Jun 302017
 

The Esoterrorists: The Esoterror Factbook (GUMSHOE)

This massive supplement for The Esoterrorists (or any other horror game, really!) clocks in at 150 pages (excluding cover, which is its own pdf), 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC,, leaving us with 147 pages of content.

 

This review is mainly based on the print edition of the book, which was kindly provided by one of my patreons for the purpose of a review at my convenience.

 

So, what is this massive tome? It represents at the same time a massive dossier that could be considered to be useful as a kind of colossal hand-out, is written as though it was a dossier for agents of the OV: It discusses, on a need-to-know-basis, the realities of the struggle against the forces of the outer dark and the esoterrorists that seek to bring down the membrane, discussing changes in strategy, the psychiatric metrics of the struggle and the, very important, code of ethics that agents should strive to uphold. More than that, it explains the details of extractions, of the conduct in the field, etc. and supplements these pieces of information with flavorful and extremely creepy transcripts.

 

The methodologies of station duty, establishing deep cover and the like are presented in a concise manner that is a true joy to read – if you’re like me and read a ton of RPG-books (and sometimes read them for reading pleasure/immersion), then rest assured that this book is a phenomenal reading experience – and not only in the guise of a pseudo-secret-agency operations manual. The adversary map as a prop can be seen as a kind of precursor to the organizational structures later refined in the Nights Black Agents game. Speaking of which – the book does cover branches of the agency usually not associated as regular PCs – the SSF, the special suppression forces of the OV, join the ranks of playable options, with more crunchy combat options included for such games herein.

 

Now this predates Night’s Black Agents and the crunchy combat rules and high-octane gameplay of that system by years, so it is no surprise that they are not as diverse, but for GMs/directors stumped on how to combine the two, these represent a no-work-required variant for more action-oriented gameplay, with evasive maneuvers, martial arts, etc. – so if you’re looking for a change of pace from standard Esoterrorists gaming, this may well still hold up rather well. Still, that would be the one part of the book that has not aged as gracefully as the rest.

 

Beyond those more crunch-related aspects, however, it should be mentioned that concise rules for dealings with assets and enemies are set down – while these may be modified by the GM, obviously, they represent glorious leitmotifs for whole campaigns. Speaking of which – what I honestly did not expect to like this much, would be the NPC-aspect of this book. You see, the factbook talks, in detail, about various potentially dire, perhaps even world-ending plots that esoterrorists are currently engaged in; it mentions weird occurrences, classifies the antagonists according to their respective psychological profiles…and sports a TON of some of the best NPCs I have seen for modern horror-gaming: From disgusting, sleazy media moguls to cynical cultural scientists, the book offers a diverse and truly creative cast of characters worthy of being primary antagonists for whole campaigns. Sample notes on missions, successful ones and failure, are interspersed throughout the book, further enhancing the reading experience.

 

From advertising agents to serial killers, the agents of the Outer Dark are presented in a manner that makes them come alive…and it is very evident that the book goes above and beyond, actually managing to get terminologies right and thus making the respective characters feel plausible. Suspected cells and operations are provided in similarly inspiring ways, ranging from gangs to incestuous farmers, international security consulting and high-stakes players on the global scene. The book also lists a wide variety of locations, all of which basically scream to be included in one’s game: Haunted suburban homes, strange logging camps, the road to nowhere and more outré locales render this aspect of the book, once again, a pure joy to read.

 

While we’re at it: The book not only covers antagonists, but also potential neutral parties – like seemingly benevolent, esoteric cult leaders “doing good” with “magic” – the problematic aspects of these practices and the double-edged nature of involving such beings makes them valid and intriguing wild-cards that further add a significant dimension to the game and the plots you can craft.

 

Now, the book also contains a sample adventure, one made explicitly for SSF-characters and taking place in Burma – the adventure is per se a well-crafted series of action-sequences, though ultimately, the brief scenario is pretty linear. The ODE introduced here is pretty disturbing and potent, and its weakness/symbolism MAKES SENSE and can be deduced by smart agents, even if they botch parts of the investigation – the module, in short, is solid.

 

The book closes with a handy appendix explaining the acronyms used and a massive, 3-page index that helps navigating this book.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue accumulation of glitches or hiccups. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the book sports a wide variety of amazing, atmospheric b/w-artworks.. The pdf has no bookmarks – I’d suggest getting the softcover print book instead.

 

I honestly feel like I failed Robin D. Laws’ book here. Why? Because, frankly, I cannot hope to convey how well this works – this is a glorious reading experience, extremely immersive and inspiring and it gets the horror aspect of Esoterrorists down to perfection. This book, in short, represents a truly inspiring option for horror gaming. All negative things I can say about this book are the result of me being somewhat late to the party – and are thus not the book’s fault. Still, the lack of bookmarks can be annoying and the more combat-intense rules are solid, but pale before the newer GUMSHOE-mods. Even taking that into account, however, I do still consider this to be a must-have offering for anyone even remotely interesting in modern horror or GUMSHOE gaming – the inspiring fluff and glorious prose render this a must-own offering. While this book thus misses my seal of approval by a tiny margin, it should still be considered to be a truly glorious offering, fully deserving of a 5-star-verdict, even in 2017, 8 years after its release. So yeah, get this – it is a true wellspring of inspiration!

 

You can get this inspired sourcebook here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 302017
 

GM’s Miscellany: Places of Power

This installment of Raging Swan Press’ handy compilation tomes clocks in at 87 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC (also listing the statblocks by CR and page – nice!), 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page how-to-use, 1 page author bios (big kudos for their inclusion) leaving us with 79 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, in case you’re not yet familiar with the series – Places of Power represent fully mapped adventuring locales – bases, edifices, environments – from haunted valleys to strange towers, to subterranean black markets dangling atop a cliff, acting as a literal bridge between surface world and underworld, the series features a lot of unique and evocative places for adventurers to visit.

 

These places, in general, tend to offer intriguing NPCs and adventuring potential galore and rank as some of my favorite drop-in locations, with each featuring really nice b/w-artworks and flavor galore. Whispers, rumours and events help the GM make each of them unique and, as a whole, I thoroughly enjoy the series. Faithful followers of my reviewing will also notice that I have basically covered the whole series (or am in the process of doing so).

 

Indeed, this compilation includes Dragonmarch keep, godswatch, the monastery of the marble palm, penitent’s rest, the fragrant tower, the amazing M-triptych consisting of the midnight market, the mistfall refuge and the mudded manse (all of which are genius), the prismatic tower, tumblestone inn, the valley of the rocks and visionary’s perch. Now, since I have already covered all of these locations in detail, I will just point you towards my reviews of them. (On my homepage, you can just click the “Places of Power”-tag attached to this review and you’ll have a list of all reviews of the series…)

 

Now while I have called out three in particular, the valley of rocks, prismatic & fragrant tower also deserve being called out as excellent examples of their craft. From a formal point of view, the compilation is a bit tower-heavy: 5 of the locations are towers. That is just aesthetic, though – what’s NOT aesthetic would be e.g. the monastery’s BROKEN monk archetype that has a variety of glaring issues in the rues-language: The fact that it has not been fixed for the compilation is a big detriment as far as I’m concerned.

 

From the PFRPG system-specific side of things, the book also shows a shift in focus that the line has underwent – since the inception of the 5e and system-neutral versions of the series, statblocks have become scarce in the respective iterations, regardless of system. Personally, that is something I somewhat bemoan, for the crunchy materials in early PoP-installments rank among the coolest aspects of the series. I very much would have enjoyed a bonus statblock or two here, but that is once again me nitpicking at a compilation that features some of the best locations you can find.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, though not as tight as usual for Raging Swan Press – typos from the individual pdfs and rules-language issues haven’t been fixed, which represents a bit of a blemish regarding this compilation. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf features nice b/w-artworks and amazing b/w-cartography. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Creighton Broadhurst, Jeff Gomez, Eric Hindley, Anthony Jennings, Jacob W. Michaels, Jacob Trier, Amber Underwood and Mike Welham have created a compilation here, which sports a significant selection of rather impressive places to visit and adventure in – the majority of the places is excellent and the overall quality of the prose is impressive. This is very much worth getting…however, if you already own the constituent pdfs and don’t absolutely need this in print, then there’s frankly less reason to get this. If you don’t already own most of the pdfs, though, then this is one amazing and flavorful selection of places to visit.

The lack of improvement of the admittedly few, more problematic aspects does drag this down a bit, though, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

 

You can get this cool compilation here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 302017
 

Hypercorps 2099 – F.A.M.O.T.H.

This massive expansion for the Hypercorps 2099-rules clocks in at 70 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 64 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

In case you didn’t know: FAMOTH stands for “Failures and Merits of the Hypernet” – what is the hypernet? Well, think of it as basically the Hypercorps-version of the Matrix, virtual reality on speed. Rules-wise, the hypernet operates as a plane of its own, with alternate time, variable gravity and, surprise, the region is highly morphic. Without the Matrix Magician feat, a character can’t use magic here (which eliminates a whole slew of character options/hobbles them) and the plane employs something we had e.g. in earlier editions of the game: Non-native creatures have their attributes modified: Charisma is used as Strength, Intelligence as Dexterity and Wisdom as Constitution. This puts the hypernet in a tradition with e.g. second edition’s dreamland rules and similar tricks, but also means that you basically have to generate a second character sheet for your character while he’s in the hypernet – unless you’re pretty good regarding on-the-fly modifications. Interesting: The Intelligence modifier also acts as a means to enhance the movement rate of characters in hypernet.

 

Characters using a proper rig can safely access the hypernet, but have their skills greatly nerfed…so yeah, you’ll be going in properly. Hackers treat robots as basically a powerful pet, granting them a ton of abilities. Hyper attributes are carried over in the hypernet and the pdf codifies rules for jacking in and out, for faulty transfers and the potential hazards you can encounter within the depths of the hypernet have been codified in PFRPG as e.g. persistent haunts, as traps, etc. Concise rules for rapid jackouts, server crashes and global effects to modify the hypernet can be found: From viral infections to global bandwidth issues and the creepy jarrikol-effect, the material presented here is pretty far-out and cool. (“Jarrikol” or any variation thereof in the net can conjure forth basically a horrid, reaper-like god-like ghost in the machine…which is pretty amazing…)

 

The annihilation wipe cubes and the concise rules to control them are neat and we move on to a mini-bestiary, which includes a blend of previously released and novel material – here, Death Sentries can be found, Tiny constructs that can annihilate digital assets. Classics like the gargantuan robotic T-rex can be found here alongside reprints of sec-jackers and proxies. The thrillvirus from “Thrillville or Killville?” has also been included, alongside unbound proxies, the Deathwing character, Edgar Allen Poe, etc. – however, I should note that there are new ones here: Argus, for example, ostensibly created by Tesla, the halfling netjacker enganyar…etc. The pdf also contains a couple of sample drones for netjackers and the pdf does include the netjacker base class, which I took apart before.

 

The pdf does also list a variety of different servers (basically sub-planes of the hypernet) and, oddly, the netjacker is jammed right into this chapter, which is, organization-wise, rather weird and, imho, kinda annoying – you alternate between one such server, then class information, then another server. That being said, the respective servers are pretty interesting and provide some new material: While the devilish darknet, datacorps, paradise 1, thrillville, xypher and Veranthea are included (yep, the Veranthea Codex setting’s material is represented as a hypercorps MMO…), the new ones deserve special mention:

 

Aquatica, the underworld world, contains Atlantis and generates spontaneous vortices. Celestial estates represents a devious plan to sucker in souls of those who’d prefer a digital afterlife – pretty creepy! The grand archive would be a colossal collection of media…but with premium content and addictive properties, it can also be rather problematic. Harsanath houses seemingly all-powerful data judges. The curious, erstwhile pastoral Maliku, flavor-wise somewhat Wild West-ish can provide, curiously, instant hypernet conversions of material, while the unyielding green enhances druid-y tricks and sports a rather erratic time. We also are introduced to the cybermagic bloodline for sorcerors, which makes the sorceror immediately competent, via feats and spells, in hypernet – the bloodline powers focus on modifying planar traits of the respective hypernet servers. The chapter also reprints cyber ninja and samurai. Cybersurfer monks use Int-mod for AC, but loses the level scaling and the archetype’s flurry is restricted to working only while on a cyberboard. They slightly reduce their unarmed damage, but gain hacking talents from a limited list, with higher level options unlocking new ones. It should not surprise anyone that the archetype receives enhanced skills. 11th level unlocks a drone that also acts as a hoverboard, though the particulars of this ability are a bit opaque and could use a bit more clarification. The data junkie would be a hypernet bard and similarly, the digital detective investigator represents a hypernet specialist, who has less extracts outside of the hypernet, but gains some nice techy abilities.

 

The droneminder netjacker archetype loses access to proxies, but are specialists at using drones and the mechwarrior is reprinted herein. Noob krushers are netjackers who eschew the use of robots, using a blending of studying foes and inflicting bonus damage to them…and they, unsurprisingly, are expert programmers. Hackhunter rangers are basically rangers that specialize in the digital world, gaining a proxy at higher levels instead of a regular animal companion. Intuitive hacker barbarians receive a variant rage that makes Strength and Constitution match their Int-scores, for potentially very potent combat capabilities. Technoclerics would be the digital construct-specialists of the clerics, getting the cybernetic domain, variant class skill list and applying the healing/spontaneous conversion tricks to constructs instead. EDIT: Mea maxima culpa – I had a bad brainfart here. Technokineticists are electricity specialists that can render their damage versus robots et al. more reliable. On a minor complaint, there is a spell reference that is not properly italicized and personally, I think that the class-specific infusions etc. would have been better served being formatted as standard infusions.

 

The pdf recaps the digital skill uses and the feats allow for program creation, concealing yourself as a digital asset and Electronic Telepath allows for the at-range activation or deactivation of devices. while Server Tactician interacts with server traits. Matrix Magician has been reprinted for your convenience.

 

The pdf also features a variety of digital items, from counterfeit credchips to digikeys and online drugs (matrix dust) and root code packages – per se pretty cool. Drapa’s nanosymbiotes make for an intriguing itemclass, occupying teh body slot in various iterations, gaining special abilities. If you know MGS, well, then you’ll probably be smiling right now. The pdf also features new hypernaut powers – the senses-enhancing cybersenses, more efficient crafting in the hypernet, retaining superior scores of physical attributes in the hypernet, gaining a metric ton of detect tricks and turning yourself incorporeal can be found here. As the only tier 2 ability, independence from jacks for hypernet access alongside some SPs can be found. Somewhat odd – while italicizations of spells are pretty concise for the most part, there are some oversights. 9 hyperflaws are also included – making this section per se pretty neat.

 

We close the pdf with the pregens from “Thrillville or Killville?”.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good – while I noticed a few instances of glitches and material that could be slightly streamlined, as a whole, this is a well-made file. Layout adheres to hypercorps’ pretty busy 2-column/1-column/3-column full-color standard (depending on the needs of the pdf), with decent full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Mike Myler, with contributions from James Lewis, Michael McCarthy and Savannah Broadway, has crafted a supplement that leaves me somewhat torn. I don’t have a problem with the reprinted material, as the collection collects the thematic material herein. There are a few aspects that could have used a bit of streamlining though – I really hate how the netjacker class has been spliced into the respective server write-ups, blending player-information with potential spoiler-territory. These glitches do drag down the pdf a bit and the supplement has another issue: The hypernet, as written, is cool, but not particularly player-friendly – you basically have to invest in it to work properly (feat-tax) and class abilities are required to work at peak efficiency. For one-shots, this is not an issue, but for longer campaigns, this invariably results in discrepancies between PC capabilities – and if you invest heavily in the Hypernet’s options, you lose out in real life adventuring. This is, to a certain degree, a system-immanent issue of the rules as presented, but I honestly wished the pdf had some alternate, smoother rules for hypernet use.

 

In my tests, you either rock hard (if you focus on the hypernet) or suck hardcore (if you don’t) – and the requirement of basically an extra iteration of the character for use in the hypernet doesn’t make long-term use too comfortable. When this was just an aspect of the overall world, you could partially overlook it; when used in a one-shot, it doesn’t matter, but as a whole, it may make sense to have hypernet and regular characters for optimal fun. This renders the AMAZING variety of options less user-friendly than I’d like it to be – picture it as requiring a second character/needing to jump through hoops whenever you go planar adventuring. Whether you like that or don’t remains a matter of taste. Still, I honestly expected a bit more from this pdf – with a title like the acronym, I hoped for more awareness of the original system’s limitations and more clunky components. As a whole, this can either be worth it for you, or result in a slightly disappointed shrug – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars. As a person, my disappointment with the file exceeded my enjoyment of the cool new servers, but I’d usually round up. However, the accumulated editing glitches and asinine netjacker/server-chop-up-presentation honestly galled me to no end. Additionally, all aspects that really blew me away had been released before – the new material isn’t bad, but did not blow me out of the water; it doesn’t have the same amount of creative ésprit that Mike’s writing usually shows. If you don’t mind the above, round up – as a whole, in spite of liking a lot herein, I can’t bring myself to round up – hence my official verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down.

 

You can get this expansion here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 292017
 

Dear readers!

 

It’s that time once again!

 

I have a couple of cool kickstarters you may want to check out!

 

Dark Obelisk Character Compendium (PFRPG) by Infinium Game Studios:

This gigantic tome contains a massive amount of NPCs and pregens for use with the ambitious, colossal Dark Obelisk Saga…oh, and guess what: Both Characters AND Villains will get their due…and if the massive previous books are any indicator, the book will be MASSIVE indeed! You can check out this KS here – it has 11 days to go and is fully funded!

 

New Paths Compendium: PFRPG RPG Expanded Edition by Kobold Press:

The mighty kobolds have just started a new KS for an almost completed book: The revamp and expansion of their class-centric pdfs, released n the New Paths series, all in gorgeous full-color! The KS has 29 days to go (and will get another shout-out) but if you like the cool material the kobolds have, this is the place to go! Here is the link!

 

Culinary Magic Cookbook by Flaming Crab Games:

Okay, last, but definitely not least, the Flaming Crab Crew has fully funded the culinary magic cookbook, blending real life recipes you can actually cook with in-game magical effects (and yes, you can memorialize and even submit your recipes!!), the book promises to offer culinary delights AND more material for the cool subsystem! While fully funded, I have a huge hope that some of you folks out there will join this KS in the home-stretch. As per the writing of this, the KS only has 58 hours to go…but if we meet the 5K-mark (which is well within the realm of possibility!), we also get a brewbook! (The master of the Flaming Crab is a hobby brewer, just so you know!) So yeah, please take a look at this awesome project here and decide fast – the clock’s ticking!

 

If you like what I’m doing, please consider supporting my patreon. Every little bit helps and it literally keeps the lights on for me and this site going!! You can find my patreon here.

 

All right, that’s it for now…I remain, as always,

Yours truly,

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 292017
 

Modern Adventures

This massive book clocks in at 234 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 231 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This massive tome was gifted to me by one of my patreons for the purpose of a prioritized review. It has thus been moved up in my review-queue.

 

The first thing you’ll undoubtedly notice is that the above does not feature an editorial section – there is a reason for that, namely that each page has a sidebar on the left or right, which is used to provide commentary and elaborate on the content – the editorial can be found in such a side-bar on the very first page.

 

The first thing the pdf makes clear would be a decision I very much applaud – namely that, while this is clearly based on d20 Modern, it does not translate e.g. the classes to PFRPG and tries to instead provide its own solutions for modern gaming, a strategy based more on archetypes and the like. The pdf does note some changes in the gameplay first, e.g. the fact that modern gaming does not know massive, exceedingly potent armors – as such, AC will be lower and thus, further emphasize concealment etc. This may be one of the more problematic aspects of the game, as it further tilts the balance between offense and defense, already strongly in favor of offense in PFRPG, towards the offense side of things, but let’s talk about that after having taken in the whole of the rules.

 

The pdf also acknowledges that guns inflict a lot of damage at lower levels, but do not scale, damage-output-wise, as well as other options and the loudness of their shots make them less than subtle. A big plus here would be the reality of our modern work – prolonged gunfights are prone to draw the attention of the authorities. So, in fact, the campaign’s implicit realities may be a balancing factor here.

 

The next thing to consider, obviously, would be the reality of magic in the game: If you presume standard magic, there are potentially infinite permutations of effects on the game: From the use of dancing lights in warfare as signals to the consequence of create water and the like, the results are potentially endless and even exploring e.g. the fact that you can generate electricity from nothing or permanent fire and how that influenced our cultures and how the world works. The pdf does come with different standard magic levels: In worlds with fading magic, successfully casting a spell requires a concentration heck versus DC 20 + the spell’s level and magic item creation takes twice as long. Alternatively, there is an interesting option that makes spells basically behave like rituals – they receive a casting time in full rounds equal to their spell-level and all magic items of +3 or higher will be basically artifacts, with lower-powered items requiring thrice as long to create. Spells with full-round casting times multiply their casting time by 3 times the spell’s level. There are a couple of issues with this otherwise interesting system: For one, it does not take spells that can be cast as immediate, swift, etc. actions into account and metamagic feats that increase casting duration similarly become problematic. Additionally, spontaneous casters are extremely nerfed by this system, losing what made them work in the first place – their spontaneity. SUs take a full-round to activate and continuous ones reduce their save DC (erroneously called “resistance DC” here) by 2 and suffer from halved effects.

 

The next option would be aspected magic, which suggests limiting magic to suit the needs of the particular campaign. No hard rules are provided here. Localized magic assumes that magic functions only under specific circumstances or in specific places and supernatural magic as an option basically eliminates spellcasting and mentions that it works best for horror/survivalist types of games – a cursory glance at the potency of supernatural class options, however, can make this assumption slightly problematic as well. Finally, there is the option of playing sans magic – dead magic, if you will. The issue regarding math is evident to anyone who has crunched the numbers of PFRPG at one point – in order to make the math come out right, you need magic at one point.

 

If all of this sounds harsh, then rest assured that it’s not intended to be taken as such – but the pdf’s “solutions” for these choices are somewhat lackluster – I expected more crunchy alternate bonus type progressions and rules to supplement these respective choices – as provided, they unanimously will generate issues.

 

Onwards to the next section, which deals with the general classifications of history you can embark on: In covert history, magic is real, but a closely-guarded secret. More interesting would be the concept of secret history, where a force called “The Shroud” shields our memory and perception from the ability to perceive magic creatures, elves, etc. living among us properly. Finally, divergent and alternate history are touched upon – these sections generally constitute nice starting points. Races and how common they are and magic-level combinations are touched upon, discussing the respective core races in a modern context, while also providing alternate racial traits (which deserve applause – they are generally well-balanced!) and favored class options for the new classes.

 

Which brings me to the subject matter of classes, which are codified according to magic-levels and whether they’re appropriate for the respective world. Class skill modifications, if appropriate, are included for the classes and the table also contains the aforementioned new ones; it should be noted that the classes covered here are restricted to core and APG-classes – neither magus, nor the UC, ACG or Occult classes receive consideration here. Sorcerors are big winners in this chapter, gaining 4 bloodlines to represent common tropes of real-life magic – pyrokineticism, telepathy, telekinesis and spiritualism. The rules are generally solid here, though there are a couple of minor guffaws in the rules-language – save DC-formulae switching from 3rd person to second, willpower saves instead of Will saves and the like. More annoying – spell references that are capitalized instead of italicized. That is a big and pretty annoying formatting hiccup that can be found here and there throughout the pdf. Which is baffling to me, considering that spells have been properly italicized in e.g. the bonus spell sections of the bloodlines…and indeed, in later sections, more often than not, the pdf gets it right.

 

Okay, so, the new classes. The first of these would be the Charmer, who gains d6 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, sword canes, handguns and light armors. They gain 1/2 BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. The class begins play with Expertise as a bonus feat and a mesmerism pool equal to twice the class level + the Charmer’s Charisma modifier. As a standard action, the charmer can spend a mesmerism point to fascinate a target, which may be maintained as a move action and the fascination is not automatically broken by nearby combat, but only by direct attacks on the target. The ability thankfully has a range and a save to resist and is properly codified – though, as a nitpick, the save-DC formula is presented in the incorrect sequence – it’s 10 + incremental level scaling + attribute modifier, not first the attribute modifier…but that remains a mostly cosmetic hiccup. The class can use Bluff to run short-term cons to gain money and gains +1/2 class level to Diplomacy as well as +1 insight bonus to AC that increases every 4 levels thereafter to a maximum of +5. Second level yields NPC contacts, which slightly confusingly refers once to “begins play” – which is usually 1st level. But that is a cosmetic gripe. Danger-sense, though, is weird – it nets a second “roll to avoid being surprised” – what’s that supposed to mean? No idea. It is also somewhat unfortunately-named, considering the rogue ability of the same name.

 

Things get interesting with 2nd level, as the charmer gets an ever-increasing array of uses for the mesmerist points, with fatigue instilling or suppression and the like – the abilities interact with conditions, though, if you expected choice here, I’ll have to disappoint you – the sequence of ability gains is strictly linear. On the plus-side, the pdf seems to get condition-interaction right, allowing for e.g. the reduction of exhaustion to fatigue, etc. Higher levels yield black market connections, the option to duplicate an extraordinary version of charm person/monster. 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter yield an alternate identity, though since this predates Ultimate Intrigue, the ability feels a bit brief and very much a flavor option. Starting at 5th level, either via hero points or 1/level, the charmer can gain favors from NPCs. One ability lacks the level it’s gained in the text, though the table does mention it. Starting at 13th level, they learn to instill manias, delusions and phobias and archetype-wise, gambler, undercover spy and romancer are included. I am not a fan of this rather linear class.

 

The second class is the entertainer, who gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref-saves, proficiency with simple weapons, pistols and light armors…and they basically represent a bard-like option: The class knows 6 types of different performances, drama, comedy, dance, instrumental, oratory and sing and the emotion effects performances are capable of capable of generating benefits and penalties, with each performance having two emotion effects assigned. It is pretty cool to see the requirement for Int for some, but I am not 100% sure whether a given performance triggers both effects or just one. The class extends the range of affected targets and the emotion effects provided for the respective performances, which is pretty cool. The class gains +1/2 class level to Knowledge (pop culture), a bard’s fascinate, better total defense and they can use limited wild card skill. Unlike the charmer, the entertainer is more flexible and has a lot more options and some actual customization, for second level and every 2 levels thereafter yield a shtick, the talent-array of the class. These allow for enhanced emotion effects, feats, etc. and generally are interesting.

 

The class does come with abilities to emulate the class abilities of other classes and, while it gets multiclassing-synergy right (kudos there), I still consider the rules-language to need a bit more oomph here due to the wide-open nature of the ability – still, kudos, this ranks as one of the best examples of such an ability I have seen in a codified manner. The further abilities of the class allow for teamwork feat adaptation and recommend items, have a steady income, etc. – Stand-up Comedic, Stuntman and Professional Athlete would be the archetypes included for this class. All in all, a better class than the charmer.

 

The third new class would be the gadgeteer, who gains d8 HD, 8 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref-saves and proficiency with simple weapons, handguns, machine pistols and light armors. At 2nd level, they get their first gizmo and a total of 4 levels. The gadgeteer can basically generate gizmos, duplicating different spells. These are somewhat unstable and hard to use for other classes- the class also gets so-called eureka gizmos, with additional options being made available at higher levels. The class provides several skill-based options to mitigate the broken condition, with class abilities focusing on tech, laying traps, granting equipment bonuses to items and at higher levels, they learn to craft Futuretech items – i.e. stable versions of the prototype gizmos. The interesting component of the class, however, would be that they receive basically a robotic construct companion that scales with them – these companions are programmed via macros. They are command as swift actions and three sample means of controlling them are provided. 12 different basic frameworks are provided, ranging from exoskeletons to spider drones, mini-tanks or even motorcycles and the like – so yes, you can play Knightrider with this class. The respective base forms generally are solid in their balancing and obviously provide different playing experiences, with certain limits applying to them. This section, as a whole, is surprisingly well-crafted, with unique macros for e.g. swarms and the like. Once again, three archetypes are provided, namely racer, hacker and saboteur. While I do have takes on the concept I personally prefer, this is definitely not a bad option and, considering the complexity, a rather well-made one.

 

The investigator class gets d8 HD, 8 + Int skills per level, 3(4 BAb-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves and proficiency with handguns, simple weapons, light and medium armor and basically represent exactly what you’d think – a chassis to play Sherlock Holmes, CSI-guys, cops, etc. – as such, the class abilities feature the ability to size up opponents via Knowledge (psychology). They get a variant of favored enemy for cultural groups and networks of informants and the class has a massive, expansive talent section, which includes penalty-less non-lethal combat, skill-bonuses, spell-duplication and so much more. Forensic investigation, forcing confessions and the like – the class has a lot to offer and represents a surprisingly good take on the trope. Archetype-wise, we get the bounty hunter, gentleman detective, muchraker and superfan. Once again, not a bad class!

 

The scholar class would be another kind of skill monkey, with d6 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, good Will-saves, 1/2 BAB-progression and proficiency with only simple weapons. They can brew concoctions, which act as potion-like abilities, with a pretty wide array of options available. Beyond that and the obvious theme of Knowledge skills, they also gain theses on every even-numbered level – these represents a massive, multiple pages spanning list of talents to choose from. At higher levels, scholars can mislead (read: daze) targets temporarily, generate plans that convey bonuses and become resistant to mind-influencing and emotion effects with a selective SR. The archetypes are the engineer, geneticist, psychologist and skeptic – once again, a generally well-made and compelling class.

 

Finally, the stranger gets d12 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, proficiency with simple and archaic weapons as well as light armors and shields: They are the catch-all class for the hardened survivors: make-shift armors, Endurance, favored terrain, uncanny dodge, better movement – you get the idea. The Archetypes include the drunken bum, the parolee, the street preacher, traditional tribal warrior and survivalist. A decent class, if a bit linear, as far as I’m concerned.

 

The pdf also mentions NPC classes and their basic modifications of the classic ones and goes on to update the skills available for modern gaming, with new Craft and Knowledge skills, Computers and Pilot. Similarly, the pdf contains various feats and feat clarifications of classic feats. Starting cash in dollars, equipment (including a wide variety of guns, use of firehoses as damaging sources, flare guns, flamethrowers, alternate ammunition, suppressors, explosives – basically, this doesn’t leave much to be desired and also includes restrictions of e.g. availability of certain objects. From fake IDs to night-vision goggles, this huge chapter provides a lot of cool material. IT should be noted that the pdf does cover rules for automatic fire and overlapping fields of fire.

 

Somewhat annoying if you’re looking for something specific: The pdf provides magic items in the side-bars throughout this chapter, which makes finding a specific magic item a bit of a hassle. Damn cool: We get vehicle stats for jet fighters, trucks, various cars, motorcycles and the like and the pdf does provide a concise overview of various costs of living and the respective standards. Beyond these rules, we receive 12 new spells, from discern password to magical masking of metal and clarifications for the use of traditional spells in a modern context can also be found.

 

Now, I touched before on gizmos as unstable prototypes – they and the more stable futuretech are discussed in their own chapter: From pocket flamethrowers and rocketpacks to psychic screwdrivers (Dr. Who fans will smile here…) to endure elements duplicators, these act basically as an alternate take on “magic” items – they have CLs and are presented as such, so if you’ve been using the Technology Guide, don’t expect compatibility here. That being said, the section generally is rather nice. The more unique and impressive eureka gizmos I mentioned before get their own section, just fyi – and they increase their effects, though the respective upgrades do come with a hefty price in additional to the minimum level requirements for the upgrades.

 

After this, we get a chapter on real diseases (curable ones only) and poisons before we are introduced to the sample campaign world, which is designated Fifth World: While the name may generate some cringing fro SR-fans, the setting is actually interesting – it takes the basic framework of Norse myth’s nine worlds and applies it to a modern context. A brief adventure outline and some encounter sketches can be found here as well, though these are very basic and bare-bones. The second campaign setting sketch we get would be silicon gothic, a futuristic high-tech espionage dystopia under corporate control. Three encounters sketch a sample adventure in this setting. It should be noted that both of these settings come with a few sample statblocks.

 

Conclusion:

Editing is surprisingly good for a crunch-book of this size – on a formal level, there isn’t much to complain. The rules-language is similarly an interesting experience, for while there are a couple of formatting glitches and deviations from the default, as a whole, the rules-language is surprisingly well-crafted and the classes offer significantly more (and better!) options than what d20 Modern’s roster provided. Layout is a weak spot of the book – the use of the sidebar, generally, isn’t bad or anything, but e.g. cramming magic items there can make navigation more of a hassle. That being said, the book employs a 1-column standard. The book sports a lot of full-color artworks in the same comic-like style that you can see on the cover – they did not impress me as a whole, but don’t hurt the book either. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with extensive, nested bookmarks and a second version, optimized for mobile device usage as well as sample character sheets.

 

M. Andrew Payne, with contributions from Jason Bean, Andrew Boggs, Nik Palmer and Antoinette Riggs has crafted a rather massive and pretty impressive toolkit, one that does a better job at bringing modern gameplay to PFRPG than many approaches I have seen; in fact, I was surprised by this, as it had completely flown under my radar. This does a lot right: The new classes make sense, and with the exception of the charmer and stranger, provide a lot of player-agenda and viable options. The equipment section, gizmos, etc. all constitute viable playing options as well. At the same time, I think I managed to highlight why I don’t consider this to be perfect: Beyond the small hiccups in the rules-aesthetics, in particular the campaign customization leaves a bit to be desired. If you present variant campaign settings and address the magic-conundrum, then that somewhat has to be mirrored by rules – be it with suggested automatic bonus progressions or a similar way. As presented, the defensive options available in a modern game will be quickly outpaced by the offensive ones and just balancing via the implicit world, while a viable strategy, on its own isn’t wholly satisfying to me.

 

That is the one true failure of the book: I believe that it could have been a representation of true greatness if it had addressed these issues. Since it doesn’t, it basically represents a good book, for some it may even be very good. The options in this toolkit are diverse, interesting and bring, in one handy tome, a rather impressive and solid toolkit for modern gaming to Pathfinder…so if that’s what you’ve been looking for, look no further. If the notion never really interested you or if one of the more advanced pathfinder options (OA, Tech-guide, etc.) should be part of your game, then you’ll have to join me in waiting for, hopefully, an expansion at one point. As is, this book is worth getting. It does its job admirably-well and, as a whole, certainly deserves the obvious work that went into this being acknowledged. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars – a good toolkit for modern gaming, but one that does leave some work in the hands of the GM.

 

You can get this massive toolkit here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Jun 292017
 

Ultimate Herbalism

This massive first part of the Strange Magic II-project clocks in at 162 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a ridiculous 158 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

However, before we do, please be aware that I acted as editor for this project. I was not involved in the creation of the crunch for it, though. Still, as such, I will refrain from rating this book and try to curtail my enthusiasm for it. The system itself is based on Bradley Crouch’s second base-class, the Herbalist, which I reviewed back in the day, long before this was even remotely close to an *idea*, much less a finished book. However, this book is, essentially, more than a colossal revision and expansion – a simple look at the page-count will tell you that.

 

So, first thing you need to know is that the system sports three base classes, the gourmend, the naturalist and the herbalist.

 

Chassis-wise, they far as follows: The Gourmend gets 1/2 BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, d6 HD and proficiency with simple weapons and shields, excluding tower shields. The class is subject to arcane spell failure regarding the use of preservation pots etc. when using armor etc. without proficiency. The class gets 4 + Int skills per level.

 

The herbalist’s chasses nets d8 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and scythe and light armor and shields, applying arcane spell failure as spoilage chance when using non-proficient armors etc. The herby gets 3/4 BAB-progression and good Fort- as well as Will-saves.

 

The naturalist gets 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, d8 HD, 2 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple weapons and martial weapons sans metal as well as light and medium armor proficiency and with non-metallic shields. As before, the class suffers from non-proficiency issues of spoilage for the respective items when dealing with non-proficient armor etc.

 

Now, all three classes have in common that they employ earthenware jars: Naturalists begin with one such jar and increase that to up to 4 over the levels; the gourmend also begins with one jar and increases this to 6. The herbalist begins with 1 such jar and also increases this to a maximum of 6. Earthenware jars are distinguished in two different categories – cultivation pots and preservation vessels. The naturalist has to choose which one he’ll get, respectively, while the herbalist and gourmend track them separately. Plants with the herb descriptor collected can be placed in a cultivation pot – thereafter, the pot yields such a herb on the following morning regardless of environment. Preservation vessels can prevent the spoilage of herbalism plants and products (output from recipes) and each such vessel can contain up to 4 points worth of material, but each vessel can only contain one product.

 

Basically, the cultivation pots allow you to carry herbs from environments to other places and retain them, while preservation vessels provide a means for preparing one-use stuff and other options…storing up on limited use material, basically.

 

Before we go into the respective classes, it should be noted that this system is, to a significant degree, druidic chaos-magic: Basically, you roll find herbs each day and consult the table(s) for the biome you’re currently in – this roll then determines the plants you get to choose for that day. The classes increase the number of find herbs rolls the respective classes – the higher the level, the more rolls. The classes can all get up to 10 such rolls. The total point value of the respective plants in each entry of the tables for the biomes is the same, mind you: Naturalists roll on tables that provide a value of 6 points worth of plants, whereas gourmends and herbalists roll on tables worth 10 points of plants per entry.

 

If that sounds complicated, rest assured it most definitely is not – you roll and there you go. Plants generally range in point values from 1 – 4, just fyi – 4-point plants tend to be special plants with powerful effects, whereas the lesser point values represent more common (or more broadly applicable) plants. The presence of jars allow a well-travelled herbalism user to customize his herbs, as he gains various plants from diverse biomes, allowing for a LOT of combos and providing a reason to travel and adventure right there written into the chassis of the system.

 

There is one more thing to bear in mind – some plants are asterisk’d in the respective table – the reason for this lies in the fact that some archetypes modify the find herbs roll and the base engine, which can eliminate these choices…but more on that later. As you may have noted above, cultivation pots can usually only cultivate plants with the herb descriptor. There is a reason for this limitation in the soft balancing of the class and system, but there are other descriptors like fruit or fungi – with the right feat, these can also be cultivated, providing an even further increased amount of customization options between herbalism users.

 

Before we get to the plants themselves, it should be noted that all of the three classes get favored class options for the core races as well as aasimar, drow, hobgoblin, kobold, orc, puddling and tiefling – the Interjection Games array of FCOs, basically. So what distinguishes the three classes? Well, the gourmend begins with a culinary background and culinary pool equal to class level + Wisdom modifier. This pool replenishes itself after resting and is primarily used in the preparatory phase of the adventuring day. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter yield a talent from the selection of the class and the class employs recipes – it begins play with one known and adds another one each class level – these are written down in the recipe book and require a skill-check to pull off; the results of such a recipe spoil over night unless preserved in some way. Furthermore, the class, starting at 2nd level, constructs a familiar out of foodstuff. A fox of sausages? A gingerbread scorpion? All possible. This whole custom familiar-building ties into aforementioned culinary skillsets. These basically can be pictured as orders or the like, but provide more options and imho a bigger impact on playing. Why? Well bakers can create terrain control doughballs that can be further upgraded with talents…and combine such doughballs into gingerbread cookie golems!

 

Candymakers can create weaponized candy and a vast array of magical truffles! Cheesemakers get a similarly impressive array of diverse cheese types, while specialists of meat can harvest meat and prepare it for buffs…and they know their knives…Finally, preservation brewers can brew certain plants and thus carry more of them around…though the process isn’t as simple as it first sounds. These basic culinary skillsets also btw. influence greatly the customization options available via aforementioned talents: New cheese-types, permanent candy weapons, quicker cheese-ripening, gingerbread golems with limited skills and feats…there is a lot of cool customization here…including socketing truffles on ranged candy ammunition. Yes, this may sound ridiculous…it kinda is…but you’ll stop laughing when the insane guy starts kicking your butt with candy canes…

 

The herbalist gets a similar, yet completely different set-up: The class also gets a pool (1/2 class level + Wisdom modifier) and recipes at 1st 2nd and every 2 levels thereafter. As the prime herbalism users, they also get some anti-poison/poison-use-themed abilities and are defined more by their plants and cultivation choices – which can be enhanced via aforementioned pool. The chassis here, in short, is easier to grasp, simple, really.

 

So, what’s the defining trait of the naturalist? Plant companion. These guys carry a huge terracotta pot around with them, and inside is a deadly, carnivorous plant. Like an oversized, mean-spirited pitcher-plant. Or, perhaps more easy to picture, a rabid venus man-trap. This once was an archetype, conceptually, and I complained back then that this should be a full-blown class, with plant-familiar customization. Guess what we got? Bingo! Want your plant to have grabbing roots to spider climb you around? What about jets of acid? Or sickening halitosis? Or a pouch that can transform plants into other plants? Or the option to have your companion produce some plants? To attune to microcosms (basically biome subtypes)…or perhaps you’d like to philosophize with the plant? No problem, it can get Knowledge skills! This is basically the herbalism pet-class par excellence and it really is rewarding to customize the plant with the myriad of options available.

 

Speaking of options – there are archetypes. A lot of them. One for the naturalist trades the plant and jars for spellcasting. A herbalist archetype specializes on poisons. Zen cultivators use ki (multiclass, baby!) and carry around miniature zen-gardens. Flowerchild herby get a modified familiar, while compounders can use herbalism poisons as cures (!!), which can really help versus unfair arrays of ability-damage spewing foes. Armotalologists can make incense of plants, changing how the base engine of the class works…and speaking of which: Gardeners learn to use their green thumb pool to use special earths that can be employed to modify plants. All of these are impressive per se, but three stand out: The Entomologist, the Mycologist and the Geologist.

 

In any other books, these guys would be their own classes. In fact, they basically are: While using the common engine, they all have their very own and utterly unique lists of effects: The entomologist catches magical insects (which eat herbs, just btw.); mycologists get a vast array of cool fungi and exclusive tricks…and geologists gain rocks. You know, for the people that are so misanthropic, they even hate plants. 😉 Kidding aside, the geologist rocks are also basically their own set of unique effects. While we’re at the subject of fungi – there is a fungus variant for the naturalist as well…and an archetype that gets a hive-like amalgamation of fungal material, which can generate a wholly deadly an unique array of spore-based pain.

 

And yes, the feat-chapter provides MOAR customization for these complex options…and archetypes can be combined, to a degree, with sidebars explaining the multiclassing process and the like

 

While the respective biomes and lists of them are provided for your convenience, it is amazing to note that the respective plants come with an extremely concisely-presented explanation of how they work – so even if you’re not the rules-savviest of players, this should not provide a big hindrance. Plants can provide a metric Ton of different effects – from bomb-like explosions to healing to oil-like applications, going through them all would frankly bloat this text beyond belief. Suffice to say, in the tradition of Interjection Games, you will not find lame “copies xyz”-arrays: There is a ton of material here that does things other systems and options can’t do…or does it at least differently, lending a unique identity to the classes and how they play.

 

Now, I know, this sounds kinda cool, but there may be issue with differentiation in some campaigns. What if, e.g., you travel from a horrid battlefield in the desert to a place in the same desert where horrible things from outer space crashed – are you stuck with the same biomes? Nope. This is where microcosms come in. When in an appropriate environment that would qualify, you can roll on the table and replace the asterisk’d plants with a roll on the microcosm’s respective table – and these are not lazy reconfigurations of the regular plant-life, mind you: We actually get thoroughly unique plants! 9 microcosms are provided and since the rules for making your own biomes and microcosms are so simple, creativity is basically the limit. Not that you’d need to anytime soon – with the vast amount of herbs, 9 base biomes, the supplemental engines and the recipes, you can play for years without this becoming stale.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch – or at least I hope so. Layout adheres to a nice two-column standard with a white back ground and nice, green and unobtrusive vines on the sides. The interior artworks are beautiful water colors and original b/w-character artworks, which lend in combination a rather nostalgic and warm-hearted touch to the file. The pdf comes with extensive, nested bookmarks, making navigation simple and convenient.

 

Suffice to say, I liked the original herbalist and this one-ups the whole thing; no, it escalates it. You see, one issue with chaos-magic and such systems always lies with the chance of being stuck with useless options – and in all the playtesting I had with this engine, I *NEVER* encountered that scenario. The pots-engine allows for a degree of control, but not without rewarding expenditure, not without compromising the chaotic nature that is ingrained in the engine. I consider this a really remarkable and well-made system that has a metric ton of playing mileage to offer. I know that I can’t imagine not using this in my game.

 

But then, while I do not consider myself biased (ask me about stuff I personally wrote that imho isn’t up to par and I’ll gladly answer), one could consider me biased here due to my involvement with the creation of this book. That being said, there are a bunch of 5-star-reviews for this book out there and if you get this book based on my recommendation and don’t like it, contact me. I am positive that, if the concept even remotely intrigues you, you’ll love this for its balanced, versatile and well-crafted array of options.

 

You can get this massive tome here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Interjection Games here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 282017
 

Weird Adventures (OSR)

This massive sourcebook clocks in at 165 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 161 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, what is this? Well, picture a setting, the Strange New World, that puts fantasy tropes in an era reminiscent of the interim between the two World Wars, as seen through the lens of the classic pulp magazines of old. The history of the world is thus somewhat akin to what you’d expect, though it should be noted than nice, poster-style artworks provide cliff-notes versions of what once was. It should be noted, though, that the focus of this book lies exclusively on the New World – which sees enough problems of its own with drought, etc., spiraling the country towards a great depression. The pdf provides notes on days and months, holidays, etc.

 

Race-wise, the Ancients brought the Black Folk to the new world before the arrival of the Ealderish, the Europe-stand-in, if you’d like. Natives and Yianese also make for obvious substitutions and feature twists that set them slightly apart from real world equivalents. A similar approach is taken for religion – old-time religions would be those based on variations of the montheistic writings; Oecumenical hierarchate practices religion more stringently and adds saints and the like for a ore Catholicism-like version. Beyond that, eikones exist – i.e. personifications of concepts and yes, pagan gods do exist. It is interesting to observe that this book does talk about the ramifications of the possibility of journeys to hell and heaven, respectively!

 

Magic follows roughly two different paths: thaumaturgy, which denotes basically the scientific/academic form of magic, while mysticism is more intuitive – somewhat akin to the divide between prepared and spontaneous casters, though rules-wise, there is no difference here apart from the extensively elaborated upon different social ramifications. The continent, just fyi, is fully mapped in color and from here, we embark on the gazetteer-section of the book, which provides an interesting look at the nations, sometimes with a wink and a smile: The US-equivalent would be the “United Territories of Freedonia”, for example, while Zingaro, the great Meso-American stand-in, mentions e.g. Sainted Mother Death and the like – we have magically icy winds in the north and little bits and pieces with crunch as well as plot-seeds galore. Have I mentioned the settlement Cuijatepec, where interred bodies mummify and walk the land (complete with a b/w-picture of a badass mummy mariachi gunslinger), deadly jungles, 10 sample ways to die in the deep – this chapter provides a nice “big picture”-view of the Americas in this setting.

 

From the big picture, we move inwards towards a tad bit more details, with the chapter “On the Weird Road” (nice Kerouac-nod there!), a chapter which goes into the details of the Union, including its currency (with fitting nicknames), explanations of the government and interesting twists – when e.g. monster-hunting paladins of great families inherit their father’s swords to their offspring. Arkham, including a famous asylum, can be found…and then there is the City, whose hegemony extends beyond the holdings of the Five Baronies – the City is vast and its constituents include an alien city with an unstable topography that may or may not exist at any given time, the gambling paradise (or hell) of Faro City, a New Orleans equivalent…and the smaragdine mountains…have I mentioned the rules for magical bootleg alcohol, a dwarven city, an infernal mafia or the dustlands, haunted by wrathful elementals? The monster-haunted Grand Cany…eh, Chasm, rushes for the Black Gold and the center of the entertainment industry, Heliotrope, home of the legendary gunslinger hero Big Jim Trane, who is sometimes riding a giant prehistoric cat. Occult feminism, cigarette-“ads” for djinn cigarettes – it is nice touches like this that manage to lend a sense of authenticity to the proceedings.

 

From this, we move on to the City proper, which, as mentioned before, is roughly separated into 5 baronies. It should be noted that the map here is functional, but pretty barebones, with the exception of the fully depicted Empire Island, which contains the Central park equivalent as well as TON of highly detailed locales and hooks: From the slums of Hardluck to the financial district, we run a wide array of themes and tropes, supplemented by random encounters (fluff-only). Inevitables haunt those that would resist the taxation or wish harm on the Municipal Building (fitting!), while being an exterminator in such a setting, obvious, is a rather dangerous profession. Also cool: Little Carcosa. Just figured I’d mention that one. 😉 Grimalkin village, ziggurats topped with Tesla coils, loan sharks and the race of barrow men ( CON and CHA +1, +2 to saves vs. poison, disease and contagion, can horrify targets with a variant of fascinate, penalizing saves), ghoulish undertown…have I mentioned the Lady of Amaranth Park, the airship dock contained in Grand Terminus, Dwergentown or the mysterious Mr. Nick Scratch? Or the degenerate, human-slaughtering eikomne? The charities that lord over the circus district?

 

Here, you can find phantom automats, meet gentlemen mentalists, realize that vampires are pretty much very dangerous addicts, go to “Sal’s Paradise, Jump!”, listen to magical jazz…and have I mentioned the area that now is straight out of The Magical Monarch of Mu (guess what that one is the analogue of…) or the theft of an elephantine colossus by notorious lich Hieronymus Gaunt?

 

The pdf also provides a variety of different monsters: These come with both ascending and descending AC-values, HD, number encountered and a general idea of movement rates (“fast flyer”, for example), allowing for relatively easy integration into a given specific rules-set. These include black blizzards, undead, illithid-like brain-invaders, crabmen, hitfiends (hilarious!), gatormen, living ghost-towns, hill-billy giants, living totems, lounge lizards, murder ballads that conceal themselves in songs, pink elephants (!!!), the Reds (agents of the underground civilization!)…and much more.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has color maps that are decent and an amazing full-color artwork on the inside of the front cover. The interior-artwork is original and b/w and really nice. It should be noted that “advertisements” in the style of the 20s and 30s are littered throughout the book, adding a sense of authenticity to the file. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. I can’t comment on the physical versions, since I only own the pdf-version.

 

Trey Causey’s Weird Adventures did not have an easy standing with me. You see, I love the pulp genre and I love the fantasy genre. Thing is, I don’t think they mix well. At all. Similarly, I have read so many allotopias and near-earth settings, they tend to end up boring my socks off. In short: This is one book I would have never bought or read, were it not for my reviewer status.

 

Guess what? I’m honestly glad I did read this! You see, this pdf actually manages to properly blend the fantastic and the pulp genre without getting bogged down in Tolkienesque tropes. It draws from a vast wealth of knowledge and obviously careful research and its ideas go beyond winking “add fantasy” variants of real world phenomena, creating a world that is at the same time radically different and thoroughly grounded in our cultures….while changing them rather drastically. In short, this actually manages the nigh-impossible task of blending the two genres with panache aplomb. Now personally, I do not necessarily love this – but I am absolutely impressed by the depth of imagination and by the obvious love that went into this book. This is obviously a labor of passion and it shows on pretty much every page. It is very rules-lite, which makes conversion to pretty much any system really easy as well – and what more can you ask for? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars. If the ideas even remotely sound like they could interest you, check this out!

 

You can get this unique campaign setting here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Jun 282017
 

Places of Power: Visionary’s Perch

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Amidst storm-tossed waters most dangerous, surrounded by pirate- and shark-infested waters of the Sapphire Sea, there rises a tower from a scraggy shore, one that houses an oracle most peculiar. As PCs with the required skills may find out, this seeress is actually an ancient cyclops, the last of a conquered people, watched over by the elves that elves that once destroyed her people.

 

The style of dressing and bearing of the militaristic elves that guard this gilded cage is provided for our convenience and, big plus, we do get a nice marketplace-section depicting thematically-fitting minor magic items for sale here.

 

As always in this by now time-honored series, we do also receive 6 sample events that can help ignite action or adventures, while a 6-entry-spanning table contains whispers and rumors that serve a similar function and may add some serious local color and flair to the environment in question.

 

The map deserves special mention this time around, for it covers three tiny islands on rocky crags, connected via bridges over storm-tossed waters, with the first representing the arrival area, the second the base of the elves and the third containing aforementioned eponymous perch; this contains the seeress Eudonia’s tower, a greenhouse and yet another watch post. It should also be noted that a truly wondrous and amazing b/w-rendition of the location makes for one amazing visual representation of this magical place, where Eudonia, perhaps the last of her kind, spends her days. Her personality and mannerisms are further elucidated in a nice, fluffy NPC-write-up and she is also represented in a really impressive piece of b/w-artwork. While she is trying to avoid harm, it can be surmised that in the long-term, her plan is to regain her freedom once more…and each and every quest for her insights may bring her closer to this goal…

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks in this one, by William McAusland, Justin Russell and Maciej Zagorski deserve special mention – they are amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press’ patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

 

Jacob W. Michaels’ “Visionary’s Perch” is AMAZING. While the pdf suggests that inclusion in a nautical/pirate campaign would be easy, I can easily see this work in any campaign: Find the legendary seeress to gain the crucial knowledge required? That trope’s as old as time…but it works here. The perch is wondrous and the strangeness and alien allure is contrasted sharply by the militaristic elves, which allows the GM to weave the plot in a variety of different angles. Hostile or benign or anything in-between, this place has a lot to offer and breathes a surprising depth of themes; whether high fantasy or sword & sorcery, pseudo-Greek or Tolkienesque, with only a minimum of reskins, even the elves could be replaced with e.g. myrmidons. My one complaint here would be that I would have loved to see a couple of sample esoteric prices to pay for the gifts of the seeress, but that’s mostly cosmetic.

In short, this is a very useful, evocative and cool location – well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

 

You can get the best iteration of this cool locale here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 282017
 

Places of Power: Visionary’s Perch (system neutral)

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Amidst storm-tossed waters most dangerous, surrounded by pirate- and shark-infested waters of the Sapphire Sea, there rises a tower from a scraggy shore, one that houses an oracle most peculiar. As PCs with the required knowledge may find out, this seeress is actually an ancient cyclops, the last of a conquered people, watched over by the elves that elves that once destroyed her people.

 

The style of dressing and bearing of the militaristic elves that guard this gilded cage is provided for our convenience. The marketplace-section is absent from the system-neutral version.

 

As always in this by now time-honored series, we do also receive 6 sample events that can help ignite action or adventures, while a 6-entry-spanning table contains whispers and rumors that serve a similar function and may add some serious local color and flair to the environment in question.

 

The map deserves special mention this time around, for it covers three tiny islands on rocky crags, connected via bridges over storm-tossed waters, with the first representing the arrival area, the second the base of the elves and the third containing aforementioned eponymous perch; this contains the seeress Eudonia’s tower, a greenhouse and yet another watch post. It should also be noted that a truly wondrous and amazing b/w-rendition of the location makes for one amazing visual representation of this magical place, where Eudonia, perhaps the last of her kind, spends her days. Her personality and mannerisms are further elucidated in a nice, fluffy NPC-write-up and she is also represented in a really impressive piece of b/w-artwork. While she is trying to avoid harm, it can be surmised that in the long-term, her plan is to regain her freedom once more…and each and every quest for her insights may bring her closer to this goal…

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks in this one, by William McAusland, Justin Russell and Maciej Zagorski deserve special mention – they are amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press’ patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

 

Jacob W. Michaels’ “Visionary’s Perch” is AMAZING. While the pdf suggests that inclusion in a nautical/pirate campaign would be easy, I can easily see this work in any campaign: Find the legendary seeress to gain the crucial knowledge required? That trope’s as old as time…but it works here. The perch is wondrous and the strangeness and alien allure is contrasted sharply by the militaristic elves, which allows the GM to weave the plot in a variety of different angles. Hostile or benign or anything in-between, this place has a lot to offer and breathes a surprising depth of themes; whether high fantasy or sword & sorcery, pseudo-Greek or Tolkienesque, with only a minimum of reskins, even the elves could be replaced with e.g. myrmidons. My one complaint here would be that I would have loved to see a couple of sample esoteric prices to pay for the gifts of the seeress, but that’s mostly cosmetic – still, considering that the system-neutral version loses the marketplace, the bonus content would have been nice, which makes its absence weigh slightly more in this iteration. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I will still round up for this version. If you have the luxury of choice, the PFRPG-offering provides slightly more content.

 

You can get this cool set-piece here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Jun 282017
 

Places of Power: Visionary’s Perch (5e)

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Amidst storm-tossed waters most dangerous, surrounded by pirate- and shark-infested waters of the Sapphire Sea, there rises a tower from a scraggy shore, one that houses an oracle most peculiar. As PCs with the required Intelligence check may find out, this seeress is actually an ancient cyclops, the last of a conquered people, watched over by the elves that elves that once destroyed her people.

 

The style of dressing and bearing of the militaristic elves that guard this gilded cage is provided for our convenience. The marketplace-section is absent from the 5e version.

 

As always in this by now time-honored series, we do also receive 6 sample events that can help ignite action or adventures, while a 6-entry-spanning table contains whispers and rumors that serve a similar function and may add some serious local color and flair to the environment in question – provided the PCs meet the respective Charisma checks.

 

The map deserves special mention this time around, for it covers three tiny islands on rocky crags, connected via bridges over storm-tossed waters, with the first representing the arrival area, the second the base of the elves and the third containing aforementioned eponymous perch; this contains the seeress Eudonia’s tower, a greenhouse and yet another watch post. It should also be noted that a truly wondrous and amazing b/w-rendition of the location makes for one amazing visual representation of this magical place, where Eudonia, perhaps the last of her kind, spends her days. Her personality and mannerisms are further elucidated in a nice, fluffy NPC-write-up and she is also represented in a really impressive piece of b/w-artwork. While she is trying to avoid harm, it can be surmised that in the long-term, her plan is to regain her freedom once more…and each and every quest for her insights may bring her closer to this goal…

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks in this one, by William McAusland, Justin Russell and Maciej Zagorski deserve special mention – they are amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press’ patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.

 

Jacob W. Michaels’ “Visionary’s Perch” is AMAZING. While the pdf suggests that inclusion in a nautical/pirate campaign would be easy, I can easily see this work in any campaign: Find the legendary seeress to gain the crucial knowledge required? That trope’s as old as time…but it works here. The perch is wondrous and the strangeness and alien allure is contrasted sharply by the militaristic elves, which allows the GM to weave the plot in a variety of different angles. Hostile or benign or anything in-between, this place has a lot to offer and breathes a surprising depth of themes; whether high fantasy or sword & sorcery, pseudo-Greek or Tolkienesque, with only a minimum of reskins, even the elves could be replaced with e.g. myrmidons. My one complaint here would be that I would have loved to see a couple of sample esoteric prices to pay for the gifts of the seeress, but that’s mostly cosmetic – still, considering that the 5e version loses the marketplace, the bonus content would have been nice, which makes its absence weigh slightly more in this iteration. While most characters are represented by NPC-statblocks from the classic 3 D&D core-books, I am a bit disappointed that we don’t get a sample statblock for one of the characters like Eudonia. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I will still round up for this version. If you have the luxury of choice, the PFRPG-offering provides slightly more content due to featuring a marketplace.

 

You can get this nice, inexpensive supplement here on OBS!

 

You can support Raging Swan Press directly here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.