Sep 292017
 

Ancient Tombs

This supplement clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Describe adventurers! “Grave-robbing murder-hobos.” The joke’s old, sure, but there is some truth to that, right? Now, taking that into account, it’s surprising once you think about it, that there aren’t many supplements that address that tombs are something wholly different from other dungeons – they are NOT just dungeons where a surprising amount of undead roam the halls – they are solemn places of remembrance, testimony that the interred existed; they are places of worship of sorts, displays of power and so much more. If your inclinations are similar to mine regarding literature, you’ll undoubtedly have stumbled over heart-rending poems and prose about these places. As such, it is fitting and laudable that we begin with a succinct and concise introduction to the subject matter, providing a well-written recap of the various types of tombs and their peculiarities – including, much to my pleasant surprise, several hyperlinks to famous real world tombs for further inspiration and research. It may be a small thing, but it shows an extra level of care by the authors – and a respect for their audience, a belief that the readers actually want to learn about the subject matter, without forcing dry facts down their throat. Commendable!

 

Now, from here on out, the book becomes more game-related, but in a rather impressive manner: You see, we get a total of 7 d20-tables for tomb dressing next, focused in flavor, as this pdf is part of the Mummy’s Mask plug-ins, on quasi-Egyptian tombs. This presents a huge variety, as the items to be found not only come in two versions (ruined and pristine), they also feature a weight entry AND a detailed, well-crafted explanation of the item. Did you, for example, know what a Naos is? After reading this pdf, you will – and it may well inspire you to write a module around one; the item begs to be the center of an adventure! The ascendance boat, still one of the most iconic things about the epic old-school dungeon in part #1 of the classic Desert of Desolation-saga, as an item can be found next to shabtis, statues – you name it. The tables are, just fyi, governed by the type of person interred, so you’ll have different valuables in religious tombs that in slave quarters. The sometimes impressive weight and dimensions of the treasure can make for interesting logistic problems as well. As a whole, this section manages to evoke a sense of detail and thought that had me reminisce about several classic modules and their tone – in a good way. These tables and details serve perfectly to enhance new-school modules that don’t have the word-count to dive into all those cultural tidbits.

 

From here on, we move to, how could it be any different, the hazard section, which contains a wide array of different traps, haunts, etc. inspired by popular media, ranging from CR 3 to CR 14. Pedestals inscribed with symbols over an abyss, warded against teleportation and flight? Check! Sarcophagus that tries to mummy you? Check. These are really cool. A big plus: Many have proper bypass notes and go beyond: Spot or take damage, providing actually interesting experiences that can engage more than one PC. The renditions of classics among traps, like the Indy-boulder/Idol-trap, where present, actually feature tight and well-crafted rules-language.

 

Now, if you’re like me and a big fan of a certain Cimmerian and his exploits in the Sword & Sorcery genre, then you’ll most assuredly appreciate the Cr +2 Grave Warden template, which may be acquired via a major curse – it bind the target to the tomb and makes the being a merciless tracker of that which has vanished from it -even a single coin. This power, alas, does come with a price that most PCs will be unwilling to pay…but if you, as a GM wanted a driven hunter…there you go. Reprinting the mythic version of Craft Construct for your convenience, we take a look at a whole guardian class of monsters next, namely the mythic graven guardians (CR 6/MR 3). No less than 5 (!!!) versions of these guys are provided with full statblocks – and guardian domains. The two domains bestow unique properties on the respective guardian and their list spans more than 3 pages. I kid you not. Remember that legendary Games products do not sport huge margins and achieve a remarkable text-density per page – that is A LOT of content.

 

In fact, with the vast number of combos possible, it should be possible to make a whole dungeon-level themed around these guys sans things becoming boring. There also, just fyi, would be the CR +1 mummified zombie template in this chapter, which ties in with one of the 5 new feats, namely Bind the Ancient Dead, which allows you to summon them – pretty cool! Sleeper in Dust allows you to conceal/bury yourself in dust/sand/etc. and is a great representation of the ambushing-trope, with additional benefits regarding your ability to hold your breath. Sand Sense nets you low range tremorsense, which becomes better in sand etc. Tombcaster increases the potency of spells in tombs etc. (and makes them harder to dispel and they last longer): Kudos: Can’t be cheesed by casting in a tomb and then moving outside. Trap Spell, finally, would be a metamagic feat, that lets you place, at +2 level increase, spells as traps. Another big two thumbs up for the team here: Most books would have allowed for insane trap-gauntlets (or simply forgotten the potential issues)– this feat, however, thankfully has an abuse-preventing caveat.

 

The final section of this pdf presents 7 spells/spell variants…and OH BOY. They are AMAZING. I mean it. They *FEEL* magical. It’s been a while since a spell-section had me this stoked. There are two monolith spells, that conjure forth physical, eldritch monoliths with harrowing knowledge – and yes, they can be climbed etc. and have a utility/terrain-control aspect. There is a variant of dimensional anchor that strands you in deserts or wastelands. There is a binding variant that covers canopic jars, being trapped in an eternal hourglass or howling haboob…and beyond the tomb curse, we have a maze variant that sends you to an unnerving tomb. Definitely ends the pdf on the high note I expected.

 

 

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the interior artwork is neat full-color – fans of LG may be familiar with some pieces, but not all. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Alex Riggs, Anthony Adam, Jason Nelson and Loren Sieg deliver in this pdf BIG TIME. This is a book I frankly didn’t exactly know what to expect of at first; then, it suddenly dawned on me – this is one the glorious book that I like to call “GM-enhancers.” It begins with context and inspiration and then proceeds to deliver details, useful tidbits etc. – this is, in short, a book specifically designed to enhance lackluster modules, to fill in blanks. If you needed a great representation of an evocative concept, if you need a good trap or critter to splice into a module – well, there you go. This book is a veritable treasure trove of fantastic ideas, concisely codified details. And better yet, these aspects are not just fluff; quite the contrary. Delicious crunch, expertly-crafted, married to a wide assortment of cool tricks and tools of the trade, renders this book a must-own recommendation for pretty much any GM who is looking for a means to enliven and enrich tomb exploration, even beyond the confines of Mummy’s Mask. In short: This is amazing. 5 stars + seal of approval for this all killer, no filler tome.

 

You can get this amazing book here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Legendary Games’ cool Alien Bestiary Kickstarter (only 36 hours to go) here!

 

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Incoming search terms:

  • GM miscellanea
Sep 292017
 

Dear readers!

 

As per the writing of this review, Legendary Games’ Alien Bestiary KS is not only fully funded, it has only 37 hours to crush stretch-gaols! In case you’re wondering: Legendary Games creates some of the most amazing monsters I have ever seen and a full bestiary of them makes me all kinds of giddy. Add to that that the book will be made in 3 versions, for PFRPG, SFRPG and 5e, and I’m already grinning with malevolent glee, rubbing my hands!

 

So yeah, take a look here and get on board while you can!

 

As always, if you enjoy what I’m doing, please consider donating to my patreon – it’s literally what keeps the lights on for this whole reviewing enterprise. Every little bit helps and next week, you’ll see no less than 4 reviews requested by my patreons!

 

Speaking of next week – I’ll have a longer KS-shout-out for you then!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Sep 292017
 

Noble Cause, Bloodied Hands (PFRPG/5e)

This dual-format module clocks in at 79 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page front cover artwork sans titles etc., 1 page SRD, leaving us with 75 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Okay, first things first – like “Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge”, the author’s first module for TPK Games, this is a dual-system module. If you’ve read my review of the previous module, you’ll note that I was quite positively surprised by how it managed to stay true to its dual-statted premise. Most of the time, the peculiarities and special considerations required by different systems can lead to issues in the finer aspects of rules-interactions, can make one of the systems supported feel like a secondary one. Well, “Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge” managed to avoid those pitfalls, mainly courtesy of its surprisingly crunchy, tactical focus on challenging combat and its NPCs/bosses, which ended up being significantly more interesting in both systems than I would have expected. To the point where I didn’t even consider a complaint about shared real-estate, page-count-wise, valid – the module is a deadly action romp in both systems.

 

Now, this module here has a somewhat tougher task on its metaphorical hands, as its focus is different. There are a couple of special considerations I should mention: As before, stats and rules-relevant information is color-coded by system – red denotes D&D 5e material, while black rules-information points towards Pathfinder material. The respective encounters come with rather cool scaling advice for the GM, allowing you to scale more potent groups and expert players – one of the things I love most about TPK Games’ modules: They are significantly less work on me than most, courtesy of daring to actually pose, you know, a challenge.

 

Anyways, the pdf does sport a significant array of hyperlinks for your convenience (though even words that do not pertain to mechanics are hyperlinked, which can be slightly annoying) and it does feature nice, full-color cartography of the initial encounter and the dungeon featured within – however, it should be noted that no key-less, player-friendly versions of these maps have been included – if you’re like me and enjoy cutting maps up and then handing them to the PCs as they explore (I suck HORRIBLY at drawing), then this can be a bit of a bummer. Similarly, when using VTTs to game, the lack of such versions of the maps can pose a bit of a hindrance. On the big plus-side of things, particularly for GMs less experienced in creating atmosphere, the module provides a massive amount of read-aloud texts, including guidance through the important talking sections – big kudos here, particularly considering that the prose is well-crafted indeed. Finally, I was positively surprised to see a section talk about the weather during the module – it may be a small thing, but one that is a) often forgotten and b) an easy means to evoke a certain emotional base-line that pretty much everyone can relate to.

 

Okay, enough rumination on the theoretical aspects of the module, you’re interested in its plot, right? Well, from here on reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Excellent!

So, Vorlash, a dark stalker that was too problematic and eccentric even for his own kin set out on his way to the surface, he did not know that his retinue and him would join forces with two particularly malevolent Jackalweres, Sanhler and Kahliss – as a team, the evil humanoids accepted a high-profile assassination. Paid for discreetly by Duke Harris Dunhare and executed against his brother’s wife, incidentally also his former flame, who spurned him, these three factions of evil went into an unholy alliance, forming “The Unlit”, a potent, new thieves’ guild. The Baron, Bruce Dunhare, griefstricken by the murder of his young wife, hasn’t been idle either – his best bounty hunter, Terent Segnar, is on the case.

 

Terent suspects foul play and it is a professional’s mark to realize when one better should call in the cavalry – as such, he contacts the PCs, asking them for a discreet meeting in the Broken Barnacle Inn. He comes with unique, custom stats for each iteration, which is nice to see, even though I did notice a few minor hiccups in them. PCs that do their legwork may also unearth some nice background intelligence, but strangely, the table only provides the DCs for PFRPG’s Knowledge (local) – the 5e-information gathering DCs etc. is missing here. On a more positive note: En route towards the Broken Barnacle, the PCs happen into a fully mapped and rather complex ambush that is pretty fun – while a player-friendly map would have been nice, the encounter makes pretty sure from the get-go that this module will not be a cakewalk: The ambush is well-presented and challenging enough, though a difficulty discrepancy can be found, mostly due to something that’s not the adventure’s fault: The thugs presented for PFRPG are solid, but those for 5e are brutal. If you’ve run thugs versus your PCs in 5e, you’ll know what I’m talking about – pack tactics make them brutal. Anyways, regarding statblocks – once again, we have some minor hiccups and formatting discrepancies here. I’ll stop commenting on these for now, but suffice to say, I wished that this aspect was a bit tighter throughout the module.

 

Provided the PCs manage to defeat the thugs, they’ll happen to encounter the city watch, just as they’re recovering from the attack…though, thankfully, they get one of the city’s few honest officers…still, this is a definite chance to screw up big time. Anyways, the PCs finally enter the Broken Barnacle and hear Terent‘s proposal: In a lavishly detailed conversation (including text for likely questions), he fills the PCs in about his role – and tells them about “The Unlit”, the new thieves’ guild…and that he suspects the guild to be responsible for the murder most foul. He has already found a new means of ingress into the guild’s base, the house of a half-elven jongleur named Orron Fisket, which the PCs are to infiltrate. Terent, in the meanwhile, will take care of the other entry-point he has scouted out, trapping the new guild between him and the PCs, hoping to defeat them all.

 

He wants to strike immediately, but once again, the PCs can benefit from doing some legwork, with two tables of information provided for PCs asking around – once more, these are PFRPG-exclusives; while it’s easy enough to impart the information in a 5e-game, I still wished that the pdf would provide at least an acknowledgement here.

 

The PCs thus tackle the mapped Fisket residence (in full color and neat, but the map is pretty small – and since there is no map appendix, printing out the page and cutting the map out doesn’t exactly yield great results). It is also here that the dual-system format, at least regarding what I’d expect, begins to stutter: While lavishly detailed regarding DCs to  for scribbled messages and the like, it should be noted that 5e does not receive the same depth of coverage here. It’s easy enough to appropriate 5e’s mechanics when dealing with a Linguistics DC, sure; sure, Survival, for example, is a concept represented in both games…but when e.g. a 5e-GM doesn’t get stats for a door, while the PFRPG-GM does, that’s something I have to complain about as a reviewer – basically, the rules-coverage in the details is significantly stronger for PFRPG. While the dual-stats for the adversaries are neat, the details do leave something to be desired, and since that extends to potentially combat-relevant aspects, it is something I have to penalize the pdf for.

 

Anyways, while exploring the house, the PCs can run afoul of nasty arachnids, which represent a side-quest for them – for the bard Orron has been slain and asks the PCs to get rid of these…if they help him ascertain his family’s state – nice bit of moral gray area here, as their fate has not been kind. But the tragedy here notwithstanding, the PCs have a job to do – Enter and clear the undercroft of the Unlit. It is here that the module becomes a full-blown dungeon-crawl against the interesting thieves’ guild and their intriguing defenses: Traps are provided, just like stats, for two versions and the challenges posed are pretty neat, making great use of terrain, etc. – though it is here that aforementioned missing details for 5e can become galling – suddenly, a dark creeper’s sneak attack refers to a dark stalker. A fireball-duplicating trap is noted as dealing 8d8 fire damage in PFRPG (not the correct damage die); a skill DCs (28) that should be different for both games and passages of text, sometimes parts of a sword or sentence that suddenly turn gray sans rhyme or reason – on the formal side, this pdf could have really used a final pass by someone really picky.

 

Anyways, on the plus-side, the combat challenges and individual bosses of the guild deserve special mention – they are interesting and creative; same goes for spellgorged zombies (which come with 2 exclusive 5e-spells, fugue fog and inexorable fatigue – the latter of which is pretty broken: It causes temporary exhaustion levels, even on a successful save. Considering 5e’s exhaustion mechanics and their lethality, this spell is still ridiculously potent and has some serious ramifications: 6 casters casting the spell are a guaranteed kill against anything that can be exhausted. Yeah, that’s broken. On the plus side, the module does feature a ton of cool hooks for further adventuring against the associated of the guild and rejoining with Terent makes for a fun way to manage one of the boss fights; a wealthy prisoner/artist may be saved (and he knows about the Baroness’ necklace…) from the holding cells and the PCs will also have a chance to deal with a dark caller associate of Vorlash and a babau demon, before they can finally say that they have squashed the vile guild….but not their associated and erstwhile employers, leaving some powerful beings who may consider the PCs to be loose ends that should better be tied up…

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are inconsistent – on one hand, we have precise and o the point rules-language where required, cool statblocks with unique abilities, etc. On the other hand, we have formatting violations against the standards (purely aesthetic, for the most part) and weird lines where text suddenly turns gray. The general features are great, but the devil’s in the details here – never to the point that the module becomes really tough to run, but yeah. Since this module is less of a hackfest than the previous ones, those aspects become more important. Not happy here. Layout adheres to a 2.column standard with a white background – the module is pretty printer-friendly and sports a blend of full-color and b/w-artworks, which do their job. The cartography in full-color is really nice – though the small maps (ambush + house) could really have used a big version to be printed out. The lack of player-friendly maps hurts the module – particularly since the maps are nice. It’s 2017 and keyless player-friendly maps are pretty much standard for most publishers by now. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though.

 

William Tucker knows how to write really good modules (additional content by Brian Berg and Rick Cox) – his style is interesting: He manages to evoke a pretty gritty feeling, courtesy of technically interesting challenges and adversaries. Story-wise, the module doesn’t tread new ground, but it does manage to depict its content in a fun manner, courtesy of the vibrant characters encountered. That being said, as much as I loved the content of this module, I do believe that it suffers, significantly more so than the previous one, from the dual-system approach. The meticulous attention to detail in the PFRPG version is not necessarily represented in the 5e-sections – and while defaulting is simple enough, I couldn’t help but feel that separate DCs or versions for the module would have done it a lot of good. Beyond that, I couldn’t help but feel as though, regarding the formal criteria, the pdf at one point was rushed – there are a lot of minor hiccups here that could have been caught. Each one on its own is negligible. But they do accumulate.

 

Which is a pity, for, as a whole, this has all the makings of a 5 star module: The fights are tight, the challenges diverse and the small details (magic cooking plate as potential source of terrain hazard) are SMART and, more importantly, fun. At the same time, this does feel like it is hamstrung a bit by its dual formats, by the avoidable glitches in the details and oversights. In adventures, I look mainly for an engaging past-time – and rules take a bit of a back-seat compared to e.g. crunch-books. But when oversights can hamper the ease with which a module can be run, then we’re looking at an issue. The 5e-component of this module takes a definite backseat to the PFRPG-material – the latter is significantly more detailed, beyond the system-immanent requirements. Add to that the lack of player-friendly maps and copious small hiccups and you get the impression of an unfortunately rushed release that could have used some time to file off the rough patches and polish this to a shine.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong – you can have a total blast with this. But if you’re picky, chances aren’t bad that you’ll be quite annoyed by some hiccups herein. How to rate this, then? Well, here, things become difficult. You see, I liked the prose herein, and I liked the mechanics, but at the same time, the lack of player-friendly maps hurts this module and the glitches do accumulate. In the end, when all is tallied up, I can’t rate this higher than 3.5 stars. PFRPG GMs should round up, 5e GMs should round down. Personally, I’ll round down for myself; at one point, all the glitches in the details started frustrating me. As a reviewer, I do have an in dubio pro reo policy, which is why my official verdict will round up.

 

You can get this module here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Incoming search terms:

  • into the thieves guild lielon module
Sep 292017
 

Infinite Dungeon: The Halls of the Eternal Moment Level 2 – The Rattling Crypt

The second level of the Halls of the Eternal Moment clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Okay, we begin this installment with a brief summary of the opposition and a nice d20-dressing table that sports descriptive hooks and concrete items, for a total of 40 entries – nice and adds a sense of consistency to the level and the adversaries – kudos there!

 

As before, we get helpful information on floors, walls…and slender pillars, which *almost* take up a square – destroying these can cause a ceiling to collapse (Okay, how much squares? The whole room? Whole dungeon?) and in some cases, they are connected by iron chains. Both these and decorative copper chains mentioned come with proper stats – so as far as general features goes, this is a step up from level 1.

 

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! If the name of this level wasn’t ample clue – undead would be the leitmotif of this level of the Halls of the Eternal Moment…and they are organized. Under the leadership of the ghast Benivuul and his ghoul lackeys, the roaming skeletons and zombies make for a persistent and dangerous threat. Camping is impossible, with each hour and each campaign attempt resulting in a random encounter – on the plus-side, this level can actually be emptied of the scouring undead, though leaving for too long sees other things move in…Nice: the nature of this second cadre is briefly discussed.

 

The level kicks off with a sliding staircase trap and foreboding graffiti can be found throughout the level, adding a special sense of gravitas to the whole proceedings. Trapped, evil altars and concealment-granting cob-webbed sheets and an evil altar used for undead creation, cacophonous traps – the undead in the level are keenly aware of the traps and make good use of this gauntlet, which plays significantly better than its vanilla premise would lead you to believe. While it’s a bit strange that room 22’s text refers back to room 22 for a patreon goal. Some passages/secret doors lead to patreon goal rooms and are not included in the pdf.

 

As a whole, I enjoyed this level more than the previous one – though personally, I would have made even more use of the slender pillars – they are a unique architectural feature that could have yielded some interesting additional options regarding 3D-combat, pits, etc. Their rules-language could be slightly more precise, but oh well. More significant: Apart from the traps, all adversaries herein are painfully vanilla – don’t expect archetype’d, templated or class level’d foes herein – standard critters.

 

Speaking of which: If you hoped, like I did, that the temporal angle and the potential for cool shenanigans with undead (like in several OSR modules) and traps, I’ll have to disappoint you – the leitmotif of the dungeon remains a backdrop at best.

 

Now the maps, while still very bare-bones, do sport icons for the pillars, which is nice. Icons for altars etc. are also provided and while the maps are anything but nice to look at, they are a bit better than those in level 1. Slightly annoying: Secret doors are not designated as such on the GM map and on the player’s map, they have not been redacted.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no undue accumulation of glitches. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard. Artwork is stock and has no relation to the material depicted herein. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. Cartography, while still bare-bones and not up to the level of detail I’d like to see, particularly regarding player maps/VTT-capabilities, but they are a bit better than the ones for level 1.

 

Rich Redman, Jeff Lee, Michael McCarthy and Louis Porter Jr. have written a per se solid undead-level here. The chain/pillar motif is cool and I frankly wished the module did a bit more with it (swinging rooms! Crossing pits on chains! Immortal undead that need to be buried… (due to the temporal nature of the dungeon, one could explain reverting collapses…) There are so many cool ideas there that the module simply doesn’t use. The rattling crypt is creepy; it is deadly; it is well-written…and it is, as far as undead dungeons go, painfully vanilla. It’s deadly mainly due to the fact that you can’t properly rest, but a strategic group can empty the level – the boss is underwhelming and so are the enemies encountered. The module doesn’t make use of the cool dungeon-premise, but I expected that; what I did not expect was that it reduced its cool, evocative terrain features and leitmotif only to this extent – the pillars and themes here could have carried so much more.

 

Don’t get me wrong – the writing’s pretty good and the dungeon level is pretty nice…but at the same time, it falls short of the potential of both the dungeon and the level; the standard enemies and the less than impressive maps also don’t really help this module. If you’re looking for a solid undead-themed level, then this certainly does the job…but honestly, I know a lot of undead-themed dungeons and levels that may, in parts, have weaker writing, but more interesting mechanical components, better components to set them apart. As a whole, this is, to me, this was a rather weak and disappointing installment – not bad per se, but also weaker than level 1. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up by a margin due to the low price and in dubio pro reo.

 

You can get this dungeon level here on OBS.

 

You can get the first 4 levels here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Sep 272017
 

10 Kingdom Seeds: Underground

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

 

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

 

Okay, if you’re new to the concept – the Kingdom Seeds-pdfs are basically collections of 10 sample settlements, ranging usually from thorp to village, which are depicted complete with a settlement statblock and a brief summary of the village in question as well as notes on intriguing locales and a few rumors/adventure hooks for each – think of them as kind of akin to Raging Swan Press’ backdrops, but instead of focusing in detail on one locale, we get a few of them in broader strokes. Thing is – this installment not only goes underground – it also changes the formula of these pdfs by splicing crunchy tidbits into the respective entries.

 

Take, for example, the first settlement, NE Coldwylde, carved into pink sandstone, it is the home of escaped aranea slaves that have managed to create a new magical rope – the fanged rope of entanglement, made from an aranea’s last silk and fangs, it can entangle and poison those that try to escape them – really cool, magical item, with a somber note…and the means of construction have some serious roleplaying potential.

 

In CE Deepdell, gnomes are working on a mysterious vein of onyx…and it’ll be just a matter of time before they can deduce the power-component-like properties of these gems…. On the other end of the alignment spectrum, Frepond represents an idyllic academy of music and magic that would usually have no chance in the cutthroat underdark – but the singing stalactites and stalagmites in the cavern vastly enhance the options of bards, allowing them to maintain two bardic performances at once –and yes, the rules codifying that are concise and precise, though personally, I would have enjoyed to see a range here – I assume the default range of 30 ft. to tap into such a rock’s power, but I’m frankly not 100% sure.

 

A blaze of light in the dark is atop Griffonfort – the ceiling of this cavern is illuminated by a heatless flame. The place is haunted by frustrated ghosts of the first settlers, but the dwarven leaders try to make the dream of a perfect fort a reality, slowly releasing the vanquished ghosts under the glow of continual flame, greater, the new spell to supplement this one. Ironwynne was founded by the Ironfeet mercenaries as a supply and support center and as such, has a harsh, militaristic feel – even though the company was shattered. The reputation remains – and so do the mundane, iron boots that make for well-crafted marching utensils…or for percussion.

 

Joncrest is inhabited by Halflings that herd lizards. They harvest their tails, which regrow. Yeah, that’s pretty damn cool. But wait – Halflings can’t see in the dark! Well, these guys can: We get alternate Halfling racial traits – darkvision 60 ft. in exchange for keen senses and improved natural healing in exchange for Halfling luck, mirroring the hardy reptiles they herd. Amazing one! Narland occupies a huge cavern, which holds multiple towers, each focused on teaching a discipline of magic – cutting edge, these folks push the limits of magic, as represented by a new regional trait that lets you make a concentration check as a swift action to push a chosen school’s spell’s caster level…but at the risk of a magical mishap – which is accompanied by a percentile table with 7 different effects, just fyi. Really cool!

 

Pryness is situated next to a massive underground river, providing ferrying (and smuggling) services for those that require it; predominantly Halfling, the settlement also the home of, surprisingly non-evil river rat variant wererats that can only infect willing beings – cool! The problem is just…such societies are easy to infiltrate by the REAL wererats…

 

Silverflower looks like a place littered with dead stems in light; however, in the darkness, the flowers generate a soothing glow and wondrous scent – as a result, the place has a darkvision-only policy…which could make for a decidedly wondrous place to visit. Oh, and the perfume made there can help when navigating the more precarious social situations…though the effect does change, based on lighting conditions. Damn cool! More of a deathtrap: Stonekeep. The CE hamlet inhabited by dwarves can carve tunnels ridiculously fast, using identical, vault-style hyper-secure doors (which evil folks may wish to get for their magic-hampering and great locks…)…but the nasty dwarves have this habit of unleashing a rock troll with adamantine false teeth (!!!), their secret weapon, on those who come calling – this is an adventure just waiting to happen!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good, I noticed no undue accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports some neat full-color pieces I haven’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience.

 

Liz Smith stepped up to the next level. I don’t know if it’s the guiding hand of Rite Publishing’s new line developer Stephen Rowe, but this blows the old Kingdom Seeds out of the water. The settlements all feature some truly evocative, unique, magical angle that sets them apart, that makes them distinct in spite of their brevity. The added crunch-components for each village amps up the wonder further – even if they’re just small tweaks, they add a sense of the unique to everything. Heck, in some cases, I really, really liked what these humble pieces of crunch do – they help tell stories and furthermore differentiate the series more from Raging Swan Press’ more fluff-centric offerings. For the low asking price, you get some truly wondrous and amazing places to visit and cool supplemental material to boot. What’s not to like?

 

Easily worth 5 stars + seal of approval and a strong recommendation for the very fair price-point!

 

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

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Sep 272017
 

Four Horsemen Present: MORE Comedic Character Options

This installment of the Four Horsemen present-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages, so let’s take a look!

 

All righty, after a brief introduction, we are introduced to the Comedium (that’s a groaner that could have come from yours truly…), which does not gain the regular archetypical spirits (unless otherwise gained) and instead gains the Comedian, whose séance bonus would be +1 to Bluff, intimidate and Diplomacy. The Influence penalty, unsurprisingly, would be applied to Charisma and Charisma-related checks…oh, and guess what, auto-confirm of ranged or melee attacks. As taboos, you choose to either have to include one joke per conversation, one pun per sentence or respond to criticism with an insult. The lesser ability would be mirth, which reduces penalties incurred from mind-affecting abilities for yourself and allies within 30 ft. by 1. The intermediate ability would be Punch Lines: As a move action, the comedium can allow the comedian to gain 1 influence over him, partially manifesting: This nets the character a Perform (comedy) check against a creature in reach, adding the spirit bonus to the check. If the check exceeds 10 + the creature’s CR + the creature’s Wisdom modifier, the critter loses its Dex-bonus to AC due to being entertained by the spirit. Internal game-logic-wise, I think this probably should be mind-influencing, at least.

 

The greater ability lets you influence the attitude of crowds and the supreme ability lets you counter language-dependent or verbal component using spells as an immediate action: You roll Intimidate and compare it to either the spell save DC or 10 + the target’s Charisma modifier or the skill-check’s result, rendering the target shaken for 1 round on a success. The ability btw. has a 24-hour cooldown per target, not unlike a hex. 13th level replaces haunt channeler with +2 to Will saves for allies participating in a séance. Instead of astral journey, the archetype can tell a funny joke, affecting targets within 10 ft. per level (not class level) with hideous laughter on a failed save. Minor complaints: Spell-reference not italicized. Also: It’d make sense for this to have a daily limit/hex caveat. The ability also does not specify its activation action – while Su usually defaults to standard action, I’d still have appreciated a stated action.

 

Doorkicker barbarians gain proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light armor, shields and tower shields and replace fast movement with double land speed in the surprise round. Trap sense is replaced with a scaling bonus to “initiative checks and during the surprise round and first round of combat” – something is wonky here. Does that mean only in those two rounds? Or should the bonus apply to something? No idea. 7th level replaces DR with the option to carry broken down doors or gates as impromptu weapons with the option to perform bull rushes and shield bash attacks with a bonus to atk and CMB with it that increases. Okay, as what type of shield do these impromptu shields count? Do they grant an AC-bonus? No idea.

 

Forest friend druids replace nature’s bond and resist nature’s lure with Tiny and Diminutive forest critters, Disney-style, that allow the character to perform a Dirty Trick with a reach of 30 ft. as a free action, using Cha instead of the animal’s Strength score and druid level instead of BAB. 4th level provides a +2 bonus, 10th level the option to execute two such attempts at once. The character can’t use animal empathy to influence magic beasts or domestic cats (wild ones are more grateful…) and 4th level replaces standard wild shape with critter shape, sounding like a cute child hopped on helium while speaking in critter form, with -1 to CL and -4 to Diplomacy and Intimidate while in cute critter form. First, the druid can only go Tiny, with 6th level unlocking Small and Medium versions of such Tiny critters. Additionally, damage increases as though one size larger. Every 2 further levels increase the maximum size available by +2, capping at 12th level and Gargantuan. 9th level yields immunity to natural diseases instead of venom immunity and 13th level provides a -2 penalty to concentration for enemies only while nearby the character. Pretty cool!

 

The cavalier order of the destrier grants bonuses to atk and damage to the horse with his challenge (meta-joke: Low-level horses are deadlier than their riders…) and adds both Acrobatics and Stealth to class skills, with the mount automatically gaining ranks in them upon gaining HD, and both share the highest Dex-score for Dexterity –based checks. At 2nd level, penalties for ranged attacks are reduced by 2 and no longer takes concentration penalties for vigorous motion. The mount no longer takes atk penalties for squeezing. 8th level nets +4 to CMD versus unseating attempts and Defensive Combat Training for the mount, as well as +2 to CMD. 15th level yields Ride or Die: 1/round, the mount can increase its reach as a swift action, for one round. He also may parry AoOs as an immediate action. Yep, this is “every cavalier joke ever” – the archetype.

 

Master of Disaster monks add Study Stance at 1st level, Missed Me at 6th and One gender-Neutral Army (lol) at 10th level to bonus feats available. 2nd level nets +2 to Acrobatics, Swim and Climb as well as Reflex Saves and Constitution checks, increasing that to +4 at 9th level, replacing evasion and its improved brother. 4th level replaces slow fall with mastery of cover: Increased benefits for the monk, decreased benefits for his adversaries. 7th level provides Superior Style: as a standard action, the monk can enlighten his audience regarding the superiority of his school, technique, sensei’s teachings, etc. – he may forego an attack made at his lowest attack bonus in favor of using an AoO to parry an opponent’s attack, with 12th level allowing for the use of two such attacks for parries. This replaces wholeness of body and abundant step…and is WEIRD. As a standard action, it does not allow for a full-attack in that round, so is it immediately active, drawing on the attacks in a future round? Does it only activate upon taking the next full attack? The lack of a duration and clear sequence make this problematic.

 

The revelry mystery for the oracle, which nets Bluff, Knowledge (nobility), Perform (act) and Sleight of Hand as class skills. The bonus spells make sense (and contain an asterisk-based, pretty funny joke with the reader). The revelations are pretty cool: Out-of-combat, limited use condition negation, conjuring forth a friendly, cheering crowd (which misses the chance for cool Performance combat synergy, alas), adjusting after botching social skill checks, limited healing of allies, Party trick SPs (that scale up to frickin’ meteor swarm at 19th level), conjuring forth blocking piñatas, verbal roasting of foes – pretty cool general array of tricks…though I’m not a fan of all: Untyped damage via touch-attack tickling, for example, comes also with a no-save staggered condition. Its 11th level minimum does alleviate that a bit, but still. The capstone summons a bad rave that wrecks concentration and conceals allies – cool!

 

The stoner alchemist replaces mutagens and persisted mutagens with getting high, for +2 to Str, Dex and Con and +2 to Will-saves, but – 2 to initiative and Reflex saves. It lasts for one hours per level (should probably be class level) and takes 10 minutes to activate. While buzzed, the stoner can exhale 5ft.-cones of smoke into adjacent squares, potentially dazzling targets on a failed save for 2 rounds. 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter increase the options available for second-hand smoke. 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter increase the area affected by this second-hand smoke by +5 ft. and the ability, replacing bombs, can be used Intelligence modifier + class level times per day. 2nd level replaces the poison resistance and immunity with a scaling bonus to saves versus pain effects and those that induce a variety of conditions.

 

The pdf contains 7 new feats: Awful Good lets Lawful good casters ignore [evil] descriptors of spells at +1 spell slot level…and it should probably have the metamagic tag. Dodecaswap lets you replace 2d6 with 1d12 +1. …get it? Light Armor nets you a dodge bonus to AC equal to Charisma modifier, but only versus targets attracted to you. Mascot nets you a +1 bonus to atk, Will-saves and damage when an animal companion/mount/familiar damages a foe, Missed Me nets you a dodge bonus when flanked – if a foe misses you due to this bonus, he may strike his ally. One Person Army (previously referred to as One Gender-Neutral Army) lets you make AoOs against any square you threaten while charging, but you’re still limited to one AoO per threatened square you moved through. Someone has seen Lightning’s signature move in FF XIII. Study Stance lets you use Sense Motive to identify style feats, with attacks based on identified style feats potentially causing AoOs. Also nets you +1 to CMB and CMD while in the same style as your opponent.

 

The pdf’s final section is taken up by 10 new spells: Baleful plushy transforms animals and magical beasts into animated plushy versions, hampering AC and natural attacks. Power Word: Die creates a polyhedral die that moves towards your target. Distracting dance fascinates targets. Dodecaheathen deals d12-based damage, particularly if the target’s alignment is further from yours! Fire flowers creates bubbles of energy (one for each base type), causing some serious damage and potentially hampering the foe. Mist me is an immediate action concealment-granting spell, potentially hitting foes behind you. Nature’s furry enhances Diminutive or Tiny critters with brutal power. Plush companion temporarily makes companions etc. plushies…and harmless. After the spell elapses, the creature regains hit points. Squirrel cheeks, aka hamster cheeks, net you an extradimensional space in your cheeks. Walking Bomb makes Tiny or smaller alchemical items mobile, allowing you to command them. Descriptors featured here include [hug] and [pretty]. XD

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the material is similarly good, though not as good as usual for Four Horsemen books. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf comes with nice full-color artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Steven T. Helt’s second array of comedic character options has some evocative, cool concepts – and it’s genuinely funny here and there. The options are, as a whole, solid, often interesting and don’t settle for common tricks. At the same time, I honestly wasn’t as blown away as I was by his first array of funny options from a player’s side – there is no radical change of playstyle herein. The content is by no means bad, but neither did it absolutely blow me away. The minor glitches also hurt the pdf a bit. In the end, this, to me, remains a mixed bag, definitely on the positive side, and hence my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this supplement here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Sep 272017
 

Infinite Dungeon: The Halls of the Eternal Moment Level 1 – The Overgrown

The first level of The Halls of the Eternal Moment clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This level has been claimed as a home by the druid circle of the ages – and as such, we have a nature-theme on our hands here. The pdf notes walls, ceilings, etc. and also provides notes for wandering monsters, simulating a kind of organic and dynamic environment. Each of the rooms comes with read-aloud text, which can help GMs less confident in their improvisation skills.

 

So far, so good, so let’s go into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All righty, only GMs around? Great! So, the monsters that constitute the major inhabitants would be leaf leshies, giant caterpillars and headless, fungal zombies held together by dark magics – somewhat annoying – their SQs etc. have not been reprinted in their statblock, meaning that you’ll have to look these up. Each of the rooms does have something to do – a skill to use, a hazard like poisonous vines. Specially planted trees that hamper movement and creative traps, including organic responses by the creatures herein make for an overall interesting dungeon – and a hard one. There are traps here that WILL insta-gib a PC – 6d6 smashing stones into which you may run due to being stricken with fear by a magic pool – this is not a dungeon for noobs.

 

Indeed, the lack of a maximum value of inhabitants in the monster-placement for cleared rooms etc. means that rest etc. can be a much sought-after commodity – and personally, I applaud that. I do not applaud the boss fight versus a spirit, who animates a fungus leshy, who governs the respawns of leshies – not because I don’t like the boss fight, but because the animating druid spirit is not really covered – killing the fungus leshy ends the influence of the spirit, which is weird to see in a game so steeped with ways to deal with spirits and the like.

 

Okay, admittedly, I’m stalling. You see, the main draw, to me, for the dungeon is its fluid, erratic time – I said as much in my review of the prologue. And yes, temporal weirdness can be found here. In the dressing. And as a justification for the critters showing up. Do you need temporal tricks to navigate a room? No. Do you get to solve time-based puzzles? No. Are there special ramifications for certain areas? No. The execution of the amazing leitmotif falls flat for me. The dungeon-level is wondrous, yes, but it does not come close to fulfilling the promising theme.

 

There is another aspect where the pdf does not reach the levels I hoped for: The map. While it comes with a keyless version and while it’s in color, it just shows the rooms. Secret doors are not redacted and neither terrain feature, not traps are noted on either map, making their use rather annoying – basically, you have to print them out and fill them in yourself. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t need gorgeous maps – but I’d like to at least have maps that note the basics.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good – I didn’t notice a big accumulation of glitches, but some formatting decisions/requirements to look things up are a bit questionable. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports solid stock artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is worse than in pretty much every comparable dungeon, providing just blank and empty rooms – the work required here by the GM represents a serious comfort detriment.

 

Jeff Lee, Michael McCarthy, Rich Redman and Louis Porter Jr. have per se written a cool dungeon-level here. The leshy-theme is cool and hasn’t been done to death and the hazards and traps are deadly, challenging and fun. That being said, this pdf falters in the details – it is, most of all, inconvenient. You have to look a lot up; you have to basically fill in the maps to render them operational. One of the rooms notes “Don’t go down the Well” as a header and reference to Rappan Athuk – referencing a superior book may not have been the smartest move here. You see, the dungeon, let me make that abundantly clear, is NICE. The rooms are varied and interesting. At the same time, it is VERY inconvenient to use. I have had an easier time using OSR or 5e-dungeons in PFRPG than with this one, courtesy of a couple of really unfortunate decisions and the cartography being this incomplete. A wholly barebones dungeon. No chairs. No landmarks. No secret door “S”; no trees. I don’t get it and I have never seen anything like it, not even in really rudimentary DIY-supplements.

 

My disappointment regarding the unrealized temporal angle notwithstanding, this would be a worthwhile dungeon, were it not for these inconveniences. As written, I can’t go higher than 3 stars for it, stars earned solely earned by the good ideas that are herein and the quality of the writing. Let’s hope level 2 fares better…

 

You can get this dungeon level here on OBS!

 

You can get the bundle of the first 4 levels here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Sep 262017
 

Tome of Madness

This supplement clocks in at 32 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let us take a look, shall we?

 

Okay, so mental illness is a serious topic – and as such, the book prefaces the discussion of the subject matter with an appropriate and mature disclaimer, before we take a look at the material herein. The pdf proceeds to acknowledge the changed paradigm of a world with readily available (as opposed to obscure) magic and codifies madness as maladies.

 

Now, as we all know, there are a wide variety of effects in vanilla Pathfinder, effects which ostensibly would qualify for causing madness in e.g. the context of CoC or similar, darker RPGs. Hence, the pdf proceeds to quantify and qualify them – from mental attribute damage to divinations, special spells, types of forbidden knowledge etc., the pdf explains and codifies these in a concise and sensible manner. Different types of trauma and their effects. Creatures immune to mind-affecting effects “gain a boost” (should be a bonus) to saves to prevent them – this bonus is calculated as 1 + Charisma modifier and can thus be undertaken on the fly. Speaking of which: Exposure to trauma can similarly easily be calculated – as a Will-save versus 10 + the CR. Failing such a save results in rolling on a d%-table; onset of maladies (the term employed for madnesses herein to set them apart from other systems) is delayed by 1d20 -1 hours. Mental ability score damage or drain to 0 adds 15 to the result and pre-existing conditions can mean that the condition has worsened by one step.

 

The system knows three types of severity: Mild, moderate and severe. Maladies are codified in a variety of general concepts: Amnesia, Delusions, Dementia, Hallucinations, Phobias and Tics – these are properly discussed. Minor formal complaint: The pdf introduces the terrified fear-condition – which is also a greater feat step (level 6) in the expanded fear-system championed by Horror Adventures – since both versions of terrified have different effects, I wasn’t too enamored by the nomenclature here. That being said, the condition is per se interesting, though the fixed DC to act or utter a single word feels a bit odd – a scaling DC would have made more sense in my book.

 

But the main meat of the book would be the maladies themselves: They are roughly grouped in two types: Neurosis and psychosis. Generally, a neurosis tends to be more easily manageable. The stats for the respective maladies include save DCs for all severity levels and triggers – the circumstances where their effects become relevant. The triggers provided are proximity, random and stressor. Maladies have durations for their effects. Now, the maladies included run a wide array of options: Characters can e.g. suffer from akinetopsia, a form of motion blindness, problems deciphering letters or pictographic writing (read too many mad glyphs, did ya?), anterograde and retrograde amnesia, compulsions, aphasia, catatonic stupors, deliriums, various delusions (which are chronic), fits of despair, dysparaxia – and I’m just getting started here.

 

From tactile hallucinations to various, sense-based hallucinations to hypochondriasis, hysterical blindness/deafness, classic insomnia, intentional tremors, intermittent bouts of rage, kleptomania, manic episodes, panic attacks, paranoid ideations and various tics complement the rules provided for them.

 

As a whole, the rules-language is very precise and well-crafted here, though, aesthetically, the wording of “assuming the XYZ condition” that the pdf employs is something that galls me on an aesthetic level – as a dev, I’d have streamlined that. It should also be noted that, while fitting in a section on madness, a militaristic man with a read flag, a white circle in it and the black sun inside that white circle (i.e. a Nazi) can be found here – it looks like a propaganda poster and while I would have expected something like megalomania here, instead the page features tics etc. – perhaps not the best choice.

 

The second array of maladies is primarily focused on NPC-use – global amnesia could, however, be easily used as a basis for a specific campaign/one-shot and disassociated identities and psychogenic fugues pose some rather significant consequences for characters that really hamper the playability – the restriction of these to NPCs makes sense and certain campaigns can still make use of them. The question of the treatment of madness, both via skill unlocks and regarding auras – interesting here: The higher your Charisma score, the harder treatment for soothing purposes becomes. Alchemists can learn psychopharmacology and hallucinogenic bombs. Really cool: The pdf does contain various items, which may feature side-effects and craft DCs – intriguing here: The rules crossover with ioun stones in an intriguing manner.

 

The book also provides simple and quick rules for decompensation, the gradual worsening of untreated maladies, and additions. The pdf concludes with some advice for the GM.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the material is similarly neat, but does sport a couple aesthetic deviations from the standards, though these do not hamper the usefulness of the pdf. Layout adheres to the great 2-column full-color standard for LG’s horror-books. The artwork featured herein mostly should be familiar to fans of LG and fits the theme in a broad sense, with the one picture exception. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Mike Shel’s malady-system is exceedingly modular and easy to integrate into just about any system. The lack of requirements of an extra score is a big plus, as is the easy way in which it can be implemented in an ongoing campaign that suddenly takes a turn for the horrific or that just dabbles in themes of horror. As a whole, I consider it to be more elegant than the system championed in Horror Adventures. The system presented is different from the one featured in LG’s previous Gothic Horror plug-ins, so if you expected a direct sequel/more fodder for the system, you won’t find that herein. On a formal level, I found myself rereading the basics a couple of times – didactically, the system could be explained a bit ore succinctly, which represents the most significant structural weakness of the pdf – novice GMs may be a bit confused in the beginning, also due to the subcategories/subtypes having less mechanical impact than they could have exhibited.

 

That being said, I am complaining at a high level here. The comprehensive nature and easily implemented structure of this system makes it more than worth checking out – you see, due to the relative simplicity and flexibility/severity-levels of the system, it is rather simple to graft this system on other sanity-engines or implement it on the fly. As such, this represents a welcome addition to the library of GMs intrigued in the horrific. This is, hence, worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this easy-to-implement madness-system here on OBS!

 

Liek weird critters? need something to cause madness? Why not check out LG’s Kickstarter for an Alien Bestiary (PFRPG/SFRPG/5e)? The KS has 4 days to go as per the writing of this review. You can find it here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Sep 262017
 

Whispers of the Dark Mother #1: Seeds of Evil

The first installment of the Whispers of the Dark Mother-adventure series clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

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

..

.

All righty, only GMs around?

 

We begin this first installment of the saga near the town of Brighton, where farms producing fruit produce a quilt of colors, steeping the town – the prose does a nice job setting the stage and the adventure hook is pretty evident from the get-go, as the first sequence of read-aloud text points the PCs towards Lady Celeste Canterville’s mansion, where an offer of free apples seeks to lure potentially interested parties towards the place. PCs more inclined to first complete some legwork will have a chance to research a variety of rumors, some of which are automatically found in certain taverns, rewarding PCs for covering their bases. A detailed selection of sample sentences to help GMs with read-aloud sections on various topics will be particularly appreciated by less experienced GMs that have a harder time come up with ad-hoc responses.

 

At the lady’s mansion, the PCs are greeted by her servant and they are approached by a bard, one Kara (with full stats, which, alas, sport some minor glitches, something that can be observed for all statblocks in the book), who seeks to join them on their trip at the behest of Lady Celeste – you see, the lady wants the PCs to procure gate willow seeds and some other herbal ingredients. These magical plants can enhance summoning spells and once again, a lot of detailed responses are provided for the social interaction. The harvesting of these plant components, is, however, fraught with danger – both the willows and the whipweed seeds required can be hazardous to harvest, which is why the PCs are contacted in the first place. After this talk, a woman called Shala contacts the PCs as well – her son Faven has gone missing and she beseeches the party to look for him, handing them a wood-carving to gain the lad’s trust.

 

Thus, the PCs venture into the woods – which are represented by a mini-wilderness exploration, noting landmarks, flora and fauna to be found within the area. A random encounter table can add further complications to the exploration, if required. Beyond these random encounters, there also is a sequence of planned encounters, which include fire-breathing vor-gremlins. The exploration takes the PCs past sharp seeds, a cave-fisher’s lair and puts them into direct confrontation with xtabay plants as well as the previously mentioned whipweeds, establishing a leitmotif of a magical and dangerous flora – subtle, but a concise leitmotif nonetheless. As the PCs approach Bright Mountain, they will sooner or later find the gate willow grove, and these plants have managed to call forth an akata guardian that makes for a potent boss for this sequence of the module. At one point during their trip, the PCs will also have a chance to test their mettle against an ogre, but ultimately, they should arrive back at Lady Celeste’s mansion sooner or later, meeting the lady in her library…but not all seems to be going well. The doors of the mansion are ajar, Emilio lies slain and cultists led by a half-orc are threatening the lady.

 

Ultimately, the cultists seem to have the goal of acquiring a rare tome, namely the Lamentations of the Fungus Men…and here, the module changes its so far calm and serene pace in favor of a nice little chase – though ultimately, the one-eyed half-orc will manage to abscond with the book, leaving a grievously wounded and either poisoned or diseased lady Canterville granting the PCs a precious few hints, before expiring, blood foaming from her mouth….and the denouement, like magical question etc., will not yield more…but the PCs will probably be enticed enough to follow up on this mystery.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, particularly the latter, are the weak points of this module: Lower cap skills, italicization hiccups etc. can be found, as well as some plural/inflection hiccups that sharply contrast with the otherwise rather evocative prose. Layout adheres to a really aesthetically-pleasing two-column full-color standard and the pdf features some nice full-color artworks – impressive for the low price-point! You cannot highlight text in the pdf, which is somewhat jarring, but less annoying in an adventure than in a crunch book that you’re likely to extract data from. Cartography is full color and generally solid: A player-friendly version of the region is included. However, the maps for both the wilderness exploration and the combat at the end are pretty small – getting a one-page version to print them out, preferably sans map-key, would have been nice.

 

Robert Gresham, with additional writing by Ewan Cummins and Jarret Sigler, delivers a nice beginning to the “Whispers of the Dark Mother”-storyline here. The module provides a sufficient amount of information regarding the proceedings and manages to establish a nice atmosphere of a fantastic wilderness exploration. The thematic leitmotif is subdued, yet very much present, helping the overall atmosphere of the module. The prose, when it doesn’t stumble over a minor hiccup, is actually really good – It is not too verbose, but detailed and well-crafted enough to manage to evoke a unique atmosphere. So yes, this was actually a solid read. That being said, the module, quite deliberately, begins with a slow and steady, almost picturesque build-up that is sharply contrasted at the end of the module, making for a nice setting of the stage for the darker things to come. This is not a groundbreaking module, but for the fair price point, it delivers. Seeds of Evil achieves its goal of setting up the story and establishing the tone of the things to come. If the formal components like proofing and editing had been better, this would have received a warmer recommendation from me, but as a reviewer, I cannot ignore these flaws. It runs well enough, though, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up by a margin for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this module here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Incoming search terms:

  • ewan cummins
Sep 262017
 

Undead Paragon Classes II: Ghoul, Lich and Mummy

The second collection of undead paragon classes clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with an impressive 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

After an introduction to the concept of paragon classes, which are basically means to advance in a race via a class, as depicted in e.g. Rite Publishing’s excellent “in the Company of…”-supplements, we dive pretty much right into the base racial chassis employed – the rotting corpse as a race, which I covered in my review of part I. If you missed it:

 

Rotting corpses get -2 to Str, Dex, Int, Wis and Cha and use Charisma instead of Constitution as governing attribute. Weird, verbiage-wise: “If the base race gained an ability modifier to Constitution, apply that same modifier to Charisma.” Looks like dwarves make for particularly good-looking corpses…Anyhow; the rotting corpse becomes undead, but retains the parent race’s subtype. Okay, do they still qualify as humanoids of their parent race for the purpose of bane etc.? Rotting corpses don’t suffer from the standard 0 hp-destroyed issue of most undead, instead becoming disabled upon being reduced to 0 hp – it takes an exceeding of Charisma score in negative hit points to destroy them. The race gets +2 to Intimidate versus living creatures, but -2 to Diplomacy, Handle Animal and Ride when interacting with the living. They are not immune to ability drain or damage or mind-affecting effects. They otherwise retain full undead immunities. Nice: part II strikes through the undead immunities that are modified for the rotting corpse.

 

Okay, so fragility-issue is addressed; the base race has a couple of nerfs that prevent it from going overboard, but the immunity array is still pretty damn potent. A level 6 spell to raise undead (as opposed to the living) has been included – and yes, it’s still costly as all hell, retaining balance there. Cool: This second version provides guidelines on which classes fit best with which undead paragon classes – three of these have, as of yet, not yet been released, meaning we’ll get a third part at one date.

 

The pdf also reproduces several of the undead feats from the previous installment, unfortunately inheriting the issues of these feats. Some new feats for speaking with the dead and boon (the talents of these classes)-granting variant feats have been included, but as a whole, there’s not much new material here, so let’s move on to the paragon classes, shall we?.

 

The paragon ghoul gains d10 HD, 6 Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves and proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor and shields, except tower shields. The paragon ghoul begins play with a bite attack (doesn’t specify whether primary or secondary, requiring you to default to standards) and 1/day as a swift action, the ghoul can channel fever: For one round ALL weapons of the ghoul can cause augmented ghoul fever. The ability gains +2 daily uses, +1/day every 2 levels thereafter. This ghoul fever’s save DC is governed by Charisma and causes 1d2 Con and Dex damage, with 2 consecutive saves to cure. At 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the damage die size increases, up to 1d8 at 18th level. Starting at 5th level, immunity versus disease no longer guards against the ghoul fever, unless the creature in question also is immune against poison. Starting at 11th level, neither disease, nor poison immunity help, unless the target is also immune to curses. Weird: At 17th level, the ghoul fever notes “The round after a creature is infected with augmented ghoul fever, it must make another save or take appropriate damage.” Well, the disease is already triggered immediately and already requires two saves to cure, so this is basically a cumbersome frequency addition, I guess – one that paradoxically could see it cured sooner.

Paragon ghouls are treated as ghouls for the purpose of prerequisites etc. and they begin play with devour corpse, allowing them to devour a corpse of a Small or larger being over 5 minutes, gaining temporary ht points equal to the HD of the corpse devoured. Now, personally, I prefer how the darakhul handled that, but oh well. 2nd level yields corpse scent and +1/2 class level to Perception and Knowledge checks to locate and analyze corpses and undead. At 7th level, corpses eaten also yield the information of blood biography.

 

Starting at 3rd level, the ghoul can 1/day, as a swift action, render all his attacks with “paralytic energy” – I am not a fan of the verbiage here. Once again, the save is governed by Charisma and the ghoul gains +2 daily uses at 5th level, +1/day for every 2 levels thereafter. While save or suck, the paralysis only lasts one round, at least until 9th level, where that is upgraded to 2 rounds and 15th level, which increases that to 3 rounds. Starting at 3rd level, the ghoul gains sneak attack…or so I think. The text contradicts itself here and the table – I assume that 3rd level’s the correct one, not 1st level as the pdf once notes. At 13th level, the ghoul can execute a coup-de-grace as a standard action and 19th level yields at-will control undead, but only for ghasts and ghouls. The capstone lets you coup-de-grace as a move action or in place of a melee attack. Additionally, ghoul fever’s frequency may be increased to 1/round…which is weird in its interactions, considering aforementioned option for saves in the follow-up round.

 

As always, the class gets boons – the first at 2nd level and an additional one every 2 levels thereafter. Full-round creature devouring can yield some wonky results with temporary hit points – while you can’t use rats, dire rats can, at least, be eaten. Claws (not codified, requiring to default to the standards) are included, as is gaining the corpse’s last minute of memory – while this *can* be narrative gold, it can also wreck many a murder mystery, considering a lack of options to offset this. The balance of these boons, in case you’re wondering, isn’t exactly tight +2 to atk and damage versus corporeal undead versus gaining two claws. Similarly, 300 ft. blindsight corpse and undead-detection can, depending on the plot, be a really powerful deal breaker. OP: For a boon, the ghoul can bypass paralysis immunities for several creature types and can take rend sans minimum level requirement. He may also poach zombie boons.

 

The second class herein would be the lich, who gains d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, ½ BAB-progression, good Will-saves, proficiency with club, dagger, heavy & light crossbow, quarterstaff and spellcasting of up to 9th level, drawn from the sorcerer/wizard list, with Spell Focus Necromancy as a bonus feat at 1st level. 5th level yields Greater Spell Focus: Necormancy. He has 3 spell slots per spell level, gained at appropriate levels, with a bonus spell slot for necromancy spells. The paragon lich counts as a lich for the purposes of prerequisites- He begins play with char soul: For each point of char he accepts, he takes 1 point of lethal damage per 2 levels, minimum 1. He may only accept char equal to his character level before requiring a rest and the damage cannot be otherwise healed – bingo, it’s a sort of Burn. He can use char to spontaneously add a metamagic feat known to a necromancy spell known sans increasing the spell level. This costs char equal to the metamagic feat’s level-increase. Secondly, he may increase the damage of a necromancy spell by +2 damage per die rolled, increase the CL by +2, increase the DC by +2 or accept a char to replace a prepared spell with a necromancy spell…that HE DOESN’T NEED TO KNOW. If the previous numerical escalation wasn’t enough – that right there is instant-ban-hammer at my table.

 

Starting at 2nd level, he gains lich touch, a standard action touch attack that inflicts 1d6 negative energy damage for every 2 class levels. “The paragon lich may use this ability to heal himself.” Infinite healing at level 2. There you go. That sound? That’s any pretense of balance whimpering, curling up in a ball and dying. I refuse to dignify this with further analysis. If you allow this fellow in your game, more power to you – personally, I wouldn’t touch this guy with a 50-ft.-stick. I’d even disallow that fellow in a Path of War game – it’s blatantly broken. NEXT.

 

The third lass would be the paragon mummy, who gains d8 HD, 4 + Int skills, ¾ BAB-progression, good Will-saves, proficiency with simple weapons, light and medium armor, shields and the favored weapon of their deity. They gain +1/2 class level to Knowledge (history), Knowledge (nobility) and Knowledge (religion) and may make them untrained. Mummies have an alignment aura and cast divine spells, drawn from the cleric spell list, as a prepared spellcaster of up to 9th level. They also get 2 domains and count as mummies for the purpose of prerequisites etc. They begin play with a slam attack (again, requiring to default to standards) and when slain, the killer suffers from the mummy’s curse. Mummies choose an oracle curse at first level and those slaying it suffer from oracle’s burden on a failed save.

 

Starting at 2nd level (not noted in the ability), they may 1/day make all attacks potentially convey cursed mummy rot as a swift action, with 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter yielding an additional daily use. The rot is both a curse AND a disease from the get-go and adheres to a similar damage die progression as ghoul fever, but targets Constitution and Charisma instead. The disease is ALSO accompanied by the oracle’s burden effect, making this a ridiculously strong debuff. 2nd level yields channel resistance +2, which increases by +2 at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, up to +8 at 11th level, culminating in immunity to curses at 13th level. (This ability. Weirdly, is mentioned twice – once in the scaling one and once as a stand-alone ability.) At 3rd level, the mummy increases the Dc of curses by +1, further increasing that to +2 at 7th level and every four levels thereafter by +1. 9th level halves the cost of raising magic, and 20th level yields permanent affliction of oracle curses for those affected and makes the rot nigh-incurable.

 

5th level and every 3 levels thereafter yields a mummy boon (erroneously referred to zombie boon once – and yes, they can poach zombie boons). These include arcane discoveries, 2/day channel negative energy at -3 levels, +1/2 character level to heal checks (should probably be class level) – once again, we have WIDE discrepancies in the power of the boons: Despair aura and a better 3 + Cha-mod bestow curse SP versus Eschew Materials. You get the idea.

 

So, the mummy is basically a cleric on speed sans the healing capacity, but here’s the joke: At 2nd level and 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter, they get to choose a single druid, psychic, witch or wizard spell for their spell list. Lol. That’s cherry-picking the most potent spell-lists there are. In case you’re wondering: No, this one will not get anywhere near my table either.

 

The pdf concludes with 2 pages of zombie boons. We do not get favored class options or the like.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are actually pretty good. The rules-language is also, as a whole, rather precise and well-crafted. Layout adheres to a relatively printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports fitting stock b/w-artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a serious comfort detriment.

 

Jeff Gomez’ second cadre of undead paragon classes is mechanically more interesting – the pseudo-burn is interesting and the recombination of the divine tricks featured by the mummy is similarly smart. The rules-language is concise and well made…but, alas, the pdf pretty much says goodbye to any semblance of internal balance within boons, balance within the context of racial paragon classes…and don’t get me started with existing options. In short: I wouldn’t even allow these options in my most high-powered Path of War games. Why? Because the power is, unlike in Path of War, not offset by something unique or captivating – you won’t be wowed or amazed by any of the options herein. The char would have had some promise, much like the vampire in #1, but it’s also, like its vampiric brethren, trapped in a broken chassis. As a whole, this exacerbates the issues of its predecessor and considering the amount of undead races and class-like options out there, I can rattle off more compelling ways to play undead without needing to accommodate the issues this one brings to the table. As a whole, I can’t find a reason to get this pdf, apart from its low price – my final verdict will hence clock in at 2 stars.

 

You can get these undead classes here on OBS.

 

Endzeitgeist out.