Feb 292016
 

Shadowlands: Tarina, Spiral of Sin

129673

This massive city-sourcebook clocks in at 70 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page editorial, 1/2 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 62.5 pages of content, so let’s return to the world of Sæmyyr!

 

Wait, what? Well, it’s arguably been a while and this book has slipped somewhat between the cracks of my reviewing folder, but let’s recapitulate, all right? Beyond being the setting of the Gates of Tarina-adventure, the eponymous city is an important jigsaw piece in the panorama of the Shadowlands, also known as Sæmyyr.

 

The world of Sæmyyr’s ambition is rather significant, to say the least: The basic idea lies in a fantasy-realism: Magic is based on nigh-unknowable level of technology (though players will probably never find that out) and Gygaxian realism is another key tenet for the setting. Basically, shadowlands takes the old adage of advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic (look at your smart-phone and doubt that one’s veracity…) and applies it consistently to a huge planet. The result is surprisingly interesting, for the basic premise, consequently, results in magic behaving slightly differently, being treated differently – since the set-up implies a certain level of consistency you’d only see in hard scifi, the result feels surprisingly organic…feasible. This is coupled with a take on fantasy usually not seen elsewhere: Namely, that of a quasi-Roman empire that is, in fact, more developed than traditional Middle Age-based fantasy. Coupled with aforementioned take on magic and have a setting that feels not only novel, but also consistent. And yes, this is enhanced by the massive map of the city: Tarina’s map looks like a satellite map taken straight from Google Sæmyyr.

 

But enough, you want to know what’s in this book, right? Well, we begin our trip to Tarina with several pages depicting an immersive, well-written short-story that portrays life in this metropolis before taking a glimpse at relationship demographics, including racial subtypes and sub-species – instead of bogging the game down with alternate stats for each of the classic races, these entries are based mostly on the captivating and well-presented fluff, with respective entries featuring information on nomenclature, personality and the like. Now usually, this can end up being pretty bland, though not in this book – the write-up is captivating and diverse and actually, and this will be true for the whole book, a pleasure to read.

 

However, at the same time, one can see the relative (then) inexperience of the designers – a little sidebox provides additional racial powers that are supernatural abilities – sans codifying them properly as either alternate racial traits or as race traits – instead, they seem to represent modifications of the base racial stats – which is fine with me, but would need to be explicitly stated to avoid confusion. Design-wise, they tend to be solid and feature scaling mechanisms for daily uses and DCs where applicable, though one in particular is just bad design: Ghost Hammer. Dwarves (here called Durinn) with this power call upon ancestral spirits to provide minor +2 atk or AC bonuses in combat…in the most convoluted way I can imagine. Each round, at the character’s turn, sans expending an action, the character may perform an attack based on BAB and Wis-mod versus AC 10, the bonus lasting 1d4+Wis-score. The ability fails to specify whether both bonuses can be granted by subsequent uses; the bonuses are untyped…and I don’t get, at all, why the ability requires the time-consuming attack in the first place. It’s just die-rolling for the sake of die-rolling sans justifiable benefit.

Thankfully, the book quickly focuses again on more interesting components – the means by which classes are codified and assigned culturally relevant places in the framework of Sæmyyr enhances the sense of immersion featured in this book – the very fact that magic is nigh-monopolized by the Brotherhood, for example, is certainly a relevant factor in global and local politics. On the positive end, the pdf does sport a number of unique traits that help root characters in Tarina – and here, the pdf manages to provide the required precision.

 

Tarina is a conquered city and the majority of this book is, obviously, devoted to this metropolis – its crime families, its occupying force, its politics and unique places. The general depiction of this city is ultimately hard to capture properly in a review sans quoting passages upon passages of material from within – suffice to say, the quality of the prose here is high – unlike many similar supplements, I found myself reading this supplement without an internal wish to skip ahead. The portrayal of the metropolis of Tarina is an excellent example of what good writing can make or break a supplement – the numbers and nomenclature are important, sure, but this one’s writing is what it makes captivating. This level of quality extends to the write-up of the organizations and the visuals provided for them are great – though, once again, the crunch falls somewhat flat of the imaginative potential of the fluff: The Knights of Kashouli, for example, can take a feat that allows them to 1/day, as a swift action, heal twice Wis-mod Hp. Yeah, let’s go ahead and spend a feat on that. Yeah, you read right – no scaling of uses or increasing healing. Urgh. Similarly, the 5-level PrC for the knights is pretty much the definition of mechanically bland – some minor talents, better Knowledge, Diehard and finally, +1 Int or Wis as a capstone. You may not properly grasp this, but in view of how good the fluff is, this is jarring.

 

Now noted, the authors can actually create solid mechanics – particularly the magic-rules that take into account the specifics of Sæmyyr are interesting – non-brotherhood members are subject to flux-rolls when casting – these can provide critical/maximum effects to spells and the like, minimal effects and have a chance of forcing a roll on the rifts of insanity table, providing a complex and surprisingly concise system – granted, not one for every game, but mechanically it is interesting – though the damage-maximization/minimization will make magic and psionics ultimately more swingy. It should also be noted that, while the presentation is concise, a short explanation text would have made the flux-table and the rifts-mechanic associated with it more user-friendly. The aforementioned brotherhood caster class is also provided and can be considered to be a variant full caster with some flavorful order abilities (which work akin to cavalier orders – they offer a linear progression of abilities) and the class also provides titles for the respective levels (and the color of the eyes of these casters) – flavor-wise, this is a well-crafted class, though the omission of pluses in the table remains an obvious formatting glitch that should have been caught in editing. Still, flavorwise, this class is awesome and inspired – though I wished more than 2 of the sample orders were provided.

 

The next chapter deals with the power players of Tarina and their interaction with the respective PCs, providing a vast, inspired tapestry of adventure ideas galore and further insight into the intricately woven tapestry of Tarina.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good – on the one hand, formally, the editing is pretty awesome, though the depiction of the rules-components herein is simply less refined – a good developer/rules-editor would have helped here. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard and the book sports extremely awesome Paizo-level quality artworks and excellent cartography – this book is BEAUTIFUL. On the downside, the electronic version has no bookmarks, which represents a massive comfort detriment. This review was written by using mainly the print edition of this book, which was kindly donated to me by a friend and reader – the full-color KS-print is absolutely gorgeous and well worth getting.

 

Chris Merwin, Stephen Michael DiPesa and Jaye Sonia have created one truly astounding city herein – and, quite frankly, I shouldn’t like Tarina as much as I actually do. There are quite a few rough edges in the crunch and some material that is flavor-wise awesome, but crunch-wise falls flat. Similarly, you won’t find a settlement statblock for Tarina herein. I really shouldn’t like this to that extent…but Tarina MAKES SENSE. One can clearly see the work of academics, of smart people that understand how culture, politics, society and the like work – and who manage to actually convey this knowledge and apply it. Tarina feels incredibly alive to me, chock-full of potential.

 

Similarly, this may be a detailed, very detailed setting, but one that does not drown in micro-management, walking the perfect balance between detail and high-concept: Whether you’re interested in the big picture or in the small, Tarina delivers in spades and makes me anticipate the long-delayed campaign setting even more. How to rate this, then? This is kind of difficult – you see, if you’re getting this for rules, then you’ll probably be disappointed. But if you’re getting this for the writing, for reading pleasure and inspiration, as a means of looking at a fascinating world I actually REALLY would love to play in, then this may well be an excellent investment. Still, with the minor flaws, I can’t rate this as highly as I’d like to. The print version does receive a final verdict of 4.5 stars from me; If you’re getting the electronic version, detract a star for the bookmark-issue, though if you even remotely have a thing for well-crafted cities and cultures, I’d suggest rounding up even then. 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 well-written, captivating source-book here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Feb 292016
 

The Sage Character Class

172596

This pdf clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 11.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Sages as a class receive d6 HD, 2+Int skills per level, 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-Saves and proficiency with simple weapons. They are subject to arcane spell failure when utilizing armor or shields. Unsurprisingly from the chassis, the sage is a full caster that draws spells from the sorc/wizard spell-list and learns them at the same rate as the sorceror. Here’s a divergence from established tropes, though: In spite of being a spontaneous caster, the sage’s governing spellcasting attribute is not Charisma, but Intelligence. They still get Eschew Materials at first level.

 

The defining class feature for the sage, though, would be meditation, an extraordinary ability. A given sage can meditate for 4+Wisdom modifier rounds per day, +2 rounds every level after the first. Temporary enhancements to Wisdom do not grant additional rounds of meditation and the ability is replenished after resting. While meditating, sages receive a +4 bonus to Int and +2 to Will-saves, though the Int-increase does not net you skill points or the like. Additionally, spells cast receive a +1 bonus to their caster level, but this does come at an interesting cost – the base speed is reduced to 5 ft., 0 ft. if her speed already was 10 ft. or less. Additionally, meditating sages receive a penalty of -4 to Str and Dex and cannot make skill-checks based on them…oh, and they’re flatfooted. A sage may end a given meditation as a free action, but remains befuddled for 2 rounds per round spent in meditation – this translates to -4 Int and Wis. Being subject to any effect that causes befuddlement while already befuddled renders the sage confused instead and entering meditation is impossible while befuddled.

 

All right, let’s drop the pretense – the sage can easily be summed up as a full caster class that utilizes the design paradigm of the barbarian and as such it should come as no surprise that the sage begins play with a meditation power and receives an additional power every two levels thereafter, read: every odd level. Said powers can obviously only be utilized while in meditation. The meditation powers themselves un a rather diverse gamut of options – for example, one nets you scaling spells available only in meditation: First just a 0-level spell, but at 18th level, you also get up to 4th level spells – though the spells thus gained only remain available while meditating. Another two meditations allow you to treat the SR of e.g. evil or good creatures as lower than it is while meditating. At 6th level, you can teleport 30 ft within line of sight as a move action, somewhat offsetting the sage’s crippled movement – nice, though imho this should be designated as a conjuration [teleportation]-effect for purposes of interaction with other mechanics. Similarly, sages with another power may use their out of meditation movement…provided they end the movement adjacent to an enemy.

 

There is also an option that allows you to freely change elemental types of spells cast (and gets the descriptor-caveat right – kudos!) or gain a familiar that only is present in meditation. Levitation while meditating can also be found among the options here and there also is an immediate action retributive bull rush based on Wis versus targets daring to come close to the sage. 1/meditation touch-spell maximization is nasty.

 

As for the other class abilities: I’m not a fan of adding two attribute-modifiers to any skill, so unsurprisingly, I don’t like the addition of Wis-mod to all Knowledge and Spellcraft-checks at 3rd level.8th level provides essentially evasion for Will-saving throws while in meditation and 10th level upgrades meditation bonuses to +6/+3, respectively, with the capstone further increasing them to +8/+4.

At 10th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the sage receives an advanced meditation (5 such abilities are provided by the pdf, which is a bit sparse) – these can be considered modifications of a basic meditation – you enter them as a swift action, but can’t revert back to a regular meditation. Only one advanced meditation may be in effect at a given time. The first of these allows the sage to damage herself to deal additional damage and also causes continuous damage while maintained – think of it as sudden death mode. Deeper Meditation allows for even better SR-penetration, while delving into cyclopean mysteries increases CL and upgrades the maximum damage dice cap of spells, but comes at the price of confusion after exiting the meditation. Studied Meditation allows you to pay for metamagic benefits with meditation rounds, while isolated meditation increased chances to hit and threat ranges of spells. The capstone ability of the class allows for the activation of two such advanced meditations at once.

 

The pdf goes on to present the Conduit, which is erroneously referenced as “sage” in the proficiency-list, which is modified to include the favored weapon of the conduit’s deity. The conduit’s spells are drawn from the cleric spell list and are not prepared in advance (though the write-up here contradicts itself by stating before that they are prepared in advance…nasty cut copy paste error…). Uncommon once again – they are governed by Intelligence, not Wisdom. Instead of the knowledge-bonuses and the will-evasion, conduits receive the Divine Conduit ability at 3rd level, which allows for channel energy, with a radius of 15 ft. This effect may not be suppressed and deals/heals 1d6 at 4th level (which is odd – is it 3rd or 4th level??), +1d6 every 4 levels thereafter. Okay, if you can’t see the glaring issue here, let me enlighten you: This is always on. Not only in meditation, ALWAYS. ON. Infinite AoE-damage (which renders evil conduits basically incapable of interacting with anything but undead), it also represents infinite healing. I am *pretty* sure this is supposed to be only active while meditating, but ultimately, RAW, that’s what we get – and as such, it won’t get anywhere near my table.

 

The pdf also sports 6 new feats: More meditation rounds, +1 meditation power, expending 3 rounds of meditation as a swift action for +Wis-mod damage with damaging spells (do the expended rounds count towards the befuddlement period? – No Idea.), a feat that can be sued once per round when piercing SR to get +1 meditation round (effectively maintaining the allotted rounds), better skill-use in meditation and a feat for access to a bloodline power while in meditation.

 

The pdf also sports 4 unique magic items: A sensory deprivation helm that nets blindsight in meditation, a torc that allows for other classes to enter meditation (or adds +3 rounds) that is pretty underpriced at 8K, a ring that lets you ignore befuddlement at the expense of damage (or reduce confusion down to befuddlement) – but again: Does this allow for the renewed initiation of meditation or does it simply offset the penalties? No clue. There also are sandals that increase movement speed and grant sages access to a meditation power. Slightly annoying: The magic items deviate from formatting standards, lacking spell-italicization and the usual bolding of Aura, CL, etc.

The pdf closes with 2 new spells, touch of befuddlement and waves of befuddlement – the latter has an instantaneous duration and renders all creatures in the cone befuddled, no save…but does not specify for how long. The touch is solid and nice.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay, though not perfect – there are some deviations from formatting standards to be found here. At the same time, some potentially nasty cut-copy-paste-errors and ambiguities have crept into an otherwise clean array of rules-language exhibited in the class. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has some nice, original pieces of artwork. The pdf also sports bookmarks, though oddly, the archetype is absent from them – which doesn’t really surprise me.

 

Why? Where the base sage is clean and precise in its depiction (for the most part), the conduit feels very much rushed, less refined and basically non-functional. Jeff Gomez, Dayton Johnson and Scott Gladstein seem to have created a solid, if brief class that could have used some more choices with the sage: In playtest, the class performed exactly as I expected: Basically, the sage is somewhat akin to a sorceror that can go hulk: It’s pretty satisfying to start wrecking foes with enhanced magical potency. The cool-down means that you have to choose your meditation wisely and that buffs suddenly become more viable if their duration is long enough to survive the befuddlement cool-down. Similarly, meditation-cycling can make for interesting flows in long battles. Let me state this explicitly: The sage would be OP, were it not for the movement decrease and the vulnerability this imposes – even the best sage remains FLATFOOTED when meditating, which means a sage is only as good as his minions/fellow PCs – one rogue can literally instagib him…and this makes for a rather interesting dynamic. I ended up really liking the sage, in spite of some rough edges and me wishing it had more advanced meditations and meditation powers to choose from.

 

At the same time, the conduit is broken and the supplemental material, unfortunately, does not reach the level of refinement of the base-class, sporting several unnecessary issues that could have been easily eliminated. What remains, thus, is an interesting, powerful base-class that sports a unique playstyle, hamstrung somewhat (see what I did there – crippled movement, hamstrung…okay, I’ll drop a buck in the bad pun jar) by the accumulating issues beyond the basic framework of the class. Hence, unfortunately, I can’t rate this as high as I’d like to – my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this base class here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Feb 262016
 

The Master of Forms Base Class

162475

This new base class clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Chassis-wise, the master of forms receives full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, unarmed damage scaling of the monk, unarmored AC-progression of up to Cha-mod+5, d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level and proficiency with brass knuckles, cesti, club, crossbows (light and heavy), dagger, handaxe, javelin, kama. nunchaku, quarterstaff, siangham, sai, shortspear, short sword, shuriken, sling, spear and temple sword, but not any armor or shields. It should be noted that we do get the unarmed damage tables for small and large PCs – kudos there!

 

The class is defined by the forms. Forms can be considered to be martial arts that either are extraordinary or supernatural abilities. They sport three defining components: Focus required denotes the minimum number of focus required to perform the form. Focus Change specifies how the performing of the form changes the focus points. Costs are paid up front, gained focus is awarded after performing the form. The Element, finally, denotes the subtype of the form. Masters of forms begin play with 3 forms and gain +1 form every level thereafter. DCs usually are 10 + 1/2 class level + Charisma modifier and unless otherwise noted, the master of forms can only perform one form per round.

 

I mentioned the focus pool in the above explanation: The maximum number of focus points in the pool is equal to 4. The pool begins empty and does not refresh simply by resting. Instead, executing certain forms increases or decreases the focus pool. Focus points can only be regained in combat and last only for Charisma modifier minutes outside of combat. While this can be inefficiently be kitten’d, the short duration means that it’s not a good strategy. The master of forms automatically learns certain basic, universal forms: These are gained at 1st level, +1 every 3 levels thereafter. Basically, you can picture these as the “minimum-functionality”-framework that prevents inexperienced players from locking themselves into a situation, where they can’t gain focus – the most basic of these forms, for example, allows you to substitute a regular attack in a full-attack-sequence or use a standard action for an attack that deals regular damage + 1/2 Cha-mod (full Cha-mod starting 6th level) and nets you +1 focus.

 

At 4th level, for -1 focus, as a swift action, the master of forms can self-buff with minor luck bonuses, while 7th level provides a means for ending an elemental stance and immediately starting a new one as a move action. (As a swift action at 19th level, they can also end it, but gain focus and still be allowed to enter a second stance.). Level 10 provides temporary flight (YES – non-combat utility!) and higher levels sport save-bonuses. I already mentioned elemental stances, so let me elaborate a bit there: Universal forms have no element and thus do not disrupt active stances, though they do break the sequence required to activate an elemental stance.

 

All right, so what’s the deal with stances? Well, whenever a master of forms performs three consecutive forms belonging to the same element, they enter the element’s stance…and they are UNIQUE. Earth, for example, allows you to expend one focus when attacked by a weapon – if he does, he may roll dice equal to the weapon’s base damage die, gaining the result as DR X/- against the attack. Oh, and guess what? No focus-cost if the master of forms is below 1/2 maximum HP.

 

Fire allows for roaring attacks, since here, the focus is gained prior o executing the attack. Ice allows for forms with focus change of +1 instead of an AoO, though that does change the focus change value of the form used to -1. Lightning increases movement rate by +5 ft. per focus point currently held, while wind provides +1 temporary focus when his focus is 0. This does not count towards required focus and are expended first, but otherwise, the temporary focus behaves as though it were a regular focus point.

 

At 2nd level, masters of forms may 1/day grant himself the ability to perform a second form per round 1/day, +1/day every 5 levels thereafter. Additionally, this level nets evasion, while 3rd provides slow fall, 8th purity of body, 14th diamond soul. As a capstone, the master of forms tallies up the forms known – the one for which he knows most forms (choose in case of a tie) is then known of predominant. The master is ALWAYS in the stance of this element while conscious and is considered even to be in the stance, while being in another active stance.

 

The class also gains access to so-called secret arts, the finishers/fatalities of the class, if you will – secret arts cannot be performed on the same round another form has been activated and if a duration is non-instantaneous, no other form may be performed while it persists. They do not require a focus, but require the master of forms to be in the corresponding elemental stance. Secret arts can be performed 1/day each, but choosing the same secret art multiple times adds +1 daily use of the secret art. Masters of forms choose a secret art at 5th level, +1 every 4 levels thereafter.

 

So what do they do? Well, let’s take a look at Ice’s Aquatic Triad: As a standard action, the master of forms expends all focus, choosing a 10 ft. burst area within 60 ft. range. This mist can be changed into steam, left as aerosolized water or deposit the burst as snow. Steam deals cold damage (drawing heat), maximizing damage versus foes in metal armor. Water makes all armor behave as having a Max Dex bonus of +0 for 1 minute and further enhance bonuses granted by flanking such targets; finally, snow deals scaling fire damage and maximizes damage versus targets wearing combustible armor. While the damage-types seem counter-intuitive, they are based on mighty science and energy transfer. Finally, it should be noted that the master of forms may choose two effects when performing this with 2+ focus, all when using it with 4 focus.

 

Bones of the Mountain allows you to draw forth a massive earthen, devastating club, while master of air can move as swift action and fire blasts of ranged touch attack trips that also deal damage. Another secret art allows the master of forms to treat himself as staggered, emulating the stasis of a frozen world – while in this ice-cold fugue, the master of forms may retaliate against any attack that hits him with attacks of opportunity, ignoring the usual limitations of AoOs per round. Blasting foes with cannon-like winds and auto-haste plus partial armor ignoring. Unleashing potentially blinding blasts of fiery pyroclasms or hurling lightning, Zeus-style also rock. The respective secret arts increase in potency and have scaling mechanisms both based on level and focus for the particular executions – love that component.

 

As always, you get a significant array of favored class options and they deserve special mention: Gnomes may, once choosing the FCO 5 times, add +1 form; when performing said form, they may spend 3 focus to execute a second form! Unique! Beyond the base-races, aasimar, drow, hobgoblins, kobolds, puddlings, orcs and tieflings are covered. The class gets +4 supplemental feats – one for +1/day deep focus use, +1 DC for the forms of an element, one for +2 forms and one that provides bonus elemental damage while in a stance.

 

All right, so, I’ve danced around this long enough – let’s take a look at those forms. They are listed by element and requirements – most forms have no requirement, while level 4, 6 and 8 each can be considered to be thresholds that unlock new forms. It should be noted, though, that most forms are available from the get-go, meaning there’s a lot of options to choose from the very beginning. The truly interesting component of the respective elements, though, would be that each and every one of the elemental types generally have at least one component that sets them apart and makes them feel distinct: While you’d expect e.g. earths forms to be movement-reducing (via grappling vines), they actually also sport temporary hit points…and the unique component of gaining additional benefits while below half maximum hit points. Their visuals are also pretty awesome: Gaining claws from crystallized hemoglobin? Heck yeah! Lassos from vines? Growing poisonous berries? Toppling shockwaves? Jup!

 

Fire allows you to suspend fast healing/regeneration and turn it upon foes, perform blazes of deadly fire…and quite a few of the forms here allow the respective master of forms to perform additional forms this round, emulating the sudden blaze of ignited flames. Oh, and 0 focus change bleed damage ending or causing weeping, seared wounds…quite interesting! Ice, however, is imho more awesome/unique: Beyond movement impediment, ice-chunks launched at foes, devastating waves of cold that may stagger foes, gradual freezing of adversaries or performing special strikes that make it very hard to concentrate…the forms of ice are wonderfully, delightfully dickish. There would be a strike that provides a warning to the creature attacked: If it subsequently performs a full-round action or move and standard action in the same round, with a failure staggering the creature. Particularly exciting would also be frozen surge, which is predicated on a former form missing, a save being made by a victim or you failing to hit a CMD, allowing you to unleash a burst of cold/bludgeoning damage. Ice, basically, is about building up focus…and then unleashing it suddenly, powerfully…and painfully. It’s also about slowing/debuffing – absolutely fun.

 

Lightning, on the other hand, is about speed and volatile bursts – including, as a sidebox acknowledges, a means of performing potentially more than 2 forms per round. The forms also allow for changing directions in charges, penalize foes with blinding sparks…and at level 8, there is a form that allows you to take +1 standard action, but at the cost of being staggered in the round thereafter. Fast strikes that bypass certain amounts of hardness and DR or unleashing a storm cloud that can fire bolts of lightning at adversaries – once again, lightning has its own distinct playstyle.

 

Finally, wind may sound, concept-wise, as though it were similar to lightning – but it’s not really. Where lightning is pretty much about agility in the way that pertains the covering of an area in straight lines, wind represents a more ephemeral component: Granting yourself concealment, defensive stances that make attackers provoke AoOs against which they are flatfooted – the wind element is interesting – also thanks to two interesting components: The build-up: There is e.g. a form that allows for a swift action trip as well as the execution of a second form, representing the rising of the storm. This theme is further enhanced by some forms having additional effects when the master of forms has at least a certain amount of focus, representing on a mechanic base the change from clear skies to storms. What about a touch attack-based whirlwind against all adjacent enemies, allowing you to perform AoO-less combat maneuvers against all of them? (And yes, this gets the moving-caveat right.) Wind is about fluidity, about maneuvers and foe control and it plays just as ephemeral as you’d expect it to.

 

Now here’s the thing, though: While entering a stance is pretty much desirable…it’s not necessarily the only strength of the class: Note that, unlike many such classes, this has no prohibited element – these diverse fighting styles are MEANT to be combined – perhaps to set-up a secret art and enter the respective stance, perhaps just to switch between them as you unleash new combos upon your adversaries.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – while I noticed some minor instances of flawed punctuation, I noticed nothing to complain about. The rules-language, as we’ve come to expect from Bradley Crouch, is precise to the point. Layout adheres to Interjection Games’ printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf has some nice stock art. The pdf comes sans bookmarks, which is a comfort-detriment.

 

My first thought when I heard about this class was: “Oh no, not ANOTHER elemental martial arts/bender-style class. Urgh. We had enough elemental burst-blasting borefests…” My second thought was “What a waste of Bradley’s talent.” Oh boy have I been seldom wrong to this extent. This class was commissioned by Alex Ross via Interjection Games’ patreon and I am truly grateful for it.

 

First of all, a solid skill array and high Cha-score mean that this class makes for a solid option in non-combat environments – not the best, but you’ll have things you can do. But more importantly, this class, to me, is genius. Know why I don’t like elemental classes? They’re BORING most of the time. You’ll probably have seen this before: Earth specialists that throw globs of rock that are variants of fireball, with parameters like added conditions, other saves and damage types changes. We’ve seen that again and again…and it never played right to me. What made Avatar so popular beyond the story and the writing, what made elementalists in good anime stand out, what made Scorpion and Sub Zero different was that their powers may have looked similar, that there were overlaps…but they played completely differently nonetheless. Now granted, some classes and options out there managed that, but still stuck to their niche; air specialists got air walk and were opposed to earth…you get the idea.

 

This is the furious rebuttal to the claim that elementalists can’t play radically differently depending on the element used and it also emphasizes fluidity between the elements, a constant change and flux, with stability having its reward as well via secret arts and stances. This is basically the class-design equivalent of Bruce Lee saying “Be like water, my friend.” – instead of limiting yourself to one particular element, which remains a valid strategy, the most awesome way of playing these guys is by mixing and matching the different elements and their forms, generating set-ups to then either directly escalate or to generate a stabile stance to then conclude with a secret art – so, not only do the respective forms feel unique in the respective elements, the option to mix them makes the system even more awesome.

 

The master of forms play flexible, fun and has truly unique effects: Beyond being a solid front-line fighter, the class can also double as terrain control, targeted debuffer, skirmisher – there are a lot of ways to play this class, and all work. The one thing this pdf left me with, ultimately, is a huge desire to see even more: More forms, more types of forms/schools…more. This is a thinking man’s martial class, a fun, balanced elementalist that actually makes the respective elements feel distinctly unique while maintaining flexibility. Oh, and yes, the unique components of the elemental forms do retain a distinct mechanical identity that fits together with the fluff. I so want more material for this class – my players love it, I enjoy it and it, overall, is a glorious martial arts-class, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval and nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015.

 

You can get this superb class here on OBS!

 

And if you want to support Bradley directly (or have your own class idea you want realized), you can do just that here on Interjection Games’ patreon!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Feb 262016
 

Four Horsemen Present: Pakuvresh, the Flesh Golem Factory

166207

This pdf clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 0.5 pages of editorial, leaving us with 9.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This being an adventure set-piece/location-supplement/encounter-collection, the following will have SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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So what is Pakuvresh? The simple response would be that it is what happens when a truly vile wizard has too much time on his hands – the location is basically an autonomous plant that cranks out horrid monstrosities and awaits its creator’s return to unleash its dread armies…or so the story goes. Situated in the astral plane, the place is certainly not one that novice adventurers will want to visit.

 

Anyways, the pdf then goes on to provide a series of linked encounters: We begin with bone devils harvesting flesh via their “recruitment” in a wasted village, with the devils bearing a new item, shadowstones, which allow for easy travel to Pakuvresh’s gates. The gates of the factory on the plane of shadows are guarded – you guessed it – by flesh golems…and an animated lock. Nice to see that one feature herein. Beyond the adamantine-banded doors, strange machinery tries to dissect magical creatures to generate prototype plane-shifting golems, something the mad sole survivor, a one-legged gnome named Glimix, tries hard to prevent – though his delusions don’t help him there.

 

Horrid golem gatekeepers and advanced crawling horrors guard the pens of the raw material to soon disassembled and recombined into flesh golem form, though to save the missing people, the PCs will have to brave Mauxet, an advanced osyluth…and the steel butchers, that are about to cut the hapless people to pieces…

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports nice full-color artwork, some of which you may know from other supplements.

 

Steven T. Helt’s prose is impeccable – Pakuvresh is an awesome location and drips the gory fear of an automated slaughterhouse and combines it with body horror par excellence – prose-wise, there is not much to complain. At the same time, this supplement left me somewhat unsatisfied – for one, while I enjoyed the respective encounters, I did feel like the place is more opaque than it really should be – the lack of a map hurts this pdf quite a bit. There is a more important component here that’s a bit amiss, one perhaps tied to the lack of a map, though I’m not 100% sure: This is this huge, magical slaughterhouse that makes monsters from killed people, right? So where are the conveyor belts? The automated hooks? The sudden saw blades ? The blood drains? The chutes? The “Evil Within”-cut-everything-to-pieces-madness?

When I picture a place like this, I see lethal terrain galore – monsters, yes, but also a location that’s as much the enemy as any of its caretakers. The encounters, perhaps due to a lack of a map, are suspiciously bereft of interesting terrain features to utilize in combat.

 

You won’t find complex hazards or the like herein, which, ultimately, made Pakuvresh less of a threat and more creepy window-dressing for a series of good encounters. So yeah, I was pretty much disappointed by this one, as loathe as I am to say it. The excellent prose and glorious concept quite frankly would have deserved a better, deserved the one step beyond this does not go. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this encounter-collection/locale here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Feb 262016
 

The Demonologist Base Class

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This massive new base-class clocks in at 59 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a huge 56 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Chassis-wise, demonologists are a hybrid of summoner and witch, need to be non-good, get d8 HD, 2+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Will-saves, proficiency with simple weapons and cast arcane spells of up to 6th level drawn from the witch’s list and the spellcasting seems to be governed by Charisma. Seems to be…does not sound good. And indeed, I’m not sure whether this is supposed to be prepared or spontaneous casting – and yes, this frustrated me to no end, since it means the class is impeded in a component of its basic functionality, to the point where I can’t properly playtest it. Worse, this extends to the cantrips – the class fails to specify how many of those you’ll get. *sigh*

At 1st level, the demonologist receives 3+Cha-mod uses of Summon Demon as a SP, with a duration expanded to 1 minute per level, increasing the potency of the spell by +1 at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, with 19th level capping via the option to duplicate gate, though this still requires the material component and only one such effect can be in place at a given time to prevent the spamming of the ability. Handy lists of critters to be summoned with the diverse SPs are provided for your convenience.

 

The class also obviously features an eidolon stand-in, which, in this case, would be the demonic servant, which, as a summoned creature, adheres pretty much to the same limitations as the eidolon. The demonic servant sports d10 HD (with a 3/4-progression) and similarly sports a 3/4 BAB-progression. Demonic servants choose two good saving throws and one bad one and begin play with two skill-points and one feat, scaling up to up to 60 skill points and 8 feats. The total armor bonus of the demonic servant may be split among natural and regular armor bonus and scales up to +16, though the demonic servant may not wear armor beyond what this class feature grants. The evolution pool scales up to 15 points and the maximum number of attacks caps at 7. Demonic servants begin play with Darkvision 60 ft. and a link-ability (once called “link” and once “infernal link”) as well as share spells. Second level nets evasion (14th: improved evasion) and 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter bar the capstone level 20 provides an ability score increase. 9th level provides Multiattack and 6th level a +4 to saves versus enchantments.

 

The basic framework of the demonic servant is also determined by the base form: Bebilith, Demon, Contracted Devil, Fallen Angel, Nightblade, Salamander and Qlippoth are available. These forms determine the base forms and also have base evolutions. These servant types also determine bonus spells and 4th, 8th and 12th level provide bonus abilities that include SPs, evolutions and DRs. 20th level also provides a unique ability for the respective demonic servants.

 

Starting at 2nd level, they have a Demonic Circle, with a diameter of 5 ft, increasing the diameter by +5 ft at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter for a maximum of 25 ft. at 20th level. Creating a demonic circle is a move action that can be used 1+ Cha-mod times per day. Places circles cannot be moved once placed, though it can be dismissed as a free action. Unless otherwise noted, effects of circles last for Cha-mod rounds and a given circle remains in effect for class level rounds. Demonic Circles can be dismissed via Dispel Magic and outsiders seeking to pass through the circle need to make a Will-save versus 10 +1/2 class level + Cha-mod to do so. Demonologists are immune to the debuffs caused by their own circles, but their servants and allies are not. A given demonologist can only maintain one such circle at a given time, though multiple demonologists may overlay circles.

At 2nd level, 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, the demonologist also learns a so-called circle power and generally, they are interesting – the effects to be chosen range from synergy with hexes to negative energy damage to defensive buffs – which oddly, in one instance, include resistance against a chosen energy, including negative energy or force damage, two energies which usually are valued higher than the elemental damage types. Admittedly, that’s a minor, aesthetic complaint, but still. Pretty interesting would be the option to use a circle power to enhance a cauldron used in brewing potions: Thereafter, the thus enhanced potion also affects the demonologist and his servant upon consumption, provided they are within 30 ft. of the imbiber. The circle powers diverge in power rather significantly: Automatically rendering targets flat-footed, no save, is pretty strong, even when taking the limited AoE into account. Off: Circle Powers may scale, but there are some “greater circle powers” – which I *assume*can be taken at 10+ levels, but I’m not sure – the pdf fails to specify when they’re unlocked, though 14th level provides the “Greater Circle” ability, which otherwise is missing from the pdf.

 

Similarly, when hexes are gained, table and text contradict one another – which is, again, pretty bitetr since the respective new hexes provided tend to get complex abilities right…on the other side, there are SUs that duplicate spells sans specifying caster levels for the respective effects. There also is a hex that grants you limited flight sans the base hex’s limitations, which is a bit odd. In a particular odd formatting choice, the hexes sport the “major hex” header twice. At 19th level, demonologists can make permanent circles and as a capstone, the demonologist can tie his lifeforce to his personal circle as well as benefit from an apotheosis.

 

The class can choose from several archetypes: The Fiendflesh disciple replaces the demon summoning SPs with scaling fiendflesh armors – which is pretty great, though it does get the precise wording for the mixed energy type breath weapon down slightly more wonky than it should be. Infernal Traitors walk the thin line, trying to sabotage the forces of darkness from within – as such, he may conjure forth good creatures and may not be lawful. On the problematic side, the archetype learns quicker summonings, which open a can of worms regarding the actions available for the creatures summoned -how many do they get? The summoning powers replace the circle progression.

The Sacrifist gains a metamagic feat instead of circle powers, though these require the use of blood sacrifice of either the sacrifist or creatures called, though I literally have no idea how this self-damage component is supposed to work, and neither are my players. Furthermore, the sacrifist can call creatures and stab them to power his magic: Which works as a sneak attack…kind of. The called creature is treated as helpless and is subject to sneak attack-like damage…though I’m not sure whether that ought to be precision damage or not. Similarly, sentient mortals may be sacrificed and here, there are pieces of info on self-sacrifice/self-inflicting damage. I like the idea, but in play, this works surprisingly badly – the damage-output of the demonologist and the whole mechanic grinds the game to a screeching halt and can often lead to time-consuming battles with your own called creatures. Zakyas are pretty much the rakshasa-themed archetype provided herein, with a modified servitor that takes the shape of a piece of treasure – which completely changes how the servitor works and a complex template scaling with the respective rakshasa’s progression. Additionally, multiple choices pertaining the thematic focus generally make this a cool, complex archetype.

 

The pdf provides a wide array of new feats and favored class options, the latter of which extend to numerous non-standard races. On the feat-side, self-inflicting damage to power metamagic (with an anti-abuse caveat!) can be found alongside a feat that lets you turn penalties incurred by pain effects into benefits. E.g. gaining Vanish when your servitor crits is interesting, though CL-info would have been appreciated.

 

The pdf goes on to provide an extremely detailed spell-list, including sources – so much work and passion put into this…it breaks my heart. The pdf also provides a selection of information regarding demon possession as an acquired template which includes benefits by demon – pretty damn cool! The pdf also provides a selection of nice spells as well rules for the abyssal steel material and the Butzemonn books, which generate haunts that feed off Cha and increase in power, with certain classes being able to control the effects.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are, unfortunately, deeply flawed: There are not that many formal glitches, but lacking italicization of spells, confused headers and similar inconsistencies make this book harder to use than it should be and even impede core functionality of the content herein. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard with some awesome pieces of full color art. The pdf comes bookmarked and with hyperlinks.

 

This is one of the reviews that breaks my heart. Brian Berg and Matthew Stinson have crafted a class that OOZES style, that practically demands being used. The demonologist and its options sport several unique, damn cool options and is even innovative in several instances. I *really* like this class…or I want to…but can’t. You see, this class does not sport a single component of its core mechanics that is truly functional – from spells to cantrips and hexes, even the base functionality is impeded to the point it doesn’t work. The issues in the details pale before these glaring problems, though they can be found as well…alongside fully functional, working pieces. I don’t get this pdf…I really don’t. On one hand, this looks professional in a significant array of the most complex of options and shows that the authors can get the rules-language right…only then to stumble over the most basic things in the worst way. Worse, from what I can see, the class per se looks solid – I’m pretty positive this *was* playtested (though some options diverge in power-levels pretty significantly) and this certainly looks like a passion-project and oozes heart’s blood. It’s horribly frustrating for me as a reviewer to then have to say that this class, alas, fails its task.

The demonologist can be salvaged, it can be fixed; the supplemental material is cool and this pdf does have potential; it does show work and passion and has style…but it also is rushed, flawed and really would have required a capable developer/rules-editor to streamline and make it work as intended, sans those avoidable issues. As written, try as I might, I can’t rate this as functional – it’s simply RAW not; it’s exceedingly, frustratingly close…but yeah. Hence, my final verdict can’t clock in higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2 for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this inspired, but very flawed class here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Feb 252016
 

101 Urban Spells

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The latest, massive book of Dave Paul’s terrain-centric spell-collections clocks in at a whopping 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 47 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

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

 

Okay, so at this point, I have to quite frankly admit to being giddy like a school-girl whenever one of these terrain-centric spell-books by Rite Publishing hits my review-pile. At a point where I honestly considered the topic of spells to be done and covered, these spells have, time and again, blow me away by their precision and unique concepts – and similarly, this one begins with a rather exciting mechanical innovation: We take a look at settlement-sizes and their size-modifiers, which range from -4 to +4 – it is said size modifiers and settlement sizes that directly influence how the spells contained herein work. Additionally, some of the spells contained herein are designed to appeal explicitly to uncommon caster classes and combinations – like arcane tricksters et al.

 

The pdf codifies spells by class and level before diving into the main meat of the product – the spells. And from the get-go, I’m smiling: Acrophobia instills fear of heights; Alight the Holy Terrace duplicates Word of Recall, but saves only you and dumps you at the stairs of a church, later even inside – we’ve all read comics where the hero, battered and bruised, escapes and crashes in front of a church, to be found in the middle of the night. So yeah, sold! The third spell herein increases your chances of finding extraordinary treasure – and this is more exciting in practice than in theory…how did the item get here? Why is it for sale in the first place? This is a means for the GM to give the players what they want sans breaking the rules AND facilitates introducing new plot-lines. Gold.

 

The second level spell Ameliorate Disease is a bit of an odd duck – on one hand, it is a clear power-creep that allows for easier, sooner disease-control. At the same time, it applies the settlement modifier and does not prevent re-infection and costs gold. This may actually, for more grim settings, be a better default spell than the regular magical means of dealing with disease. (and yes, tehre is a poison-variant of this one in here as well…)

 

Blasphemous Aura is a game-changer of a spell – at 3rd level, this one allows for the hampering of divine magic and channel energy, both of which now have a chance of failure while inside the emanation. The spell sports a warning sidebox – though personally, I don’t consider it problematic: You see, for one, fiction sports ample instances where proximity to a particularly viable creature, be it a servant of the elder gods or a powerful undead, hampers spellcasting for divine characters. Secondly, the conservative AoE ultimately results in the spell being of an appropriate power-level for 3rd level spells. Thirdly, as any GM who has faced a channel-centric character (like a divine channeler) in the hands of a power-gamer can attest, the lack of a decent countering mechanic for the Su is a rather obvious hole in the rules-context. So yeah, as far as I’m concerned, I’ll be adding this spell to the arsenal of quite a few of my adversaries. If you’re still somewhat hesitant – my Scion of Discordia-class in Interjection Games’ Strange Magic was playtested for months and features similar lock-down abilities, so no – this does not break your game, though admittedly, it may make bastions of churches and casters less secure…but at least in my book, from a narrative point of view, that’s a good thing.

 

Speaking of specific spells that really make a GM’s job easier – Can’t Leave Town is the spell-representation of the delightful horror-trope, where you try to leave a settlement, only to re-enter it. Similarly, versatile Columns of Smoke can make it rather easy to escape…and notify allies/send signals. Of course, there would also be spells herein to conjure forth constructs of filth and loathsome debris to squash your adversaries (and even merge them in the case of more powerful variants). There would also be a spell that allows you to place a ring on the finger of a target to compel the target to only deal nonlethal damage – this makes so much sense for the punishment options of a society wherein magic exists. Similarly, nonlethal force-based means of dispersing crowds make sense as magical riot-control.

 

Calling forth dogs or summoning cockroach swarms can be found here – as can be a cantrip to dry clothes. There also is a rather nasty one that allows you to fear on the fear of crowds, consuming it and converting it into personal power – a neat magical representation of instigators feeding on fear. There is also a particularly interesting spell called Fortune Teller’s Curse – this one nets you insight into past, present and limited prescience and is VERY powerful – but it also represents a way of burdening a PC and adding unique means of enhancing investigations…at a price that will make the PC want to get rid of it. I’d consider this one problematic, were it not for the warning. Rather interesting from a story-telling perspective: Gleaning information from graffiti! Making mirrors Narcissus-traps or traveling by them. Illusion-based misdirecting vapors or becoming Nondescript is interesting – and what about a spell called Persistently Unconvinced that installs a conviction in the mind of the adversary that he’s not really in danger – this does look wrong, right? A kind of illusion, surely? In the hands of a halfway decent illusionist, this makes for a lethal smoke and mirrors game!

 

Better roof running, scrying via mirrors in various iterations or conjuring clothes from the stuff of shadow. Gold for any storyteller and a seed for unique culture – there is a spell that allows you to transfer diseases and poison from the living to the undead. This little spell makes for a viable reason why undead are kept around; it allows for a “benevolent” undead overlord to heal his subjects for just a small price; it provides a justification for people to actually serve undead or tolerate necromancers. I love this. Teleporting through crowds and conjuring weasels forth to steal keys for you…oh, and there actually are multiple spells that deal with structures – from collapsing roofs to crews of vexgit wreckers. Oh, and I really like the curse that makes the target verbose when trying to deceive…

 

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with multiple awesome, gorgeous full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Dave Paul has singlehandedly reignited my excitement for new spells. After more than 2000 spells read, I was, quite frankly, bored by most such books. When Dave Paul came along and began crafting not only exceedingly precise and complex spells, but actually started innovating within the frame work of what spells usually do – and he expanded his game. So far, not a single one of these books is anything short of pure excellence – and this is no different. Using settlement size modifiers here and there is pretty interesting and, for the most part, the magic herein is MAGICAL. It feels like magic.

You won’t find bland “deal x damage” spells herein. If you’re looking for those, open just about any pdf out there and look for the spell-section.

What you’ll find is themes, flair, complex options and spells that inspire whole modules, perhaps even campaigns – this book practically demands being inserted into any urban campaign – from Road to Revolution to Curse of the Crimson Throne to Council of Thieves and beyond, this pdf enhances the game, innovates mechanically and provides precise, complex spells that get their wording right. Where something can be problematic in contexts, the pdf warns you, even in cases like the anti-channeling where I’d issue no such warning myself. All in all, this continues Dave Paul’s streak of absolutely stellar spell-books, cementing the series further as the unquestionable benchmark for what good spellbooks can and should do. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, given without any hesitation. Stellar!

 

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

 

Feb 252016
 

Bosco’s Spell Compendium: Cantrips and Orisons

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This little FREE pdf clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2.5 pages of SRD, 1 page odd drawing, 1 page variant cover, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Beyond the obligatory spell-list by class (including Shaman), Bosco’s spells have a peculiarity: The spells herein can be used for spell failure equivalents – each spell herein has the base spell in parentheses. If the spell has a target, there is a 33% chance it targets the caster, 34% – 66% targets a random creature, 67%-100% means the original target is subjected to the effect. The pdf suggests a 50% chance for casting the Bosco variant accidentally when failing via concentration, UMD, etc..

 

Acid Splash receives a cosmetic reskin – an acidic moustache you fire at the opponent. If you botch Create Water, you find yourself instead casting Berate Water – to which water elementals may take offense. There is also the Disrupt Dead spell, which deals damage to neither the living, nor the undead – only the dead, which thereafter also get the severely dead “condition”. This one made me laugh so hard… Throwing frozen filets at foes is pretty hilarious, though the half bludgeoning/cold damage doesn’t work that well with 1d3 – what if you roll a 1? Gaining a Diplomacy-bonus for a 10 GP-bribe.

 

Okay, what really made me laugh was Most Sound: It allows you to create…bingo, most sounds. But if you cast the spell, you must roll a d4 – the result determining what sound you can’t make. So if you needed a tap-dancing walrus, a hummingbird humming the word “bird”, a goat imitating an elven noble or the sound of an ice-skating dragon, you may well be out of luck. What about instantly forgetting where North is from your current position? There also is a spell that can only target characters with 0 or less HP, fixing their eyes and stopping them temporarily from squirming.

 

Similarly hilarious: Suspect Poison. My players have this spell due to years of traumas at my sadistic GM-style: You begin to suspect that a creature, object or area is poisonous. You can guess the type of poison, but it may or may not be accurate. A touch that may intrigue inebriated creatures that would be attracted to your type. You can also make good guys feel bad for themselves or cause very short-lived bursts of guilt.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Alex Abel’s Bosco-Compendium is not only free, it’s hilarious. There are not that many funny RPG-books out there and the spells herein are well-balanced, fun and with the exception of some minor hiccups, awesome. This pdf actually made me laugh out loud at my table and is an inspired, awesome, little book. Better yet, it’s FREE!!! So yeah, there is absolutely no reason not to download this fun, awesome little supplement – final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

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

Enjoy wonky, weird, gonzo books like this? Well, you may want to take a look at the Letters From the Flaming Crab-KS currently running – the crew tries to fund a whole array of uncommon pdfs and could use your help to fund. Take a look here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Feb 252016
 

Mini-Dungeon: The Aura of Profit

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

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Still here?

All right!

So, in the poor section of town, Fritz has an underground alchemist’s laboratory – so why would the PCs try to stop Fitz? Well, his alchemist laboratory creates waste that makes people more susceptible to alcohol, which directly influences the profits of innkeepers all around. So, the PCs will have to stop Fritz – if only to prevent alcoholism skyrocketing. The dungeon as presented is surprisingly varied – we have an engineer-wizard, minor constructs (short-hand statblocks included) and some neat traps, some of which are obviously nonlethal. Oh, and know what’s kinda cool? Fritz is not a bad guy – he can actually be convinced to make modifications that negate the detrimental effects of his alchemical refuse.

 

Conclusion:

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

 

This makes me happy, it really does – Rory Toma delivers a captivating, fun mini-dungeon herein – with things to do beyond killing everything, a mix of traps and roleplaying and an interesting “adversary.” The topical background story also makes sense and opens potential for further adventuring – what if an evil character gets wind of Fritz’ mixture? Seriously, what more can you ask for from a small, humble 2-page module? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars plus seal of approval.

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Feb 242016
 

Mythic Monsters: Heavenly Host

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This installment of the mythic monsters-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of raw content, so let’s take a look!

 

All right, as always, we begin this installment of the mythic monsters-series with supplemental material, which this time around, would be an array of 9 mythic feats – the first of which would be Sanctified Servant, a feat that denotes you as a servant to the forces of the high heavens, which serves as a gateway-feat that allows the character to from then on take (Sacred)-feats, including means for increasing healing, halos, using channel energy/lay on hands to add Purify Spell to item-based spell effects – which btw. translates to making the spell [good] and changing energy to 1/2 untyped, with evil targets having a harder time resisting this. At only +1 level cost, this one would be too strong sans the gateway-feat, so nice job there. Better SR versus evil effects and better sneak attack versus evil foes are solid, but overall, I wasn’t too blown away by these – they are nice and balanced, though.

 

We begin this supplement’s monsters with agathions, the CR 11/MR 4 avorals being the first – and from the get-go, you’ll notice something: They play differently than their non-mythic versions – radically so. As skirmishers, they can quickly disengage adversaries and withdraw with adversaries in tow, if need be!) and fire Toppling salvos of magic missiles…oh, and yes, dual attacks after moving. This makes the avoral actually excel at its target role – kudos!

 

The CR 18/MR 7 Cetceals may grant their regneration to others and create truly devastating fields of encroaching ice and unleash devastating spear-attacks that bypass immunities…ouch! Speaking of ouch – you thought that was brutal? The Cr 25/MR 10 draconal’s very presence erodes the personality of evil daring to rear its head in their presence. Lying similarly is nigh-impossible under the auspice of a draconal and their brutal claws can add vast amounts of damage to evil creatures. Fluid increase of SR and rebounding of magic upon the vile originators make this creature a true champion of the light. BRUTAL! (And you thought WotW’s regular final scenario was hard? Use these guys and see the evil PCs SQUIRM…oh, and yes, they can strip you of immunities…)

 

The CR 15/MR 6 leonal has a similar bonus damage array to melee attacks versus evil-doers, but is more focused on melee and teamwork, as befitting the nature of these leonine champions of goodness. Rendered in a surprisingly creepy full-color artwork at CR 3/MR 1, the Silvanshee is subject to a continuous nine lives and makes for a superb familiar for good spellcasters, including a gaseous form that retains the creature’s defensive properties. The CR 7/MR 3 vulpinal is all about bardic prowess, freedom and calming emotions – champions of the downtrodden and enslaved, these creatures may grant metamagic via mythic powers to allies.

 

Obviously, this book also contains angels and the astral deva (CR 17/MR 7) not only receives access to the powerful litany-spells, they may actually end challenges, judgments and the like and render the damage caused nonlethal…speaking of judgment: A scroll allows them to pronounce judgments. Pretty awesome build! The CR 3/MR 1 Cassisian receives a defensive aura and may use its powers to support allies, allowing them to roll two Will-saves and combine mythic surges with that. They also get a nice artwork.

 

At CR 15/MR 6, the monadic deva may use mythic power to unleash an anti-elemental/evil-creature burst and purge elementals and chain devastating morningstar attacks together. The CR 12/MR 5 movanic deva has an always-on bane and their purifying greatswords can unleash daylight via mythic power and sever the enslavement of animals, plants and undead. The CR 20/MR 8 Planetar can unleash flurries of razor-sharp feathers and actually unleash lethal wing buffets with all 4 wings and as celestial master strategists, these creatures may share teamwork feats among their allies. Oh, and their very flesh of emerald ice is anathema to evil. Awesome! Speaking of which: Arguably one of the most lethal creatures out there is the solar and the CR 28/MR 10 mythic version is so lethal, I can see theory-craft threads springing up on how to take them down. AC 56. Regen 15. Almost 500 Hp. DR 20/- (applies even against SPELLS, smites, etc!); exceedingly high SR, deadly SLs and spells, no-save dazzle aura (blind on failed saves), miss chances, immunities…oh, and spontaneous negation of negative levels, ability damage and mythic power-based negation of conditions…and know what? Offense is just as brutal. This may actually be one of the most deadly builds to have ever been printed for PFRPG – love it! These guys *WILL* put up a brutal fight against even the best of PCs!

 

Now, as always, we receive a new creature herein, which, this time around would be the CR 8/MR 3 Rhampholeal agathion – small bipedal chameleon-humanoids that not only look cute, but also kind of badass – and yes, they are superb infiltrators and foes of demon-kind and their abilities sport trickster path abilities. Nice to see stealthy scouts enter the ranks of the heavenly host, particularly with such a nice visual.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artworks provided are nice as well.

 

Jason Nelson, Jonathan H. Keith and Sean K Reynolds deliver in this installment: Much like devils, angels and agathions are determined by their hierarchies as well as by their alignment-axis: They need to excel at their respective areas of expertise and provide accordingly well-crafted, precise and lethal builds – and oh boy does this deliver!

 

The forces of goodness need to be fearsome and the creatures herein deliver in spades. Better yet, where some base creatures were mostly defined by their SPs, they now have their distinct, unique tricks that render them an integral part of heaven’s armed forces. No admittedly, compared to some creatures in the series, the new critter herein didn’t blow me away, but the builds overall can be considered to be truly astounding and even this nitpick regarding the execution does not rattle the awesomeness of the idea of a celestial chameleon humanoid. Come on – that’s truly cool! All in all, this is an inspired addition to the series, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Feb 242016
 

Mystical Marketplaces: The Brass Drake

172063

This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review was moved up my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patrons.

 

So, what is the Brass Drake? Well, the simple response would be that it’s an adventurer’s shop/tavern crossover. The more accurate sentiment would point out the owner Maurice’s unique position – you see, the Brass Drake does not exist in a stable timeline – while visitors do not need to fear falling by the wayside of the time-stream – thus, you can benefit from some rather unique options in the Brass Drake. Similarly, Maurice has his own gold limit, which means that if you’re taking careful tabs on the like, this is something to be aware of. As a collector of memorabilia related to time, sample items and their gold value to Maurice is provided.

 

However, the pdf also introduces two particular subsystems: Number one would be the patronage system. Unless otherwise noted by the shop in question, buying or selling an item nets you 1 point of patronage per visit and the more you have, the better the prices and perks you receive will be: Selling/Buying bargain tables based on percentile values. Additionally, unique benefits can be gained for patrons with a high patronage – like free meals or the option to get a magic item now that you’d find later, capitalizing on the unique nature of the Brass Drake’s time-distortion. The pdf also provides a bartering system based on Appraise and Knowledge (local) – these items can be used as currency, but with a limit of one item per transaction. The systems both work relatively well and are not too complicated – which is particularly important for the bartering system. the patronage system imho should have a shop-based minimum-value caveat for patronage point gain, to avoid PCs selling paltry items all the time and then expecting patronage gains – which RAW works. Still, the pdf at least acknowledges that some shops have limits, minimum values.

 

Now back to the Brass Drake itself – conveniently, we get a short selection of magical goods for sale (though no menus or lists of beverages) and the place also unlocks a unique magic item for its most faithful patrons – a doorknob-like amulet that allows you to create a door to the Brass Drake in any alley or teleport to the original door. The most compelling aspects of this shop, though, lie in the small details – there are some basic shop-tasks that specialized adventurers can fulfill to gain further patronage points and additionally, no less than 5 sample quests provide for interesting hooks – Maurice, for example, asks the PCs to check in with his supplier of ogre moonshine…

 

Finally, the pdf also features a more detailed encounter, basically either the end of the Brass Drake’s storyline or the beginning of a larger quest – in this encounter/adventure, the shop’s unique nature draws the attention of dread hounds of Tindalos – defending Maurice from them can also earn patronage, 1 – 5, depending on how hurt Maurice is during teh fight. Still, more precise guidelines here would have been nice, though the encounter, on the plus-side, comes with scaling advice to increase the CR to 12, 17 or decrease it to 7. The pdf also provides the stats of Maurice – capable, yet old and fragile, he is a Knife Master/Scout 10.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are rather good, I noticed no glaring mistakes, though organization could have been smarter – putting the rules for the new systems at the end of the pdf creates some initial confusion and makes the content seem a bit opaque in the beginning. Similarly, the wording of them could be a tad bit more nuanced and precise. Layout adheres to a full-color 1-column standard with a nice selection of fitting stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 
Taylor Hubler’s and Dylan Brooks’ Brass Drake is a nifty place to shop and hang out with: The patronage system and its unique perks have potential galore and the Brass Drake’s unique concept is captivating and evocative -fluff-wise, this is great, though it perhaps could have used a bit more descriptive text to shine…particularly since the place sports no map. This is perhaps my biggest gripe with this book – while interesting and concept-wise awesome, the lack of description on what the store truly looks like, its layout etc. made it more opaque to me than it should have been. Granted, this may be by design, but at least a general array of features and/or dressing would have catapulted this up in the rating scale. My second gripe with this book is that I really would have liked to see a sample menu, a more detailed list of goods available…or at least goods pertaining more to the topic of time.

 

If that sounds overly negative, then rest assured, it shouldn’t be – the Brass Drake offers an evocative place for a fair price-point. It can be considered an interesting first offering in the series, one that I hope will spawn future installments. My final verdict for it will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this nice set-piece here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!
Endzeitgeist out.