May 312016
 

In the Company of Unicorns

181210

This installment of Rite Publishing’s series of racial sourcebooks clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 36 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

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

 

So, this time around, it’s unicorns – but what type? Well, obviously not the classic arcane mysticism of the middle ages that equated the unicorn with Jesus Christ – but neither is this just a rehash of the classic, noble trope, though this does feature in the equation. The unicorns, or re’em as they call themselves, as depicted herein, are a noble breed with a tendency towards good and an ancient history. The re’em, as depicted herein in vivid prose, do feature a long and storied history and they have, indeed, retreated from many interactions with fickle men. If anything, the theme and general feeling the prose evoked was one of subdued melancholy and yet, hope – the closest emotional analogue would probably be the blending of the aesthetics and mindset of the wonderful classic “The Last Unicorn” with a fantasy world – with e.g. traditions like the Great Gallop of the herds both making sense from an in-game point of view and aptly taking visual associations from the classic piece of animation, blending them in an evocative manner. And yes, should you be new to the series – this reads well, for the prose and racial information is written from the perspective of one of these unicorns and yes, there are regional differences in fluff, with unobtrusive nods to the implicit Questhaven setting of Rite Publishing shining through here and there sans compromising adaptability.

 

Racial stats-wise, the re’em receive +2 Con and Wis, -2 Dex, are small magical beasts (but do not gain any traits save those listed), have low-light vision and darkvision 60 ft and are quadrupeds, which modifies carrying capacity and limits slots and armors. They gain +2 to Knowledge (Nature) and Survival and increase all conjuration (healing) spell CLs cast within 10 ft. of them by +1. Re’em get +2 natural AC and a 1d4 natural horn attack that receives 1.5 times Str-mod to damage. It should be noted that the latter may not specify that it’s obviously a primary natural attack, but since they don’t gain hoof-attacks per default, I’ll let that stand as an obvious and negligible minor gripe.

 

The Re’em get a full-blown age, height and weight-table and may choose two alternate arrays of ability modifiers: +2 Int and Wis, -2 Con (not a fan, a bit lopsided) and +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int. Interesting: These choices do also modify the “minor” racial traits for a better rounded variant than usual in each. A powerful aura of corruption (+1 CL for negative energy-based spells and SPs), walking across water, fire resistance 5, endure elements vs. the cold and +1 to atk. vs. lions and leonine foes (like chimeras, dragonnes, etc.) can be found. Battling unnatural foes, SR equal to 6 + level, free movement over desert terrain, swim speed-transformation as a swift action…the alternate racial traits are diverse and varied…and they come with an important secondary balancing mechanism beyond the limited slots. Unicorns, obviously…have no hands, which makes certain operations not as simple as one would expect them to be.

 

The race also sports FCOs for the druid, fighter, hunter, magister, oracle, paladin, ranger, sorceror, taskshaper and witch hunter classes as well as for the racial paragon class introduced in this book, the Silvermane Exemplar.

 

However, unlike many a racial booklet, this sports an intriguing component – the Re’em Hero universal archetype, which nets the racial paragon’s natural attack progression and a very limited array of alicorn abilities and options for growth (Medium at 5th, Large at 10th level) – however, at the same time, this archetype does cost the classes: Re’em alchemists lose throw anything and bombs, for example. Similarly, the class-array, which cover the traditional classes and the ACG-array alongside some classics from Rite Publishing and Rogue Genius Games is extensive and varied in the modifications employed – sorcerors are, for example, locked into the new unicorn bloodline, though the progression of bloodline powers and feats. These, just fyi, allow you to alleviate certain conditions a limited amount of times per day, cleanse targets and later gain some immunities traditionally associated with unicorns.

 

Beyond this universal archetype, the pdf also sports two class-specific ones, with the Forest Guardian Druid gaining the option to attune herself to a limited selection of domains and spontaneously cast the attuned domain spells, while the Arboreal Equine ranger gains woodland stride and basically is a hunter-themed short and simple archetype.

 

Now I already mentioned the racial paragon class – so what does it offer? The Silvermane Exemplar gets 2+Int-mod skills per level, d10 and only proficiency with natural attacks. The class gains full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves. At 1st level and every odd level thereafter, the class gains a so-called alicorn ability. These abilities are powered by a pool equal to 1/2 class level (min 1) + Charisma modifier. For as long as the character has at least one of these pool points, they can manifest mage hand at will as an SP, eliminating the crippling factor of not having hands – which is btw. pretty important for the universal archetype also has this option. Additionally, a point from this pool can be expended to enhance temporarily the silvermane’s horn in a way similar to the magus’ enhancements, with net bonuses increasing by +1 every 4 levels thereafter. At 5th level, a similar weapon property-exchange can be used.

 

So that would be the base functionality. Beyond this, the alicorn abilities are pretty diverse: The Alicorn charm allows the silvermane to expend a point from her pool to create a talisman that cannot be regained while it exists. Said charm can then be enchanted and reabsorbed, granting potentially, at least for some time, a significantly powerful god-horn at higher levels…though only for a couple of days and the higher the power, the lesser its duration will be. Not for every campaign great…but unique and costly enough. The abilities thus run a gamut between unique utility and modifications and active/passive benefits – increased reach while the silvermane has at least one point in her pool. Short-range, scaling and upgradeable teleportation makes for a pretty powerful tool for a full BAB-class, particularly since it is available at 1st level. However, the fact that it is limited by the pool and that it has a mishap chance when teleporting beyond line of sight act as balancing mechanisms here. Shape-changing into an alternate form, increased damage output foe ONE natural attack, better armor…pretty cool. At the same time, first level unassisted flight powered by the pool can be problematic, though, once again, the pool does limit this sufficiently for most rounds. At 7th level, pounce can be chosen and evil exemplars can ooze powerful toxins. And yes, at high levels, telekinesis and trampling is possible. Limited SPs can also be found. I mentioned natural attacks, right? Well, 6th level provides hooves 11th bite and 16th a tail attack, all of which are properly codified regarding their type. (Though, as a nitpick you should ignore, damage-type, if relevant, needs to be looked up.) Now, like the universal archetype, these exemplars grow – to Medium size at 4th, to Large size at 8th level, with both allowing for investments to be used to further enhance the bonuses gained.

 

Investments? Yep, for the silvermane exemplar chooses at herd at first level, of which 6 are provided. Herds may be changed at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, also allowing for the reassignment of the investments chosen and reflect changing playstyles and party-dynamics. Each herd grants a herd ability that ranges from active at-will stabilize per touch to adding Cha instead of Con to Fort-saves and maximum negative hit points. A minor complaint: Some of these grant class skills – I assume the bonus is lost upon changing herds? Or isn’t it? I’m not sure whether this is considered to be retraining or more akin to a multiclass operation in terms of its rules. Still, a none-too-grievous glitch. Each herd also sports several investments to choose from – these are gained at 2nd level and every even level thereafter and determine the capstone final investment gained. Unless otherwise noted, these investments have a save of DC 10 + 1/2 class level + Cha-mod when required and generally, the abilities tend to be less directed at resource management, though tie-ins do exist – certain alicorn abilities like Trample, etc. that only work while the silvermane has points can e.g. be made available at all times with one such investment of the ferocity herd, which btw. can also gain DR, combat feats – you get the idea.

 

Basically, each herd is somewhat akin to a mystery with a huge bunch of revelations you can freely choose. On a formal level, I noticed e.g. a non-italicized ability header here and one instance of the investment-header missing between herd ability and investment list. Indeed, the editing here is not as tight as in the rest of the pdf – take e.g. the Magic herd’s alicorn bolt that can cause class level x d6 untyped magical damage a very limited amount of times per day in a 60 ft.-line….only to then talk about “damage of the selected type.” I *think* this ought to instead provide a proper damage type…untyped damage, in spite of daily limitations, is always clunky in its interactions with creatures, defensive capabilities etc. Overall, somewhat baffling since e.g. the rune-traps they can make get the usual energy type codification done right. Pretty cool – one ability takes the “hit chance”-idea and provides it as a quasi-hex. In case you missed that Rite Publishing-idea: It’s pretty much the opposite of a miss chance: When you’d miss, you still have a chance to hit the target! And yep, hex-24-hour-caveat keeps it in line. I also like an exclusive resistance to antimagic effects and spells, representing the uniquely magical nature of these beings.

 

If you’d prefer your silvermanes less magical, I’d like to point you towards the nature herd, where dominating enemies, alicorn pool-powered fascinate effects via tail whirling, favored terrain and an animal companion at -3 levels beckon. On the downside, the moonlight globe gained here once again deals untyped damage…and by now we all know how I think about that…even though I do love the visuals evoked here. One ability that may be in line with lore and restricted in daily uses, but also remains very frustrating, would be a curse available at 12th level: Save or suck, spellcasters – if you fail, that’s it – no more arcane spellcasting. Not even SPs. Curse. Have fun. I’ve seen those mechanics before and I didn’t like them back then – I still don’t like them here, though at least the limited uses mean that this won’t be used all the time…and it requires an attack. Still: GMs beware, silvermanes are very mobile and one attack can wreck your BBEG. Cool on the other hand: Size-increases to a maximum of HUGE and a cornucopia of alternate movement rates…which are somewhat underpriced at 10th level: Burrow 30, Climb 90, Fly (good ) 90 ft, Swim 90 ft, blindsense 30 ft., scent, constrict (which attacks?), ferocity, grab, jet, poison, pounce, rake, trample, trip, web, +6 Str, -4 Dex, +6 natural armor. Granted, this lasts only one minute per level and has a daily cap…but still. Look at these qualities! Seriously??? All of them? At once? WTF?? I am pretty positive that this was supposed to be a list to select some of these abilities and not the totality, for trying to get all of these via buffs etc. is exceedingly costly…plus, the silvermane already is a pretty powerful class. As written, this ability’s pretty broken, in spite of its limitations.

 

That being said, while there are some problematic components herein, there similarly are some awesome bits and pieces to be found here – the purity herd, for example, gains a pala-like lay on horn, use alicorn points to enhance saves of allies, send the undead to their resting places and tear down illusions with their horns and even reduce the severity of the most problematic of conditions. Silvermanes belonging to the proud herd gain a kind of resistance against being forced to roll multiple times and take the worse result and, at 10th level, they may perform combat maneuvers sans incurring AoOs – which is cool, particularly since the investment has the prerequisite of requiring 2 combat maneuver feats – but what constitutes a “combat maneuver feat” – I assume the usual Improved Trip/Disarm/etc., but cases could be made for diverging interpretations. This is particularly baffling to me since the unseen herd actually properly specifies feat-types when it comes to Blind Sense and Blindsight as abilities gained. Still – the proud and unseen herd, with focuses on not being impeded and stealth respectively probably constitute my favorites herein.

 

Beyond the final investment granted by the herd, the class gains aa winged apotheosis with wing attacks, Leadership and similar powerful tricks as a capstone, making the character truly formidable…and very hard to kill. The class also has archetypes – the honored companion is an interesting one: Basically, you get a Bonded Rider (as per the new feat) and play the mount…which is interesting. And yes, regular re’em will NOT be ridden! Blackmanes would be the corrupt anti-silvermanes – with auras of corruption, alternate alicorn abilities and the corruption herd, these would be the evil unicorns so dreaded. Oh, and the specialize in Betrayal feats – basically the evil brother of teamwork feats, which alongside a selection of racial feats, close this pdf – these btw. can grant you an alicorn ability, more investments, mighty kicks…the like. And yes, I really get some evil ideas while looking at these betrayal feats.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are rather good – though admittedly not as tight throughout the whole pdf as in quite a few Rite Publishing releases. There are some hiccups on a formal level, though none too much. More significant would be that the rules-language sports some instances where damage-type classification or slightly more precise rules-language would have helped. Layout adheres to Rite’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports gorgeous artworks and comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

BJ Hensley and Steven D. Russell have glimpsed into my twisted mind. Why? Because, believe it or not…I absolutely adore “The Last Unicorn.” I always have the track on my MP3 player and have, unlike 98% of movies, watched it more than once without being bored out of my wits. (Yes, I mean America’s version of the song, just fyi.)

 

Yeah, I’m a guy and I love the iconography, the subtext – everything about unicorns is simply evocative to me. And know what? I really like this pdf. I really enjoy how the hand-less/shapechange-issues have been addressed. I love how many aspects work. At the same time, though, there are some grains of sand in the machinery of this pdf – while the majority of options works exceedingly well, even while juggling complex concepts, there are a couple of hiccups. Take e.g. the aforementioned short-range teleportation that is a component of how the silvermane retains its movement superiority (powerful for full BAB-classes) – it does not note that it is a conjuration [teleportation]-effect, nor a CL, which means that its upgrade at 8th level, which duplicates dimension door, may now suddenly no longer work under certain conditions, while the teleport worked before. YES. I know, I know. I’m a stupid bastard. Any GM worth her or his salt can handle that and knows how it works. I know. Still, RAW, this is in here.

 

Still, the like would not and does not sink the pdf. While the silvermane is a very powerful melee combatant, the slot-restrictions and later, size-increases alongside the pool-based mechanics sans means of regaining the points actually evens out what looks much worse on paper than one would expect – while not too great for low-magic campaigns and grittier adventuring, in most campaigns the silvermane and options herein will even out as a balanced option. In grittier campaigns, less combat-focused silvermanes will probably still work if predicated by a proper agreement between players and GM…so yeah, overall, this is a nice job. At the same time, a couple of the abilities do sport some uncharacteristic oversights pertaining damage-type, some minor paste-errors…and some less minor hiccups. Similarly, not a fan of the save-or-suck tricks or the use of untyped damage in some cool abilities.

 

But then again, this is pretty much “The Last Unicorn – the class”…with literally everything you expect to see. And it’s a great read that actually gets me excited, that inspires me. So…how do I rate this? Well, I have to say, I do consider this somewhat less refined that the take on rakshasa and the hiccups do extend to the mechanics in some instances. However, at the same time, this does make up for a lot in evocative prose, unique abilities and the sheer fact that it does not go the easy route – the vast majority of options in this book are unique and not something other classes could do – so it’s not a “I poach class feature xyz” experience and when it does stumble, it at least does so valiantly in the pursuit of uniqueness instead of redundancy. In the end, I will hence settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform, with the caveat that GMs should take a good look at how some of the abilities interact before allowing them.

 

You can get this cool, if not perfect book here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

May 312016
 

Playable Monsters Vol. I – Fantasy Iconics & Mythology

139385

This pdf clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of artist/writer-contact-info and 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 50 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, after some general discussions on how to handle monstrous PCs and parties, we dive pretty much straight into the respective races, which cover a brief physical description, some minor information on society, relations with other races and alignment/religion preferences as well as how the race interacts with adventurers. After that, we get the racial traits…and that’s pretty much it. If you were looking for traits or alternate racial traits to customize these, you won’t find them here. Neither will you find favored class options…though the appendix does offer some feats…we’ll get to those later. The races also lack age, height and weight-tables – basically, this is the most bare-bones presentation of a given race possible.

 

The first race herein would be the boggard, who gets +2 Str and Con, -2 Dex, swim speed 20 ft., +4 to Acrobatics (and are always considered to have a running start) and they also get SPRING ATTACK as a bonus feat at level 1. Oh, and they ignore difficult swamp terrain…and get hold breath. Okay, so from a design-aesthetic point, the race is lopsided – two bonuses to physical attributes mean that the race is geared towards certain professions more than similar races. Secondly, the formatting: The formatting of the race, while feasible and functional, deviates from established standards. Beyond not bolding the respective racial trait’s names, we get entries like: “Speed: 20 feet, swim 30 feet.” We *know* what that means, right? Well, the formatting of slow base speed is different. As per ARG et al., it should also read BASE speed. I exaggerate? I nitpick? Perhaps, yes. But deviations like this create rules holes. You see, Swim speed’s formatting is usually: “They also have a swim speed of 30 feet, can move in water without making Swim checks and always treat Swim as a class skill.” Notice something missing here, omitted and opaque due to sloppy presentation? Yup. And, of course, finally, we also have the glaring issue of gaining a multiple-prereq bonus feat. This is particularly baffling, since the ARG grippli has already a precedent ability with the jumper racial trait….and no, these boggards will go nowhere near my table. The formatting glitches extend to all races herein, so please bear that in mind.

 

The second race would be the centaur, which get +2 Str and Wis, 40 ft. movement, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to saves vs. poison and disease and are quadruped. Finally, they get two 1d6 hoof natural attacks, failing to specify whether they’re primary of secondary and they also deviate from the default damage of 1d4 for the size…which is btw. denoted as medium, which is VERY odd. Centaurs are defined pretty much by being large and having undersized weaponry… Oh, and no, in case you were wondering – no solutions for the ladder-conundrum or the like in here.

 

The choker, also known as “Sel” in this book, is a small aberration that gets +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int, has speed and climb speed separated oddly (20 ft base, 10 ft. climb) and oddly treat Climb as a class skill and can even 10 when threatened. Which is half of the default of climb speed’s detailed definition. Now usually, climb speed is just noted in the speed-entry…but does the specific deviation from the standard here mean that the usual accelerated climbing options granted by climb speed are not available for the choker? No idea. They treat natural weapons or manufactured ones as though they had reach., but only when it would be beneficial for the choker and count as +1 size category (i.e. medium) for grappling purposes. Rather OP: Creatures grappled can’t speak. No save, so check, no pin-requirement. Broken.

 

Dark Folk (aka “Vraysh” herein) get +2 Dex and Con, -2 Int, are small, can see in darkness and may use rags as the equivalent of a leather armor sans ACP. Does this armor have the same hit points/hardness as leather armor? How do you replace it when it’s sundered? They also get Poison Use and 1/day darkness; detect magic as SPs, light blindness and +2 to Climb, Perception and Stealth. They also actually get alternate racial traits that lets you play as one of 4 alternate castes of dark folk. These castes feature a touch attack curse that is somewhat akin to a hex, but fails to specify activation action and ability type, other SPs, slightly better spellcasting pertaining {shadow] and [darkness] spells or an alternate ability array of +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Int. So…where’s the signature explosion? The literal one thing everyone remembers about dark folk, their one unique thing? N/a. Still, this entry isn’t the worst in this book and would perhaps fare a bit better, had Jeff Lee not codified dark folk as a player race infinitely more compellingly in Rogue Genius Games’ monster menagerie-book associated with them.

 

Next up would be the Derro, who get +2 Con and Cha, -2 Wis, are small, slow and steady, gain darkvision 60 ft, oddly hatred versus aberrations and outsiders and dwarven weapon familiarity. Derro with Cha of 10+ gain 1/day ghost sound, darkness, daze as SPs and the derro suffer from a curse, which imposes a -4 penalty (penalties are untyped…) to saves versus illusions, but provides +4 to save vs. fear and imposes a penalty of 4 to attempts to Intimidate them. Oh, and the racial curse can be removed by making a CL-check versus 25 with the appropriate spell. Sooo…the racial insanity, the defining characteristic of a race that categorizes them as predominantly evil can be cured by a single mid-level caster. This opens a whole array of issues. Also: Kobold Press’ take on them in the Advanced Races Compendium is superior in every regard.

 

Doppelgangers have an odd ability-score line: “Doppelgangers who use their alter self racial ability are capable of gaining a +2 Strength or Dexterity, effectively resulting in a net +2 bonus.” Do I even have to mention what’s the issue here? Why not grant the bonus to all shapes? It makes no sense to shove a mechanic that has no true value beyond being overcomplicated and diluting how alter self works in here. Also: Count the deviations from regular formatting. *sigh* Doppelgangers are shapechangers, have darkvision 60 ft, get +2 to Bluff and Disguise, can use alter self at will as a SU (why not use the regular change shape ability?) and may quickly learn to mimic mannerisms and even proficiencies – here, I have to give credit where credit is due: Quicker learning is cooler than immediate access to all proficiencies as per the base monster. Kudos!

 

Dryads get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Str, are fey with low-light vision and get +4 to Craft-checks pertaining wood. They add +1 DC to druid and ranger spells cast and Dryads with Cha of 10+ gain Charm Person, Create Water and Know Direction as 1/day SPs. They can also meld with trees…and it manages to almost get it right, to have a nice, player-friendly version…and then proceeds to botch it. Dryads as depicted herein can cast spells while melded with trees. Since it deviates from how the ability works for the monster, it has no expulsion clause and it breaks when material components and foci are concerned. *sigh*

 

Eshtar, so-called “true” giants, are large and get +4 Str, -2 Dex. *insert anti-+4-to-a-single-attribute-rant*. Their speed of 35 ft. deviates from standard movement rates and they get “Low-light Vision” – sans the usual notes, but oh well. At this point I have quite frankly given up on the ability-formatting of this pdf. They get no penalty for thrown improvised weapons and gte +1 to atk with thrown weapons. They may throw objects of up to small size with a 30 ft. range increment and a base damage of 2d6, which surpasses quite a few weapons. They also get Toughness and +2 to Intimidate and Will-saves. They also try to experiment with weapon-sizes, which is usually an alarm-flag: You see weapon-size categories and wielding are pretty much a colossal cluster-f*** in PFRPG. The ability specifies: “A greatsword sized for humans is but a longsword to the giants. Hill eshtar can wield two-handed and one-handed weapons of Medium size without penalty” This ability would doesn’t do much as written – and the first sentence makes me believe it was intended to allow them to one-hand medium two-handed weapons…but I’m not sure. A true joke is the balancing of the alternate racial traits: You can replace Toughness with DR 2/- and darkvision…or fire resistance 5 + HD…or breathing underwater + swim speed…showcasing that there is no consideration for even completely obvious power-discrepancies here. These alternate racial traits are capital letter-level bad design that both have balance-issues even within the relatively enclosed space of a single race’s traits. Again, this comes nowhere near my table.

 

Gnolls as depicted herein get +2 Str and Int, -2 Cha, darkvision 60 ft., scent, +1 natural armor bonus, proficiency with battleaxe and nunchaku and +4 to saves vs. ingested poisons. This one is actually pretty nice and shows that the author is capable of solid work…but unfortunately, Kobold Press has done it better and more detailed as well.

 

Harpies get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Con, are monstrous humanoids, darkvision 60 ft, two (not one!) talons that fail to specify whether they’re primary or secondary natural attacks and that deviate from base damage-size by one step, a massive +4 to Perform (Sing) and they begin play with limited flight – fly speed 30, Fly as class skill…but they can only maintain flight for Con-mod minutes per level until 9th level. Still, this means flight at level 1, below the usual cap, which is problematic. I also don’t get why this did not build on the glide racial trait as established by tengu and similar races.

 

Lizardfolk (aka Sasgar) get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int, are reptilian and get swim and base speed 30 ft. as well as hold breath. Utterly broken, failing to specify primary or secondary for either: 4 (count it!) natural attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite, 1 tail, all for 1d4 damage (damage types are correctly clarified, which is nice) – deviating from bite and tail slap default damage. They also get +2 natural Ac and +4 to Acrobatics and CMD to resist bull rush and trip. Once again, 4 natural weapons are frankly too much…and once again, Kobold Press has the vastly superior (and better balanced) take on the race.

 

The Gorgon would be the take on the playable medusa – +2 Con and Cha, -2 Dex, monstrous humanoids with darkvision 60 ft and a natural bite attack (primary or secondary? Don’t know.), all-around vision and a 3/day gaze that deal damage, penalizes base speed and scales in damage output over the levels…and I actually like this one. Sure, it’s formatting is nonstandard…but the mechanic itself is solid and something I’d actually consider for a race. Kudos where kudos are due!

 

Naga get +2 Dex and Wis, 2 Cha, are oddly medium native outsiders with darkvision 60 ft, +1 on all saves and get +4 to all knowledge checks pertaining holy ground, supernatural prisons etc. as well as +2 to CMB, CMD and Escape Artist. Once again, this is not per se a bad take on the naga and actually one of the races herein I’d consider using base stat-wise. Solid.

 

Pixies get -2 Str, +2 Dex and Int…and are tiny. They are treated as small when it would be disadvantageous to do so (e.g. only a +4 size bonus to Stealth), are fey with low-light vision and have a land speed of 20 ft as well as the similar limited flight solution of the harpy, alongside its accompanying issues. They can also 1/day sprinkle pixie dust upon a weapon to charge it with either sleep or charm person. Tiny characters…are a hand full. Still, this does an inelegant, but laudable job at making the pixie feasible, though the lack of reach-explanation and the like will probably result in some confusion. I’d strongly suggest getting Everyman Gaming’s Microsized Adventures if the topic intrigues you. As per this race – it needs something to prevent dying from AoOs all the time.

 

Next up would be Sahuagin, who get +2 Con and Int, -2 Cha, land speed 20 ft, swim speed 30 ft, darkvision 60 ft, 1/day Blood Frenzy and the ability to speak with sharks. Overall, a balanced one I won’t complain about. Solid.

 

The final race herein would be the vampire, who gets +2 Str and Cha, -2 Wis, is undead and gets darkvision 60 ft as well as Blood Drain (bite damage deviates from standard, but this is offset by Con-damage…and gets all the other vampire abilities. I’ll make this brief: This one is somewhat overpowered and the mechanics aren’t precise enough to warrant it. The direct competition would be Dreamscarred Press’ Lords of the Night…which I’d certainly advocate getting if you want to play vampires.

 

The appendix contains 8 new feats, which include an unlimited AoE-cone that can be made from boulders, 1/day personalized hold monster, a 3rd level vampire-feat that allows for instant sunlight adaption and also Fire resistance. *sigh* Does this also render immune to sunlight-duplicating spells and effects? You guessed it – no idea. Alternate slow-effects for medusa-gazes are pretty neat, while daze-inducing gales feel a bit weak. Another feat makes ALL knowledge skills class skills AND is tied in with an organization we know nothing about. Syncretic Faith is odd: You only get one domain, but may 1/week switch deities by one step on the alignment axis, gaining a new domain. Why odd? Well, what happens to domain powers? I assume they’re lost as well…but what if they’re permanent? Oh well, overall, this one’s still one I could see myself using in a modified iteration. The final feat allows for the wielding of weapons at reach in the tongue as though it were your primary hand….but what does that make of your other hands? Very strong, available at 1st level, not getting near my game. The appendix also sports the landwalker spell, which provides the aquatic-to-land-adaption you’d expect and two alchemical items – one to breathe underwater and one to ignore temporarily light blindness.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are…the main friggin’ issue of this book. While editing isn’t bad in a traditional sense, this book suffers from not ONE, not a single one of the races herein adhering to the presentation-standards established for races. With deviating wording, issues creep in and to me, they broke this book’s back. Layout adheres to a 1-column, per se printer-friendly standard, though the 1-column standard means that this book has more blank space and bloats its page-count beyond what a regular presentation would have offered. Artwork-wise, the pdf sports solid full-color pieces – nothing breathtaking, but okay. What’s not okay is the lack of bookmarks – for a book of this size, their omission represents a major comfort-detriment.

 

Ray Chapel can make balanced races. There are quite a few examples of such races herein I’d consider using in my game regarding their stats, were it not for the presentation-deviations that gall me to no end. Still, there are some good ideas herein…but you’ll have to carefully look for them.

 

Ultimately, this book feels like one you’d expect in the infancy of a given roleplaying system: When the author has not yet established a firm grasp of rules-language and conventions of a given system, when basic books such as this still have a chance to shine or at least be considered okay, when internal balancing of races and their options is not yet that important.

 

Let me reiterate this: This is by no means a book sans worthwhile content. However, it is a book that fails to provide any of the things that have become standard: Multiple race traits? Selections of alternate racial traits? NOPE. Wording conventions, conventionalized finer rules-details? NOPE. Racial scaling-advice? RP-break-downs? Favored class options? Nope. And then there would be the sad fact that we don’t even get age, height or weight tables…not to begin with the lack of bookmarks and, more jarringly, the lack of detailed information regarding the respective races.

 

You see, a new race should be more than just a collection of mechanical tidbits – it should have a unique culture or some unique thing it can do that makes it feel different. Not a single one of the races herein manages to get these two right. The medusa-gaze is solid, but the fact remains that we have races existing mostly in a vacuum here – there simply isn’t enough information on each of them, in spite of what you’d believe what looking at the page-count bloated by the layout.

 

What really breaks this pdf for me, though is one simple fact: I can, from the top of my head, mention quite literally dozens of pdfs that cover the same races in a better and more holistic manner. Whether it’s Kobold Press’ Advanced Races Compendium, series like Astonishing Races or In the Company of Monsters, Fehr’s Ethnology or books like Bloodforge or Lords of the Night – the 3pp-circuit literally has dozens of books that cover the themes…and, unfortunately, ALL have one thing in common:

 

They are vastly superior. There is no sugar-coating it, they all are better. No exceptions. They have tighter rules, better layout, better rules-language, more detail, more options….I could continue this list ad infinitum.

 

See, I try, very hard, to unearth the positive aspects of a given book and highlight them. My impulse was to give this, for its solid craftsmanship, at least the saving grace of a 2 star-rating…but ultimately, I’d be doing a huge disservice to all those well-crafted, detailed books I mentioned before, some of which got flack from me for much, much less. In direct comparison with these, I can see literally nothing that would warrant getting this. I feel bad doing this, I really do, but I have to take into account the exceedingly high standards among 3pps, the reason why I actually can dish out as many high ratings as I can – it’s because they meet very high standards. This wouldn’t have made my standards when I began reviewing, much less so now. For the sake of fairness towards all those hard-working designers that have to put up with my high standards and for my readers, which by now expect them – I can’t rate this higher than 1 star.

 

If you want, you can get this pdf here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.
Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 302016
 

Four Horsemen Present: Hybrid Class – Fury

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This base class clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

The fury as presented herein is a barbarian/monk-hybrid and gets d8 HD, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-save progression, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, but not with any armor or shield. At 3rd level, the fury gets fast movement + 10 ft., which increases by +10 ft. again at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Similarly, the fury gains an AC-bonus while unarmored and unencumbered based on Cha-mod, with 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter increasing the bonus thus granted by +1.

 

A fury receives focused rage at 1st level governed by Cha – 4 + Cha-mod rounds per level, +2 rounds per class level. Temporary increases to Charisma do not increase focused rage. While in such a rage, furies gain +2 to Strength and Constitution as well as a +2 bonus to Will-save. Additionally, while in such a rage, they can perform basically flurry-based additional attacks, at the cost of a -2 penalty to all attacks – the impressive component here would be the fact that both TWFing and attack-dispersion between attacks in the focused rage is accounted for. More impressive, even, considering that the focused rage has full BAB for these attacks and yes, the fury takes a -2 penalty to AC. Similarly, the ability manages to get the Str-score limitations of off-hand attacks right and, while in focused rage, the fury may not use Cha-, Dex- or Int-based skills – excluding Acrobatics, Fly, Intimidate and Ride. Furies are fatigued post rage for 2 rounds per round spent in focused rage and thankfully, the class feature comes with a handy list of focused rage attacks in a separate table, making the class here pretty user-friendly.

 

Speaking of user-friendly – base unarmed damage for Small, Medium and Large characters similarly gets its own little table, with particularly the nod towards Large characters being nice. And yes, damage increases parallel to the monk. 2nd level provides uncanny dodge and takes into account when a multiclass character already has the class feature. Which is as good a point as any to mention that rage powers and interaction with barbarian class levels and rage are covered – so no, these are not mutually exclusive per se. Rage powers are gained at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter. 3rd level provides maneuver training and 4th nets the class the ki pool – which is based on 1/2 class level + Cha-mod, with ki strikes scaling from magic at 4th to adamantine at 16th level. Interesting and perhaps one of the core cool abilities here: The fury may elect to take 2 points of Cha-damage which can only be healed naturally to end the fatigued condition, allowing for potentially quicker rage-cycling. (13th level can similarly get rid of exhaustion.)

 

7th level provides DR, +1 every 6 levels thereafter. Here’s an interesting mechanic – the fury may also take hit point damage equal to class level instead of using a daily round of rage of point of ki…but said damage can only be healed naturally, effectively reducing the maximum hit points of the character. This allows for significant control over the resources…but also imposes the toll of a swift action as activation…and makes the fury potentially ever more fragile and thus should be well-contemplated. Mid-dungeon, burning through resources like this can result in some nasty rest required… 9th level provides improved uncanny dodge, again, with multiclass info.

 

11th level upgrades the benefits of focused rage to +4 and Will-save to +3 while also increasing the attacks, with 20th level providing +6/+4 and another upgrade, respectively. 15th level provides a brutal throat strike attack that makes the target potentially suffocate. 17th level provides a Diehard-granted option with ki pool-synergy. At 19th level, the fury can take negative levels as a swift action to double bonuses – and indeed, the class allows the fury to maintain the power of this ability by incurring cumulative negative levels – and yes, the ability cannot be cheesed via immunity to negative energy/level drain, etc. and cannot be magically removed.

 

The fury gets archetypes as well – The maimed gets a disfigurement instead of the 6th, 12th and 18th-level rage power – these basically would be 5 different micro-curses: Psychically broken characters are immune to morale bonuses or penalties, with immunities to confused conditions at 6th level, 12th level at charm spells and effects and 18th level, providing immunity to fear. Maimed furies have a clouded vision, but gain ever increasing senses. Enslaved characters have some penalized ability scores, but get ever increasing options to escape grapples and shackles etc. You get the idea.

 

The second archetype would be the revenant, who does not gain additional attacks from focused rage, but may suppress bleed and sleep and also gains immunity to death from massive damage. The archetype also gains morale bonuses to saves versus death, disease, poison, ability damage/drain, energy drain, paralysis and stunning. Here’s the interesting component, though – at 5th level, the revenant may cause Cha-damage with a touch attack while in focused rage – if successful and the target fails to beat the scaling save, the fury will not have to deal with fatigue after the focused rage – basically, instead of burning your own body, a revenant focuses on dealing this type of drain. When a creature is killed with such a strike by the revenant, he may regain 1 ki, which would be very problematic…but basically, due to action-economy, it amounts to exchanging rage for ki, which also means that the kitten-ing of the ability can’t really be used in any efficient manner. The interesting component here – the high-level abilities of the archetype can deal significantly more Cha-damage and even drain…but at the cost of significant amounts of ki. I really like this archetype’s fluid resource management.

 

The final archetype would be the vengeful, who gets bonuses to atk and damage versus creatures that hit her, with the threshold ever increasing and the bonus scaling as well. Instead of fast movement, these characters gain a sworn enemy chosen from ranger favored enemies. The interesting component of this archetype is that they may expend 2 points of ki – to gain +Cha-mod to atk and damage and ignore all DR of the target…which is not something I am fond of. A fluid scaling of DR ignored, with more powerful DRs being unlocked at later levels would have probably been appropriate. 9th level provides a final retributive strike before going down.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues apart from ki not always being italicized, but ultimately, I never really got the reason why it was treated differently in some publications from talents et al in that regard, so yeah. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ 2-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf features a mix of b/w and full-color artwork – generally solid. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Stephen Rowe’s Fury was a class I did not look forward to tackling – after all, I already had a damn cool monk/barbarian-hybrid, namely Forest Guardian Press’ Savage. The most astounding component here would certainly be the fact that the two classes are radically different from one another. The fury can be basically summed up as “sudden death mode, the class” – you can deliver some brutal damage, yes, but at the cost of increasing vulnerability. And more importantly, the class actually uses a complex resource-management as an ingrained component of its design that renders the playing experience rather interesting. The fury, as a stand-alone, is pretty awesome, with only the vengeful feeling like an afterthought that falls short of the other two damn cool archetypes. That being said, this class does require some GM-oversight: Since it makes hit points a balancing factor and at the same time delimits ki as a limited resource, it can be cheesed via multiclassing and option-combinations, in harder ways the more ki-based options your game has.

 

Thus, I can’t unanimously recommend the class for all tables; what I *can* do, however, is say that the class as such makes sense and, on its own, as a closed system, works rather well. Hence, I’m going to rate this one 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform, though with the express recommendation to GMs to limit the multiclassing capabilities of furies and their access to all those nifty ki-based options out there. Don’t say I didn’t warn you if you forego this precaution!

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.

May 302016
 

The Mists of Akuma – Imperial Dragons (5e)

182019

The fourth free preview-pdf for Mists of Akuma clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page list of things to expect, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, one of which, as always, is devoted to the continent of Soburin, so let’s take a look!

 

After a gorgeous art and proverb, we dive into the wonderfully crafted prose that details the history and nature of Imperial dragons – and no, they’re not conveniently color-coded. The pdf’s crunchy meat supplementing this prose would be three sample dragons – the wyrmling underworld dragon (challenge 6) that gets a nasty multiattack, necrotic breath and frightful presence. The adult variant of this dragon already has challenge 12,c an disguise itself and has legendary actions…and, at challenge 18, the ancient Hakanokishi is a pretty impressive example for the most powerful of these dragons – including legendary wing attacks. The underworld breath of the dragons gets easier to recharge at higher levels and the more powerful of these guys add exhaustion levels to the deadly breaths. Nice.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Mists of Akuma’s full-color two-column standard and the pdf features neat full color artworks of stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Mike Myler’s Imperial dragons are a fun glimpse of the things to come in this regard, with particularly the fluff of these dragons being very interesting. While personally, I considered the tsukumogami more intriguing and unique than these dragons, the pdf still is FREE and a no-brainer, easy download that makes you excited about the setting – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

 

You can get this nice, FREE pdf here on OBS!

 

The KS only has 13 hours to go, so be quick or be sorry! Here’s the KS!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 272016
 

Shunned Valley of the Three Tombs

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This adventure clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC (including tables for statblocks by CR), 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page of advice on how to read statblocks, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

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

 

All right, so what do we get here? Well, first of all, we get a incredibly gorgeous b/w-map of the Duchy of Ashlar: The cartography by Simon Butler, Dan Dyson and Tommi Salama employed herein is…well glorious. Oh, and guess what? If you’re like me and get a LOT of Raging Swan Press books to supplement your gaming experience…you’ll notice something. The map tells you, which direction the lonely coast is, where deksport can be found – and indeed, in this duchy, you can see Wellswood, longbridge, ashford -some of the unique villages and places my groups have visited and come to love (or abhor) – oh, and the map also sports a wide array of as of yet unexplored places. And, in case you’re asking – this whole region, contextualized, can easily be dropped into just about any campaign setting, though theme-wise, settings like Greyhawk, The Lost Lands or the like probably work best – and yep, the Shadowed Keep of the Borderlands is also mentioned.

 

There is a second important thing to note about this module: It is explicitly made for (relatively) new players – Core is assumed to be known, but that’s basically about it. Hence, the challenges in this adventure are somewhat less pronounced than veterans would expect. At the same time, it should be noted that this pdf does not necessarily feature themes explicitly designated as “kid-theme” – it is not gory or grimdark or anything…it is just fantasy. I tested this module with my kid-group and ran into no issues. This is very much an adventure that allows the GM to utilize tropes of adventuring and fantasy, but sans being inappropriate. So yes, I’d consider this appropriate for all but the youngest and most sensitive of kids. The pdf also provides extensive scaling advice for each encounter – by +1/-1, which means that you can also run this for more seasoned adventurers sans the players becoming bored. One more thing – while this module introduces PCs and players to some of the classics, its structure allows the GM to include ample options for rest…or not, allowing for pretty concise control over the pacing of the module itself. And no, thankfully my most loathed adventuring clichés, the shadow and ogre bosses are absent from these pages. Thank Gygax!

 

All right, this is as far as I can get sans diving into SPOILERS. Potential players of this module should jump to the conclusion NOW.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Good. We begin this module in the town of Dulwich, with 3 basic adventuring hooks and 4 entries of village lore being provided – this, as a whole, sets the stage for the motivation to explore the valley. A table of 6 rumors, some of which are false, some of which are correct, provide further information and, as a whole, this section of setting-up the module already indirectly teaches the value of doing one’s legwork. The overland journey by movement speed has convenient travel durations noted and sports the option of getting lost. a brief 12-entry table of minor events during the journey features mechanically-relevant, fun little encounters that range from woodland critters to deep gulleys and streams.

 

The valley itself can be pictured as one that sports, obviously, multiple tombs – said tombs are the mini-dungeons in this book, but they are not the only graves there: Cairns can be looted and a table of items can be found there. Similarly, an 8-entry dressing table for the valley allows you to customized the dressing and generate more atmosphere. From the small waterfall to tracks, the valley has several interesting locations as such – but the interesting component, at least to me, would be that the mini-dungeons (usually only a couple of rooms) sport unique challenges: In the tomb of the stone woman, one can, for example, face an animated statue, with some traps that are painful, but not necessarily lethal, teaching this component of adventuring. And yes, from chests to sarcophagi, the level of detail provided in this pdf is excessive and makes running this very easy.

 

The tomb of the champions features unique adversaries and has a completely different flavor – inside lie the now undead remains of two erstwhile champions of the hobgoblins, emphasizing the component of combat in the exploration here. Finally, there would be a third mini-complex, wherein an owlbear and its young lair – these caves can be seen as introductions to animals and terrain – with bat guano, a bat swarm, uneven footing and the like, the focus here is admirably different.

 

This, however, is not nearly the extent of adventuring the pdf contains – beyond fully depicted random encounters, the module also sports a rival adventuring group that can act as a major complication for the PCs, feigning friendship and loyalty, while waiting to backstab them. Beyond these low-lives, there is another optional encounter that will introduce the necessity of ROLEplaying to PCs and players alike: The ghost of a perished adventurer haunts this valley’s lake and putting her to rest is one of the more unique challenges in this pdf. It’s not hard, mind you – but it makes it clear that sometimes, words are more powerful than thrown spells and drawn swords. These add-in-encounters, including an owlbear, obviously can also be used to save the PCs – if the aforementioned adventuring group’s too much to handle…well, then the arrival of a pack of wolves or said owlbear may act as a save…and teach the valuable lesson of considering that the world is dynamic. (Fyi, in case anyone wondered: My kids are worse munchkins and power-gamers than my adults and walked all over the combat challenges…but still had a lot of fun, particularly relishing the chance of putting the ghost to sleep!)

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features copious b/w-artworks (some of which I’ve seen before). The cartography is excellent, though no map-key-less versions are included. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer. Kudos!

 

Creighton Broadhurst’s Shunned Valley of the Three Tombs is a great example of a first level module I would have loved to have back in the day. Why? Because it actually teaches the basics of adventuring. Watching for traps, not assuming that violence is always the solution, taking care of terrain, knowing that the world’s dynamic…all those important little lessons are taught in a pretty concise manner by showing, not telling. The challenges are sufficiently moderate to make sure that the players don’t get wiped out while learning these, though this does not mean that they can act foolhardily: This is an adventure and as such, it sports danger. Now granted, veterans may not necessarily be too blown away by the mechanic components, but the dressing and atmosphere may make this a feasible option for these as well, particularly if they prefer a campaign’s start to be less lethal than the things to come.

 

Beautiful in its simplicity and level of detail, this is a great introductory module for the game we all know and love – and for this purpose, it should be considered to be a 5 star+ seal of approval module. Veterans and grognards who have seen it all may be slightly less intrigued, though the old-school vibe and aesthetic employed here may tug at one’s heart’s string. Still, for experienced and jaded audiences, this may be slightly less compelling and should be considered the equivalent of a 4 star module. One final note: Fans of Raging Swan press need this module -the contextualizing map of the duchy is awesome and truly evocative!

 

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

 

You can join Raging Swan Press’ patreon here and never miss a supplement!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 272016
 

Letters from the Flaming Crab: Culinary Magic

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This installment of the Letters from the Flaming Crab series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 3/4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 8 1/4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

As in the first installment, we begin with a missive from captain Kelly Shell, captain of the planes- and worlds-jumping eponymous Flaming Crab, conveniently translated and compiled for us by J Gray. This page also consolidates Craft (cooking) and Craft (baking) into Craft (culinary), which is a sensible step.

 

So, how does culinary magic work? Well, each dish has a name, a difficulty for Craft (culinary) to make the dish, a description, list of ingredients, how many servings the dish yields, how long it takes to make the dish, actual directions for making the dish…and, obviously, magical benefits for consuming the dish. It should be noted that the cost for the dishes has been left open – since e.g. availability of owlbear eggs etc. fluctuates widely. While this does leave quite a bit of control in the hands of the GM, it ultimately does feel like a bit of a cop-out: At least a guideline for pricing (perhaps akin to how 5e classifies its items by scarcity?) would imho have been appreciated.

 

Now here is a cool benefit for all of us who are inclined to actually try recipes from books like this – one can actually create these dishes – sure, IRL I don’t have manticore meat for the respective chilli – but I can substitute other meat for it! The relatively detailed step-by-step cooking directions make this component rather interesting, particularly if you’re like me and enjoy making food. Benefits-wise, we can find coin-like cookies that enhance one’s Appraise-checks, tacos that provide temporary hit points or fire resistance providing curry – though that requires a Fort-save to consume. Also irl. Why? It includes a naga jolokia – a ghost pepper, one of the hottest ingredients known to man. As a dedicated chilli head, I urge caution in this one regard – ghost peppers are ONLY for the dedicated chilli head, so if habaneros already pose an insurmountable obstacle for you, I’d suggest confining this recipe to the realm f fantasy alone…however, if you are like me and LOVE the really brutal heat…well, then this one can be pretty awesome!

 

Polymorph-duration enhancing sandwiches, black-eyed peas that grant you low-light vision and darkvision, Diplomacy-enhancing herb twists – I really, really enjoyed these recipes – not only for their benefits, but also due to their quality of breaking down the line between in- and out-game.

 

This is not where the pdf ends, though -a total of 9 traits provide connoisseur-options for the core races, longer duration from magical food or better Craft (culinary) – and yes, they get bonus type/trait-class right. 4 feats provide means to get more magical recipes, more servings and even ingredient substitution.

 

The pdf also sports mundane items – from the armored apron that nets you DR 2/slashing and fire resistance 2 (and may be a bit too inexpensive) to batter mixes, frying pans or hand juicers, these are generally cool. 4 magic items further complement this book, including declouding whisks, vessels that grant resistances to the consumer based on the food’s temperature, breadboards that can generate food…pretty cool. The pdf also sports the culinary weapon property that enhances cooking and reduces prep time.

 

Finally, the pdf offers two archetypes – the kitchen witch gets a special athame that provides spells (but unlike a familiar can’t learn new ones apart from leveling). To make up for his shortcoming, the athame increases autonomously in power and the kitchen witch receives 4 more hexes chosen from a list. Finally, at 4th level, the kitchen witch gets a unique and cool ability – they can bake hexes into their food, which allows them to either affect targets or share the hex’s effects with allies. This can be used 3+ athame’s enhancement bonus+ Int-mod times per day and allows you to grant some otherwise less useful hexes to allies…or royally screw over any adversaries you tricked into eating your food. And guess what? I really like this archetype. It does something unique. Kudos!

 

The second one would be the Performing Chef bard, who gets Culinary Magic as a bonus feat, diminished spellcasting and an appropriately modified proficiency list. Instead of some of the classic performances, the archetype gains a nauseating performance, TWF-ing and an attack that adds Intimidate to his assault…and they use Perform (culinary) instead of Craft (culinary) while also being capable of quickly storing and drawing items. Once again, a fun archetype.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch this time around – I noticed no hiccups or issues. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games’ 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has some nice interior artworks in B/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

J Gray, David S McCrae, Angel “ARMR” Miranda -congratulations! Why? Because this humble little pdf is imho all killer, no filler. Get it? Filler? Culinary…All right, I’ll hit myself for that one later. But for now: This is a surprisingly well-crafted, humble and inspiring pdf – the recipes are neat and work IRL and are appropriate for just about every table – from the gritty to the fantastic, one could make a point that these could even make sense in a no-magic setting. Yeah, that *is* pretty awesome. The supplemental material provides similarly is rather tight – from the neat traits to the items and archetypes, there is not much to complain about. Scratch that – I actually have no viable gripes, only criticism on the level of “okay, I would have done this slightly different, but it works this way and conforms to the requirements of concise rules-language.”

 

In short – after the already very promising first letter, this one knocks the ball right out of the park – culinary magic herein is balanced fun, and can actually provide some different snacks for you and your group, irl. What more to ask? Well…I, for one…want seconds! The concise presentation and balanced archetypes provide a great addition and make sure that this pdf will leave you wanting more. Fun, unique and flavorful, this is a great example for a 5 star + seal of approval pdf.

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 272016
 

Sir Reginald Lichlyter’s Magical Beers, Tankards and Other Inebrious Items

154071

This tome detailing the latest in inebriation-themed objects and concoctions clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

We begin this tome with basically a rehash of the basic “how to get drunk”-rules from the last tome, though the approach has been streamlined with more precise rules – and yes, the hangover now comes with a proper duration, which renders these rules, overall, more concise. Additionally, the section now sports game-mechanics for a general alcohol addiction as well as three sample addictions for other spirits – though these suffer from a formatting glitch (or unfortunate decision), wherein their headers are white letters on a grey background, rendering the headers a bit hard to read. Beyond that, a sidebox notes Profession (Brewer)’s interaction with the creation of magical ales before diving right into the collection of magical ales the book provides.

 

And they are, generally, interesting: Acidblood ale, for example, not only grants acid resistance 5 – any bite attack dealing damage to the target also results in the unfortunate attacker being subject to the acidic blood. Altbeer of vareless travel increases overland travel speed, while drinking a brett of softened bones fortifies the imbiber against massive damage and provides a bonus to Escape Artist checks. Beer of Sobriety would be THE drink IRL – drinking it removes one drink from your system. SO AWESOME. Very cool for complex investigations – Blackout Brew: Upon consuming this beer and reaching a certain level of drunkenness, you’ll lose all memory of the events transpired. Yep, this can make for a superb narrative tool. Bloodbeer can instill vampiric hunger in you, while a proper Doppelbock can grant you natural AC and DR, but also make you susceptible to fire. and reduce your movement. (Btw.: The reduced movement rate is accurate – give me a couple of Doppelbocks and I’m much slower… ;P) Potentially problematic can be the happoshu of ki recovery, which allows you to regain ki, usually a limited resource – so depending on the amount of ki-based options, that one may make some trouble in your campaign.

 

Absolutely evocative – imperial stouts of teleporting toasts – you drink these with multiple people, each toasting to a location. The one that got the most toasts is the destination. Similarly cool – a delicious Schwarzbier that allows you to scry on the target of the toast. Once again, we get a gender-reversing beer and there is also a disgusting one with zombie bits in it that nets you undead anatomy I… and a taste for corpses…

 

This pdf also contains a whole smörgåsbord of magical drinking containers – from cups that help you with social interactions to a drinking horn that grants you increasing benefits, the more you drink from it in one go. I’m not a big fan of the flagon of healing brew – any alcohol consumed from it heals 1d4 points of damage (slightly annoying, btw. – instead of “1d4”, the pdf often uses “d4” in a minor formatting glitch) – while this should not break any game (you still get drunk, thus limiting the use of the item…), it’s still exceedingly inexpensive healing that can wreck havoc in some low fantasy settings – so take heed here. A jug of everflowing beer…is pretty much many a person’s dream come true. Obviously. And in connection with the aforementioned item…well…does provide infinite healing…Q.E.D. That being said, it has a no-selling-caveat, which is very much awesome. A tankard that can untie ropes and improves saves is nice, though the formatting did overlook the italicization of a spell referenced in the item’s text…still: Cool.

 

Beyond tankards and mugs, the book also contains an assortment of diverse miscellaneous items – a bag of cheap ale (that the text calls bag of infinite alcohol) allows you to draw forth okay ales…which is cool. But why is there no non-selling caveat this time around? The brooch of slowed metabolism is interesting – it doubles the duration of any magical item or drink with at least one drink of alcohol in it when drunk by the wearer…okay, got that. Sooo…how does this interact with extracts and mutagens? Do these contain alcohol? On the cool side – what about an enchanted coin that makes any drink bought with it a potential agent for charming the drinker? VERY interesting. Gloves that grant you 3 brawling-related feats also should be considered to be intriguing. Oh…and there is a staff that can turn water to ale….which can drown aquatic creatures. Not the worst way to go, I’d wager… Really intriguing: armor enchanted to make creatures swallowing the wearer intoxicated! Can you see the drunk and hungover purple worms barfing in the desert? I can! Oh, and a weapon that inflicts drunkenness on targets can also be pretty funny…

 

The pdf also sports cursed items – ales that result in instant addiction or that teleport you into very odd locales, flagons that provide a false sense of confidence, curses that deprive you of sleep…quite an assortment here. The pdf also sports an array of alchemical items, including basically an alchemist’s version of AlkaSeltzer, bricks that can be dissolved in water to turn to ale or powdered alcohol. Cool array! The final section of this pdf is devoted to an assortment of alcohol-themed spells, with various inebriation-causing spells, a versatile panacea, a nasty spell that turns beer to poison (what many large breweries IRL cast on their whole supply…)…some nice ones here. I also consider the low-level spell that transforms poison for the duration into inebriation actually not only potentially fun, but also very useful. Magically modifying the drink limit of the creatures targeted is also covered. All in all, a fun selection of spells.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good on a formal and rules level – while there are a few hiccups here, they are scarce and show Fat Goblin Games’ increased prowess in these fields. The pdf sports a two-column full-color layout and has several gorgeous full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Jeff Gomez’ take on a Sir Reginald Lichlyter-book is interesting – this book is less than its predecessor like a Call to Arms-book: It does not feature the same epic scope and amount of fluff/supplemental rules. That being said, the base rules for being drunk are significantly streamlined, which is a good thing in my book. This book, in essence, is pretty much, for the most part, a nice equipment book that should prove to be fun for many a table. While not all items herein are bereft of problems and while there are some hiccups in the details to be found, for the most part, this is a well-crafted, concise equipment book with some pretty nice ideas that deserve being recognized. While not as streamlined as e.g. the current CtA-books by Fat Goblin Games, this should be considered as a valid and fun addition to many a table. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

 

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

 

May 272016
 

The Mists of Akuma – Martial Arts Feats (5e)

182020

This FREE preview-file for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page summary of the setting, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages, though one of these is devoted to the map of the Soburin continent, so let’s take a look!

 

The pdf begins with 5 new feats: Metallic Elementalist Warlocks are aligned with the seasonal patron and have an interesting mechanic – they can pay gold to empower their spells, with precise effects depending on the spell’s school (nice!) that being said, the secondary benefit may be overshooting the target a bit – upon hitting a foe with eldritch blast, the target has disadvantage on ALL ability checks for 1 round per damage die. No save, mind you. I consider that a bit too strong. Wooden Elementalists may cast spells without expending them, provided they have enough wood at their hands – this is governed by the proficiency bonus of the character and, as a secondary benefit, we add +1d4 piercing damage per eldritch blast die to the critical hits scored. I prefer this one to the metal one.

 

Mist Warriors with high Haitokus scores get a very cool retreat action and may use the misty step spell sans components (not italicized in the pdf, btw.). The tertiary benefit of this feat is interesting – you gain proficiency bonus to AC when using the Dodge action, but at the cost of attack disadvantage in the subsequent round. Interesting one! Nature Touched nets you a druid cantrip, resistance to poison damage as well as your choice of resistance to either cold or fire damage until your next rest.

The Swordmaster feat lets you add an attach after criting a foe and killing him with a katana. Similarly, you may follow foes that provoke opportunity attacks from you (here erroneously called “attack of opportunity” in an unnecessary Pathfinderism) or hit missiles asunder as a reaction, provided your damage manages to exceed that of the ranged weapon. Finally, the feat nets you +1AC when only wielding a katana.

 

Martial Arts Stance feats are subjected to a limitation – you may only utilize a number of these at a given time equal to your proficiency bonus and they may not be used in conjunction with weapons that have the two-handed or heavy property. Fire’s Eternal Vigilance nets you +1d4 fire damage (non-multiplying on crits) and fire resistance. This feat, unlike default feats, can be taken a second and third time, increasing damage. Somewhat off – you may also send forth a powerful heat-aura – that can be used as an action and bonus action. I’m not sure if that means the ability can be used by using BOTH or whether this consumes an action or a bonus action – the rules-language can use a bit of polish here.

 

A total of 13 such martial arts stance feats can be found within the pages of this FREE pdf – and yes, each of the feats is devoted to a different damage type and follows a similar set-up. As a minor nitpick, the prerequisite line tends to divert slightly from D&D 5e’s standard formatting conventions – not badly, mind you, but it’s here. There are also a bit more typos in here than usual – I noticed “WIsdom”, “increases to 3 1d6” (the 3’s a relic) and balance-wise, e.g. the Stout Boar allowing you to ignore basically all difficult terrain or terrain movement costs, provided you make an attack at the end of your movement, is pretty powerful – RAW, this lets you mow through damaging terrain sans being harmed, which probably is not the intent of this one. It should be noted, though, that quite a few of these feats have a cool set of visuals – icy petals and telepathy, two name two.

 

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good, though not as good as in previous Mists of Akuma-teasers – this one has a couple of glitches that could have been caught. Layout adheres to Mists of Akuma’s two-column full color standard and the pdf sports the classic public domain artworks we’ve come to expect here – they actually do a rather great job here. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Mike Myler’s feats contained in this FREE book are interesting – while the stances basically do similar things and could imho use a bit more internal variance, the overall impression I have of this pdf’s content is a positive one – there is a lot to like within these pages….and it’s FREE. Free is hard to beat indeed. In the end, I will settle on a final verdict of 4 stars for this one, worth downloading, but not as intriguing as the first two such preview-pdfs I covered.

 

You can get these feats for FREE here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

You can support this massive KS here!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

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May 252016
 

Strange Magic Items – Truenaming

156416

This expansion for the stellar, critically-acclaimed Strange Magic-book clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Wait…before we do: In case you haven’t noticed: My name’s on that cover. I am one of the authors of this book. I am writing these lines since I was explicitly asked to by some of my readers. Hence, this will not be a review – there will be no rating or the like – consider this, instead, to be basically a kind of overview of what’s in this pdf, all right? As such, I will try to take out as much emotion as I can possibly can – so expect none of my usual snark, cynicism or gushing here, all right?

 

Great! This pdf contains new special qualities: One for armors (which provides a reflexive deafening effect that also acts as a minor debuff for the wearer’s recitations) and 3 shield special qualities. Acoustic shields do not fracture in their armor check penalty when receiving a recitation and recitations on the wielders get a slightly prolonged duration. Contingent Speech and its Greater brethren, at +1 and +3, respectively, can store low-level recitations from the Codex of Heart and Mind. The pdf also contains 5 qualities intended for weaponry. Nameseeker weapons attune themselves to a given target damaged and deal additional damage versus said foe. Truesong weapons provide a bonus to recitation checks, while truenamers can channel (at -4 panelty) their voices through a warbling weapon, even while strangled, drowning, etc. Wordbane weapons are particularly efficient against foes subject to an ongoing recitation and wordforged weapons can permanently carry a low-level recitation from the Codex of Artifice permanently – but only one.

 

The pdf contains 3 specific magic items, the first of which would be the Instigator’s Flunky, an earthbreaker that comments your attacks via the truenaming equivalent of “Ohhh, did that hurt?” and similar statements. This cronyism enhances the damage caused by discordant instigators and additionally, the weapon allows for temporary modification of the Law of Finite Malleability. The Sinkhole of Banes may well be the sorriest-looking spear in existence and can absorb a Discordant Zone’s condition dispersal’s condition to then channel it into the creature hit. However, should the spear be broken, it instead affects the wielder…so tread carefully. Finally, the Songbird makes ample use of the new qualities herein and improves when it witnesses a recitation of a sufficiently high level being recited and the bonuses of the dagger may actually be used in recitation, somewhat akin to defending weapons.

 

This pdf also contains three shields – Comeuppance is a tower shield that can store recitations of the Codex of Heart and Mind or the Codex of Artifice and channel them into counterspells, while The Echoing Wall can also store recitations – but it may add the stereo inflection to it once unleashed…provided the wielder is one target and the other is within 10 feet. And then, there would be the highly complex Portable Watchtower. Ramming this shield into the ground generates a comfy, nice…stone watchtower…including a stone archer that does your job for you. And yes, this is powerful, complex and well-executed. And no, you can’t use it more than 1/day this way. Oh, and yes, the tower can store recitations, modifying the greater contingent speech quality upon being deployed.

 

The pdf also introduces artifices – basically the wands of truenaming, with concise costs. The pdf also features a wide array of unique items in the potion, scroll, etc. category. Baneful Pamphlets allow scions of discordia using their condition dispersal to split conditions between targets, witha total of 4 subtypes of potency. The book of concatenated recitations allows you to combine lower level recitations into one (with, obviously, strict limitations), while the cloak of the loquacious has a surprising array of uses, including a reflexive volatilize. A total of 5 variants of fountainless inkpens can be found as well, while the gloves of redirected ire allow you to penalize foes if you botch according to the Law of Croaking Failure. Heckler’s Immunity comes similarly in three variants and allows you, should you inadvertently recite the reverse of your intended recitation, use a refreshing pool to ignore this reversal. And no, they can’t be abused. Magic dogtags to enslave creatures can also be procured. Platypus talismans help you recite defensively (the universe is looking away in shame), while wearers of porcupine talismans may ignore the Law of Croaking Failure once per day for the chosen recitation.

 

Profane Signets deal minor sonic damage to adjacent creatures if the wearer is subject to a recitation. Simian chokers are modeled after the famous “no evil”-monkeys and can affect targets nearby with negative conditions, while singing shards can 1/day set a DC-modifier for a recitation with one inflection as +0. Finally, the truelixir is basically a wild-card 1st-level potion.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch – I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games’ classic two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has some b/w-swirlies and symbols as artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, which represents a minor comfort detriment, but one I think that can still be endured at 10 pages.

 

Sooo…do I consider this a must-have addition to Strange Magic? Yes. Am I happy with my own output for this one and Bradley Crouch’s own unique ideas? Yes. Will I rate this? No. Should you have this pdf, drop me a line and tell me whether you can guess which ones I wrote…or just talk to me about the book.

 

Thank you for your attention and reading this somewhat unorthodox article – I hope it wasn’t to bland for you!

 

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

 

You can get the whole subscription here on OBS!

 

You can also get a subscription and have Bradley design your very own custom class/supplement here on his patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 252016
 

The Mists of Akuma – Tsukumogami (5e)

182018

This second of the FREE preview-pdfs for Mike Myler & Storm Bunny Studios’ cooperation clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page KS-summary, leaving us with 4 pages of content, though one of these is devoted to the nice maps of Soburin, the continent of Mists of Akuma.

 

So, what do we get in these pages? The reply is simple: 4 of the eponymous tsukumogani monstrosities! What are tsukumogami? Well, in case you didn’t know – on the 100th birthday of an item, there is a chance it may awaken to sentience – with sometimes, though not often, dire consequences. Hence rules for appeasing these creatures and some nice adventure hooks and the impact of these beings on the game-world are covered first. The monsters herein would be:

 

-The akunomōfu (challenge 5) are soiled sheets of former soldiers, possessed by a malign intellect and capable of performing multiattacks and smothering victims, making good use of 5e’s exhaustion mechanic…take heed, though – in groups, these monsters are TPK-material par excellence!

 

-The chōchin-obake (challenge 1) are less dangerous – but these floating and surprisingly nimble paper lanterns occupied by spirits, with their fiery spit, can certainly still be exceedingly dangerous if played right. Again, nice!

 

-The Kaiyo-Horror (challenge 10) can make vast hops and gets a fright-inducing gaze attack as a bonus action…oh, and in case you didn’t know: They are basically cannons; dread warmachines awoken to malign purpose. No, you do NOT want to be in the sights of these dread beings! (The artwork is, fyi, also rather disturbing…)

 

-Kasa-Obake are animate umbrellas with a paralyzing gaze that bespeaks of their knowledge of dread secrets. They have keen ears, a charming tongue with which they can lick you as well as shred you with their talons. Once again, a cool critter.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no truly grievous glitches. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard of these pdfs and the respective creatures herein all get full-color artworks in a mix of custom art and thematically-fitting, gorgeous stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Mike Myler’s creatures herein are unique, fun and offer quite a lot of narrative potential and make me excited to see what’s up with the KS. Blending his trademark levity with the horrific has some rather interesting consequences I consider thoroughly enjoyable. So yeah – 4 neat creatures and some ideas for FREE – go check this and the KS out. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get these monsters for FREE here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

 

You can join the kickstarter (only 5 days to go!) here!
Endzeitgeist out.