May 312018
 

In the Company of Unicorns (5e)

This installment of Rite Publishing’s classic series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

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

 

So, as always,w e begin this supplement with a latter, as the meta-narrative of this series assumes that a member of the respective race is writing a letter to sage Qwilion of Questhaven; This sets the series apart from the get-go – unlike most racial supplements, the prose and colored/unreliable in-character narration assures that the pdf is actually fun to read and not just a dry assortment of numbers. This is a big plus as far as I’m concerned. In this case Phaedra, a member of the equine race of re’em, (how the unicorns refer to themselves) begins the narration with a summary of how the race views their own physiological differences from most humanoids. The pdf then proceeds to grant us insight into re’em culture, their herds etc. – and here, Rite Publishing must be commended. Instead of just duplicating the flavor from the PFRPG-version, we get a rewritten version of the whole account, taking e.g. the presence of warlocks in 5e into account. You may consider that to be a small thing, but for me, it represents the difference between doing what’s required and going the extra mile. It was an impressive surprise.

 

There is an obvious and intended “The Last Unicorn”-vibe conveyed by the prose, as the noble courtier tells us about the importance of hope…and sorrow…and what they can d. Beyond this glimpse at the psychology of these noble beings, we also learn about interactions with humanoids, providing a perspective on such happenstances from an insider’s perspective. So yeah, the flavor aspect is excellent.

 

Now, let’s take a look at the crunch, shall we? First of all, re’em increase their Constitution by 2 and mature quickly; they never die of old age, and their type is governed by the subrace chosen. However, it should be noted that spells that affect humanoids, thankfully, still affect re’em. As quadrupeds, re’em are restricted to horse barding and somewhat limited in using many consumables, but they may cast spells with somatic components as usual. They have darkvision and their horn deals 1d8 piercing damage. When charging at least 20 ft. in a straight line and attacking with the horn, this damage is increased by +2d6 piercing damage, making them rather lethal at first level. Re’em also have hooves and may use either both front or rear hooves for a 1d6 bludgeoning damage attack. These natural weapons are considered to be magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity.

 

4 subraces are provided: Celestial re’em increase Wisdom by 1, get the celestial type and know the spare the dying cantrip. 3rd level nets cure wounds once per long rest interval, 5th level lesser restoration once per rest interval. These are governed by Wisdom. The race also gains resistance to poison damage and advantage on saves vs. the poisoned condition, and these benefits extend to creatures riding the celestial re’em. The second subrace would be the ki-rin, who increase Charisma by 1, are celestial, type-wise, and when not wearing armor, have an AC of 12 + Charisma modifier, minimum +0. The armor class of riders may not be less than 10 your Charisma modifier, unless they are riding the ki-rin against their will. The alicorn of the ki-rin nets resistance as a cantrip, and 3rd level provides bless, 5th level aid, both of which are usable once per long rest interval and are governed by Charisma.

 

Thirdly, we have the fiendish re’em, the dark unicorns, who increase Intelligence by 1, are, type-wise, fiends and gain resistance to fire, which may be extended to riders. Their alicorn nets produce flame as a cantrip, with 3rd level yielding hellish rebuke and 5th level darkness once per long rest interval. You guessed it: Governed by Intelligence. Finally, sylvan re’em increase Dexterity or Charisma by 1 (your choice) and have the fey type; they have advantage on saving throws versus the charmed condition and can extend this benefit to riders. Their alicorn nets minor illusion as the cantrip, and at 3rd level faerie fire, at 5th level calm emotions. As before, both of these latter spells are governed by Charisma. All subraces also grant languages appropriate for their themes.

 

We get a new paladin oath next, the oath of the greenwood, which comes with fully formulated tenets and two new fighting styles are noted: Impaling and Trampling. Both are concisely presented. The oath gets its own oath spells and the 3rd level nets two channel divinity options: One is really cool, as it laces thunder in your hooves allowing for quicker movement and more damage/better attacks. The second option is also AMAZING, as it emphasizes teamwork: Nearby allies may target additional beings with beneficial healing-based spells. Love these! Also at 3rd level, we get mystic link, which allows you to attune your horn to a weapon as part of attuning the weapon, allowing you essentially to keep fighting with your horn. At 7th level, we get an amazing aura – the horn sheds light that the unicorn can suppress, sure, but this light also cancels darkness…and enlightens metaphysically, suppressing blindness! I love the visuals here. 15th level nets an additional channel divinity option (which is, slightly oddly, formatted differently than the previous ones, but that is pure aesthetics): Here, we have wind striding, allowing you to run over any substance unharmed, up to 90 ft. away from the ground, and you can carry up to two Medium riders with gear, provided you do not exceed maximum encumbrance. You can also ascend on empty air. I love this. The two rider option made me recall the famous templar symbol…and the mythological link works, once you recall that unicorns were often used as a cipher for Jesus in occult Christian texts., 20th level allows you to call an ancestral unicorn to your side to aid you. Cool!

 

We also receive the elder unicorn sorcerous bloodline. From 1st level on, when learning spells, you can choose druid spells instead, up to half of your total of spells known. You also gain proficiency in Religion and Nature, and may use Charisma as governing attribute for them instead. 6th level has a cool trick: When you cast a druid spell, but it doesn’t do damage (even if you intended it to do damage!), you get to cast a cantrip as a bonus action. If the cantrip deals damage, it deals bonus damage equal to the level of the spell slot expend by the triggering spell. This makes “missing” with spells less of a bummer and nets a second chance. Love it! At 14th level, the character learns geas as well as the option to expend a spell slot: If the spell slot expended had a higher spell level than a curse, oath, etc., you can end the effect. The ability takes same level of curse and spell slot into account. Really cool! 18th level is also really cool, teamwork wise: After casting a spell with a spell slot of 1st level or higher on your turn, you may take a reaction to a nearby ally casting a spell. If you do, the spell is enhanced and treated as one level higher. Love this!

 

We also get the vile pact of the sundered horn for warlocks, accounting btw. also for re’em that sacrifice their own horn! Cool!

 

The pdf also sports a paragon/exemplar class, here, the Silvermane Exemplar, who comes btw. with quick build rules. Only re’em qualify and they get 1d8 HD; proficiency-wise, we get all armor, one type of artisan’s tools, Constitution and Charisma saving throws, and two skills chosen from Athletics, Insight, Nature, Perception, persuasion, Religion and Survival. Starting equipment is noted and the class begins play with the mage hand cantrip, which may be explicitly used with proficiency bonus, if any, when employed with artisan’s tools and ability checks. Ability scores increase at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, up to and including 16th level. A silvermane exemplar begins play with a pool of inner light, equal to the class level. This resource may be sued to cast the spells granted by the alicorn class feature additional times sans a low rest (1 point for 1st level spells, 2 points for 2nd level spells). Additionally, as an action, you can spend a point and touch a willing creature, granting the target Charisma modifier temporary hit points. Alternatively, as an action, you may heal 5 times the amount of inner light spent of the ability in hit points to a target creature.

2nd level provides one of my favorite class features of the class, Purity and Sorrow. When you hit a creature with an attack roll, you gain Sorrow. When you restore hit points to an ally or provide temporary hit points/end conditions for them, you gain Purity. When you restore it points or grant temporary hit points, you may expend Sorrow to add 1d6 to the hit points granted or restored. When you roll damage for an attack, you may expend Purity and add +1d6 radiant damage to the damage dealt. These fade after 1 minute if not used. The dice they employ increase to d8 at 5th, d10 at 10th and d12 at 15th level. I love this, though it should specify that e.g. hurting harmless kittens could not provide Sorrow. Anyways, this feature thus rewards alternating between offense and defense and encapsulates the flavor really well. 5th level provides multiattack, 6th level the oath’s mystic link for weapon-to-horn-attunement; additionally, 6th level lets you spend inner light to grant adjacent creatures resistance to one of several damage types, with more targets costing more points. 9th level yields an alternate, humanoid form. At 13th level, when moving or using Dash, you can spend 1 inner light to teleport the distance instead. Starting at 14th level, when gaining or ending Purity, you can use a bonus action to generate a breeze that ends harmful conditions for a creature nearby. This does not net you Purity. You can also end confusion or curses, within limits. 17th level lets you spend 4 inner light to grow glorious, feathered wings that last until you gain Sorrow. At 20th level, you regain 4 points of inner light after a short rest.

 

Obviously, the class also has some sort of choice baked in; that would be the noble orders. These define your class features gained at 1st, 3rd, 7th, 11th and 18th level. 4 orders are provided: Royals, Courtiers, Knights and Knaves. Royals gain fire bolt and may later heal a creature within 30 ft. when healing via inner light while they have Sorrow. Healing and aforementioned mystic link improvement as well as a high level sun-crowned form make for a cool choice here. The courtiers are more skillful and have, as befitting their title, charm/dominate-themed abilities and sanctuary effects. These are the more tricky ones. Knights get a fighting style, may grant allies the ability to move as a reaction and penalize foes with Purity/Sorrow dice. Finally, the order of knaves has a cool ability that allows them to disguise their horn – if a target doesn’t know your name, he fails to see it! Using abilities, obviously, can also reveal who you are, and the order focuses on establishing a bond with another character, which can be really rewarding, roleplaying-wise.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-language level, the book is excellent and really interesting, providing a distinct array of complex rules-concepts. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful, new two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports quite a lot of interesting full-color artworks that diverge in styles employed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

BJ Hensley’s original PFRPG-take on the playable unicorn was already rather cool; what Brandes Stoddard did with it, was inspired. The 5e.version of the playable unicorn is creative, distinct and provides a surprisingly concise take on the concept. The class options are well-crafted and the new class rocks, offering a playstyle that feels distinct, fresh and different. The fact that the lore reflects the mechanics is just the icing on an awesome cake. I love this supplement. The only blemishes I could find are exceedingly minor and represent only aesthetic gripes. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this well-crafted, cool supplement here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 312018
 

Shadows over Vathak: Gamemaster’s Guide to Ina’oth

This GM’s Guide to the region of Ina’oth clocks in at 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 58 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

First things first: While this does not require the Player’s Guide to Ina’oth, it is interesting to note that there is no overlap between them per se – the two guides have been crafted to complement each other, which is a big plus as far as I’m concerned. Instead of getting an unredacted version of the Player’s Guide, we get basically a massive amount of new material and a glimpse behind the curtain. In short, this is a great example of how Player’s/GM’s Guides should be employed.

 

Okay, structurally, we begin with a piece of introductory prose, presented as a letter, including a proper visual representation of said missive. Aesthetically, that much is certain from the get-go, we have a distinct and nice book here – the grimoires-style layout (with stains and splotches) makes this an aesthetically-pleasing experience to read, complemented by plenty of flavor-wise perfect full-color artworks; while some obvious have been taken from the public domain, they have been recolored or modified…or chosen perfectly to seamlessly generate a unified aesthetic as far as artwork is concerned. The original pieces I saw are, no surprise there for Fat Goblin Games, really, really nice.

 

But what about the content? Well, this guide begins with the usual introductory notes and some advice for the GM that is important to bear in mind – Vathak as a setting is conductive to a variety of different horror types, and selecting properly the themes to convey is important. Anyways, after this, we receive a brief history of the region, with the amazing banner added as a pleasing visual identity. We thus learn of the golden age long gone, far from the grip of the dreaded old ones and vampire lords, but we also learn of the bitter wars that ravaged the land, of the Plague of Shadows and worse – Ina’oth, at least to me, has a very distinct Masque of the Red Death vibe, with disease as a leitmotif.

 

Next up, we take a tour of the settlements of Ina’oth, and here, we get not only juicy and evocative angles, we actually also get full settlement statblocks for these places…and if that should not suffice for you, then rest assured that that the massive 50-entry-strong table of random settlement hooks should inspire you. Why are a settlement’s sole inhabitants children? Why does a crazed old couple attempt to fling excrement at the PCs, calling them plaguebearers? The table is excellent and absolutely inspiring.

 

Speaking of inspiring: We go through the lands of Ina’oth and sport something that should be considered to be required for pretty much all games: We get DCs for knowledge the PCs might have on the area, yes, but instead of just getting the success…we also get massive amounts of information for FAILED checks. This is a simple operation, yes, but it adds to the element of uncertainty required by good horror. (Suffice to say, the GM should roll such checks.) Beyond that, PCs that do their legwork may unearth even more information, adding yet another level to this section. This is tremendously useful and takes the need to redact and compartmentalize information off the GM’s shoulders. I adore this. Please continue doing this!

 

Anyways, if all that technical stuff regarding immediate usefulness does not inetrest you, well then I still have excellent news. You see, Ina’oth’s regions are written in the most inspiring way I’ve seen since the old 3.X Ravenloft Gazetteers, with a focus on immediate usefulness, rather than novel-like plots. In short, this book does a phenomenal job here! Now, this level of quality also extends to the movers and shakers of the region, providing detailed, fluff-centric write-ups for the powerful beings f the region…and for, for example, the dreaded Stick Man, an impossibly gaunt man shrouded in black, with a wide-brimmed hat…From the locales to the persons, a palpable sense of the horrific, a knowledge of what works, suffuses this supplement. This, unsurprisingly, also extends to the fluff-only write-ups of the potent organizations that can be found in the region: Dedicants of Miasma, who arose during the Plague of Shadows, are often surgeons and the like, struck by visions of horrible winds felling men and plagues alike – here, we have the belief of the old concept of miasma, aptly translated into what may or may not actually grant power. Knights of the Blackened Sun seek to harness the power of the One True God and the vampiric lords at the same time, making for a ruthless and philosophically interesting knightly order, while the people of ash believe that they were killed in a past life and may attain knowledge and learn how to escape what they perceive as the cycle of reincarnation.  No, this is, by far not everything, and I remained rather brief here, because I do believe that this should be read in its entirety to properly work.

 

The book also explains, in details, the realities of life in the region and also has a whole section devoted to festivals and local traditions, which adds tremendously to the sense of this being an actual region. Heck, we even get a fully-depicted prayer for the dead here!

 

Now, in the beginning, we already read about the book being cognizant of the different tropes associated with horror subgenres. If you, as the GM, are not 100% sure, though, well, there is an extensive selection of adventure hooks provided for Gothic Horror, Survival Horror or Cosmic Horror, grouped by theme. I love this.  The next section becomes crunchier and provides something that, once again, should imho have been standard a long time ago: We are introduced to a variety of diseases, which come with multiple stages! This can mean that even Pathfinder’s liberal magics will be taxed more by curing them, and adds a level of tension here…particularly since the engine provided means that you can easily design further stages and tweak what’s here. The Plague of Shadows, for example, is presented as a 3-stage disease. Know what’s even cooler? We get a disease-template that you can employ to change things up and further codify and tweak these hazards!

 

The last big chapter is something most GMs will adore: With the region’s focus on ghouls and ghosts, the guide does not seek to needlessly reinvent the wheel. Instead of clogging your game with a ton of templates, it provides an extensive array of alternate monster features, with CR-modifications noted. Are you old-school and want a ghost that ages you? Ability’s here. Fancy some Ring-action? Drowning’s an option. What about ghosts that can hitch a ride on beings that defeat them, to rejuvenate next to their one-time vanquishers? (YOU FREED HER!!) Oh yes. What about…splitting and being there in multiple places at once? What if misplaced love of a lover makes a ghoul return as a corpse loved? Did I mention the table that sports 12 disturbing ghoul hobbies or 12 advice/services that could be gained from “friendly”/satiated ghouls?  We also get 12 mementos for them, and 12 sample quirky mannerisms – obviously with a focus on the odd and somewhat macabre.

 

The pdf closes with 2 monsters: The face taker, at CR 10, can compress itself and rip the faces off their victims, adding them to their horrid form. The CR 4 shroud mummy, then, would be one of the most interesting, at least theme-wise, variant mummies I know, sporting the ability to demoralize via their death imprints and to leech away the life of those caught in their shrouds.

 

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to an absolutely gorgeous 2-column standard that blends perfectly together with the artwork to create an aesthetically-pleasing whole. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

John Bennett provides a true gem here. The Gm’s Guide to Ina’oth focuses on being useful for the GM. While there is plenty of amazing lore to be found here, I was surprised by how actually USEFUL this book is – the hooks and angles, the details and settlements…this is basically both a great region sourcebook AND a great horror toolkit; even if you do not play in Vathak, this is worth every cent of its asking price. The prose and ideas are interesting and fun to read, further cementing Fat Goblin Games’ run of excellent Vathak-supplements. If you even remotely enjoy horror and if you are not adverse to having annoying stuff like signature abilities and settlement statblocks laid out for you, if you enjoy some nice dressing to go along with inspiration for both folks, places and organizations, then I can wholeheartedly recommend this.

 

As an additional aside: This *may* be a coincidence, but even if you do not play Pathfinder, the book’s structure and ideas, when seen as apart from the rules-components, still warrant getting this one in my book. If you like your games dark, then this will have something for you! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, given without the slightest sliver of a doubt!

 

You can get this amazing supplement here on OBS!

 

Missed the equally impressive Player’s Guide? You can find that book here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 302018
 

Star Log.EM: Augmentative Equipment (SFRPG)

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

We begin this supplement with a brief look at augmentation in the galaxy and the Xa-Osoro system in general, before getting a massive table that lists the material by price and level, noting system modified as well. We also have the new weapon fusion, biointegration, which clocks in at only 680 credits, which represents the classic means of the integrated weapon. While deployed, you can’t do anything with the hand but use that weapon. Unfusing is a move action and only one-handed weapons may be fused thus – the plus-side being obviously that dropping or disarming is out of the question, and half damage dealt to the fused weapon is dealt to the character instead of the item, which can make for an interesting double-edged sword. Haha. Get it? …Sorry for the bad pun.

 

Anyways, we also get two new armor upgrades. Phantom emitters are classified as hybrids, and can compress armor via extradimensional means into 1/16th of the usual size sans modifying your size category, allowing you to squeeze through 1/4th your space sans counting as squeezing. While the armor is thus compressed, you have 360° vision and move via rolling, restricting you to unarmed strikes that benefit from shock, but are not considered to be archaic. On the plus-side, total defense in ball form is more useful. Weapon integration systems can be installed into light and heavy armor only and make it possible to install weapons as though the suit were a power armor, with weapon types codified properly by weapons slots granted by this upgrade.

 

The pdf also sports 4 different biotech augmentations. Adamantine boneplates are provided up to MK 7, granting increasing DR (or improving your existing one); as it applies to the skeleton, it has a different system than dermal plating, but they may explicitly not be combined. Good catch. Biotic Flight is added to the spinal column and comes in Mk 1 – 3, beginning with basically gliding and improving to include first clumsy and slow, then better, flight. Spiked growth depend, system-wise, on where you get them, but they enhance your climbing capabilities and provide the means to inflict piercing damage with unarmed strikes – the augmentation is presented in one version. Cool: the rules take hardness of surface scaled into account AND also provides a benefit for folks with Improved Unarmed Strike. Kudos!

 

Finally, the muscle mass magnifier lets you execute penetrating unarmed strikes, with 9th level plus adding critical effects. Nice! They are presented up to Mk 10.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I sported no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s colorful and nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf has a nice artwork, as seen on the cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Alexander Augunas’ augmentative equipment provides several pretty crucial modifications for characters. The rules are precise and make good use of SFRPG’s item levels; the presentation is precise and, as a whole, I really enjoyed this one, as it provides some classics that I as an old Shadowrun-veteran simply expect to see from futuristic games. In short: Very much recommended, 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool supplement here on OBS! (You know you want your blade-arm…)

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 302018
 

Places of Power: Tibol-Korrin

This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ classic Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Now, the name “Tibol-Korrin” did evoke an expectation of elven settlements for me, perhaps due to being close to the Tiri Kitor of Red Hand of Doom in the melody of the word; however, Tibol-Korrin is something else. It’s something genius that I haven’t seen done in any comparable supplement. This place is a strait, important for seafaring merchants, as it is one of the few ways to access the landlocked baronies of Tibol and Korrin in a relatively safe manner. As is the wont with channels and straits like this, there is a lot of gold to be hand, and as such, it should come as no surprise that, sooner rather than later, violence erupted. Indeed, as the PCs visit this place, relationships between the baronies are stressed, to say the least. Officially, the baronies are in a state of war after disputes over tariffs…but, unlike what we’d expect, the strait is actually open! Yeah, I know, right? We all kinda expected *that* to be the task of the PCs here, but it’s not!

 

You see, a combination of economic necessity (wars are expensive) and burgeoning romance between two commanders has managed to put the place into what amounts to a fragile equilibrium that may well pave the round to peace…or escalate once more. On the Tibol side, the strait only sports a single permanent structure, Fort Teggin, whereas on the Korrin side, Korrin bastion looms, with both sporting towers with spyglasses and fire pits, mirroring ancient lighthouses. As an aside: I really like that these are firepit-based. It adds a gritty, grimier, medieval/antique feel to the place.

 

Now, as always, there are quite a few crunchy bits spliced into the description of this place. We get a brief section on local lore for PCs that do their legwork, notes on local dressing habits and nomenclature, as well as 6 different whispers and rumors for the PCs to unearth. The PFRPG-version sports a sensible marketplace of goods to purchase. The pdf also provides some suggestions on how to best use this.

 

Now, if the big picture situation on its own were not interesting enough, the pdf also provides detailed fluff-only write-ups for the romantically-involved commanders that have bridged the gap between baronies, of sorts at least. There is more to note here. A mad hermit has his own cove here, and while indeed insane, he once was an extremely potent spellcaster, driven mad by apocalyptic visions. Nowadays, the hermit (who also gets a detailed write-up) considers himself to be the guardian, someone to stem the tide of darkness to come. Indeed, a subtle chthonic leitmotif can be found here and there in the supplement. The keyed locations sport read-aloud text and adventure hooks, both of which are utterly inspired. For example, a local diver is paranoid about a discovery he made. Beneath the waves, there are two jade fortresses, mirroring those atop the sheer cliffs…but what’s their significance? That is excellence, right there.

 

The pdf does more. It describes the vicinity of the strait in detail, and comes with a massive 20-entry global hook-list of dressings and events to bring the place to life. A rare fruit is watching hereabouts, nourishing and conveniently spiny, making for nice improvised weapons. A catapult remains peacebound for now…and amid gorgeous coves, the place where lovers jumped into the waves, ostensibly becoming merfolk, remains – legend, superstition, or dire foreshadowing? Beyond the global dressing/events table, we also get two localized event tables, both 6 entries strong, for two of the keyed locations.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to an elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports gorgeous b/w-artwork I haven’t seen before. The b/w-cartography by Maciej Zagorski is great and the pdf comes in two different versions, one optimized for screen-use and one made for the printer. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Mike Welham’s name on a roleplaying supplement is a pretty good indicator that you’ll receive something that is AT LEAST good, quite probably excellent. Tibol-Korrin belongs firmly in the latter category. Beyond the already intriguing basic set-up, the book goes one step beyond, time and again. We have a personal level; we have the potential for horror, for tragedy, for war, for peace. This supplement manages to marry a sort of melancholia inherent in the geography and situation, with an after-war world-weariness that is sharply contrasted with the presence of clear peace-indicators and the joys of burgeoning love. We add a sprinkle of sword & sorcery, a dash of what may be a fairy tale or a gothic tale of woe and tragedy, and have a location that manages to serve a vast variety of functions in your game. It should be seen as testament to his talent that the author managed to construct this place in a way that makes it possible to employ all these disparate elements at once and even brew them into a concise whole, all without making the place feel disjointed or artificial.

 

In short, this is an absolutely inspiring, glorious supplement that oozes flavor from each word, an exercise in super storytelling. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this pdf here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 302018
 

Places of Power: Tibol-Korrin (5e)

This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ classic Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Now, the name “Tibol-Korrin” did evoke an expectation of elven settlements for me, perhaps due to being close to the Tiri Kitor of Red Hand of Doom in the melody of the word; however, Tibol-Korrin is something else. It’s something genius that I haven’t seen done in any comparable supplement. This place is a strait, important for seafaring merchants, as it is one of the few ways to access the landlocked baronies of Tibol and Korrin in a relatively safe manner. As is the wont with channels and straits like this, there is a lot of gold to be hand, and as such, it should come as no surprise that, sooner rather than later, violence erupted. Indeed, as the PCs visit this place, relationships between the baronies are stressed, to say the least. Officially, the baronies are in a state of war after disputes over tariffs…but, unlike what we’d expect, the strait is actually open! Yeah, I know, right? We all kinda expected *that* to be the task of the PCs here, but it’s not!

 

You see, a combination of economic necessity (wars are expensive) and burgeoning romance between two commanders has managed to put the place into what amounts to a fragile equilibrium that may well pave the round to peace…or escalate once more. On the Tibol side, the strait only sports a single permanent structure, Fort Teggin, whereas on the Korrin side, Korrin bastion looms, with both sporting towers with spyglasses and fire pits, mirroring ancient lighthouses. As an aside: I really like that these are firepit-based. It adds a gritty, grimier, medieval/antique feel to the place.

 

Now, as always, there are quite a few crunchy bits spliced into the description of this place. We get a brief section on local lore for PCs that do their legwork, notes on local dressing habits and nomenclature, as well as 6 different whispers and rumors for the PCs to unearth. The 5e-version sports a sensible marketplace of goods to purchase, properly adjusted for 5e’s realities. The pdf also provides some suggestions on how to best use this.

 

Now, if the big picture situation on its own were not interesting enough, the pdf also provides detailed fluff-only write-ups for the romantically-involved commanders that have bridged the gap between baronies, of sorts at least. There is more to note here. A mad hermit has his own cove here, and while indeed insane, he once was an extremely potent spellcaster, driven mad by apocalyptic visions. Nowadays, the hermit (who also gets a detailed write-up; at this point, it should be noted that 5e-references to default stats have been implemented in a concise manner) considers himself to be the guardian, someone to stem the tide of darkness to come. Indeed, a subtle chthonic leitmotif can be found here and there in the supplement. The keyed locations sport read-aloud text and adventure hooks, both of which are utterly inspired. For example, a local diver is paranoid about a discovery he made. Beneath the waves, there are two jade fortresses, mirroring those atop the sheer cliffs…but what’s their significance? That is excellence, right there.

 

The pdf does more. It describes the vicinity of the strait in detail, and comes with a massive 20-entry global hook-list of dressings and events to bring the place to life. A rare fruit is watching hereabouts, nourishing and conveniently spiny, making for nice improvised weapons. A catapult remains peacebound for now…and amid gorgeous coves, the place where lovers jumped into the waves, ostensibly becoming merfolk, remains – legend, superstition, or dire foreshadowing? Beyond the global dressing/events table, we also get two localized event tables, both 6 entries strong, for two of the keyed locations.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to an elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports gorgeous b/w-artwork I haven’t seen before. The b/w-cartography by Maciej Zagorski is great and the pdf comes in two different versions, one optimized for screen-use and one made for the printer. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Mike Welham’s name on a roleplaying supplement is a pretty good indicator that you’ll receive something that is AT LEAST good, quite probably excellent. Tibol-Korrin belongs firmly in the latter category. Beyond the already intriguing basic set-up, the book goes one step beyond, time and again. We have a personal level; we have the potential for horror, for tragedy, for war, for peace. This supplement manages to marry a sort of melancholia inherent in the geography and situation, with an after-war world-weariness that is sharply contrasted with the presence of clear peace-indicators and the joys of burgeoning love. We add a sprinkle of sword & sorcery, a dash of what may be a fairy tale or a gothic tale of woe and tragedy, and have a location that manages to serve a vast variety of functions in your game. It should be seen as testament to his talent that the author managed to construct this place in a way that makes it possible to employ all these disparate elements at once and even brew them into a concise whole, all without making the place feel disjointed or artificial. The 5e-version does not lose any of the small tidbits of crunch interspersed throughout the PFRPG-version, making it a detailed and worthwhile conversion.

 

In short, this is an absolutely inspiring, glorious supplement that oozes flavor from each word, an exercise in super storytelling. The conversion to 5e has been handled with care and attention to detail. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this amazing place here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 302018
 

Places of Power: Tibol-Korrin (system neutral)

This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ classic Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Now, the name “Tibol-Korrin” did evoke an expectation of elven settlements for me, perhaps due to being close to the Tiri Kitor of Red Hand of Doom in the melody of the word; however, Tibol-Korrin is something else. It’s something genius that I haven’t seen done in any comparable supplement. This place is a strait, important for seafaring merchants, as it is one of the few ways to access the landlocked baronies of Tibol and Korrin in a relatively safe manner. As is the wont with channels and straits like this, there is a lot of gold to be hand, and as such, it should come as no surprise that, sooner rather than later, violence erupted. Indeed, as the PCs visit this place, relationships between the baronies are stressed, to say the least. Officially, the baronies are in a state of war after disputes over tariffs…but, unlike what we’d expect, the strait is actually open! Yeah, I know, right? We all kinda expected *that* to be the task of the PCs here, but it’s not!

 

You see, a combination of economic necessity (wars are expensive) and burgeoning romance between two commanders has managed to put the place into what amounts to a fragile equilibrium that may well pave the round to peace…or escalate once more. On the Tibol side, the strait only sports a single permanent structure, Fort Teggin, whereas on the Korrin side, Korrin bastion looms, with both sporting towers with spyglasses and fire pits, mirroring ancient lighthouses. As an aside: I really like that these are firepit-based. It adds a gritty, grimier, medieval/antique feel to the place.

 

Now, as always, there are quite a few crunchy bits spliced into the description of this place. We get a brief section on local lore for PCs that do their legwork, notes on local dressing habits and nomenclature, as well as 6 different whispers and rumors for the PCs to unearth. The system neutral version sports a sensible marketplace of goods to purchase, adjusted to the realities of old-school gaming. The pdf also provides some suggestions on how to best use this.

 

Now, if the big picture situation on its own were not interesting enough, the pdf also provides detailed fluff-only write-ups for the romantically-involved commanders that have bridged the gap between baronies, of sorts at least. There is more to note here. A mad hermit has his own cove here, and while indeed insane, he once was an extremely potent spellcaster, driven mad by apocalyptic visions. Nowadays, the hermit (who also gets a detailed write-up; class references have been adjusted to reference old-school classes) considers himself to be the guardian, someone to stem the tide of darkness to come. Indeed, a subtle chthonic leitmotif can be found here and there in the supplement. The keyed locations sport read-aloud text and adventure hooks, both of which are utterly inspired. For example, a local diver is paranoid about a discovery he made. Beneath the waves, there are two jade fortresses, mirroring those atop the sheer cliffs…but what’s their significance? That is excellence, right there.

 

The pdf does more. It describes the vicinity of the strait in detail, and comes with a massive 20-entry global hook-list of dressings and events to bring the place to life. A rare fruit is watching hereabouts, nourishing and conveniently spiny, making for nice improvised weapons. A catapult remains peacebound for now…and amid gorgeous coves, the place where lovers jumped into the waves, ostensibly becoming merfolk, remains – legend, superstition, or dire foreshadowing? Beyond the global dressing/events table, we also get two localized event tables, both 6 entries strong, for two of the keyed locations.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to an elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports gorgeous b/w-artwork I haven’t seen before. The b/w-cartography by Maciej Zagorski is great and the pdf comes in two different versions, one optimized for screen-use and one made for the printer. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Mike Welham’s name on a roleplaying supplement is a pretty good indicator that you’ll receive something that is AT LEAST good, quite probably excellent. Tibol-Korrin belongs firmly in the latter category. Beyond the already intriguing basic set-up, the book goes one step beyond, time and again. We have a personal level; we have the potential for horror, for tragedy, for war, for peace. This supplement manages to marry a sort of melancholia inherent in the geography and situation, with an after-war world-weariness that is sharply contrasted with the presence of clear peace-indicators and the joys of burgeoning love. We add a sprinkle of sword & sorcery, a dash of what may be a fairy tale or a gothic tale of woe and tragedy, and have a location that manages to serve a vast variety of functions in your game. It should be seen as testament to his talent that the author managed to construct this place in a way that makes it possible to employ all these disparate elements at once and even brew them into a concise whole, all without making the place feel disjointed or artificial.

 

In short, this is an absolutely inspiring, glorious supplement that oozes flavor from each word, an exercise in super storytelling. The system neutral version, surprisingly, does not lose any of the small, compelling details and minor injections of rules material that made the other two versions work so well. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool supplement here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 282018
 

Mini-Dungeon Tome

This massive compilation and expansion of AAW Games‘ beloved Mini-Dungeon-series clocks in at 322 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial,2 pages of ToC, 4 pages of KS-backer-thanks (including a heart-warming “Thank you note from Jonathan G. Nelson, 1 page SRD, 1 page of advertisement, leaving us with a mighty 312 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Full Disclaimer: I have, over the years, reviewed 81 of the mini-dungeons contained within this book prior to their respective revisions herein. I have also contributed two mini-dungeons to this book. As such, this differs from my usual review-style in that, being a contributing author, I will refrain from providing a final verdict and instead will endeavor to provide an unbiased view of this book. That being said, bit was requested that I take a look at this book by one of my patreons, and I gladly obliged.

 

Now, first things first: Beyond the phenomenal, new artwork, the reader familiar with the series will note a steep increase in quality regarding the maps. Don’t get me wrong, the regular mini-dungeon series, for the most part, had rather impressive cartography. However, there were also quite a few instances early in the series (and later on), where it was obvious that funds were tight for a bit, sporting a more barebones presentation. Those are GONE, replaced with absolutely gorgeous, revised and improved iterations that sport small details like statues, blood-spatters, glyphs, etc. Right off the bat, this represents one of the aesthetic improvements of the book and should be commended – the new maps are simply better in every way –just look at, for example, Stephen Yeardley’s “There are more Things in the Planes and the Earth” – the new map is stunning and conveys its own atmosphere. Additionally, the book now sports a rather significant selection of fantastic, cover level of quality artwork; while some pieces have been taken from the original mini-dungeons (those that were really amazing in the first place), the book now sports more, and often significantly more expansive, artworks. So, this massive book is, at least aesthetically, not just a compilation.

 

But what about immediate usefulness at the table? See, this is where this book knocks the whole series so far out of the water. First of all, the layout makes using the book easier. On the left-hand side of a two-page spread, you’ll have the map and, on the top left corner, the suggested number of PCs for the adventure. On the top of the right hand side, you’ll have a similar little bubble, noting the suggested PC levels, which renders flipping through the book to find a proper mini-dungeon pretty simple. Furthermore, the book employs color in a smart manner: We follow the colors of the rainbow, differentiating between levels. Low-level modules of up to level 5 are red, level 5+ becomes orange, level 8+ yellow…you get the idea. Mini-Dungeons available for all levels instead get a full rainbow of colors, setting them apart and generating a holistic form of visual identity. – your consciousness may not have picked that up, but your subconscious did. This color-coding also stretches to the bolded components, which is a nice touch.

 

Another improvement that was rather welcome, would pertain to previously-released content. Where many a publisher would have just taken the text and parsed it into the new book, the AAW Games crew obviously did another editing pass – from goofy glitches in the previous releases like “Feischkammer” (which was missing an “l” to make it the intended “Fleischkammer”) to rules-relevant hiccups, the book has cleaned up the previous content. Where previously, for example, we had an erroneous reference to divine or radiant damage, the book now properly references the positive energy damage type. Some problematic DCs have been adjusted, and that all before the new content comes into play. Now, I did notice a precious few minor hiccups, like a reference to “evasion” that should refer to Reflex save instead, but these are few and far in-between – editing and formatting on both a formal and rules-level have improved significantly.

 

You see, among the illustrious cadre of guest authors to supplement AAW Games’ already insanely talented core-cadre, we have a great selection of industry veterans. If you, for example, like your Derro, you may enjoy Ben McFarland’s take on the insane dwarves attempting to summon their fungal god; alternatively, one of the modules I made casts them in the role of insane toll-collectors on an aquatic trade-route in the underworld, complete with cave-fisher like force-strands to lift vessels past sandbanks…if you pay and their insanity happens to allow you to pass, that is…

 

Want a fire-themed adventure that doesn’t suck or bog down your campaign? Tim Hitchcock has you covered. None other than Lou Agresta offers a neat trip to a mad druid’s lair, Rone Barton invites you to his “Sanctuary of the Slaughtered”,while Michael Allen pits the PCs versus mighty vampire masters. Did I mention Stormbunny Studios’ Jay Sonia providing a trip to a necromancer, who is experimenting with tiefling hearts? There also would be an exploration of a living dungeon penned by Brian Suskind…and if you’re like me, you may have encountered this one before: Your PCs have that level where a stronghold would make sense, and that module you just ran intended one as a reward…however. I, at least, suck at drawing maps. And I dislike handing my PCs something for free. Well, none other than Richard Develyn, legendary author of 4 Dollar Dungeons, has you covered: There is a module that is all about claiming your lavishly-mapped castle, requiring that your PCs WORK for the boons they receive.

 

But perhaps that’s too old-school-y for you? Well, Justin Andrew Mason, who not only contributed a bunch of the adventures herein, but who also handled graphic design of the book, has something special for you: The Flight of the Gryphonwind, a fully depicted and mapped airship, with crew an all, which may well provide a means to set your PCs apart from the get-go, which could be anything from a campaign-seed to a weird interlude of fantastic proportions! It’s also one of the few double-sized mini-dungeons herein – while the vast majority of them cover the usual two pages, this one is 4 pages long, and better off for it. Have I mentioned that it’s designated for any level, suitable for low or high level characters or anything in between, depending on the needs of your campaign? Yeah, that is pretty interesting.

 

It should also be noted that, while there are plenty of traditional mini-dungeons herein, we also have basically a couple of free-form adventure-sketches with a more cinematic feel – like high-level PCs foiling the plans of none other than Hastur! And yes, after counting down in super-lethal (and actually funny, in a macabre way) challenges, this one has the PCs duke it out with the Great Old One. Yeah, Stephen Yeardley knocked the ball out of the park with this one! Speaking of whom – a couple of the mini-dungeons herein that he penned*CAN* be linked to generate brief mini-series, should you be inclined to do so, though such sequences are not required to employ any of the modules herein.

 

It should also be noted that there are mini-dungeons for different skill sets. I noted free-form adventure sketches, and e.g. a region where vampires rule and vampire hunters may cause more collateral damage than their undead adversaries would be one that needs fleshing out, but which is also hilarious in the vampire hunter’s over-the-top-plan. If you require something to play as you go, I’d very much suggest e.g. Liz Courts’s “Clockwork Vault of Caina”, as this one not only sports interesting ability modifications for the main antagonists, it also comes with read-aloud text. Rachel ventura’s offerings also tend to offer this help for the GM. Speaking of clockworks – Dan Dillon can do PFRPG just as well as 5e, and his “lair of the clockwork mage” basically begs to be inserted into Kobold Press’ Midgard setting. I probably don’t have to explain that a Nicholas Logue mini-dungeon is awesome news, right? Want something a bit weird? What about temporarily becoming undead in a dungeon, where gravity may be tilted by 90° by uttering the wrong word at the table? Did I mention the spatial anomaly that can be carried around? Did I mention Colin Stricklin’s trip into a gigantic behemoth, which looms in a harbor? Yeah, if you needed a nice way to get your PCs an inconvenient mech, this’ll do!

 

Notice something? All of the modules I briefly mentioned in but a sentence are NEW. Indeed, I have not covered all of them at this point – not even close. That being said, there is another aspect of this book that I feel obliged to comment on, one of the most important components of this book, at least for me. Yes, each of the mini-dungeons is properly hyperlinked. No Surprise there. However, the hyperlinks don’t point towards an SRD, but rather to the MASSIVE Creature/hazard/etc.-appendix. This beast is a thing of beauty as far as I’m concerned, and eliminates the one crucial weakness that the single mini-dungeons, as an system-immanent issue of their kind, had. You see, we get stats. Hard stats.

Sans having to look up everything on the internet/mobile device.

If you’re like me and prefer to impose a ban on the use of devices at the table for the sake of immersion, then this is a godsend. Dito if you’re a bit of a grognard and don’t like players distracted by their phones/tablets. It’s really cool, convenient and a true joy to witness. But wait. PFRPG-stats are ridiculously long, so why is this book not a bulky 500+ page monstrosity? See, here things become rather interesting. We get shorthand stats. They are condensed and provide what you need; they manage to do this by virtue of employing a system of sensible short-hand glyphs as a visual element, which might take a second to get used to, but oh boy does it beat looking up stuff on the internet! This makes the book a truly holistic experience, one that does not need an external element to properly use. It, in short, cuts down your preparation time. While at a con, for example, you can just whip out the book and play. Now yes, you still need to be able to read statblocks and know the basics, obviously, but still – this is genius and a huge improvement over the individual installments; one that exponentially increases the immediate usefulness. Much like Raging Swan Press’ by now legendary compilation of Dungeon and Wilderness Dressing, this makes the book vastly more useful.

 

Now, I have already talked, in detail, about how much the formal qualities, from the aesthetic to the editing/formatting have improved; I have touched upon plenty of the of the amazing ideas realized in this collection. There is one more thing to note, and that is to give the authors their due. The following folks created this tome: Louis Agresta, Michael Allen, Rone Barton, Liz Courts, Richard Develyn, Dan Dillon, Jonathan Ely, Thilo Graf, Tim Hitchcock, Michael Holland, Nicolas Logue, Justin Andrew Mason, Michael McCarthy, Ben McFarland, Brian Wïborg Mønster, Will Myers, Jonathan G. Nelson, Stefanos Patelis, Michael Smith, Jaye Sonia, Colin Stricklin, Brian Suskind, Rory Toma, Rachel Ventura, Stephen Yeardley.

 

If you’re a bit familiar with good 3pp-authors, you’ll recognize them. So yeah, this book has a lot of flavor and panache. It also is probably the most useful adventure and set-piece anthology I know of. You see, with so many high-quality, fully mapped modules, it should come as no surprise that you’ll find something for every taste, from the horrific to the fairy tale-esque, from the gritty to high-fantasy. Furthermore, the mini-dungeons know their place – they are not here to intrude upon your campaign; they do not require much fidgeting to introduce for the most part (exceptions to the rule exist, but these set-piece wilderness-regions are isolated and easily slotted into the world…); the modules herein are there to provide transitions, to provide a shaking up of your adventure-design aesthetics. There are adventures herein that focus on hack and slash, sure…but there also are some that may be resolved sans killing anything! The diversity of authors and different narrative voices enrich the overall experience, ranging from narrative focus to the intensely technical and clever use of creatures and terrain.

 

In short, even if I did not contribute my own paltry two MDs, I’d consider this to be very much worth owning, and I consider myself humbled to be featured among the prestigious cadre of authors. The improvements made to the formula of the series are significant, and from the fantastic to the weird, the mini-dungeons within are not content with just being there and delivering functionality. They do that, but many of them also have the creative spark that we expect to see from good one-page-dungeons and similar offerings, making this one of the most useful books of adventures to own. In spite of the limitations of the mini-dungeon formula, this offers plenty of modules that actually manage to be inspiring.

 

*ähem* I’m sorry. I try, particularly when I’ve contributed to a book, to remain more down to earth, more matter-of-factly, but frankly, I was and still am very much excited about this tome, and reading it makes it tough to remain in review-bot mode. So yeah, this gets a nomination as a Top Ten candidate of 2018. It’s simply too useful, too vast, too beautiful not to. The maps alone make this worth having, even if you have the previously-released MDs. Heck, the care that went into streamlining the previously-released ones, as well as the further polish for the maps makes this a godsend for folks like yours truly that suck at maps. Speaking of which: If you’re like me and want GM and player-friendly maps for full VTT-compatibility, you can get the massive map-pack. Oh yes. As per the writing of this review, I can’t comment on the virtues of the print version, but I have yet to be disappointed by AAW Games’ hardcovers.

 

So yeah, this is a super-useful book that manages to transcend the limitations of the series; it is no mere compilation, but a celebration and evolution of the series. It is a book that can enrich any GM’s arsenal. Highly recommended!

 

You can get this massive tome of mini-dungeons here on OBS!

 

You can get the massive VTT-compatible map-pack here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 282018
 

B/X-Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells (OSR)

This installment of the B/X-Essentials-series clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, formatted in old-school A5 (6’’ by 9’’), so let’s take a look!

 

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book.

 

So, after the extremely impressive reorganization of the B/X-rules Gavin Norman provided in the first two installments of the series, where we got perhaps the best, most sensible organization of the rules in its extremely hackable presentation, we now dive into the book that covers probably one of the most divisive components of any OSR-game. Spells.

 

Some prefer long-form spells; some prefer none at all; some systems have very specific aesthetics…and this book, following the traditions of the previous tomes, focuses on a faithful rendition of the original Basic and Expert rules for spells. The pdf is clear and upfront in which ways it carefully modifies some of the spells herein, and it does so, universally, I might add, for the betterment of the content within.

 

The first aspect is one that the BIG systems should also consider; it’s simple and smart. It separates different mechanical aspects of a spell by bullet points. No more glossing over or missing that last line that notes yet another aspect. Furthermore, DIFFERENT possible uses are separated out and numbered for your convenience. If you’re like me, for example, and frankly forgot that cure light wounds, in B/X, also has the optional use of curing paralysis, then this will be appreciated indeed. Did you recall that light can blind targets in B/X? Well, you probably will, but depending on how much you hack your game, how many different OSR-games (or other games) you play, you may have forgotten that. Well, even if you did, here, the presentation makes that a non-issue.

 

The pdf goes one step further, presentation-wise: Spell-uses that allow for a saving throw are highlighted with bold text. The inconsistency of spell ranges of 0 or 0’ have been replaced with Range: The Caster – with one exception, at least in my print copy. Oddly, protection from evil retains the 0-Range, which I assume to be an oversight; it makes sense for cloudkill, which acts as an emanation from the caster, but not for the former. Now, before you ask and point me towards that: This has been cleared up in the meanwhile. The current version and print versions do not have this VERY minor inconsistency anymore. I…honestly just left those paragraphs in the review, because I was so glad to have found something to complain about…only to see it’s been taken care of. (Seriously, that is amazing!)

As far as range is concerned, spells with a range of touch now explicitly allow the caster to use them upon him/herself. Now, before you balk – no, the pdf has not cleaned up all original “charming” ambiguities of the B/X-rules. Web does not state whether it needs to be anchored, for example. That being said, the book e.g. clearly states how haste does not allow for double item use or spellcasting.

 

I might get a couple of boos and hisses from the hardcore B/X-crowd, but frankly, there is one shortcoming that I feel the pdf could have addressed with, at least a house-rule, would be concentration. It is an aspect that is not clearly defined in the original rules, and it makes me somewhat uneasy to see the showcasing of the problem, but no concise definition of the like. Here, we have a missed chance to at least provide an optional means of doing so…but yeah. I get it. It’s the B/X Essentials series. The very intent is to NOT do that and remain faithful to the original.

 

…damn, my OCD’s making it hard for me to let that one go. Particularly since e.g. control weather prohibits movement, while clairvoyance doesn’t. Perhaps “B/X Almost-Essentials: Rules-clarifications for obsessive sticklers” is in the cards? 😉

 

Anyways, if a reversed version of a spell exists, it is noted in the respective description as well. The presentation-sequence begins with the cleric spells, organized by spell level, and alphabetically within the spell level. And there is elegance to these spells. If you have no B/X-experience, it is interesting to note that we have 5 spell levels, and that e.g. create food is 5th level, which is something I am hereby declaring to be the default for all my games forevermore; I loathe how level 1 food-creation makes the threat of starvation and thirst nigh obsolete. I also had to smile at cure disease having a separate use that notes that it instantly kills green slime. Oh, my pretty…

 

Anyways, as the grognards know, magic-user spells (also used by elves) scale up to 6th level in B/X…and as we all know invisibility is the most OP spell in the rules, since. Wait.

It.

Has.

Happened.

For the first time, ladies and gentlemen…we actually have, in spite of the mission of faithful rendition, the famously missing B/X-spell. This book gives to us: Detect invisible. 10’ per level range, 6 turns, 2nd level. Well-situated regarding level-range, the spell is concise, well-presented and just as minimalist as it should be. No complaints. (No surprise there, considering how much I adored the author’s Vivimancer…) Can’t remember where than one spell that module referenced was? Well, the pdf actually has a handy index in the back, listing the spells for your convenience!!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are absolutely top-notch, precise and impressive, to say the least. Layout adheres to a truly elegant two-column b/w-standard with unobtrusive, mint-green highlights as colored elements. The artwork deserves special mention: The book sports A LOT of it. No, seriously – we get a ton of original, really well-made b/w-artwork, with perhaps my favorite piece illustrating a magic-user showcasing how a lightning bolt can bounce off walls to hit different targets. It’s a bit goofy and comic-like, but I absolutely adored it. Of course, the majority of artworks are more serious, but I like this blending of styles. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with a bookmark per spell level and spell-list, but not for individual spells. I have the premium print edition, and there is a low-cost standard edition that is perfect bound. The premium version has higher quality paper, better color and ink saturation and comes stitch-bound, which is per se preferable. The cover and artwork definitely deserve going premium here.

 

Okay, honestly, this is the first time in my reviews of this series where I wished Gavin Norman had deviated slightly from the goal of the faithful rendition. The inconsistency of the original rules regarding concentration is something I never considered to be charming or endearing, just annoying. It requires that you learn by hard the stipulations or lack thereof of the spells, and that, anno 2018, is just bad game design in my book, nostalgia be damned.

 

That being said, as a reviewer, I can’t fault the book for its intended design goal of faithful rendition, particularly when it does such a SUPERB job at it. The presentation of the spells is absolutely gorgeous and showcases how a small OSR-publisher like Necrotic Gnome Productions can provide impulses for the industry at large. This type of concise spell presentation is a joy to behold. It’s clever, concise and clean. It’s simple and elegant. I adore it. So yeah, with but one minor oversight in the very subdued and faithful streamlining, this may well be the best iteration of B/X-spellcasting you’ll ever get to see. It bespeaks the author’s passion for the rules-set and showcases a lack a humility and reverence to the subject matter that is refreshing to see…all while clearly showcasing the design and presentation-skill the author obviously has. In short, this is a one-map passion-project, apart from the art, and an example of the best ones in that category.

 

While, as a person, I would have required the clarification of concentration (why stop at the missing spell?) to consider this a true work of art, as a reviewer, I am perfectly capable of abstracting my own bias and rating this for what it is – a resounding success for what it attempts. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

 

You can get this fun. faithful rendition of the classic B/X-rules here on OBS!

 

Know what’s also rather cool? If you’re a poor gamer, you can get the plain-text version of this book FOR FREE here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

May 252018
 

Legendary Kineticists II

The second of Legendary Games‘ expansion books for the kineticist clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introductions, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of crunch, so let’s take a look!

 

We begin this supplement with a selection of new kineticist archetypes, starting with the bestial kineticist. Here’s the thing. It’s not for your CHARACTER. It’s for your animal companion! A bestial kineticist may select any feat that requires kineticist levels, using HD as kineticist levels, as companion feats. Additionally, if the companion and master know the same kinetic blast of the same element and have Interweave Composite blast both, they may use that feat to interweave a composite blast that requires the element as primary and expanded elements in addition to the normal effects. Kudos: Takes wood properly into account, even if you play prior to Arcane Anthology’s addition of a wood/wood composite blast. Instead of a trick, a bestial kineticist can choose to gain an infusion or utility wild talent, but the critter may never have more than 2 more infusions than utility wild blasts, or vice versa. Cool: wild talents learned this way are correctly codified via Handle Animal, and if the master knows the same wild talent, the DC is reduced. As far as ability score bonuses are concerned, the companion chooses either Strength or Dexterity and gets +1 per druid levels the master possesses, minimum 0 – this bonus also applies to Constitution.

 

Instead of evasion and improved evasion, the bestial kineticist gains all kineticist class features except elemental defense, expanded element, metakinesis and omnikinesis. No utility wild talents or infusions are gained beyond those taken as tricks. Nice catch: The critter may fire kinetic blasts with any appendage with which they could execute a natural attack. The companion is treated as a native outsider in addition to its creature type to determine what spells can affect it, which can be a bit wonky – what if an effect affects outsiders and the creature type differently? Interesting: While elemental overflow is active, the bestial kineticist takes on an elemental subtype defined by the simple blast, with a nice list provided. The kineticist does Not attain subtype-based vulnerabilities, and if the creature has 5+ Burn, it is also treated as the elemental subtype. Instead of multiattack, we get a cool teamwork charge: Standard action, fire simple blast at master; after that, the master may fire the blast, treating its damage as from a kineticist with the bestial kineticist’s HD +2. The blast must be used by the end of the round, and it may include infusions that the bestial kineticist has. At 16th level, composite blasts may be used thus. The ability has a range of 60 ft. and still makes the bestial kineticist take burn. 12th level’s bonus trick is replaced with expanded element, and if the bestial kineticist takes the primary element, we get +1 to atk, damage DC and caster level checks for that element’s wild talents, as well as gaining a bonus infusion or wild talent. I really loved this one!

 

The second archetype would be the metakinetic savant, who may, at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter, choose a metamagic feat instead of one of the metakinesis progressions, which they may then apply to any kinetic blast, with burn cost increasing as per the increased spell level of the respective metamagic feat. Cool: Schools and subschools of blasts are properly codified, and unlisted blasts are up to the GM’s control, with some guidance provided. Also nice: A whole series of potentially problematic metamagic feats are noted. A metakinetic savant may take Expanded Metakinesis as soon as 1st level, and starting at 5th level, the metakinetic savant may select any metamagic feat for Expanded Metakinesis, provided it increases the spell level by 1 or less, and the interaction of abilities if retained in a tight manner. The internal buffer of the archetype is doubled in size and multiple points may be spent per round on the same wild talent, but the points may only be spent to avoid accepting burn from metakinesis or metamagic feats added to blasts. Instead of metakinetic master, 16th level metakinesis and metamagic feat burn cost is reduced by 1, with the effect not stacking when multiple such modifications are added to a single blast. The archetype may btw. be taken in conjunction with other archetypes that modify metakinesis, but may not replace metakinesis which other archetypes alter or replace. A really interesting engine tweak!

 

The nihilicist must be one step within neutral alignment and may not be forced to gain an element, kinetic blast or wild talent. If the archetype ever willingly gains a primary element or any non-universal wild talent, except those aligned with the ones granted by the archetype, they lose this archetype. A nihilicist gains no element, but rather nothingness. Empty blast is a simple blast, which may be a physical or energy blast. It is kinda untyped, damage-wise, but actually not and drains away a part of the target’s existence. 7th level provides the Zero blast composite blast, at the cost of 2 burn. Universal infusions may be applied to these, as well as e.g. chain, cyclone, etc. Nice: Damage output here is balanced and modified individually to account for the damage type, a decision that bespeaks the knowledge of the authors regarding the deep levels of kineticist design. The archetype starts with empty infusion and 7th and 15th level nets a bonus feat, infusion or utility wild talent. This ability replaces the basic utility wild talent, elemental focus and expanded element and alters utility wild talents. Now, I noted that special damage – this would be nihil damage. This is nonlethal damage for purposes of being cured, but transcends immunity to them. Nihil damage ignores hardness and staggers targets that have their HP exceeded by it, even if they would be immune. Additionally, a nihilicist can select up to one creature per 60 ft. away, plus 1 per 3 class levels, converting all nihil damage to lethal damage as a standard action, which may also be done in conjunction with gathering power as a full-round action by decreasing the burn reduction it provides by 1. Cool: An amount of damage from the conversion may also be changed into conditions, with a scaling save to avoid. This replaces the infusions gained at 1st, 9th and 17th level and offers a unique playstyle…and seriously, in spite of usually HATING new damage types thrown in, this one is so rooted in existing ones and works so smoothly (and so intricately entwined with detailed features) that I really liked it.

 

Instead of elemental defense, the nihilicist can convert Constitution modifier lethal damage into nonlethal damage 1/day as a full-round action, +1/day at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Whenever they accept burn to use a wild talent, they gain DR equal to class level + Constitution modifier versus nonlethal damage for 1 round; it does not prevent burn, nor does it affect nonlethal damage converted to lethal. Also at 2nd level, we get constant negate aroma, less food and sleep required and 6th level, this also includes nondetection and at 12th level, mind blank. Additionally, folks will forget the nihilicist, though the character can prevent this permanently via accepting burn and a touch attack – though even willing targets have to save! This one costs 3 utility wild talents, gained at 2nd, 6th and 12th levels. Instead of the 3rd level infusion, the archetype may increase the burn cost of a nihil damage-causing kinetic blast by 1 to immediately apply the effects of the lethal/condition conversion effect, but only pertaining the blast’s damage, not any previously sustained nihil damage. The conversion ratio begins at ½ here and upgrades to full and may later also convert previously sustained nihil damage, but at the cost of additional burn. The capstone reduces the damage-conversion cost for conditions and the capstone also allows them to go out with a…non-bang. The character can center a sphere of annihilation on themselves. This is…beautiful. The ultimate self-sacrifice, an sans suffering left behind, but also with one’s mark completely obliterated. This is a truly tragic and super potent way to go that fits perfectly with the archetype.

 

The onslaught blaster is amazing for epic battle scenes: Whenever the character uses the kinetic blast, he may fire multiple blasts, equal to 1d6 + 1 damage for physical energy and 1d6 for energy damage, with an additional blast for every 2 kineticist levels past 1st. Each individual hit takes damage equal to the onslaught blaster’s Constitution modifier for physical blasts, half as much for energy blasts. Attacked targets are decided prior to rolling an attack roll and substance or form infusions applied apply to all blasts. Versus a single target, the attacks are pooled into a stronger blast, which is treated as a single attack and effects apply only once to the blast, so no cheesing there. For every 2 blasts beyond the first that target the same creature, damage increases by +3 for physical, +1 for energy blasts. However, an onslaught blaster may not have any form infusion that reduces the range, emulates a melee attack or many throw infusion applied. Telekinetic blast can only throw a single object. This…is beautiful. I’m beaming right here. Once more, this showcases system mastery to a truly impressive degree. Instead of gather power, supercharge and metakinesis, the character can use the onslaught blast as a full-round action at -1 burn, with 11th and 19th level providing further options to reduce burn, tied to action economy.

 

At 3rd level, when using the aforementioned ability while having 1 burn, they may execute an additional blast, with 9th and 15th level providing +1 blast at 3 and 5 burn, respectively. Elemental overflow does not provide a bonus to damage for the archetype, though. Metakinesis (empower) is replaced with the option to accept burn to execute additional blasts, with 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter adding to that. Additionally, the ability nets a slight damage-increase, which also extends to the other abilities that replace the metakinesis ability tree. At 9th level, we add temporary debuffs to creatures pummeled, and 13th and 17th level allow for artillery style additional blasts for increasing burn costs. This fellow is pretty brutal, but also rather epic – it’s actually a really good mook-mower, and the archetype has a rather easy means to scale for lower-powered games, with the bonus damage granted by the metakinesis-replacements making for an easy choice to slightly decrease the damage output, should you so choose.

 

The final kineticist archetype herein would be the telekinetic bladeshifter, who gain proficiency with all simple melee and one-handed martial weapons, as well as all thrown simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor, and shields, excluding tower shields. They are locked into aether as primary element and telekinetic blast as the kinetic blast, but retains archetype compatibility regarding these features. The archetype has a full ABB-progression, but only 1/3rd class level Reflex-save progression. At 1st level, the archetype chooses a light or one-handed melee or thrown weapon that is neither unarmed, natural or projectile-based and when using telekinetic blast, rather than normal, it transforms the object used into the chosen weapon and may be used as a free action once per turn, treating the bladeshifter as if wielding the weapon, dealing damage as a warpriest’s sacred weapon. The weapon thus wielded may be enhanced as a kinetic blast and substance infusions as well as metakinesis applied to telekinetic blasts work as if used with the kinetic whip infusion. 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the bladeshifter gets an additional weapon that may be chosen as such, with 9th level unlocking advanced weapon/armor training options, substituting elemental overflow attack roll bonus for the weapon training bonus. Non-telekinetic blast kinetic blasts deal damage as a ½ class level sacred weapon and 1/3 spell level, if relevant. Elemental overflow does not provide a bonus to attack roll (would have been overkill here) and the damage-bonus it provides is equal to the burn the character currently has. The archetype is locked out of form infusions. The archetype may choose combat feats instead of utility wild talents, using their class level as fighter levels to qualify. At 5th level, they can choose substance infusions instead of wild talents, but at 4 class levels lower. This reduction also applies to infusions chosen as part of the expanded element.

 

At 2nd level, elemental defenses is replaced with forcewoven shield, which allows the character to accept burn in order to increase the enhancement bonus of a shield used by +1, not interfering with gather power. There is an issue here: The bonus scales up to +10, and can generate shields with basically a +15 bonus, which surpasses the cap assumed by PFRPG for enhancement bonuses. It probably won’t break the game, but since high-level math is already finicky for the GM to get right, that amount beyond the usual…well. Not a fan. This effect may also be used in conjunction with other abilities that grant a shield bonus, btw. Not as happy with this one. 3rd level nets the option to make telekinetic blast weapons out of force and target touch AC, which is, for a full BAB-class, an all but guaranteed hit. Sure, at the cost of halved damage and being subject to SR…but still. For 2 burn, the blast can inflict full damage while in force mode. Additionally, for a swift action, telekinetic blast weapons can be enhanced (up to +5) or add a variety of different special weapon properties. For the weapon mods, the archetype loses the 3rd, 11th and 19th level infusions. 9th and 17th level provide a specialization based on armor, shield, or weapon type preferred, allowing you, for example, to make two-handed melee weapons for the telekinetic blade ability, etc., but at the cost of composite and infusion specialization at 5th, 11th and 17th level as well as metakinesis (twice/maximize). The capstone is bland, with auto-confirmed crits and critical multiplier increase by +1 (x4’s bad enough, imho) as well as DR when having the shield active. This archetype is the one of the kineticist archetypes herein that feels a bit rough – it’s not bad, mind you, but it feels like it tries to do a whole lot, and could do so much more with its concepts, but instead had to settle for a cut-down version that used numerical bonuses instead of diverse abilities. This left me with the impression that it should have received a hybrid class treatment akin to the cool kinetic shinobi.

 

There are also 3 non-kineticist archetypes/class options in the book: The Planetouched oracle loses mystery and revelation in favor of spliced in kineticist options; the planar custodian druid takes a similar role, but take a more interesting stance as far as I’m concerned, in that they require the companion to take the bestial kineticist archetype, with domains being pretty detailed in their guidance as well. Domains can also tie in with the elemental focus from the kineticist class, which replaces wild empathy and creates an interesting alternate choice here. It should be noted that even exotic choices like plant companions are addressed. Thus, the modification of nature’s bond is already a pretty big change on how this plays. It is also interesting to note that the level-based mechanics of the companion-archetype tie in rather well here, with burn instead applying to the kineticist level, providing an engine that feels different. Infusions gained are balanced versus wild shape improvements and the primary element’s defense wild talent is similarly powered by wild shape starting at 6th level, with the woodland stride and venom immunity features paying for it. We can, obviously, also find elemental body/plant shape (for wood specialists) here, though annoyingly the spell-references are not italicized properly. (They are hyperlinked, though!). The capstone makes burn costs of infusions be treated as less and adds wild shape uses. Really nice hybrid-style archetype. Play differently from both parents, like it!

 

Finally, there would be the order of the scion, which would be a cavalier order devoted to keep the world in balance. Interesting: Depending on element chosen, the challenge will bestow bonuses for allies associated with the respective element, making that aspect team-focused. The order thus has a pretty extensive, if not exhaustive list of abilities associated with the element chosen. The 2nd level nets a no-burn at-will simple kinetic blast modified with kinetic whip, but only as a 1st level kineticist, which is upgraded at 7th level, where a challenge use may be expended to increase the damage versus a challenge target. The blast, however, is treated as a lance for how it interacts with charges. Yeah, that’s a damn good reason for the base damage-scaling’s subdued nature here! 15th level nets a composite blast and 8th level provides the defense wild talent, with 15th level unlocking elemental overflow, and in the absence of burn, the order once more has an interesting cooldown here.

 

The pdf contains 6 general infusions: Lingering Darkness adds masochistic shadow to one target of the negative energy-based blast. Ricochet does what it says on the tin for 2 burn, with only a 15 ft. bounce of range, bludgeoning damage and no further ricochet possible beyond the first. Works for me. Dehydrating blast, at 2 burn, reduces damage die size by one step and does not travel to the target; SR applies and the target may end up fatigued until it had something to drink. Nice: Blood kineticists may use it with blood blast. Dehydrating blast also has a greater level 6 upgrade for 4 burn, which makes the extracted water as a globe of water the origin for a follow-up water blast, which is all kinds of cool and allows for neat point-of-origin tricks. Countering and spellturning infusion are great ideas, but RAW do not work as intended. They can be used to counter activated extraordinary or supernatural attacks as well, but fail to specify a metric by which you could determine the success of the like, which is a real bummer, for the idea here is pretty cool!

 

Unless I’ve miscounted, 13 wild talents are next and included here are basic cryokinesis and electrokinesis, improved celerity is back from LK I, afflicting targets with dyslexia…and BECOMING A KINETIC LICH. *_* YES! Happy. (There is also one for kinetic undead PCs, fyi, if you for example wanted to play an undead wight/vampire via Rite Publishing’s In the Company-series, for example.) What about having energy linger around targets reduced to 0 hp, making for nasty surprises for the healers? Or the one that links hit targets together, drawing them magnetically to one another? Yeah, I really liked this section. It’s complex, creative and has some true gems. We can also finmd 11 feats here, some of which have some interesting synergy: Kinetic Railgun makes onslaught blaster capable of benefiting from haste with their onslaught blast and adding metakinesis to animal companions, dark elementalist support…and then there is Autobuffer, which is usually the type of feat IM not too keen on. When accepting burn on a wild talent, you have a 20% to regain a point of burn in the internal buffer at the beginning of next turn. Each time you fail it, the chance increases by +20%, and upon success, it resets to 20%. However, the feat has no effect when already having maximum points in the internal buffer…and it’s interesting in that it’s slightly unreliable nature makes it exciting at the table. So yeah. Well done.

 

Speaking of “well done” – there are 5 spells within (covering, class-wise, all the classes, including ACG and OA): Here we have turning nonlethal to lethal damage temporarily, delaying burn…and two real gems. One that forces the target to accept burn (ouch) and the second one is actually a permanent spell that stipulates a prohibition, a violation of which causes the target to accept burn. I can see whole evil empires or “benevolent” The-state/church/etc.-knows-what’s-best types use this one to chilling efficiency. Inspiring!

 

The pdf also includes a 10-level PrC that nets d8 HD, ¾ BAB-progression, ½ Fort- and Will-save progression as well as 3/5th spellcasting progression. The PrC requires 5 ranks in Spellcraft and Knowledge (nature) or (planes), ability to cast 2nd level arcane or psychic spells and needs the kinetic blast class feature as well as an additional one like spellstrike and its variants, arcanist exploits, fetish, harrowing, etc. The PrC nets 4 + Int skills per level and nets proficiency with simple weapons, light armors and bucklers. If you haven’t noticed via the prerequisites – this is pretty much a classic, hybrid-y kineticist/caster multiclass and as such, kineticist-advancement takes place whenever the class does not gain spellcasting progression. The PrC is, design-wise, once more an impressive achievement, as it manages to codify blasts as something that may be delivered via e.g. spellstrikes while retaining balancing factors that prevent this aspect from being cheesed to smithereens. The PrC also has a rather interesting series of three conductive substance infusions that allow you to lace kinetic blasts into touch spells, with composite blasts unlocked via the Greater version and there is progression of previous class features hard-coded into the PrC as well. I was also rather positively surprised by the extended holding charge mechanic, which does not automatically delivers a held spell when touching someone, providing additional control via a rather rarely employed angle. Burn to power spellcasting and the ability to prepare kinetic blasts in spell slots makes for an interesting capstone as well. While we’re on the subject of multiclassing/hybrid-concepts: The pdf does contain proper variant multiclassing rules that provide some meaningful, if less potent, options. I liked how these turned out.

 

Now, obviously, there would be the *big* thing still missing – here, that would be the Legendary Kineticist variant class. (I’ll abbreviated the fellow as “LK” from here on out.) The LK gets d8 HD, 4 + Int-mod skills, proficiency with simple weapons as well as light and medium armors, ¾ BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves. 1st level nets elemental focus alongside the basic utility talent as a bonus wild talent. 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter nets a new utility wild talent, and at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter, one may be replaced, but not if it’s been used to qualify for another wild talent. Wild talents auto-scale in DC, with save DC governed by 10 + ½ class levels and Constitution modifier. 1st level also nets kinetic blast, obviously, and gather power only requires ONE free hand now, which can be pretty potent as a minor tweak, but which also makes sense to me. 1st level nets an infusion, with another one granted at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, with 4th level and every 4 levels after that allowing for retraining of one. This represents an upgrade in flexibility, obviously. Form infusions still use Dexterity to calculate the save DCs, thankfully. They may NOT replace an infusion with a wild talent. 2nd level nets elemental defense and 3rd level provides elemental overflow. Infusion specialization is retained as well. Metakinesis (ability name not bolded properly) is modified: 9th level is actually better balanced here: For the burn cost, the LK can force a target to reroll the save as if using Persistent Spell.

 

Expanded element is, as a base-line, more powerful now: It is gained at 6th level (again at 14th) and retains its benefits; however, the second element is no longer treated as -4 kineticist levels for the purpose of qualifying for wild talents. HOWEVER, and that is one of the balancing components here, expanded element no longer can grant you wild talents when expanding a previous element. To offset that, internal buffer is moved up to 7th level. This one works differently: It now starts at 1 and replenishes each day, but may not be simply charged back up. Points spent from it don’t activate elemental overflow and do not add to its effects, and the buffer may explicitly be used to exceed a single turn’s burn, but may not be used with battle burn. Buffer-size increases to 2 points at 11th and 3 at 16th level.

 

Wait, battle burn? Well, yeah, that’s one of the big differences here. Gained as soon as 4th level, battle burn means that the kineticist can accept 1 point of battle burn that has no physical effect. This may be taken when using an infusion or utility wild talent, but the respective ability must have a non-instantaneous duration measured in rounds or minutes. Wild talent duration is reduced to 5 minutes when powered by battle burn, or their normal duration, whichever is less. LKs can accept battle burn alongside normal burn (thus exceeding the limits) and 11th and 18th level increase the battle burn by +1, though the LK can only accept one per round. Here’s the catch: A 5 minute rest replenishes all battle burn. Yeah…I enjoy the idea, but I think that, in conjunction with the tweaks to the Burn-engine and slight power-upgrades here and there, this goes slightly too far.

 

Supercharge may now also be used as a swift action to reduce burn cost by 1 in addition to its classic effects. Composite blast remains at 16th level, metakinetic master remains at 19th level, and the capstone accounts for the changes wrought by battle burn. Extra Wild Talent has been rewritten for use in conjunction with this class.

 

Okay. I postponed this long enough. Let’s talk Burn. The LK’s burn cap is 3 + Constitution modifier, and the class can accept 1 point of burn per round, +1 at 6th level and for every 3 levels thereafter. Now, for one, battle burn, as noted, does not come into play here; neither does the internal buffer require this long to “recharge”, so we have as a whole some improved flexibility. But what’s the effect of burn? Well, it’s a -1 penalty to all Strength and Dexterity-based ability and skill checks, except initiative. That’s it. No save-penalty. No AC-penalty. Now, granted, this supersedes immunity to taking penalties to these, but the design ramifications are vast. I’ll get to those below.

 

The pdf, as has become the tradition with these files, concludes with a fully realized character, Trueno, the herald of the white sky, a middle-aged half-elven onslaught blaster legendary kineticist 8 with a nice backgroundstory and boon.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level – while I noticed some minor deviations here and there, the pdf as a whole is pretty crisp and clean in that regard. Rules-language is impressive. The pdf juggles top-tier complexity concepts and displays an in-depth knowledge of rules-intricacies and balancing tweaks that few books showcase. While a few minor snafus have crept into the book, they are few and far in-between, and I’ll rather have highly complex and fun options with minor blemishes than perfect, low-difficulty blandness. Layout adheres to legendary Games’ 2-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf features a blend of classic and new artwork from LG’s catalogue. It should be noted that the layout crams a ton of information on each page, making this a very dense book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

N. Jolly and Onyx Tanuki, with contributing editors Blue Maculagh, Jacob McCoy, Timothy Mclaughlin and Blake Morton, have delivered what I did not expect here.

 

To get that out of the way: As a person, I LOATHE, with a fiery passion, the legendary kineticist’s burn mechanic. To me, the decreased combat capability and increasing vulnerability of kineticists due to burn is what makes them unique, fun and exciting to play. It’s literally what made me like the class. The LK gets rid of that in favor of a penalty that even a moderately capable group can play around without too much hassle. The LK retains combat power without a meaningful compromise in its defenses, which is pretty much what made it interesting for me. (Unless you get grappled and need to pass through threatened squares/climb/etc. in combat – then, you’ll suffer…if you didn’t plan ahead via magic items etc.) In short, the LK’s burn is more of a minor inconvenience than a question of survival/betting/etc. I hate the loss of flexibility regarding movement on the battlefield in favor of raw power here.

 

That being said, this is NOT a bug. It’s a feature. It’s what a lot of folks wanted. You see, the regular kineticist is a class that can be pretty challenging to play, simply because it can become so damn fragile. What excites me may be frustrating for others. And so, while I, as a person, despise it, am cognizant as a reviewer, that it will be just what the doctor ordered for many, many folks out there. It requires less system mastery, less teamwork and cautious playing, particularly in combination with battle burn. For me personally, this combo catapults the class to the point where I wouldn’t allow it in my games. HOWEVER, at the same time, there is a ton to love about the LK. I love pretty much all other tweaks t the chassis of the class. I really do, and, as a whole, I consider the chassis to be smoother and more elegant, with internal buffer as one example that many a group should scavenge. So yes, in spite of knowing about the burn beforehand and knowing I’d hate it, there is still a lot to love about this class…and if you want my advice and feel the same, you can put a hard, scaling daily cap on battle burn and use the old burn with this chassis sans breaking the game…so that’s probably what I’ll do.

 

Now, what I did not expect, was to like the archetypes and other supplemental material to this extent: With the notable exception of the telekinetic blademaster and its slightly weird design decisions, I found myself grinning rather broadly while reading this. The druid-companion double team, the unique tweaks to kineticist tricks, the inspired nihilicist…there is a ton to love here, and indeed, I consider this to be one of the best kineticist expansions out there. There is a lot of creative, high-concept and high-difficulty material in this book. It is creative and manages to convey a surprising amount of flavor in its dense crunch. Indeed, in contrast to my expectations, in spite of the couple of hiccups regarding the counter/spellturn options, in spite of knowing that I wouldn’t like the cornerstone of the damn main selling point of the book, I still found myself enjoying this book. The spells, the little options here and there…there is so much passion evident here, even after so many kineticist books. This is, in short, a book I’d consider to be a must-have for kineticist-fans. If you gravitate towards grittier playstyles, you should treat the LK with care and consider nerfing it, but even then, this will have so many cool concepts within its pages that it remains worth the asking price even if divorced from the alternate class. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars due to the minor hiccups and balance-concerns, but I absolutely HAVE to round up for this book. It made me smile with its ambition and skill, and as such, I’ll also slap my seal of approval on this. In case you were wondering: This, for me as a person, shares the throne of best kineticist supplement with Kineticists of Prophyra III.

 

You can get this amazing kineticist supplement here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Incoming search terms:

  • https://yandex ru/clck/jsredir?from=yandex ru;search;web;;&text=&etext=1839 84fJcAPx3aHXkllaTUkGHhI5vGdM7ughBwD_aJSjOxzkrkRLgzQly-jAW4wonq01 285f433e6a348090c1380991a9160f2468d05230&uuid=&state=_BLhILn4SxNIvvL0W45KSic66uCIg23qh8iRG98qeIXme
  • legendary games portal
May 252018
 

13 Wizard Spells and Cantrips (13th Age)

This crunchy little supplement clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page taken up by an old, but nice stock-art piece, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of material, so let’s take a look!

 

After an introduction, we begin with the one cantrip herein – that would be Quench, which falls firmly into the utility region and does what it says on the tin, with higher levels allowing for the extinguishing of far away fires or bigger ones nearby. Nice one. The pdf has 2 different utility spell: Arcane Eye. Yes, the beloved I-spy-with-my-little-eye favorite of any wizard-operator finally makes its way to 13th Age, at 3rd level, with upgrades for 5th, 7th and 9th level provided and a concisely defined limit regarding range and speed, as well as AC and PD. The new 5th level utility spell herein would be another classic – Wall of Stone. This one completely blocks out Adventurer tier characters, allowing only champion tier and up to break through or scale it, which isn’t a solution I enjoy. Why not work with modifications to the DC to prevent the wall from being breached based on the assailants? Both are ranged spells, btw.

 

For 1st level, we once more have two spells that scale at 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th level, the first of which would be two rolled in one: Enlarge/Shrink Object. The basic idea here is simple – double or halve the size, with Intelligence + Level vs. PD of holding person to resist. Now, where things become interesting, is with the different level-upgrades, where penalties and enlarged items rendering targets stuck making for really creative tweaks of the 13th Age game, setting the spell apart from its other incarnations across the different game-engines. This spell has no feat-based options. The second 1st level spell is another cult classic: Mirror Image. It’s codified as close range, and, on a natural odd hit, one of the 1d2 doubles are hit instead and wink out of existence, with higher levels upgrading the number and providing for means to take crits automatically or adding the escalation die’s halved value (I assume, rounded down) to the doubles created. The Adventurer feat nets a chance for recharges of the spell after battle, while Champion tier’s feat’s images can execute basic melee attacks that inflict psychic damage. Epic feat mirror doubles detonate. Sooo…I’m kinda torn here. Oddly, this spell can make hits inflict more damage than misses, which is a bit strange and an aesthetic choice I am not too fond of.

 

We also have two 3rd-level spells, the first of which would be the ranged spell Snowball Swarm, which may be recklessly cast for +1d3 targets, but a chance that allies may be hit. On the plus side, targets hit by such a cast may also be dazed on a failed easy save. Damage scaling is solid compared to e.g. Force Salvo and the thing that sets the base version apart from the 5th, 7th and 9th level versions. The three feats for the spell enhance the save for the recklessly cast spell, more targets affected by them, and the epic feat adds a chance to render the targets temporarily helpless. Web is a close-quarter spell and another classic brought to 13th Age. The spell dazes targets and render them stuck, with the escalation die tied to the daze-duration. The 5th, 7th and 9th level versions, we have more reliability for the spell, and it has a short-term natural even miss dazing as well baked into its base engine. The two feats improve the dazed save and add poison-damage-causing spiders to the webbing. Nice tweak here!

 

The 3 5th level spell include Acid Rain, a ranged spell that can render targets vulnerable, with half damage on misses. Champion and Epic feats enhance the vulnerability added to the damage, as well as a target-increase. Two close-quarters spells are provided, with Enlarge/Shrink Creature representing a buff/debuff, respectively, is a bit odd in the pretty hefty benefits for being enlarged, but yeah. It’s still a rather nice classic. Titan’s Fist, another close-range spell, allows yo to target more targets at increasing penalties for doing so. Nice one, though I’d probably cap that based on Intelligence. Damage-wise, this is solid, and the feat-upgrades are nice, adding stuck or flinging a target away – did someone say Bigby?

 

At 7th level, the first classic would be Reverse Gravity, which once more comes with a recklessly cast version for additional targets, at the risk of affecting engaged allies. The spell causes untyped damage, which is somewhat problematic, since its damage metrics are based on Transfer Enchantment (which uses psychic damage), with additionally, more targets affected by Reverse Gravity. Not a fan. Cool, on the other hand – analogue to the CRB’s Haste, we get a Slow spell based on it – it would have been nice to have interaction between these opposed spells, however. Plus-side: If the escalation die’s odd, the effect may persist.

 

Anyways, the final spell is another classic: The 9th level spell would be Prismatic Barriers, which makes good use of damage types of 13th Age and really potent defensive tricks. The epic tier feat lets you expand the barrier by 1d2 allies included and lower-tier targets being really hampered.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – the presentation is precise. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports one amazing, new artwork, and an oddly 1-page version of a classic stock-art piece. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, which is a nice thing to see for such a brief pdf.

 

Richard Moore knows his 13th Age – while I do not like every design-decision herein, and while balance is not always meticulous, this pdf should still be considered to be a good buy for all 13th Age Wizard-players, adding some cult-classic spells to the game, often making good use of the diverse options available in 13th Age’s engine. All in all, I consider this to be a good offering, slightly short of the Fighter Talents and Maneuvers presented in the companion pdf. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this nice supplement for classic wizard-goodness here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.