? Well, e.g. Wall of Fire‘s heightened version gains the [light]-descriptor and can cause temporary blindness to creatures passing through it, provided they fail a save. Water Breathing’s heightened version can either be considered awesome or terrible, depending on your taste – the version renders immune to inhaled toxins à la cloudkill et al. and even allow you to breathe in a vacuum, thus surpassing even the hex that usually is required to deal with air-borne toxins. This is a HUGE game-changer that changes the way magical warfare AND exploration work, so once again – be careful!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is pretty solid on a formal level – on a balance-level, some spells imho would have benefitted from closer scrutiny. Layout adheres to the easy-to-read, well-presented 2-column standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The added icons for heightened and diminished versions make reading the pdf easier – kudos. Artwork is a mix of stock-art and symbolic representations – not beautiful, but functional. The pdf comes bookmarked for your convenience – one for each spell! Kudos! The pdf also comes in two versions, with one sporting extensive hyperlinks to d20pfsrd.com’s shop and the other being free of them, should you prefer it that way.

 

Timothy Wallace’s 3rd level spells can be considered a significant step forward from the previous installment – first of all, there are less formal glitches, less all-out issues. That being said, yes, some spells herein are in my opinion quite frankly overpowered and could have benefited from a closer scrutiny/balancing. These, however, are significantly less numerous than those in the 2nd level installment. 3rd level is generally considered the first true game-changer level for spellcasters and this is represented herein – in a way that completely differs from what I would have expected.

 

In one sentence – all the little wheels and screws turned in this pdf change radically how a magical world works. The integral changes in breadth of the spells can have huge ramifications for how magical societies work – binding outsiders, for example, has become significantly easier, making summoner-cultures more feasible.

 

Conversely, these spells make spacefaring ridiculously easy and possible, they render explorations into poisonous areas easier and radically change how assassins can operate – poisons and diseases got hard hits with the nerf-bat. In one sentence: The spells herein support a significantly more high-fantasy playstyle, regardless of the additional power for all spellcasters. Gritty worlds can see their very basic premises unraveled by the changes, so DMs-beware! That being said, neither counterspelling of opposing spells, nor the power-gain induced by the added flexibility, nor how spell-like abilities work in this system are addressed – but that is probably old news to you by now. Is the system bad per se? No, it’s not. It’s a labor of love in the truest sense and it shows – it may actually be just what you wanted.

 

But it does sport issues, it can cause problems and it most definitely is not for everyone. All in all, one step in the right direction – for high-fantasy groups (or DMs looking for a way to make spontaneous casters more flexible – just make these available for them only), this may very well be pretty awesome. Still, the problems cannot be denied, hence my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars, +0.5 stars for high fantasy campaigns that see no problem with the issues I mentioned – a quintessential mixed bag.

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.

May 192015
 

Legendary Villains: Dark Druids

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This installment of the Legendary villains series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Okay, so first of all, the pdf takes the concept of “Shade of the Woodlands” and expands on it, essentially providing a kind of thematic continuation and exploration of the more sinister concepts associated with the umbrae tokens provided as part of this feat. But before we dive into the crunch component, the pdf provides guidance in a rather unique and helpful way – it guides DMs regarding the implementation of such a token on a conceptual level – how does it interact with Knowledge (religion), for example? What do they look like? Some pretty evocative imagery is quoted here and the token itself is linked to the Umbral Wood – think about this place as something akin to perhaps the fey’s First World blending with the Plane of Shadows, a primordial, savage echo…or something different altogether. The pdf provides advice on integrating this cool concept into your game before delving into the things you may reflect on regarding druids as villains – the motivations provided should definitely provide for interesting ideological rationales.

 

First up regarding the crunch would be the Darkwolf druid archetype – ad if you can’t tell by the name, the darkwolf can be considered a kind of pseudo-lycanthrope, complete with silver allergy and high-level werewolf-summoning. Unseelie Ovates receive modified proficiency and skill-lists. They can spontaneously convert spells into fey allure spells – or at least, that’s what the pdf states. Only problem being – there is, at least to my knowledge, so such spell. I assume, the pdf instead was referring to the Unseelie Arts, which provide modifications of the spell-list. These guys can also assume faerie forms via the new spells provided within this pdf.

 

The next array of components would be the aforementioned feat-tree based on umbrae-tokens – and these feats are both exceedingly awesome in concept (and their fluffy descriptions), but definitely should not find their way into player hands – the very first one provides free energy admixture (no level-increase, no need for preparation in advance AND it extends to abilities, though energy-specific additional effects may not be present any more), allows for wildshape into creatures of the fire subtype and allows for the casting of sympathetic wounds in place of 2nd level spells. Now yes, the feat also decreases your HP by one HD and the feat nets you light blindness and modifies the umbrae-token’s auras, but still – I don’t have to tell you that this is the legendary VILLAINS-series, right? Seriously, as awesome as the feats herein are, as glorious and evocative as they develop the concepts, be very, very weary of ever letting them even close to your greedy player’s hands… I know my players would wreck havoc with these. On a formal level, I do think that the reduction of HP should specifically specify that HD-dependant benefits are not modified by the reduction, but that is probably me being OCD.

 

Not all feats herein are themed around the awesome umbrae-tokens: What about a stronger, nigh-uncontrollable animal companion with rabies? Yup. Okay, this once again is not an option I’d necessarily let into player hands, but it is damn cool! Speaking of which – what about delivering touch spells at range in dim illumination and below? Yes, complete with disturbing mask imagery. Or what about a feat that allows you to expend a swift action to execute sneak attacks as a ninja of your class level -4 – no, no limit, but a prohibition of never ever talking to a those not of the faith.

 

The pdf also sports an assortment of new spells, with greasy, stealth-crippling algae or green slime or oozes being summonable via a very flexible spell or spells that conjure forth a spear of bloody power that drinks from your blood, but also provides significant benefits. Creating fey crossroads or a defensive lightning shield also is possible, as would be the option to incite grass to grow to provide more terrain control. Wyvern’s Watch would be an interesting variant of mage’s faithful hound, as another example.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not as excellent as in most Legendary Games-products – I noticed a couple of typo-level glitches. Layout adheres to legendary Games’ beautiful two-column full-color standard as a established in Kingmaker-plug-ins. The pdf comes with full bookmarks for your convenience and the pdf does sport some gorgeous artworks in full color – original pieces, btw., though some may be familiar to fans of Legendary Games from other publications.

 

Jason Nelson and Clinton J. Boomer deliver herein -concept-wise, in spades. I’m a big fan of Clinton boomer’s writing (Read his “The Hole Behind Midnight” if you considered the last couple of Dresden Files to be toothless!) and his high-concept approach to design and focus on narratives well reflects on this villainous toolbox. Let me make this abundantly clear: I adore the utterly broken, overpowered feats that capitalize on the umbrae-tokens – the whole concept is so incredibly awesome, it is a narrative goldmine. Just about every feat in this category made me come up with at least one VERY nasty build. Now, and this should be emphasized, they are not perfect – could one for example kill oneself with the HP-reduction of these feats? Know what? I don’t care. Still, it should be emphasized that this is the VILLAINS line.

 

These options do NOT belong into player hands – which brings me to the somewhat schizoid feeling of this pdf: On one hand, the feats almost unanimously revel in their high concepts and obviously do not care about being balanced or the like – they are the nasty tools for which your PCs will LOATHE the villains. On the other, the spells and archetypes feel, pardon the pun, tame in comparison – to the point where I’d allow them in e.g. Way of the Wicked and similar campaigns. So yes, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling of these two halves not really jelling well with one another – in the end, I wasn’t perfectly sure whether to hand this to PCs on the evil spectrum or not.

 

Conversely, the content that does not directly tie in with the concept of umbral wood and umbrae tokens did feel like it was a different book to me – like two books had been smashed together. Now, don’t get wrong – this is not a bad toolbox by any means, but I do wish the awesome concepts had been tied more consequently together – what about token-exclusive spells, for example? Now yes, none of the components of this book are bad, but, ironically for a book on druids, this feels somewhat inorganic in its composition.

 

The result is a book that does provide some content with Jason Nelson’s trademark crunch-mastery and some content with Clinton Boomer’s balls-to-the-wall awesome concepts and high-end, high-concept crunch that left me craving more of both – I found myself wishing, that the high-concept content had received some balancing or at least advice for DMs. At the same time, I felt myself craving the objectively more balanced crunch to tie in better with the ridiculously awesome concepts. In short – I wished this pdf had a better internal synergy. Do I recommend this? For DMs, the intended audience, the answer is a resounding “Yes”, but one tinged with a fragment of hesitation. My final verdict for this book will clock in at 4 stars – just don’t let this fall into your player’s clutches unless you’re going for a ridiculously high-powered evil game.

 

You can get these dastardly druids here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

May 192015
 

Warrior Prestige Archetypes: Mammoth Lord & Mammoth Rider

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This pdf of the Warrior Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction (explaining the base concept of the series), 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

What are Prestige Archetypes? Well, I reviewed the whole first series, so here’s the tl;dr-version: They are prestige classes blended with one (or more) base-class(es) to result in a new, 20-level-class – much like you had modified the base class with an archetype. Get it? Yeah, not a hard concept to grasp, is it? Now personally, I use Prestige Classes with an emphasis on the PRESTIGE-component, archetypes more like a career path, but this differs wildly from how PrCs are handled in most cases. Hence, e.g. the PA: Assassin from the first subscription was pretty much a godsend for my party. But can this one stand up to or surpass its first series?

 

So this time around we get double the dose of Prestige Archetypes, so let’s take a look! Both mammoth lord and mammoth rider feature d10 as HD, full BAB-progression and good fort-saves. However, the differences still become readily apparent from the get-go: The mammoth lord uses the cavalier as chassis, the mammoth rider instead utilizes the ranger, which results in 4+Int skills per level and 6+Int skills per level, with the latter obviously also receiving good ref-saves. They also sport the same proficiencies with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armor and shields minus tower shields. As a minor nitpick that will not influence the final verdict – somewhat of a pity to see no support/upgrade of the primitive weapon group.

 

But let’s start with the mammoth lord: At 1st and 6th level, we may choose from a short list of survival-themed bonus feats and obviously, 1st level challenge (usable +1/day every 3 levels). The steed, the signature creature of the PrC, gets full proper synergy with other classes and as a plus, it does cover a slightly enhanced list, also sporting the mawgriff among the eligible mounts. On the nitpicky side, the ability as such does not specify explicitly that this class feature functions as animal companion, though, admittedly, the pdf makes the intent as abundantly clear as possible without explicitly stating.

 

Mammoth lords also receive wild empathy and may use it to demoralize animals and magical beasts. Mammoth lords add Str-mod to said checks and also add this to the DC required to intimidate them. I do btw. enjoy the decision to move the “Mistrust of Magic” ability down to 3rd level. Expert trainer is gained at 4th level and combined might, what amounts to the PRC’s signature combat trick, has been moved down to 5th level. 8th level sees the size-increase of the steed to huge size, which, on a nitpicky side, should mention that it’s Huge (long), not Huge (tall) – but then again, this is me being OCD about this kind of stuff and the text does specify without chance of being mistaken reach et al., the intent is clear, though I still would have liked the direct specification, especially since higher levels sport a further reach-upgrade. Higher levels provide fast mount/dismount-options and the pulverizing assault ability thankfully remains in the higher levels. The capstone of the PrC also features as the PA-capstone and scaling over the levels is pretty organically dispersed – here, this is definitely what should be considered the most impressive component regarding balancing.

 

The Mammoth Rider, as the ranger-based build, gets full favored enemy progression and begins play with track and the demoralize-upgraded aforementioned wild empathy. Unsurprisingly, 2nd level and every 4 thereafter see combat style progression, including e.g. finesse and natural weapons styles and the survivor-themed bonus feat-list has been moved to 3rd and 7th level. Mount-size-increase to huge is also at 8th level here and at the same level, we get swift tracking. On level later, mistrust of magic is gained and colossus hunter, an ability the mammoth lord does not get, is gained, increasing its potency at 16th level – combined with favored enemy, that can net some solid bonuses! Now while 11th level nets quarry, combined might is relegated to 17th level for the mammoth rider, with the high-level abilities having a similar dispersal as the mammoth lord’s.

 

The favored class options provided for base races and Ith’n Ya’roo are solid in both instances – where those of the mammoth lord focus on steed improvement, the mammoth rider’s FCO focus well on the more skill monkey-ish style of the class. We get sample NPC-builds for both classes at level 1, 5, 10 and 15 and the mammoth lord gets a new magical lance. As a cool courtesy, we thankfully also receive full stats for the respective mounts.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and sans art apart from the cover. On the formal level, I know this is probably going to elicit some groans, but I noticed that the text does once switch between declaring the characters as male and female, using “She” and “his” in the same sentence, when the pdf otherwise remains concise regarding the convention of using the iconic’s gender and sticking to it. No, this is not a bad glitch.

 

Carl Cramér is slowly but surely hitting his stride – the base mammoth lord PrC is abyssmal in my opinion – cool in concept, but unfocused and bland in its execution. These two WPA, in contrast, not only provide a tighter focus for each build, they also put player agenda and choices much higher on the list than the base PrC did. And yes, I really, really like this installment for it. The cavalier-based build in particular is JUST what the doctor ordered when you want a way to mechanically represent the huge-creature-rider that smashes with high velocity through the ranks of his foes. – combined strength, cavalier charges and challenge combine to deliver truly devastating offensive capacities. What’s also pretty impressive about these two WPAs would be the fact that they play rather radically different – which is interesting, considering how much overlap between them exists.

So yes, this is one of the good installments in the series – one bordering on the great even – but at the same time, I sincerely wished there were none of minor ambiguities, which, while not rendering the rules opaque, still exist. If you need an analogue, imagine you were a teacher and read this as a great assignment with a bunch of minor punctuation glitches and the like (no, in this way the pdf is pretty fine!) – though you love it and consider it a task well done, you can’t rate is as highly as you’d want to. This is how I feel here – I enjoy this installment and it’s only the accumulation of minor hiccups that slightly tarnish this – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.

 

You can get this cool installment of the series here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Want the whole subscription? You can get it here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!
Endzeitgeist out.

May 192015
 

Mini-Dungeons: The Penetentieyrie

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This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map (alas, sans player-friendly version) and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com’s shop and thus, absent from the pdf.

 

Since this product line’s goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

 

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

 

Still here?

All right!

 

Okay, beyond the pun-tastic title, this one is interesting – draw a rough image of the map – it should look like an Aztec glyph. The trail leads the PCs to a strange complex, shielded from dimensional intrusion and sporting a hard-to-reach locale -an hermitage, if you will. Within the complex, not only do strange wonders await – there is also a vrock. Yeah, a demon. Only, said demon actually is on the path of redemption! Yes, this may not necessarily be a combat encounter, but rather a module that could help bring unprecedented salvation to a being of pure evil, perhaps serving as a great launching point for PCs endeavoring to redeem an antipaladin or similar foes/morally bankrupt characters. Have I mentioned the option for flight-training and some rather…let’s say, unique, properties?

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players.

 

Okay, beyond being a mini-dungeon, this one is an AWESOME, unique set-piece – with unique ways for avian/flight training and perhaps one of the most far-out potential mentors I’ve seen in a while, Stephen Yeardley’s mini-dungeon delivers more oomph and unique tricks than what one would deem possible within such a restrictive format. Truly impressive and well-worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool little set-piece here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 192015
 

Brick-by-Brick: Doors

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This installment of Moebius Adventures’ Brick-by-Brick-series is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

The introduction makes pretty much clear from the get-go what this pdf provides – a detailed door-generator – or rather a door-related storytelling tool! The first d10-table provides 10 entries for the purpose of a door, with sample examples being provided – and yes, the keep in/out-dichotomy is covered. The placement of a door can be determined via a d4, while a d8 determines the shape of a door, the presence of a keyhole, etc.

 

Two tables, each covering d8, cover the profession of the maker and the reason that led to the door’s creation. The construction type (e.g. single pane/bricked up) can be determined via a d6, whereas a total of 20 entries covers materials – including exotic ones like diamond or basalt.

 

Opening doors, from sliding to screwing them open (!!!), automation styles and 4 states of lock-down can also be quickly determined. 8 conditions, 6 states and 6 ages for the respective door allow for more details and yes, for more modifications.

 

There also are 3 pages of sample doors, again, much like each page, with inspiring suggestions, to be found here. Now for all people not that versed with the English tongue (or the peculiarities of door), the final page sports a great b/w-artwork, with arrows pointing towards e.g. lintel, lock rails etc. – teachers of English could conceivably scavenge the basic layout here for vocabulary classes, so this appendix itself may be worth the file for you – this is one handout that just asks to be adapted. (Note: I’d suggest getting your own picture of a door etc. to avoid legal issues, but still – love this inclusion!)

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read, printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard. The pdf’s artwork of a door is superb. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Brain Fitzpatrick delivers an inexpensive DM-brainstorm-enhancer here – while the level of detail potentially provided by this supplement is by no means required in most settings, the sheer fact of the matter is that this generator works well at getting the creative juices flowing. This is NOT a dressing-generator, it is a pdf designed to get the creative juices flowing. Indeed, one use of this pdf made me come up with an interesting adventure idea/expansion to a concept I’ve been working on, all via the generation of a door. Add to that the crisp and concise presentation and I am left with no valid complaints – well worth the low asking price! Have I mentioned that this comes with a very handy 1-page extra-pdf, a step-by-step cheat-sheet? Yeah! Final verdict? A well-deserved 5 stars.

 

You can get this interesting brainstorm-enhancer here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

May 192015
 

Mythic Maps: River Village

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This Map-pack not only is pay-what you want, it comes in a zip-file that sports two folders: One containing high-res jpegs, one that sports pdfs.

 

Let’s start with the jpegs – these come with full-color and b/w-versions – both come in two versions: One sports labels that denote which buildings are which, whereas the others come without them for maximum immersion. (Nice if you’re like me and HATE handing out maps with numbers detailing the hotspots…

 

The pdfs clock in at 23 pages each – 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, leaving a total of 20 pages for the maps. The pdf first provides aforementioned maps that also are included as high-res jpegs – so if you require an overview of the village, these would be what you want. Thereafter, we get 4 blown-up versions of the map – each iteration is provided in a version, wherein the map spreads across a total of 4 pages, thus allowing you to print out a big map. If you’re like me a European, you will be very much in luck, for one pdf provides the maps in letterpack format, whereas the second delivers the maps optimized for the A4-format.

 

What about the town – well, we get essentially a village of the most idyllic type, with a single (mage’s) tower a bit off to the south and a small bridge crossing the meandering river. North of said small bridge, a mill and a few buildings loom, while the sparse trees show that this place probably lies in pretty civilized fields.

 

Conclusion:

Tad Davis delivers a professionally-made, beautiful map-pack of a nice, picturesque village that could well be the starting point of a new campaign – as far as maps are concerned, this is a neat job and the drawing style is fine. While I caught myself wishing there was a version with a grid further blown up for your perusal with miniatures, at any price you’re willing to pay, this is indeed a great offering of a professional, nice map.

 

My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this nice map for any price you want here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

May 182015
 

Dire, Devilish Deeds II: Arcineum Devaneas II

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The second part of the “Dire, Devilish Deeds”-saga clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 45 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Now, for the purposes of this review, I do assume that you have read my review of the first Arcineum Devaneas module, so no, I’m not going to repeat the basic premise etc. and instead jump right into the action, okay? Great!

Now the following obviously sports SPOILERS. As such, I’d advise potential players to jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, still here? Only DMs left?

Great! We left the PCs while they were still exploring the druidess’s gauntlet and thus, the next puzzle and next challenge loom: This time around, the handout-supported puzzle provides tiles or cards with pips – these cards need to be arranged in specific patterns, so e.g. only 4 pips a card are visible. 2 more such challenges are provided and once again, a DM’s cheat-sheet helps here. Each task mastered provides increasingly potent rewards. The next combat challenge transforms the PCs into dire lions and lets them face off versus bearded devils.

 

The next puzzle is one of my favorites – it provides 4 tiles that represent sections of a quarry pit, with pieces of metal gleaming from the soil. A legend provides the intriguing backdrop of this puzzle and the task is to arrange the 4 tiles in a way that the red marks on the tiles do not show up on the same horizontal, vertical or diagnoal lines – once again, a visual puzzle and an interesting one. The combat challenge pits the PCs in the shape of xorns versus metal-stealing chain devils for an interesting combat challenge.

 

Okay, the next puzzle is awesome – we get an array of summoning symbols, which should be created with one, uninterrupted line. The player’s task, then, would be to determine which of the symbols do NOT work like this – 12 symbols, only a few that can be properly drawn in one stroke. And yes, this IS more difficult than it sounds! Again, a damn interesting puzzle and like all herein, one that comes with a convenient DM-cheat-sheet for the solutions as well as a visual representation to be used as handout. The next test pits the PCs as invisible stalkers against the power of a bone devil -aka, the battle of constant misses. With at-will invisibility, this combat is pretty nasty and will take a bit…just as a warning.

 

The next puzzle is not one to have the PCs dillydally – a piece of flotsam sports two spirals…or at least, that’s how it looks. Can they determine only with their eyes which is a spiral and which isn’t? Sounds easy, right? Look at it and don’t use a pencil and it gets harder, believe me…nice optical trick, though not my favorite puzzle. After the battle of wispy misses, the next combat will pit the PCs in the form of tojanidas versus a fiendish giant squid.

 

Then, it is time for the final puzzle – a massive word-tile puzzle – each of the pieces sports two letters and is color-coded for the convenience of the players; making the puzzle harder can simply be achieved by making the tiles b/w. The puzzle itself is pretty much not that difficult, but the set-up here proved to be a bit opaque for me; the solutions, at least for my part, did not help me “get” the rules of this puzzle and it took me some time to determine how this puzzle was supposed to work. The combat thereafter is a nasty trick battle of elder earth elemental-PCs versus barbed devils and it yields the final wooden letter that makes up the final puzzle – each encounter yielded a letter, all together can be used to create a pass phrase to get the PCs out of the gauntlet. The final sections are devoted to replenishment of resources, rest and the significant and well-earned rewards for completing this daunting gauntlet…now the second awaits!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard. The full-color artwork is neat indeed and the map of the gauntlet is also provided as a player-friendly version. The puzzles and solutions come in handy full-color and can easily be printed out.

 

The second section of Stephen Yeardley’s Arcineum Devaneas’-gauntlet is significantly harder than the first – mostly because it provides uncommon puzzles that do not rely on logic, but more so on intuition and visual thinking, with especially the penultimate riddle being slightly too opaque in its rules for my tastes. That being said, I consider the other riddles to be intriguing enough to offset that and yes, the tradition of puzzle-like combats is very much maintained. Easy scaling for group-sizes etc. has also been provided and overall, I enjoyed running this module just as much as the first part – which is no wonder: Part I and II HAVE to be run back to back, unless you’re only out for encounter-scavenging. running half the gauntlet makes no sense, so either get both “Arcineum”-files or none. (Arcineum Devaneas covers the druid gauntlet, Devaneum Arcineas covers the sorceror gauntlet.)

 

That being said, I wholeheartedly encourage you to get these adventures – why? Because when I started playing roleplaying games, the assumption was that we, the target audience, are intelligent folks, that we play, yes, but heck, while we do, we use our faculties. We train our imagination. It is my firm conviction that my papers, my works, my thesis – everything really, has benefited from the honed ability to think outside the box, to adapt to uncommon circumstances, to think in creative and unconventional ways. I’ll never forget the stunned look on my teacher’s face when I was capable of defining necromancy versus thaumaturgy in 5th grade or the time when I wrote the correct spelling of “Thoth” in the phonetic alphabet. Thing is, we seem to somehow neglect our brains in quite a few modules out there – sure, combat is exciting and all, a big puzzle-box with many variables, but there is a reason for the continued popularity of complex investigations.

We’re smart people. We like it when our minds are stimulated. Sure, brainless monster-bashing is fun…but a puzzle once in a while goes a long way to keep monotony at bay. Combined with the utterly unique premise, this saga of modules does just that – the combats are problem-solving exercises, the puzzles are diverse and deviate from the more common logic-puzzles (which I adore)- what’s not to like? This series is a breath of fresh air that definitely should be rewarded for all the chances it takes and for it not only having one unique component, but for being unique all around. This is one impressive first half of the Dire, Devilish Deeds-saga and I’m looking forward to seeing the second gauntlet! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of the minor rough edges here and there.

 

You can check out this innovative module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.