Feb 212018

B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment (OSR)

The second B/X Essentials-book clocks in at 47 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page index, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, laid out for 6’’ by 9’’ (A5). So, what is this about?


First things first: This was moved up in my reviewing-queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book. My review is primarily based on the premium print version of this book, though I have taken the pdf into account as well.


Okay, so the Core Rules-supplement in this series was made to divorce the core rules from all associated flourishes, allowing for maximum flexibility and options to modify them; basically, to provide a version of the B/X-rules that can be used to run anything, from scifi, to horror to modern gaming. The Core Rules-pdf thus represents an OSR-DIY-hacker’s concisely-presented basics.


But what if you actually wanted the accoutrements taken away from the core chassis, the classes etc.? Well, this is where this pdf comes in, once again focusing on a clear and concise presentation of B/X-rules, in the organization and presentation we have come to expect from the previous book: For example, class information is contained on a single page or spread to minimize page-flipping; related rules that end up not actually being next to each other instead use bolded fonts and precise page-numbers to help you navigating the book, making use at the table fast, painless and comfortable.


Now, and this is very much relevant for fans of the original rules, this is not content with simply being a repackaging. While the goal of the book is a faithful rendition of B/X-rules and content, it does acknowledge the fact that not even the most beloved of RPG-systems are perfect; there, system-immanently, are bound to be imperfections. Much like in the Core Rules-supplement, Mr. Norman addresses such instances; in this case, for example the rules for water vessels and strongholds have been interpreted in a way that does not sport the ambiguities and contradictions of the original, focusing on a playable and concise rendition. It is a testament to the author’s professionalism and humility that he actually includes a subjectivity clause here, stating clearly that he does not claim sole authority on interpretations. It is a small thing, but in an age where “opinionated” authors try to jam down their particular design-style or ideology down the throats of the gaming populace, it is something I absolutely adore. (And yes, if “opinionated” authors read this: I have elected to not play games, modules, etc. as a consequence of your incessant need to tell me that I’m doing it wrong or that your way of doing it is the only acceptable one for your precious game. Take a cue from Mr. Norman’s humble and sympathetic attitude.)


Sorry for that tangent, let’s take a look at the book, shall we? Character creation rules fit on a single page-spread, including the attack matrix as well as optional starting hit points rerolling. Since ability scores are relevant for the character creation process, we have that two-page spread reprinted here; for a detailed breakdown of attributes, I’d like to point readers that are new to B/X-rules to my analysis of the Core Rules-supplement. It should be mentioned, though, that the detailed internal references in this book have been completely revamped – it references to the Core Rules, obviously.


Okay, after this, we get an alphabetic presentation of the character classes, each of which fits comfortably on a two-page spread, providing all information required at one glance. Each class has its individual XP-progression and knows 5 saving throws: Death/Poison, Wand, Paralysis/petrify, Breath Weapon, and Rod/Staff/Spell. These scale with levels and usually can’t fall below 3; exception would be the Dwarf, who can have a Death/poison save of 2. That one, fighter and the cleric have btw. the best saves. Progression of *most* classes caps at level 14, with a few stopping earlier. Each table notes AC0 (modified attack roll to hit AC 0) and spells, if any. Only the magic-user class gets access to 6th level spells; the other two spellcasting classes, cleric and elf, cap at 5th level spellcasting, though the cleric gets more spells per day.


Wait what? Yes, in case you’re new to the whole old-school circuit: All those non-human races are represented by their own classes. Dwarves cap at level 12, elves at level 10, Halflings at level 8. No, no gnomes this early in the game. Sorry. It should be noted that the book contains optional rules for higher level gameplay.

The classes state allowed weapons and armors in the beginning and since each class has a different XP-value required to reach a new level, we will have discrepancies –halflings and fighters, for example, reach 8th level at 120.000 XP, while elves need a whopping 250.000 XP for that level. If you’re not familiar with the game: This is an intentional balancing decision. Similarly, classes stop granting additional Hit Dice at 9th level; thereafter, you only get fixed hit point bonuses and Constitution no longer applies its standard adjustment. Clerics, elves and halflings get d6 HD, while dwarves and fighters get d8 HD. And magic-users? Well, note how I mentioned that it used to be hard to get them to higher levels? Beyond XP required, they only get d4 HD. Yes, rabid dogs can kill you. Be wary… Something you may not be familiar with: Thieves also get only d4, but they get their own array of (mostly) percentile thieves’ skills. And yes, low level thieves are similarly hard to get to survive, but you’ll still definitely want them in your party.


The game assumes three alignments: Lawful, Neutral, Chaotic. Languages include Common (never liked it myself) as well as alignment-based ones and a table provides an idea regarding languages for PCs. We get optional level titles for the classes as well as, wee, the rules for equipment. Adventuring gear, weapons, armor – all with cost and weight (in coins) – and yes, weapon combat stats are provided. Blunt weapons may be used by clerics, charge weapons double damage when used on horseback after moving at least 60 ft. Reloading is an optional rule, and means that a weapon may only be fired every 2nd round. Two-handed weapons can’t be used in conjunction with shields and attack last in a combat round. And yes, once more, these all fit comfortably on a single 2-page spread.


From here, we move on to land transportation, which nets costs, miles per day, movement rates and maximum encumbrance as well as stats for carts and wagons. And yes stats for various horses, camels, etc. are included in the deal.


Now, let’s take a look at water transportation, shall we? This section is split into one page of seaworthy and one of unseaworthy vessels. Both tables sport costs, maximum cargo carried (in gold coins), usages and values for length, beam and draft -and yes, this includes values extrapolated from context where the original rules failed to mention them. Rules for high winds are provided here as well, distinguishing between near gales and proper gales. We follow ths up with descriptions and notes on whether a vessel requires a captain, required crew for rowing, if any; miles/day and movement rate as well as required sailors, miles/day and movement rates when actually sailing – so yeah, we actually can use quite a few of these both with rowed movement and driven by sails. And yes, we get notes for reduced crew-sizes. Heck, we even get fast-play naval combat, including notes on how many catapults you can fit on a vessel, whether a ram can be added and rules for regular and pitch-catapult shots. This section, as a whole, is impressive: Without knowing them by hard or looking up the original rules, it’s impossible to determine where the author has improved the material: The streamlining is utterly seamless. Huge plus!


From there, we take a look at mercenaries next, noting AC, base morale, wage per month, etc. as well as morale based on common types found; fanatical soldiers will have better morale than a peasant militia, for example. Hiring specialists, from oarsmen to navigators to spies and alchemists is detailed next, noting a variety of uses. And yes, you need engineers to build strongholds and castles, which brings me to the next section that the book does exceedingly well: We first get a 7-step-checklist, and permission to build towns, maintenance of cleared lands as well as notes on settlers and taxation are provided alongside a selection of standardized structures with features, dimensions and associated costs noted. And yes, we get rules to make bastions, custom towers and castle walls. For full details, we also get a brief table of interior details: Different doors, arrow slits, shifting walls, trapdoors, etc. This section is a definite winner and closes the book on a high note.



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to an elegant and aesthetically-pleasing two-column standard that uses nice, pastel-green shades to make tables easier to read. As in the first book, we get a MASSIVE amount of really nice, original b/w-artworks provided by a cadre of talented artists – this is a beautiful book. The pdf comes with extensive, nested bookmarks, making the handling of the electronic version simple and comfortable.


As for editions, the standard edition is perfect bound, while the premium version has higher quality paper, better color and ink saturation and comes stitch-bound, which is per se preferable. It should be noted, though, that you should exert a bit of care with the staple-bound version. While superior to the standard edition, this is a pretty thick book for the binding, so if you handle it really roughly, the staple can potentially come out. This is not an issue of the book per se, but rather of the manufacturing process. As before, we get something really fair, namely a plain-text version of the material here, sans all the beautiful art. I applaud this, though I very much recommend the premium version for the optimal experience.


Gavin Norman’s second B/X-Essentials-book is a fantastic continuation of the design-paradigms and organizational aesthetics presented in the first book; the presentation is stream-lined and modifications to the original rules are kept to the bare minimum, emphasizing faithful depictions of the classic rules. At the same time, the book does not shirk away from fixing problems with the source-material in an unobtrusive and elegant manner. The organization of the content is as precise and elegant as we expect after the great Core Rules.


I’d like to use this review to posit an alternate way of thinking about this booklet: This is basically the “traditional fantasy toolkit” for the base B/X-rules-chassis presented, minus the spellcasting details (since many groups employ their own sub-systems there); in short, if you get this and the Core Rules-pdf, you’re basically set up for classic adventuring; just add spellcasting details as desired. This, as a consequence means, that we can potentially hope for other such tomes; for example, one for horror games, one for scifi-games, etc. This is just me, mind you; the material remains as hackable as ever and as open to modification as you’d like it to be. In short: This is an excellent offering and very much recommended if you’re looking for a well-presented, concise take on the much-beloved, classic B/X-rules. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


You can get this cool booklet here on OBS!


You can get the FREE plain-text version here on OBS!


Missed the core rules? You can find these here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Feb 212018

This installment of RSP’s Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look at the settlement!


Silver Bluff is a mining town with a twist – sprung up as little more than a better camp, it began in a promising manner…but then, the mine’s silver started to run out. Let’s just say that the local population did not take kindly to these changes and the ramshackle ethnic composition alongside the lack of a governing body mean that this is very much a dangerous place to be. As far as the system neutral version is concerned, the pdf uses proper nomenclature, like thief, etc. and the conversion of the marketplace section is nice.


The vast chasm that separates the camp from the mine is also one of the reasons why this village is haunted by howling windstorms, which also influence the dressing habits of the place. The pdf does feature notes on nomenclature, appearance of locals and 6 rumors for your convenience. The village also features notes on the local tavern, paranoid representatives …this is not the nicest place to spend your time, though e.g. mountain climbing equipment and a local dwarven cleric can help adventurers here. The pdf also features no less than 6 sample events…and one glorious hazard, which would be the semi-sentient, disintegrated machine that slowly regains its sentience and becomes a lethal, unique hazard – stopping it will be hard. The hazard has been converted properly into the context of old-school games.


In an example of less is more, the notes of what’s hidden in the chasm feel a bit less intriguing and tied to the settlement – by emphasizing the wind theme instead, it would have become even more compelling…but that may just be me.



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP’s patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.


Mike Welham’s Silver Bluff is an evocative village with unique hazards and a nice theme. While it does not reach the apex of the series, the village still remains an excellent purchase and is well worth the low asking price. The system neutral version does not lose any component of the appeal of the original iteration. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


You can get this cool settlement here on OBS!


You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.



Feb 212018

Village Backdrop: Silver Bluff (5e)

This installment of RSP’s Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look at the settlement!


Silver Bluff is a mining town with a twist – sprung up as little more than a better camp, it began in a promising manner…but then, the mine’s silver started to run out. Let’s just say that the local population did not take kindly to these changes and the ramshackle ethnic composition alongside the lack of a governing body mean that this is very much a dangerous place to be.


The vast chasm that separates the camp from the mine is also one of the reasons why this village is haunted by howling windstorms, which also influence the dressing habits of the place. The pdf does feature notes on nomenclature, appearance of locals and 6 rumors for your convenience. The village also features notes on the local tavern, paranoid representatives …this is not the nicest place to spend your time, though e.g. mountain climbing equipment and a local dwarven cleric can help adventurers here.

The pdf also features no less than 6 sample events…and one glorious hazard, which would be the semi-sentient, disintegrated machine that slowly regains its sentience and becomes a lethal, unique hazard – stopping it will be hard…and I wished it and hazards like it had been more prevalent here. Big kudos for the 5e-conversion here, which retains the deadliness of the cloud and properly recalibrates it for 5e’s rules.


In an example of less is more, the notes of what’s hidden in the chasm feel a bit less intriguing and tied to the settlement – by emphasizing the wind theme instead, it would have become even more compelling…but that may just be me.



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP’s patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.


Mike Welham’s Silver Bluff is an evocative village with unique hazards and a nice theme. While it does not reach the apex of the series, the village still remains an excellent purchase and is well worth the low asking price. The 5e-version retains all the aspects that made the PFRPG-version work really well. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


You can get this neat settlement here on OBS!


You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!


Endzeitgeist out.


Feb 202018

Everyman Minis: Investigator Options

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


On the introductory page, we get the Inspired Objection feat: Whenever an opponent you can see attempts an opposed skill check that opposes your own skill checks, CMD or HD, you may spend an inspiration use to roll the inspiration die as a free action, even if it’s not your turn. The opponent takes the rolled result as a penalty to the check in question. You can’t spend inspiration this way if you already boosted your skill check or otherwise a check to oppose the roll. If you have combat inspiration, you may use the feat to penalize one atk roll as an immediate action. Ace attorney, anyone? Amazing! “OBJECTION!”


The pdf contains two different archetypes, the first of which would be the far-shot sleuth. Instead of poison lore and poison resistance +2, the archetype gains Precise Shot and is treated as having Point-Blank Shot for the purpose of feat prerequisites, but not e.g. PrC prerequisites. The archetype gets two exclusive talents: Inspired deflection lets the character, 1/round expend a use of inspiration as an immediate action to deflect a projectile ranged weapon as per Deflect Arrows. If the character also has Deflect Arrows, uses stack – both may be used in a single round. Enhanced deflection builds on inspired deflection and lets you deflect a ranged attack targeting any creature within 30 ft. of you, but at the cost of 2 inspiration uses. Minimum level 7th. Nice. 5th level replaces poison immunity and all latter instances of poison resistance with ranged study: He gains Ranged Study for use with one ranged weapon he is proficient with, ignoring prerequisites, in particular Weapon Focus. He may take the feat multiple times, each time applying benefits to a different weapon.


The second archetype would be the freelance agent, who may spend inspiration to modify Bluff, Disable Device, Disguise, Intimidate and Sleight of Hand sans expending inspiration, provided he’s trained in the skill. Underworld inspiration allows the archetype to use this, even if not trained in the skills; however, sans inspired intelligence, this prevents the non-trained inspiration use on Knowledge, Linguistics or Spellcraft – think of the fellow more like a hard-boiled detective than a mystic scholar. Studied strike is replaces at 4th level with sneak attack progression to a maximum of +5d6 at 20th level. Instead of 6th level’s studied strike upgrade, we get early access to the unwitting ally advanced rogue talent, but a target may only be affected once in 24 hours, unless subsequent attempts also include inspiration expenditure. Instead of 10th level’s studied strike upgrade, we get immunity to being flanked or caught flat-footed by targets of studied combat and such studied targets don’t count for the purpose of determining whether the investigator is being flanked. 14th level even lets the character treat such studied foes as allies for the purpose of flanking and 18th level nets the option to expend an inspiration use as part of sneak attacking an enemy. If the investigator does this, he may roll damage twice, taking the better result. These btw. replace the remainder of the studied strike progressions. Cool archetype!


The second part of the pdf contains 5 new investigator talents: Debilitating injury nets the unchained rogue’s class feature of the same name, using studied strike instead of sneak attack, but does not gain an effective rogue level to determine the benefits of certain injuries as a balancing component, though investigator levels do stack with rogue levels, if any. This one is locked behind 7th level. Deduction works like augury, but requires that the character formulate a hypothesis, instead gaining “likely,” “unsure” or “unlikely” as answers, using class level as CL and failure yields “unsure”; use requires inspiration. Really cool – love it and would take it in a heartbeat, if only to do the Sherlock at the table! Investigation magic nets the ability to cast 1/day blood biography, residual tracking, speak with dead, speak with haunt as an SP. An investigator may use this SP 1/day for every 2 investigator levels and may spend 2 inspiration uses to cast another one of them, though at the cost of daily uses as well. Requires minor magic.


Occultic trail lets the investigator duplicate charge object as an extraordinary ability that lasts 1 week per level. The investigator may include any information about the item’s significance, not just personal experiences. He must spend one use of inspiration to use the ability and may spend more to add more information. Which also resets the duration. Minor issue here: How much additional information costs how much inspiration? The charge object spell is no help here. I like this and its functional, but a bit more guidance for the GM would have been nice to see here. Finally, Psychic Sleuth makes the investigator qualify for occult skill unlocks as though he had Psychic Sensitivity, by using a use of inspiration when taking the occult skill unlock’s action. The investigator must have at least 1 rank in the skill to do so. If the investigator has Psychic Sensitivity or otherwise access to an occult skill unlock, he may use it again by spending one use of inspiration, and inspiration thus spent is only regained when he may be able of using the skill unlock again.



Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column b/w-standard and the full-color artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Alexander Augunas shows us once more how you can cram a ton of awesome into very few words. The archetypes are meaningful and interesting; the new feat is amazing. But the highlights are the new talents: Full-blown amazing, they allow the GM to weave even cooler, tougher mysteries – and what player could resist the amazing chance to expound upon theories by presenting a hypothesis at the table? Seriously, I’d so take that one in a heartbeat! While I think that occultic trail may need to be a tad bit more precise, it is quite possible that it is deliberately kept somewhat loose in its definitions to allow for individual GM-interpretations. Considering the tightness of the rules otherwise and the experience of the designer, I am willing to give this thus the benefit of the doubt; it’s functional.


In short: If you like investigators and ever wanted to yell “Objection!” at an enemy, then get this asap. This is a great little expansion, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.


You can get these damn cool investigator tricks here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Feb 202018

Legendary Monks

This installment of the Legendary Heroes-series clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


As always, we begin with new archetypes, the first of which would be the Chakra Champion, who utilizes the Occult Adventures system, which, while interesting, ultimately falls short of what one can do with the premise…but that as an aside. What does the archetype do with it? The archetype replaces the 1st level bonus feat, providing Chakra Initiate, adding +1/2 monk level (minimum +1) to character level for the purpose of opening chakras. Later, the character may choose Chakra Adept and Master instead of bonus feats, ignoring prerequisites. This is a pretty big bumble in rules-integrity – the ability should specify that the archetype still has to select Chakra Adept before Chakra Master, ignoring all other prerequisites. RAW, you can choose Chakra Master before Chakra Adept. The archetype also gains disharmonious flux. After a damage-less touch attack or an unarmed strike, the character may trigger a disharmonious flux once per round as a free action. The target must succeed a Will-save (DC is governed by Wisdom) or take a -2 penalty (minus missing) on one of the saving throws, as chosen by the chakra champion. This penalty increases further at 8th and 16th level and lasts for Wisdom modifier rounds. Additionally, at 4th level and every 8 levels thereafter, an additional effect is added to targets that fail their save against disharmonious flux. A surprising 14 choices are presented, ranging from the expected extension of the penalties to e.g. attack rolls to some more creative ones: Being shaken while in total darkness, treating foes beyond 30 ft. as having concealment, basically disadvantage on saves versus Will-saves or an ability that allows the flux to affect mindless targets…which has a remnant from the original ability, referencing mesmerists instead of the chakra champion. Wait. What?? RAW, the ability has no indicator that it’s only supposed to affect creatures that have a mind – it is not codified as a mind-affecting ability! RAW, this is weird. The ability replaces stunning fist.


At 4th level, we get +1 point to the serpent-fire ki-pool, plus an additional one for every 4 levels thereafter. When awakening chakras, the archetype gets +1/2 monk level as a luck bonus to avoid the detrimental effects of serpent-fire. This replaces slow fall and the option to spend ki for additional attacks with flurry of blows. Starting at 7th level, the DC of disharmonious flux increases while a chakra is awakened or maintained, with the choice to alternatively gaining a buff to AC, atk, skills or saves. This bonus increases by +1 for every 3 levels thereafter. Minor complaint: The DC increase is per se not a bonus and while it is clear what the intention here is, RAW only the bonus scales. At 9th level, we get 1/minute maintaining an open chakra sans action expenditure. When opening a chakra, the archetype gets to roll both Fort- and Will-save and choose the better result and any chakra opened that has effects depending on number of open chakras increases that number by 50%. Chakras close at a rate of the highest in the first round, then 1d3. At 11th level, the chakra champion can start by awakening the heart chakra sans awakening the previous ones. Additionally, healing may be split between chakra champion and adjacent ally, if any, and conditions negated affect both. Finally, for ki expenditure, we can heal more conditions. This replaces diamond body.12th level nets a damage-less melee touch attack that can disrupt ki use and stagger the target for a number of rounds on a failed save, replacing abundant step. 15th level allows the chakra champion who has at least 2 chakras open, to expend ki or serpent-fire ki equal to ½ the open chakras, firing negative level causing rays at targets within 30 ft. I like what this archetype does with the chakra-engine, but I still maintain that redesigning the chakra-engine would have probably been smarter.


Anyways, next up would be the Crystallion, who uses crystals, enhancing defenses: Instead of evasion and its improved brethren, we get DR/Adamantine equal to ½ class level. Instead of fast movement, we het +1 natural armor, which increases by +1 for every 5 levels beyond 5th. The archetype also qualifies for Improved Natural Armor. This replaces fast movement. Manuever training is replaced with the option to inflict piercing or slashing damage with unarmed strikes and may use class level as BAB to qualify for critical feats. 4th level yields light while the character has at least 1 ki, and may use ki to duplicate daylight…but may not expend ki to grant herself a dodge bonus to AC. The archetype may generate scintillating light as a distraction bardic performance and use fascinate at -3 monk levels, as the bardic effect, with ki as governing attribute and ki as resource employed. This replaces slow fall. 5th level yields the option to dazzle nearby creatures while in proper light, with lesser illumination levels requiring ki expenditure. Alternatively, the archetype may temporarily blind nearby foes. At 7th level, we gain resistance 5 versus electricity and fire, which improves at later levels. Additionally, successful saves versus these effects can provide evasion-like benefits, with immediate action ki-expenditure providing improved evasion’s equivalent for such effects. However, the character becomes vulnerable to sonic damage. 13th level provides ray-deflection via ki expenditure; 15th level nets 1/day prismatic spray and the capstone nets a crystalline apotheosis to a construct-status, with ki-based prismatic spell use. I really liked this one – it feels like a natural fit for someone turning into a member of AAW Games’ amazing colliatur-race.


The Imperial guard archetype replaces Knowledge (religion) and Perform with Diplomacy and Knowledge (local) and gets the ability to designate a sworn charge, which may be re-designated pretty quickly, but the guard can’t have more than one at a given time. The archetype gets additional conditions to stunning fist, but blind/deafen is not permanent. 2nd level allows for the sharing of evasion between charge and guard as well as +2 to Reflex saves, with 9th level providing the option to get evasion’s benefits when either makes the save. 3rd level nets Bodyguard, which is more efficient for the monk’s charge and the bonus granted gets a duration based off Wisdom modifier; 6th level nets In Harm’s Way for such contexts. 4th level yields a bonus to a maneuver or a skill, gaining a +2 bonus here, with 10th level allowing the adding of Wisdom modifier to the chosen roll, with ki-cost associated. This replaces slow fall. Quivering palm is replaced; the archetype nets a retributive strike when defending targets, which explicitly increases critical multiplier and has synergy with other increases. 1/day, the character can designate a critical threat.


The psychic cenobite replaces evasion versus the equivalent for mind-affecting or psychic magic effects; at 9th level the character can absorb a number of spell levels of such effects, which must be designated prior to attempting a save. Cool, though the ability erroneously added a paragraph from the lesser version of the ability – it should replace improved evasion. 3rd level replaces maneuver training with +2 to saves versus psychic magic; 4th level replaces slow fall, wholeness of body and high jump with the ability to spend 1 point of ki to study a threatened target in melee as a swift action, immediately before making an attack. On a hit, the target saves and on a failure, the attack is a critical threat. This doesn’t work versus mindless targets. 11th level replaces diamond body with swift action, short-term true seeing or invisibility purge. The 15th level replacement for quivering palm is the seeding of a dominate monster effect with unarmed strikes or touches, including the option to set trigger conditions.


Singhala monks are Tiger Style specialists that are locked into the three feats of the style at 1st 6th and 10th level; 3rd level yields Diehard, with the threshold to remain conscious extended by Wisdom modifier and the option to use ki to ignore the staggered condition for one round, provided it is incurred due to negative hit points. Purity of body is replaced with immunity to fear, while 7th level replaces wholeness of body with Wisdom modifier minutes of speak with animals; cats and felines can be affected with a variety of themed spell effects for ki expenditure when talking to them, including simultaneous activation for more ki costs. 4th level lets the character use ki to enter a controlled rage; this is basically a barbarian rage, which scales and is powered by ki. It replaces evasion and diamond body. 9th level loses improved evasion and diamond soul in favor of AoE-fear-causing roars that can be used as a standard action or as a swift action after a full attack (cool!); higher levels allow for the causing of panic. 12th level replaces abundant step with the ki-activation-based benefits of haste, though the additional attack must be unarmed; alternatively, the character can effectively pounce for ki-expenditure; 15th level provides 1/day ki shout (instead of quivering palm) and 17th level removes the fatigue after controlled rages, replacing tongue of sun and moon.


The yogi monk replaces flurry of blows with yogic body: Meditate 1/day for 1 hour to gain an exceptional ability for 24 hours; starting at 8th and 15th level, the character gets to choose an additional ability per use of the class feature. A total of 9 such benefits are provided, and they all fit the flavor perfectly: We get the trick to move through smaller spaces and openings, better Escape Artist, delay toxins, Endurance, low-range blindsense, natural reach extension due to disjointed limbs (at the cost of a penalty of -2 to atk), slowed respiration, suppression of bleeding and boosts versus fatigue, sleep etc. – really cool. Yogis are locked into Psychic Sensitivity at 1st level and may use feats building on it as monk bonus feats, Instead of evasion and its improved brethren, the monk gets ½ class level uses of the samurai’s resolve, but does not regain resolve based on defeated opponents. Fast movement and maneuver training re replaced with the ability to use Wisdom instead of Str/Dex to calculate atk and CMB. 5th level nets the ability to use meditative drones, which behave as bardic fascinate and Wisdom as governing attribute, with ki as resource. This replaces high jump. Instead of slow fall and the ability to expend ki for additional flurry attacks, the 4th level yields yogic levitation, ki-based, better form of levitate or, well, alternatively, feather fall.


Okay, that covers the archetypes for the regular monk – let’s take a look at those for the unchained monk now, shall we? The first of these would be the flagellant, who gets Heal as a class skill. 2nd level lets the character use Wisdom for Intimidate instead of Charisma, as well as getting +1/2 class level to such checks, replacing the bonus feat. Instead of evasion, the flagellant gets pain tolerance, gaining a repeated save vs. pain effects in following rounds. 3rd level yields scarification – bleed damage is decreased, with higher levels providing further decreases. Additionally, we get immediate action and ki-based ignoring of ability damage/drain instead of fast movement. 4th level flagellants add +1d6 nonlethal damage to stunning fist uses, increasing by +1d6 every 4 levels thereafter; 8th level flagellants can render targets fatigued by stunning fist sickened. This replaces the AC bonus gained at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, but the archetype retains the Wisdom bonus to AC and CMD. 5th level nets the faith healing skill unlock, as well as phrenology occult skill unlock, using Knowledge (religion) as an alternate basis. The latter may be used with damaging, sharp needles etc., allowing for the implantation of permanently penalizing needles…nasty and really cool! This replaces purity of body. At 4th level, the flagellant can use cilices or similar pain-inducing armor to steel himself versus emotion, fear, etc. and 9th level yields Stalwart. The flagellant gets a total of 5 unique ki powers: Critical hit DR-ignoring and regeneration-suppression, expansion of pain tolerance; an intimidating glare; what about using ki to ignore up to twice the class level damage and gain temporary hit points of an equal amount (4x instead for nonlethal damage…) Really cool: When using pain tolerance and succeeding the second save, the character can choose to take the pain, activating a judgment or gain a ki point/stunning fist use – yes, it only lasts for a brief while and can’t be cheesed. This may also be activated after a critical hit was confirmed. Really cool archetype!


The leikung unchained monk replaces ki strike at 3rd level with a standard action sonic-damage-causing sonic damage that allows for stunning fist synergy, adding the deafened condition temporarily, with stacking durations. Alternatively, a weapon attack may be made, channeling the sonic damage through weaponry, with stunning fist synergy contingent on using a ki focus weapon. Thunderstrike may be held as a charge and it may also be fired as a ranged touch attack, though synergy with stunning fist costs an additional point of ki in that case. 5th level yields +4 to saves versus sonic effects, with 10th level providing resistance, which upgrades to 20 at 15th level and immunity to sonic effects and damage, replacing purity of body and the ki powers gained at 10th and 20th level. 7th level, leikungs can use move actions and ki to create a warhammer of half bludgeoning/sonic damage, which may be thrown. Creatures vulnerable to sonic treat the full damage as sonic. The weapon is wielded with Wisdom instead of Str/Dex and has a duration – if hurled during the duration, it may be decreased to re-manifest it sans cost, with higher levels unlocking +1 thundering and the weapon being treated as an adamantine weapon. It works as a monk weapon and the leikung is proficient. 9th level yields ki-based echolocation, replacing 9th level’s style strike. Also at this level, we get the ability to expend two points of ki for a ranged touch sonic wave, which may also be used as a cone-shaped burst. This replaces improved evasion.


The Shinsei has a heavy Rokugan-vibe, but that may be the Oriental Adventures fan in me; these fellows are a bit paladin-y: They must be lawful good and must accept at least one vow, for which they don’t get bonus ki. They get the paladin’s detect evil and smite, though the latter is governed by Wisdom. These replace flurry. 3rd level provides awakened recovery, which is basically rerolls versus fatigue or sleep-effects and at 7th level, rerolls versus exhaustion or being staggered; the shinsei can also spend ki to negate effects that cause sleep or being fatigued at 7th level. 10th and 16th level increase the ability to including stunning and death effects, respectively, with the progression allowing for the negation of previous effects. Minor nitpick: As written, it is not 100% clear if the upgraded 10th and 16th level negation effects require the expenditure of 2 ki as well, but from context, it is pretty evident how that’s supposed to work. 5th level nets the Sense Motive skill unlocks as well as those for the Intimidate skill, but the latter only versus targets of her smite. This replaces style strike at 5th level. 6th level replaces the ki power usually gained with a selection of oracle revelations from the ancestor mystery, at -3 levels, with Wisdom as governing attribute, and activation based on ki expenditure. An additional such ability is gained every 4 levels thereafter. 9th level provides Henshin Perfection instead of style strike: For 1 ki, the shinsei can shed light and gain 10 resistance or +4 to an ability score. 13th level provides stern silence, a ki-based short-range option to render targets mute or even, for more ki, inflict the caster croak spellblight. Cool! 17th level is pretty epic: It suppresses all magic on shinsei and target (as if affected by antimagic field), for a cool sudden-death-y climax trip.


The tempest gets a completely modified bonus feat list and replaces flurry of blows with skirmisher: If the tempest moves at least 10 feet before attacking with an unarmed attack or monk weapon, including ranged weapons used within 30 ft. of the target, any successful attacks deal +1d6 damage, +1d6 ever 4 levels after that; this may be foregone for AoO-less reposition. At 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the tempest also gains +1 dodge bonus to AC when the target has moved thus, though the ability requires not carrying medium/heavy load or being fatigued/staggered. 3rd level lets the character use ki to enhance speed temporarily for +30 ft., replacing the option to spend ki to add an attack to flurries; 4th level provides twice the natural healing, but the tempest must eqat twice as much as well and has a harder time to stave off starvation due to the increased metabolism. At 4th level, the tempest doesn’t lose Dex-mod when running and no increased DC when using full-speed Acrobatics, Climb, Stealth, Survival – this replaces still mind. 5th level provides he option to spend ki to reduce exhaustion to fatigue or negate fatigue, but not those caused by hunger- Style strikes work in conjunction with skirmishing instead of flurry of blows. 15th level nets the option to run to gain various glimpses of the future – really cool. 18th level provides basically advantage on Reflex saves/Acrobatics instead of flawless mind.


Now here is the thing: The archetype replaces ki powers with speed stunts; first gained at 4th level, an additional one is gained every 2 levels thereafter. This list is HUGE: We get more than 3 pages (!!) of individualized stunts, which include zig-zagging run, wind jumps, wall-running, acting in surprise rounds, dragging allies along with them, making attacks during a full-round twice-movement full-round action; quick opening/closing doors or similar actions as part of move actions, plane shift…notice something? This archetype makes the monk a great skirmisher AND quotes a lot of our favorite speedster tropes (including high-level speed phantoms or sonic shattering), clothing them is a subdued guise. Amazing class-hack!


The voidmind, finally, is another uncommon concept: The archetype adds all Knowledge skills as class skills and replaces ki strike with the ability to use ki to duplicate a variety of divination SPs that increase over the levels. 7th level provides the option to use ki to grant allies temporarily bonus feats or skill ranks; feats for which the voidmind does not qualify are more costly, unless touching a character who has it. The creature thus granted the feat must still qualify for the bonus feat granted. This replaces style strike at 5th level. 9th level nets fold fate, which nets ki-based bonuses equal to class level; Wis-mod if used after results being known. 13th level nets the ability to touch an ally and let him use Wisdom modifier instead of a touched target’s ability score modifier for a chosen ability score. 17th level nets the option to cause temporary negative levels or penalize physical ability scores, based on Wisdom modifier, with ki-use required. This should probably have a daily cap beyond ki; Con can be pretty deadly pretty fast and a properly min-maxed voidmind can probably kill most targets in two rounds…


Okay, after this massive chapter of archetypes, we take a look at the chapter honor and vows, which provides a total of 10 new vows – thankfully sans the annoying still mind-prerequisite; prerequisite-wise, we only require a ki pool, which means that, in conjunction with e.g. Legendary Games cool archetypes or similar WuXia-supplements, we can greatly expand the usefulness of these vows beyond the confines of the monk class. Speaking of which: The Ki Meditation feat to grant ki to characters, first depicted in LG’s The Way of Ki, is reprinted for your convenience here. Kudos! The first vow wowed me – extremely materialistic, the vow of hard gold makes a perfect fit for Karzoug’s minions: The monk may not give gifts etc. and becomes extremely materialistic. Vow of knowledge ties you to the protection of academic texts, while vow of the ki-weapon represents an obsession to the exclusive use of a weapon. Vow of obedience is self-explanatory and ties you to a master; vow of self-sacrifice adds to that, tying the monk to a ward. (Cool: Trouble-shooting advice included!) Vow of secrecy makes you sworn to secrecy and vow of sightlessness is a willful blindness, while the vow of simplicity prevents manipulation of emotions and flourished speeches; vow of superiority is really cool as well, while the vow of total freedom prevents marriage or being burdened by any physical or metaphysical bond.


A huge plus: We get a massive list of psychic spells codified for the qinggong monk. Extremely useful and the ki-to-power-ratios is sound. The pdf then proceeds to depict ki tattoos – basically a universal archetype-y option for monks, replacing their bonus feats. At 1st level and every 3 levels thereafter, the monk gets a magical tattoo, which may be activated as a move action or as a swift action as part of a move action 1/day; further activation costs ki and saves, if any, are governed by Wisdom. The list includes rerolls, SPs, bonus feats, brief boosts to ability scores, the stalwart defender’s defensive stance, self-haste. Solid.


Then, we get to my favorite component of the whole book: Ki tomes! These are basically unique grimoires that contain special techniques and powerful tricks, akin to the nice books contained in Meditations of the Imperial Mystics. This contextualizes the abilities in an easy to integrate manner in the game, adding unique flavor to the options presented. Meditating upon these books can allow the character to learn specific tricks, either permanently when leveling up or temporarily. The first of these would be the Text of Burning Wind and Iron Rain, is unique: Crane Reversal is e.g. a potent upgrade of the Crane Style and pretty cool (though it should NOT have the style descriptor – as a character can usually only be in one style, and as this feat builds on Crane Style, that descriptor is wrong here.); Empty Hand Weapon lets you deflect missiles while holding a monk weapon (cool!) and Flow of the Firearm provides actual monk/gunslinging synergy – and guess what – those are just the first 3 feats! Making the flying blade a monk weapon is nice and a whole series of feats deals with monk weapon improvements, which is pretty damn cool! Further gunslinging tricks follow alongside Reflect Arrows…and have I mentioned ranged attacks with light weapons or increased shuriken range? Yeah pretty cool – though the subsequent taking of the shuriken upgrade multiple times should have minimum level requirements to prevent abuse.


The second tome herein would be To Serve Stone’s Stern Will, a poetic recount of a servitor-cult of shaitan requires adherence to vows, but upon mastering the basics, earth affinity may be gained, with further ki powers unlocking SPs…and the feats include Earth Gliding and the Sevenfold Stone Curse, which is a glorious blend of ki, earth affinity…and has the option to push targets into frickin’ stone! Glorious! Can we please have more? (And yes, they have amazing artworks!)



Editing and formatting on a rules-language level are tight, if not perfect, in spite of the complexity of the material; on a formal level, we have more glitches than usual for Legendary Games, making the book only good in that category. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard and the book sports quite a few nice full-color artworks, though fans of LG will be familiar with most of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Jason Nelson, Clinton Boomer and Jesse Brenner deliver a really cool supplement of monk options here. The complex archetypes presented within run the gamut from inspired to nice and the supplemental material is well worth checking out. The tempest, vows and ki tomes in particular really made me smile from ear to ear, in spite of the vast amount of monk material I’ve read. That being said, there are slightly more small components that could be a bit more streamlined than what I’d like to see – chakra champion or the damage-increase of shuriken sans scaling minimum levels, for example, are two such examples. The latter can be rationalized away by the context of the tome, but still – there are a few such instances that feel like they could have used a bit more scrutiny. That being said, I am complaining at a high level here. As a whole, I consider this very much worth getting, though I can’t round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.


You can get this cool collection of options here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.

Feb 202018

The Magnificent Joop Van Ooms (OSR)

This supplement clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page back cover; additionally, the absolutely GORGEOUS artwork on front- and back-cover has been reproduced in total as a final page, so you can marvel at this Jason Rainville’s masterpiece in full. This leaves us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


This review was requested by one of my patreons.


We begin this supplement with a recap of Dutch history and their current place in the world, leading up to the assumed starting date of the supplement, namely 1615 AD, with currently a truce with Spain and a few overseas settlements existing. Tactics and warfare are mentioned, and by the status of morals back then, the Dutch were rather progressive and permissive, as is the wont with centers of culture and progress. This mentality obvious centers on Amsterdam, and thus, we get some dressing and supplemental material focusing on the city: We get, for example, 50 diverse and interesting hooks for adventures/encounter set-ups/rumors for the wharves as well as brief rules for the flourishing black market and selling/procuring objects – you roll 2d6 and add Charisma modifier.


In case you haven’t noticed by now – no, this is not an adventure module, in spite of the logo on the cover. Instead, this is basically an extended NPC-portrait of the eponymous Joop van Ooms. How would you describe this fellow? Well, stat-wise, he is pretty boring, a level 6 magic-user. He is a polymath, inventor, architect, and he actually was also a superb athlete, but has been reduced to simple physical mediocrity by a war-wound sustained in the war against the Spanish. Joop is basically a Super-Da Vinci; he is FAR beyond anyone in his time period regarding intellectual capacities and morals. He openly maintains that Protestants and Catholics should not quarrel, that Jews should have full rights, that Muslims are no different from Christians, that e.g. Africans, natives of India etc. should be masters of their own realms…and he actually has been caught in homosexual activity as well.


Now, usually one of these would suffice to see him potentially eliminated, but the affected personality of the eccentric artist as well as his genius do provide some leeway, and his massive financial power also means he can support charitable causes. And yes, he has both Int and Cha 18. He’ll need it, after all, he has gained his own beliefs in a way that resounded profusely with me: He has gazed beyond the void, literally, realizing the utter meaninglessness and futility of all human existence, which consequently made him realize the error of the quarrelsome dividing lines drawn by his fellow men. Instead of the by now cliché descent into madness, Joop has experienced this as somewhat liberating and thus seeks to spread his progressive ideas, born out of a cheerful nihilism. This mentality echoed very much with mine and made the character, in spite of his arrogance, rather sympathetic to me. Indeed, you know…one could actually call Joop a really good guy from our perspective.


Joop also has a faithful right-hand man, namely the former slave Gilles de Rais, freed by Ooms and saved from certain death, this powerful and impeccably dressed man is just as impressive in his own way. Of course, such colorful individuals will need a personal secretary – this would be the effeminate Henry VIII (real name Geert Bogaers), who is also often the butt of Ooms’ jokes. And yes, Joop will NOT meet anyone who has not gone through Henry. Even the Prince of Orange once had to apologize to Henry to meet Ooms. They seem bound to self-destruct. The pdf also contains a fully mapped, 7-floor studio of Joop – though, annoyingly, we can’t turn off the letters on the maps; no player-friendly maps are provided.


Now, it should be noted that there is a leitmotif to the magic inherent in Joop’s art: The number 8 is tied to malign purposes and strange effects: For example, enemies that force him to work for them, may well have a room that kills you on the 888th night you sleep there; becoming ill after the 8th meal partaken in a room; animating every 8th statue when no one is watching…you get the idea. In a cool easter-egg, the layered pdf has an 8-layer, allowing you to eliminate the 8th and every multiple of 8 entry from the tables, to make the pdf Joop-safe. Cool! The respective effects are intriguing and pretty damn cool. The same goes for his dramatizations, for Joop’s plays can yield some interesting effects, particularly for humans. Demi-humans will have no fun with Joop’s plays, for his human-centric stance makes these plays dangerous for them…but can also fortify others against e.g. The King in Yellow’s influence, render temporarily immune against sexually-transmitted diseases…and as a humanist, his plays also may render all cleric scrolls blank, all ammunition useless, etc. – yes, PCs may become VERY annoyed by this man. Another problem of his strange plays: If not executed perfectly, they can have…unpleasant consequences.


As a student of Da Vinci, Joop has created a super-deadly Golden Gun – 1d100 damage. Ouch. Every shot destroys 1d100% of the gun’s value…but why care? You’ve got a 1d100 damage gun! RAW, it is NOT destroyed when its value falls to 0 sp in a weird lapse of rules-integrity. In a cliché, he also has a submarine in his basement, a helicopter on his roof. Both are not exactly 100% reliable, but yeah. The rules here are also weird: A maneuver of the helicopter, for example, is based on 2d6 + randomly chosen Strength, Constitution or Charisma (How? Why? I don’t get it… the pdf attempts to rationalize it, but doesn’t do a good or plausible job there.) modifier.


Portraits Joop paints make what’s on them turn real – as seen on the cover, where he smudges the face of a patron. Frescoes have another effect: He has managed to trap living beings inside them: Animals, and yes, even kids – Joop is not a nice man. With his vision, he does plan on trying to paint Jesus in a church…and the consequence may well be interesting. His poetry can timeshift beings forward or backwards in time. Statues he crafts have a hollow – upon the living subject’s death, a piece of them may be inserted, allowing Joop to question the targets.


The pdf also comes with a variety of adventure hooks: On August the 8th, for example, Joop dies – his prophecy comes true and a rain of meteors destroys Earth within a week. Prevent this…but how? His submarine can make PCs explore the depth; influential merchants and creatures may attempt to get rid of him…and what if someone can get his hands on an early stage play? Joop can provide a huge amount of potential angles.



Editing and formatting on a formal level are excellent. On a rules-level, we get no spellbook for Joop and a few instances where his magic arts could be tighter in the rules language they employ. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and interior artwork is nice and in b/w. The pdf comes with full, nested bookmarks for your convenience. The layer-based easter egg of the pdf is really neat, but I wished we got a proper player-friendly map of Joop’s studio. Cartography is b/w. I cannot comment on the print version and its merits or lack thereof, since I do not own it.


James Edward Raggi IV’s Joop van Ooms is a cool character that is balancing on the razor’s edge between visionary and villain. His modern sensibilities and per se noble intentions will resound with a contemporary audience, but on the other hand, his capricious hedonism and at this unreasonable lack of responsibility can easily cast him as a most devious and grating adversary. Joop is, in a way, a Gary Stu artist – he is literally legendary in pretty much every art he attempts and as such, can almost feel like the worst kind of GM-PC if not handled with care. As both an ally/patron and as an adversary, Joop can be abused very badly and needs to be handled with care.


It should also be noted that Joop does not make for an easily integrated character. He is very much tied to his time and age, and his behavior would not be considered scandalous in most settings; it only really works in contrast to a medieval/ darker early modern setting, preferably one based on our world. Joop works because he is a gigantic anachronism that goes beyond Jules Vernes; I could e.g. picture him as a regular Castle Falkenstein character if you strip away the imminent doom for the world that his very existence engenders. He also basically requires players that are truly enmeshed in historical accuracy of the time to work properly as shocking; otherwise, our contemporary mindsets will invariably make him look like a beacon of light in a darker age. That being said, his golden gun and functional Da Vinci vehicles feel oddly gonzo for LotFP’s earth-based supplements. More important for me, though, would be that the rules for the magic art are not nearly as tight as usual for LotFP-supplements. One thing I tend to love about Raggi’s offerings is the fact that the complex concepts they touch upon also are represented in a crisp and concise manner, and in comparison, this supplement is simply less precise.


I am, as a whole, also not a fan of concentrating all the cool ideas for magic art on one character: Having a full-length sourcebook with different characters and magic arts, with the arts themselves expanded, would be an amazing book; by focusing all on one character, both Gm and Players will have a hard-time of not feeling sidelined by Joop’s near godlike powers. Is this a good supplement? Well, it kinda is…and at the same time, it’s not. This is a very specific supplement, for a very specific target demographic. It is hard to use properly and the multi-faceted and complex character of Joop is basically a superhero (or villain) in a world where characters die like flies after botching a save versus poison. There is a lot to love here, but also a lot to hate…and honestly, the small inconsistencies make me fall closer to the latter end of the spectrum; as a person, I consider Joop to be a bit too all-powerful if played to the capabilities that his stats demand. And yes, I love his ideology of a positive, cheerful and somewhat decadent nihilism, but that should not influence the review. As a reviewer, I can see his appeal, yes, but it is more specialized and limited than the material herein really warrants and requires. Hence, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.


You can get Joop and his strange artworks here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.


Feb 192018

Everyman Minis: Mystic Scrivener

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


The pdf begins with a sidebar describing the basic understanding of the multiverse the scriveners are supposed to have, elaborating upon the concept of the Language of Creation. After this brief summary, we dive into the proper archetype; the mystic scrivener is an investigator archetype that alters alchemy: Instead of the usual benefits, the mystic scrivener adds the bonus to Linguistics and Profession (scribe). Additionally, the mystic scrivener gains read magic as a constant SP and may cast arcane mark at-will, changing which runes, markings etc. make up his mark whenever casting it. The mark consists of a number of letters or markings equal to 6 + class level; the scrivener uses class level as caster level. Instead of preparing extracts, the scrivener prepares baubles with esoteric phrases; the scrivener must read these aloud (requiring verbal components). The scrivener gains Esoteric Linguistics and Psychic Sensitivity at 1st level, ignoring prerequisites.


The mystic scrivener may choose from an array of additional, archetype-exclusive talents: Esoteric writings nets one spell from cle/oracle, psychic or sorc/wiz-lists, learning the spell as an extract. If the spell can be found on multiple lists, it uses the highest spell list. Alternative, the investigator may choose two spells from any of the lists, but they must be one level lower than the highest level investigator formula available for preparation. Exorcising sigil lets the scrivener use two uses of inspiration to duplicate the second effect of protection from evil for 10 minutes per class level. Promethean scrivener nest prerequisite-less Craft Construct, substituting Linguistics ranks (!! Important – not the cheesable overall skill!) for CL, and Linguistics fro Craft to create constructs. The scrivener may use extracts instead of spells as prerequisites, but does not otherwise ignore spell prerequisites. Golem-maker, anyone? Prophetic dreams is a 1/day option to write something on his forehead before going to sleep, gaining augury after an hour; 9th level upgrades that to divination, 15th to commune (both spell references are not properly italicized). The scrivener may also learn Scribe Scroll, allowing him to scribe scrolls of formulae known, using investigator level as CL. This does not allow spells that don’t qualify to e turned into scrolls. Finally, the scrivener can gain the voice of the grace revelation of the bones mystery, using Intelligence and class level to determine its effects.


At 9th level, the archetype replaces the investigator talent with the occultist’s magic circles, using class level as occultist levels for the purpose of their power, and uses of inspiration instead of mental focus to activate them. Instead of 11th level’s talent, the scrivener gains the occultist’s outsider contact class feature, once again using investigator levels as occultist levels and inspiration as a stand-in for mental focus.



Editing and formatting are very good – apart from two missed italicizations, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Matt Morris delivers a cool archetype here: The mystic scrivener as an investigator obsessed with the occult is an interesting angle and I enjoy the execution here. My only true gripe here is that the archetype, conceptually, probably could have carried full-blown class-hack levels of modification. I could easily expand the tricks of the archetype further, adding more unique talents etc. That being said, what is here is nice indeed. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


You can get this cool archetype here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Feb 192018

Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 Easy Mode (VsM Engine)

This version of Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


First things first: This review was requested by one of my patreons. The Easy Mode version of Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 is basically the refined and updated version of Season 1, and as such still contains the original pdf in the downloads. I strongly suggest going with the proper Easy Mode Season 2 upgrade – the rules are significantly more precise.


Now, this pdf is everything you need to play the Vs. Stranger Stuff adventures released for season 1, and indeed, anything in that regard. However, at the same time, even a cursory glance at the page-count in comparison should make clear that the full version sports a LOT more, interesting options, including the other difficulty levels. Let it be known, though, that the supplement, while obviously a teaser of the full Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 experience, is NOT cripple-ware. This is fully functional on its own and the pdf is FREE, the print at-cost at a paltry $3.00, which means that this supplement is great to check out whether you like the basics of the system. As a humble aside from yours truly, I consider the other difficulties presented in the big book to be superior. The different difficulties are briefly explained herein, but this pdf focuses on the basics.


We thus begin with a summary of what’s required for play, which is basically just one or more decks of cards as well as players and paper/pencils. The pdf includes a list of possible inspirations.


Okay, as in Stranger Things, we play kids, who have two attributes: Brains and Muscles. Starting attribute dispersal can be 5 in both or 4 in one, 6 in the other. The numerical values determine how many cards you draw when facing a challenge. There also are Good and Bad Gimmicks. You pick two Good Gimmicks and one Bad Gimmick at character creation: These can include cool, older siblings, further modifications of the attributes, etc. – and on the bad side, we get e.g. broken homes, being a klutz, having overbearing helicopter parents, etc. Every character starts at 10 toughness, which are basically the hit points of the character, though Gimmicks may modify that.


Equipment is handled in a relatively rules-lite manner, potentially requiring that the kids get gear that kids usually wouldn’t have by creative means. Sans roleplaying, it takes a draw to get it successfully: Compare the value of the card to the EV of the item. EV stands for “Equipment Value”, just fyi. You may attempt to get as many such equipment pieces per session as your Brains value dictates. Paired items, like walky-talkies, increase the value by 2 if you want both; this does not apply for items sold in bulk like nails or M&Ms, obviously. Sample values of how hard it is to get items are provided for your convenience. There, done: You can start playing right now – and the pdf has the character-sheet right there.


The next section deals with gamemastery, first explaining the core mechanic: Like the equipment example, you basically draw cards and compare the value of the cards to the TV, target value of the challenge. Actions that are directly opposed are resolved via competetitive drawing, higher card wins. Teamwork uses the character with the highest attribute, +1 card per person helping. Yeah, teamwork is powerful!


Suits mean something: The red suits, hearts and diamonds, are good suits with generally favorable results; the black suits are generally negative, with spades being worse than clubs. This is relevant when e.g. using a simple draw, i.e. drawing a card to get a general notion what happens, and can be really neat to help the GM decide on how an action pans out.


Combat is measured in turns, with turn-length adjusted to suit the needs of the story; player to the GM’s left goes first, in order; after all players acted, the GM’s monsters, NPCs etc. may act. Movement is similarly handled in an abstract, narrative manner, assuming the kids to be able to move a “moderate” distance; anything beyond that may require a test on brains or muscles.


You can perform one attack per round, or one complex action. Small actions like flicking on a light switch, etc., are free. Melee attacks work by comparing Muscles with the target’s DV – Defense Value. Ranged attacks are executed against the higher of DV or RV – RV denotes, bingo, the “Range Value.” The target numbers parallel btw. those of other actions. Damage depends on the weapon used: Fists or improvised weapons cause 1 point of damage, advanced weaponry like power tools 3.


As long as a character has 6 or more Toughness, all is fine; below that, the pain begins hamper them. At 5 toughness, the kid suffers -1 to both attributes, for being in minor pain. Having only 2 Toughness increases this penalty to -2 and 0 Toughness means -3 and extreme pain; -1 toughness means being knocked out, -2 means death. Resting for an hour regains 1 Toughness, 4 hours let you regain 5 and a full night of sleep nets 10 Toughness. First aid and pain killers can help against pain, obviously. And that’s basically the whole combat section as presented herein.


Beyond that, we get stats for 4 different adults, a sample kid and 11 monsters, ranging from greys to werewolves etc….and this is pretty much where the booklet ends. If you want the PCs to have unique stuff (i.e. items)…well, the big book has sentient robot buddies, working x-ray-goggles or spells and supernatural powers like pyrokinesis, parasitic regeneration, etc. A sample NPC with powers, 13, is provided and the pdf continues to provide a list (not comprehensive, btw.!) of further goodies from the big book. Attacking objects, fear, fire and fireworks, hazards, endurance over time, an extended GM-chapter. Rules for games within games, lucky lighters, a nice chapter on world-building and a sample mini-setting all are in the big book.


…yeah, in case you haven’t noticed, I very much suggest you get the big book if this setting/system even remotely appeals to you.



Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard with nice b/w-artworks, though this version does fall short of the full-color splendor of the big book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Lucus Palosaari’s expansion of Rick Hershey’s original season 1 pdf is something I applaud. Instead of taking season 1’s pdf down, we get a full-blown improvement in rules-integrity and precision, as well as a more than doubled page-count. Now, it is pretty evident that this version cannot, and doesn’t try to, replace the massive, proper Season 2 book. Instead, it should be considered to be a handy teaser for the vastly expanded Second Season book; a means for new groups to check out the game without any risk, courtesy of the pdf being offered for FREE. Now, in direct comparison, this obviously falls short of the big book; it can’t reach that level of depth and quality in these few pages. At the same time, this *is* a fully functional game, which is a pretty big plus as far as I’m concerned.


How to rate this, then? Here, things get tricky. You see, this pdf lacks a lot of what made me really, really love Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2’s full book. It remains a good offering, but unfortunately, I have read the full version before this one, so I can’t help but compare the two, and the big book is my favorite VsM-Engine game released by Fat Goblin Games so far. That being said, this is a perfect way of checking out whether the engine and type of game works for you and yours…and that’s how the pdf is intended. As a whole, I think this is worth checking out if you’re curious about the system. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and the fact that this is FREE.


You can try out these rules for FREE here on OBS!


You can get the big, proper book of Vs. Stranger Seasons 2 here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Feb 192018

Everyman Minis: Favored Enemy Focuses

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


All right, after a brief introduction, we get the new Focused Favored Enemy Combat-feat, which requires fifth level to take. It nets the character a focused favored enemy option and may be taken multiple times, with every additional time requiring +5 ranger levels for the prerequisites. Alternatively, when gaining 5th level, the ranger may elect to gain a focused favored enemy option instead of choosing a new favored enemy; existing favored enemy progression still happens when such a switch is made and some options sport prerequisites; these options work against all creatures that qualify for the purpose of a favored enemy chosen, and references to the favored enemy bonus refer to the bonus granted against the specific creature. Important: Favored enemy focuses may not be chosen by characters that traded favored enemy for another ability, nor be prestige classes or similar options that granted, unless the option explicitly specifies otherwise – nice angle, since it makes the engine somewhat future proof.


Anyways, we do get quite an extensive array of different options: Unless I have miscounted, we get to choose from a total of 21 such options. One such option would be aimed strikes: When attacking a creature with a manufactured or natural weapon or a ranger spell, DR of the target is reduced by the favored enemy bonus, to a minimum of 0; only DR/adamantine, piercing, bludgeoning or slashing may be thus reduced, tying the ability into skill rather than a supernatural angle. Nice touch there. Another option lets the ranger use a swift action to challenge a favored enemy properly identified as such, increasing favored enemy bonuses to damage by 50%, with ½ the highest favored enemy bonus also governing the number of times per day this can be used. Such challenges impose a -2 penalty to AC, though.


Enemy lore yields additional pieces of information when identifying creatures of the favored enemy type via Knowledge, once more governed by ½ the favored enemy onus pertaining to that critter. Enemy Sense makes the ranger be treated as uncanny dodge versus the creatures; additionally, favored enemy’s bonus is doubled for Perception to notice an ambush. Note, that this doubled bonus is generally RAW always on, not limited to favored enemies being parts of the opposition. Expanded expertise allows the ranger to add the favored enemy bonus to Diplomacy, intimidate, Spellcraft and Stealth versus the chosen favored enemies.


Focused Casting adds favored enemy bonus for ranger spells only to the spell’s CL as well as checks to overcome SR and spell save DCs, if any. Focused defense nets Favored Defense as a bonus feat; with multiple favored enemies, swift action allows for the switching of benefits to another favored enemy. He may use the benefits of this ability ½ highest favored enemy bonus times per day. Wait, what? The feat nets an always-on boost; the favored enemy focus adds no per day component…to what does this limit pertain? Switches of favored enemies that apply the feat’s benefits? Or does the feat require activation when gained by the focus? Honestly not sure here – this should be more precise.


We also get a smattering of combat maneuver specialization focuses, which often require specific feats at prerequisites: Focused bull rush allows the ranger to end his successful bull rush in any space of a favored enemy; Focused dirty trick has the wrong prerequisite – pretty sure, it should not be Improved Bull Rush. The focus extends dirty trick’s inflicted condition duration by ½ favored enemy bonus. Focused disarm requires Greater Disarm and, when successful and having a free hand, the ranger can catch or either wield, stow or drop the disarmed item. Focused drag makes the ranger count as a number of size categories larger than ½ favored enemy bonus; focused overrun and reposition work the same way, but the latter also states the wrong feat – it should be Improved Reposition, not Improved Overrun. This would be as well a place as any to note that the respective focuses using half bonuses should probably specify rounding up or down and/or a minimum. Focused grapple lets the ranger roll weapon/unarmed damage twice when maintaining a grapple versus a favored enemy, adding results together before adding bonuses.


Focused steal is interesting: It lets you steal fastened items sans DC-increase and even closely worn items, though at +5 or greater to CMD. Really cool! I am pretty sure that the “Improved Sunder” focus should be named Focused Sunder, analogue to the usual nomenclature of the other focuses. The focus allows the sundering of unarmed or natural weapons, which are assumed to have 1/10th of the creature’s hit pint total; if a natural attack has half its hit points remaining, the target takes -2 to atk and damage with it and may only threaten a critical hit on a natural 20. Fast healing and DR applies and healing effects add their effects to all natural weapons. Weird here: Unarmed strikes are exempt from the second part of the ability; while their inclusion is obviously intended, it still struck me as odd. Focused trip makes creatures that are tripped by 10 or more require a standard action to stand up, in spite of e.g. kip-up etc.


Ranger’s initiative is slightly odd: It adds the favored enemy bonus to initiative, provided he is aware of favored enemies among the foes. Okay, does the revelation of such foes in combat increase initiative retroactively? If a group contained more than one eligible group, do these bonuses stack versus a mixed group? Ranger’s Resolve is a bit odd: It adds +1/2 the highest ranger’s favored enemy bonus to Will saves. So, if you have a secondary focus versus another creature, you still get the biggest favored enemy bonus for it. Scent tracker nets tracking by scent versus the favored enemy, with favored enemy bonus +4 or higher doubling the range, tripling it at +8 or higher. Finally, soften blows lets the ranger expend an AoO to make a Reflex save vs. 10 + enemy BAB + the higher of enemy’s Str or Dex-mod. A success halves the damage of an incurred unarmed or natural attack. Not the biggest fan here



Editing and formatting are per se good, but feel a bit rush – the cut-copy-past glitches are unnecessary and a few of the rules-components could be a bit more precise in the details. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s two-column b/w-standard and the artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Favored enemy and similar nemesis-type of abilities are notoriously hard to make them work properly; too potent, and you marginalize the threat of the targets; as a situational benefit, it must remains potent, though. Oh, and favored enemy as a base ability, is simply not that interesting. The idea of favored enemy focuses, adding some active abilities and agenda to the chassis, is one I absolutely adore. That being said, the execution feels uncharacteristically rushed for author Luis Loza and Everyman Gaming. The small hiccups accumulate pretty quickly over the course of the brief pdf, in some instances influencing rules-integrity. Since some focuses use the highest bonus and some the specific bonus due to balancing concerns, it’s somewhat harder to determine a proper baseline. As a whole, I love a lot of what’s proposed here, and indeed, the concept is cool and worthwhile. That being said, I have to rate what is RAW here and, well, that aspect leaves a bit to be desired in a couple of instances. Thus, while I maintain that this has serious potential (and most GMs should be capable of making it work properly with minimum work), I can’t go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.


You can get this conceptually cool, if not perfect pdf here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Feb 162018

In the Company of Dragons Expanded

The massive expansion hardcover of „In the Company of Dragons“ clocks in at a massive 199 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with194 (!!) pages of content, so let’s take a look!


This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons. It was further expedited by me receiving a print copy.


All right, so we begin with a massive foreword by Bill Slavicsek, original author of the by now classic Council of Wyrms…and then we dive right in. Okay, usually, I assume a degree of familiarity regarding the “In the Company of..:”-series, mainly, because it is by far the best monster-playing option series out there for any d20-based game. Yes, I’ll stand by that. Since this book is a massive hardcover expansion of the original content, it must be considered to be special. Let us be a bit more in-depth.


So the first thing you’ll note upon starting to read this massive tome, particularly if you’re new to the series, is that this does not read like your average splatbook: Rite Publishing employs a cool framing narrative, wherein Qwilion of Questhaven requests members of specific species to talk about their own race; we basically get the inside scoop, and this is amazing for a couple of reasons. In the hands of a talented author, this inadvertently means that we get a glimpse at the psyche, biases and Weltanschauung of the respective races featured, one that goes beyond what we’d otherwise receive from a neutral depiction. As an aside, this also makes paragraphs that many readers are likely to skip in other publications a joy to read – this book is no difference and does not read like a phone-book of stats, but rather like a compelling, intriguing glimpse at draconic psychology.


These write-ups, obviously, also tap into creation myths and an often delightfully positive view of physical descriptions. Qwilion’s draconic correspondent, Thunders in Defiance, for example, wastes no time mentioning how the draconic form is the crest of royal houses, a symbol of destruction and majesty. These are little components that accumulate, enhancing the profile we have of the race: When e.g. the dragons tells us about how a clan of Taninim (that’s the name of the dragon-race herein) consumed a divine clam, losing their wings and becoming compelled to organize the world as a potential origin story for imperial dragons, I couldn’t help but smile at the compelling mythweaving. Now, beyond these components, we also learn, in depth, about the structuring paradigms of the taninim society in the Lost Isles, the backdrop/setting that houses them – more on that later; for now, let it be known that taninim differ in a couple of key aspects from regular dragons, but fret not: This does NOT mean that they are anything short of majestic apex predators. The Lost Isles is what I’d call a tie-in mini-setting; much like the Plane of Dreams or the Shadowplane, it allows for easy plugging into another campaign setting and its presence explains why few folks had heretofore heard of the taninim.


Anyways, the reputation of a taninim is important and the pdf explains the various grand rites of the race – these are relatively rules-lite rituals that account for example for banishment, challenges, changing alignment, etc. The acquisition of names and titles is also a big deal, with additional, grandiose titles gained…and there is a rite that governs basically a mating ritual of the otherwise mostly asexual taninim, who btw. also can change sex. These entries do codify their effects in proper rules-language, just fyi, so yes, while flavorful, they also carry game-mechanics with them that make their success or failure relevant in game-terms.


It should be noted that alignment changes may actually yield a painful process in which the character gets new scales, and the extensive discussion also delves into taninim religion and the psychology of hoards and lairs – territory is important. Now, it should be noted that chromatic/metallic distinctions are not *necessarily* color-coding All right, I know, I’m waffling – so let’s take a look at the rules-chassis, shall we?


Tanimin are dragons, receive +2 Con and Cha, -2 Dex, are Small, receive regular movement, can use manufactured weapons et al (at a -2 penalty) with their claws (secondary, base damage 1d3), receive darkvision and low-light vision, are immune to sleep and paralysis, can glide, receive +1 atk and +2 AC versus dragons as well as +2 to saves versus SPs, spells, etc. of such targets and +2 to Knowledge (arcana) to identify dragons. They also get a properly codified natural primary bite of 1d6 +1.5 Str-mod; Their hide yields +2 natural AC, but their form requires special armor. They increase ACP by 2 and suffer the same amount as a penalty to atk when wearing one; oh, and they reduce their maneuverability by one step when wearing armor while flying. They also get a +2 racial bonus to Perception and Sense Motive. Taninim are quadrupeds, receiving modified slots (armor, belt (saddle only), chest, eyes, headband, neck, shoulders and wrist. Armor costs are doubled, but they get a greater carrying capacity, depending on size, as well as the usual +4 to CMD versus trip and overrun.

Alternatively, they can elect, racial ability modifier-wise, for +2 Str and Con, -2 Int, +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Wis, or +2 Wis and Cha, -2 Dex. Among the alternate racial traits. Beyond these, we get alternate racial traits. It should be noted that the alternate ability arrays are not simply that – instead, they are tied to certain types of flavor and additional benefits – the Dex and Cha-boosting option, for example, comes with Tiny size and sports only a 20 ft. base movement rate, but also provides a fly speed from the get-go. Yeah, in case you didn’t know that already, we’re talking DRAGONS right here; I’m not going to complain about the first-level flight here. If you’re reading this book, you’re not going for a gritty low-fantasy game where that would become overly intrusive. There is a trait to use Wisdom instead of Intelligence for Knowledge skills where the character has at least 1 rank. +2 concentration, better giant killing (+1 to atk, +4 to AC), being a Lung dragon, immunity to altitude sickness and no lost Dex-bonus when climbing; better aerial combat, toxic blood and spiny hides complement this array. The alternate racial traits contain meaningful tweaks beyond their mechanics.


The race also receives a couple of favored class options -barbarian, druid, fighter, magus, monk, paladin, ranger, sorcerer, taskshaper and war master are covered. Before I delve into the respective archetypes provided, let’s not mince words so far – the taninim are strong. On a cosmetic level, the slight feature-bloat and two alternate attribute-sets that gear the race towards caster/martials are not something I’m overly fond of. Still, generally, the race itself can be considered strong, but manageable. It should be noted that we get tables denoting sizes by category, which is really neat.



Now the racial paragon-class is the draconic exemplar, which covers 20 levels, nets the taninim full BAB-progression, 3 good saves,d12 HD, 4+Int skills per level, no proficiencies apart from natural weapons. The taninim also receives a draconic essence – each of which provides one type of scaling energy resistance, a color, a breath weapon type and a unique compulsion, which always remains hard for the dragon to refrain from doing – which fits in thematically nice with the overall theme of draconic types. How many do we get in the expanded edition? Well, not “just” 20 as before…but rather than that 4+ pages of them!! Twice as many as before! And yes, these include trifling dragons, zealots, primeval ones, etc. Upon taking level 1 in the class, claws are upgraded to primary weapons and 1d4 damage. (The claws and how they work are one of the changes in this expanded version.) And yes, the role of e.g. linnorms in the context of the Lost Isles is covered.

Additionally, at 1st level, 7th, 13th and 19th level, the draconic exemplar can choose draconic weaponry – these can be used 1/2 class level + Con-mod times per day. Rather interesting – if applicable, their save-DC is governed by either Con or Cha, depending on the ability. They include fascination-inducing gazes, bolstering oneself against assaults, blinding gusts of wind, receiving the breath weapon associated with the chosen essence, elemental aura, charging through allies, enemies etc. The iconic whirlpool of bronze dragons, faerie dragon euphoric gas, frightful presence, spellcasting, roars, rampages, channel energy, retributive attacks after crits…and at higher levels, growing additional claws or even a second head can be gained thus – and yes, before you ask, draconic essence requirements prevent combining these two – thankfully! And yes, e.g. death curses by linnorm-y subtype are provided for your edification…if your PC falls, at least the enemy will suffer…There also is a sub-category of draconic weaponry that almost takes up 5 pages on its own, the draconic flair, which allows for the use of draconic weaponry uses to power SPs, with 1st, 7th, 10th and 13th level unlocking new options. Some of these sport unique tweaks to the SPs; zealots get their own unique abilities here; minor hiccup: The 13th level ability states 10th level in its explanation, but it is pretty evident what the intention is.

Additionally, at 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the exemplar receives a draconic defense, which is chosen from its own list – rerolls versus sonic/language-dependent spells, evasion while airborne, all-around vision (at higher levels) spell resistance (even reflective one!), 1/day save-rerolls (upgrades at higher levels), scaling resistance to negative energy, an aura of slowed time (class level rounds per day), scales that apply ½ natural AC to touch attacks (does not stack with other such abilities, thankfully) – quite an array of iconic tricks here. High-level swimming through lava can be found alongside fast healing, which thankfully sports a daily maximum cap, preventing abuse. A blinding aura, fortification, nictitating membranes (called “nictating” here), being breath-less – you can basically make very linnorm-y or esoteric-style dragons – the expanded section provides a serious array of unique tricks.

This is not everything, mind you: We receive a third list of special abilities, the draconic gifts. These are chosen at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, they are also governed by Con or Cha, depending on the ability. These gifts usually require a specific draconic essence to pull off – without access to energy (acid) and a corresponding breath weapon, you can’t make pools of acid, to give you an example. Most of these provide alternate uses of draconic weaponry and similar tweaks. Here, we can find high-level adamantine claws, the option to use two heads (if you have them) more efficiently, adding an auto-trip on a failed save to the breath weapon…and e.g. lacing the breath can be found.

Now, it is pretty awesome and something I’ll get back to later, but the book makes, courtesy of stretch-goals, use of quite a few amazing supplements: If you’re like me and like the time thief/warden-classes by Rogue Genius Games, for example, you’ll enjoy seeing the option to learn a bit of time-dabbling via aevum here. Blindsense and forming a potent living bottleneck in cramped conditions is another cool trick – after all, you are bound to explore dungeons sooner, rather than later, right? Camouflage, capsizing vessel, various gaseous weapons, poisonous chrome crystals, magnetic pulses, crushing foes, summoning temporary crystal balls, flinging foes…and have I mentioned basically bleed added, clinging napalm-y breath, oozing ice breath, no penalty to Perception while asleep, partial bypassing of energy immunity/resistances, touching spirits with claws, starflight, rending armor asunder, sweeping breath weapons…and yo know you want to unleash a tungsten sandstorm, right? How many of these do we get? Well, I only touched the tip of the iceberg here – more than 15 pages (!!!) of these gifts are included. Yes, you heard me. This is vast. It should also be noted that the array of gifts available often taps into the respective essence and other class options, generating specific progressions based on prerequisites that prevent OP combos…but rest assured, even a moderately capable player will get something rather cool out of this section.


10th level provides spell-trigger/completion items as though a sorcerer/wizard, using class level as caster level.


But we’re Small! That sucks, right? Well, here’s where dracomorphosis comes into play – gained at 4th level, this one nets you size increases, secondary wing attacks (or primary gore for Lung-dragons), AC and attribute bonuses – and flight. Dracomorphosis is gained every 4 levels thereafter, allowing the taninim to grow to Gargantuan size at 16th level – the race also reduces Dex during the size-increases and receives tail sweeps, crushes etc. Which is damn cool, granted…but what happens if Dex drops to 0? No, I’m not kidding – with a total reduction of -8 to Dex, this is a real possibility. And yes, I am aware of how this sort of thing is usually handled with monster-advancement, but the point remains that this pdf ought to have tackled this particular issue. I am also a bit disappointed here, for this issue already cropped up in the original version. The capstone is, of course, the final great wyrm apotheosis.


The book also contains no less than 3.5 pages of feats, with the options to swallow snatched foes, changing spell damage a limited amount of times per day to mirror the breath weapon, one that helps capture foes alive and the usual “additional class feature”-feats. More guardians for the lair, high-level appendage serving , etc. – quite a cool, if potent array. The section also contains suggestions for monster feats suitable for the taninim.


Now the archetypes – first would be the draconic hero – an archetype that allows a taninim of any class to gain draconic essence and grow via Dracomorphosis at the cost of some class abilities usually gained – as a massive multiclass-covering archetype, the abilities replaced vary from class to class, including Rite’s taskshaper and RGG’s hellion and war master classes, as well as the ACG-classes among the supported classes. No occult classes support, though. This archetype is very much a required component of the book, for it provides means for various different draconic PCs to further diversify the party’s portfolio without compromising the integrity of the classes and balance.

Speaking of hellions, a new archetype herein would be the defiler of lairs, which necessitate that I elaborate on a crucial flavor component of the Lost Isles – you see, there is the Well of Oblivion, an almost cosmic-evil level source of power and corruption that can taint the dragons to become what they call “worms”, undragons; the spiteful corruption of all dragonkind. And you wondered why dragons reacted so picky when not called “wyrm”, as proper…Anyways, the ultimate representation and a sort of satanic adversary for dragonkind would be the White Worm, tapping obviously into the literary tradition of the conqueror worm imagery. The defilers are tainted dragons with a slightly modified patron spell list and 1st level yielding the White Worm’s taint, modifying the basic combat capabilities and form of the defiler of lairs, replacing the bonded object ability. Instead of 8th level’s hellion talent, we get an aura that can suppress luck bonuses as well as better combat capabilities while, bingo, assaulting lairs.

Scaled Juggernauts are essentially taninim fighters specializing in combat with their natural weapons, gaining rake and pounce at higher levels, as well as better defenses. Stormclaw magi are a natural weapon-based tweak of the magus-engine, combining that with draconic essence. Trueblood Sorcerors are locked into the draconic bloodline, but receive a scale-spell-component that replaces material components/divine foci and replace regular bloodline powers with a breath weapon. The wardrake war master archetype replaces consul with better Diplomacy with dragons and may even get a dragon cohort later. Followers may have the drakeling template added.

White Worm Apostates, oracles tainted as undragons, receive degrees of fortification and may disgorge a swarm of consuming, maggot-like worms and later, rise as a twisted phoenix from their corpse 1/day – a very powerful archetype that absolutely *requires* the immense social stigma associated with the white worm to be added to the campaign. Amazing one, though!


Now here is one aspect of the book that is slightly annoying s far as I’m concerned: The player-facing material is split to a degree: The psionic dragon-chapter penned by Jeremy Smith is basically an appendix at the back of the book, which is, organization-wise, not ideal – we get, for example, psionic class support for use in conjunction with the draconic hero general archetype, requiring page-flipping. Similarly the draconic exemplar racial paragon class sports psionic support here, with 5 psionic essences for dragons, which doe interesting things, like e.g. tying the breath weapon to active energy, or providing cryptic support; we also get a new array of even more draconic flairs based on psionic powers – weird formatting decision: While functional, they are not presented in the same table-style manner. A total of 6 different draconic defenses may be found here, which include a dream shroud, negative energy resistance, astral suits, a buffer versus psychic enervation, a nightmarish mind and the option to attune to attacks after suffering them, gaining DR versus the creature’s weaponry from that source. We also get a massive 20 new draconic gifts that include astral cages, being right at home in astral or shadow plane, gaining cryptic insight, dream surges, bursts of ectoplasm and a scaling, cool mastery of oneiromancy. Beyond these massive expansions to the core features, the chapter also contains 3 new archetypes: Psychic warriors can elect to become black dragon heralds, locking them into the feral path, which is further enhanced. The bonus also applies to acid-damage-causing damage-rolls. Instead of the secondary path power, we get exhalation of the black dragon, which may not be changed out. 12th level yields claws of energy and 15th level breath of the black dragon. The gale dancer would be another psychic warrior archetype, gaining a draconic essence if the character doesn’t have one; the archetype also comes with its own path, which focuses on aerial combat mastery and basically pounce while flying for psionic focus expenditure as soon as 3rd level – OUCH. The archetype also nets better overland flight and 12th level yields all the unique dogfighting techniques we expect – death spiral, hovering…pretty neat. 15th level provides further adaptation to airborne assaults as well as yielding the ability to form shape and solidity of clouds. The third archetype would be the winged horror dread, employing terrors via claws and natural attacks and the tapping into the terrifying draconic weaponry; bonus feats and draconic gifts complement this one. A total of 6 psionic feats complement this section for e.g. temporary fast healing for psionic focus expenditure, with a hard cap. Rerolling Will-saves via psionic focus expenditure, but only versus non-dragons and options to increase the potency of the new options complement this section. We also get 5 favored class options for psionic classes. (Ultimate Psionics can be found here!)


The second player-facing chapter relegated to the back of the book deals with Rogue Genius Games’ Dragon Riders/Dracomancers – Since Taninim are similar, but different from the classic draconic threats, the book provides one archetype for either class: The Spirit-Bonded Rider and the Spirit-Bonded Theurge – these two focus mainly on modifying the base class engines to account for the taninim ally, modifying e.g. bonus spells etc.


Thirdly, there would be a massive chapter penned by none other than Jason Nelson of Legendary Games, and the chapter is glorious: Some dragons once were overcome by the Elder Voices, making the eldest of these titans the cairna drakh, the First Fangs; in recent years, the younger glorven muun have risen, a new generation of mythic heroes. While the default assumption of the Lost Isles is that mythic powers are restricted to NPCs, the material herein is extensive. If you do go the NPC-route, be sure to pick up Legendary Games’ superb Path of Dragons and Path of Villains, but that as an aside. In addition to notes for PCs within the context of the Lost Isles, we also receive notes on mythic hoards and lairs and more than 3 pages of mythic modifications for the racial paragon class, including augments and meaningful changes. Beyond that, we get no less than 18 different mythic feat-upgrades for the material herein and beyond, making these adversaries really, really deadly. I love how this section ties deeply into the captivating lore presented in the book.


All right, now I’ve already mentioned time and again the Lost Isles mini-campaign setting, gorgeously mapped by none other than Tommi Salama in full color. The islands, sheltered behind the mystic barrier, sport an absolutely GORGEOUS map and more detailed looks at the respective islands are covered – this whole section acts as basically a massive gazetteer of different regions: There would be Borealis, land of ice and snow, where the glasslike aurora coral grows; rugged and mountainous Earthspine sports the majestic Windscour Cliffs and the small fireflower islets and the ones known as jetsam promise more adventure still; war-torn Stormhome calls to the brave, in spite of its foreboding skies, the earth lush and rich, maintained by draconic might…and wooded Verdance is home to the feykith, human settlements and may well be refuge if you manage to hassle the powers-that-be…and, of course, there would be the festering wound that is the Well of Oblivion…but I touched on that before. The Lost Isles breathe the spirit of high fantasy in the best of ways, providing glimpses at unique vistas that may well have carried their own book; as far as I’m concerned, I’d love to see this unique tie-in setting developed further.

The role of regular dragons in the setting is btw. also covered, and we get a chapter on the unique magic items that may be found herein – several of which would be barbules, which are implanted in the thick draconic hide, allowing e.g. weapons to be treated as dancing. The downside to these potent implants is that they cause permanent damage while implanted. Really cool for big dragons – with the proper barbules, you can generate a missile-deflecting shield, guarding allies within your space with a powerful 75%, non-stacking miss-chance. Ability-score boosts and spell storing is also included in the deal…and if you’re afraid that the big dragon won’t accompany his allies into dungeons, well, there is a collar that allows for compression. Class ability enhancers can also be found and the eye of elemental focus allows the taninim to form breath weapons into fireball-like blasts. The steelrain war howdah also rocks and yes, there are vambraces to duplicate the standard benefits of unarmed damage escalation. Even better, we actually also get Elder’s Pixane, a legacy item collar. Legacy items are Rite’s scaling magic items, just fyi. What begins with a basic defensive item becomes pretty amazing pretty fast. Now, as noted before briefly, there is a CR +1 drakeling template and we get 2 new critters: At Cr 8 and CR 11, the Screaming and Whispering Entropy, respectively, horrid clouds that can exsanguinate and possess targets, tied into the rich lore of the setting.


Okay, so the book has another chapter that made me smile from ear to ear: This book is, in fact, also a Dragon-NPC-Codex of sorts. Why should you care? Simple. When someone asks me for the best NPCs in the 3pp-circuit, my response is usually to list a whole variety of Rite Publishing books first; the complex and challenging builds are what, a long while back, led me to become a fan of Rite Publishing. So yeah, we don’t just get some standard codex stats, we get fully developed characters…and not any characters either, mind you: We get full stats of the Elder Voices, and they are EPIC. Take e.g. “Darkened and Bloodied”, the mighty draconic hero war master wardrake: This lady clocks in at CR 22/MT 5, and she will mess you up – if not with superb tactical acumen, then her ridiculously potent physical tricks. Beyond here, we get to know the most accomplished spellcaster of the isles, the mighty green sorcerer Gardener; Heart of the Mountain; Infinite (includes an artifact); Winterglide (again, with unique item) – none of these sport less than CR 20 and guess what? They come with stats sans buff-suite as well. Beyond these mighty demigods, we get 10 mighty dragons of note, including the narrator of this missive, Thunders in Defiance – and yes, the stats are pretty complex and diverse. This one is pretty epic. Beyond this aspect, however, we also get the rules to make undragons and an archetype for the jotun (see Rite’s In the Company of Giants) – the race sports a pretty cool tie-in with the tale of the taninim, putting a spin on the classic giants vs. dragons-conflict.


Okay, so this also includes an adventure intended for dragons of level 1, guiding them up to level 6. The adventure is billed as a scripted sandbox and comes with, once more, gorgeous full-color cartography by master Salama. Even better: We get player-friendly versions of the maps in the back AND high-res jpgs of them for VTT-use. Dear publishers, please take note: This is how it’s done. When you have amazing maps, make sure that players get to see them sans secret door markers, keys, etc. Kudos to the Rite team! Oh, I didn’t mention the most important thing, did I? Guess who wrote it? None other than Ben McFarland. If you have any kind of experience with adventures, this alone should be enough t make you grin. Oh, and guess what? The adventure is not some brief 10-page standard supplemental adventure – we’re looking at a proper, full-length module. The adventure takes place on the volcanic island of Pani Ura (explorable via hex-map!) and deals with taninim granted a fiefdom there. Years passed, no sign remained. Sounds familiar? Well, one way to think of the module is to consider it a reclaiming of a Roanoke-like aftermath, through the lens of a brilliant writer and high fantasy.

Want to know more? Well, sure, but for that, I’ll have to go into SPOILERS:



The taninim PCs are sent to Pani Ura by none other than Raging Tide, to figure out what happened on Pani Ura and to secure the island for the taninim – which is depicted as a hex that contains tribal lands, wilderness, villages – etc. Heck, we even get entries for subaquatic animals noted, for the PCs will need to sustain themselves; the island is inhabited by several tribes: The Maohi, who btw. are the native grippli (yay for frogfolk!); the Otsjanep tengus; the Pu’oku locathah and the Saissut iguana-lizardfolk; all of these tribes come with notes on their settlements, sample statblocks, story seeds and potential threats/developments. Similarly, there are several threats the PCs will have to contend with – like the interaction with the tribes, these threats are tied into the environment and can be used in a pretty freeform manner by the PCs. After establishing contact, it will be up to the PCs to unify the island: Seeds for the dealing/negotiations with the respective tribes are provided and ultimately, the PCs will have to explore the old taninim lair within the dungeon of Pani Ura. The dungeon comes, once more, with a superb full-color map and the locations sport read-aloud text here as well. It is here that the PCs will have t deal with taninim that have been utterly corrupted, as well as a body-jumping menace that was foreshadowed before. Once the PCs have defeated these foes and destroyed their tainted idol, they should have managed to consolidate their rule, right? Well, no. Unfortunately for the PCs, crusaders have found the island; the crusader’s ship is fully mapped and the invaders are hostile, belonging to an order dedicated to the enslavement and eradication of all dragonkind. Usually, those guys would be potential allies for PCs…but this time around, the PCs unfortunately are the dragons. If the PCs are smart, they better prevent the escape of the vessel and defeat these fellows…but this is not the end. The order won’t just take a loss; instead, they send really potent, really nasty folks atop the mighty Drake’s Misery, a fully statted vessel, armed to the teeth…and if the PCs don’t intervene, the crusaders will deal serious damage to the island…let alone the PCs… The literally only thing I didn’t love about this great module is that I have finished it; while the replay-value is huge, I wish this was a full campaign. I mean, seriously, the defending the isle angle is great!!



Editing and formatting are excellent on a rules-language level; on a formal level, I noticed a couple of minor, purely aesthetic hiccups, missing blank spaces and the like, but less than you’d expect from a tome of this size; in this category, I’d consider this to be good. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s classic 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a ton of amazing full-color artworks. The cartography is excellent and in full-color, comes with player-friendly versions and even high-res Jpgs for VTT-use. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The massive hardcover is really neat and well worth getting.


Wendall Roy’s original “In the Company of Dragons” was a “squaring the circle”-sort of file; on one hand, he had to capture the power of dragons; on the other, there had to be some sort of balance. He succeeded in a truly impressive manner. This expansion, then, represents a massive evolution and refinement. We add Steven D. Russell’s draconic flairs as basically a whole sub-engine; well-done psionics by Jeremy Smith; kickass mythic support by Jason Nelson and a masterclass adventure by Ben McFarland. Sounds like an all-star team? Yeah, well, it is.


Beyond the mega-impressive chassis and the subtle, unobtrusive balancing that prevents the worst potential combinations, this oozes flavor and flair; the prose is stellar and the mighty NPCs can carry whole campaigns. The added details to taninim culture and Lost Isles is a joy to read and radiates creativity and heart’s blood. The adventure is unconventional, creative and amazing and the supplemental material otherwise never goes the lame route, instead opting for creative and unique solutions.


The Lost Islands are unique enough to carry a campaign by themselves, but please indulge me for a second, for this book made me come up with a pretty cool idea: So, you know how PCs often are supposed to “save the world”? Or, when evil, lose in the finale, à la Way of the Wicked? Well, what if the evil guys don’t lose? What if the PCs get squashed by a certain, unleashed Worm-that-Walks, what happens when the comet-summoning ritual isn’t stopped and the world as we know it ends, nations fall, gods follow? When darkness claims the world, for the PCs have failed and been TPK’d? Here’s an angle: A few mortals managed to escape to the taninim and the Islands remained. In the aftermath of the downfall of deities, divine energy was released. Now, if you take the rules from Purple Duck Games’ Dragon Thanes of Porphyra, you can do something cool: The latter book assumes that dragons, with enough followers, can learn to grant divine spells to followers! The new PCs could thus be a single taninim with his followers, attempting to become a new good deity of sorts, guarded by the other mortals, in a world that has fallen…or all PCs could be taninim, using the universal leadership rules from Everyman Gaming’s Ultimate Charisma; they are basically a new, draconic pantheon in the making, as they venture forth to bring hope to a defeated world! Come on, can you honestly not be excited by this idea?


Anyways, the fact that I mentioned this angle should tell you how excited this book made me. Yes, I freely admit it. I go review-bot whenever I have to deal with the notion of playable dragons and focus on the crunch, the fluff and turn off my personal biases. As a private person, I don’t even LIKE the notion of playable dragons. I consider it to be a horrible idea in most games. I rated the original version grudgingly, with respect for the design and vision, but no truly pronounced desire to use it, as my games tend to gravitate towards grittier playstyles. This book changed that. Not only did the crunch duly impress me, the whole vision, the setting, the cool NPCs…there is an incredible amount of love poured into this book, and it shows. This is one of the tomes, where the synergy of evocative prose, unique crunch and a daunting vision coalesce and form something greater even than the sum of the parts. In short: This is pretty much the definite option to play dragons. It oozes passion from all of its pages. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and the book is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017. If the notion of playing dragons even remotely intrigues you, then look no further.


You can get this magnificent tome here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.