Oct 182017
 

Ancient Idols

This pdf clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, 2 pages of introduction leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Okay, both fiction and real-world mythology are chock-full with the concept of idols – statues or physical representations of quasi-deities worshiped as false gods; whether it’s the golden calf or jade serpents found by hale Cimmerians in the depths of forbidding ruins. Considering their eminence in fiction etc., it is pretty surprising that PFRPG so far had no rules-representation of the concept of idols in game. This pdf seeks to change that.

 

So, how does it go about this task? Well, idols behave as something akin to quasi-deific crossover creatures that blend aspects of sentient magic items and creatures – they, for example, sport an ego-score that increases depending on the amount of people worshiping the idol in question. Similarly, other qualities are gained – senses, for example, improve, and so do the defensive capabilities of these items. Interesting: The ability to draw on power from worshipers is contingent on the idol in question actually managing to impose its ideology/alignment on the folks worshiping the idol – this provides a sensible means for the concept of the idol trying to maintain a hardliner approach to its doctrine.

 

Now, an interesting thing about idols would be that they can’t just be destroyed by bashing them to pieces – they are very much story-adversaries and have roleplaying thus hard-coded into their very fibers. Beyond the basic powers, idols can benefit from sacrifices, gaining additional benefits when magic items are willingly sacrificed to them – and of course, evil idols also draw sustenance from blood sacrifice, which is more abundant than magic items, obviously. This does explain the potentially bad reputation of idols in the context of the game, mirroring real-life stigmatization of idolatry via the dominant book-religions. All of these powers do come with limits – however, holy days may allow the idol to surpass the sacrificial limits. Holy days are typically 3 days a year, determined by the GM and are concisely defined. Now, the idol relying on the power of worshipers does have a downside – Idol entropy, which means that they may fall into dormancy.

 

Now, the idol engine presented herein provides a significant array of abilities, ranging from channel energy to animating stuff, to gaining the option to enthrall others. One ability is gained at an ego-score of 5, and for every 5 ego afterwards. At an ego-score of 10 and every 10 ego thereafter, the idol also gains an ability that is only available on holy days.

 

If all of that is not yet enough customization for you, there also would be the Idol Champion template – these beings would be the idol-powered champions of the idol in question, benefiting from the idol’s powers, but at the cost of servitude. Really cool: The pdf goes on to provide a really cool tool that I adored: Since idols are often created on/near ley lines, the pdf addresses one of the most annoying aspects of ley lines v- the need to plan them in advance. With an easy to grasp and quick to roll check, you can simply determine, based on terrain type, nearby sights etc., the presence of a ley line. This may just be a small tool, but I really, really liked it. Speaking of which: Idols are tied to the spirit world and as such, some of the idol abilities pertain to spirits – a category concisely and professionally defined by the pdf. Big plus there!

 

Okay, so we’ve seen the basic set-up…and now, we take a look at the process of idol creation, which is detailed in an impressive manner: Idol stats by ego-score, bonus hardness/hit points, save bonuses, ability-numbers, suggested CR – all collated in one handy table. One glimpse and you know the modifications. Similarly, idol sizes are assigned sizes – and the didactically-sound process of creation is admirably clear as well. The pdf goes so far as to comment on the use of mythic ranks to bypass the construct-size/CR-restrictions in a sensible manner that actually conforms to the rules – other publishers/authors would have shrugged and just assumed that the idols bypass this restriction. Going one step beyond to retain rules-integrity, even when they may not necessarily make sense…that’s a huge, huge plus, particularly as the system unlocks more freedom for the GM to customize the idol.

 

Don’t want to simply handcraft anything? We get the basic stats (sans the customizable components) of idols, organized by CR – a TON of them. Over 5 pages of these basic stats. Yeah, that is pretty damn amazing and, as a whole, this makes idols my favorite monster class in a long, long while.

 

The pdf does contain more than the rules for this evocative monster – namely class options, the first of which would be the Qahin shaman archetype. This is not a cookie-cutter archetype – it’s pretty much the antithesis of that: The Qahin modifies pretty much everything: Class skills, proficiencies (including a restriction against wearing metal armor) -pretty cool. However, where things become interesting is with idol worship. Instead of spirit animal, the qahin taps into the worship of his idol (replacement rules included) and 4th level provides wandering spirit as well as the requirement to create an idol associated to the spirit. The qahin also gains Mental Focus (1 + shaman level) and an implement school, and at first level, mental focus can be invested in the idol and used to activate focus powers. 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter yield an additional implement school. Unlike an occultist, shamans can use a single idol to act as the collective of implements. 3rd level and whenever he gains another implement, the qahin gains the base focus power of the implement. 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield an additional focus power. The save-DC, if present, is governed by Wisdom and class level etc. interaction is concisely defined. The archetype also gains +1 CL when using shaman spells of the implement school when wielding the idol. Even feat-access is covered. Slight, mostly cosmetic complaint: The ability is a bit harder to grasp regarding when it’s gained than it should be.

 

At 10th level, the archetype can create a ley line nexus attuned to an object (or an idol/animated object), which will allow beings to tap into the nexus – a pretty cool ability. Haven’t seen the like done before! The main meat of the archetype, however, would be the vast array of exclusive hexes, with 10th level unlocking nexus hexes, basically the major hexes of the archetype. The hexes are surprisingly diverse and intriguing and make the respective focus of the archetype change significantly: We have exorcisms, covens, the option to create an arcane bond amulet, save-bonuses versus hexes, possessions, etc., focus-based rerolls, added spells and Craft Construct, less reliance on being close to the idol, ley line surges, haunt-disruptions – all in all, a meaningful, fun selection. Among the 10th level plus hexes, we have the ability to store spells in the idol nexus, merge objects and willing creatures with the idol, travel along the ley lines, spontaneous metamagic-use…basically, these hexes unlock synergy benefits with the ley line nexus in a thoroughly intriguing manner.

 

Okay, so while the idol focus ability could be worded slightly better, the meaningful options and cool ideas render this my favorite shaman archetype so far. Why? Because it could conceivably carry whole campaigns: If you e.g. replace all clerics and druids with these fellows, you’ll have a glorious set-up for a grim world where qahin battle for supremacy, perhaps full-blown deific ascendance. Yeah, I do want to play that.

 

The pdf also sports a new PrC, the idolater, who must have discovered a site of power, be capable of casting divine or psychic spells and sport a couple of skill ranks in the Knowledge skills, with 5 ranks acting as the prerequisite threshold. The PrC gain 4 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, ½ Fort- and Will-saves, 9/10th spellcasting progression (either divine of psychic spells). The PrC nets the qahin’s idol focus, access to idol hexes…and there is a bit of an issue here: Idol worship and Idol worship’s text is identical, when it shouldn’t be. The PrC also nets spirit magic, which provides a limited number of spells to spontaneously cast. The class also gets basically the qahin’s taboos. 2nd level nets a CL and Spellcraft bonus is a chosen terrain. At 4th level, we treat weapons etc. as ghost touch (not properly italicized) and at 8th level, incorporeal creatures are fully affected by the idolater’s abilities. 5th level unlocks the improved level 10 nexus hexes and the ability to establish an idol nexus. The capstone provides a fey-apotheosis, including the assumption of incorporeal state for up to 10 rounds as a standard action.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, bordering on excellence. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of Legendary Games’ Mummy’s Mask-plug-ins. The pdf sports several really nice pieces of full-color artworks, though fans of Legendary Games will be familiar with most of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Legendary Games has a ridiculously high level of quality-control regarding their books. There are few publishers that manage to achieve such a level of quality time and again. However, once in a while, Legendary Games makes something else, something that comes completely out of left field and takes me by surprise – this book is one such case.

 

Until I started reading this book by Julian Neale and Jason nelson, I frankly didn’t realize how much I wanted to have it: The concept of idols is glorious, their execution excellent. Their creation is explained in a concise and easy to grasp manner. The book provides, in short, a monster class that can arguably carry whole campaign settings. Looking for a way to create a world sans deities? This pdf has you covered! The qahin is by far my favorite shaman archetype ever – it unlocks whole types of campaigns, particularly in games that prefer a grittier, more Sword & Sorcery-esque type of gameplay.

 

This pdf is also a great example of two designers blending their strengths: Julian Neale traditionally generates math-intense, hard to design supplements, but sometimes misses attaching a concept that immediately draws you in – he isn’t about flashy concepts, more about substance in depth. The influence of Jason Nelson here is similarly palpable, providing some boosts in that regard – and the result is GLORIOUS. In spite of the minor hiccups in the class options, this pdf blew me away: The idols are amazing and the class options, in spite of the (few) minor rough patches are similarly inspired.

 

Now here’s the thing: This humble pdf inspired me more than a ton of comparable books; to the point where it made me come up with a vast amount of ideas. For example, I will use it extensively in conversion: Idols are, for example, found in the great DCC-module “The Falcate Idol” – with this one, I have pretty much my work cut out for me. And yes, this campaign idea of competing qahin vying for supremacy…I actually want to run it. In short: This is one fantastic book. The minor blemishes are the only reason this doesn’t make my list for the Top Ten of 2017…but seriously, if the concept interests you even slightly, get this now! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this outstanding supplement here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Oct 182017
 

20 Things: Troublesome Treasures (system neutral)

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

 

We all have been there: The point where the treasure to be found in a dungeon just becomes gems, coins etc. for convenience’s sake. One of the best things about RSP’s dressing files is that such aspects of the game, which generally hamper immersion, are reduced – and this is where this pdf comes in.

 

We begin with 10 difficult to sell treasures that include depictions of nasty Nosferatu-style vampires, bulky, but supple bundles containing high-quality torture equipment, a poisoner’s dagger and sealed boxes that may well contain magical remnants of creatures. Another aspect that often falls by the wayside would be that magic items often don’t feel unreliable, raw, magical – too scientific, sterile, if you will. 10 minor curses that may lurk in a magic item help here: Minor interference with healing magic, increasing obsession, susceptibility to bright light, a remnant werewolf’s taint…

 

Also a favorite of mine, since it can really test a group’s mettle and even create an adventure of its own: Bulky treasure. It can make for really hard decisions: Carry the treasure and accept the encumbrance? Or opt for quickness? What about carting all the loot back? Bulky treasures can be amazing and the 20 included here are diverse, ranging from steel cages to ball gowns or silver display bowls. Similarly fun, but for a different reason, would be the 20 fragile treasures included in the pdf – and here, we have truly amazing ideas: For example a laughably huge quill made from a roc’s feather with a silver tip. Purely ceremonial weaponry, glass chandeliers…really neat table here.

 

The final table once again taps into the aforementioned sense of the magical, sporting 20 minor drawbacks for items, which include inheriting gluttonous tendencies from the crafter, glowing in random lights, being bad for the user’s hair (a bane for dwarves!) or being imprinted depression/negativity – the pdf sports a neat variety here and as a whole, this section

 

Conclusion:

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

 

Creighton Broadhurst’s treasure-dressing file is a definite highlight in the series, taking some of the most variable dressings you can ask for – from the mundane to the wondrous, this covers all bases and provides a surprising amount of cool material for such a small dressing file. Highly recommended! This receives 5 stars + my seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool dressing-booklet here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Oct 182017
 

1000-Word-Adventures: The Coin Purse’s Strings (system neutral)

All right, this little system-neutral adventure-sketch clocks in at 3 pages 1 page front cover, 2 pages of content.

 

This being basically a system-neutral adventure outline in precious few words, I do not expect earth-shattering storylines here.

 

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

..

.

As the PCs travel to the bustling city of Reyston, the PCs encounter the local guard – the Untarnished, who are looking for shaven coins…and of course, they take in the PCs, with the shopkeepers caving before the guard’s pressure. Liam Cunningham, the captain of the guard, lets the PCs stew in their cells for a few days…before the PCs are sentenced and fined. He offers to let the PCs hunt down the real culprits to cleanse their name and repay their debt to society.

 

The PCs are given a rough map of the city (not included in the pdf). There are various trails to pursue: The sewers house cultists…and the thieves’ guild, who waste no time pointing their fingers at others, but deny being involved. The beggars can provide information, but are notoriously stingy. The local church, helmed by Archimandrite Claderus, seems to have been compromised – rumors abound that the holy man’s been seen with gaudy jewels and drunken… The lord-mayor Johann is equal parts scoundrel and businessman. The merchant guild seeks to increase its power in town…and rumors abound about shady newcomers.

 

Yep, this is less of one mini-adventure and more like a pretty nice frame-narrative to connect different, unrelated sidetrek – and it does that job rather well…particularly when the PCs realize who the culprit is, and why the coin-shaving operation was started in the first place…

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to a relatively printer-friendly 2-column full-color standard with a mostly white background. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Brian Berg (with additional content by PJ Harn and James Lewis) delivers a cool storyline that can easily be used to connect various different scenarios: You won’t need to modify anything about the scenarios, as virtually every module sports coins. In short: This is a cool way to add a leitmotif, a context, a progression to a series of otherwise unrelated modules. As a stand-alone, the adventure is a bit sketch-like, but the classic plots employed in the respective hooks make synergy with other adventures really simple. Still, if you want to use this on its own, I’d rate this at 4 stars.

However, I really love this type of meta-plot and use the like a lot – as such, I can wholeheartedly recommend this humble, inexpensive pdf for that purpose. When used this way, this should be considered to be 5 stars. For my final verdict, I will settle on 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

 

You can get this solid offering here on OBS!

 

It is also part of TPK Games current 5e-bundle, which you can find here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Oct 172017
 

Everyman Minis: Mysteries of Summer

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This Everyman Mini begins, as they all do, with a nice, brief introduction page that also contains, this time around, a new spell, namely the wall of light – this represents a blinding curtain of light (closing eyes can negate the blindness, unless passing through), and the wall is particularly potent versus creatures from the plane of shadow. Nice visuals! (Yeah, groan-worthy reviewer-pun. I know.)

 

The main meat of the mini is taken up, surprise, by the summer mystery, which adds Knowledge (nature), Perception, Survival and Swim to the list of class skills. Bonus spell-wise, we have a strong fire-and light-theme, starting off with produce flame and moving with unbearable brightness, the new spell and sirocco to the higher level sun- spells and finally, to fiery body. Now, unsurprisingly, we get the flame mystery’s heat aura (sans wasting the wordcount) among the revelations.

 

The revelations include a blistering touch that may stagger foes temporarily if they fail their save. Gaining Flaming Spell and being able to use it a number of times sans increasing the casting time…some solid tricks. I particularly liked Heatstroke, which can add fatigue (non-stacking) to spells with fire or light descriptors for a limited duration. I also am partial to Midsummer’s Dream, which generates a fascination-inducing effect that makes the creatures behave as though in their favorite summer retreat – and they even are warmed as though the dream was real! There is an amazing expedition to the frigid ridges angle herein! Pretty cool: There is a revelation that draws sustenance from the sun’s rays, including, at higher levels, the option to rest quicker – and kudos here, it does not break the usual limitations of spell preparation. A solar body form that can damage nearby targets and at higher level blinds them also makes for a nice image.

 

Gaining some illusion bonus spells is damn cool, as is being a summer child that can stand the heat. Finally, you can afflict foes with nasty sunburns with your light spells (slightly weird: fire is exempt here, when the other abilities all affect fire and light). The final revelation nets you a DC-increase and the option to cast 3/day miracle, but only to duplicate fire or light spells.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column standard with a white background, making this relatively printer-friendly. The pdf sports a nice full-color artwork and has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Margherita Tramontano’s mysteries of summer are cool: The added effects, concisely-worded, make for a fun and tactical array of options and the revelations often are pretty creative. The dual focus of heat and light make sense and elevate this beyond being just another fire-specialist. That may just be me, but I had this vision of a lone oracle walking through the scorching, hot mesas with a smile on her face and a song on her lips. The revelations provide a variety of cool and meaningful options. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform since the mystery manages to present a rather well-rounded array of options.

 

You can get this cool pdf here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Oct 172017
 

20 Things: Goblin Lair (system neutral)

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

 

All righty, we begin with 10 sample goblin personalities: From matron Ghalga Many-whelps to  long-armed Fongoa Strangelsgood, these are pretty cool gobo-ideas – I know they made me want to generate stats for them, which is always a good sign regarding dressing.

 

After these, we take a look at 10 looting entries – goblin common room and goblin chieftain’s room each get 10 entries. The former can e.g. sport rickety pseudo-thrones, curtains of small bones…pretty cool. The commoner rooms can sport black cauldrons, barrels of spirits – all in all, both lists are cool. However, there are 10 more such entries for goblin guard rooms and 10 things that can be found outside a goblin lair.

 

The former may contain piles of firewood rigged to collapse, crude carpets, etc. – and, rather cool: There are some suggestions to add traps to the dressing pieces – big kudos. Outside of goblin lairs, tracks, trees with observation platforms – some of these dressing bits can actually make for cool complications to spontaneously insert into modules that are too easy on the PCs.

 

There also are 20 things to be found in a goblin’s pouch – including snacks from toasted scorpion on a stick to pickles in string. They also contain crude jewelry, teeth – weird stuff, appropriate for goblins. Sounds familiar? Well, that’s because this table uses entries from Dungeon Dressing: Goblin’s Pockets. Finally, we have a page featuring 10 basic descriptions, 10 combats and tactics and 10 sample treasures, allowing for an easy generator to create a vast diversity of goblins – including some hilarious peculiarities.

 

The final page of the pdf is devoted to goblin past times: 20 general activities and 10 minor encounter-set-ups complement the pdf. The general activities are solid, but not necessarily inspired – it’s more of a basic series of entries for spontaneous use at the table. Entries contain e.g. “loitering” or “arguing” – I wished this was a bit more evocative.

 

Conclusion:

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

 

Creighton Broadhurst, Eric Hindley and Alex Riggs deliver a solid dressing file here. The entries are diverse and cool, generally well-written and cover a broad spectrum of fun entries. At the same time, I couldn’t help myself and felt that the book didn’t exactly reach genius-levels. It’s well-made and worth getting, if not necessarily brilliant. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this nice dressing-book here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Oct 172017
 

Fighters of Porphyra

This installment of Purple Duck Games‘ „..of Porphyra“-series clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 25 pages, though it should be noted that these are laid out for digest-size. When printing them out, you can fit up to 4 on a single page, providing your eyesight’s good enough.

 

Anyways, we begin, somewhat surprisingly, with global rules for fighters in the Porphyra setting: Fighters get 4 + Int skills per level (a houserule I also use) and only take a -2 penalty when wielding weapons sans proficiency. If a fighter’s Intelligence is less than 13,, it is treated as 13 for the purpose of combat feat prerequisites. They also halve the time to Craft armor, weapons and ammunition. Fighters can inflict lethal damage with unarmed strikes (but still suffer from AoOs). The one modification I have a problem with would be that two-handed weapons dealing slashing or piercing damage also deal bludgeoning damage when wielded by a fighter. This can make DR-interaction etc. pretty confusing and further devalues the two-handed bludgeoning damage. Also weird: They get a bonus skill point each level – I *assume* that’s intended to be in addition to the ones granted by the 4 + Int-modification, but it feels a bit clunky nonetheless.

 

Okay, so those global rules out of the way, let’s take a look at the archetypes herein! The first of these would be the anticavalier, who treats all two-handed weapons as though they had the trip special quality and they get +2 to Trip-attempts against quadrupedal creatures. 2nd level, they add the brace special weapon quality to two-handed weapons and +4 to CMD versus overrun. 5th level becomes a bit problematic, as they start treating two-handed weapons as reach weapons with -1 to atk, losing the penalty at 8th level. 6th level adds the deadly special property to such weapons. This replaces the bonus feats gained first, 2nd, 4th and 6th level.

 

The second archetype would be the giant killer, who replaces bravery with selective immunity against intimidation and fear caused by giants. 3rd level replaces armor mastery with (untyped) bonuses to Reflex saves and a dodge bonus to AC against a “larger creature’s area effects.” That’s problematic. Sure, the creature needs to be one size-category larger, but since you can play Small characters, what would be situational can pretty quickly become always-on – pretty sure that exploit for Small characters has not been intentional. Cool: Instead of making a secondary attack, the giant killer can move 5 ft. Okay, does that count as a 5-foot-step? I assume no, which means it provokes AoOs, which renders the ability less compelling. At 10th level, we have the capacity to overrun larger creatures, causing falling damage on successes – which is pretty cool, but the rules-language is a bit wonky, speaking of “giant humanoids” – does that mean the subtype? Or does it refer to a size category? No idea.

 

The immortal is an archetype specifically for the amazing Zendiqi ethnicity, one of my favorite cultures on Porphyra. The archetype is restricted to the planet-touched, genasi-races (i.e. those associated with the 4 elements) and zendiqi and these guys only get 2 + Int mod skills per level. They are proficient with light and medium armors, shields (excluding tower shields) and simple and martial weapons. The archetype begins play with a ramah, a special spear or longspear with a silver tip. At 6th level, this is upgraded to adamantine. The second item they get is the tiarah (a better name would have been nice), a sacred blinder that nets +1 to saves versus visual, auditory, sonic and language-dependant effects that increases to +2 at 11th level, but imposes -1 on Perception. This replaces the ability to make unarmed attacks lethal from the global rules. The archetype inflicts +1 energy damage with successful melee, ranged or unarmed attacks per 4 class levels, with the type depending on bayit or race. At 7th level, the archetype is locked into Leadership and can grant adjacent allies a +1 shield bonus that scales over the levels. Cool flavor, less than interesting benefits.

 

The janissary loses proficiency with heavy armors and shields in favor of firearms. He also treats scimitars as light weapons, falchions as a two-handed light weapons. Okayyy…that doesn’t work as written. Per definition, light weapons are used one-handedly and may be used in grapples. Two-hand wielding light weapons does not increase the Str-bonus to damage, so how does that interact with a falchion? No idea. Instead of bravery, the archetype gains a scaling bonus to saves vs. enchantments. Circular thrust’s ability-name has no5t been properly formatted and replaces armor training and mastery with a scaling atk-bonus while fighting defensively.

 

The Lone Wolf loses the armor training ability tree. When narrowly missed by an attack, the archetype inflicts minor damage on the target’s weapon (which is damn cool!) and takes unarmed/natural weapons into account. At 7th level, rolling natural 1s when facing these guys also nets this damage and an AoO. 11th level increases the damage mentioned and so does 15th and 19th level. At these higher levels, failed maneuvers can also trigger the ability, and a shield bonus or gaining the benefits while one-hand wielding a weapon complement this one. This archetype is the first herein I consider interesting – while I wish there had been done more with the engine, the idea is intriguing.

 

Pawns begin play with less starting wealth and only simple weapon/light armor proficiency. When gaining a bonus feat, they also gain a character trait, and are exempt from the limiting rule regarding multiple traits of the same category. 3rd level yields a scaling dodge bonus to AC 5th level nets a bonus to atk and damage equal to the difference between the character’s CR and that of the opponent faced – not a fan, since the ability’s pretty meta-gamey. 9th level lets him treat all simple weapons as a weapon group, which he may select.

 

The primeval loses heavy armor and martial weapon proficiency, but gains Improved Unarmed Strike. In a mind-boggling confusion, the archetype also gains slam or claw attacks (not codified) that sport a monk’s unarmed damage scaling. This shows a profound lack of understanding between unarmed strikes and natural attacks – they are NOT the same. 6th level yields an immediate action AoO-less combat maneuver when critting targets with a natural attack, which is upgraded to hitting at 10th level, provided both natural attacks hit. At 16th level, crits provide action-less maneuvers and one maneuver needs only one attack to hit.

 

Spellfighters add Knowledge (arcane), Spellcraft and UMD to the class skill list and lose proficiency with all armors and shields. They gain spontaneous spellcasting based on Charisma…of UP TO 9TH LEVEL, drawn from the sorcerer/wizard list. WTF. Or, as the pdf says: “Like wizards and sorcerers, spellfighters are 9 level spellcasters.”[sic!] – sure, they “only” get abjuration and EVOCATION spells, but really? The magus over there? He’s weeping in the corner, even before weapon group: touch spells wrecks the rest. The math of these already is wobbly; adding full BAB and it completely falls apart. Just NO.

 

The varonis gains simple and martial weapon proficiency, + one exotic weapon of choice as well as light armors, but no shields. They have a good idea: Adding damage to combat maneuvers. Alas, the rules-language of the base ability is a total MESS. “As a standard action, when making a successful combat maneuver check with which they also have an “Improved” feat, they may also add the weapon damage of the melee weapon they are wielding at the time of the combat maneuver.” As a standard action? Add “weapon damage”? I tried hard to puzzle out how this is supposed to work. I have not the slightest idea. I have a suspicion, but the rules-language is so messed up, I can only guess. While the ability tries to clarify bonus damage dice, it fails to account for magical special weapon abilities…Non-operational RAW. The archetype gains a scaling dodge bonus to AC, minor skill boosts, scaling atk and damage with AoOs and at 8th level, scaling DR…which also applies when making a Reflex save? WUT?

 

The elisud hybrid class is next. It needs to be LG, is a hybrid of paladin and fighter, has 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency in all armors and simple and martial weapons and shields, excluding tower shields. 1st, 2nd and every 4 levels thereafter yield a fighter bonus feat and treats class level as fighter levels for prerequisite purposes. The class gets full BAB-progression and good Fort-saves. They also treat Intimidate and Diplomacy as one skill, akin to the Middle Kingdom’s codionic knights – that was wonky back then and still is. How does that interact with skill boosts? Skill unlocks? 5th level nets Signature Skill: Sense Motive.

 

He also begins play with a morale bonus equal to ½ class level to Sense Motive. Okay, at first level, is that rounded down? They also get +2 to all saving throws – again, a morale bonus. And guess what: All morale bonuses of the class stack with each other. At 3rd level, they gain, bingo, a morale bonus to saves versus fear and diseases equal to ½ class level. At this level, they also get ½ class level + Cha-mod morale points, which may be expended as a swift action for a +2 morale bonus to ANY d20-roll, not only for the elusid, but also for an ally. Fun fact: Since they stack with each other, multiple elusids can do really ridiculous things…5th level yields +1/2 class level to saves versus illusion spells and spell-like abilities. I assume that to only pertain to illusion SPs. 8th level does that for charms, 11th for “chaotic spells and SPs”, 13th for “necromantic”…URGH. 17th level for evil and compulsions…The issues are so apparent. Beyond failures to properly clarify the effects, these abilities only yield boring numerical escalations.

 

5th level yields weapon training. 7th level allows the character to impose a minor scaling penalty on a threatened foe as an immediate action. 19th level yields DR 5/- while wearing armor or using a shield and the capstone prevents being unarmed when wielding an “instrument of justice” – whatever that’s supposed to be in the context of the class. It also renders immune versus alignment changes and being forced to violate them. Whoop-die-doo? This is the worst hybrid class I’ve read by PDG. It is BORING, has no identity of its own, is surprisingly wobbly for how basic it is…No. Just no.

 

The pdf also mentions the idea of feat slicing – i.e. halving the benefits of a feat, but gaining two instead. I don’t even have to explain why that’s a bad idea, considering the very basic notion of prerequisites etc….right?

 

Okay, so, next up would be new mundane pieces of equipment – like the Folly Kit – which allows you to heal 1 hit point as a full-round action, holding up to 100 hit points worth of healing. 300 gp., but still…Why isn’t this properly tied to Heal and Healer’s kits? There is a helm that grants a headbutt attack and lacks a damage type and treats it as a bite, which can be all sorts of weird. On the plus-side: Flammable clubs? Cool idea! Is it its own weapon or is it treated as a club? There is some coolness here, though: The concept of hybrid weapons with additional modifications is pretty cool, if explored only in a rudimentary manner– still, I’d like to see a book based on that idea at one point, though one that should get some very careful looks regarding balance.

 

The pdf closes with a section of magic weapon qualities and items. Here, we have gems like this: “An opportunist weapon allows the wielder an immediate attack on its opponent if that opponent rolled a natural 1 on any of its previously attempted attacks upon the wielder.[…] The wielder can make as many opportunistic attacks as there are natural 1’s rolled against him, but only 1 response attack per attacker.” I THINK I know what this tries to do, but the rules-language has some serious issues. Curving weapons further marginalize shields. Almost funny: The brand of balance, a blade that generates a constant antimagic field around its wearer. It’s a magic weapon. Yeah. It doesn’t work RAW. The spell reads: “Likewise, it prevents the functioning of any magic items or spells within its confines.” Pricing also is a bit weird in the section. And while there are other magic items here, I’ll cut this short right now.

 

The pdf comes with a bonus file, the Blindbraun monster by David N. Ross – CR 2, undead dwarves with a horrid wail and a blinding gaze. Easily the best part of the whole deal!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are pretty good. On a rules-language level, there is something left to be desired here, with quite a few wording issues that influence rules-integrity. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games’ 1-column standard with some nice full-color pieces, though fans of PDG may be familiar with some of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

After the fantastic “Witches of Porphyra” (get it!), the previous installment, and after reading Aaron Hollingworth’s amazing Vessel hybrid class, I went into this file with a smile on my face, expecting to find some cool material herein. The global rules sounded promising, providing some nice tidbits to modify.

 

I don’t know what happened. I really don’t. The archetypes are lackluster at best, focusing on bland modifications and when they don’t, they do not properly capitalize on their ideas. I consider not a single one of them to be compelling; there are some gleams of interesting ideas here, but they are few and far in-between. The hybrid class one ups that – it is insulting. As in 1-star- or-1.5-star-bad, with the only analogues being the early Wayward Rogues Publishing offerings – their later material is better, if still problematic. The hybrid herein lacks any agenda, identity or care – it is lackluster filler of the worst sort, a class that manages to be less compelling than both of its parents.

 

Unfortunately, the rest of the supplemental content doesn’t really improve that much – while the unmitigated low point of this book is the hybrid, the other material isn’t close to dragging this up to levels where I’d consider it possible to recommend this. I try hard to see the positive in even flawed designs, but this pdf’s content, for the most part, looks like the author simply had no interest in writing a fighter-book, cobbled something together and went on. The fighter needs good options. Interesting abilities. And there are some herein…but the execution of these is lackluster as well.

 

I am, as a whole, a fan of the class-centric installments in this series – there are some amazing gems to be found. This is not such a file. In fact, I’d strongly suggest skipping this one. My final verdict will be 1.5 stars, saved to being rounded up by the bonus-pdf. Purple Duck Games deserves being supported: They give a chance to new talent and often deliver some really amazing books – the installments on samurais, witches etc. are awesome – get them instead. Heck, if you want to support the author, get his cool Vessel class instead. But steer clear of this one.

 

You can get this pdf here on OBS!

 

While this one wasn’t a winner, many PDG-pdfs are definitely worth it – you can support the Purple Ducks here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Oct 162017
 

20 Things: Necromancer’s Lair (system neutral)

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

 

Okay, we begin this dressing file with a definite winner: 8 blasphemous tomes of forbidden lore, ranging from the Libermorbus to the Sable Flame, these are evocative and really capture the reader’s attention – oh, and as a further bonus, we get 6 cool and disturbing bookmarks suitable for evil masters of magic.

 

Beyond these, we move on to horrible sounds and sensations – 10 of both are provided and they are really cool: From sudden out-of-body experiences to feeling watched or a miasma of vile mists…really neat. From the distant clanking of bones to sounds from previously cleared rooms, these are similarly neat.

 

While we’re at the subject of blasphemous things: What about spell components? 20 are provided and range from jumbled bones of mass murderers to shriveled, desiccated hearts, gems to enhance undead-animating spells, horribly disfigured rats…Really cool!

 

Next up would be 20 things to be found in a necromancer’s sanctum and 6 pickled and preserved things – these, however, have been previously released in 20 Things: Wizard’s Tower and the associated compilation.

 

The final tables sport 10 basic descriptions, 10 battle tactics and 10 pieces of treasure, which allow for the quick combination of a variety of undead: One page devoted to skeletons and zombies each is provided, allowing for a vast variety of combinations to enhance the descriptions of the undead legions.

 

Conclusion:

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

 

Creighton Broadhurst and Jeff Gomez provide one amazing, excellent dressing file here – the respective tables are inspired, the dressing is diverse and e.g. the books can inspire whole stories. The dressing herein also makes for a great supplement for pretty much any horror context you can imagine, so yeah -this is useful beyond the confines of its theme. That being said, I would have wished for an new table instead of a reprint regarding the sanctum, though I understand its presence here. Even taking this into account, the pdf is really good, though – hence, the final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

 

You can get this cool dressing-file here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Oct 162017
 

1000-Word Adventures: The Dark Hunters (system neutral)

All right, this little system-neutral adventure-sketch clocks in at 3 pages 1 page front cover, 2 pages of content.

 

All righty, this being basically a system-neutral adventure outline in precious few words, I do not expect earth-shattering storylines here. Structure-wise, the module provides general guideline for the GM to adapt the module and suggests, in percents of the default value, a suggested reward. Helpful: A paragraph on bringing it all together and 6 different questions for GM-consideration help plan this little sidetrek. (As an aside: The pdf does confuse “affect” with “effect” here…)

 

On the plus-side, we do get 6 random effects, which are basically dressing or cosmetic events and 6 random, magical effects noted.

 

All righty, onwards to the SPOILERS. Potential players should skip ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

Only GMs around? Great! So, 4 years ago, Captain talis was exiled from the city of Florin. Disgruntled, he started training a cadre of half-orcs and proceeded to terrorize the land, until he and all but two half-orcs were slain. The survivors, Gog and Magog, did flee into an underground warren, triggering the wrath of an ancient spirit. The small town of Quay sits atop these burial chambers.

 

The PCs must explore Northhaven Warren, where they must pass shelf-beds with skeletons as they wade through the mud,a s they approach the breached mausoleum…which is literally mined with defensive spells – first triggering warning-shots and then getting progressively worse. The inhabitant also animate and it becomes pretty clear pretty soon that the glyphs were left to keep something in, something the possibly horribly mutilated half-orcs set free…

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, if not perfect. Layout adheres to a relatively printer-friendly 2-column full-color standard with a mostly white background. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Jim Pinto knows how to create atmosphere. In spite of the brevity and system-immanently sketch-like nature of the module, the set-up is pretty nice, the complex flavorful. While I really would have appreciated a map (since I suck at these), I get why the module doesn’t have one. Still, there are modules out there that offer just that. Anyways, the pdf does provide some cool flavor for an atmospheric sidetrek at a low and fair price-point. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

 

You can get this nice adventure-sketch here on OBS!

 

You can get this also as part of the current 5e-bundle. Here’s the link!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Oct 162017
 

How Do I…Fly (revised edition)

This installment of the series that explains the more problematic concepts of PFRPG clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content. The printer-friendly version comes with a different layout and manages to cram the relevant information on 4 pages.

 

All right, flight. So, one of the strengths of PFRPG’s rules, at least in my opinion, would be that the rules are organized in a very clever and sensible manner, at least compared to many other games. I never realized how good the organization actually was until I started designing for other systems as well and noticed how obscure the organization of certain rule-books is.

 

Anyways, if there is one aspect where PFRPG’s rules really suck and are incredibly annoying and opaque, then that would be frickin’ flight. The pdf first explains, very newbie-friendly, that e.g. the Fly skill doesn’t let you fly and just measures your competence. It also introduces the importance of size and maneuverability.

 

This out of the way, there is the issue of 3D space – hence the height of a 3D-5-foot-square is defined as 7.5 feet. After this, we take a look at the basic differences and advantages of flight over landbound movement. EDIT: Here, I was originally being a know-it-all prick; the pdf has since clarified a potentially confusing statement, which made me delete this section. The pdf has been corrected.

 

Anyhow, next we take a look at the uses of Fly that do NOT require a skill-check, then list those options that do require one. After this, we take a look at special considerations for magical flight and winged flight – the basics, mind you. A handy table sums up the modifiers for flying in bad weather (and explains the concepts of checked and blown away), and finally, the pdf sums up common uses of flight in combat.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though I noticed a few typos. Layout adheres to a two-column, full-color landscape-standard for the tablet-optimized screen-use version. The version for the printer sports a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf have no interior art, but need none. EDIT: The revised versions now sport proper bookmarks – KUDOS!

 

I love flying combat. In fact, I only recently had an utterly overpowered omnimental hunt my alchemist and his oracle cohort piloting a vril-powered gyrocopter through a city in the throes of all out magical warfare. I love 3D-combat and the cool tricks it lets you do…however, the organization of flight in PFRPG is less than ideal…and this pdf provides a relatively handy primer on personal flight. It only covers personal flight, but hey – it’s PWYW and for a novice, this little files is certainly helpful, if not exhaustive.

 

That being said, if you want a truly breathtaking book on assisted flight, do check out the legendary Companions of the Firmament – it is a must-have for all campaigns using flying mounts.

 

Öh…forgot the rating, right? Michael McCarthy’s file is certainly helpful for players new to the concept of flight. I consider it worth downloading and leaving a tip for. It’s helpful, PWYW, and the complaints have been taken care of – hence, the revised version is updated to 5 stars.

 

You can get this summary here for PWYW on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.