Jan 282016

The Secrets of the Divine: Death, Justice, Healing & Madness


The latest installment of Rite Publishing’s books detailing the unique pantheon of Questhaven along the unique servants of the respective deities clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


Now if you’re not familiar with the series, here’s the basic summary: The deities in Questhaven are peculiar in that their true names are not spoken – instead, they have aliases like “Our Shifting Oracle of Genius” or “Their Mistress of Madness,” with the precise epithet depending on your personal relationship with the deity. The deities sport favored weapons, domains and the like and concise write-ups and the pdf also offers unique options for the respective servants of the deity – often to the point, where the archetypes and feats provided radically change how a character serving the deity plays.


The first deity covered herein is, concept-wise, already very interesting: Our Mother of Many Ways is a chaotic neutral deity associated with jackals, badgers and the like – however, unlike most jackal-associated deities out there, she is not an evil creature – instead, the basic idea is to take the old adage of the thin line separating genius and insanity is represented and embodied by this deity. The vine of inspiration and its associated benefits, the manifestation of her favor and information on the holidays of the deity -all written in the compelling prose we’ve come to expect from the series. The deity also grants two subdomains for Knowledge, namely Prophecy and Inspiration, with domain powers allowing for insight bonuses to be granted to skill-checks or for or for relative flexible premonitions that allow you to act in surprise rounds or gain insight bonuses to AC/attacks, etc.


The deity also sports 3 new feats, one of which retaliates 1/day (not expended if the target saves) an attack on your person with a madness affliction (narrative gold!). Another allows for exactly one revelation with activation time of 1 full round or less to be used as a swift action – which can be pretty potent. Finally, feat number 3, is a high-concept one, allowing you to transform wine of significant quantities into ingested poison. While very circumstantial, I can see this being a cool plot-device indeed! (How did this one group take the fortress back from the ogres?) The write-up also contains, surprisingly, the Joyous Fellowship – a paladin archetype/orga that represents chaotic good followers that receive perceptive gaze (with a cut-copy-paste error referring to inquisitor levels), an aura of hope and, more interestingly, at 4th level an euphoria-powered barbarian rage in lieu of spells. The higher level auras are also rather distinct, allowing for the smite-powered extension of rage to allies, with chaos-based DR/lawful and apotheosis as well as banishment-powered smite. On a cool fluff-level, the archetype also features a fully depicted code of conduct – overall, a solid chaotic pala.


The second deity covered herein would be “Our Queen of Wisdom and Mercy”, the shepherdess of contrition and mercy – enormously popular due to healing offered free of charge, but unsurprisingly none too popular among the clergy-in-spe due to the exceedingly high moral standards required by the church. The write-up of the feats this time around contains two feats, one of which is exceedingly interesting: Sister’s Lace allows you, to, as a swift action, consume three uses of both healing and protection domain 1st level abilities to lace conjuration (healing) or harmless spells, either granting a significant long-term AC-buff that scales with your levels or charge a creature’s weapon with healing, which is discharged upon being touched by the weapon – which offers some surprising, tactical tricks I haven’t seen before.


The second feat, Healer’s Grace, allows for the expenditure of domain powers to grant rerolls versus negative conditions based on the cleric’s own Will-save – pretty powerful, but fitting one. We also get a new paladin, the Queen’ Man – at 4th level, they can significantly enhance the casting of spells and provide a defensive shield that wards against conditions you can negate via mercies and high-level paladins can convert damage in a huge radius into non-lethal damage can be considered truly cool – that battle waging on the grounds of a misunderstanding? Well, these guys can make sure no-one dies! (On a nitpicky side, the archetype is once erroneously called “compassionate son” – but that’s pretty much a cosmetic gripe.) The capstone similarly emphasizes taking conditions, damage, etc. of others, making the archetype’s final levels predisposed to notions of heroic sacrifice, something I really like in the frame of paladins and, since this replaces spells, the power of the class feature seems justified. Furthermore, the archetype sports a number of unique and complex modifications of divine bond with a specific ward-creature that makes the Queen’s Man a superb bodyguard for the target creature. We also receive a second archetype, the Harmonious Spirit warpriest, who receives a modified list of skills and proficiencies as well as several monk-related abilities. Automatic merciful spells, merciful extraplanar prisons to deal with vanquished foes and the like render this archetype rather cool for groups like mine, where murder-hobo-ing intelligent life is NOT considered behavior that’s acceptable for good characters. The harmonious spirit also receives a code of conduct, while aforementioned paladin does not.


The third deity herein was one I’ve been pretty much excited about for a long time – the Reaper of Death and Rebirth, served by the Crematorium of the Grim Gatherer – and yes, this is an interesting component of the church: Beyond the usual death-related iconography and different takes on the religion, the addition of phoenix and rebirth as central concepts render this one a surprisingly fresh take on the death-god-trope. The archetype provided here would be the Ruiner fighter, who gets a specific ruin pool equal to 1/2 class level + Cha-mod, which can be used defensively, to make wounds that are hard to heal or cast curse spells – though I’m honestly hard-pressed to note a sufficient amount of spells with the cures-descriptor – a spell-list,. even a small one, would have been very much appreciated here. Additionally, higher level ruiners receive hexes, bonus damage versus cursed foes and the stalwart ability (not a fan – basically, evasion for Fort- and Will-saves) and high-level ruiners can prevent the very first attack in a full attack executed against them by cursed targets. Overall, a cool, if somewhat user-unfriendly archetype.


Now on the interesting side, there is also a universal archetype contained herein, the Phoenix Child…which is less of an archetype and more of a GM-based template that is applied to characters. Think of it as a kind of mythic path sans tiers that is instead tied with linear progression to the respective class levels. You see, these beings may be reborn in fire, but they also return from the grave with a list tattooed into their arms – this is the list of specific tasks the character has to rectify in order to be absolved of the sins committed in a previous life, with final death being the reward…though redemption thus gained is scarcely attained. Beyond various flame-themed abilities, this one is basically a power-increase, a narrative option…and made me immediately contemplate a campaign, where all PCs are Phoenix Children. Not suitable for every campaign and GMs should be aware of the additional power, but still, I consider this AWESOME.


The final deity herein would be Our Steely-Eyed Judge, the deity of justice and law – stern, fierce and vigilant, supported by a rather well-written Truth inquisition that includes a honesty-enforcing curse, with the two feats once again sporting a domain-powered lacing effect, which, this time around, offers for a kind of flanking curse and a limited retributive bestow curse (lacking italicization), which is nice. The write-up also sports the Thief-taker Slayer archetype, a specialist of urban tracking (with handy DCs/modifier-tables provided), including the rather cool generation of tracer-objects and high-level quarries and a talent that allows for the garroting of enemies and a non-lethal incapacitation talent that erroneously mentions the bounty hunter in another minor hiccup.


Beyond these option, we conclude this book with some truly intriguing pieces of fluff that elaborate the themes and concepts of Questhaven, including the crossroads of dream and some important pieces of advice some authors out there should take a look at – making fluff not read like a DVR instruction manual is something that would make my reviewer’s obligations significantly more compelling…but I digress.



Editing and formatting are the one component of this supplement that could have used some streamlining – there are quite a few punctuation glitches in here and references to the wrong class in some abilities, remnants of either cut-copy-paste glitches or revisions in the class-name’s respective nomenclature. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf has nice artworks for the deity’s symbols and more, most of it in full color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Okay, so this one is pretty hard on me – I like just about all of the respective options portrayed herein, though the ruiner could really have used a list of curse spells by level. I also would have loved a code of conduct for the Queen’s Man. Then again, the significant majority of archetypes and options here not only sport some awesome concepts, they also manage to use rather innovative mechanics and inspire to an extent that makes me come up with plot-lines by virtue of simply reading them – a feat not many pieces of crunch achieve. So yes, Steven D. Russell’s latest collection of deities and related material must be considered to be inspired, though it also feels a bit rougher on the edges than what I would have liked it to be. Still, most glitches herein are ultimately cosmetic in nature – which makes me settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to the inspired ideas herein to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


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


Endzeitgeist out.


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Jan 282016

Four Horsemen Present: Abstraction Golems Expanded


This pdf 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!


What is the abstraction golem? Well, the obvious response would be that it is a mythic template that allows you to create golems from the very fabric of concepts like love, war etc. – abstract concepts. First introduced in the massive and exceedingly impressive Construct Companion, the base template is provided herein, but, as the title suggests, the options introduced there are further expanded herein, providing new abstraction templates to craft these conceptually awesome golems from.


The first of these would be Fate, which obviously is luck/doom themed and can even grant mythic wish 1/week. More interesting to me, since it pretty much was an imho required addition, was the Hate golem, which not only sports a rage-inducing aura, but also the titan’s rage champion ability and associated benefits versus the targets of the ire….which can be manifold indeed.


More sagacious characters will most certainly be surprised when the repository of ancient, lost knowledge turns out to be a Knowledge golem that can educate mortals as well as mimic class abilities akin to the trickster. Personally, though, I consider the life golem with its granting of regeneration, the ability to animate plants (instantaneous AND awakened!) and, more importantly, a kind of super resurrection that can even thwart old age interesting – we all know the inevitables don’t like meddling like that and indiscriminate life can end up a huge issue. The Archmage’s competent caster and the option to temporarily learn spells that magic golems sport is similarly interesting, as is the war golem that scavenges the marshal’s Fight On, while being superb in conjunction with teamwork feats…and canceling them out.



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to the neat 2-column full-color standard established for the series and the artworks by Jacob Blackmon are great. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Stephen Rowe delivers exactly what the pdf says on the tin – more, cool abstraction golem concepts and, honestly, I still love the concept to bits. At the same time, with the novelty worn off, the spoiled reviewer-bastard that is me couldn’t help but feel that this book very much plays it safe – compared to some Mythic Monsters by Legendary Games or mythic templates released by Stephen in his gruesome-series of pdfs released by Rogue Genius Games, the abstraction golems herein felt less unique.


Basically, I see the framework: Add + x abilities, which include SPs, an ability-scavenge from a path…you get the idea. Much like a series where one is aware of the set’s nature, this does take a bit away from the pdf – in direct comparison, Stephen Rowe has simply crafted more inspired material.


That being said, I could rattle down a list of publications that wish they reached the level of these ideas – the golems within these pages are solid and fun and I’m basically being a very spoiled reviewer right now. Still, I couldn’t help but feel that hatred could have used a spitefully self-destructive ability; that magic could have used a truly unique way of modifying spells, perhaps even of breaking the laws that govern magic. Again, I’m spoiled, but the golems herein could have used a codification for the blending of abstract concepts (love-hate golems?) or a similar step forward. The book makes the concept broader, but not deeper. This should not prevent you from checking this out, though – this is still a fun book, well worth the asking price. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.


You can get this inexpensive, nice little book here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!
Endzeitgeist out.


Jan 282016

Call to Arms: Axes and Picks


The second installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


After a brief paragraph of introductory prose, we are treated to a solid little introduction of the history of both axes and picks and their roles in warfare before we are introduced to the subject matter at hand – here, beginning with properly codified flint weapons, which, while fragile, may ignite flammable material when struck against metal – which is one of the trademark “Why hasn’t this been done before?”-moments I love in the series. Similarly, I am pretty sure that more than one GM out there will appreciate the rules for weapons with double heads, allowing for the free action switching of them. If you’re like me and contemplate converting Age of Worms, you’ll certainly appreciate these rules for the signature weapon of servants of dread Kyuss.


Alas, there is a sensible modification that is rather problematic: Alternate Axe-bits make sense: They allow for the inexpensive addition of material-based weapon properties. For campaigns à la Ravenloft that sport the requirement for obscure materials to bypass some sorts of DR, this makes sense. At the same time, incorporating e.g. adamantine does feel problematic to me, since adamantine’s price is carefully balanced versus the significant powers it grants. Material bypassing DR =/= material bypassing DR and while the scaling price does still reflect this, it imho does not do so in a sufficient manner for the more powerful materials.


A total of 12 different simple weapon axes and picks are provided, from the awl to the Alpenstock (originally created to serve as a climber’s tool, literally meaning “staff of the Alps”), which helps with climbing – though the bonus type it conveys should probably be an equipment bonus. But that’s just me being a nitpicky prick. A total of 16 martial weapons (including aforementioned climber’s tool) are included within, as well as 9 exotic weapons, with the ricocheting gnomish throwing picks being among the more interesting ones, while e.g. the dhampir maul, is slightly problematic: The weapon is a big hammer with a slot for e.g. a stake to be inserted. So far, so good, right? Alas, the stake-part is fragile and the notation of damage is 1d6/2d6, which is slightly uncommon.

Now this is a cosmetic glitch, sure, but I do have another issue here: The finer balancing of some of these weapons seems to be slightly off. Take the executioner’s axe: At 40 gp, it offers a base damage of 1d12, Crit 19-20/x3 and both the deadly and fragile quality – compare that to the dwarven longaxe, which costs 50 gp and offers a base damage of 1d12, Crit x3. Personally, I believe that the extended crit-range is more powerful than just the addition of the fragile quality offsets. While the weapons generally are on par with established ones, they sometimes slightly overshoot their targets – not by much or to a game-breaking extent, mind you, but still.


Regarding internal consistency, there are two entries among the weapons that are unlike the others, two entries that do not belong – the stiletto and misericorde. The latter being the “Mercykiller”-blade used to grant mercy to the mortally wounded – a long, narrow knife, thin enough to fit between the plates of armor. With the ample variants of axes, I don’t really get the inclusion of these weapons here, but oh well – once again, I’m complaining on a cosmetic level. That being said, I do believe that the latter represents an obvious missed chance to grant the blade more of a mechanically unique identity by e.g. facilitating coup-de-grâce-attempts. (Granted a magical misericorde later provides that when used versus undead, but still… Oh, and the magic weapon is imprecise in that it does not state whether rejuvenation or similar abilities fall under the healing-prevention of undead finished with the blade.)


Reinforced sheaths make sense to me – these sheathes can turn picks and axes into a bludgeoning weapon, which makes sense – the item also codifies better nonlethal damage dealing and the new, sheathed properties of the axe/pick – kudos! On the magical side, the pdf introduces two new special weapon abilities: At +1 bonus, hewing weapons add +4 to CMB to sunder attempts and the +3-equivalent felling property increases the damage output of the weapon to be equivalent to the size of the creature targeted – but only for one attack and the damage-die never decreases for fine/diminutive. This is problematic in three ways: 1) It increases the “one hit kill”-factor that is anathema to epic battles. 2) Weapon damage die increases are pretty opaque, much more so for weapons of larger sizes – damage progression-tables would have been greatly appreciated. 3) For +3, 1 hit damage-increase, thereafter the weapon does not convey this bonus against the creature for 24 hours, feels very punitive. All in all, not a fan in the slightest of this one.


The pdf also contains 9 specific weapons spanning the price-range from 8K gp to 103,018 gp. The specific weapons are solid, though not always brilliant: Take the axe of fire and ice: One head +1 flaming burst, one head +1 icy burst (both not italicized) – and that’s it. No additional trick, no unique feature…boring. Speaking of minor formatting hiccups – the forester’s axe’s one superscript property lacks the superscripting formatting for an unsightly “UE” in addition to lack of property italicization – though its doubled function as a renewable rod of flame extinguishing is at least not that bland. The Jack-of-all-trades, a poleaxe, is more interesting: Each head of it is separately enchanted and crafted from a different material to make the weapon feasible against all kinds of threats and the weapon even has the information for its non-magical price…but, alas, it lacks the precise damage-stats for each head: There are a lot of axes, spears and the like and while I love the idea of the weapon, its execution, alas, renders it an inoperable guessing game as provided.


On the plus-side, a weapon made to break objects, doors and locks is neat. Somewhat oddly misplaced herein: The thunderstone arrowhead is always “formed in the shape of handaxes or arrowheads” – does that mean there are handaxes with this property? This does contradict the +1 shock arrow base item, though…which brings me to the second entry, which covers the handaxe version…and its language is, alas, just as confused, referring to arrows and the like. Worse, its effects are that “powerful magical lightning strikes the ground” – does that mean lightning bolt at the item’s CL? Would make sense, but the bolt strikes from above, so is it call lightning? I have literally no idea how this is supposed to work. On the plus-side, I *REALLY* love the magical sheathes provided here, conferring e.g. cold iron’s benefits to the weapon. Surprisingly, the wording here is more precise. A cursed sheath that corrodes weapons is also interesting.

The intelligent axe Old King Harold, bane to orcs and goblins, is a rather neat one and we also get the stats for the mythic axe of Perun that can control weather via mythic power and call down lightning (here with the proper spell) in these called stormfronts – odd, really: How a more complex item works, where a simple one stumbles. On the downside, the lack of italicization and superscript-errors make complex items like this one harder to grasp than necessary. The indestructible spike artifact is a brutal spiked maul and conveys iron body on the wearer – BRUTAL!


There also is a new rogue talent that allows for the exchange of sneak attack damage die to reduce armor bonuses – basically, trade damage for precision. An okay talent. The feats are interesting: Using disarm to negate shield bonuses…though the alternate use, which lets you make “opposed Strength-checks” to make foes drop the shield feels wrong – opposed Strength-checks usually do not happen directly in battle; PFRPG tends to use CMB/CMD instead and the d20 vs. d20-base means that the roll is very swingy. Not a fan of this component of the feat. The second feat allows you to perform AoOs versus attacking foes when fighting defensively or in total defense, potentially disarming them. Oh boy, this one – I like the intent, but the feat “gives you an automatic attack of opportunity” – which is not default wording and could mean that you can exceed AoOs per round. I’m not sure how this works.


The pdf concludes with a solid write-up of Craft (Knapping) for the manufacture of flint or obsidian weapons and items.



Editing and particularly formatting need some work: The lack of italicizations of certain components and amount of superscripts not superscripted is pretty jarring. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice full color artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.


After the disappointing first installment in the series, I kept my distance to the series, mainly since I didn’t want to bash Fat Goblin Games, then a totally different company, quality-wise, than today. Imagine my surprise when current Call to Arms-books actually were rather imaginative, inspired and cool….which made me wonder: When exactly did the series and company become better in such a short time? Well, I returned to Call to Arms to take a look at what Lucus Palosaari has crafted, to witness the growth of the author, if you will. So yeah, this is why you’re seeing a review for this old pdf now. To get that out of the way: This was obviously before editing and formatting reached the current level, so in that regard, the pdf isn’t that great.

Similarly, rules-editing is not yet as tight as in later installments of the series and there are quite a few slightly problematic components herein, some that simply don’t work. At the same time, this already displays the strengths later installments exhibit – there are some true “Why hasn’t this been done before?”-moments to be found herein, which provide equilibrium for the flaws. Ultimately, this is a mixed bag, slightly on the positive side of things, and hence my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, though I will round down for the purpose of this platform.


You can check out this nice, if not perfect little book here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!


Endzeitgeist out.


Jan 262016

Into the Breach: The Forgotten Classes


The latest installment of the Into the Breach-series clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


This review was moved forward in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the behest of my patreons.


But wait – what exactly is this? Well, know those NPCs classes? Well, they actually get some modifications in this little book. “But why would I care?” Simple: Either you’re a GM and look for some enhancers and novel tricks for them…or perhaps, you’re looking for a change of pace and want to run a low-fantasy campaign, a horror campaign -whatever. There are plentiful reasons to champion the less powerful classes and the gameplay can indeed be exhilarating. However, at the same time, there’s a design-aesthetic issue with NPC classes – they frankly are not that versatile, so let’s see whether the content herein can render them more intriguing!


We begin our survey with the adept-class, whose first archetype would be the caller. These guys choose a resonant aspect from amid the classic elements, gaining a “+1 circumstance bonus on all saving throws against effects from her chosen element” – which is, alas, very flawed rules-language. You see, I *think* this is supposed to mean the associated elemental damage types…but I’m not sure. There are water effects that deal bludgeoning damage…do they count? What about boulders falling on the PCs? Does the bonus only apply to spells and effects with the descriptor of the respective elemental damage? See, I feel like a bastard when I do this since the ability *looks* like “you know what the designer meant.” Thing is, you don’t, because the language simply isn’t precise enough. *sigh*

Unfortunately, things become even more opaque at 2nd level, when a caller may breathe life into the element as a full-round action, which then behave as animated objects, with levels determining size and construction pool. The problem here is that elements are not constructs – they have different traits and the ability uses both interchangeably – so which save-progression do they have? What is the base frame upon which those crafted elements are made? I have no idea. On a nitpicky side, the ability also sports some it’s/its-errors, but that remains cosmetic. At higher levels, proper elemental damage codification with new construction pool tricks in one case, while another retains untyped damage, when that should obviously be the associated elemental damage.


Another ability allows for the hijacking of constructs, elements or animated objects to deal untyped damage (problem, considering the prevalence of DR and similar defenses among constructs) – the ability, alas, is missing the information about its range: Touch? Ranged? No idea. This is particularly galling since concept-wise, e.g. construct-possession at higher levels and granting sentience are pretty neat concepts and similarly, the capstone for a permanent element creation evokes some nice images. Additionally, the construction points rules, collated and provided for your convenience, make for a considerate, nice addition here. I really wanted to like this one and it’s pretty close to actually working, but the imperfections in the base abilities of the archetype severely hamper it. It can easily be fixed, all right – but still.


The second archetype would be the Deep Jungle Shaman of the Flesh, who may track even the trackless in jungles and may consume the dead of her own kind to gain temporary casting enhancements, including, at high levels, the option to cast spell-like abilities of creatures consumed. The ability replaces “summon samiliar” in an unnecessary typo. While the wording could be a tad bit more refined, this one does not sport any glaring issues.


Next up would be the Nun, who obviously needs to be female and receives access to a domain as well as channel energy at 2nd level. Nuns also provide Wis bonus when aiding another instead of the fixed bonus and may grant nearby allies immediate action rerolls 1+Wis-mod times per day. High-level nuns are particularly potent healers and at 15th level, may 1/day use un/holy word…with one problem: There is no unholy word – the proper name of the spell is blasphemy. Other than that a nice archetype.


The Vicar receives a modified list of class skills as well as the knowledge domain and a so-called flexible domain from among his deity’s portfolio – which is a pretty strong option. Additionally, he receives Wisdom modifier in addition to Charisma to perform (Oratory) and Diplomacy and may duplicate a limited list of bardic performances at his level -2, starting at 3rd level. Additionally, 5th level nets one of a huge list of domain-related abilities, including the perfect feigning of death, the compression ability and similar tricks – which, over all, are exceedingly fun and unique…and they make sense. Nice one!


The Aristocrat-class also receives several archetypes herein, the first of which would be the Coven Sworn, who receives a limited array of bonus feats, wild empathy at 4th level (with Greater Wild Empathy-feat-progression) and even an animal/vermin companion at -3 levels. As a capstone, this one gets a patron – all in all, a solid one! The Noble Wastrel is an archetype that pretty much represents the trope of the Dorian-esque dandy, with negated downsides of drugs, an inscrutable will as well as the means to use honeyed tongue and good looks to end emotion-based effects or instill hostilities – though the latter should probably be classified as an emotion based effect. Still, a damn cool archetype that makes the capstone (which grants immunity to mind-affecting effects while drugged) fit in perfectly. Love this one! Two things are inevitable in life…yes, we all know the immortal words of Big Ben and the tax assessor, with 6+Int skills, knows them better than most. These guys get cavalier order benefits (at 1/2 level), but do not have to adhere t the order’s tenets and the order’s members dislike the tax assessor – surprise. Gaining a Judge Dee-style bade dazzle and antagonizing adversaries as well as a peacebond hex-duplicate and a second order round up a compelling archetype.


Now, we already have a big book on commoners, but here we get archetypes for the most maligned class by design: The Forester, for example, gains sensible tracking and favored terrain as well as a suit that enhances his camouflage – and makes so much sense. I always hated how regular folks were just lost in the woods, with only super-rangers out there – this is the representation of the regular hunter, the everyday joe living from the woods. Love it! The Hostler specializes in one sort of common animal and becomes a superb trainer for this animal type and even command animals of other targets, including the bucking off of riders and some serious healing prowess – once again, a great little archetype that makes sense indeed and adds a bit of realism to a game world’s demographic.


The trope of the adept urchin, the urban survivalist, is similarly wide-spread and very limited sneak attack as well as social skill-bonuses and a sanctuary-duplicating wide-eyed pity-based effect alongside a network of informants make sense and are fun indeed.


The expert class may now elect for the boxman specialization – obviously an expert of all things lock-related and a good base for escort missions or heist-based games, an in-game reason why adventurers would even bother with these guys – nice!!! Master Craftsmen are pretty much defined by their trade secrets, basically talents the class begins with at 1st level, +1 every 3rd level, including the option to make magic items faster as well as the substitution of alchemy for energy-damage-dealing spells when crafting, while the minstrel is basically a toned down bard with limited performances as well as an ability that makes foes target him with nonlethal means, representing well the trope of the minstrel bluffing foes to leave him alive.


The Warrior-class may also choose from new archetypes, the first of which would be the Deep Jungle Flesh Hunter, a poison using warrior with facepaint that enhances AC. Nice jungle-stalker-type/poison specialist. The Farm Soldier is particularly adept at using farm implements and an urban barbarian’s rage (at -2 class levels) when nearby allies fall (and later, when he himself is damaged) – here, we btw. also get 100 sample items to be found in the possession of a peasant. Once again, not much to complain about. The pen-ultimate archetype herein would be the Siege Sapper, who codifies e.g. siege weapon barrage shots in rules-language, which is obviously contingent on sufficient siege engines. While this makes the archetype rather circumstantial, I can see e.g. PCs trying to take this guy out in sieges etc. The rules-language is not always perfect here, but it’s precise enough, in spite of the relatively complex subject matter. So yes, I like that one. The final archetype would be the Yeoman, who may use bonus feats from Tides of War: Volley Shots (which I do not have) and the archetype receives e.g. melee use of bows and better bow use – the archetype is, as far as I can tell, relatively sound.


The pdf also does sport a new base class, the way trader, who receives d8, 6+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-Saves. The class gains bonuses to business-related skills and begin play with a free vehicle with which they can ply their trade. Additionally, wanderlust and the laws of supply and demand allow the trader to receive more gold as well as easy access to any black market at higher levels. In the end, the class becomes extremely adept at blending in and excellent selling margins as well as at-will know direction.


The pdf concludes with 3 pages of fitting weapons and items – from reinforced hoes and pitch forks to 4 different light armors, which, while solid, annoyingly lack the “+” in front of the respective Max Dex Bonus entries in the table.



Formatting is VERY good this time around, at least for the most part. However, the editing on both a formal and a rules-level is pretty flawed, sometimes extending to the information required to correctly determine how an ability is supposed to work. An additional editing pass would have very much been appreciated here. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports beautiful, thematically fitting full-color art.


Frank Gori, Jeffrey Harris, Richard Litzkow, Taylor Hubler – the team here has crafted a book I most definitely will use. The archetypes herein are diverse and varied and cover a significant array of concepts that imho were in dire need of a representation, with quite a few of them making sense and inspiring adventures as well as a more concise demographic for the villages, cities, etc. out there. In fact, I really want to love this book, I really do – the content herein, with the notable exception of some of the adept archetypes, makes sense and works pretty much with no or next to no streamlining required.

The book, per se, is solid…though I wished it did one thing, and that would be to balance the archetypes among themselves. While all generally are somewhere between standard NPC-class impotence and PC classes, there is quite a significant difference between the archetypes of the adept and expert in power-levels, which means the pdf is less useful as potential PC-material for truly low-powered games. In such a context, this does require some tweaking by the GM to work on the same level – granted, this is not their intent per se, but if they had managed this feat, I’d be singing praises for this book and recommend this unanimously and sans “but”s.


I still am, in a way – you see, having played my own share of low powered games with classes and options like this, I can attest that the options herein provide meaningful choices without blowing the potency of the NPC-classes up too much. Beyond the potential of it, this book does achieve what it sets out to do – and that is something not to be underestimated. How many times did you ask yourself how those NPCs survive in a world of orcs and demons? Well, the archetypes herein make this more believable. While still a long shot away from PC competence, it makes sense that the forester can hunt and not die; that the nun can heal, that you need a boxman for the heist of the archmage’s tomb…etc.

How to rate this, then? Well, in spite of the glitches, I pretty much love what this brings to the table and while I should probably penalize this more for its glitches, I can’t bring myself to do it – for better and worse, this does allow for the telling of several compelling narratives and allows a capable GM to enhance the immersion of the campaign world by providing at least semi-capable NPCs that do not belong to PC-classes. In short: I like this book and though I wish it was more refined, I still adore what it does and sincerely hope there’ll be a sequel or a streamlining down the road. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars. If the concepts even remotely interest you, then get it – while not perfect, this is well worth the asking price.


You can get this cool book for the poor, neglected NPC-classes here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Jan 262016

Village Backdrop: Tigley


This installment of RSP’s Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look at the settlement


All right, just in case you’re not familiar with Raging Swan Press excellent series of villages – here’s the deal: Each village backdrop showcases one particular village, complete with settlement statblock and so much more: We get information on magic items for sale in the place, key NPC-information, notes on local nomenclature and lore that can be unearthed via Knowledge skill-checks as well as 6 local rumors and sample events – the latter of which should be considered to be adventure hooks the GM can develop into full-blown adventures or just use to add local color to the supplement.


The village of Tigley, situated cliffside atop a massive canyon through which a stream flows, jutting from a spire, towering over a massive swamp, the little settlement has only recently managed to recuperate from a massive earthquake. Tigley itself is a peculiar settlement – sporting, for example, a dry well from which swarms of bats emerge in regular intervals or an old codger who asks for a “Lazy Toll” to cross the nearby rope-bridge, the village also features an interesting custom: With the local cemetery falling down during the earthquake, it has become custom to bury the dead in the nearby lake, the sink.

In a smart take on a concise supplement, the significant amount of bats and demands of certain spells mean that bat guano farming is a pretty industry here alongside paper press and hemp. The local orphanage is a constant reminder of the recent cataclysm the village has endured, in spite of the relatively few kids living there and, surprisingly, there is a werebat herein – one that has sworn off the bloodthirsty ways of his kin. There would also be local troublemakers like a gifted stone-mason who also happens to be a rather nasty bully.



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP’s patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.


Steve Hood’s Tigley is a great little village – its industry and population feel organic and concise; the local color is superb and the quirks and traditions mentioned conspire to make the village feel organic and alive. There is also an array of rather interesting material the enterprising GM can utilize to craft adventures from – though, ultimately, in that regard, Tigley falls a bit short of the best installments in the series.


While there are several unique and compelling ideas herein, just throwing your PCs into the village will not write adventures in itself; unlike the best of the Village Backdrops, you’ll need to prod a bit more, help craft a bit more investment and trouble, for Tigley could have used more pronounced conflicts that tie-in with its great local color – as provided, some minor disputes and a bully are the most prominent issues. In any other series, Tigley would be considered to be absolutely glorious, but considering the superb quality of the series as a whole, it does fall slightly short of the best in the series. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


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


You can support Raging Swan Press on the companies’ patreon here!
Endzeitgeist out.


Jan 262016

Monster Menagerie: A Council of Genies


This installment of Rogue Genius Games’ Monster Menagerie-series clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


After a brief introductory page on the subject matter, the first creature featured herein would be the CR 6 Afara, genies of ash with a significant array of unique tricks – beyond being able to assume ashen form and increasing damage output, the sport a powerful retributive aura that may cause nearby creatures to choke as well as the option to spit embers. There are some minor inconsistencies here, though – the choking aura should imho have its save governed by Constitution or Charisma for more powerful afara, but that’s just me being picky. More importantly, the ember spit should probably cause fire damage rather than untyped damage. The failure to properly codify elemental damage caused, unfortunately, extends to other genies as well – the CR 12 Electricus’ arcing aura should clearly deal electricity damage; it doesn’t. It’s untyped damage. This extends to the ability to use said aura to ground and the creature even manages to get basic damage type wording in an admittedly cosmetic glitch wrong: It’s “electricity damage”, not “electrical damage” that should be added to their attacks – a glitch that extends further to other abilities, btw.


The CR 18 negative energy-themed Guayota has a Black Breath, a spinning mass of black energy that drains hp, which can be swallowed again to heal the genie. However, it can be destroyed by “a successful dispel magic or by being targeted by a sunburst or similar magic.” Problem: This is SU, I have no idea of the dispel check’s DC. How does that work with sunburst? Does the cloud move with the genie or does it remain stationary? What in the name of all nine hells are “similar magic”? That’s just plain SLOPPY. The wording of an item-destroying ability lacks an activation action and first grants a save to avoid the broken condition, then RAW doesn’t when it comes to destroying the item.


On the plus-side, the ice-themed CR 7 Hrimthur has a two-save, all 1d4 rounds ice-shard burst aura of cold and piercing that is solid, barring the lack of an activation action, which makes me assume it’s automatic, though the verbiage implies otherwise. The CR 10 Inhabitors are intriguing in that they can hijack constructs and objects, but, alas, their object meld ability lacks an activation action, which is an odd oversight, for the construct-hijacking ability does cover that ground. Mireimer, the CR 4 mud-themed genies receive potentially suffocation-causing criticals that require water of Heal-checks to clear – not much to complain about this guy.


The shadow-based CR 8 obscurial is nasty – they can animate the shadows of foes: If the shadow slays its own, a greater shadow is born; if the owner slays the shadow, s/he is left shadowless and cursed (once again, sporting the wonderful “similar magic” verbiage) and they can make tools of shadow and even solid walls from the material, here with the CL properly taken into account, just fyi. On a slightly nitpicky note – I do believe that shadowcrafting should probably be faster than regular crafting, which it RAW is not. Additionally, how much hardness and hp doe the objects have? If e.g. an object can be fashioned from metal or wood, which one’s stats are used for the sahdow duplicate? No idea.


The CR 5 Prince of Beasts can absorb poison and disease as a carrier and consume the souls of the helpless (creating ghouls) as well as rapidly shapeshift – nice! At CR 2, Spell Fetches horridly overpowered allies for any spellcaster – these guys can store spells and even scour the planes to retrieve and store spells for their masters, which the master then can cast or learn – yes, that’s pretty much infinite spells. Worse, they can even get spells from other spell-lists their masters then can cast. Basically, this is an infinite wild-card scroll character with a minor cool-down…adn since they are available as improved familiars, they have the dubious honor of being the most overpowered familiar I know of.


The CR 7 Tephran can cause 5 foot squares to explode and would be a sadistic magma genie…not much beyond that, but I guess here’s as good a place as any to comment on the fact that additional noble genie rules are provided for most, though not all of the genie herein.


The final creature herein would be the CR 18 Yazata, the positive energy counterpart to the Guayota, who receives a blinding pulse of light and a jittering euphoria-inducing (de)buff that makes concentration and offense pretty hard, but also doubles healing received in a nice duality – over all, a cool one.



Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good; on a rules-level, there are some serious blunders here, though. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color grimoire-style and is truly a sight to behold – and so are the numerous absolutely awesome original artworks by Jacob Blackmon herein, which inspired me more than any other component herein. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Sam Hing is a veteran among the designers and I am a bit stumped regarding this book; you see, I was pretty much ecstatic that we’d finally get new, unique genies herein – and there are instances, where the respective creatures are pretty much awesome in concept and flair. On the other hand, there are a lot of issues in here as well – in some instances, wording is simply imprecise, while in others, there are obvious and unnecessary minor hiccups. There would be the case of the most overpowered familiar ever…and a creeping sense of either development being aborted halfway through or the author oscillating between good days (making awesome creatures) and pretty bad ones, where mechanics fall flat. I don’t know – but I do know that I went out of this pdf rather disappointed, thinking that the beautiful art and layout and cool concepts would have deserved better. A good GM can sure salvage all creatures herein and they are functioning, but I still feel this falls flat of its own potential and the standard established for this series. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3 stars.


You can get this little monster-pdf here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.


Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 252016



This module intended for younger audiences clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the behest of my patreons.


Before we dive into the nit and grit – this module does sport 3 pages of pregens with nice artworks for each, though, due to space-constraints, the attribute-modifiers, associated attributes for skills etc. are not listed – particularly for the target demographic of kids, these short-hand basic pregens may actually be more confusing when learning the game – so yeah, not a fan of this brief depiction…but that may just be me and the taste of my own gaming group.


This is a review of a module and as such, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.



All right, still here? The small city of Hearthridge (fully statted), a pretty and calm little place, has its fair share of illustrious folk – one of which would be Gerard Scribbleboom, who may be partially responsible for a less than kind local attitude towards gnomes. And, with a name like that, the reason should come as no surprise – this alchemist has indeed once managed to burn down the merchant’s quarter – and now, he’s back at it, trying to create G.U.M.B.O. – Gerard’s Ultimate Miraculous Benevolent Odiferous Brew, to get back into business after his little blaze has earned him a less than stellar reputation. On a positive side, the already ingrained and recently flared racial intolerance towards gnomes could, at least potentially, benefit from this venture – thus, hearty adventurers take to the by now infamous “Fiery Furball.”


There, the alchemist hands the PCs an ingredient list (replicated as a neat hand-out) – there are 4 necessary ingredients: Blue shrooms, leopard’s bane plants, Muriod Oil and abolone shells. As for the optional ingredients – Burdock root, powdered rose quartz, Calendula and vampire dust need to be collected for his masterpiece to be complete, though the optional components remain sidenotes and not detailed fully in the module – and off the players go, with general ideas on where to get the items being provided.


The blue shrooms can be found in damp caverns and thus, the first task is thankfully relatively simple – a kobold cavern with relatively easy to defeat adversaries, which coincidentally contains some delightfully diverse effects…oh, and here is as good as any other place a good note for one particularly cool feature herein: The module provides bonus XP when the PCs manage collecting the mushrooms sans killing kobolds…you know, act like proper heroes. Two thumbs up for that!


But hey, the grassland will be easy, right? Right? Sorry, no – the fields contain a significant array of giant vermin – beyond giant ticks, the PCs will have a chance to save a farmer’s boy from a colony of fire beetles and their queen. The muroid oil can be found in yet another little dungeon – the lavishly mapped labyrinthine sewers of the city, where a clan of ratfolk lair…and yes, once again, not being a nasty murder-hobo is rewarded, while PCs doing their legwork can find a nice, player-friendly schematic of the sewers.


The abalone shells, though, may end up busy-work – thankfully, smart adventurers know when to delegate – and if they help the local kids build the ultimate sand-castle, they may count on the assistance of the kids to find sufficient quantities of abalone shells…but not all’s well here: Considering the explosive past of a certain gnome, some thugs seek to beat up the PCs and stop them from “blowing up more parts of the town” – while intimidation would be a smart choice here, oddly, this time around, there is no reward for non-lethal combat resolution.


Returning with all key-ingredients to Gerard, the PCs arrive just in time to prevent an angry mob from burning down Gerard’s shop and throwing him in jail – putting out the fires the crowd caused and calming them constitutes the finale of the module – which is kind of anticlimactic – no complex series of arguments, no direct correlation between actions and consequences here – a missed chance…though the potency of the G.U.M.B.O. increases with the number of ingredients gained…some of which may provide permanent attribute bonuses! A caveat that prevents stacking thereof would probably have been in order here. As a minor glitch, the table of G.U.M.B.O.-effects erroneously notes “Parts of Sandcastle Constructed” in one column.



Editing and formatting are very good, though not quite as tight as in the other Playground Adventures-modules I’ve read so far. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks are copious and original, neat full-color pieces – this book *is* beautiful. The cartography of the GM-maps is very playful; conversely, the schematic player-map is a bit drab in comparison and not all of the encounter-relevant locales sport maps – particularly annoying for the fiery furball in the finale.


G.U. M.B.O. was the third module by Playground Adventures I ran for my group and author Daniel Marshall has crafted a nice one; there is a lot of playfulness going on and the module does not sport any inappropriate themes. Billed as suitable for children of ages 10 and up, personally, I’d situate this at a lower age range, perhaps 6-7 and up; the module does reward non-violent conflict-resolution (though it is a tad bit inconsequent with it) and sports generally an array of didactically valuable themes beyond that: The prejudice towards gnomes in an otherwise good city is an interesting angle and blends well with generating an awareness of the consequences of one’s actions – alas, the module does miss the chance for the PCs to truly do something about the prejudice, to champion integration. While better than a “G.U.M.B.O.-makes everything all right” cop-out, I think a more tighter focus on this theme would not only have been morally justified, it would also have made for a fun, uncommon adventuring experience.


So this would be the first thing I’m not sold on here; the second component, beyond the rules-issue presented by the finished G.U.M.B.O., would be the thoroughly disappointing anti-climax of an ending scene. So, some CR 1 dudes with NPC-levels that don’t even want to fight (no troop-rules, btw.) and a minor hazard…that’s it. Similarly, potential for complex roleplaying and skill-challenges, like e.g. with the sand castle-building, could have been expanded upon – where are the mechanical ramifications of making a sandcastle, why not make this a collective challenge with more than one skill check? General groundwork via Knowledge (engineering), fine ramparts and the like via Sleight of Hand? Why not make it magical, shrink everyone nearby and fight the thugs inside, granting bonuses depending on its size? For playtest purposes, I ran this as written and my players were pretty let down by the finale, commenting that it didn’t feel right, particularly since we ran this after the superb “Pixies on Parade”, which sports a truly stunning finale.


Speaking of which – the themes in “Pixies on Parade”, while clad in child-friendly tones, are actually a tad bit darker…but their execution is more concise, the reward-ratio for actions and the impact of player-choice is more pronounced. This may be unfair and harsh, but one of my “older” players from the kid-group summed it up with one sentence: “This was a fun fetch-quest…but a fetch-quest nonetheless.” I am inclined to agree, though I wouldn’t emphasize that as a negative factor. Fact is, MANY excellent modules are, structure-wise, fetch-quests – that’s not bad. The problem here is that the disappointing finale makes the module’s rewards, its finale, feel so anti-climactic it makes the other encounters matter less, feel less relevant, If this seems overly negative, then rest assured that’s not my intention; compared with the previous offerings by Playground Adventures, though, this one lacks the whimsical magic that made them feel like fairy tales, while also not bearing the full brunt of its more “realistic” themes to bear – neither thematically, nor didactically. In the end, G.U.M.B.O. remains a nice module, though one that does not reach the levels of awesomeness established by the other two modules released by Playground Adventures so far. My final verdict, in complete accordance with the kids for whom I mastered this (just fyi, 6 kids, ages 5 – 11 this time around), will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 due to in dubio pro reo.


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


Endzeitgeist out.


Jan 252016

10 Kingdom Seeds: Hills


The second inexpensive pdf detailing basic villages for the explicit use of being a base for kingdom building clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


We begin this little pdf with the village of Appleton, famous for its flavored gins – and we are introduced to two signature buildings as well as three rumors pertaining the village. The salt-selling and rather nasty place Borley would be situated at the opposite end of the alignment spectrum at CE and a place of hardships and dangerous tasks. Deepmarble, defined by the marble quarries, similarly has a theme of hard work, though less grim.


Eastdeer, suffused with snakes of all types and sizes – for the village is famous for taming, training and selling snakes, though I’m surprised the medical/alchemical applications of snake venom have not been mentioned here – still, by far the most interesting village covered so far. Lorhayven, blessed by hot springs and obsidian mining as well as an academy seems like an interesting place as well. Redhurst is a terraced village cresting a hilltop, a river circling its base – which is solid.


Lawful evil Seahollow has an obvious layout glitch, where the fluff-text has entered right in the middle of the settlement statblock in one painfully obvious formatting glitch in the sheep fleecer’s village. Straywyn may sound elven, but is a predominantly dwarven town defined by its gem mine.


Summercrest once again would be a rather unique village, with wheeled huts constantly on the move, drawn by alpacas, we have an excellent example of truly evocative concepts here, one that really showcases how great these minimalistic write-ups can be – kudos here!


The final village, Swynford, is defined by moderately successful iron, coal and sulphur mining as well as the training of ponies and makes for a solid, though less remarkable settlement.



Editing and formatting are pretty decent, though the aforementioned formatting glitch is pretty nasty. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks are surprisingly beautiful and full color – kudos there!


Liz Smith’s second array of Kingdom Seeds sports several nice, minimalistic village-write-ups to base a kingdom building game on or to simply throw into your game when you need a village. At the same time, the pdf does showcase some cases where the villages truly inspire with unique concepts and ideas…though at the same time, some of the villages felt pretty common to me. All in all, for the low asking price, this is a solid little book, though probably not one that will make you gasp in amazement. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


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


Jan 252016

Player Paraphernalia: The Charger Base Class (Revised Edition)


This installment of the Player Paraphernalia-class clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


The Charger is a front-line fighter and gets d10, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with all simple and martial weapons, light, medium and heavy armors and shields, though encumbrance and heavy armor may impede some abilities of the class. The class gets full BAB-progression and full Fort-save progression. The class begins play with +10 ft. movement rate, which increases to +15 ft. if the character has the Run-feat. This enhanced movement increases by the same amount at 10th level and the bonuses are lost when encumbered. The class receives a bonus feat at 1st level, +1 at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter from a limited list.


Starting at 2nd level, the charger deals +1d6 damage on a successful charge, +1d6 every 3 levels thereafter. Said damage is not precision damage, but does not multiply on critical hits. At 3rd level, the class receives +1 to CMB when performing bull rush or overrun combat maneuvers and the same bonus to CMD to defend against these maneuvers. The bonus increases by +1 every 3 levels thereafter. So far, so boring, you say? Well, yeah, kind of, but at fourth level the class receives access to its talent-array, a selection of options is available – +1 is gained every three levels thereafter. It should be noted that these charging tactic, if applicable to a maneuver, cannot be used in conjunction with feats modifying the same maneuver. Unless otherwise noted, only one such tactic can be applied to a given charge attack. Charging at the unmodified movement rate while in heavy armor and reducing the armor check penalty would be pretty solid. EDIT: The revised charger-class introduces quite a few new options for chargers, including new tactics, which now also make use of Acrobatics, a vital skill that thankfully now is a class skill for the charger. There also are means to negate AoOs from non-charge targets via Acrobatics while charging at full speed and a means to negate AoOs from targets of the charge at a pretty low rate of success, via Reflex saves, which seems like a trap-option for most campaigns…but then again, against foes with large reach…it makes sense.

On the plus-side, short burst rage-like bonuses are pretty decent and charge/feint combinations make sense as well. Charging while fatigued (at the risk of then being temporarily exhausted) also makes sense in a context of a class thus geared towards one mechanic. Combining overrun with drag are interesting – particularly since the ability manages to get the wording right. A Cleave-y option for secondary attacks (balanced by potentially AoOs) can also be found here and yes, there is a reposition-variant that has nice synergy with the hard-hitter ability’s bonus damage upon charges. Similarly, a solid two-weapon charge and some sundering-fun can be found within these pages. I’m also a big fan of an AoO-gambit: When a foe moves out of the charger’s threatened square, he may delay the AoO for 10 feet to then charge the adversary, which makes it rather hard to get away from the charger – and yes, while a high-level option, this does receive some balancing temporary debuffs.


As a capstone, the class may initiate a super-charge with all the tactics applied at 3x range and if criting, the hard-hitter bonus damage is multiplied. A total of 6 feats intended for the class, which, surprise, focus on charging (or gaining +1 talent) – including the much needed overrun/charge-synergy. We close this pdf with some feasible designer comments.



Editing and formatting are good, the new material does sport a bit more punctuation errors than the old material. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked in spite of its brevity. Additionally, we get the good kind of hyperlinks here – kudos for those!


John Buckley’s revised Charger seems, at first glance, like a class you don’t need – this is basically a moderately complex modification of the fighter, one that focuses on singular, devastating attacks. This narrow focus, ultimately, is both blessing and curse for the base class – the revised edition does not change much here. Generally, the charger’s attacks can deal brutal amounts of damage and the class does have tools to mitigate the easy means of sabotaging charge-attacks. At the same time, though, this per se mechanically well-crafted class is very one-dimensional. While it succeeds in its endeavor to make the respective combat maneuvers more viable and while the scaling bonus damage is feasible, considering the loss of iterative attacks and action-tax on the respective tricks, ultimately, in spite of the tactics and options provided, these guys are one trick ponies.


The playing experience, with a class this focused on, surprise, charging, is not one you can expect to offer much diversity or complexity, as quite a bit of the fighter’s flexibility and feat-array is sacrificed for this prowess. At the same time, the massive damage potentially caused makes the charger an interesting foil for high-DR foes. EDIT: The most significant innovation of the revised version of this pdf is a support for actual mobility to get away from foes. While the rules-language is good, it does, here and there, sport some cosmetic hiccups, which, while not impeding the usefulness of the class, can be considered to be slightly problematic on a design-aesthetic perspective if you’re like me and a bit, well, picky. The most problematic choices of the class have been cleaned, though, and the pdf now does indeed offer more variety, a more satisfying playing experience, which will be represented in the final verdict – the revised edition receives a final verdict of 4 stars.


You can get this inexpensive little class here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!
Endzeitgeist out.


Jan 222016

Legendary Swashbucklers


The third of Legendary Games’ class-centric Ultimate Plug-ins clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


Before we do, please let me ensure we’re all on the same page: When the gunslinger was released, I was pretty much ecstatic at first: Firearms? Yeah! Beyond that, the idea of making deeds partially rule-of-cool regarding grit-regaining put some sorely needed option for table variance in the GM’s hands – I like the ideas of the gunslinger. I absolutely learned to LOATHE the execution. You see, obviously, I had a gunslinger-PC almost immediately…only to note that the poor class suffers from two crucial flaws: 1) Lack of player agenda. The player has nothing to choose from – NOTHING. Vanilla gunslingers are ridiculously uniform and boring – also thanks to the deed-system. 2) The class does not account for table variation regarding the, particularly at low levels, significant upkeep cost of firearms and their explosion-prone design. (That’s before the swift action-drought…) These two components and their importance only dawned upon me to their full extent then and they were pretty much what was inspired me to write the etherslinger-class for Interjection Games’ Strange Magic.


It is no secret that I was tremendously disappointed by the Advanced Class Guide and probably would have sold it without my obligations as a reviewer to you, my readers. No other class in the ACG disappointed me quite to the extent the swashbuckler did. Taking a cue from the gunslinger with basically one signature deed, the swashbuckler as a default class lacks variance and becomes obsolete fast – I can’t, for the life of me, find a good reason to take swashbuckler levels beyond 5th level, when Improved Critical early access makes them good crit-fishers. Worse, the swashbuckler’s choices, limited to bonus feats, are simply not that relevant – heck, there are base classes with spellcasting progression that receive MORE feats than these poor guys. Beyond these issues, I think the swashbuckler is simply not doing a good job at making a swashbuckling character – skirmishing is still problematic and not too efficient and e.g. iconic banter and weapon binding have been done better (or done at all!) by various 3pps – running a vanilla swashbuckler for comparison purposes…was not something my players were keen on.


After the superb installment on Legendary Rogues, let’s take a look whether the class’s redesign championed herein does fix these issues or not. From the get-go, you’ll note something: The Swashbuckler as presented herein is not presented as a big toolkit, but instead begins with the new base-class. The Legendary Swashbuckler receives d10, full BAB-progression, good Ref-saves, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light armor as well as bucklers. At first level the LS (Legendary Swashbuckler) gets Charisma modifier panache, minimum 1, with critical hits and killing blows as means to regain panache – of course, non-kitten-able. Somewhat to my own disappointment (though I guess people liking the deed-system’s execution as opposed to its intent), the deed-system is retained, which means that there’s not more choice introduced in this component.


Regarding deeds, derring-do remains unchanged, and so is Opportune Parry and Riposte, but instead of Dodging Panache, the LS receives Precise Strike at 1st level, adding his class level to damage with weapons held in the primary hand, provided they belong to the category chosen via swashbuckler weapon training. Two-handed weapons receive only 1/2 this bonus damage and it may be applied to thrown weapons if the target is within 30 ft. This ability only works while the swashbuckler has at least 1 panache and spending one panache doubles the bonus damage for one attack, thankfully preventing AoO-abuse here.


At 3rd level, we notice Kip-Up and Swashbuckler’s Initiative still around; however, in an interesting twist, charmed life has been turned into a deed – and it works much better. Where the original lacked an organic scaling mechanism (introducing its own instead of class resources), the deed-version utilized here requires at least 1 panache…but not its expenditure. Basically, the daily limitation is gone, representing a power-upgrade on the defensive side here. There is also a new deed here, the daring stride: Spend 1 panache for an immediate action 5-foot sidestep that grants Charisma-modifier as a dodge bonus; this does not count as a five-foot-step and provokes AoOs from foes other than the one triggering the activation in the first place. I like this one, because it actually emphasizes…oh, I don’t know….movement in battle, pretty much what the original swashbuckler should have done?


At 7th level, the class unlocks targeted strike, but interestingly, not superior feint, while 11th level provides subtle blade and bleeding wound…but where is evasive? Well, it is taken out of the deed-system: At 2nd level, the LS receives uncanny dodge, 3rd nets nimble, 6th evasion, 8th improved uncanny dodge and 14th improved evasion – which feels more organic to me, so no complaints here. But back to the deeds: 15th level unlocks perfect thrust and swashbuckler’s edge and 19th level retains cheat death and deadly stab, which btw. thankfully gets rid of the strange division into lethal and nonlethal, instead codifying the whole package in one concise ability.


Swashbuckler Weapon training is first granted at 1st level and 3rd nets Dexterity to damage instead of Strength, as per Finesse Training, tying the mechanic to weapon groups, a practice the auto-confirms of the capstone also utilize. Another diverging thing about the LS is that the class receives a so-called personage at 1st level – these are practically built-in mystery plus-level of complexity modifications of the base class, finally introducing much needed variability into the rigid chassis of the class – a total of 7 such personages are provided and each comes with a linear list of ability-progressions associated with the respective personage as well as exclusive deeds unlocked at certain levels. As a minor nitpick regarding organization, I think they should have been put right after the class, not after the class’s archetypes, but that may ultimately just be me and a personal preference. Oh, before I forget – the class does not offer Cha-for-Int-prereq-qualification anymore.


The first personage would be the braggart – which brought a big, big smile to my face. Why? Well, if you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll remember (and probably will be using) a glorious little pdf called Psychological Combat, later to be expanded into the absolutely superb Ultimate Charisma, both by Alexander Augunas’ Everyman Gaming. In short, the pdf managed to codify properly antagonizing foes, while also streamlining feint and demoralize into a more concise whole, rendering the pdf not only a Top Ten file, but also one of the most used crunch books at my table. Even better yet – while the personage does provide beautiful synergy with this inspired little book, the whole personage also comes with an alternate version that lacks exactly these components for those of you who do not own these inspired rules. Suffice to say, I wholeheartedly enjoy this particular personage.


If my environment is any indication, were I a swashbuckler, I’d probably need to take the second personage – the dandy. Focused on social tricks, rogue talents (and, if you’re using pathfinder Unchained, optionally signature skills), the dandy makes for a cool martial face for the group. The daredevil personage is all about the option to move around the battlefield, automatically succeeding Acrobatics DC 20 or below, swiftly moving through difficult terrain and similar options. While I think Spring Attack as a 10th level bonus feat sans prereqs may be a bit late in the overall build, the personage nevertheless lets you make a pretty neat skirmisher. The Madcap personage is also about high risks and high rewards, rewarding risky playstyles: Provoked AoOs regain panache and similarly, being hit with a critical hit nets even more panache, depending on critical multiplier. Unfortunately, the former AoO-regain is basically a kitten-debacle waiting to happen, meaning this will never get anywhere near my table – I get the intent of this one and consider it great, but the omission of an anti-abuse caveat wrecks this personage for me.


The phantom personage is the one that takes a cue (though a surprisingly good one) from Ultimate Intrigue, featuring the Batman/Zorro-like option to have dual personalities, including actually feasible quick change times between the two (no, not 1 minute…thankfully…) and options to separate the truths of his personas in his mind – whether for the aforementioned masked hero trickery or as a frame-work for multiple personality heroes, this is truly interesting. More fitting for pirates, post-apocalyptic contexts would probably be the raider with the rope-specializations and alcohol-fueled panache (which is erroneously called grit once)…and yes, thankfully, these grog points are abuse-safe. Finally, it is with the vagabond, master of dirty fighting, that we meet superior feint again.


Beyond these personages that are hard-coded into the legendary swashbuckler, there obviously are archetypes – 16 to be precise. The Daring Infiltrator, Flying Blade, Inspired Blade, Mouser, Musketeer, Mysterious Avenger, Picaroon and Whirling Dervish archetypes of the base class have been aligned with the legendary swashbuckler – with the corsair obviously now rather being covered by aforementioned personage. But there also are new ones here – the Dashing Commander is the adaption of the archetype from Everyman Gaming’s Swashbuckler Archetype pdf and still remains primarily a Battle Cry-specialist and similarly, the rapscallion was also converted, still sporting dirty trick and sneak attack mastery. The two-weapon duelist’s LS-version deserves special mention, as it at least slightly makes two weapon fighting more dynamic, while the vainglorious swashbuckler probably is the most deceptive of designs here – obviously made for guys like yours truly, these guys can get personal deeds, highly customizable regular ones as well as panache-powered feat-use for a truly customizable playing experience, something I always tend to enjoy – particularly since lists of feats with associated costs, as per my experience, rank among the most deceptively easy-looking, yet hard things to codify in PFRPG.


There are, however, also archetypes herein that are not based on other swashbuckling material recodified for the legendary swashbuckler – for example the gallivant, which would be a feasible mounted swashbuckler (combine with phantom for Zorro-the class…). There also would be the ronin, who has a personalized code, including limited resolve and favored weapon training as well as order abilities. In conjunction with the swashbuckler base abilities, that may be a bit much in comparison. Finally, the tumbler receives reflexive Acrobatics-based attack negation powered by panache and specific weapon training that includes options to skirmish sans AoOs and gain Vital Strike’s benefits with the chosen weapon groups – per se an interesting one in that it actually makes the skirmishing playstyle more valid.


The pdf also includes a PrC, the Dervish Darter, which clocks in at full BAB-progression, d10, 4+Intelligence modifier skills, good Ref-save progression and relatively easy access at 6 ranks and only 3 feats prereqs. Beyond gaining 1/2 panache/deed progression at 2nd level (nice!) the PrC gets bonus damage that scales when skirmishing, further enhancing said playstyle – though, in a humorous glitch, the bonus damage at 1d5 is probably a typo – unless we’re now using DCC-style special dice… 😉 Kidding aside, apart from this minor glitch, the PrC receives a talent, a so-called dervish trick, at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter – though here, there are some minor ambiguities: Darter’s Sprint, for example: This one adds “1/2 his speed” to the distance when running, charging or withdrawing – while not bad, does this extend to non-standard movement rates as flying, burrowing etc. when granted by spells and/or effects? I think it probably should not, but I ultimately am not 100% sure. While such minor hiccups are a tad bit annoying, the PrC does manage to make the agile combatant pretty awesome and usable, so yes, this does have my blessing – flexible charges and zig-zagging movement are some of my favorites – though, frankly, I wished the rules-language was a tad bit more precise: At 10th level, the dervish darter (here called “dervish dancer”…) can charge and has “no restrictions on his movement” – does this allow you to charge over lava? Through walls of force? When bound? When having movement rate reduced to 0 ft.? I’m ultimately not 100% sure what the capstone is supposed to do.


Beyond a brief list of weapon properties particularly suitable for swashbuckler characters, there are also three new ones, from balancing to weightless weapons…though the memory lapse-inducing blackout weapon is ultimately what makes this awesome. The pdf then concludes with a bunch of specific weapons and wondrous items, including an identity-shielding mask (thank you!) and literally tiny metallic bugs to track foes, ending on an imaginative, high note.



Editing and formatting are good, though by far not as streamlined as usual for Legendary Games – there are a tad bit more avoidable glitches, some of which, unfortunately extend to the rules-language, which is particularly odd since both Jason nelson and Alexander Augunas’ writing tends to be extremely concise in that regard. Now, don’t get me wrong – this is still a tight book…but it’s not perfect. Layout adheres to legendary Games two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. the book also sports quite a few nice original full-color artworks.


Legendary Swashbuckler succeeds triumphantly in one simple regard: Making one of the choice-wise blandest, uninvolving classes in PFRPG actually provide variety, meaningful choices. The legendary swashbuckler herein is absolutely and without a single second of doubt superior in every way to the default swashbuckler by virtue of the significantly extended options available. The legendary swashbuckler is a nice class that makes skirmishing a valid option via the wealth of choices herein. The fact that a cover identity herein is not something that cripples you every time you’re surprised is also a component that should be lauded.


How does this fare in comparison? Well, what we have here is a radical redesign, the only way in which the class could be salvaged…and I like that. While not sporting the brilliant streamlining or cherry-picking customization-potential of the superb book on rogues, this one is still superior by a long shot to the default swashbuckler. While personally, I am disappointed that the weapon-binding rules e.g. used in Razor Coast or similar options have not found their way herein, this is not something I as a reviewer hold against the pdf. What I do hold against it, though, would be that some options, as mentioned above, simply are slightly less polished than I am accustomed to, particularly compared with the downright legendary (get it?) installment on rogues that managed to fully reimagine the rogue. Then again – that may be the issue: I went in this book, expecting more than I should have – something that only became apparent to me after some distance to both books. (Btw., another reason why I wait a couple of days before publishing a completed review.)


Let me state, thus, loud and clear, that this still is THE swashbuckler-resource, the redesign of the class is desperately needed and a must-have for fans of the concept and frame of the swashbuckler – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform, with a must-have buy-now-recommendation for everyone dissatisfied by the vanilla swashbuckler – this is the class you deserved and wanted.


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


Endzeitgeist out.


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