Jun 232017
 

Dynastic Races Compendium

This MASSIVE sourcebook clocks in at 165 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial/ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 3 pages of advertisement, 1.5 pages of KS-backer-thanks, leaving us with 152.5 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, what is this? Well, first of all, this would be a massive sourcebook that takes 4 races of the PFRPG-game and provides the details we always craved; two of these have been covered before – namely the Kitsune and Samsarans, in their respective compendiums – if I am not mistaken, roughly 90% of the content from these books should be available herein as well. However, this is more than a partial rehash of previous material: Instead, we gain massively expanded content. Beyond the previously noted two races, this pdf also takes a look at the nagaji and wayang, two races, which, much like the samsarans, have received basically no love whatsoever.

 

Now, as some of you may have noticed, I have a very firmly-held conviction that races are more than the sum of a couple of racial traits. At least, for me, they better should be. A race that is not human should have a distinct culture, a distinct outlook and, hopefully, some unique mechanics…but these alone do not make a race. Hence, I was less than enthused by the way PFRPG introduced a wide variety of races without really contextualizing them in a cultural context. This was changed for the two aforementioned races when Everyman Gaming released the respective compendiums – the attention to detail and lore provided for the races suddenly made me actually enjoy both kitsune and samsarans, two races I previously did not even consider introducing to me game.

 

How did those pdfs, and by extension, this book, achieve such a goal? Simple: By writing an actually believable ecology and psychology for the races into them, by elevating them from the status of just collections of stats. Now, the respective racial write-ups do replicate the stats for these races, obviously, but beyond them, we are taught about psychology (loyalty, shapechanging and a kitsune’s trickster-reputation can make for intriguing combos), their life cycle, internal and external physiology and more: Coming of age, childhood, falling in love, death, clothing habits, what one can expect from the respective race’s communities…heck, we even get to know about clothing, cuisine, familial structures, languages and the stances towards other races – the attention to detail exhibited here is a beauty to behold, the prose crisp and 5 truths and falsehoods commonly associated with the race represent fun stereotypes to play with.

 

Beyond that, the races also sport ethnicities, which is a big plus as far as I’m concerned: polar fox kitsune? Yep Black- or White-furred ones? Included. This whole section also features the respective alternate racial traits commonly associated with the ethnicity, adding crunchy components to the massive flavor. Speaking of flavor: What about diversified and unique origin myths and, indeed, even deities? Heck, the pdf does talk about chakras, mythic ascension and the like within the context of the respective races, generating an overall sense of holistic coverage basically never seen in gaming supplements…and yes, I am aware that I have so far not talked about the crunch supporting these extended ethnologies – there is a reason for that, namely that it has been collected in its own chapter – which, to me, is a good idea, organization-wise, but more on that later.

 

Now, I previously touched upon the kitsune and while this book does provide significantly more material than previously released, I’d like to spend a few lines talking about the nagaji: Their culture is noted as xenophobic and based on might makes right, but also values experience as a crucial factor – we learn that the nagaji do not worship nagas…and no, they do not hatch from eggs and they actually have a sense of humor. It is interesting to note that the revulsion often sparked by their snake-like appearance can be one of the reasons they have a reputation for being no-nonsense and xenophobic – when interacting with species likely to potentially want to kill you, you do become a bit…let’s say…cautious.

 

The life cycle is interesting to observe as well, as moulting and birthdays are touched upon and the reserved traditions for love and death similarly fit seamlessly into a vision of a highly structured and traditional society, basing them on fictionalized Asian cultures, but with enough twists to make them more than simply a reptilian version of real life cultures – instead, we basically have a race on our hands that can be summed up as a logical consequence of the respective cultural components interacting in a concise manner. Less verbosely: I can picture them existing, which is a feat in and of itself. Eel-like or cobra-headed nagaji and those seemingly descendant from nagas in their coloration and heritage add an interesting caste-like structure to their society that adds further adventuring potential and local color.

 

Beyond all of this, the tradition of scale bindi, adorning one’s chakras, makes for a flavorful and potentially very rich collection of culturally distinct signifiers.

 

The samsarans, if you recall my review of that race’s original compendium, aren’t a race I was particularlyl fond of: The lopsided racial traits and powers made them not interesting to me, a fact Alexander Augunas changed back then – the race, with its unique psychology and outlook on life and its focus on constant reincarnation, renders the race’s expanded lore one of the most successful examples of excellent storytelling in crunch-design I have seen in quite a while – the way in which their unique mythology and psychology shapes their cultures and the attention to detail provided therein render the samsarans as presented herein significantly more compelling than what the sum of their crunchy bits would suggest. The logic employed throughout the pdf is also extended towards the concept of ethnicities, codifying them for samsarans by whether they’re awakened, slumbering, reborn – you get the idea. And yes, reborn samsarans get their own set of racial traits, deeply aligned with Occult Adventures, as befitting of a race with these esoteric themes.

 

Beyond the philosophy of samsarism, the wheel of rebirth is fully elaborated upon as well in this section, making for an overall extremely compelling reading experience…but many of you may have guessed that. If you’re like me, the race that will probably have you guessing the most would be the wayang – only recently introduced and bereft of predecessors in the traditional sense, the race very much felt like tabula rasa to me – so how has its void been filled?

 

Well, the wayang as depicted herein are shy and reclusive and, somewhat akin to e.g. the Aztecs, they expect life to e painful and full of toil; they also place a high value on survival and their discomfort in daylight obviously has significant repercussions regarding their culture and racial psychology. Indeed, from the wayang’s perspective, they have been exiled and damned to an existence in a world that is unerringly hostile to them, instilling a significant amount of Weltschmerz, quite literally, into their culture. A general distrust of curiosity is also a trait only rarely touched upon in cultural write-ups, but one that can provide a lot of interesting food for roleplaying interaction.

 

The alien nature of wayang also is represented in their physiology and life cycle, as we learn that they are born blind…and while they are pretty glum, at least for me as a goth, I consider their pessimism at least partially amusing – with love vows like “I will love you to the day my soul dissolves into the eternal shadow of night…and beyond.”, which frankly could have been spouted by particularly kitschy, lovestruck fellows of my sub-culture…so yeah, while you can play them as angsty guys, there is an inherent melancholy and romanticism here, one that the right player can showcase with a wink. Dining etiquette and familial structures similarly are taken into consideration, as the book enumerates the consequences of the deeply-ingrained cultural belief of being stranded in a thoroughly hostile environment. Have you btw. known that their boogeymen, unsurprisingly, would be the lurkers in light?

 

Unique scarification techniques set e.g. the beber wayang ethnicity apart, while gedong wayangs limit this practice to their faces, giving them a unique, mask-like appearance. Indeed, body modifications, from split tongues to implants and brandings set the respective ethnicities apart in rather intriguing procedures. The tragic history of the race and their philosophy, the “Dissolution, road to the eternal night”, can also be found herein: Big kudos, btw. – the racial philosophy, while tied to nihilism, is for once not evil. Oh…and then there would be the dayseekers…but most wayang will be loathe to talk about those folks…for good reason, if you have read the origin myth…but a great way to play a wayang distinct from the traditional racial ideology.

 

Okay, so I mentioned that I consider the structure of this book smart: Well, at this point, we have pretty much covered the first 100 pages of this tome and everything that follows is rock-hard CRUNCH, which makes this a rather dense book in that regard The structure employed in this chapter is as follows: We begin with alternate racial traits for the respective races, as well as the favored class options, in sequence. The astute reader will recognize, however, that the latter does cover newer classes like vigilante and occult classes, which constitutes a big plus. Alternate attribute arrays can also be found herein, with e.g. the kitsune getting an option for a mental, lopsided +2 Wisdom and Charisma – not the biggest fan there, but oh well. on the plus side, favored class options and alternate racial traits actually make use of the respective unique options and themes represented by the race. It should also be noted that, in spite of the sheer massive density in this section. bonus types generally are very concisely defined – while there are a precious few instances where the bonus remains untyped, for the most part, this is impressively concise, as we’ve come to expect from Everyman Gaming. Other nitpicks here, purely cosmetic, would pertain e.g. the italicization of ki, which is inconsistent in single abilities…but then again, it is inconsistent throughout the whole gaming oeuvre, so consider this me just being a nitpicky prick. Nagaji can become masters of exotic arms via traits, gaining a thankfully limited charming gaze or increased potency when handling poisonous magic. Samsarans “slumbering” still can benefit from a variety of base racial traits, aligning them with more common races and further diversifying the concept for the player (and allowing for awakening storylines…), while the propensity of the wayang for scarifications and body-mods can yield a surprising diversity of pretty cool options as well.

 

Once we have taken all of that in (and believe me, it’s a LOT!), we move on to the significant cadre of racial archetypes. Now, as much as I’d like to go into details regarding each and everyone one of them, that would bloat the review even further and wouldn’t be too helpful, so, in all brevity, let’s take a look at the options: The (nagaji – the archetype works for everyone) paragonchemist basically gains a variety of mutagen, the paragogen, which heightens one aspect of the racial attributes at the cost of others, emphasizing the notion of becoming a heightened, more pronounced version of one’s race’s virtues. There are arcanist exploits that allow for the temporary switching of how subjects react to positive and negative energy (really cool!), distort magical illumination or hijack polymorph effects – unique and make sense, as far as I’m concerned. Rage power-wise, we get poisonous bites and raging/shapechanging combos. A total of 6 bardic masterpieces can be found herein, tying into the respective racial components – from the eternal cycle, represented in two of them, to Sun’s Requiem, these are neat.

 

The bloddrager kitsune bloodline features the kumiho form and spellcraft and the high-level option to snatch the beating heart from the chest of your opponents. Badass! The guru cleric represents an investigator/cleric-crossover with diminished spellcasting, while the scripture-scribed priest takes the wayang obsession with body mods and applies it religiously: Less domains, but they etch their spells into their own bodies…they may later even scribe scrolls into their body – to resume my asinine nitpicking: In one of the book’s rare glitches, a spell-reference here in not italicized, but that remains a purely aesthetic glitch. The book also features 3 subdomains: Agriculture, Kami and Manasaputra – all of these are balanced and bereft of complaints from yours truly.

 

The dancing blade would be a fighter with panache and deeds. Okay, I guess. The reincarnated hunter is really interesting – slightly diminished in spellcasting, they can tap into past lives, gaining abilities based on previous lives when tapping into them. Interesting, if strong option. The skulker hunter gains the slayer’s studied target and a modified spell list. Inquisitors may elect to gain the communal guardian archetype, gaining a kind of collective-like bond with tactician-like tricks. The shapeshifter hunter inquisitor should be pretty self-explanatory. Two brief investigator talents are part of the deal and the enthraller mesmerist gets a fascination-style gaze instead of 1st level’s mesmerist trick, which higher levels enforcing further the charming/fascination focus, replacing the touch treatment tree of abilities. The kyubi visionary monk, unsurprisingly, blends SPs with martial arts and the higher level option to use ki to refresh the SPs. The monk of a million lives is pretty cool and focuses on reincarnation and also features Childhood Adventures-tie-in. The serpent-fire discipline represents a kineticist/monk crossover…and frankly, I’m not the biggest fan of this one, as flurry + blast =…ouch. So yeah, I wouldn’t consider this one a good idea for grittier games.

 

The formless ninja kitsune archetype focuses on shapechanging and ninja tricks allow for wildcard combat feats as well as trapping the souls of the slain. The nine-tailed mystic oracle focuses on the Magical tail engine for the kitsune. Oracles can also choose the reincarnation oracle mystery. The seinaru paladin replaces the aura tree of abilities with potent banners and a wide array of rogue talents are geared towards letting them choose boons, panache, etc., with advanced talents providing limited hex access. The wandering swordsman would be a finesse, defensive samurai. The Jiuweihu shaman uses the kitsune star jewel concept and, once again, the tail-engine. The spirit seer shaman is a minor modification. 2 slayer talents are included and sorcerors can choose to become reincarnated sorcerors, with the kitsune bloodline being provided as an additional option…and if that’s not far-out enough, what about the kyubi mutated kitsune bloodline or the nogitsune bloodline based on the oni bloodline?

 

The caller of ancient fangs spiritualist gains a modified naga phantom and a modified spell-list, but these may only be cast (at least until 10th level) while the phantom is within the character’s consciousness and the phantom does not grant the Skill Focus of its emotional focus. The concept of the ronin is represented via a swashbuckler archetype. Vigilantes with the wildsoul archetype may choose the vulpine natural course, which combines evil eye and feinting for cool combo game-play. The new witch-hexes include the jewel-bound familiar (the basis for aforementioned star jewel) or the option to assume the form of a past life.

 

Beyond this massive chapter of archetypes, we also gain a ton of racial feats: For example, the Body Modification feat, which alone spans almost a page, providing subdermal implants, neck elongation and more – here I can once again nitpick something – while it is easy to default to the standard, I would have appreciated the codification of a bite attack as primary here. Speaking of nitpicks: Technically, only the base feat of a chain of Style-feats gets the style-descriptor, since these generally requires actions to initiate, so while I love the styles herein, the descriptors they use are a bit misleading. This is a bit puzzling, considering that there are Styles that get this right herein. Equipment tricks for kitsune star gems can be found and the helpful sidebar regarding the optional remedial shapechanging rules makes a return – nice!

 

Forced and voluntary theriocephic transformations, detecting shapechangers, magical representations of ghostlights and ancestral spirits, rebirth (a better reincarnate with more control) and the like make for some solid spells and a ton of race traits (ALL with proper bonus types!!!), some nice religion traits and drawbacks complement this section and before you ask: The appendices help as well: Age, height and weight tables for all races; background rules for the races (see Ultimate Campaign), rp-breakdowns for the races and a detailed two-page index complement the book, making navigation easy.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, considering the length of this book: While a few hiccups can be found, they generally are aesthetic and do not wreck the integrity of the crunch – as expected from master Alexander Augunas, the rules-language is very crisp and precise. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and features a metric ton of original Jacob Blackmon artwork – the aesthetic vision is pretty holistic and seamless and in particularly the representations of the racial ethnicities deserve applause. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I cannot comment on the qualities or lack thereof of the print version, since I do not own it.

 

Alexander Augunas’ Dynastic Races Compendium ranks as one of the best racial books I have read for any iteration of a d20-based game. While not every little component herein is pitch-perfect, the holistic vision exhibited herein has managed to take 4 races I did not like in their original iteration and made me really cherish them – never before have Kitsune, Samsarans, Wayang or Nagaji felt so alive, so organic, so worthwhile. Fans of these races will consider this a no-brainer anyway, but frankly, this is worth getting if you’re like me and hated crunch-only races, if you always wanted races to make sense. The depth of the cultures herein make them all practically demand being included in your game – their unique outlooks and worldviews, their cultures and traditions practically jump from the page. The prose is captivating and, even better, the crunch supports the complex and rich cultures presented within this book. In case you haven’t noticed: This should be considered to be a “This is how it’s done” for racial books; this attention to detail and realism, in lack of a better word, is what makes races work, what captures the imagination.

 

In short: Even if you consider the races herein lame, give this book a shot – as mentioned before, I very much went into these books disliking them all and ended up a convert, if you will: I can’t wait to have my PCs encounter these unique cultures. My final verdict, unsurprisingly, will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this massive, amazing tome here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 232017
 

The Second Tarot Variation (Castle Falkenstein)

The second of Tarot-based alternate rules-pdfs for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Wait, first, before we do: If you have not yet picked up the first Tarot Variation, please do so NOW. It has made my Top Ten RPG-product list for a reason – it is brilliant. The genius idea here is to use the Rider-Waite-Smythe tarot deck instead of the regular playing cards deck – the result has not only been an increase in atmosphere, but also a more interesting gameplay. I literally never want to play vanilla CF again.

Okay, that out of the way, to a degree, this pdf represents more of an amazing thing, we begin with establishing the connection between suites of playing card decks and tarot decks corresponding to another. The values for cards of the minor arcana are properly assigned their values. Since the deck contains one more face card per suit, but no jokers, the fortune deck includes 4 cads worth 15 points instead of 2.

 

The major arcana deck requires some choices to be made by the game’s respective host: First, are major arcana cards held in a player’s hand or apart. If they are held as regular cards, that decreases the number of minor arcana cards potentially held and as such, there is a balancing component there. If the major arcana is held on a separate hand, the plot-twisting elements of these cards become more potent, obviously.

 

The second decision would pertain how many cards the players can hold from the major arcana suite. If players hold these cards in their regular hand, the cards should be limited to a maximum of 1 or 2 held to maintain the option to keep succeeding at tasks via minor arcana. If a separate hand is chosen as the option to go for, the host can elect to cap the total at 3 or even 4 – the more of these a player can hold in a separate hand, though, the more volatile the game becomes, at least potentially – but that does fit well with Castle Falkenstein’s high-adventure aspect.

 

Thirdly, an easy means to balance the impact of the major arcana is the third choice -here, the host determines how many major arcana cards can influence one given Feat. As you may have noticed, this does assume a host at least familiar with the game and confident regarding the ability to interpret on the fly the respective results.

 

These basics out of the way, the rest of the pdf is devoted to listing the major arcana and their effects – these range from spectacular successes, to conversions into other cards, the option to exchange cards for one minute (nut not those drawn to power sorcery). Returning cards just played to the hand, increasing success levels…and drawing e.g. Justice can result in either fumbling or high successes of the Feat in question. Increased success-levels at the cost of injury and there is also an option to draw a card and increase an ability ranked Poor to Good for the action in question – in short, the proceedings become more volatile.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard that is beautiful and the pdf doesn’t sport artworks, but requires none at this length. Same goes for bookmarks – the pdf has none, but doesn’t require any at this length.

 

J Gray’s second tarot variation is amazing – while the novelty of the concept and enriched coolness obviously does not extend to the second of these, the matter of fact remains that this represents a glorious option that enhances the gameplay of Castle Falkenstein in much the same iconic manner as the original. All for a single buck. So yes, this is very much worth checking out – and a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this nice little pdf here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 232017
 

#20 Things: Hill Giant Steading (system neutral)

This installment of Raging Swan Press’ system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

We begin this pdf with 10 dynamic events for a given hill giant steading, created to evoke the illusion of a dungeon that’s alive – from orc slaves carrying bloody wolf pelts to the smoke of burning meat and strange impromptu games (tied to another table herein), the selection is nice.

 

But how do you know these deadly foes are near? Well 10 things you can discover nearby ought to give you a clue, provided you know that triangular accumulations of stones, topped by wyvern skulls, may be territory markers…and the classic, deep footprint may also be a tell-tale sign. And yep, that crucified, moldering corpse yonder? That once was an orc before the giants got their grimy hands on him…

 

Of course, giants, in the right circles, are known for their bags, which may contain a variety of miscellanea, both wondrous and vile in nature – hence, when you open such a bag, the proper page of this pdf may yield freshly killed sheep, half-emptied vinegary wine…or the heads of those slain. Special stones that break asunder for shrapnel-like attacks (unbeknown to the giant!) or giant-sized, spliced together ropes make for an interesting selection here.

 

But what about the steading? Well, we once again do receive specialized dungeon dressing, customized for hill giant abodes: And yes, the degenerate, stupid giants indeed highlight their characteristics in their abodes: Wood that rots, macabre trophies, soiled clothes and gigantic bronze gongs speak of the dilapidated and haphazard nature that characterizes their behavior towards others and the regions they inhabit.

 

In the context of this pdf, hill giants have an affinity for wolves as pets, (dire wolves in particular) and thus, 10 entries for wolf appearance dressing and 10 battle tactics/peculiarities can be found – after all, the hill giants won’t properly combat train them, so fear of fire, opportunistic pets and the like add a nice touch of strategy and character here. It should also be noted that standard read-aloud text for unmodified creatures is included here – nice!

 

The hill giants themselves receive pretty much the same treatment: 10 entries for appearance, including being a berserker (“A berserk” sounds a bit weird to my ears…) or grossly overweight, 10 battle tactics and 10 treasures and trinkets complement this mini-hill-giant generator.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use – kudos for going the extra mile there! The pdf sports several pieces of nice b/w-artworks.

 

Creighton Broadhurst’s take on Hill Giant Steadings is a nice installment of the series and I welcome the dressing for the giants and wolves; however, at the same time, I do feel that the steading component could be slightly more pronounced: Only 3 of the entries actually pertain the environment, with the rest of the pages being devoted to creature and loot dressing. This is no bad, mind you, but it did leave me wanting a bit more regarding the steading itself. Considering the more than fair price-point, however, this still makes for a nice dressing-file to add to your giants – my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

 

You can get this cool pdf here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 232017
 

Empath Hybrid Class

This hybrid class clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

The empath is a hybrid class of cleric and psychic, who receives d6 HD, 4 + Int-mod skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons as well as light and medium armor. At 1st level, they may, as a standard action, cast analyze aura (not properly italicized) at-will to see emotional auras – this is supernatural, which is weird to me, but okay. The empath gains knacks and casts psychic spells of up to 9th level, governed by Wisdom (attribute not properly capitalized -a problem throughout the file) and draws spells from its own custom spell-list. at 2nd level and every even level after that, the class may replace an empath spell known with a cleric or psychic spell.

 

At 2nd level, the class gets deep bond – as a standard action, the empath may touch a living being to form a bond that lasts one minute. While this is in effect, the target may use the higher of the empath’s saves or his own. Slightly rules-wise redundant: “At the start of the empath’s turn, as a full-round action, the empath may heal the bonded target 1d6 hit points. This increases by a “d6” (should be +1d6) at 4th level and every even level after that, capping at 18th level. This can be used 3 + Cha-mod times per day and only one bond may be in effect.

 

Every empath chooses an emotional sensitivity, which nets abilities at 1st, 5th 10th and 15th level and also determines the capstone – basically the discipline analogue. a total of 7 such sensitivities are provided, the first of which would be anger, which yields a short-term buff, an improperly codified, wonky bite attack that instills rage, +2 Str and Con for the bonded target at at-will full-round calm emotions. The capstone is cool: Anyone affected by rage or with a rage power or spell with it in the name can be dominated as a standard action. Makes sense to me! However, it should be noted that the capstone name is different in table and actual abilities – that should have been caught in editing.

 

Awe has a pretty cool basic ability: Dazzle foes briefly (sucky, I know!), but the enemies lose readied or delayed actions. Interesting! 5th level presents the option to negate a selection of negative conditions suffered by the bonded creature. Gaze-based condition sharing, rerolls for saves of allies and a capstone that may render foes flat-footed collectively make this one really nice. Courage provides a scaling Will-save bonus, AoE, versus fear, reflexive second saves versus fear and at 15th level, 60 ft. perfect flight for allies while charging (only for the charge). This IS pretty cool – but RAW doesn’t work. It is activated as a swift action and targets a charging ally – it should be activated as an immediate action. Swift actions can’t be used outside of a character’s turn. 15th level yields the temporary doubling of morale bonuses, once per deep bond and the capstone provides a series of passive upgrades that conspire for an all-around more potent nexus.

 

The desire sensitivity has a gaze that penalizes Sense Motive (not properly capitalized) and lacks a durationThe 5th level allows for the expenditure of unused spell slots to buff social skills greatly, but fails to specify the spell slot required – 9th level spell slots are RAW worth as much as 1st level spell slots. 10th level yields at-will suggestion (which, being Su, should note activation action) and 15th level yields a short-term dominate. 20th level allows for the learning of a creature’s desires via prolonged concentration. Despair allows for the decreasing of fear-based conditions, 5th level allows per the absorption of morale penalties, and 10th level provides a nice debuff with a hex-anti-abuse-caveat, a means that also balances the slow 15th level ability. The latter lacks an activation action The capstone provides serious benefits when nearby creatures are affected by fear-conditions.

 

The euphoria sensitivity nets an at-will AoE polypurpose panacea, which is overkill for 1st level; 10th level yields limited daily uses of haste (erroneously capitalized) and 15th level provides a buff that last 1 round as a full-round action – which is comparatively weak at that level. As a capstone, the empath gets euphoria-inducing skin with a no-save daze that kicks in when hit by natural attacks or unarmed strikes and it can also be used as a touch attack. Interesting! Finally, the horror sensitivity provides an Intimidate-enhancer, immunity to fear to the deep bonded target at 5th level,, a 30-ft. fear aura at 10th level that can be projected on allies and, at 20th level, an empath may, as an immediate action, consume a creature’s fear, gaining a powerful buff. Okay, what’s the range?

 

The pdf also sports archetypes: The central mind replaces emotional sensitivity and emotive master with a kind of mental communication, which, at 10th level, may transfer touch spells…okay, does the character still have to hit with touch attacks? Instead of deep bond, they may place nodes as a full-round action of a creature. Creatures with nodes can’t be surprised unless all creatures with nodes are surprised. Hit points may be transferred via such nodes by the character as a standard action. The character can place nodes equal to 1 + Wisdom modifier for every two levels – which allows for ridiculously huge networks that are basically undefeatable. Not a fan, as this basically demands being cheesed.

 

Instead of emotional sensitivity, the instinctual driver can treat creatures as humanoid for the purpose of spells and effects, with higher levels yielding charms versus such creatures at decreasing actions required. Spells are not italicized here and the 15th level ability refers to dominate and charm interchangeably, which THEY ARE NOT. This one’s a mess.

 

The sensorial replaces deep bond may enhance senses of creatures, increasing the potency of the granted abilities at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. Pretty interesting, though one of the sub-abilities lacks the italicization of its sub-ability header. The final archetype would be the sycophant of pain – these guys can grant temporary hit points to allies, but nauseate them. This generates pain points, of which a maximum of class level + Cha mod may be held. These may be expended to deal no-save damage to nearby enemies – the damage is untyped and imho shouldn’t be. The affected number of allies and temporary hit points scale, obviously. Weird: This replaces the capstone without giving anything back. Instead of deep bonds, these fellows gain the wounding well ability, a debuff bond that imposes massive penalties…but the creature affected may end this effect by taking damage. Interesting alternative to deep bond.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, the latter in particular, are the bane of this pdf. There are a ton of formatting glitches. The rules-language is better than usual for these hybrid classes, but still could have seriously used a rules-dev – there are quite a bunch of finer points in the rules-language not working properly and missing activation actions and a couple (but not many) balance-concerns here and there. The layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf has nice full-color artworks. The lack of bookmarks is annoying; just as annoying would be the fact that the book has copying and highlighting of text disabled, which is supremely asinine when trying to e.g. copy abilities to a char-sheet.

 

Jarrett Sigler’s Empath ranks as one of my favorite Wayward Rogues Publishing classes so far: While it has issues in editing and formatting, the issues are significantly less pronounced than with other classes. Unfortunately, the rules-hiccups that should have been caught in editing extend to components that affect functionality. At the same time, the class does feature actually unique options and has some really nice ideas. If you’re willing to work a bit with this, then it can be considered a worthwhile offering. If this gets fixed, it certainly has the potential for 4 or even 5 stars…but with the accumulated flaws and comfort-detriments, I can’t rate this higher than 3 stars.

 

You can get this class here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 222017
 

Letters from the Flaming Crab: World Tree

This installment of the impressive “Letters from the Flaming Crab”-series clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, before you’re asking – this is not a straight rehash of the classic idea of the world tree as known from Norse myths and the like; instead, we have a contextualization of the idea within the reality of the game. Touched by the dryad Endainne, the oak that was to grow into the colossal tree featured herein would grow, however, to proportions only dwarfed by the cosmic tree of said myths – at over 6000 feet height, this titanic environment contains wonder galore – and it obviously influences the environment, which is why we discuss the effects on forest, roots and the area around the branches. Climate and traveling are covered in similar ways and the bounty of the tree also allows for better use of local produce when used in conjunction with culinary magic. (Here is the Letter on that topic…and if you like it, there currently is a KS running to create more! The link is here!)

 

The religion of Endainne, the dryad goddess, is properly depicted with 5 domains, 6 sub-domains, boons (Yep, Inner Sea Gods-compatible!) and we even cover tenets of the faith and sample servants of the deity – big kudos for going beyond the basics here! And yes, the boons and rules-language featured here are precise and leave nothing to be desired.

 

And this is where the pdf starts becoming REALLY interesting: An extremely detailed, one-page-spanning table of effects of the proximity of nearby offspring of the World Tree can be found: Excessive oxygen production, magic sustenance, clean air, strange lights…or all of them. The effects are cool and flavorful…and we go the extra mile, big time: Want the effects of such a tree on a settlement? The rules are included. Want to know the effects on the kingdom-building rules? Once again: Included for your convenience…and if you do not like the default flavor of the world tree (or want more diversity), a sidebar full of different, creative options has you covered!

 

Nestled in the boughs of the titanic world tree, there lies Portokali, a small, welcoming town which may require peace-bonds, but actually makes for a compelling place to visit, one supplemented with a rather impressive in-depth history and a nice side-view sketch of the way towards the settlement. Life in the settlement and a map of the uncommon locale can also be found here – while the settlement does come with a sketch-like map, that would be the one aspect where this aspect of the pdf falls a bit short of e.g. Raging Swan Press’ Village Backdrops-series – in short, we get an amazing, detailed and thoroughly unique settlement with adventuring potential galore and even interesting classes that make up part of the unique social structure.

 

The pdf offers more, namely a new player character race, the daphanie, daughters of the world tree, who gain +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int, are humanoids with the fey subtype, have low-light vision, gain +2 to Survival in forested/jungle terrain (and -2 to track them in such an environment), +2 to saves versus poison, always know where North is and have +2 to Climb. They can also grow a vine out of their dominant hand as a move action and use it to retrieve and manipulate small objects and may be used as a primary natural attack that uses the stats of a whip. Cool race and not one that should result in any issues. Instead of the tracking-tricks, they can get 1/day entangle or at-will speak with plants. The climbing trick can be replaced with darkvision. Instead of poison resistance, they can get +1 natural armor. There are Small daphanie and the signature vine can be replaced with claws (proper damage and natural attack type – kudos!), wild empathy or gliding membranes. All in all, a cool race.

 

We btw. do get a nice age, height and weight table as well as favored class options for alchemist, bard, druid, cleric, hunter, kineticist, monk, ranger and rogue. No complaints here!

 

The pdf also features racial archetypes, the first of which would be the tree glider monk, who must have the gliding membrane (obviously) and adds Fly to the list of class skills. Big kudos: The descending flight rules-language at 1st level has this Batman-y flair sans options to cheese it, retaining the lock on unassisted personal flight at low levels. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter increase the gliding flying speed and 5th level unlocks, properly, the flying options, allowing for the gaining of altitude. While this archetype is very much a small and humble one, it does its job well. Kudos!

 

The Toxibloom alchemist grows a symbiotic, toxic plant (thankfully, the toxin cannot be sold) that can produce 1/2 class level doses…but the ability does not specify what action the poison-generation is, which is a bit unfortunate. It also does not replace another class feature – which may or may not be an oversight. Instead of the 12th level discovery, the archetype receives toxic blood – and yes, this has different stats and specifies how often it can be sued and the activation action. Instead of persistent mutagen, the archetype gains poisonous pollen (again, with new stats and proper activation action). The archetype also gains two unique discoveries – one for acorn bombs and one that grows a vine whip on the torso.

 

Mundane equipment-wise, we do get plant pigments and the pdf features 4 racial feats. Alas, one nets a boring skill-bonus and is pretty much the epitome of filler. Another allows for sustenance through sunlight (and slightly enhanced natural healing), the third one allows for full-speed Acrobatics while balancing and enhances your ability to climb and catch falling allies. The final feat grants you thorns that deal “lethal” damage – which does not exist. That probably should be piercing.

 

The pdf also features 3 magic items: The petal cloak helps moving through underbrush and Handling Animals. The Staff of the World Tree is a nice druid-y staff and endainne’s shield 1/day breath of life‘s you, which is pretty potent….not a fan here.

 

The pdf also contains a bestiary, with Endainne’s aspect at a massive CR 24 being first – she is brutal and the build is nice, but I wished that she had a couple of unique tricks. Gnasher, the CR 21 version of Níðhöggr, does that right, just fyi – the mighty dragon comes with a miasmic breath weapon and some nasty, unique tricks. The CR 2 Rattatoskir should also feel familiar for fans of Norse myths, though I have seen that concept done more interestingly. The CR 7 Hyeorai, stick-dolls that are immune to magic and can emit deadly sprays of splinters make for a cool critter. The aforementioned servants of Endainne are also included: At CR 15, Mjarl the Strong represents the apex-version of the hyeorai, in gargantuan. The CR 9 Unkindness would be the legendary flock of ravens of the deity, including unluck-aura and eye-raking. A cliffnotes version of the respective critters and names is included and we conclude this pdf with 4 different random encounter tables for the regions of the world tree.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the pdf is still very good, but has a few hiccups. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games’ nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. Artwork-wise, we get a mix of nice b/w-sketches and full-color versions of public domain art. The frame narrative of the Flaming Crab once again make this pdf pretty nice to read.

 

Kim Frandsen, Ken Pawlik and Tina Porter have done a nice job in this installment of the Letters-series: The environments presented are truly evocative and the pdf does go the extra mile in several crucial instances. The attention to detail is really cool and the settlements and twists on the familiar tropes render this pdf a fun, cool offering that has something for everyone. While not all aspects of the pdf are perfect, we do have a rather cool and evocative file on our hands here. In the end, my final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 due to in dubio pro reo.

 

You can get this evocative, cool pdf here on OBS!

 

You can support FCG’s cool KS for more culinary magic here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 222017
 

Veranthea Codex: Radical Pantheon 2.0

The revised edition of the massive first expansion for Veranthea clocks in at a whopping 123 pages (for this price-point!), 1 page front cover,1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 117 pages of content – quite a lot, so let’s get to it!

 

Veranthea Codex is a truly massive book – and still, there are a lot of components that simply, by virtue of their unique ideas, deserved more coverage. Well, this would be the first book doing just that. If you require a brief one-sentence summary – think of this as the setting’s Inner Sea Gods…though, admittedly, the focus is somewhat different.

 

In the first chapter, we get information on the respective deities – from ever sleeping Verahnus to Death and the Nightmare Gods – and, much like Inner Sea Gods, we receive information on the priest’s role in the respective society, aphorisms, holy texts, holidays, etc. – basically, we get the full fluff-write-ups, though, considering the comparably somewhat lesser page-count, obviously the entries are not as extensive as in Inner Sea Gods – still, what is here can be considered fun and sports information on (anti-)paladins for the respective deities. And yes, this includes paladins with an anti-chaos focus instead of the anti-evil focus, for example. Here, you’ll also encounter one of the major improvements of this revised edition: The book now actually contains obediences for each and every deity herein.

If you’re looking for full-blown redesigns of aforementioned classes though, you won’t find them here. As a nice nod towards the game’s traditions, we have a couple of Easter eggs here that should certainly put smiles on the faces of quite a few GMs: Death’s holy text, for example, would obviously be the Libris Mortis.

 

The flavor of these deities is excellent – I will e.g. never stop chuckling when reading about the deity of capitalism that puts a smiling face to the world, purporting to be LG when he’s actually LE. (And no, for your info – I am NOT anti-capitalist. Quite the contrary, actually.) Cool regarding new ideas: Wanna sell your soul for random mythic templates? Yup, possible.

The chapter is also suffused by pieces of crunch – nath, as a material, has a low chance of generating wild magic, for example. Another material, Kenta, temporarily becomes harder when it’s hit (cool mechanics!) and also increases AC etc. – that being said, for the copious benefits the material provides, it is underpriced. Streas, as a material, is also nice: It converts energy types, though it does confuse “Fire” with “Flame” in a minor hiccup. Wealb is slightly problematic – the material nets you a bonus to damage after being critically hit; while you can kitten the bonus, it is an ineffective strategy…but yeah, I think that could have used a slightly smoother design. There also is an interesting dust that allows for the substitution of Str for the key ability modifier of spellcasting – while I’m not a big fan here, the costs keep this in check. The pdf, while cleaned up in comparison to the first iteration, still features “page @@”-glitches here and there. Both Aleana and Andrletha now receive dedicated paladin-tenets for their knights.

 

On the plus-side: Studying some of the dread holy texts of Nightmare Gods can cause (conveniently hyperlinked) insanities – but also convey significant bonuses. The pdf now has a note on the recent emergence of psychic magic in Veranthea and a feat that allows cultists to infiltrate other churches and society at large…nice. Worshiping the dread Nightmare Gods can cause serious insanities and mutations for those foolish (or self-destructive) enough to heed their calling. 3 new occult rituals with slightly modified rules have been added for your gibbering delight, causing unpleasant insanities for your adversaries.

The pdf also sports a vast array of player options for the devout, beginning with Religion-traits. These traits generally are pretty powerful, but not in a way that would render then overpowered; as a cosmetic complaint, they should be denoted as subtype (Faith), but its trait subtype is evident, so yeah. For example, gaining +10 to Perception while asleep is interesting. Similarly, extending your darkvision (or getting it) a limited amount of times per day is cool.

 

The pdf also sports a selection of spells, and they are interesting in some of their concepts: Arcodivinity takes a whole round to cast and emulates an arcane spell of 4th level or lower from the magus or sorc/wiz-spell lists or a divine spell from the cleric/druid-list of 4th level or lower when cast by an arcane caster. This is generally a cool idea, but it should be noted that this has system-immanent hiccups the more spells you allow in your game, allowing for a very strong wild-card spell that may be balanced by the increased spell-level for all but ranger and paladin and the 1 round casting duration, but still – GMs should probably impose some limitations on spell-selection here. The revised edition now has a GM-caveat to acknowledge that, but still – not the biggest fan. In my game, with a ton of options, this will not show up.

 

Not all spells fall into this high-concept category – blazing insight, for example, allows for an immediate action reroll of Int- or Wis-based skill or attribute checks made in the last round and allows for rolling twice on the reroll. Other spells are pretty intriguing – divinely intoxicated is interesting: Double your spellcasting attribute modifier’s time, the target has to roll twice any d20 – and then use the results in the following sequence: Better result, better result, worse result. Capital Capitalist lets you haggle exceedingly well – but the reduced price may result in the merchant decreasing his starting attitude towards you. Forcing targets to reroll damage just caused may be okay, but more interesting would be Gift of Undeath – which provides continuous healing for a couple of minutes…and then slays the imbiber and resurrects him as an undead. Ouch, but it can’t be force-fed to unwitting dupes, thankfully…a damn flavorful for fanatic death-cultists! As a very minor complain, making the target “one WILLING living creature would be a bit more elegant for that caveat. Touch of the Alien has been properly balanced and is no longer a broken mess.

 

The pdf also contains an array of magic items, including a magical lantern and a theurgist’s mace – basically a mace that grants you the option to smite 1/day; if the character is a caster, he may smite 2/day spellcasters opposed to your tradition (i.e. arcane casters get smite versus divine casters and vice versa). If a character can cast both types of spells, the character may use the smite 4/day…but here, the update is a bit inconsistent: How does psychic magic interact here? Not 100% sure. This smite penalizes saves versus the wielder’s spells and SPs. Still, there are damn cool ideas here – an artifact-level blowgun flute? Yes! A coin that acts as a shuriken and lets you convert metal coins while also enhancing your Sleight of Hand? Yep, pretty awesome. Dreksler’s Unending Tap is pretty fun and allows for the conversion of fluid to magical beer. A whip that may petrify foes if they fail the low-DC-save…pretty neat.

 

The pdf also sports some archetypes – the divine drunkard brawler, for example. When these guys consume alcohol, they accumulate drunk points, which they then can expend to duplicate one of 3 randomly determined effects. The effects are interesting and generally make for a chaotic experience well in tune with Dreksler’s nature. The Holy Innovator gunslinger basically is a gunslinger who can utilize contraptions from the Veranthea Codex base book – nice. The paladin-archetype merchanteer is reprinted in this book, complete with tithed healing, magnetic channel and transformation to antipaladin. The Tian Ti-Ang Agent bard can be considered to be the heralds of the mythic vampire lords and as such receive an assortment of interesting vampire-abilities.

 

Then, however, one of the coolest chapters in the book begins – after the chosen template (CR +1), we get heralds for the gods – all of them! From an impossible slug swarm to more traditional executors of the will of the respective deities, these unique and powerful beings (clocking usually in at around CR 15) make for a truly inspired, interesting chapter and feature appropriate and cool unique tricks as well as information on planar allies available. The 3 immortal demigods of Urethiel, Boris and his entourage are covered/reprinted and we also get the CR 25/MR 10 Sciemaat the shattered, who seeks to repair the shield that once kept the nightmare gods at bay. Similarly, the last irrational Carambal can be found here. H’gal, the grand lich of Proxima Alterra (CR 17/MR 7), on the other hand, was a rather interesting penultimate critter herein. Oh, and the revised version now has full stats for Yawvil, master wizard of Vernathea: CR 37/MR 10. No, that is not a type. He is built with hypercorps rules and a hyperscore of 10, meganaut 2/hypernaut 2 – though you can run him as printed, this means that he does not use the default mythic rules.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting have improved since the original iteration of Radical Pantheon, but still are not perfect – I noticed a few glitches and relics here and there. Layout adheres to Veranthea’s two-column full-color standard and the book sports a vast amount of full-color artworks, with new pieces added in. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Mike Myler, with contributions from Luis Loza, Michael McCarthy and Nicholas J. Giebel, has written a massive expansion here – and while there is some overlap with the content already featured in the Veranthea Codex, there still is ample material herein to justify the very low asking price for this amount of content. The revised edition of radical pantheon sports more information for all the deities, which means, ultimately, that everything feels a bit more concise, that the respective, previously somewhat neglected entities now also shine. So yes, radical pantheon’s revised edition is superior to the original iteration. At the same time, however, some of the new pieces of content, while thematically neat, can prove to be a bit problematic. In the end, the book has improved and thus warrants a final verdict of 4.5 stars…but I cannot round up for it.

 

You can get this nice sourcebook here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 222017
 

Mythic Module Monsters – Red Throne 3

The third installment of the series of little pdfs providing mythic versions for the monsters originally featured in the bestiary sections of Curse of the Crimson Throne clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages, so let’s take a look!

 

This one has a bit of overlap with Mythic Monsters: India: The Upasunda Asura at CR 11/MR 4 and the amazing due of undead elephant (Rajput Ambari, CR 8/MR 3) and Rakshasa Maharaja (CR 25/MR 10) can all be found herein as well. The builds are all three amazing, but I have commented on all of them in my review of the big book.

 

The so far not covered creatures would be the house drake at CR 3/MR 1 gains Flyby Attack and treats his natural attacks as silver and also has the second save ability versus mind-affecting effects.

 

The second new creature herein would be the scarlet macaque swarm at CR 6/MR 2, who may filch items as a swift action, fling scarlet rage-inducing filth and flies into rages when faced with a bleeding target..oh, and being damaged can incite a combo of confusion and rage. Nasty! That being said, in a minor formatting glitch, a spell reference here has not been italicized.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant issues. Layout adheres to a really elegant and nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no artworks or bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Jason Nelson’s creatures herein are pretty damn amazing…but whether you should get them depends frankly on whether you have Mythic Monsters: India. If you do, this does not have that much new content, though what you do get, is amazing. If you’re willing to get this for the new critters, then you’ll probably enjoy this…otherwise, I’d suggest getting Mythic Monsters: India instead. Ultimately, my final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

 

You can get this pdf here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 222017
 

Mythic Module Monsters – Red Throne 2

The second installment of the series of little pdfs providing mythic versions for the monsters originally featured in the bestiary sections of Curse of the Crimson Throne clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages, so let’s take a look!

 

The first creature herein would be the Leukodaemon at CR 11/MR 4, whose diseases become airborne (YES!) and his contagion is upgraded. Beyond mythic path abilities and their detachable skills and mere presence can make the area more infectious – amazing! If you already have the Mythic Monsters: Daemons-file, you’ll already be familiar with this guy, though.

 

At one CR less, the daughter of the dead gains Allied Spellcaster and may share teamwork feats with nearby divine spellcasters. Her ectoplasmic innards fortify her versus crits and precision damage and her shroud may conceal her from the living, granting a miss chance and the option to use mythic power-based haunting mists. Oh, and her claw may use a Cleave-variant! Cool upgrade!

 

At CR 1/MR 1, the giant fly’s upgrade immediately can infect foes that touch it and gains Dodge. At the same CR/MR, the giant maggot gains regeneration and may, upon being slain by anything other than fire, produce non-mythic maggots…and they may share spaces with other maggots. EW! Amazing!

 

This pdf also contains the herald Lawgiver, whose stats clock in at a mighty CR 18/MR 7. This guy gets the ability to form binding contracts and can share in bonuses…or suppress them via mythic power expenditure! Its golden body gains an upgrade as well, potentially blinding foes and reflecting attacks – defensive tricks that may be further upgraded via mythic power. Oh, and permanent truth-themes effects and 18th level inquisitor judgments. OUCH! Nice!

 

Finally, the pdf contains the mythic iteration of the nosferatu template, who gains grabbing claws that also inflict bleeding damage. They may overcome their weaknesses and squeeze through tight spots and, beyond higher rank channel resistance, they gain mistsight and obscuring mist and may later speak through those dominated. Flight and mistshapes as well as AoE-blood drain and the ability to use deeper darkness with a 1-mile radius, the higher level options are amazing. Glorious upgrade here!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to a really elegant and nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no artworks or bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Jason Nelson and Steven T. Helt of the four horsemen make for an amazing team – their design-paradigms are similar and they both really know their craft. This is an all-killer, no-filler pdf of amazing critters, well worth the fair asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

 

You can get this cool pdf here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 222017
 

Mythic Module Monsters – Red Throne 1

The first installment of the series of little pdfs providing mythic versions for the monsters originally featured in the bestiary sections of Curse of the Crimson Throne clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages, so let’s take a look!

 

We begin with the Mythic Devilfish at CR 5/MR 2, who infuses tainted blood that can render nonevil creatures sickened and it also gains reactive camouflage and can increase the miss-chances it gets from it via mythic power expenditure. Really cool, though this guy will be familiar if you already have Mythic Monsters: Sea Monsters.

 

At the same CR/MR, the carrion golem (including the Self-Repairing Construct feat, reprinted for your convenience) receives a more virulent plague and the limb ripper ability, which lets the monster…surprise, rip off limbs of targets it has hit, provided it has mythic power left. Nice, though a bit of a pity that we don’t cover the variants or construction notes here. If you btw. have Mythic Monsters: Halloween, it can be found inside that tome as well.

 

At CR 3/MR 1, the raktavarna rakshasa is constantly under nondetection as well as the option to enchant itself as a vicious weapon, but fool the wielder into not realizing that…which is damn cool. However, if you already have the Mythic Monsters: India-file, you will already be familiar with this guy.

 

At the same CR/MR, the soulbound doll’s mythic version can use ventriloquism and ghost sound to mimic voices and may use some bardic performances and may use Stealth while observed, potentially porting right next to its unwitting victims. Cool! That being said, no construction notes here either.

 

The CR 1/MR 1 reefclaw is upgraded to be capable of potentially wrecking armor and also features the spines it should have had in the first place. Yes, they’re poisonous. Love this guy – one of my favorites herein! At the same CR/MR, the dream spider’s web penalizes Perception and weakens the Will of those caught in it and extends the webs to bursts – another winner!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to a really elegant and nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no artworks or bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Jason Nelson shows that he really knows his mythic material here – the builds are all interesting, the upgrades creative and cool. While the lack of construction notes for the constructs is a bit of a pity, at the more than fair price-point, that does not sink the pdf. However, if you do have a lot of the big books, this has less to offer for you. The builds are great, but whether or not this is worth getting for you depends. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform – unless you already have most of the big files, in that case, you may want to round down.

 

You can get this nice collection of critters here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 212017
 

Echelon Expansions: Draconic Bloodlines

This pdf clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, 6 pages of SRD, 1 page editorial, 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, I’m not starting with the subject matter, but with the houserule mentioned on the first page: It’s kinda weird that bloodline spells are learned later, so the pdf provides an interesting and concise way to fix that without increasing the power of the class. Beyond that, we also get alternate rationalizations why a given character may have the draconic bloodline, from constellations to soul-wrenching rites of passage, this makes for a basic and pretty nice introduction.

 

But what is this truly about? Well, to put it bluntly, the author at one point realized that it is kind of dumb that one draconic bloodline represents the influence of all of dragonkind, with its distinct and widely diverging branches. So, while we reiterate the basic draconic bloodline as a starting point, we from here on out extrapolate the respective, more customized ones. This usually not only changes a couple of bloodline spells and powers, but makes them work as basically their own, unique and distinct entities. The respective abilities are formatted in a slightly unconventional manner, with the respective ability names in power-point like bubbles and tabs on top, denoting the precise ability type and the level it’s gained – while not immediately aesthetically pleasing, from an organizational point of view, this solution proved to be surprisingly efficient in conveying the necessary information.

 

Speaking of sensible and smart ways of conveying information: The sub-chapters of the pdf begin with tables that denote the spells, breath weapons and powers of the respective draconic bloodlines in tables that render the use of the pdf extremely comfortable. Now, as mentioned, the draconic bloodlines featured herein do not *completely* change the draconic base bloodline, instead opting for what could be considered to be an approach similar to mutated or wildblooded bloodlines, though the changes made. A sorceror who traces his ancestry to a black dragon, for example, gains the sire’s ability to breathe underwater and freely use spells, breath weapon etc. while submerged – which makes all kinds of sense to me.

 

Where applicable, scaling mechanisms have been included – for example regarding the electricity aura of sorcerors hailing from a blue bloodline. That being said, in some of the scaling information bits, very minor and purely aesthetic hiccups have crept in: While it is evident that the damage increase should cause electricity damage, the pdf omits the damage type for these increases. That is me at my nitpickiest, though – from context, it is perfectly evident. Amazing: The blue bloodline sorcerors get WINGS OF LIGHTNING. That actually interact with breath weapon etc. at higher levels. Come on, those visuals are cool! Sorcerors with a red sire can, as a capstone, learn to incinerate foes utterly with their breath, as another cool example of such custom abilities.

 

While the first section of the pdf covers the chromatics, as you no doubt have gleaned by now, the second section proceeds to cover the metallic dragons, where brass dragons get the sandstorm capstone of their parentage, while scions of bronze receive water mastery and the ability to generate vortices at higher levels. It should be noted that many of these abilities in themselves do feature a scaling mechanism, improving over the course of the respective bloodline’s ability-steps.

 

Thirdly, beyond these two classic families of dragon, we take a look at the primal dragons as well, with the cloud scion’s lightning fog at 9th level constituting a neat example for the ability. As a purely aesthetic gripe regarding rules-language – you do not verify critical hits, you confirm them. Yes, the claw progressions of the respective bloodlines also tend to differ in some ways, which was a welcome surprise to me. That being said, while it is easy to resort to the default, I still would have appreciated the natural attack abilities specifying whether they’re primary or secondary – still, that is purely aesthetic and won’t influence the final verdict. On the plus-side, umbral-blooded sorcerors gaining the ghost touch property for their claws makes sense to me.

 

The pdf doesn’t even stop there, though – the imperial dragons are yet another massive group of dragons covered with proper bloodlines, which should elicit cheers from the WuXia crowd…and, once again, the ability-modifications make sense as a whole: Forest dragon-bloodline sorcerors gaining huntsman claws and a capstone that lets them petrify foes, for example, makes sense to me. The capstone for sky dragon bloodline sorcerors to ignore electricity immunity and resistance with their breaths makes for nasty surprises and the sovereign dragon’s heritage, which increases the DC of spell saves and allows for the conjuring of golden armor (and a master counterspelling capstone) also fits the themes of the draconic sire.

 

“But wait, endy,” you’re saying “that’s not all dragons!” You’d be right. Even the frickin’ outer dragons are covered! Solar dragon sorcerors get even lay on hands – and yes, the pdf does provide information for what happens if you multiclass with paladin, just fyi. That being said, the bullet-point notes that explain ability-interaction here could have been a bit clearer in their wording; they make sense, mind you, but I could construct a misreading here. Speaking of which, the pdf is not *always* perfect regarding its abilities: The time dragon’s “second chance”-ability, for example, reads: “At 3rd level, you get a bonus to initiative checks equal to 1/2 your sorceror level.” (VERY potent – keep it away from mythic gaming!) It then goes on to state that 9th level unlocks a 1/day reroll of a d20 as an immediate action, and then, at 15th level, the ability can now be used twice per day. This can be somewhat confusing since all of these abilities are collected under the same header – splitting the ability would have been more elegant here….unless the initiative bonus was supposed to have a daily cap as well. That being said, we’re talking about the finer details of rules-language and design here – from a usability point of view, this should not provide any issues.

 

The pdf ends with designer’s notes that explain why esoteric dragons have not been included, the design-goals and an exceedingly helpful and detailed two-page index for the pdf.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no significant hiccups in either, only a few cosmetic glitches most people probably won’t even notice. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column standard. The colored ability-headers can be a bit of a drain on the printer, but other than that, no complaints. The pdf has no artworks apart from the cover, but comes with very detailed, nested bookmarks. These, in conjunction with the index and the clean and crisp presentation generate an overall extremely easy to use pdf.

 

Keith Davies’ “Draconic Bloodlines” fix a whole in the rules that is so evident, it’s a wonder it hasn’t been taken care of earlier. I have myself often wondered why the draconic bloodline has been neglected thus and this massive differentiation of the material is more than appreciated. Better yet, for the most part the modified abilities make for some rather amazing visuals or enhance the respective draconic sire’s theme. This book is a godsend for campaigns wishing to play with multiple draconic characters, feuds, etc. and I’m certainly going to use it in Legendary Games’ upcoming dragon-AP. Balance-wise, the abilities sometimes exceed that of the base draconic bloodline by a slight bit, but considering that it is not the strongest of options in the first place, I am good with that. In short: Even the most hardcore gritty and restrictive of games should encounter no issues while using this pdf.

 

As a whole, this is worth getting – the few, extremely minor hiccups cost this my seal of approval and no, bloodrager fans, nothing in this book for you, but considering the design-goals and paradigms for it, the file achieves its goal. Get this and diversify your game’s draconic sorcerors! My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 since this is closer to excellence than to being just “good”.

 

You can get this cool pdf here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.