Jul 292016
 

Dear patreons, dear readers!

 

It has been one hell of a ride in July. Beyond the heat, real life has been very busy and not always pleasant for me and I am even prouder than usual when I look at the amount of big, work-intense reviews I finished for you:

 

Rusted Iron Games – Deadly Gardens: Blood Rose Swarm (5e)

Interjection Games – Strange Magic Expanded: The Elegist

Rogue Genius Games – Four Horsemen Present: Venerable Character Options

Purple Duck Games – Kineticists of Porphyra

Legendary Games – Legendary Villains: Evil Clerics

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Iconics: Kyr’shin Yilenzo

Kobold Press – Advanced Races Compendium (rating-less)

Rusted Iron Games – Deadly Gardens: Ophidian Vine

Raging Swan Press – I Loot the Bag of Holding! (PFRPG/system-neutral)

Silver Games – Ponyfinder: Forgotten Past

Interjection Games – Strange Magic Items: Ethermagic (rating-less)

AAW Games – Into the Wintery Gale: Raider’s Haul, a Vikmordere Magic Item Compendium

Purple Duck Games – Kineticists of Porphyra II

AAW Games – Mini-Dungeon: The Burning Tree at Coilltean Grove

Fat Goblin Games – Vathak Terrors: Horrors of Halsburg

AAW Games – Mini-Dungeons: Dwarven Dread

Purple Duck Games – Adventure Avenues: The Still Grotto

Legendary Games – Legendary Planet Player’s Guide

Dire Rugrat Publishing – Tangible Taverns: Tuffy’s Good Time Palace

Dire Rugrat Publishing – Tangible Taverns: Tuffy’s Good Time Palace (5e)

AAW Games – Aventyr Bestiary

Amora Game – Bevy of Blades

Tribality Publishing – Alchemist (5e) (Revised edition)

Purple Duck Games – Kineticists of Porphyra III

TPK Games – Wardens of the Wild (PFRPG/5e) (rating-less)

Amora Game – Kemonomimi: Moe Races

Fat Goblin Games – Shadows over Vathak: Ina’oth Player’s Guide

Rusted Iron Games – Deadly Gardens Player Companion: Verids

Legendary Games – Occult Character Codex: Spiritualists

Tribality Publishing – Gunfighter Class (5e)

TPK Games – Fifth Edition Feats (5e)

Dreamscarred Press – Psionics Augmented: Focused Disciplines

AAW Games – Mini-Dungeons: Howling Halls

Flaming Crab Games – Letters from the Flaming Crab: Wheel of the Year

Silver Games – Ponyfinder: Griffons of Everglow

Interjection Games – Class Expansions: Apothecary Plaguewright Archetype

AAW Games – Tales from the Tabletop: Year One

Playground Adventures – Fun & Facts: For the Hive!

TPK Games – Fifth Edition Options: Optional Rules & Mechanics (5e)

Dreamscarred Press – Psionics Augmented: Soulknives

Dark Naga Adventures/Fat Goblin Games – The Forgotten Temple of Evil (OSR/5e)

 

As you may have noticed, this month was pretty crunch-heavy – but fret not, fans of Raging Swan Press and adventures in general, for in August, I’ll have some seriously cool adventures…which brings me to a personal failure of mine: My plan was to get the latest 4$D review done this month, which I unfortunately didn’t manage – rest assured, it is a top-priority right now and should hit site very soon. Similarly, I didn’t manage to complete my review of Monsters of Porphyra II in time, a book that should hit site soon as well.

 

For my plans in August: I want to catch up with EN Publishing’s Zeitgeist AP. My print-pile is officially DONE as well – unless the  reader who has gifted me several LotFP-books steps forward and tells me to review them, that is. August will see more excursions into OSR-territory and also…the review of the current Wayfinder.

 

Beyond this, there currently are two worthwhile kickstarters to take a look at:

 

Strange Magic II for PFRPG and 5e by Interjection Games:

The sequel to the exceedingly awesome first Strange Magic book is already funded and there’s a high potential for me to be a contributing author. Plant chaos-magic, deck-building card magic and onmyōdo await! You can take a look here!

 

Veranthea Codex Expansion Booky by Rogue Genius Games/Mike Myler:

The unique setting of Veranthea gets more material! New print options, new books – all available here!

 

All righty…that out of the way: There’ll be no reviews next week. Why? Because I’ll be at gencon due to your generosity and the success of the “Bring Endy to Indy” bundle. For the first time in my life. I’m giddy like it’s my first day of school! If you’re also there, please say high, drop me a line so we can meet up and talk and just have a good time!

 

All right – as always, I’d like to thank all of you for your kindness and generosity – without you, there’d be no endzeitgeist. I take a bow and certainly hope I’ll be capable of personally thanking some of you next week!

 

Take care,
Endzeitgeist out.

Incoming search terms:

  • godblad file
Jul 292016
 

The Lost Temple of Forgotten Evil (5e/OSR)

181154

The freshman offering of Dark Naga Adventures clocks in at a classic 32 pages, with one page editorial and 1 page SRD, leaving 30 pages of content – and no, this does not include the front and back cover, since this book very much does not only hearken back to the classic era in tone – it is saddle-stitched and has a detachable color cover that sports maps on the inside – of course in the classic blue/white!

 

This module was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy. The review is based on this print copy of the kickstarter premium print edition.

 

Okay, before we dive into the nit and grit of this book’s actual plot, let’s talk a bit about the dual-system format of it, shall we? The module itself does feature the OSR stats in the respective entries and the module does not assuming an additive AC – i.e., you’ll see THAC0s and the like. As for combat purposes, the final 3 pages feature the statblocks for OSR and 5e as well as the 2 magic items and special effects introduced herein. One of the magic items is basically a plot-device evil grimoire for the GM to utilize as she sees fit; the second would be a mace+2 that mentions disadvantage, but at the same time lacks the scarcity-entry of 5e’s magic item statblocks…as well as whether it requires attunement or not. In the OSR-version, it is but a single line in the wielder’s statblock that casts blindness on each hit.

 

Hiccups like this, unfortunately, do extend to the builds provided for the 5e stats, with e.g. the town drunk noting “STR”, but no score. Similarly, if you expect from the 5e stats more than the basics, like unique abilities or straight class progressions, you won’t necessarily find that – what’s here suffices to run the module, but nothing beyond that. The statblocks also have glitches like a magic bonus from aforementioned mace not featured in atk. So, if you do have the luxury of choosing with which system to play the module, I’d suggest OSR over 5e for this one…though, at least for the weapon, you should probably at least read the 5e-section. The adversaries in the module tend to have an ancient ability called “linking” – in 5e, this allows a character to use their reaction to give an ally they can see +2 to atk, spell DCs and saves…which can be extremely brutal when played smart by the GM. As a nitpick, reactions usually require a specific trigger. In OSR, they can grant +2 attack, defense and a 2 point bonus to saves “and all party saving throws have a 2 point penalty” – at least in the OSR-systems I’m familiar with, I’m not aware of party saving throws. I assume that should refer to the saves of PCs targeted by the linked creatures.

 

In short: On a formal rules-language level, this is not the most precise of books. That being said, this adventure does have its merits and plays significantly better than it reads. Let me elaborate: For one, the cartography of three villages provided by none other than Alyssa Faden is excellent and player-friendly for these components; similarly, the regional map of the Boldon region in which this module takes place is nice as well. The region as such is lavishly detailed – it can easily be plugged into just about every fantasy gaming world and the relative lack of elves etc. means that the module works pretty well even in human-centric settings. 4 settlements (Boldon, Ponto, Maria, Sumer), all with maps, will be visited by the PCs and the module actually takes heed of consequences…

 

…and this is pretty much as far as I can go sans SPOILERS. From here on out, the SPOILERS reign, so potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, still here? Great! It starts, as often, with a tavern and a tale – on a full page, the local drunk and erstwhile productive member of the community, Fredu, has a tale to tell for sufficient alcohol – a tale of a temple forgotten from a bygone age, when evil reigned. The tale itself is a massive, 1-page read-aloud text in a module that otherwise requires the improvisation of the like. The drunkard, plagued by visions and blackouts, has stumbled upon a place dedicated to none other than Hastur and ever since, he has tried to quench the nightmares…saving him from certain death at the bottom of a glass is but one potential action the PCs may take. However, he also mentions having told more people about it – a retired wizard, for example…and then there is that fletcher, who is fashioning a map.

 

Beyond the tale, the module is very much a free-form sandbox, as the PCs follow the leads of Fredu’s tale and try to find the hidden complex…which isn’t that hidden, after all: The servants of Hastur have taken residence and the timer ticks: The dread statue contained within is fed continues sacrifices and its cultist-enhancing aura extends further and further. On an organization note, the aura’s effects should have been noted in the overarcing chapter and depiction of its progression, not only in the room where it actually stands…considering the SERIOUS power it conveys to the cultists. That is a nitpick, though – there are a lot of things I absolutely adored in this module: For one, the old-school design-aesthetic. In an age where practically every puzzle and obstacle can be “rolled away”, notes on how PCs have to be extremely lucky, regardless of level or doors that require you to find their combination due to the gazillion possible combinations feel very much refreshing.

 

Similarly, a highlight of the module, as strange as it sounds, may well be the legwork – PCs can be heroes and save old apothecaries from angry peasants, duke it out with loud-mouthed cultists and end on the wrong side of the law – whether due to their own actions or due to corrupt officers standing in their way, the module manages to evoke a sense of consistency and a feeling of being alive that you only rarely see. Similarly, the fact that there are A LOT of beautiful b/w-artworks, all with the same style (AND quality!) as the cover, lends a sense of consistency and continuity to the proceedings and makes for great hand-outs for the players to enjoy.

 

The sandboxy section here is pretty “realistic” in that it manages to convey exceedingly well and illusion of a group of mercenaries planning an excursion to a forgotten temple, while dark forces stir and try to stop them. Similarly detailed, notes on air quality, illumination and the like can be found for the complex itself. The intriguing component about this temple itself would once again not necessarily be the set-up – that’s as classic as it gets; it’s the focus on cultists and a dynamic environment, with entries on what cultists are doing when featuring in the respective rooms helping to keep things flowing. Regarding terrains and traps, this module is a bit on the weak side in this section, though. Ultimately, the temple is a pretty straightforward attack on the hide-out of a well-organized cult…and it is extremely deadly. Not kidding, if the PCs are dumb, they will die HORRIBLY in this complex. On a nitpick: The unique demons featured in the book could have used a detailed description – as provided, they remain a bit opaque. The cultists receive significant benefits here, particularly within the sphere of influence of their idol, and should not be underestimated – saves at disadvantage, cultist attacks at advantage. And no, this does not have an OSR-equivalent; familiarity with this component of 5e- terminology is assumed for that aspect of the module.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level; on a rules-level, it does have a couple of hiccups. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column b/w-standard. As mentioned above, both the copious number of artworks by Rick Hershey and the great cartography render this module rather beautiful and contribute a lot to its atmosphere. The print copy I have is certainly a module I am glad to have. I can’t comment on the electronic version.

 

Kevin Watson’s first part of the “Haunting of Hastur”-series is a module that is honestly significantly better than I expected it to be. You see, the set-up of the module isn’t the most evocative and I tend to be a bit weary of dual-system books. That being said, whatever system you end up using, you won’t have paid for a lot of content you won’t use; the emphasis of this book is pretty much on the roleplaying aspect and the expert-level atmosphere this one manages to evoke. Were it just for the atmosphere, this undoubtedly would score higher, but the fact is that the dual-system approach doesn’t always work too well in the book; OSR gaming seems to be the default assumption and then, suddenly, 5e-terminology seems to be featured in the default assumptions. It is my honest belief that the module would have fared better with one carefully crafted OSR-version and one for 5e, instead of this blending, but that may just be me. If you do not mind this, however, you pretty much get a module where you can mix and mash the two.

 

Sooo…do I recommend this? It ultimately depends. If you’re looking for a challenging, atmospheric module with an old-school aesthetic in design and presentation, then yes, this may be a nice addition to your library. If you expect more new school handholding, preset DCs for actions and a bit more guidance, then you may end up disappointed. Similarly, this module should best be run by experienced GMs, since there is, beyond the beginning, no read-aloud text: You need to improvise that/know what’s where and while e.g. conversations with NPCs provide an astounding depth of guidance via bullet-points and consequences of PC-actions, there is still quite a bit left up to the GM. How to rate this, then? Well, here things get a bit tough for me: You see, I really liked this module, but it does show a bunch of the freshman offering-hiccups that can tank the game for less experienced GMs.

 

In the end, for OSR, I consider this to be a 4 star module; for 5e, I’d rather consider this 3 stars, since the system’s skills, proficiencies and similar components could have used more direct consequences within the module. Since this is a freshman offering, this gets the benefit of the doubt and hence, I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 292016
 

Psionics Augmented: Soulknives

173648

This installment of the Psionics Augmented-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1/2 page blank, leaving us with 13 1/2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

We begin this pdf with a selection of new blade skills for the soulknife to use: 34, to be precise – several of which, just fyi, are archetype-exclusives. In these cases, they sport the archetype’s name in brackets, acting as an additional prerequisite to the ones pertaining other blade skills. To give you an example: Animal Senses nets you low-light vision and scent as well as +2 to Perception, but is only available for the Feral heart and requires the form claws class feature to take, basically adding the sensory aspect to the claw-theme. Blade Rush is pretty brutal – it allows for the swift action expenditure of the psionic focus to move up to the soulknife’s speed as a swift action…which is strong. Where the blade skill does overshoot the target a bit is with the caveat that the soulknife provokes no attacks of opportunity with this movement. No “from adjacent targets” caveat – just flat-out no AoOs. At the same time, minimum 6th level does alleviate this a bit…but still, for less high-powered games, this is a very potent option and should probably be nerfed. Its follow-up allows the soulknife to move up to her movement speed as a full-round action (no AoOs!) and make a single melee attack at highest BAB -2 against each target she is adjacent to. The “adjacent” caveat is the only thing that keeps me from engaging in a full-blown diatribe here. Still, this is arguably MUCH better than any form of full-round attack you can usually perform, unless you’re only fighting against one adversary (when action economy outclasses the foe against the average adventuring party anyways). The one balancing feature would be the psionic focus expenditure, which prevents you from spamming this move. The minimum level? 8th. Not any high-level trickery. 8th. This one completely outclasses similar one-use abilities granted at high levels, has only a resource determined by action economy and is rather overpowered for its minimum level.

 

That being said, as much as I consider this one problematic, the pdf also has some absolute gems that work for pretty much every game – Caltrop Spray, for example, where you break your own mind blade to create more potent psychic caltrops that can tell friend from foe for cool soft terrain control. Starting at 10th level, these guys can also expend their psionic focus to fold space as a standard action (move action at 16th level+), allowing for a level-wise great take on the phasing soulknife. And yes, there is actually a *BALANCED* low-level phasing trick for the soulknife as well – at 4th level, via Ghost Step, which has strict action economy/focus requirements and played rather neat in my games. Knife to the Soul enhancers, psionic focus-based dispels etc. can be found and combining the soulbolt’s empowered strikes with unarmed attack/natural attacks is cool as well. As a minor nitpick “Deadly Fis” is missing its “t” in the end – but that’s a typo. Similarly, empowering natural weapons. Manyshot mindbolts, better deadly shields and mind armaments. I am somewhat weary of improved psychokientic discharge, which lets the soulknife perform empowered strike full-attacks at range.

 

On the plus-side, a whip-shaped mindblade that can cause 1-round dazes on failed saves is cool, though the daze should probably specify that it’s a pain-effect, at least judging from the fluff of the ability that justifies it via “intense levels of pain.” Very cool for multi-limbed creatures: There is now a blade skill for more than 2 soulknives at once! Kudos for stitching that hole! Increasing power points, psychic grappling hooks (!!!)…pretty cool. Have I mentioned the platform they can now make? It can be slick, elastic…whatever the soulknife desires and has the concise rules to support it. Yeah – this is UTILITY beyond combat, ladies and gentlemen! Gaining psychic strike if it had been traded away, firing psychic strikes as blasts (or 10-foot splash bombs), gain mind armaments (see below) and there is a unique one: Speed of Thought + Mental Leap, with psychic strike’s charge as an alternate means of paying for the expenditure required by the secondary abilities. Cool! Soulbolts can now also learn to form melee mind blades. I am not a fan of foregoing psychic strike charge to ignore all hardness or DR at 4th level – the lack of scaling regarding both render the blade skills problematic for some tables – I know I’ll ban that one in my games or at least introduces a scaling mechanism that allows for the continuous progression of the ability instead of full-blown DR ignoring. Oh, and we have an infinite healing crap-ability. Deal only 1/2 psychic strike damage to heal this amount. Can someone hand me the bag of kittens and a HP-to-ally-transferring ability, please? Then we’ll have infinite healing not only for the soulknife, but for the whole group. Blergh. A simple minimum-HD-caveat that scales with soulknife-levels would eliminate the issue, as almost all similar designs do by now. You may not consider it an issue, but I do – to me, such an exploit represents sloppy design and the low point of this supplement.

 

Okay, next up are the archetypes and one word of warning – they are COMPLEX. As in: They modify A LOT and certainly are not cookie cutters – we get really big ones here, with the Augmented Blade being the first. This archetype is basically *THE* option for all those rounds and games where the idea of a ghostly/energy-style soulknife didn’t work with the feeling of the campaign: Instead of a mindblade, the augmented blade archetype gains a psicrystal, which is then attached to weapons to e.g. coat them in crystal or sport similar means of visual customization. Beyond that, the psicrystal can be attached to a variety of items, augmenting them in unique ways – and this works on a rather fluid basis, allowing for quick slotting and a lot of variables you can change on the fly – and yes, this renders the archetype rather fun to play, particularly considering the fact that the archetype learns to split the psicrystal AND has Metaforge/Aegis multiclass information. Absolutely GLORIOUS archetype that basically “unlocks” the soulknife for settings where it would not work, replacing basically the core class mechanics with new ones…and it thus plays differently, too! A prime example for a great archetype!

 

The second one would be the brutality blade, who uses Charisma as governing attribute for the soulknife class features and may manifest rage blades, which may not be thrown, must be single blades and they increase the enhancement bonus of the mind blade by +1, allowing the brutality blade (always hear Mortal Kombat’s theme music when I write this, but that just as an aside), with 7th and 13th level increasing the bonus by a further +1. The rage blade can be maintained for 4 + Constitution modifier rounds per day, +2 per class level beyond 1st. Upon dismissing the blade, though, the brutality blade loses psionic focus and is fatigued for 1d4 +1 round, during which he may not regain psionic focus. Additionally, the brutality blade has a 10% chance to suffer psychic enervation when manifesting this godblade style mindblade on steroids, risking 2 times class level damage. So, as you see, the archetype basically functions as a barbarian-y soulknife on steroids with a sprinkling of wilder as for its base functionality. This becomes more apparent with 4th level, when the brutality blade gains the raging surge that adds +4 to Str while the blade’s out, +2 to Con at 8th level, further +2 to both at 12th, Strength increases to +6 at 16th and both to +6 at 20th level. 5th level unlocks free action rage blade manifestation…but the archetype also gains unique wrath augments, basically specialized blade skills. For example, when using a rage blade, the brutality blade may, as a full-round action, expend psionic focus to jam the blade into the ground to duplicate Whirlwind Attack as soon as 4th level, balanced by the rage blade requirement. Growing in size as per expansion with claws of crude knives, expending psionic focus to reroll Fort- or Will-saves as immediate actions (again: Better balanced than mettle!), causing bleeding wounds and gaining a raging euphoria that can be shared with allies or a focus-based rend…the options are powerful, but well-placed regarding minimum-levels and feature glorious visuals. As a capstone, the archetype can maintain his blade even in null psionics fields sans issues and no longer suffers from a chance of psychic enervation. This archetype is superb – and its mechanical possibilities are not even close to being covered here – the enervation, rage blade and unique mechanics practically beg to be further expanded. The archetype plays like a completely different class and does so gloriously – it is one of the coolest godblade-style archetype/classes I’ve seen in quite a while and generally can be considered to be a cool, well-balanced addition to the game.

 

Thirdly, the psychic armory can be seen on the cover – with a panoply of blades circling her, she begins play with 1 + Wisdom modifier light and one-handed such blades, 2nd level unlocking an additional 1 + Wisdom modifier two-handed blades. These blades may not be used to attack in melee and are only quasi-real, until hurled psychokinetically at foes – and yes, they can be used to perform AoOs in melee range with proper rules-language covering all the bases. Expended blades replenish upon the armory’s next turn. This panoply of weapons may not be used in conjunction with wielded weapons or off-hand/natural attacks, but the base damage-types employed may be changed for each weapon group used in the panoply of blades. Special abilities still require extensive meditation and may not be fluidly switched. I already mentioned psychokinetic throws, which basically translates to using Wisdom instead of Dexterity to determine ranged atk with the panoply and also adds Wisdom to damage, with regular light weapons duplicated having a range increment of 20 ft. and 1-handed ones a range-increment of 15 ft. 2nd level also unlocks throwing 2-handed weapons from her array with a range increment of 10 ft. Here’s the unique thing, though: The armory may, as a standard action, direct the panoply to a place within medium range and have it explode in a 20-ft.-burst, using all her blades for the round in favor of 1d6 damage per class level + enhancement bonus, Ref-save halves, with the rules actually covering the blending of damage types and their substitution. 3rd level allows for the panoply to apply soulknife mind blade enhancements by weapon group and 5th level lets the armory call forth her panoply as a swift action. As a capstone, the archetype can maintain his blade even in null psionics fields sans issues.

 

Oh, and the archetype comes with more than one page of unique blade skills that allow for the panoply to gather into a temporary mind blade of a more traditional bent, increase the reach of the threatened area by +5 ft., increase the range, flurry with the panoply a limited amount of times per day at range (here, the pricing with minimum level 14th is appropriate) or use an opposed attack roll to counter another as an immediate action. While personally, I dislike the mechanic due to d20 vs. d20 being rather swingy, your mileage may vary here. Making the panoply lines, expand to becoming difficult terrain (and threatened area!) or form a barrier – the options are truly evocative. Oh, psychic armory…how torn am I regarding you. You see, this one is obviously in flair and style something more suitable for high-psionics/magic campaigns and for these it works OH SO WELL. My personal disdain for the d20 vs. d20 blade skill notwithstanding, the archetype is just so beautiful. Its three assortments of preconfigured mindblades are very powerful and, honestly, may be a tad bit too powerful. Similarly, unlimited 20 ft–burst long-range attacks that deal class level x 1d6 + enhancement bonus physical damage outclass A LOT of builds and classes out there. Alchemists can take their bombs and go home, sobbing, for example – at least until iterative attacks allow for outclassing of these blasts….but then again, the panoply’s blast of blades is ALWAYS a standard action. You fire this burst…and then you’re standing around with not even a weapon in your hands. You threaten nobody. If you get outmaneuvered using this ability, you’re basically screwed very hard until your next turn, bereft of all the cool tricks you have. This makes the archetype play in a very unique manner – you need a bit of tactics here. The panoply also has another…potentially pretty nasty component – it can have multiple weapons in the panoply bearing psychic charges, which is a pretty big deal. Then again, can you see the class charging its blades and firing them? This is basically one of my favorite video game bosses of all times, the archetype (extra brownie points if you can guess which one I’m referring to!). The psychic armory can deal a lot of damage, is flexible, consolidates Dex and Str into Wis for her attacks…and honestly, I should be screaming OP by now. It…kinda is. For low-powered, conservative campaigns, this one should probably be reserved to powerful puzzle-bosses. In high-powered high fantasy/psionics-campaigns, though? OMG. While personally, I’ll nerf this gal a bit, I absolutely ADORE this archetype. Sure, I wished it was a bit more conservative…but she plays just so beautifully!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level and impressively good on a rules-level – this book may have a some minor typo-level hiccups, but it engages in very complex rules-operations and manages to do so very well. Layout-wise, the pdf adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdfs also sport nice, full-color artworks.

 

Chris Bennett has delivered a solid, massive piece of capital letters CRUNCH here. The pdf contains A LOT of material on its pages, with a very satisfying crunch-per-page ratio. Furthermore, the quality of the crunch, generally, is top-notch. You will not find any bland cookie-cutter designs herein and, while sufficiently mathfindery and combo-heavy to make the optimizers happy, this pdf excels in its concepts.

 

Yes, I consider the skirmishing blade skill to be underpriced. Yes, I consider the failed kitten-test to be simply unnecessarily sloppy in an otherwise extremely precise and evocative book. Yes, the psychic armory is not for every campaign. So, this is my warning: Conservative groups using psionics for less high-powered games should carefully run each component by the GM.

 

And this is as far as the grouchy, complaining part of my personality gets with this one. As you probably have gleaned from the above, my complaints rang this loud within the review because I absolutely adore more than 95% of this book. As in squee-level adoration. As a person, I couldn’t care less that the psychic armory is too powerful for the default, non-high-powered campaign; I adore it. The brutality blade and the augmented blade are absolutely awesome for less high-powered tables and all three archetypes have in common that they damn well rock my world. They are basically what archetypes *should* be like. In fact, lesser designers would have probably sold them as full-blown friggin’ base classes. Not only do they sport completely different visuals, they actually play radically differently, with the new array of blade skills filling holes in the rules that needed filling and providing cool, new options.

 

Yes, I may have complained about a few pieces herein…but the significant majority of content herein is just BEAUTIFUL. As in crunch-masterclass-level awesomeness. This is basically a book that put the middle-finger to all bland +1/+X abilities and modifications and cookie cutter archetypes. Its totality may not be for everyone; but I can guarantee that every single table out there that uses a soulknife *will* find *something* in this pdf they fall in love with. High-psionics campaigns NEED the armory in them. Low-powered games or those that dislike the laser-y flair need the augmented blade. Seriously. No exceptions for either. I’d also like to emphasize the sheer density of this volume – no broad borders, no filler – this pdf may *look* brief, but it really isn’t, with very tightly formatted rules-text, you get a lot of bang for your buck here.

 

What I try to express with my inane rambling here is simple: I love this book. In spite of its flaws and hitting some serious pet-peeves of mine. I took about 5 minutes to modify (as in: Change min-level, add cool-down, the like.) a couple of pieces of crunch for my table and that’s it – I have pretty much a truly superb book in my hands, one that is allowed in my main campaign, mind you. Even before these minor modifications, the book must be considered a must own addition for psionics-using tables; not one that should just be flat-out allowed for all, but definitely one that enriches all games it touches. And that, dear readers, is more important that nitpicking, my own pet-peeves or disagreements pertaining power-levels and pricing of a scant few abilities. While I don’t consider this to be mechanically perfect, I thus will still rate this 5 stars + seal of approval – considering the complexity of the material, the amount of greatness and the unique playing experiences this offers, penalizing it for its minor flaws would be a disservice to the file. Yes, it’s *that* evocative. Were it not for the minor hiccups, this would be a top ten candidate.

 

You can get this extremely evocative array of class options here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Dreamscarred Press here on their patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 292016
 

Fifth Edition Options: Optional Rules & Mechanics (5e)

186685

This massive book clocks in at 79 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 75 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, what is this? Basically, this is a huge selection of variant rules for 5e that you can drag and drop in your game. We begin with alternate methods of ability score generation, with grid, dice pool, point-buy that goes up to 18 from the get-go and alternate ability arrays. Rolling 4d6, dropping the lowest and having the GM do the same and then dealing with the devil behind the screen is also mentioned. There is also a option by which class choice and backgrounds influence the attributes, with e.g. Warlocks gaining +1 to Int and Cha and those with a soldier background gaining either +1 Str or Con. The idea of racial maximum stats (here, 18) can be found, though with this system, dwarves get suckerpunched – they’re the only race that has two capped attributes.

 

The pdf also provides rules for Small and Large characters, with Strength and Constitution being capped differently and minor modifications. The balance here, though, is off: Large creatures cap Str and Con at 22, gaina dvantage on saves against being pushed, tripped, etc. and have double the capacity of their Medium brethren. Downsides? None. Small characters cap Con at 18, Str at 16, get +1 AC and have only half the carrying capacity of Medium creatures. Yeah…that wasn’t really thought through.

 

2d6 rolls to determine handedness, ability score proficiencies, feats at 1st level with various means of balancing the power-increase this represents – the book has a couple of rather nice customization considerations here. Similarly, the pdf introduces flaws, which can be rather flavorful, though GMs should take heed that the character who takes a flaw gets one befitting of the class: Foes gaining advantage on the first attack roll in melee is nasty, as it should be, but if the character keeps running from melee/ is a caster/etc., it loses some of its oomph. Still, I do enjoy these generally and their effects are generally potent enough.

 

As a whole, I enjoyed this chapter, though a bit more guidance pertaining the ramifications of the respective power-increases and caps would probably have been beneficent to the less experienced GMs out there. The pdf also provides means for the old-school gamer to play double or triple classes via a stunted XP-progression; basically think of this as the grognard’s gestalting before there was gestalting. The pdf also offer variant XP-progressions (basically slow and fast track) as well as ability score increases by level instead of class, which becomes, obviously, relevant when employing the multiclass rules. The pdf also features starting wealth suggestions for higher level characters. If you wish for less lethal saves, adding +1/2 proficiency bonus is suggested for nonproficient saves…though I’m not the biggest fan here.

 

The second, massive chapter is all about skills: It suggests skill advancement at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, stat-like increases to skills or the altogether elimination of them as optional rules. Alternate skill lists are presented alongside an interesting take on expertise, which suggests using advantage instead, making you more reliable, but capping the maximum you can reach – this one makes A LOT of sense to me and generally can be considered to be one of the rules I’ll certainly take from this book. Now the next section will either be useless or a godsend to you, depending on your perspective. 5e’s skills are deliberately fast and loose to speed up gameplay; at the same time, one quick google will show you a lot of reddit-questions pertaining which skill to use when etc. – this chapter, thus, provides sample DCs for different tasks for the respective skills – in particular the vastly expanded animal handling DCs should prove to be helpful. While this may not be for every GM, I know that this section will be a rather significant boon for many a table.

 

Now, as long-time readers may note, one of the few components I liked about 4th edition was the introduction of skill challenges and this book does provide a 5e-twist on them with complex skill checks that require multiple successes that build upon another. The system introduced here is rather smooth and goes through the skills, skill by skill, providing some general guidance and examples for single skill complex checks, though these obviously can be combined. Similarly, complex skill-checks based on tools get a mention here.

 

Chapter 3 provides more detailed crafting rules that retain the straightforwardness of 5e design. Rules for simpler ammo-handling, impossible rest in armors, better crossbows and firearms that penalize armor, rules for masterwork equipment and new equipment options to enrich the game: From double weapons to those that can be folded or those that are oversized, the book sports quite a few of those, though e.g. doubled damage dice for the big ones with just the note that they “requrie training” and that characters aren’t proficient in them can be deemed to be somewhat problematic. Come on, even Guts in Berserk can’t swing his dragonslayer as fast as a regular sword. Want to distill poisons? Yup, rules for that in here.

 

The third chapter deals with combat – there is an alternate rule for rolling two smaller dice to make the hit point roll less swingy. Personally, I absolutely LOVED the slower healing, limited HD-expenditure and fatiguing injuries rules herein: D&D 5e already makes for a surprisingly good dark/low fantasy system and these alternate rules for grittier gameplay really add to that effect. On the other hand, if you dislike the element of chance when recovering, a fixing amount system can be found here as well. Similarly, if you liked the vitality and wounds systems, you’ll have a 5e-iteration of the system here…including an ultra-gritty variant.

 

The pdf goes on with conditions – while 5e has a couple of them, older systems had more – if you’re missing some of these, well – here’s the list to cherry pick those you want back. The pdf also sports variant initiative systems: Rolling each round, while dynamic, slows down gameplay and round table initiative is simple, but also not that rewarding for all but the player who rolled highest – personally, I prefer that one for beer-and-pretzels-style games. Your mileage may vary, of course!

 

Minor tweaks like inadvertently hitting allies when firing into melee (default house-rule in my game) and tougher rising from the prone condition makes sense – default 5e is pretty lenient on that one, considering the effects of the prone condition.

 

Okay, the next section will be rather divisive, I wager. We get combat maneuvers. Including the whole Pathfinder array not covered by 5e as well as Power Attack, leaping on larger creatures etc. Myself, I am torn – Power Attack, for example, provides twice the penalty taken to atk as a bonus to damage, which I am not a fan of in the context of 5e. Then again, and this is a pretty big thing, the maneuvers remain worse than the comparative abilities of the Battle Master…at least as long as you don’t add the loathsome feats introduced in the companion book to this one.

 

The pdf also has a variant rule for stacking advantages and disadvantages, more opportunity attacks, variant crits, inherent class defense bonuses, armor as DR (not a fan for 5e)…a lot of material. Rules for sniffing out magic items, for identifying them etc., while not necessarily the thing I look for in 5e-games, may well be welcome in some other tables. Similarly, feat-based better attunement may work for higher fantasy games. Personally, I’m a pretty big fan of the variant counterspelling for higher magic games, since it actually does allow for pretty quick and easy mage duels. Groups that wish to abolish the hard limit on spells in effect via concentration have a means to do so via this book and if you’re missing bonus spells for high spellcasting ability scores, well, here’s the table. Special conditions for simpler spell recovery, resurrection that permanently decreases attributes…quite a few nice tricks here.

 

The pdf also provides a simple fear-system for horror-games (based on Wis-saves) that does its job, but is pretty barebones. Doom, as an opposite of inspiration (somewhat akin to the Conan-RPG) is mentioned and extended inspiration mechanics are covered alongside a simplified XPsystem based on tokens. Alternate alignments based on convictions (very welcome in my game) with circumstantial advantage on certain checks based on the characters conviction are pretty neat, though the mechanical balance of them isn’t always perfect. The pdf also provides three appropriately weak, barebones NPC-base classes and concludes with campaign templates, where a selection of rules are compiled for your convenience. Kudos!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good on both a formal and rules-language level. layout adheres to a parchment-style two-color full-color standard with solid stock artwork. In a minor nitpick, sometimes single letters in headers do look a bit larger than their brethren – might be a cosmetic font hiccup, but yeah. Artworks ranged from b/w-pieces I haven’t seen before to full-color; it’s generally nice, but not the reason you would get this book. The pdf comes with full, nested bookmarks for your convenience.

 

Brian Berg and Jason Sonia’s 5th edition options…were a total surprise to me. After the horrendous book on feats, I honestly didn’t expect to like this book. Well, guess what? I really like this book. No group will ever use all of the variant rules herein. Roleplaying games veterans will be familiar with the concepts. However, they actually have been updated to 5e rules with…care and precision. Total Party Kill Games delivers a complete 180; If I didn’t know better, I’d refuse to believe that this book was crafted by the same company as the feat book.

 

This book utilizes proper rules; it takes complex variant systems and adjusts them for use with 5e. Wounds and vitality? Check. Crafting? Check. It provides basically the vast majority of alternate rules you can find out there, with only a complex crit/fumble-system à la Laying Waste or a complex Sanity system à la ToC/CoC missing. Apart from these two (which could be, scope-wise, books of their own), this pdf offers options. A LOT of options. Not all options will be great for all groups; not all rules will be utilized by any group out there. But whether you want a higher fantasy closer to Pathfinder, or a simpler, grittier lower fantasy closer to the darker OSR-options, this has the customization tools.

 

While here and there, I would have liked to see a bit more guidance for the respective GMs regarding the consequences of the respective rules-implementations to help them choose, the book as such does a great job in collecting a TON of alternate rules and ideas to customize the very tone of the campaign. Make no mistake – this is a toolkit. A big one and one that probably will have something for almost every 5e-game out there. While the required broadness of the scope also means that some further elaborations would have helped and that no group will ever use the totality of this book, I do consider this to be a fair and good buy, particularly for GMs hesitant (or too time-starved) to change the rules themselves. How to rate this, then? Well, you see, this is where it becomes difficult for me, since testing all combinations of rules herein is a sheer impossibility. I can see some conflicts/minor issues crop up – but generally, this is indeed a great toolkit. If anything, the main weakness of this kit lies in the fact that it does not have the one killer-variant-rule-system. It has, though, several small ones that can coalesce into cool templates to use.

 

In the end, this book will not elicit universal cheers on every page, but just about each group will find some nice material to scavenge within these pages. hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

 

You can get this massive rule-book here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Incoming search terms:

  • tpk games
Jul 282016
 

Fun & Facts: For the Hive!

187667

This module clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page back cover, 1/2 page advertisement, leaving us with 24 1/2 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.

 

Well, before we dive into the nit and grit – this is not simply a regular module; it also is a means to convey information and teach facts to the players without making it feel like just jamming information down their throats. And every gamer can attest to the power of gaming regarding the acquisition of information – whether it’s sheer vocabulary or other components, RPGs are “brainy” hobby that teaches without feeling like teaching. It is thus pretty much a given that the combination of teaching and gaming makes sense. Playground Adventures’s modules tend to be aimed at a younger audience, with this one targeting kids from ages 4+ – a valid projection in my book; smaller kids may need a bit more handholding; youths that start hitting puberty may require slightly more edginess (the module has scenes that can work that way), but as a whole, this module works for ages 4 up rather well; at least it did in my playtest.

 

It should also be mentioned that this module takes place in the fairy tale village of Glavost, first featured in Pixies on Parade and then expanded with its own little supplement, so if you’re looking for a bit of internal consistency, there you have it -and yes, there is a nod to “A Friend in Need” as well.

 

All right, so this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

Most of us know how crucial bees are for plants and ultimately, even us as a species. In a magical world, it is only fair to assume that magical bees similarly exist. Owen, apprentice to the wizard/librarian of Glavost (and pen-pal of the gifted origami-magic savant Azumi from “A Friend in Need“) is contacted by the bee sprite Bzzercup…and since adults curiously seem to be incapable of perceiving the fantastical suffusing Glavost, it falls to the PCs to help the bee sprite. You see, Owen botched big time. He began making paper wasps per Azumi’s instructions and they failed to animate…however, they did have enough lingering magic and thus, were stolen by a particularly nasty gremlin named Chuft.

 

Animating the paper constructs, he has taken control over a magical bee hive by capturing the queen and forcing the bees to do his bidding. The only chance to save the hive sans wrecking it, is to find the “Be the Bug”-elixir left by the former apprentice…but, alas, the bottles are unlabeled. Thankfully, though, a letter provides clues and a nice puzzle for the kids to figure out: Basically, the former apprentice, Owen’s sister, has provided a classic exclusion/deduction logic puzzle for the kids to solve, with the proper guideline for the GM as well…and yes, you can simply skill check brute force it, but at least all tables I play with prefer beating the puzzle. Even cooler than just brute-forcing is that the pdf does have a replacement puzzle that is easier, based on bottle shapes.

 

Drinking the elixir shrinks the PCs immediately down to the size of bees, an, whether with or without origami swords, the PCs get the sealed mission briefing. Throughout the module, Bzzercup “accompanies” the PCs as a GM proxy that can be used to convey a LOT of information pertaining bees and their impact on the world. This works via buzz lines, basically a kind of magical headset. Now usually, shrinking does entail a number of complex rules operations – for a summary of these for groups that wish for a more rules-conform switch (or more modular size-increase/decrease operations), I’ll heartily recommend the superb Microsized Adventures by Everyman Gaming. For the purpose of this module, no complex changes are required, since the combats take place within the size frame of the shrunken PCs: While crossing the backyard in the shrunken state (a wilderness crawl most unusual), the PCs will, for example, deal with a praying mantis that seems rather gigantic for them -a great way to talk about predators of honey bees, for example.

 

After the PCs have made their way past the backyard, they will have to infiltrate the hive itself, where the paper wasps make for their primary antagonists – and, rather importantly, they will have a means to engage in constructive tasks: Feeding the larvae, for example. The unique terrain is similarly utilized well – spending too much time in the pollen cells isn’t healthy, for example. In the end, the PCs will have to defeat Chuft after climbing through the hive and free the queen.

 

Now, this module being educational, the pdf has a list of further reading, should you wish to increase this component. Beyond that, a CR 3 variant of paper wasps as a swarm, suitable for Medium adventurers. beyond that, instructions to make paper wasps (in 3 difficulty-levels!) are provided via links, allowing you to create paper models to use in conjunction with the module. Beyond that, the maps of backyard and the hive are provided in both GM and player-friendly versions…oh, and the pdf does draw attention to the threats our own honey bees face in these days -with CCD causing ever more colonies to collapse, we should indeed take care of the bees.

 

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a gorgeous, custom 2-column full-color standard with bee-themed borders. Combined with the full-color artwork, this does make the module a beautiful one. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and as mentioned before, the cartography is excellent.

 

J Gray’s “For the Hive” is a truly unique module – I have never read a module like it; It’s creative, interesting, provides a blending of wilderness and dungeon, is educational, offers multiple solutions for challenges and a blending of different things to do; There is combat, there is room for being smart; there is room for being kind…and all the while, the pdf conveys useful information in a manner, teaches while playing. Even adults may have a blast with this one; granted, most will know a lot of the bee-related facts, but the module that remains beyond the educational component can very well stand on its own.

 

As a whole, this module can be considered an excellent addition to one’s table and, from just reading it and analyzing it on paper, I would have went with a final verdict of 5 stars. However, the playtests of this one pretty much have been met with total acclaim and excitement by the kid-group, who loved the sense of consistency and truly enjoyed it, made me reconsider. Even those of my players who usually fall on the somewhat darker spectrum regarding their tastes enjoyed this, in spite of its lightheartedness. Hence, this does get my seal of approval as well.

 

You can get this cool, educational module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 282016
 

Tales from the Tabletop: Year One (Comic)

187976

Okay, now for something completely different: This book clocks in at 60 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 7 pages advertisement (unless I’ve miscounted, 1 page back cover, leaving 50 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So how does this book work out? Well, basically, AAW Games publishes Jacob Blackmon’s art and leaves speech bubbles open for the fans to fill – the funniest of the respective lines are collected in this book, with the respective authors of the lines credited, including the runner-ups, so even if you dislike one, you certainly will find a smile among the alternatives.

 

So this, ultimately, is a product of our community…and it is one that made me chuckle and laugh loud while reading this comic: When the party’s hanging on a single rope and the characters caution against reminding the GM of maximum load capacity; when a paladin riding into a blackguard convention thinks of the worst blind date ever, when a dragon feeds the PCs a gelatinous cube and tells them to digest it before it digests them, then I got more than a few laughs out of the set-up and the on-point punchlines.

 

When a charismatic elf is bluffing a troll and a runner-up is “Hey, Billy Mage here with a new, fantastic offer!”, I really laughed out loud!

 

How to rate this, then? Well, to me the artwork by Jacob Blackmon was great and similarly, the funny lines add a cool dimension to the comic itself. Humor, however, is subjective and not everyone will obviously consider every line funny; a couple of these, admittedly, didn’t elicit the same sense of excitement than others, but over all, this book indeed provided what its goal was -fun! This collection of comics made me smile and that makes it very much worth it for me. So yes – this very much is worth getting if you’re interested in some cool, gamer-humor. This pdf delivered what I wanted from it. Hence, my verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

 

You can get this fun comic here on OBS for any price you want!

 

Prefer print? Here’s the link for that one!

 

You can directly support Jacob Blackmon’s art here on his patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 282016
 

Class Expansions: Apothecary Plaguewright Archetype

180225

This PWYW-expansion for the plaguewright class clocks in at 3 pages -1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so what does the apothecary do?

 

Apothecaries must utilize benign strains in each of their vials (but still may also use malignant strains!) and gain a dosage pool at first level equal to their apothecary level. Whenever the apothecary draws a culture from his vials, he may spend a dosage point to add a terminal mutation known to the syringe as though it were present in the culture. He must add benign mutations to benign strains and malignant mutations to malignant strains.

 

Also at 1st level, all benign strains gain the terminal euphoria terminal mutation without occupying a mutation slot; this mutation heals 1 point of damage upon the mutation ending and may be taken multiple times (class levels determining the maximum), thus replacing discerning eye. As a capstone, terminal mutations added are treated as though they had been taken an additional time.

 

The pdf also provides three benign terminal mutations – as a nitpick, these do not have the terminal descriptor and only note being terminal in their name, but oh well. Terminal Bravado allows for fear-save rerolls, terminal clarity for limited DR-ignoring and Terminal Rehabilitation for the healing of attribute damage.

 

The pdf also contains two new feats: Chaser Coating makes you choose a vial and mutation known that is both benign and malignant. Cultures made in the vial get chosen mutation added sans occupied mutation slot, but mutations that take up two or more slots can’t be chosen this way. The feat can be taken multiple times. Another feat lets you ignore the DR of willing creatures.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – apart from the descriptor-hiccup, which is pretty much cosmetic, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to IG’s two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Bradley Crouch’s plaguewright is one of the weirder classes that have come out of Interjection Games’ oeuvre and it is COMPLEX. In fact, it is perhaps one of the hardest to grasp classes and this pdf offers a cool, free expansion for the class. While terminal euphoria is nice, I found myself wishing that its scaling was slightly more pronounced – the largest untapped potential for the plaguewright, ultimately, is that of a science-y healer for campaigns where the gods don’t heal…or the PCs aren’t on their good side. The archetype helps here, but the restriction pertaining the enforced presence of benign strains limits the offense capabilities of the archetype a bit. You can enhance these, both offense and healing, mind you – the class has a ton of moving parts with which you can work and, combined with Terminal Vigor and the temporary hit points from terminal health, the archetype works in interesting buff-combos.

So yeah, while personally, I’ll upgrade that one’s potency a bit, the pdf is also, ultimately, available for any price you’re willing to pay and for a PWYW-book, this is certainly worth a tip and a download. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.

 

You can get this cool archetype for any price you want here on OBS!

 

The plaguewright class can be found here!

 

You can directly support Bradley Crouch making unique classes (and even your own class!) here on his patreon!

 

Finally, Brad is currently running the massive Strange Magic 2 kickstarter – you can check that one out here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 282016
 

Ponyfinder: Griffons of Everglow

142575

This beautiful hardcover clocks in at 64 pages of net content (excluding ToC, covers and SRD) and depicts the griffons of storied everglow, so let’s take a look!

 

This review was moved up in my review-queue due to me receiving a print copy.

 

Ah, the griffons of everglow – old and proud, with memories both accurate and long, predating the advent of ponykind’s empire. We begin this book, as befitting of the proud race, with their history – from stopping the rampage of Apep to the altercations with the purrsians to witnessing the rise and fall of the pony empire and the arrival of bipedal races, the griffons have a long history and a unique perspective on everglow, somewhere between stoic conservatism and surprisingly progressive notions -so flavor-wise, we begin with one of the most evocative sections I’ve read so far in a ponyfinder book.

 

A discussion of the traits of griffons accompanies the presentation of racial stats – and people like yours truly will enjoy them: The first thing you’ll notice is, that the section on griffons actually follows the standards of PFRPG regarding the depiction of racial stats – you know, proper attributes, not abbreviations and the like. Nice! Griffons gte +2 Str and Wis, have a base speed of 30 ft. and a bipdeal speed of 20 ft, a fly speed of 40 ft. with poor maneuverability, low-light vision, a 1d6 bite and they may treat clouds and mists as solid. The hippogriff gets +2 to one ability score, low-light vision, base speed 40 ft., bipedal speed 30 ft, 30 ft. fly speed, unique destiny and are treated as both griffons and ponykind via subtypes and effects. Both are quadruped – in an unfortunate typo, the trait is called “quadraped”, though. Griffons can be modified via an aspect that takes into account different heritages – and here as well, the presentation is closer in line with PFRPG’s standards, which is a big plus.

 

Default griffons have the predator aspect, while cheetahs increase their land speed, their charge, run and withdraw options and they decrease their flight speed by 10 feet and one maneuverability. Cursed griffons get -2 Strength, +2 Constitution and Wild Talent as a bonus feat (being naturally psionic), while prey aspect griffons lose their bite and get -2 Strength, +2 Charisma and increase their CL by 1 as well as their domain/mystery/blessing effects as though they had one level more, up to the cap of their HD – and yes, has the “no early access” caveat. Pride griffons imho are lopsided: +4 Charisma, -4 Wisdom makes them very minmaxy…and flavor-wise, it’s a bit odd to have griffon diplomats suck at Sense Motive, but yeah. Scavenger griffons get +2 Intelligence and Dexterity, -2 to Wisdom and Strength. Sea aspect griffons decrease fly speed by 10 ft and one maneuverability, but gain a swim speed of 30 ft. and may speak and cast spells under water – this is considered to be strenuous activity for purposes of suffocation, since they still have to breathe. Finally, snow aspect griffons decrease their fly speed by 10 ft. and reduce their maneuverability by one step. They also gain +4 to Stealth in snow and treat it as a class skill, are Large-sized (not capitalized) and get Endurance, +1 to saves vs. cold (not typed, unlike other bonuses here), -2 to saves versus fire and heat and lose cloud walker, but gain the Endurance feat. VERY odd, though I do understand it balance-wise: Reach does not increase, making the Large size actually a liability…and the bonus to Stealth is completely negated by the size penalty…not sure whether that’s intended…but I think it’s not.

 

The pdf also sports 5 alternate racial traits – a claw attack (properly codified natural weapon type, unlike the bite in the standard trait – kudos!), +2 Perception and Sense Motive instead of low-light vision, small-sized griffons, +2/+4 Stealth in dim light/darkness or replacing bite with 1/day SPs light, prestidigitation, unseen servant can be found herein. The pdf does provide favored class options for barbarian, brawler, cavalier, cleric, druid (not bolded), fighter, ranger, rogue, skald, summoner (not bolded) and sorceror. The pdf has a nice heritage table to randomly determine avian and feline aspects as well as dominant coloration and unusual heritages. – the table is nice, though for age, height and weight, you have to consult the base CS.

 

The next chapter is extremely detailed and goes into the respective takes griffons have on the classes and then, we get 16 racial feats that range from bonuses to two skills that increase at 10 ranks (boring) to using Acrobatics while running sans speed decrease (cool!), 1/day free choice of mental attribute used in a skill check, gaining cloud walker, properly codified, minor DR-ignoring charges, longer breath, sun cat teamwork feat access, more stable flying…well, guessw what? This time around, they actually are functional! Seriously! While I still seethe when looking at lower-case skills, the material here…is nice! The griffons also get traits – which are similarly well-crafted. The book also contains 6 archetypes: Divine psions use Wis as governing manifester attribute and gain Empower Power at 5th level. Midmountii master monks can flurry with natural attacks and replaces stunning with blinding foes; at 7th level, instead of slow fall, they may earth glide via ki. Sky rider cavaliers may select big avians (unlocking them only later) and 5th level provides growth for the mount – with an odd caveat “Its stats are not otherwise affected.” This is patently wrong, since size increases do affect stats – should we ignore these??

 

Talon Warrior fighters replace bravery with scaling bonuses to Perception and Fly and 2nd level eliminates penalties incurred by AoOs when performing combat maneuvers. 11th level unlocks pounce and 15th level potentially adds an extra claw attack when pouncing, but fails to specify at what BAB – though one can assume full BAB. Weapon mastery and training apply to both bite and claw. Storm Dancer fighters emit fog when attacked in melee, gaining 20% concealment miss chance, 50% for attacks after the first, but only while wearing light or no armor. Oddly, “this has no effect on ranged weapons.” Do ranged weapons not trigger it or do they shoot through? Concealment may also block line of sight, which is relevant for spells and I’m not sure this was intended, since imho, the ability botches nomenclature pertaining concealment and miss chance granted by concealment. 2nd level adds secondary targets to bull rushes (at 15th level: also trip, disarm and dirty trick), 8th level no longer treats fog and smoke as vision detriments and as a capstone, the character becomes “immune to wind” and can only be moved by it if they wish.

 

Finally, the skycrown pledged samurai penalizes attacks of the challenged against other targets, gets a modified skill list, may, after failing an action, retry in the subsequent round 1/day at a +4 insight bonus (+1/day every 4 levels beyond 2nd) and at 8th level, they gain Great Cleave and a +1 dodge bonus to AC for one round for each enemy struck. Can someone hand me the bag of kittens? As a level 15 ability, these guys may spend resolve as an immediate action to intercept attackers.

 

The pdf also provides claw and beak tips, rules for (somewhat wonky) griffon-feathered arrows and three special weapon/armor properties – which aren’t bad, in fact, though the lack of formatting for the creation requirements is annoying…and yes, spells are not italicized.

 

Okay, after this, we begin with an extensive introduction to the faiths of the griffons – from the Sun King to the huntress to white talon, the three deities come with extensive information, though it remains, apart from favored weapons and domains, fluff-centric. The book contains 5 spells that have all issues and represent the worst portion, mechanics-wise, of the book. Internal reference to spells is not italicized in some cases. There is a spell that allows for bonus damage to natural attacks which allows the caster to change elements – okay. However, with a Knowledge (arcana) check as part of attacking, rarer energies like sonic, negative energy or force can be chosen – which makes no sense, considering that force is superior to all other damage types at the cost of damage die reduction to d4. Changing elements is a move action, though – so no idea whether that supersedes the rare energy caveat or not or whether the rare energies only apply to one attack or all. The spell can be discharged, dealing 3d6 or 3d4 damage, thus implying that the energy change is maintained for more than one attack. Lionheart nets haste‘s extra attack when using a full attack and +4 Str AND Con – textbook power-creep. Eagle Soul seemingly contradicts itself – “until your next action” vs. duration of 1 round/level; however, at closer observation, one can assume the speed burst the spell offers to be the initial effect, the attribute boost to last longer – slightly cleaner wording would have helped here. Griffon’s Majesty employs the non-existent “divine” bonus type. That being said, the mask of obedience cursed item is interesting.

 

Now, much like Forgotten past, the somewhat misnamed “Griffon Society” chapter (1/3 of the book!) contains information of famous griffons and ponykind, with numerous interesting NPC write-ups. These generally are well-written, feature advice for the GM and copious amounts of neat artworks….but, like the previous books, if you’re looking for stats, I’ll have to disappoint you. Similarly, the 6th chapter, which details settlements of the griffons and runs a wide gamut in themes and diversity, does not feature a single settlement statblock for the villages. The villages, cities, etc., however, are truly diverse -from deep waters sheltered in the forest of dreams to razorback ridge, the places are unique. One truly impressive facet here would be that the cartography of the griffon heartland and the metropolis of cuachan, which comes in even more details, similarly gets a truly GORGEOUS full-page map. These sections brim and bristle with the imagination and unique flavor of everglow – and it covers about 2/3rds of the whole book, making this section significantly stronger than in the other Ponyfinder books I’ve read.

 

The final section of the book provides a new “living trap” at CR 6 with cliffside eels as well as three new creatures – the CR 9 gem golem and with unique spell reflections and dazzling brightness is pretty great. The CR 13 mountain worm, in comparison, is a more conservative critter with no truly unique ability. Finally, the CR 6 sky mask can call down lightning – think of them as Super Mario’s grumpy clouds. All in all, the critters aren’t bad…but formatting and editing is less precise than in Forgotten past’s bestiary, with bolding missing from the majority of the statblocks and some typos creeping in.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are SIGNIFICANTLY better than in the last two Ponyfinder books I read – while it still is flawed, the flaws mainly pertain rules-language formatting for the most part. While there are crunch components that are problematic, the respective issues are significantly less pronounced, though lower case skills, missing italicizations and the like still are here. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the book has a killer array of full-color artworks. The cartography featured in the book is similarly stunning. The hardcover I have is a beautiful book and certainly one worthy of owning. I can’t comment on the features of the electronic version since I do not have it.

 

David Silver’s griffons of everglow represent a return to form to approximately the level of the campaign setting; while there are some unfortunate glitches in the crunch and its presentation, it is functional! The content may not perfect, but it actually works and the book does not flaunt the established rules-language as much as the previous books, adhering to formatting standards and providing, as a whole, a significant improvement over the previous books in sheer, objective quality of the crunch. Now the fluff was never an issue for Ponyfinder and indeed, this book with its massive amount of flavor is evocative and not only fans of everglow will most certainly adore the well-written fluff herein. All in all, this book represents a great development for the ponyfinder-line – while still short of perfection, this is a nice purchase indeed and while the flaws of the crunch prevent a higher rating, I feel justified in settling on a final verdict of 3.5 stars; round down if you’re in it for the crunch, round up if you want all the evocative flavor and prose. As for my official verdict, I will round up for this book, since its focus lies obviously on the flavor and campaign setting information.

 

You can get this neat supplement here on OBS!

 

You can support Ponyfinder directly here on patreon!

 

If you want Ponyfinder converted to D&D 5e – the kickstarter is currently running here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 272016
 

Letters from the Flaming Crab: Wheel of the Year

168395

This installment of the Letters from the Flaming Crab-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 3/4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 10 1/4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

As always, we begin this installment with a brief letter from the planes- and worlds-jumping vessel called Flaming Crab before we dive into the respective cntent – though this time around, we really get creative. You see, as the pdf’s name implies, this is all about the wheel of the year, a concept probably rather familiar to those of you interested in mythology, pagan religions and the like – but before the respective holidays themselves, we start with full moons.

 

Structure-wise, the respective festival begins with a flavor-based explanation of the celebration, proceeds to mention which deity/deities (domain/theme-wise) is/are aligned with it and then goes on to introduce a mystic resonance as well as a ritual. In the case of full moon, masquerades and organized hunts would be common means of celebrating the festival, with feasts commencing thereafter. Mystic resonance-wise, the full moon, beyond the obvious association with lycanthropes, has actual game-mechanics, with spellcasters being able to cast a single transmutation (polymorph) spell as though quickened ( I assume, with them still requiring the preparation, since this information does not have the “without increasing the spell-slot-caveat, but I may be wrong here.), while druids may 1/moon wild shape as a swift action. However, conjurations are weakened, with durations reduced and summoned creatures requiring a save to avoid the effects of being temporarily confused.

 

Now I also mentioned rituals – these would be presented as spells for the respective holidays, however, as the pdf suggests, they probably should be freely available to the respective characters. Their casting time, unsurprisingly, is pretty long, with durations lasting e.g. until midnight. For the full moon, the spell would be call of the huntmaster, which can only be cast on a full moon and requires a bonfire. Effect-wise, this ritual makes ammunition magic, enhances one animal per participant with magic fang and provides expeditious retreat to the mounts of the hunters, making the hunting party significantly more potent and providing some serious flavorful potential for roleplaying.

 

During the Yule/Yuetide festival, light and fire spells may be enhanced (here with the wording being precise and sans ambigueties) and, in an interesting twist, there is a random chance that the respective spell slot is not expended, with spontaneous/prepared caster paradigms being accounted for. However, necromancy is hampered during the festival. Yule tree requires an animal sacrifice for the tree to be consecrated, but items may be summoned forth, but only one for each participant in a given year. Cool take on the festival!

 

Imbolc, halfway between Yule and spring equinox, is aligned with divination, poetry and growth and as such evocations lose a bit of potency (nice additional detriment to waging war in early spring/right after winter), with the spell associated, healing well allowing the ritualistic cleansing of the body via participation in a ritual featuring a well or spring, including losing a variety of negative conditions – which makes particular sense in the context of a less fantastic world where not every 2nd village has a high level caster capable of tending to all the needs. Ostara, if the name did not already elicit that connotation on its own, represents the vernal equinox and thus is associated with regenerative magics, once again hampering the forces of necromancy. The ritual is very evocative, featuring upright-standing eggs placed on the ground to ensure fertility…provided the gods deem to bless their followers.

 

Beltane, as, with Samhain, one of the more commonly known traditional festivals, enhances abjuration magics, with them being automatically affected by either Extend or Enlarge Spell, but all other magics are hampered on Beltane. The massive, bonfire-based rite imbues protective qualities, with even the ash of the fire providing some protective qualities. Midsummer is the festival of marriage and divination, with newly-weds embarking upon the seeking the fern flower ritual, which can either provide a monetary boon to those seeking it or an enhanced aid another for a year.

 

Lughnasadh, the harvest holiday, enhances transmutation magics, but hampers enchantment – those that manage to resist its effects may benefit from heroism for 1 round after the effect. Hero’s shape, as a ritual, is interesting, rendering you literally larger than life and adding bonuses to all physical attributes. While the haste-effect the recipient may tap into could be a tad bit more streamlined in its wording, it is a cool ritual that requires some stamina from the caster to pull off. Mabon, the end of the harvest season, cuts all aligned spells in half regarding their duration and range, while spells affecting willing targets are Extended and basically rendered communal for the day – very unique! The harvest feast rite eliminates exhaustion and the like and provides a hearty glow to the participants. Finally, Samhain provides access to spells that allow for the speaking with other planes or the dead to spontaneous casters (at -2 spell levels!), but summoning during these times of thinned veils are hazardous, resulting potentially in lethal creatures showing up. Planar Horde, a high-level ritual, allows the caster to conjure forth 50 HD worth of outsiders, with an individual outsider’s HD capping at 6, to do the caller’s bidding – if he provides the payment.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on the formal side; on the rules-language side, there are some minor discrepancies that show the different authors that contributed here, though none truly impede the functionality of the pdf. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series, with great Tarot-card-like artworks depicting them themes of the respective holidays. Kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.

 

J Gray, JJ Jordan, Nate Love and Lucus Palosaari deliver one great pdf here; evocative, cool and flavorful, these holidays add a significant sense of the magical to the game world, with the mythological resonance and familiarity of the concepts employed adding a nice sense of continuity with our world to the subject matter. The festivals themselves, though, do retain their significant “magic”, their flavor and unique concepts. I really enjoyed this system and believe that many a gaming world would benefit from holy days that are actually relevant – the general holidays herein already are very evocative and unique While, as a whole, the pdf may fall short of perfection, it is a great buy for a low price, a book that provides a LOT of cool ideas for adventures to come, a fun, flavorful addition to the game – in short, I consider this, in spite of my nitpicks, a great buy worthy of 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool pdf here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 272016
 

Mini-Dungeon: Howling Halls

180967

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 and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. It should be noted that this one’s hyperlinks have a couple of omissions, i.e. not working, underlined hyperlinks. This does not really influence the usefulness of the file, though.

 

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

 

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

..

.

Still here?

All right! The Howling Halls can easily be inserted into the context of a grander dungeon and generally represents a hauntingly cold crypt-complex, which makes neat use of the environmental rules. Beyond a couple of nice traps, the theme, obviously, would be undead regarding the enemies contained herein and the exploration yields keys with script that can be used to open the central rooms of the crypts and battle the progressively harder guardians of this place – finally wresting a magical key labeled “peace” from the final crypt – but for what purpose remains up to the GM to decide.

 

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!

 

Jonathan Ely’s Howling Halls is a nice insert into a bigger dungeon complex. With two tower-like structures, the howling halls can easily be used by an enterprising GM as a kind of suture to connect two unrelated dungeon-levels and the challenges per se are nice, the content solid. The dungeon, in short, does what it’s supposed to do and provides a fun, cool diversion and leaves an interesting hook for the GM in the player’s hands. At the same time, it is just that – it does what it sets out to do well. For what it tries to be, this is a solid hub/sidetrek well worth 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

 

You can get this neat mini-dungeon here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.