…This week, my allergies kicked me harder than they have in 2 years, still feeling horrible. Apologies if the following days I’m slower regarding replies etc.
I’ll try to maintain an output and have some backlog files to publish. 🙂
…This week, my allergies kicked me harder than they have in 2 years, still feeling horrible. Apologies if the following days I’m slower regarding replies etc.
I’ll try to maintain an output and have some backlog files to publish. 🙂
This installment of the “In the Company of…”-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!*
So, we begin this pdf, in the tradition of Rite Publishing, with an expertly-written piece of in-character prose: “Glub.” The sheer brilliance of this reduction of the conditio pituitae in a manner of linguistic atomization should be considered the ultimate piece of flavor – nowhere else has the sheer courage to express the fundamental truth of an existence been so brilliantly crafted in such a concise way. When the further physical descriptions and society/religious stances of gelatinous cubes are elaborated upon in a repetition of said sequence of letters, duplicated and then, disintegrated beyond guttural sounds, one cannot help but notice the very limitations our own fragile language imposes on communication, rendering the feeble attempts to convey an existence’s experiences moot. Within the absolute reduction executed here, truth of cosmic proportions can be found – up to the cutting off of humanoid screams, for, in those sounds, life lies and the death awaiting at the end, beyond the veil, ultimately comes for us all, while the ooze’s eternal truth remains, transcending the bounds of mortality and subjectivity, a zen of slime, a slimy nirvana of the ooze is all that remains.
I hesitate to descend back into the nit and grit, the profane simplicity of language, but for the purpose of providing a guidance for all of us unenlightened accumulations of cells, I will…thus, the conventionalizing racial stats provided would be +4 Con, -2 Int, Wis and Cha – obviously a nod towards the mental capacities ultimately ending up as detriments to one’s own enlightenment and the eternal perpetuation of one’s genetic make-up. The same can obviously be said about fast movement – 15 ft and a slow, but steady movement towards one’s foes is more than sufficient, since a undue hastening can be considered ultimately an acceleration BEYOND the ability to grasp the intricacies of the moment, of the fleeting “now” that is eternally transformed into the past. Since sight and similar senses are the purview of lesser creatures, blindsight is not a surprise here, either – the senses, ultimately, do convey an individual Rorschach-test of reality, after all. The perfection of a cube’s essential form, as handed down by philosophers older and wiser than I can ever hope to be, obviously allows them to literally carry us feebly humanoids within their very frames, though obviously, mortals may be endangered by the stripping of primitive components of their physiology – like skin. Being beyond classes, these paragons of evolution and form obviously cannot advance in classes beneath their power and yes, they are transparent, for there is nothing in substance and substance in nothing.
The blasphemous notion of a limited existence and the weight of these creatures has been provided alongside obvious benefits to be gained from following the paragon path to transcendence. Being beyond the concern of paltry saves, gelatinous cubes thus do not progress much in this category. At 3/4 BAB-progression, d8 and 2+Int skills per level, there is not much to be done except reducing all those distracting choices to a minimum. At the same time, these glorious zen-masters of enlightenment may deem to adopt an adventuring ally among the less blessed races and at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the cube may select special ooze abilities, which include BAB-based attacks that negate incoming assaults (all is nothing, nothing is all, remember!), compress forms (size is an illusion) or corrode things (all is vain!) – ultimately, there is a lot of wisdom and different truths to be unearthed here. Now once your existential anxiety reaches its peak, around 5th level, you’ll be happy to know that the cube’s anesthetically potent properties may literally take your pain away and free you from the chores of all those annoying choices – potentially permanently. Of course, if you get past this stage, you’ll experience growth alongside your cube’s literal ascendancy to a more significant bodily representation – usually around 7th and 15th level.
Particularly adept cubes may elect to choose one of 3 unique feats to help the few mortals beyond their grasp see the truth they represent more clearly.
Editing and formatting bespeak the superiority of the cubical masters. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard -and each page is rendered as a square, the basis of a cube! If you take the content-bearing pages, you can make a full cube – + an extra page, representing your task, nay, calling, to complete what these pages set up right before you. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.
Wendall Roy’s gelatinous Cubes are a milestone for humanity – beyond the game, this pdf contains literally all essential truths of mankind – all our history and striving and promise, condensed to a few pages – what a brilliant pdf! Have I mentioned the low donation required to partake in this glory cosmic of less than 2 bucks? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.*
*This is an April’s Fool-product and it’s hilarious. My review reflects this and I sincerely hope my little exegesis made you smile. Furthermore, while the tone of my review may be humorous, the verdict indeed describes what I think about this funny, nice book. While not a good option for a PC, it makes for compelling NPCs and remains an excellent offer at a low price.
This installment of Rogue Genius Games series depicting taverns clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look…
…or rather, let me go on a slight tangent: We all know the place, or at least, anyone who has lived in a town of a certain size does: There always is this one bar that, by any rights, should no longer exist. You always see the same failed existences shamble in and out of it and it exudes a palpable aura of desperation, sadness and tears. And if you’re like me, sooner or later when all other bars are closed, you find yourself stumbling into the place, only to regret it almost immediately.
That is, unsurprisingly, the type of place Rock bottom is – a tavern where those down on their luck, the lost souls, meet. This notion of decrepitude is further enhanced by several factors – the read-aloud text and details enhance just this type of atmosphere; the barkeep – a war-veteran turned beggar walled off two alley-entries and thus, Rock Bottom was born. While since its inception, the roof has been added and slightly improved, Rock Bottom is still a place where the lowest of the low meet and the prices for the watered beer and soup/stew with tainted meat reflect that, never reaching farther than 6 cp. The war-veteran barkeep and his mentally-challenged half-elven employee are full statted, as is a typical patron.
Beyond the less than scrupulous lowlife and small-time criminals, some of which are statted, some patrons actually are agents in disguise, keeping a track on the desperate and destitute and if the set-up does not immediately make you come up with some ideas, you’ll be happy to know that quite a few adventure hooks are provided.
The establishment does come with a solid, functional map in color, though I wished we got a player-friendly version sans secret door showing on the map.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RGG’s printer-friendly two-column full color standard. The pdf has no artwork, but needs none and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography, as mentioned, is okay for the low price.
Spike Y Jones is not only a capable editor, this pdf also shows once again his prowess as an author – Rock Bottom is the incarnation of a classic trope and develops it to its logical extreme – if you’re playing a rags to riches story, this is where to begin. If the PCs are victims of a systematic campaign of slandering and deconstruction, this is the low point. Rock bottom is a window into what it means to be truly poor in a world where the average PC walks around with magic items of the worth of a whole life’s worth of work for a farmer or lowly worker, a look at a facet of fantasy that is not often explored. The wayside reads as a compelling supplement and were it not for the lack of a player-friendly map, it would be truly stellar. As provided, it remains a very good supplement and receives 5 stars, though I omit my seal of approval.
This compilation of the Larger than Life-series (plus new pieces) clocks in at 78 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 74 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
Ah, the blessings of me being swamped in reviews. A couple of small installments are released and once I could get around to them, the big book’s already out there…yeah, I know. I’d love to be faster.
That aside, what we get within the pages of this book is not a simple monster book themed around giants – instead, this book should be considered a kind of combination of ecology + toolkit -and personally, I very much enjoy this approach. Why? Well, at this point, you’ve probably heard me lament the decline of fluff text and the inspiration it brings in various monster-supplements, so yes, this type of book is right up my alley. Furthermore, as someone who likes to tinker with monsters to make them more lethal, any kind of toolkit is definitely appreciated, so let’s break down the giants as presented herein – after all, they probably should differ from what was depicted in Paizo’s Giants Revisited.
This being a kind of ecology toolbox-combination, the respective chapters doe follow a certain structure – we begin each of the entries with a general run-down of motivations, society structure, attitude towards the most common of races. These entries actually go into the details of the respective societies, also providing some instances of usual customs and similar pieces of information that render the entries infinitely more compelling for the GM, and best of all, more inspiring. So yes, kudos for going this route – as far as I’m concerned, I vastly prefer such a detailed look at a given culture. That being said, the entries do not limit themselves to such information – GMs can also look forward to an array of racial feats specifically designed for the respective giants. Beyond those, equipment, variants and spells as well as sample statblocks provide ample crunch fodder for the discerning GM.
Now it should be noted that the respective feats usually actually are racial feats – i.e. they require the creature to be of the respective race, so there is not much chance of actually abusing the feats presented herein. I do welcome this decision due to two facts: One, if a GM truly wants to, he can still flaunt the prerequisite and two, this means that the respective giant types actually utilize different tactics. Finally, beyond the sample builds, adventure seeds can also be found herein. So that’s the structure presented in the respective entries. That out of the way, let us dive into the matter at hand and begin:
The first type of giant depicted would be the Thursir, who also are the most numerous and least pleasant giants as far as humanoids are concerned – they are characterized by not only their predilection for crafting, a certain misogyny and a huge appetite. While not depicted as compulsory cannibals, once tasting the texture of humanoid flesh may render them degenerate and even more frightening. With females often reduced to the traditional roles or that of spellcasters, it should come as no surprise that there are actually feats that allow a cunning thursir lady to be the power behind the throne via suggestion et al. or cut down foes to size with reduce/enlarge person. Thursir may apply magic weapon to weapons they crafted themselves and have some forge-themed tricks, which range from interesting to a bit bland: Fire resistance 10, for example, may be nice, but I have seen that one quite often before. At the same time, synergy with Northland’s rune magic can be considered rather interesting. On the other hand, would you as a GM waste a precious feat-slot for +1 to atk and damage versus dwarves? I don’t care how thematically appropriate anti-X-feats are, their benefit should imho be on par with a feat-investment. So no, not all of the custom-options here are worth taking, though e.g. +10 rounds of rage when starved is NASTY – and yes, it caveats that you usually can’t rage when fatigued. Nice catch! The equipment section is inspired – from field forges and barbed armors to hammers that allow the thursir to bull rush foes, the options are nice. A new special quality and nice magic complements the section.
Hill Giants are depicted in this book in a manner that somewhat deviates slightly from the base concept -while the general stupidity and short-sightedness can still be found within this interpretation of the giant type, they can more be likened to bullies that treat the divine as petulant children would treat their parents. Strangely, they also show a taste for runic magic and while the overall concept may not sound too groundbreaking, the combination of the themes evoked actually makes them frightening in their implications: If big, nasty bullies can destroy you by sheer thoughtlessness, they may be harbingers of things even worse than their own predations. The feats provided here allow the hill giants to blind/deafen foes with attacks, substitute Intimidate for Handle Animal or gain your Int-SCORE to resist attempts to reason with you alongside some general rock catching/squashing-enhancing feats. With liquid bravado, dung boulders and wax to prevent them from succumbing to language-dependent magic, the supplemental material does support the surprisingly frightening concept of this kind of giant. Magical bags of rocks and spells to assess settlements and whether they’re ripe for plunder further make these primitive, lazy bullies a threat to be reckoned with.
Stone Giants have had perhaps one of the most significant re-designs in pathfinder and for a good reason: The old iterations have not been particularly interesting and, in fact, I will always fondly remember RotRL #4 for being the first module wherein I considered stone giants interesting foils. Now the ecology of this book provides not a truly new stance on the concept itself, but rather in the detail – in a perfect example *why* I consider more extensive monster ecologies so vital, stone giant society is depicted as having some almost zen-like quest for truth being part of their decision making: It would not be uncommon for one of these long-lived giants to walk around and ask a multitude of beings the same question, only to return weeks later and draw conclusions after careful deliberation – while this sounds like a small component, it inspired me actually to a large extent, so kudos for that! Supplemental material-wise, we obviously get the stone-related options you’d expect – from better durability and stealth to even getting hardness (!!!), the options are thematically concise and thankfully limited to adversaries. With demoralizing drums and clarity-enhancing moss, the alchemical items also work well regarding the conjunction of strange themes unified in this giant race. Have I mentioned the new ioun stones of the magical stone sphere?
Now as for the Frost Giants, there probably is no giant type less in need of an awesome additional fluff, right? At least as far as I’m concerned, the harbingers of the Fimbulwinter, the scions of ice and snow, perfectly encapsulate all that is awesome about giants and all that renders them cool. Yes, I’m going to put a dime in the bad pun jar for that. That being said, you probably won’t be surprised by me not particularly being keen on more details for them, though rune-enhancing etc. and the accompanying fluff are nice. However, at the same time, I should not fail to mention one particularly awesome “Why didn’t I think of that before”-concept presented among the crunch: The Avalanche Rider-feat. use Ride to literally ride on avalanches. Think about the imagery – the mountains shake and the northmen look up, as a huge white cloud rushes towards the settlement. In panic, magic is woven, children are brought into safe places – and then, not only does white death come above, they hear the thundering of giant feat, sliding into their midst – the giants have come. Yes, I am so going to use this. With auras that deal ice damage and feats to break bones with crits, the frost giant-options herein help set them aside and distinguish them from their brethren.
Conversely, the Fire giants have been a second set of favorites for me, with the Weltenbrand and the inherent discipline and structure conventionally expected from the in-game depiction of fire giants, they pretty much are the opposite side of the coin – and no less awesome. It should hence come as no surprise that the feats sport a burning aura, anti-cold options etc. At the same time, their organization is not just a mirrored law/chaos dichotomy – e.g. deals with devils are not as common as you’d expect and the supreme organization also translates into a better structuring regarding the cooperation with e.g. fire beasts and red dragons. Emitting a heat wave and thus, concealment or leashes of fire made to control trolls provide nice, coherent options that render their society more believable and ultimately, more inspiring for the GM. It should also come as no surprise that this supreme organization also translates to more unique weapon special abilities than for the other giants.
The final section of the book consists of a double ecology depicting Cloud and Storm Giants – which makes sense to me since they do sport some conceptual overlap. The alignment-split and inherent hedonism of cloud giants is depicted in a rather interesting manner, with transitions being described in a rather interesting manner. At the same time, though, it should be noted that storm giants are relegated to an afterthought within the write-ups here, usually receiving one paragraph of a couple of lines – personally, I consider this a somewhat lost chance of further tying the races together ina new and innovative manner, but that may just be me. That being said, the crunch provided for the races tends towards the more awesome side of things: Whether it’s temporary switching of alignments for cloud giants or becoming electromagnetic for storm giants to lightning auras, griffon companions, cloud/fog control, better weather control – there are quite a few options, including temporarily disguising oneself as a medium humanoid. With spells that allow for the strengthening of nature, forcing creatures to assume gaseous form to generating strangling fog with magic, it should come as no surprise that these most magic of giants also receive the most unique spells. And yes, thunderbolt javelins are included in the mix.
Editing and formatting can still be considered good – but it is a far cry from perfect. While I can live with some minor deviations from default rules-language, whole feats sans proper formatting and a plethora of italicization glitches can be considered slightly annoying. Layout adheres to a nice, printer-friendly 2-column full-color standard and the pdf does sport a few nice, original full-color artworks. The book comes bookmarked with minimal bookmarks: One per chapter – In a book of this size, that’s not enough. To make navigation quicker, nested bookmarks to the respective sub-chapters would have very much been appreciated by yours truly.
Mike Welham is one of my favorite designers for a reason – Mike only rarely disappoints and there is a reason he has found his way more than once on my top ten-lists. Unlike many authors out there, he is both at home in crunch design and fluff, though especially his prose can be considered to be, more often than not, simply glorious. And this creativity can be found in this book, in many of the gloriously-written little details that greatly enhance the respective cultures.
The question you probably have, though, is the following: “Is this any good?” – Yes, yes, it is. Especially the giant-specific content actually really helps making the giants distinct from one another and provide unique tricks that set them apart -some of which are absolutely iconic and inspired. So overall, yes, I consider this book to be a tad bit more inspired than Giants Revisited. And yes, this book makes giants more distinct. That being said, I do believe I have some gripes I can field here: For one, the spells imho could have used more racial material components to make them harder to acquire or more thematically unique – this is a nitpick, though, and not something I will penalize the pdf for. Much like Giants Revisited, though to a lesser extent, this pdf does not solve the issue of giants in PFRPG itself: Giants suck mechanically. The elimination of many immunities giants had in previous editions has made them very susceptible to a plethora of save-or-suck-effects and tricks that simply have taken a big part of the iconic threat they should be out of them.
While the new feats presented herein do help make them more distinct, I couldn’t help but feel that this pdf would have greatly benefited from a first chapter, wherein options to make ALL GIANTS more hardy, a general toolkit collection if you will. Of course, there actually are some specific options that help set them apart and e.g. hardness indeed does help stone giants to have more staying power – but certain classes still have a pretty easy time eliminating giants due to their sucky touch AC. If you have ever featured giants in your game, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about. So yeah, that would be the big, lost chance of this book. While Larger than Life has succeeded in making the giant types more distinct among themselves, the series does not enhance the giant-subtype as opposed to other humanoids, making them, in this one regard, not larger than life.
I am very much aware that this complaint may be deemed unfair and for that I apologize: I usually try to not complain about roads not taken, but in this instance, the experiences I’ve had with giants make it very much impossible to not mention this.
Now if that sounded negative, do not take it as such – this is still very much a very good toolkit, though one that falls short of its own potential to become the state-of-the art giant-book. There is much awesomeness to be found within these pages and Giantslayer-GMs will most certainly cackle with glee when handling this book. It’s just that the glitches and aforementioned oversight constitute two detractors that made this book slightly less awesome to me than what it could have been. Ultimately, I consider this a good addition to the system and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars – GMs seeking to make giants more distinct definitely should get this book.
You can also get smaller installments of the series on OBS:
The other ones are exclusively in this book, though!
This installment of the Animal Races-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Ravens are among my favorite birds in real life – their intelligence and aesthetic appeal to me on a basic level. The Clan of the Raven’s members do share the traits associated with their real life brethren – known for an interest in education and the gathering of knowledge, including a pretty shady reputation, perhaps stemming from their uncommon assertion of death being just a station of the migratory lifestyle that is inherent in their culture anyways.
Racial-trait wise, members of the raven clan receive +2 Dex and -2 Str, both if they are medium or small. The clans also get +1 natural armor that scales up to +2 at 10th level, a primary natural bite attack at 1d4 (1d3 if small) and are humanoids with the shapechanger and tengu subtypes that also have low-light vision. They may change 1/day into avian form (supernatural ability, btw.) for 1 minute/level as a standard action – for more on that, take a look at my review of Animal Races: Clan of the Raptor; it’s the same mechanic. There are a total of 5 subtypes of clan raven provided: Carrion Crows receive +2 Con, +2 to Cha if you’re undead (cool one!) and may take the Raven Clan Heritage feat instead of a revelation from the battle or bones mysteries. Falcon clan members get +2 to Wis and may choose Falcon Clan Heritage as a ranger combat style feat. Members of the Parrot Clan get +2 to Intelligence (non capitalized in the text, a minor, rare typo in the series) and may choose the Parrot Clan Heritage feat whenever they could choose a Perform skill with the bard’s versatile performance class feature instead. Raven Clan members gets +2 to Intelligence and may choose, surprise, raven Clan Heritage as a rogue talent. Finally, Songbird Clan Members get +2 Cha and may choose the Songbird Clan Heritage feat whenever they could choose a Perform skill with the bard’s versatile performance class feature instead.
Now, as always, the racial heritage feats can be taken multiple times (with minimum level scaling upwards), providing a selection of additional racial abilities, unlocking more over the levels. The racial traits cover some overlap with the raptors: Primary claw attacks, increased bite damage, +20 fly speed and avid shapechanger, which suffers from the same problem of being available too soon for easy unassisted flight at low levels as in the raptor’s book. True shapechanger, the ability that ends all the limitations on shapechanging can be taken after covering the former. Falcons can choose that one after taking superior flighty, improved bite, claws and avid shapechanger.
Having seen trained falcons in action, I was quite surprised to see raptor’s dive (or an in-flight rush variant) not included here – especially since Raven Clan Heritage covers identical traits, but additionally also allows for the scolding ability, which nets you ear-piercing scream 1/day per 2 HD as a cha-based SP. Also, here’s a fun fact – I actually nurtured a semi-wild crow back to health when I was a child and if the their tongues are loosened as chicks (painless and no injury to the bird, btw.), they actually can learn to talk, so I was a bit surprised to see the voice mimicry trait, which conveys the ability of the infiltrator investigator archetype, not included among the options. Not a complaint, mind you, just an observation. Parrot Clan members can obviously select this one and also may choose avid shapechanger, claws, improved bite and flight, with true shapechanger being the only one unlocked later. I was a bit surprised to not seen an anti-object/sunder upgrade for parrots, to be honest. Songbirds may choose avid shapechanger, superior flight, voice mimicry and also, exclusively, tiny form, with true shapechanger as the only high-level choice.
This also points towards an issue – it is evident from the tiny form ability that songbirds are supposed to either always be small or that their bird forms are supposed to be small, when neither is required by the base racial traits. Interaction between the ability and medium songbirds is wonky. Beyond that, we also get 3 additional feats – Gifted Linguist, Swordtrained and Scavenger, providing variants of essentially what otherwise would be covered via racial traits as feats. Not a fan of either – swordtrained unlocks more than proficiencies and both Scavenger and Gifted Linguist feel pretty bland to me – flavorful in concept, but not too interesting.
As always in the series, we are introduced to a short section of the genealogy of the raven clans and, once again, a beautifully-written section on interaction with existing monsters and creatures anchors the clans in a fantasy world’s mythology. The deity provided herein would be Morringa, a participant of the wild hunt and a martially-inclined death goddess. The heraldry-traits provided once again can be considered interesting in that yes, the option to receive Gifted Linguist via them feels okay, though I do not understand why the racial traits have been made feats – in the long run, that’s only gonna cause confusion. Other than that, I have no issue with the heraldry traits and enjoy them.
Ravens and their ilk being known to have some knack for hoarding shiny things, the appendix of this pdf provides nice dressing tables of random trinkets – 3, to be precise: One for copper, silver and gold, with each entry being worth exactly one of the coins. Nice one!
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to the series’ elegant, printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with thematically-fitting stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for you convenience.
Eric Morton’s raven clan uses the same framework as the installment on raptors, with some minor modifications – this is at once a blessing and a curse – since the raptor-installment was good, this one necessarily isn’t bad either. Internal consistency is also maintained, which is nice indeed. At the same time, though, the execution feels less distinct this time around – the subtypes are not that different when compared to the raptors and the clans could have, quite frankly, used more distinction from one another. The glitch with the songbird clan is annoying and I don’t get the baffling decision to make racial traits that already exist into feats, imho without a significant need to do so. While the fluff is great as always, the content herein does feel less varied than that provided in the raptor clan’s pdf and personally, kind of underwhelmed me in direct comparison. At the same time, I do like several minor tidbits, like Con-bonuses becoming Cha upon turning undead etc.
Still, I consider this one slightly less refined and, of course, the issues of low level unassisted flight remain. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.
You can get this installment of the series here on OBS!
The latest installment of the “Into the Breach”-series clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up my queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.
As always, we begin this pdf with an array of archetypes, the first of which would be the Academician. These guys get all Knowledge-skills as class skills and Skill Focus for one of their choice at first level instead of Throw Anything. Instead of making regular bombs, academicians can create explosive traps they can place as standard actions that provokes AoOs – such traps can be triggered either via a timer, proximity or a remote detonation, the former requiring a swift action to be executed while within 10 ft. per class level. If a given trap is not detonated within 10 minutes per class level you have, it harmlessly expires. Perception and Disable Device-checks made to notice/disarm the traps scale at DC 10 + academician class level + Int-modifier. At 1st level, an academician can have one trap placed at a given time, +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, with no possibility of overlap in placed squares -i.e., there cannot be more than one bomb per square placed, though splash damage can overlap.
Essentially, this takes the immediacy of bombs and replaces it with a potential for more control via planning – including interaction with bomb-related discoveries. Additionally, instead of more mainstream mutagens, the academician receives a kind-of-cheesily named “Insightogen” that can have one of 3 effects: Make a single knowledge skill check at +10 insight bonus that can be made untrained. Gain a discovery for 10 minutes per level for which the academician meets the prerequisites or finally, create an extract, even if he usually does not know it, with the same limited duration. All restrictions of mutagens apply – only one can be active at a given time and the concoction becomes inert if it leaves the alchemist’s possession, etc. However, it should be noted, that these do not qualify as mutagens per RAW, meaning that the academician is locked out of a significant array of options as payment for the wildcard-based flexibility. At 14th level, these alchemists can choose two of aforementioned insightogen-benefits at once and as a capstone, a single activation can trigger 5 placed traps, including contingency-style complex triggers, and no, they do not become inert, allowing for deadly mad bomber hideouts… So, what do we have here? A complex archetype that requires a thoroughly complex rewiring of wording that manages to get it right – while I noticed 2 sentences where some slight rewiring would have made things a tad bit more concise, this archetype is interesting – in both instances, it takes the immediacy of the effects and replaces it with a very flexible alternative that pay for this flexibility by requiring planning. Running into a set-up by an academician is nasty, with their wildcard-discoveries and extracts adding a dash of flexibility, but catching them unaware renders them weaker in de facto adventuring – this archetype demanded playtest and it ended up working rather well. Kudos!
The Botanist receives proficiency with thorn bow and bracer and gets +1/2 class level to all Knowledge (nature) and all Profession-checks related to plants, while also gaining +1 to AC and damage versus foes he and his plant companion are flanking or that have been hit by both via ranged attacks. Bombs of botanists are grown from fungi and deal piercing damage instead of fire damage, making them less useful versus supernatural creatures with DR, but at the same time more potent due to no resistance applying. The botanist also receives a so-called Verdant Mutagen, which nets a +2 natural AC-bonus and a slam attack at 1d6 for Medium botanists – I assume, at 1d4 for Small botanists, though that is not explicitly stated. While I get the default assumption for slam attacks, I still would have preferred the book to note that the attack is a primary natural attack. One mental stat incurs a -2 penalty, though it can be freely chosen. Interestingly, this one halves movement rate of the imbibing botanist while in effect; for plant companions, it instead acts as a regular mutagen and yes, it can potentially grant the mindless quality to the plant companion. Speaking of which – beyond the ones introduced in the ARG, this pdf does provide 8 more plant companion options in the appendix.
Among these, the companions do have some balance concerns – phlogiston companions can e.g. at 4th level launch 2d6 fire damage rays every 1d4 rounds, which provides, especially at low levels, an efficient infinite source of fire damage I am not comfortable with, though this does even out at higher levels. Another companion adds 1d6 bleed to all melee attacks, which seems a bit much at 4th level. But back to the basic plant companion-rules – once awakened, the creature receives at least a 5 ft. base speed if it had none and an Intelligence of 1. The effective druid level is equal to the class level, with full stacking of companion-granting abilities. This replaces all the poison-related shenanigans and the 2nd level discovery, which does feel a bit like a slightly too good deal – companions are powerful. Now one issue here would be that RAW, companions require Handle Animal to be taught tricks and the alchemist does not have this skill as a class skill – I assume the intention was for the Profession or Knowledge (nature) skill to take that role, but if so, the pdf lost this component at one point. It should also be noted that botanists can pretty freely and easily change plant companions, adding a level of flexibility to the class feature that further emphasizes the power of this archetype. At 10th level, the enhanced verdant mutagens created can be used to further enhance the plants – and yes, this allows for an extraction of healing balms that can heal 3d8+HD, while only inflicting 1d8+HD damage to the plant, losing its potency once the mutagen ceases to work. Disease/poison curing and better thorns/growing thorns constitute further options available for the companion.
The healing itself is interesting in that it per se provides more powerful healing than you’d expect to see – the lack of a limit means that, by healing the plant, you can, on average, get a significantly increased healing capacity out of it -with some means of fast healing/regeneration, too much. Additionally, it should be noted that the ability fails to specify what type of action the harvesting of fruit or balm constitutes – and whether a plant can be taught to produce the balm itself etc. Finally, the archetype does sport some minor modifications of the spell-list, with some druid-spells added. The botanist is a strong archetype and imho, the plant companions doe require some retooling in the details. Over all, I do like the concepts evoked here, but as written, both the potentially infinite healing factor and the minor balance-concerns of companions among themselves as well as their flexibility makes me believe that the archetype does get a bit of a sweet deal, in spite of the companion’s limited movement rate, which was almost always magically enhanced in my games.
The Humoralist is obviously themed around the now-defunct, but rather captivating theme of the humors, with each associated with an elemental place. This allows the humoralist to brew 3+Int-mod infusions per day, granting access to a given cleric domain, while also providing stacking penalties that grow worse, thus rewarding actively an alteration between the different options provided. The spells granted by the temporary domain access are treated as SP, which is pretty nasty, with one use each available and alchemist level being treated as full-blown cleric level. To offset this powerful option, the humoralist does lose mutagens and decreases bomb-damage progression to +1d6 every 4 levels. An issue here would be that I am not sure which attribute governs the DCs of these SPs – I assume the default, but that does render the archetype slightly more MAD than the base alchemist, which would constitute a further balancing factor I’d consider appropriate. Poison resistance is replaces with scaling saves versus damage incurred from a type of elemental damage associated with the current infusion. 3rd level humoralists may also apply the benefits of more than one infusion, with a scaling save. Failure sickens the humoralist for 2d4 rounds – but does he still get the effects from both infusions? Does the current infusion end upon a failed save? I’m not sure and ultimately, in an ability like this, that’s not good – in any case, one can get a vast slew of extra spells per day out of this archetype, as SPs to boot. Compared to that, non-magic healing at 6th level is nice, though not particularly impressive. The ability also has a slight wording glitch, though not one that impedes the capacity to understand its intent. All in all, an okay archetype in concept that has serious balance issues in the execution.
The next archetype would be the Kiln Crafter, who can craft fragile items that would usually be made from wood or steel, but which weigh only half as much as their regular counterparts, substituting Craft (Pottery) for the usual associated skills. In the case of weapons, the items do increase their threat range by 1, though – thankfully non-stacking with keen and similar effects. Ceramic armor provides fire resistance 5 against non-magical fire and DR/bludgeoning equal to the armor bonus of the armor. The low cost here can be considered somewhat problematic, especially at low levels when DR still matters more and is considered to be rare. Having run several rare magic campaigns that utilized different variants of the Armor-as-DR-rules, I’m not sold on the math and its impact on low-level gaming in a traditional default setting here, as much as I like it. At mid-levels, the practical effect of DR mellow out, though. Kiln Crafters also receive Disposable Weapon instead of Throw Anything and may further modify the effects of their ceramic weapons and armor via specific glazes that add spikes or remove the fragile quality. Another ability that lets them make weapons that weep acid and crafting terracotta soldiers complement this archetype. I really love the kiln-crafter’s imagery and flair, but it does not feel like a regular archetype – instead, it feels like it belongs into a savage, bronze age sword and sorcery environment, a specific campaign setting that adheres to other equipment/magic-availability rules and one that has a different array of rules for non-magical crafting, since the mundane crafting of these items takes *LONG.* This is not bad, nor is it per se broken, but it does look light it instead ought to have had a slightly different rules-cosmos to work in than default Pathfinder’s high magic/fantasy.
Natural Transmuters can be summed up as anti-magic counter-specialists: They create extractors that can capture targeted spells aimed at them and release them back upon their foes, with multi-target spells being only negated for the natural transmuter. This replaces extracts and its pretty much very odd and very awesome – characters essentially can not only be the bane to spellcasters, they can, theoretically, store up on them before encounters. This renders them flexible, but also potentially a drain on allied resources when stocking up – still, a very interesting playing experience that actually gets drawing etc. right. Beyond this ability, instead of mutagens, they can create liquids that change elements and yes, even light to darkness, and yes, they may command material to form structures. Now granted, while the ability does define the changing of materials and energies regarding size, the application could have imho been clearer – as written, this ability partially hinges upon you being able to imagine that you can actually pour something into darkness or sonic and change it thus into another material. This may sound odd, but the concept as such is sound and in fact firmly rooted in by now debunked ideas on how the world works, so as far as I’m concerned, I can perfectly imagine this working in game, with an alchemist commanding thunderous sound into a weapon or armor. I really liked this one, as it is a simplified take on the concept of transient forms that was a basic principle of real-world alchemy and inclusion of this tradition may make sense and fit in even otherwise rare magic worlds where casters a nigh-unknown/banned. Due to potency being directly correlated to magic frequency and availability, while still having unique tricks to modify energy and matter, this one actually also works well in such contexts. Yes, I actually tried that out and it works in both high-fantasy and rare-magic contexts, though in different ways -while not perfect, it is this component that renders this archetype a little masterpiece in my book.
The Pyrotician may draw and light fireworks as a standard action, faster even with Quick Draw/Quick Light, getting the rules-interaction right – and yes, allowing potentially for the set-p of multiple fireworks-attacks. Fireworks utilize splash weapon rules, even though they need to be aimed as a standard action (something APART from pulling and lighting them) and on a direct hit, they inflict an addition Int-mod +1d6 damage in addition to their listed price. Fireworks not aimed at a given area that inflict AoE-damage, deal minimum damage and damage-progression mimics that of bombs. Obviously, this replaces bombs and throwing anything. If the above discrepancy between drawing and firing fireworks was no indicator, 2nd level pyroticians indeed do learn to make the fuses of their fireworks longer, with up to a level of delay being possible. Additionally, the pyrotician may tie multiple fireworks together to prep them for simultaneous ignition – up to 1/2 class level ones, to be precise. 6th level allows for the placing of a bundle as a move action and quicker alchemy creation of fireworks is part of the deal. Over all, the pyrotician is an interesting concept that works pretty well – it manages to take a complex array of rules-interactions and make them pretty feasible. At the same time, the damage-escalation of fireworks as opposed to bombs is a bit higher – however, this also is limited, especially at lower levels, by the sheer cost of fireworks – essentially, they are more expensive and thus, a drain on the character’s resources. Especially at first level, this means that pyroticians will struggle hard to get their tools with their meager funding, whereas, the more money you give the character, the more oomph he’ll have. The latter is a component GMs should certainly be aware of, though – if you do not explicitly take heed regarding the awarding of money, these guys will break your game.
The next one would be the Supplementum. Instead of mutagens, these alchemists learn to create enhancers. These can be mixed with alchemical items, extracts, bombs, etc. and only one can be in effect at a given time. The effects of an enhancer last 10 minutes per class level. Alas, the respective entries for the enhancer’s application are not always clear: When applied to alchemical items, for example, one of the applications can “increase a bonus from an alchemical item by 1/2” – while I *know* what’s meant here, I do think this could have been phrased better. While I’m engaging in pedantry, doubling listed durations of items should have a non-instantaneous caveat. The bomb enhancements are broken: Considering all splashed targets direct hits? OUCH. I’d be extremely cautious when allowing these… Methods of application for potions and oils and metamagic added to extracts can be found, though we do not get the information whether the supplementum needs to know the metamagic feats in question. Using enhancers to double one bomb, extract etc. can also be accomplished and while the respective wording remains pretty concise, I could pick apart each component, though in all cases, they can be fixed by a capable GM. The supplementum also allows for poison-combination, but fails to specify which save or if both apply upon being subjected to the combined poison.
Speaking of poisons – next up would be the Venom Bomber – these guys deal 1d6 +Int mod “poison damage” – not a big fan of that term here, but at the same time, the mechanics for frequency etc. of the poison works pretty well. Now you may be aware that a lot of creatures are immune to poisons -well, here the point-based modification of the archetype comes into play – whether oozes or plants and yes, even undead and golems – the right tool’s here and even nonlethal damage, delayed onsets and more consecutive saves required to end it can be found here. Converting venom bomb poison into regular poison can also be achieved (thankfully with a caveat that prevents infinite money from selling poisons) – a well-crafted, cool archetype. Like it!
The Viscous Arcanist is interesting – they create tiny oozes that move and follow a specific programming – allowing for a kind of oozy mine-field of strange creatures that can trigger effects – granted, the arcanist, with a slightly expanded spell-list, can also consume the gels, but seriously, oozes are so much cuter! And yes, they have limited lifespans and the same goes for the explosive oozes the viscous arcanist can generate. While here and there, I could nitpick about a minor component of wording not being perfect, the overall concept and execution are pretty awesome – love it!
Banechemists would be the first PrC -at 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort and Ref-saves, d8, 7(/10th extract-progression and 4+Int skills per level and 1/2 bomb-progression, this one is a combo-PrC for alchemists and rangers, including hunter’s bond and 2 favored enemies. Favored enemy-bonuses are also applied to bomb damage and at every 2v2n level, the PrC receives an adaption that helps synergy between ranger and alchemist components. Partially ignoring resistances, sharing mutagens with companions, increased damage output versus the specific creatures all are nice and the exceedingly powerful capstones are nasty – what about ignoring all resistances and immunities of favored enemies with your bombs, for example? Why plural? Because you can choose which to take.
The Exochymist PrC gets 4+Int skills per level, 1/2 BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort and Will-progression, 9 levels of extract-progression, 3 levels of bomb-damage progression and lacks information on which HD it’s supposed to use – a glaring glitch. This one can be considered a theurge between summoner and alchemist, stacking PrC levels for purposes of discovery requirements, bomb uses per day, DC and mutagen-duration as well as for eidolon evolutions. Additionally, eidolons may use mutagens and extracts. The added extracts also mirror this theme, though, like the table, it does show a typo. Eidolons consuming a mutagen can get more evolution points, which can become pretty nasty. The linking and hit point exchange between eidolon and exochymist is also strengthened by the PrC. Per se solid, though the glitches render it more opaque than it should be.
The pdf also provides new discoveries and are interesting – using e.g. alchemical ooze companions (yup, also found herein – and the ooze can be swallowed by the alchemist, granting immunity to poisons while it’s in there…) to reanimate corpses is rather…gross, but also awesome. Making some offensive contaminants selected from limited lists and combining bomb-modifying discoveries make for unique tricks, though the latter needs to be handled carefully. Thankfully, it does specify e.g. the effects of multiple damage-type modifications and the like. Curing conditions and granting temporary immunity to them also falls into this range – since some abilities use them as a downside, this could potentially cause a bit of havoc. What about making tiny wasps to deliver poisons instead of making bombs? The latter is awesome, though it ought to specify the wasp’s stats if it’s supposed to be a creature and whether it requires a means to reach the target/whether it requires line of sight/effect -as written, it is implied the wasp executes a melee attack, which obviously means that one could ready a means of shooting it down. Making potions of higher level spells and adding flexibility to poison bombs (not to be confused with venom bombs!) can be found herein -and yes, there are plenty of new tricks here, including ones for the new archetypes. It should be noted that with some of the tricks herein, viscous arcanists may become a bit strong for my tastes.
Editing and formatting are good on a formal level. On a rules-level, there are some instances where the wording would have needed a tighter frame. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with solid, thematically-fitting stock-art. The pdf comes bookmarked for your convenience, though not with nested bookmarks.
Frank Gori, Jeff Harris, Taylor Hubbler, Jacob Michaels, Dylan Brooks, Kiel Howell, Richard Litzkow, Mikko Kallio, Mark Nordheim – dear authors, you have probably created the most ambitious Into the Breach-book so far. This one is much, much more complex than the others I’ve read so far – there imho is no cookie-cutter design within these pages and even simple modifications end up being significantly more complex in their interactions than one would assume at first glance.
Now this installment is bound to be more divisive than most reviews for the series I’ve written. The positive first: The rules-language herein is pretty precise when tackling even the rather complex concepts that the respective pieces of crunch touch upon. Going literally where no book has gone before, I consider this one of the most interesting archetype-collections I’ve read in a while, with not one archetype falling to the cardinal sin of design – being boring. Instead, just about all options herein are definitely on the high concept side of things both in theme and execution and I love that. At the same time, there are quite a few balance-screws that need a bit of adjustment, quite a few options that can turn out to be problematic.
At the same time, though, often exactly said options can end up being utterly evocative, perfect fits for certain groups. I do consider some of the options and combinations thereof problematic and in need of fixing, yes; but at the same time, I found myself really enjoying a lot of the options herein for their respective niches and concepts. In fact, surprisingly, there are concepts herein that go beyond what anything has done before – the natural transmuter, with the odd non-definition of transmutations that is supplemented by just about the right level of details and definition to avoid abuse, can probably be considered to be one of the most interesting archetypes I’ve seen in quite a while. The modular poison-crafting of the venom bomber also should indeed be pointed out as positive and while I will slightly nerf the viscous arcanist, I damn sure will use it in my games.
This installment of “Into the Breach” is not the most precise one in the series regarding mechanics. But it *is* the one that inspired me the most. With a plethora of options I will use in certain campaigns, this book has been fun to read. Would I allow it flat-out? No. The Kiln-Crafter imho requires a situative context to work properly; the humoralist is pretty broken and the botanist can use a nerfing; but the frames are solid. You can tinker with these and the results will be awesome and have the potential to be defining components for characters and even potentially the mechanics on how a world works. This pdf may not be perfect, but it does qualify as being inspired, as being innovative. And honestly, I’d rather take that over something perfect, but bland or boring. While ultimately, I *should* rate this down to 3 stars due to its glitches, partially massive balance-concerns etc., I can’t bring myself to doing so, since the devil here, unanimously, is in the details and there alone…and in most cases, you can modify the pieces and turn those nerfing screws yourself.
You should consider it a testament to how much I like several of the options herein that I instead will settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. If you like high-concepts and are willing to tinker with them, go for it. If you want a fire-and-forget “I allow everything herein”-experience, though, I’d advise you to steer clear – the concepts herein require a case-by-case examination for a given group and its conventions, campaign settings and assumptions.
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, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.
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.
Sometimes, the PCs need answers at any cost. Thus, they enter a two-way portal in a cemetery near the ruins of an ancient civilization and enter the sepulchre – where they will soon notice that entering specific rooms may deal small amounts of negative energy damage on saves. Indeed, several undead and shadowy books continue to perpetuate this theme, while an illusion-supplemented trap is a) interesting and b) devious. The little dungeon also sports minor item-scavenging and a terrible final revelation of a horrid price to pay for the information and a unique, interesting showdown.
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. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art – kudos!
Stefanos Patelis delivers an excellent mini-dungeon here – we receive a glorious dungeon with diverse challenges, unique fluff, cool adversaries and quite frankly more roleplaying potential and a more evocative set-up than what one can see in many longer modules. This is a great mini-dungeon that manages to provide a fun, memorable experience in spite of its brevity – well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.
You can get this damn fine mini-dungeon here on OBS!
All right, you know the deal – 3 pages – 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, let’s go!
-Bludgeoner: No penalty when using melee weapons to deal non-lethal damage. +1/2 tier damage when inflicting nonlethal damage with a bludgeoning weapon. On a crit, expend one mythic power to add the effects of Staggering Critical; at 6th tier, Stunning Critical. Nice one.
-Bolstered Resilience: DR applies to mythic tier attacks When it’s increased, it treats DR as DR/epic in addition to the normal requirements to overcome it. Spend mythic power to deal your DR as damage to the weapon that hit you, ignoring DR and hardness equal to your tier.
-Deathless Initiate: When in combat while at -1 hp, you do not take damage for taking move, standard or full-round actions and the bonus to atk and damage increases by 1, +1 for every 10 negative hit points. Pretty weak.
-Deathless Master: Immunity to ability drain, damage, bleed and death effects while in negative HP while also gaining +1 to natural armor, +1 for every 5 negative ht points you have. The AC-bonus stacks with itself. Better!
-Deathless Zealot: Attackers receive 1/2 tier as penalty to crit confirmation rolls against you. If a crit is confirmed against you, spend mythic power to mitigate it to a normal hit. If the foe’s CR exceeds twice your mythic tier or if the foe’s tier exceeds your own, you need to spend 2 uses of mythic power instead.
-Disposable Weapon: Apply the benefits to all weapons, not just fragile weapons. When confirming a crit, expend mythic power to destroy the weapon and increase the critical multiplier by 1. Not a fan of further multiplier escalation. This should also have an artifact caveat and some other sort of scaling. Not sold that this is powerful? Oh, there are builds with this one…ouch.
-Fortified Armor Training: When negating a crit via Fortified Armor Training, damage the weapon equal to the damage you receive. Unarmed or natural weapons cause the damage to the attacker. Damage dealt this way ignores hardness and DR of non-mythic foes. Nice one!
-Stalwart: Expend 1 use of mythic power as an immediate action to add tier to the DR granted by Stalwart. Pretty weak. On a nomenclature nitpick, this feat refers to ” a point of mythic power” when one usually speaks of “one use of mythic power.”
-Improved Stalwart: Expend 1 mythic power as an immediate action to gain stalwart’s ability to one ally within reach. I assume this refers to the character’s reach since no numerical value is given. On a nomenclature nitpick, this feat refers to ” a point of mythic power” when one usually speaks of “one use of mythic power.”
-Nightmare Fist: Add free demoralize to attacks you execute in magical darkness; provides condition-escalation and panicked characters are flat-footed to you. Does the condition scale up to cowering or not?
-Nightmare Striker: Adds +1 round of paralysis (+1 per 4 tiers) to foes that fail to resist Stunning Fist while subject to your faerie fire. Too circumstantial for my tastes.
-Rebuffing Reduction: When successfully using the defensive bull rush, damage foes equal to the damage that failed to bypass your DR + 2 x tier. Okay one.
-Splintering Weapon: + tier to bleed damage provided; Add tier to DC to staunch the bleeding. Okay.
Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no glitches on a significant, rules-impeding level. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ 2-column full color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.
Robert Brookes and Jonathan H. Keith deliver a solid array of feats herein -and in quite a few instances, I enjoyed seeing increased defense capacities herein. At the same time, I often felt like the feats did not go far enough – further increased defenses would be feasible in my book, especially seeing how the significant increase in offense Mythic Adventures provides. So yeah, while not bad per se, this pdf does have a few minor hiccups and somewhat disappointed me, due to not going far enough. However, it should be noted that this still is a nice buy. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4, though GMs looking for more staying power should instead check out the Mythic Paths-books on dragons and villains.
One more note – the editorial mentions Jason Nelson, Jonathan H. Keith and Jeff Lee as the authors, so in case I got that wrong, I apologize: I went with the author names specified on the cover.
This massive book clocks in at 201 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front-cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC,1 blank page at the end, leaving us with 195 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
This massive core-book for the revised edition of Eldritch Roleplaying (ERP) begins with an introduction that sums up several of the virtues of this system – adequately so, I should mention. At the same time, though, personally, I felt this component to be somewhat overblown, much like a sales-pitch when the very presence of the book clearly does not necessitate this component – this may be a personal pet-peeve of mine, but I do not think games should try to tell their readers how awesome they are and instead stand on the virtue of their own merits – but let’s see whether this works, shall we?
The default assumption of this system is a world of fantasy, obviously. We begin with a glossary of terms and what they mean – since the following review will make excessive use of them, I’ll give you the brief run-down:
-Ability: This specifies a skill or innate capacity.
-Ability Branch: A single component of an ability tree, specifying Specialties and Masteries. An ability check is made via such a branch, with no more than one roll of the basic tier, plus one specialty, plus one mastery.
-Ability Check: Each such check involves one ability branch, rolling up to 3 dice to beat the target number.
-Ability Tree: Base ability + all branches. Tier 1 denotes base abilities, tier 2 denotes specialties and each specialty further branches off into different masteries, which constitute tier 3.
-Base Tier: First tier, always has a single die (from d4 to d12)
-Branch Rank: Term used to establish general competence in an ability branch. Just add max values and check the table.
-Character Points: Point-buy for abilities.
-Damage Reduction: Reduce threat points before the active defense pool.
-Defense Pool: Number of points used to mitigate or cancel threats
-Defense, Active: Using active DP to mitigate one attack via the corresponding ability.
-Defense, Passive: One passive defense pool or fortitude.
-Die-rank: Value of any creature’s single die of an ability tree tier; ranges from d3 to d20 and includes d14, d16 and d18.
-Max Value (MV): Highest die-result possible with a given die or die combination.
-Needed Number (NN): Measure for spellcasting difficulty.
-Restricted/unrestricted Ability: Restricted abilities can’t be used without having at least a certain die-rank, most of the time, a d4. Consider this the ability to only use certain abilities when “trained” in them.
-Special maneuvers: Combat maneuvers, essentially.
-Threat Points: Measurement of the potential harm from a specific ability branch – the damage potential from which active defenses etc. are detracted to determine the actually inflicted harm.
So, to sum it up – we have a system that is very much skill-based, using a combination of dice over specializations and pitting rolls vs. rolls, with minor fixed value modifications, kind of like a variant of Shadowrun that utilizes more die-types over increasing numbers of d6s.
Character creation is simple: You have 30 character points. Assigning age and sex is free and you can modify the value by taking advantages (at cost) or disadvantages (increasing your character points). It should be noted that adolescence is considered to take for all races to reach – while I get the streamlining rationale, such a factor inherently makes me wonder how the “better” races have not yet developed a more stable population
Each race MUST buy the minimum ranks in certain abilities associated with them, which range from 15 (dwarves) to 4 (humans) and racial advantages, if appropriate – all dwarves must expend the 3 character points for night vision, for example. While the individual abilities and costs are provided, a quick glance also shows you the total value, including the modifications of the compulsory advantages/disadvantages hard-coded into the race. Over all, the ability-package as presented makes the races work pretty well and choosing them rather simple – at the same time, the restrictions imposed here by a lack of racial customization directly contradicts the assertion of supreme control over character concepts claimed in the slightly overblown introduction, but that just as a snarky side-note to emphasize why I consider intros like that undue.
The advantages and disadvantages provided run a pretty broad gamut of abilities, again, bringing Shadowrun to mind, just instead of the modification of dice-pool sizes, we have the die-step improvements. This allows for e.g. magical defense that allows a caster to extend it to physical attacks in two steps, with the more costly version also applying to ranged attacks. Subtle casting, attractiveness and similar benefits can be gained as well. Personally, I really enjoyed and loathed one particular advantage at the same time: Literacy. It always galls me in any fantasy setting, when the default assumption is that people can read – it’s an obvious anachronism not supported by the infrastructure in most areas. So yes, kudos for including that.
Being able to read and write ALL languages for one meager character point more, though, actually sabotages quite a few narratives – from strange languages to deciphering ancient tongues, this advantage counters quite a few potential plots, thus rendering its upgrade problematic. Now here would be as good a place as any to mention the easy customization capacities of this system – are you like me and utterly loathe this concept? Just modify the advantage to instead apply on a point per language basis. Want discrepancies in fluency and capacity? Build your own ability-tree. The system is ridiculously easy to modify in these finer components without breaking it, a huge plus when it comes to modifying it to apply to different settings, something you will want to do -but more on that later.
From darkvision (here called Night Vision) to underworld contacts, the advantages are generally solid. Among the disadvantages, one can find addictions, compulsions, missing limbs – you get the idea.
Abilities, as mentioned above, are governed by the size of the die: Unrestricted abilities begin at d4 and cost a cumulative +2 character points to increase. Restricted abilities cost 2 character points to get to d4-size and subsequent costs of die-size minus two for the respective rank. (D12 costs 10 character points, for example.)
On a didactic side, the presentation of the values of character points it takes to rank up is pretty much more opaque than it should be: As presented, one can read the process as the cost depicted representing the total cost of character points or as the cost to increase from the previous rank – while one can deduce the correct way from the examples provided in the book, I had exactly that issue come up during character generation for playtesting, with different players having different opinions. Abilities are noted as P (Primary), S (Support), R (Restricted) and U (Unrestricted). While we get a short list, I can’t help but feel that a proper table would have been preferable here.
Magic items, buffs etc. that sport a +1 to a given ability increase the die-size by +1. In a nice idea, characters can also pursue occupations as an optional general orientation that codifies the character as being, more or less aligned with the role of a given “class.” It should be noted that this is more of a cosmetic accumulation of traditional nomenclature than a description of the capabilities of the character as a whole deal package.
Next up would be the calculation of the character’s defense pools, of which there are two: Active Defense and Passive Defense. Active Defense includes parrying, dodging, agility and unarmed combat and can incorporate static DR via shields. Passive Defense is determined by Fortitude and includes DR via armor, if applicable. The Defense Pool calculations are dead simple – add up the maximum values of the ability tree, including all specialties and masteries. Once again, the basic explanation of the features, alas, could have been more concise – as presented, the basic step leaves you wondering whether active defense accumulates and adds parrying etc. or not – only by delving deeper into the grit of the system does this opacity become resolved, which, once again, presents a thoroughly unnecessary confusion-barrier for novices to the rules that could have been rectified by one simple sentence providing clearer rules language.
Starting equipment and character concept are determined in conjunction with the GM, with suggestions for general, broad roles provided for the individual character roles – melee types for example receive a weapon, armor, shield and steed, whereas rogues get thieves’ tools, light armor and a weapon. Currency substitutes “crowns” for “Dollars” or “Euros.” Equipment, especially mundane equipment, is pretty much glossed over by the system, claiming it does not require the level of detail etc. – we will return to this claim later.
First, we’ll now take a look at the action resolution system: This is actually as simple as opposing rolls get – you roll the dice and if there is active opponent, both applicable rolls are compared, with specialties and masteries adding their die-sizes to the fray if applicable: Let’s say you have someone specialized in Stealth, a subcategory of Skullduggery, with a Mastery in Urban environments – he’d add all 3 to an ability check when sneaking around in an urban environment, but as soon as the character would seek to apply his skillset in the wilderness, he’d only receive the dice from basic Skullduggery and Stealth, but not the bonus for Urban Mastery.
On a downside, I do believe the example provided, which I have here consciously quoted, would have benefited from actually stating that it is opposed by Perception – while pretty much self-evident, clear opposition-structures, especially when explaining the base system, do help. At the same time, the way in which whether a specialty or mastery applies is explained can be considered exceedingly concise, so kudos there. Challenges imposed by the GM follow a similar structure – the GM selects a set of dice to describe the general difficulty, rolls them and compares them to the player’s roll. Here, I have a slight issue with the game – the good-roll-makes-possible-syndrome. it is a matter of taste, but the most difficult tasks are set at 3d12 -and yes, these can be nigh impossible. At the same time, though, a character who is lucky can achieve things the GM considered beyond him.
While, once again, easily modifiable via static DCs or GM-fiat, the general inclination of this swingy assumption of dice vs. dice means that you’ll have a relatively pronounced luck-factor when tackling such challenges – theoretically, you may beat the set-up with a paltry d4. Yes, the chance of this happening is pretty paltry (as anyone with even a cursory understanding of math should know, but I *have* seen rolls like that – more than one…) – so ultimately, whether you consider this a bug or a feature ultimately depends on your personal inclinations. The undeniable benefit of this would obviously be something that works its way through the whole system – namely that you never become truly invincible to paltry/low-level threats. Yes, it becomes increasingly unlikely that you fall to them, but the chance still exists, which is a component that personally appeals as much to me as the swingy distribution does not.
What very much appeals to me and tends to find its way into all of my games in one way or another, would be the pretty concise and easy to use degrees of success and failure that further enhance the randomness factor and reward/punish the respective rolls. Oh, since I failed to mention this – if in doubt, resolutions tend to favor the defender, which is an interesting component that makes generally defensively-inclined characters work better than in similar systems of e.g. the d20-basis.
In case you wondered, btw. – weapons and equipment and fighting also follow all of these rules, with the ability melee weapons leading into very broad weapon groups specialties and particular weapon type masteries, which, in practice, makes surprising amounts of sense. Speaking of combat, let’s take a closer look, all right?
I already mentioned the different defense pools available (and should note that this system makes shields actually relevant and mechanically distinct, which I do enjoy immensely!), so how does initiative work? A round is 15 second long, with a descending order of battle phases, scaling via Agility’s ability down from d12 to d4 in 5 phases, with each phase taking 3 seconds. Creatures with an even higher or lower Agility take their corresponding place in the initiative order and act before (or after, in the latter case) the others. A creature gets exactly one action per round, which can be used to take actions, cast spells, activate magic items or use special abilities. Initiative is governed by the ability tree of Agility, Reflexes and Reaction Time, with equipment further potentially modifying this value. But what if creatures act in the same phase? Here, envision my smile evaporating – fixed order: PC, exceptional creatures, standard creatures, minor creatures. This suggestion allows you to metagame the “named” NPCs out of a crowd and makes no sense within the world – and as such, I loathe it, in spite of the inclusion of NPCs/special creatures having the option to be treated as PCs. Ties between foes and PCs are always won by the PC, another component I’d personally switch on its head, but that ultimately remains my forte because I’m a mean, mean GM Thankfully, a GM can easily, once again, devise a modification of the suggested system to remedy just about every component of the system as presented herein.
But what about surprise? There is a distinction between simple and total surprise, with the latter locking the defending characters out of their active pool defense pools -OUCH. Simple surprise only takes away your action in the surprise round. A character may move 18 yards + MV Agility per round, more if the character incurs a penalty, with masteries further enhancing this. Oddly, the penalty incurred by faster movement makes surprising sense in in-game dramaturgy. Interesting here – the actual feasibility of defensive characters. The D-pools a character has deplete over the course of a combat and simulate fatigue, much like the ones in the classic German old-school RPG Midgard – once they are depleted, you take damage to fortitude, so there’s a difference to Midgard here. At 0 fortitude you drop unconscious, at minus MV fortitude, you die. So that’s how you die. But how do you make creatures die?
I already mentioned the threat pool: This is weapon/magic pillar + weapon group (and bonuses)/spell type + specific weapon/spell mastery. Note that some spells may bypass specific defenses fielded against them, increasing the required roll. It should be noted that no two defense pools can be combined – you either try to dodge or parry, for example – not both. Willpower is used to resist non-physical threats. Dual-wielding characters incur a battle phase penalty and yes, there are simple rules for attacks of opportunity, here called opportune attacks. Interesting here: A character may sacrifice a specialty or mastery to add its MV to the associated defense pool. While not engaged in hand-to-hand or melee, a character may revitalize, regaining 20% of all D-pools. D-pools are tied to encounters, which I LOATHE – you’re all by now aware of why “per-encounter” anything ultimate lands on my “oh why”-list; they make no sense. At the same time, though, the system presented here does have the easy option for the GM to customize this limit away and replace it with a fixed duration of rest etc. – in fact, I’d suggest such a system for pretty much any strenuous activity beyond combat, but again – that’s my preference and not something that impacts the review.
Magic in the system is separated into 7 so-called pillars: Alteration, Arcanum, Conjuration, Elementalism, Illusion, Invocation and Psychogenics. Failure to roll the needed number of the spell to be cast may incur unpleasant effects for the caster, so there is a certain sense of unpredictability inherent in the system, one further enhanced by the basic set-up of swinging distribution of the dice-results inherent in the system. Saving throws are either based directly on willpower and its follow-ups or directly on fortitude. It should also be noted that quite a few spells have essentially built-in metamagic, with modifications to the NN. It should also be noted that aforementioned degrees of failure-philosophy also applies to the general rules of spellcasting. In order to allow for a broad array of customization and homebrewing, what amounts to a DIY-spell-building kit with sample effects and NNs provide a surprisingly concise amount of guidance for the GM and trigger summonings, casting spells as rituals etc. all can be found among the options presented here. It should be noted that, while each pillar receives its array of spells, the focus here lies on the toolkit.
I’ve been talking quite a bit about “GM this and GM that” -well, instead of XP as another resource to track, ERP directly awards character points, cutting out the middleman, so to speak. An elegant solution within the confines of this system. Traps and creature development are also covered with concise rules and plenty of examples for the GM to choose from, alongside tables of generic treasure. Much like 13th Age, monsters are provided in a plentiful array and sport very simple statblocks that do not feature much beyond type, threat dice, extra attacks, DR, HP, Saves and Agility ranks – a minimalistic approach, though at the other side of things. Where monsters in 13th Age derived their rules-symmetry from the lack of swinging dice, the beasts in ERP derive their rules-symmetry from the fact that they swing just as much as PCs do. From classic horses to Lilith herself, the section covers quite some ground, though ultimately, you should not expect too much from the variety of the monsters themselves – vampires may have vampiric bite or hypnotic gaze, yes, but that is all that remains codified – the rest is left to the GM.
Also, much like 13th Age, ERP does feature a kind of primer of a sample campaign setting, with the default world of Ainerêve, whose morphological nomenclature I enjoyed as much as the Tennyson-reference leading into the chapter. And indeed, the somewhat linguistically-versed GM will not be surprised by a rather interesting component of this setting: For one, the world coexists undetectably with ours, as a kind of shadow. More importantly, the dream-connotation is further enhanced by a presumed mutability of lands – folk beliefs, convictions and ideologies transform the world and have significant power, with proximity in establishment being governed by conceptual and ideological nearness. This is at once brilliant, but at the same time also somewhat reductive in that it organizes the world in a fashion that is easier to structure – over all, the world still manages to feel pretty concise in its make-up and depiction, with sample NPCs, information on local law etc. being sported for many in ample details, going so far as to produce a pronunciation guide, nomenclature etc., with ample random name-generators. As awesome as the world is as a conception and as strongly as it might resonate with me and the themes of real world mythology, I still felt myself slogging through the campaign world’s information – this is not a bad world and its premise is utterly AWESOME – but what was crafted from the premise pretty much disappointed me as a rather vanilla fantasy world – hence my assertion in the beginning that you’ll want to apply your own modifications regarding the campaign setting.
The book also sports handy GM two-page cheat-sheets and 2 page character-sheets, which are horizontally aligned.
Now before I jump to the conclusion, what is missing here? 1) Encumbrance. The stance here is “encumbrance is not fun”, meaning you can carry tons of stuff around/potentially generating the Christmas Tree syndrome. Sample poisons/diseases – while provided as hazards, some examples would have been nice and virulence tec. does not feature – the two components exist pretty much in a half-defined limbo that leaves much in the GM’s hands, in spite of plenty of interaction with spells and abilities. I also think the system does require non-battle fatigue systems for weather/exposure etc. – once again, yes, they can be devised by the GM, but I still feel they deserve more focus.
Editing and formatting are okay, though not perfect – I noticed a couple of glitches herein. Especially formatting, quite honestly, annoyed me. Obvious bullet-point lists are simple lists, which detracts from the readability. And personally, my eyes glaze over when I read the statblocks. Why? Because of the overabundance of “>.” You see, “Ability > Specialty > Mastery” is the format and whenever I looked at such a sign, I felt the layout-need to actually insert an arrow-graphic. It may just be me, though. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard that still retains a pretty printer-friendly basis, so that’s nice. The artwork…well. It exists. It neither adheres to a uniform standard or style, nor did I consider the pieces particularly nice. It doesn’t get better than the cover, so art-fanatics may not want to get this for the aesthetic values.
Dan Cross and Randall Petras have crafted an interesting system here – one that is governed by chaos and swinging results, yes, but also one that is pretty transparent in its rules. In fact, ERP is ridiculously easy to learn once you have someone explain it to you – or are an experienced roleplayer. The book, alas, is pretty much as “eldritch” in the beginning as its name implies – the first explanations and sequence of rules-presentations is NOT simple, nor didactically well-chosen in all occasions, which made running this more frustrating that it really should be – for it’s actually easy! When I read the book for the first time, I saw the claim of “easy character generation” and thought “Yeah right! I have no idea what’s going on!” – the key-word here is patience. The sequence of rules-presentation is not particularly well-chosen, so if you don’t let that frustrate you, ERP actually *IS* so easy to grasp and run – you just have to get past the annoying introduction and to the point where all the pools are actually concisely explained.
Now if the above review wasn’t ample clue – I intensely dislike a plethora of design-decisions, not from a reviewer’s perspective, but from a personal one, so no, I am not going to bash the system for it. This dislike never extends to the base mechanics, mind you, but rather to many of the details – and here, the genius component of this roleplaying system shine: This is perhaps one of the most easily customizable systems I’ve seen in quite a while. Don’t like terrain-rules being swingy? Replace with fixed values. Don’t enjoy the tilting of the scales in favor of the PCs to give them a slight mathematical edge in the game of swinging dice vs. swinging dice? Eliminate it in favor of more lethality. This system is extremely customizable and makes defense worthwhile while providing a combat that is streamlined. In my experience, it is NOT necessarily faster than other systems, though – why? Because rolling competing throws of the dice does take up time that cannot be reduced. (Ask anyone who’s ever played a game featuring them…) Yes, you will not be flipping rule-books much and look for obscure rule xyz, but still – obscure rules can be learned, whereas the rolling of the dice versus another always takes the same time.
In fact, this is my second attempt at writing a conclusion, since my first was focused on demolishing the introductory text – and the game does not deserve this. As much as many design decisions rub me the wrong way, as much as I consider the setting’s potential unrealized and as much as I dislike the simple monsters, all of that ultimately does not matter that much. Why? Because anyone halfway versed in crunch-design or houseruling material can customize the hell out of this system, which ultimately is the huge strength of what is presented here – the mathematical elegance of chance and the simplicity of the system’s swinging numbers translate to a game that transcends the limitations of its imho subpar presentation and slight didactic hiccups.
Know what I honestly did not expect, especially considering how much I do not like the setting? I actually found myself enjoying this system – it feels like a great framework. one that can use expansions, polish and a nicer “coat” (layout + art), one that can use expansions to deal with detailed alchemy, necromancy etc. While not absent from this book, the traditions of the like imho can certainly use a more refined and explicit depiction in future publications. Now I won’t use this all the time – the swinginess of results, while endearing for some narratives and stories, ends up annoying me as much as permanently running the cruise-control monsters of 13th Age. But I will return to ERP in the future. It is an interesting system and, if what I wrote, if the customization, is what you’re looking for, then be sure to take a look at this. My final verdict, in spite of gripes and some opacity in the presentation, will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. Why? Because to me, l good content and basic structure trumps a nice polish and because I thoroughly appreciate the versatility of this system.
You can get this roleplaying system here on OBS!
This installment of Fat Goblin Games’ Call to Arms-series clocks in at a massive 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 39 pages of content so let’s take a look!
Now this book, obviously, expands on the content of the Technology Guide, so I expect familiarity with that material in this review.
This supplement begins with a piece of adept prose and recap on the significant influence technology has had on the development of our very society and there is a reason for that: Before we can take a look at how technology works in game, we have to imho consider the implications of the addition of technology – namely why and how it found its way into a given game world. If you are like me and consider the internal consistency of a given game world to be of tantamount importance, you probably have sneered at quite a few explanations for the existence of technology in a given fantasy context – and thus, this book presents us with a plethora of options that explain the rise or prevalence of technology, including rationalizations for the potential of a limited prominence amid cultures. The intriguing component of these basic concepts that range from divine inspiration (see Zobeck’s gear goddess) to the gifts of the precursors, would be that the respective rules by which technology operates in a fantastic context necessarily ought to change – and the results should not be ignored. If technology is, for example, granted by a divine mandate, it should come as no surprise that adversaries of the doctrine will have a more nature-bound, savage mindset – and vice versa. The inclusion of such ideas and adventure hooks renders this section a useful tool for most DMs who do not want to provide a static backdrop for technology that is relegated to a limited area.
Now here, things become pretty intriguing, at least to me: One of the basic and utterly jarring components of the basic Kingdom-building rules, even when supplemented by Legendary Games’ superb expansions, would be the absence of a true means of properly advancing your kingdom. Sure, you can improve infrastructure etc., but you won’t be able to create a bastion of enlightened scholars amid the savages, a kind of Neo-Atlantis/Azlant/Ankheshel. Indeed, the kingdom-building rules, by virtue of their origin, assume a medieval backdrop. If your campaign has a different scope, perhaps even spanning the lifetimes of multiple characters, then this will be a full-blown example in awesomeness: What am I talking about? Technology-levels for kingdom-building with concise definitions of which goods and buildings become available, which sciences are taught, etc. And yes, the respective technology tiers do sport rules-relevant benefits for the kingdoms that achieve them and bonuses for researching all technologies. I absolutely adore this chapter since, to me, it completely came out of left field – and yes, there is a huge array of new buildings to create, including android factories and orbital space stations. That’s awesome. i mean, who wouldn’t want to go all JLA on the bad guys? At the same time, there is one tiny component the system imho ought to have covered in a slightly different manner: Tier-advancement. As provided, the guidelines assume essentially a list of prerequisites that must be met regarding buildings and technology, but personally, I would have enjoyed a cost to upgrade once all the prerequisites are met – essentially a conscious push to move into the next age. It should be noted, however, that this very much represents a personal preference and thus does not negatively influence my verdict – plus, one can always include such an obstacle.
Okay, after this not only extremely useful, but also surprisingly inspired chapter, we finally move to what I thought this book was all about when I first laid eyes on it: Technological items. Though, once again, this claim just now would be ultimately just as reductive as my previous conception of what this contains. Let me elaborate: The very inclusion of the material plastic with concise stats is pretty much a “Why has no one done this before?” facepalm-moment – and I mean that in the most flattering way: With decreased weight and electricity resistance, plastic is an interesting material indeed. At the same time, though, it does receive vulnerability to fire, which results in a somewhat wonky interaction: Energy damage to objects is usually halved and ignores hardness – so am I correct in the assumption that this halving does not occur for fire damage? It would only make sense, but ultimately, this constitutes a pretty minor issue.
Beyond plastics, there is a further component that has galled me about the implementation of technology in most given rules-contexts: The assumption of total functionality vs. being broken – the totality of both conditions is a component, wherein not only the internal game world’s consistency slightly suffers, but also a crucial deviation from the super-science/pulp/science-fantasy tropes the very rules are supposed to provide for. Ultimately, I can get behind class-specific technology that only works for one type of character the same way I can accept psionics and magic, but once you render this an item-class, this assumption fell away and the exclusivity-clause was removed. Enter this book.
The basic concept is absolutely iconic and genius and perfectly encapsulated in the term “augmentations” – these can be added to a given piece of equipment by characters sporting the Craft Technological Arms and Armor feat akin to how magic works, with a base price of magnitude squared times an amount of gold and magnitude also governing the Craft DC. Now annoyingly, formatting has botched in the bullet point-list that contains these rules – while not rendering the rules opaque in any way, the glitch is so obvious that even casual glimpses should have caught it. But I’ll set that aside to talk about what can be done: From radioactive to monofilament enhancements in different degrees of efficiency, the augmentations are awesome and pretty much represent the fulfillment of my craving for orcs that tack barely understood chainsaws to their axes. And yes, I came to roleplaying games over Warhammer. From graviton hammers to chainsaw swords to plasma-axe muskets, the items herein, some of which receive lavish full-color artworks, uniformly deserve praise on a conceptual level. Interesting here would be that, while there are very minor hiccups here and there, the rules-language, traditionally not exactly the strongest forte of Fat Goblin Games, is up to a pretty high standard and supplements the logical consistency of the items provided – chain-blades, once activated, for example penalize Stealth heavily.
When technology becomes more relevant in warfare, it’ll be only a matter of time before espionage and sabotage become a threat – and thus, the new cause for glitches gremlinite should be considered a further and potentially narratively rewarding addition to the glitch-rules. Beyond these, there is a pretty basic and wide-spread trope of certain items with an ingrained personality – whether it’s a quantum processor-powered AI, a ghost in the shell or a HAL 9000 – AIs are inextricably linked to scifi and fantastic technology. Thus, the rules for actually creating AIs is simple – and the sample item “possessed” by this AI is also rather interesting. Now if that were not enough, what about adding a slew of mythic into the fray, providing new legendary item abilities that most certainly will see use by the Genius, Futurist and Stranger paths, should they feature in your game -what about e.g. overclocking beams to make them AoE? Yeah, ouch! What about an absolutely inspired and unwieldy artifact that can make a high-level dungeon indeed rather strategic? New vehicle propulsion options, from combustion engines to fusion?
The pdf closes with 4 feats that allow you to create Robots, scavenge parts of technological items for your crafting or make AIs. And there is a feat that lets you unarmed punch empty items to get one final charge out of them – thankfully with a cap to prevent abuse.
Editing and formatting are a mixed bag – on the one hand, the rules-language is much more precise than I expected it to be, to the point where actually, I don’t have any proper complaints that would truly detract from this book -so kudos to editor Lucus Palosaari! On the other hand, there are some obviously rushed glitches regarding formatting that annoyed me to no end -though it should be noted, that for most people out there, the amount of glitches will not be within annoyance parameters. The pdf does sport a beautiful 2-column full-color standard with quite a few nice, original full-color pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, though the bookmarks do sport a couple of wonderful names like”h.izabluogbq3a” before providing the proper (and correctly named) bookmarks – so yes, existent, but you should scroll down – and another example of the avoidable glitches that haunt this pdf.
When this landed on my pile to review, I was admittedly less than excited – Fat Goblin Games has a track record with me of having interesting concepts (and since John Bennett took the reins as line-developer, an actually great horror setting!), but issues with the finer rules-interactions. So analyzing a 40+ page book of rules was not exactly my definition of a good time. At this point, I wish to sincerely apologize for this obviously less than flattering preconception. Fat Goblin Games and author Garrett Guillotte have delivered a massive supplemental book that is so much better than I ever anticipated it would be. I expected a somewhat reductive and repetitive accumulation of Technological items herein – what I instead got can be considered the massive appendix for the Technology rules.
In some of my previous reviews pertaining subsystems generated by Paizo, I lamented the lack of synergy and further support for systems once established, while at the same time pointing out that this is pretty much where 3pps can take control and deliver. This book makes perfect use of this thesis – not only do we get some material for mythic fans, the kingdom-building component essentially provides the backdrop for campaigns to take a whole new scope: Instead of just focusing on one age or dynasty, one can utilize these to essentially make kingdom-building, Sid Meier’s Civilization-edition. Indeed, a capable GM can just slot more tiers in between for a finer gradient between tiers and expand the concept further, allowing you to potentially tell stories of truly epic scope and breadth. If you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you’ll note that this simple fact is something I value over almost anything else – beyond the mechanics of augmentations, the new items and AI-rules, it is the rules-framework to tell a *NEW* type of story that was previously not supported by a given system that ultimately makes me grin, makes me happy, makes me cherish a product.
And sometimes, I get lucky – first Alexander Augunas’ Microsized Adventures, now this book – and two whole new inspiring ideas take form: When combining the two, you could conceivably play characters shrunken to enter an organism and fight diseases with their nanite “subjects” while kingdom-building the immune system. Yes, I’m actually going to run this for my group.
What I’m trying to say here is: This book ranks among the few truly inspired crunch book that manage to be innovative. At the same time, I do have a criticism of this book and that ultimately boils down to scope: Whether it’s AIs, augmentations, tiers – I found myself ultimately wishing each of the cool components herein had seen more support and yes, I’d definitely would be very interested in a sequel – the ideas featured herein are so good, I actually would have loved to see them expanded beyond their page-count. Now for the amount of content provided, this is an inexpensive pdf and I wholeheartedly encourage you all to check this out – I don’t mention books of the superb quality of Microsized Adventures lightly in the context of other books.
At the same time, though, the (kind of) professional reviewer has to grit his teeth and point out that this pdf is not perfect; it does have flaws and I wished the glitches I noted weren’t there. If this were either more focused or longer or had no glitches, we’d have a definite candidate for my Top ten of 2015 here. It’s that good. Alas, there are some hiccups in presentation and some concepts that could imho have benefited from more space to render them clearer. So no, I can’t rate this the full 5 stars – I should probably round down. But know what? that would be a disservice to the book and ultimately, you, my readers. This book is inspiring and I always have and always will prefer innovation and inspiration over bland mechanical perfection – and here, this book delivers in spades. hence my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5, and yes, this book gets my seal of approval – it is simply too much fun, too inspired to be bogged down by the glitches, though the more nitpicky among you should remember that they’re here and probably rather round down.