Jun 222018
 

Dead God Excavation (OSR)

This module clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of Kort’thalis glyph, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, first things first: This module was made for Crimson Dragon Slayer, using Venger’s FREE rules-lite dark fantasy rules. The adventure itself, is in presentation, very much an old-school module, in that it eschews read-aloud text and the like for the most part – there is a box provided for a key scene. When using said rules, a brief table for some effects a cleric might have on unearthly creatures is a potent angle. 4 rumors and 4 reasons for the PCs to arrive at the scene of the adventure are provided. Before the PCs reach the excavation site, they will have to deal with fully-statted winged bat-demon-things. Combat-relevant beings like these tend to be statted for Crimson Dragon Slayer, noting HP and dice pool, but conversion should not be too hard for most old-school GMs, should you use another system.

 

NPCs are noted with flavorful descriptions and motivations, but don’t have stats. The biggest hurdle, conversion-wise, would be a “spell”, which is thankfully slightly tighter in its codification that CDS’s in my opinion non-functional free-form magic system, which boils down to “I try to convince the GM this works.” (Yeah, I will forevermore complain about the like – I just don’t enjoy it. No, I will not penalize the pdf for this.) The module presented sports a couple of Venger’s trademarks: It is very high-concept, has a couple of delightfully nigh-unpronounceable names and focuses on presenting a situation, without prescribing how it’ll run its course. The adventure features a stunning full-page full-color artwork, but not map for the complex to be explored. It should be noted that I can see this work particularly well for DCC’s aesthetics or LotFP, should you be playing those systems.

 

All right, this is as far as I can go without going into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

So, the PCs arrive at basically an archaeological dig, where one person actually has the Al Azif (rename it if you’re as tired as I am of dragging the poor ole’ Necry around) and from nobility to a Rosicrucian and a sage, there are some interesting NPCs to interact with. Touching the strange metal of the tomb that is explored can btw. have disquieting ramifications. When the sage’s brother arrives, he consults the book and deems the excavation unsafe. No one listens. Sure, his agenda is black as the night, but he, technically, is right. As antediluvian air escapes from the breached sepulcher, the PCs can wander into a strange dungeon where drops of acid drip from daemonic flesh, and ultimately lay their eyes upon the eponymous dead god, sleeping or dead. Indeed, a PC may unwittingly bond with a horrific alien entity that acts as basically a symbiotic, living artifact that can halt the flow of time, a servitor creature that may well kill the wielder, one in service to the dread inhuman god-thing lying there. A dark wall contains mighty glyphs that contain a superbly potent spell; essential salts may be consumed to speak to the high priest of the fallen deity and worse, there are hatchlings…

 

The finding of the dread great old one/deity may well end civilization, the start of a truly apocalyptic campaign…if you, for example, enjoy Shadows over Vathak, it may make for an interesting prologue to the proceedings hundreds of years later. Or you can use this to start something weird. This module pulls out the biggest punches of the mythos in the very first session, connecting because they are not expected then, but rather at the end of a campaign. This presents a couple of interesting variations for you: As the pdf closes with ideas for the benefits of having a dead god under your kingdom. The angles/suggestions here literally can govern whole campaigns, making this a truly efficient kick-off module.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout is gorgeous and one of my favorites in the whole Kort’thalis catalogue: With shades of purple and orange, blood-spatters and the like, Glynn Seal really delivers here. The b/w-artworks are nice, and the full-page full-color piece is fantastic and not something I expected to see in such an inexpensive supplement. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and a second, more printer-friendly version. Kudos!

 

Now, Dead God Excavation is not a hand-holding module; it is a sketch for you to fill out; it requires that you flesh out the main locale, potentially stat the NPCs, etc. It has no synopsis that would make spontaneously running it easier. Here, I get why. This is a proposition for a whole campaign or at least a story-angle, disguised as a brief introductory module. A Gm should think carefully about the ramifications of the adventure, of how it will shape the future. The presence of a variety of very potent concepts usually reserved for endgame-scenarios means that this is deadly; greed can kill PCs; so can curiosity. This is unforgiving, but it is brutal for a reason. It makes sense in the context of the adventure. The high impact nature of the module and clever use of player-expectation subversion makes for a fun and ultimately cool scenario. Sure, as always with Venger As’Nas Satanis’ relatively free-form modules, you’ll have to do a little more work structuring/fleshing out components, but for $2.50, it is worth getting!

 

That being said, I think that this offering suffers a bit from its presentation – DGE can’t seem to really decide whether it wants to be a toolkit/campaign-theme or adventure; as a toolkit, it is a success – the setting of the stage it delivers, is fantastic and evocative. However, the whole thing is billed as a module, and as such, it is more sketch-like than it should be. The descriptions and prose are top-notch, but the adventure doesn’t offer that much meat/substance. As a module, I think this would have benefited from being less abstract, from being more concrete. On the other hand, the aspects of the toolkit function basically almost invalidate the function as a module. No GM/referee/judge will run this as presented. It doesn’t have sufficient details for that; it’s not intended for that. At the same time, the suggested turn of events and characters make the toolkit-aspect feel less customizable than they are.

 

DGE would have made a truly outstanding, high-concept toolkit for a campaign, had it gotten rid of its pretensions of being an adventure. As written, it does not really qualify as either adventure or toolkit as perfectly as the quality of the prose and set-up would otherwise guarantee – it tries to have its cake and eat it, too, and is weaker off for it. To cut a long ramble short: This is a phenomenal inspiration for a game; a great little supplement to scavenge materials and scenes from, and, much like the eponymous dead god, a nice place to build a campaign on – I just wished it focused structurally in its presentation more on embracing being the modular toolkit that it wants to be. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, but I feel I can’t round up for this one.

 

You can get this inspired premise here on OBS!

 

Venger’s current kickstarter for a new Alpha Blue module has just 48 hours to go! You can check it out here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 222018
 

Places of Power: The Last Resort

This installment of the 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!

 

What is “Last Resort”? Well, picture a clutter of inns, held together by walls – in the middle of nowhere, it represents a collections of truly eclectic inns, a place that is in-between, in a way. Haven represents “ a little slice of haven”, with soothing music; the preserve, managed by Fenric Vogelsong (Vogel =bird, in German, fyi) sports an impossibly large interior, characterized by flora and fauna present, while the Diablo Inn offers all vices you could ask for. The ostensibly cursed (but hey, FREE!) Bleak House (nice nod to Dickens…), the chaotic Wherehouse that is rumored to allow for the finding of lost items…at a cost….you’ve probably guessed it by now.

 

In a way, the Last Resort represents a last resort for the desperate, sure, but it also is a purgatory of sorts, a neutral ground where the cosmic ideologies fight for the souls of stragglers, all under the auspice of an exceedingly potent, genderless wizard, Harlan Arbiton XVII – which reminded me of the foundation trilogy, obviously. Anyways the locale does contain Perdition’s Rift, a fissure in the planar fabric that has potent creatures emerge from it (great way to introduce odd beings!) – and 6 sample events are associated with this rift.

 

The 12 keyed locales all get brief lines of flavor text associated with them, and, as always, PCs that do their legwork can unearth rumors and lore pertaining the place. Notes on the surrounding area and the eclectic habits of the even more eclectic customers complement the write-up, and 6 whispers and rumors are provided. I was particularly smitten with the massive selection of 20 dressing entries for events regarding the place, which, thanks to the planar nature of the locale, are very diverse.

 

Speaking of diverse: This pdf follows the expanded formula of the newer Raging Swan Press offerings, meaning that we get tailor-made adventure-hooks for a wide variety of the different locations. What about a quest to get a lily straight from the abyss or a murder investigation, which certainly should be interesting in this place? With the chiefs of the inns being high-level beings, magic is pretty dominant, and the place actually does represent that in a few details, which can offer tangible benefits. Kudos for making this, also mechanically, a place of power!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports really nice b/w-artworks and cartography. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use. Kudos! Both pdfs are fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Mike Welham’s Last Resort is a pdf that, once I had realized what it was, made me groan a bit. The “microcosm of macrocosm” regarding alignment trope has been done before, and in a way, this collection of inns did feel a bit like Planescape-lite to me, at least in its theme. That being said, the actual execution of the trope is handled once more with the panache, subtle allusions and captivating prose that Mr. Welham always brings to the table. Moreover, the eye towards immediate usefulness at the table does make the Last Resort stand out – unlike similar solutions, it does not require a change of scenery, a big meta-setting or the like. This place could easily and seamlessly be slotted into just about any setting and environment, with the rift as an obvious way for the GM to eliminate it once more as soon as it has served its task. The captivating prose, eclectic and eccentric characters and the focus on making this as simple to use as possible, are what sets this apart. The fact that it also is slightly meatier than the often purely fluff-centric Places of Power adds to the appeal of this supplement.

 

So yeah, all in all, I heartily recommend this if you need an unobtrusive minor planar hub/means to get the PCs somewhere/way of introducing strange critters. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

 

You can get this pdf here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 222018
 

Places of Power: The Last Resort (system neutral)

This installment of the 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!

 

What is “Last Resort”? Well, picture a clutter of inns, held together by walls – in the middle of nowhere, it represents a collections of truly eclectic inns, a place that is in-between, in a way. Haven represents “ a little slice of haven”, with soothing music; the preserve, managed by Fenric Vogelsong (Vogel =bird, in German, fyi) sports an impossibly large interior, characterized by flora and fauna present, while the Diablo Inn offers all vices you could ask for. The ostensibly cursed (but hey, FREE!) Bleak House (nice nod to Dickens…), the chaotic Wherehouse that is rumored to allow for the finding of lost items…at a cost….you’ve probably guessed it by now.

 

In a way, the Last Resort represents a last resort for the desperate, sure, but it also is a purgatory of sorts, a neutral ground where the cosmic ideologies fight for the souls of stragglers, all under the auspice of an exceedingly potent, genderless wizard, Harlan Arbiton XVII – which reminded me of the foundation trilogy, obviously. Anyways the locale does contain Perdition’s Rift, a fissure in the planar fabric that has potent creatures emerge from it (great way to introduce odd beings!) – and 6 sample events are associated with this rift.

 

The 12 keyed locales all get brief lines of flavor text associated with them, and, as always, PCs that do their legwork can unearth rumors and lore pertaining the place. Notes on the surrounding area and the eclectic habits of the even more eclectic customers complement the write-up, and 6 whispers and rumors are provided. I was particularly smitten with the massive selection of 20 dressing entries for events regarding the place, which, thanks to the planar nature of the locale, are very diverse.

 

Speaking of diverse: This pdf follows the expanded formula of the newer Raging Swan Press offerings, meaning that we get tailor-made adventure-hooks for a wide variety of the different locations. What about a quest to get a lily straight from the abyss or a murder investigation, which certainly should be interesting in this place? With the chiefs of the inns being high-level beings, magic is pretty dominant, and the place actually does represent that in a few details, which can offer tangible benefits. In the system neutral version, it is obvious that these, much like everything else, is left closer to the preferences of the GM. Still, I couldn’t help but feel that this renders the pdf slightly less meaty.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports really nice b/w-artworks and cartography. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use. Kudos! Both pdfs are fully bookmarked for your convenience. References have been properly adjusted to reflect old-school terminology, i.e. “magic-user” instead of wizard, etc.

 

Mike Welham’s Last Resort is a pdf that, once I had realized what it was, made me groan a bit. The “microcosm of macrocosm” regarding alignment trope has been done before, and in a way, this collection of inns did feel a bit like Planescape-lite to me, at least in its theme. That being said, the actual execution of the trope is handled once more with the panache, subtle allusions and captivating prose that Mr. Welham always brings to the table. Moreover, the eye towards immediate usefulness at the table does make the Last Resort stand out – unlike similar solutions, it does not require a change of scenery, a big meta-setting or the like. This place could easily and seamlessly be slotted into just about any setting and environment, with the rift as an obvious way for the GM to eliminate it once more as soon as it has served its task. The captivating prose, eclectic and eccentric characters and the focus on making this as simple to use as possible, are what sets this apart. The fact that it also is slightly meatier than the often purely fluff-centric Places of Power adds to the appeal of this supplement.

 

So yeah, all in all, I heartily recommend this if you need an unobtrusive minor planar hub/means to get the PCs somewhere/way of introducing strange critters. Now, relevant for old-school groups that play a bit closer to the gritty edge of the spectrum, would be the note that this is very much high fantasy, if the summary did not drive that home. That’s not a bad thing in itself, and personally, I do enjoy this – but if your gaming world is rather low-key, then you should be cognizant of this very much being planar in power-level and scope implied for the respective innkeepers. All in all, I do consider this to be a very good system neutral version, one that only leaves me with cosmetic complaints in direct comparison to the other versions, which is why my review will clock in at 5 stars.

 

You can get this supplement here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 222018
 

Places of Power: The Last Resort (5e)

This installment of the 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!

 

What is “Last Resort”? Well, picture a clutter of inns, held together by walls – in the middle of nowhere, it represents a collections of truly eclectic inns, a place that is in-between, in a way. Haven represents “ a little slice of haven”, with soothing music; the preserve, managed by Fenric Vogelsong (Vogel =bird, in German, fyi) sports an impossibly large interior, characterized by flora and fauna present, while the Diablo Inn offers all vices you could ask for. The ostensibly cursed (but hey, FREE!) Bleak House (nice nod to Dickens…), the chaotic Wherehouse that is rumored to allow for the finding of lost items…at a cost….you’ve probably guessed it by now.

 

In a way, the Last Resort represents a last resort for the desperate, sure, but it also is a purgatory of sorts, a neutral ground where the cosmic ideologies fight for the souls of stragglers, all under the auspice of an exceedingly potent, genderless wizard, Harlan Arbiton XVII – which reminded me of the foundation trilogy, obviously. Anyways the locale does contain Perdition’s Rift, a fissure in the planar fabric that has potent creatures emerge from it (great way to introduce odd beings!) – and 6 sample events are associated with this rift.

 

The 12 keyed locales all get brief lines of flavor text associated with them, and, as always, PCs that do their legwork can unearth rumors and lore pertaining the place. Notes on the surrounding area and the eclectic habits of the even more eclectic customers complement the write-up, and 6 whispers and rumors are provided. I was particularly smitten with the massive selection of 20 dressing entries for events regarding the place, which, thanks to the planar nature of the locale, are very diverse.

 

Speaking of diverse: This pdf follows the expanded formula of the newer Raging Swan Press offerings, meaning that we get tailor-made adventure-hooks for a wide variety of the different locations. What about a quest to get a lily straight from the abyss or a murder investigation, which certainly should be interesting in this place? With the chiefs of the inns being high-level beings, magic is pretty dominant, and the place actually does represent that in a few details, which can offer tangible benefits. In a minor complaint, I did notice one reference to a skill check that should be Insight only codified as Wisdom, so that aspect could be slightly tighter, though, as a whole, rules language has been properly converted.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious issues on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports really nice b/w-artworks and cartography. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use. Kudos! Both pdfs are fully bookmarked for your convenience. NPCs noted refer to the proper default statblocks in a couple of cases; a few others require you to do the statting, though.

 

Mike Welham’s Last Resort is a pdf that, once I had realized what it was, made me groan a bit. The “microcosm of macrocosm” regarding alignment trope has been done before, and in a way, this collection of inns did feel a bit like Planescape-lite to me, at least in its theme. That being said, the actual execution of the trope is handled once more with the panache, subtle allusions and captivating prose that Mr. Welham always brings to the table. Moreover, the eye towards immediate usefulness at the table does make the Last Resort stand out – unlike similar solutions, it does not require a change of scenery, a big meta-setting or the like. This place could easily and seamlessly be slotted into just about any setting and environment, with the rift as an obvious way for the Gm to eliminate it once more as soon as it has served its task. The captivating prose, eclectic and eccentric characters and the focus on making this as simple to use as possible, are what sets this apart. The fact that it also is slightly meatier than the often purely fluff-centric Places of Power adds to the appeal of this supplement, even though, more so than the PFRPG-version, it somewhat suffers from 5e simply not having as big a cadre of sample statblocks to refer to. In an ideal world, this would come with its own NPC-codex, but this is a system-immanent issue and not the fault of the pdf.

 

So yeah, all in all, I heartily recommend this if you need an unobtrusive minor planar hub/means to get the PCs somewhere/way of introducing strange critters. The 5e-version is a solid take on the concept, with my final verdict clocking in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

 

You can get this neat place here on OBS!

 

You can directly support raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 212018
 

Drakonheim: City of Bones (system neutral)

This system neutral city supplement clocks in at 47 pages once you take away the front cover, ToC, etc. My review is based on the 7’’ x 10’’ premium softcover print version, which I received for a fair and unbiased review. The book was consequently moved up in my reviewing-queue.

 

So, first things first: The title and the vampire lady on the cover notwithstanding, Drakonheim is NO Ravenloft-ish gothic horror supplement or grim-dark setting. But what is it? The answer to that is slightly more complex, but before we dive into the nit and grit there, we should first discuss the formal properties.

 

5e GMs and Players should feel right at home when opening the book, for the full-color supplement’s formatting adheres to 5e-aesthetics, with bolded and italicized headers. Now, this is still a book that takes its system neutral claim seriously – you will not find references to monks or warlocks in the discussion of the classes of the city. Races referenced and monsters are regular enough to work with pretty much any fantasy game – hobgoblins, goblins, dragons – from 13th Age to OSR, PFRPG and 5e, you should have no issues integrating the city in your game.

 

Now, there is another component that should be noted: This softcover is gorgeous. I mean it. The layout is nice, but the artwork by Joyce Maureira deserves being applauded. That cover? That’s the same artist and the same quality of artwork you’ll find inside. ALL THE TIME. This is a really art-heavy book, and there are only 4 two-page spreads that don’t at least have one of these original, gorgeous pieces. Moreover, to make up for that, some spreads have multiple artworks. The fact that one talented artist provided these high-quality artworks adds a significant sense of aesthetic cohesion to the book. The cartography of the city and its environments by Tom Fayen is also high-quality, though I wished we got key-less versions in the back of the book. Still, from an aesthetic perspective, this is one damn impressive book, and if you really like good artwork, this may be worth checking out on virtue of that strength alone.

 

Now, in the beginning, I found myself reminded of some classic tropes: The pdf sports some context for the city of Drakonheim, though it is easily integrated: The idea is that it once was part of an empire that kinda collapsed and now may be in the process of reclaiming its former glory or falling completely apart, depending on your needs. Mythology of the city’s founders quotes dragon teeth and bones to build the city; this mythic hero, echoing in a subtle manner earliest legends, as well as a fabled cadre of heroes defeating a lich king, forfeiting their lives, echoes tropes that are much beloved in the genre.

 

There is one aspect regarding the backdrop of the city that is not easily ignored: When the empire that once incorporated Drakonheim fell, it took their dwarven allies with them, and to this date, a significant amount of dwarven immigrants, including their own quarter, “Little Grendus” (named after the fallen dwarven nation) resounds with obvious potential for immigrant stories and tales of cultural clash. It is, in a way, one of the smartest decisions of the book, one that connects the per se deliberately conservative age of myth with the potential for new world storytelling, for Americana, if you will – the nomenclature being close to “Little Italy” et al. is no coincidence. Of course, you can also employ the fabled dwarven skill as a twist to how Jews were treated in medieval Europe – issues of religious and cultural clash and segregation are opened in an unobtrusive way that felt plausible and mature to me.

 

Particularly since these aspects connect with the big selling point, the flashy component responsible for the cover: The Gray Society is a powerful force and undead are a fact of life. Wait, sounds familiar? Yes, this had me flash back, big time, to one of my all-time favorite books from 3.X – the Scarred Land’s Hollowfaust, City of Necromancers. (A book with inspired ideas, and, much like most Scarred Lands books, atrocious crunch.) So, what sets Drakonheim apart?

 

Well, while the Gray Society has been active for ages, a cabal of tremendous power…they only have gone public six months ago, ostensibly single-handedly saving the city from a horde of hobgoblins with their undead. Sure, more things could have turned the tide, but now, they are the big change to the way in which the city presents itself. Drakonheim is a city built, figuratively and literally, on bones (like all cities, to a degree), but the Gray Society, metaphorically, makes this consumption of life evident. Obvious. Impossible to ignore.

 

Here’s another smart decision: The necromancers are no altruists, but they are magical scientists; their ideology hearkens close to enlightened ideas we all (hopefully!) cherish, which obviously clash with the traditionalist faiths of the city. The clash of science and religion is interesting when charged thus; science can remain dangerous, but the contrast of faith, even one that is an empirically relevant fact, courtesy of the powers it grants (unlike faith in our world), with the undead makes for an interesting angle that also extends to the NPCs. There is no easy good/evil-dichotomy implied in the NPCs, and while the book makes use of heroic tropes in the background stories told, it ultimately, by virtue of construction of its present as complex as it does, subverts these legends, making them uncertain, the tale of the victors.

 

When characters coded as paladins in their looks and stories behave like violent murder-hobos and barely get off the hook, courtesy of city watch corruption and an influential family, you can’t help but question whether it’s so easy after all, whether there is not a rot inherent in the very center of such convictions. You can, arguably, ignore these subtle nuances and play Drakonheim significantly more straightforward, but personally, I considered these small notes in-between to be the true catch in the presentation of the city, in its flair. A powerful vampire among the aristocracy subsists on commoner ladies, whom he does not kill – instead, these blood brides from the poorest of stock, lead lives of luxury – so is the literal analogy of the classic, aristocratic vampire as a bloodsucker of the lower classes, here truly hurting them? He *could* be evil, but he doesn’t *have* to be. This is one of the strengths of the supplement. The writing manages to maintain this precarious balance throughout, extending even to the goblin “kingdoms” below the city. The notes on the inhabitants of the surrounding territories also are in line with this notion.

 

The book, thus, by virtue of the uncertainty of the past, by power of being on the verge of a new age, caught in the throes of empires crumbling, manages to employ its, on their own, classic tropes and combines them into a whole that surpasses the sum of their parts. The book also sports several adventure outlines, but compared to the nuanced and top-notch writing, these sketches, perhaps due to their relative brevity, falls behind the quality of the city supplement itself. Don’t get me wrong – the sketches themselves are diverse, and from stocking arenas to demonic killers, they are a diverse lot and usually provide at least a couple of twists, but where the collective of the city supplement aspect grabbed me with its clever totality, the same cannot be said for these. They are good and certainly helpful for the GM looking for an idea, but never reach the level of promise and complex, intriguing stories hard-coded into the city supplement section itself.

 

The supplement ends with a massive, 100-entry NPC-table, noting names, professions/crafts, distinguishing characteristics, races and mannerisms.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column, full-color standard. As noted before, the artworks are phenomenal, and so is the cartography. As always, I suggest getting the premium print version – the gorgeous artwork definitely deserves the better print quality and color-saturation. I can’t comment on the other versions of the book.

 

Matthew J. Hanson’s Drakonheim is an inspired city that I frankly shouldn’t like as much as I do. I have seen the components of this supplement before, but the vivid prose and nuanced characterization and combination of tropes, the way in which this was crafted, ultimately means that it transcends what it would have been in the hands of a lesser writer. That being said, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat disappointed by the adventure-sketches, which ultimately fail to capitalize properly on the surprisingly complex questions posed by this supplement, falling into a safer terrain, one that hearkens closer to what you usually get to see in fantasy. This remains my one gripe with this otherwise interesting city sourcebook; the book would have deserved better angles there – particularly for GMs not getting the often remarkably subtle, perhaps even unconscious symbolism evoked, this could have added a whole new layer to the supplement. But that may be me. As a whole, I consider this to be well worth getting. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the context of this platform

 

You can get this book here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 212018
 

Unchained Monks of Porphyra

This installment of Purple Duck Games‘ „…of Porphyra“-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 28 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

 

After a brief one-page introduction, we begin with the archetype section, the first of which would be the descendant. This one represents an engine tweak, gaining a bloodrager bloodline at first level, which is governed by Wisdom instead of Charisma, gaining bloodline powers at 1st and 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. For the purpose of SPs etc. gained thus, class level equals character level. This replace the 1st level bonus feat and the ki powers gained at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Powers entwined with bloodrage instead work in conjunction with ancestral communion, which may be entered as a free action, which can be maintained for 4 + Wisdom modifier rounds per day, +2 rounds for every subsequent class level attained. Ancestral communion nets a +2 morale bonus to Strength, +4 to Will-saves and +2 to Fort-saves. This replaces flurry of blows. Bloodline feats may be chosen as monk bonus feats. At 6th level, the character can spend a ki point to cast the first bonus spell granted by the bloodline as a SP, noting once more, correctly, how this is governed by class level and Wisdom, with 10th level, 14th and 18th level unlocking further bonus spells at progressively increasing ki costs. This replaces the ki powers gained at these levels. All in all, this is a solid engine-tweak.

 

Next up would be the Firefall monk, also known as Qunbalati. These monks replace Perform with Disguise as a class skill, and the AC-bonus is reduced to only the Wisdom bonus. Instead of flurry of blows and stunning fist, the archetype gains the throw anything and bomb class features of the alchemist, using class level as alchemist level to determine their potency, and Wisdom modifier as governing attribute. This stacks with other bomb-granting abilities. As a rules-aesthetic complaint, the unchained monk’s chassis does not actually require bombs to be relevant – as a full BAB-class, the bombs hit very reliably, which presents a similar disjoint as the gunslinger. That as an aside, the qunbalati gains ki pool at 7th levl, treating his unchained monk level as 4 lower for the purpose of ki points and ki strike; the archetype also does not gain ki powers of 4th, 6th, 8th and 12th level. At 3rd level, the archetype adds Wisdom modifier to Reflex saves trying to reduce the damage dealt by his own bombs; at 8th level, this applies to all Reflex saves to which evasion applies. Starting at 6th level, as long as the qunbalati has 1 ki point, he does not provoke AoOs with bombs; at 12th level, while having at least 2 points, bombs may be thrown as a move action; at 16th level, while having at least 2 ki points, you can throw a bomb as a swift action – these are relevant in the absence of discoveries, obviously.

 

Thirdly, we have the flying monk, who is locked into Dodge and Mobility at 1st and 2nd level regarding bonus feats, ignoring prerequisites. The archetype gets the first real signature ability at 5th level – when doing a flurry, the archetype can jump sans provoking an AoO, necessitating a DC 20 Acrobatics check when threatened. On a failure, the flurry stops and larger enemies increase the DC. At 10th level, an additional jump may be attempted per flurry, with at least one attack between them, but this second jump costs ki. The number of ki you can spend per round is capped by Wisdom modifier, and the ability replaces 5th level’s style strike and 10th level’s ki power. At 8th level, the archetype gains acrobatic dodge, which is cool: Once per round when attacked by a melee attack, the character can attempt a DC 25 Acrobatics check – on a success, the character gains +4 dodge bonus to AC versus the incoming attack. This, however, does count as a move action taken in the next round – at least until 15th level, where succeeding the check by 15+ means that it does not consume next round’s option AND allows you to attempt it again. This replaces 8th level’s ki power and 15th level’s style strike. I liked the idea of this ability – I just wished it would become available sooner.

 

Martial virtuosos may select Style feats as bonus feats, and 6th level allows for Adept of Many Styles (enter a style, use feats based on that style as well as another), 10th level for Master of Many Styles (ditto, for two additional styles, + 1/round style switch as a free action) as bonus feat options. Starting at 4th level, the archetype reduces the number of skill ranks required by a Style feat by Wisdom modifier, with the option to split the reduction between skill prerequisites – this is interesting and replaces still mind. At 6th level, the character gains stance breaker instead of a ki power: Once per round when attacking an enemy that has adopted a style, the archetype can break a style, knocking a hit foe out of it and preventing reassertion of the style for a few rounds – this is particularly interesting if you’re using a system that employs style-like stances and extend the benefits to these. At 10th level the duration of style-lockdown, and at 14th level, two style lockdowns may be executed per round, with additional uses beyond those requiring more ki points.

 

The naginata master gains proficiency with naginatas, long spears and similarly weaponry and treats weapons with the reach property as monk weapons, which becomes relevant at higher levels. 8th level allows for the use of ki to enhance these weapons as though they were fists. At 12th and 20th level, these weapons are treated as + one size category . The archetype does lose stunning fist and unarmed strike. 4th level yields Favored Weapon for a reach weapon…which is not a feat I am familiar with. I assume this to reference Weapon Focus, though it is possible that it instead references e.g. the marksman’s favored weapon class ability, which isn’t a feat. Unpleasant hiccup. At 16th level, we have the option to expend reach by 5 ft. for one round as a swift action.

 

The pinyinist comes with some racial restrictions in Porphyra, excluding some of the weirder races sans classic humanoid physiology from taking the archetype. There is a reason for that: At 4th level, the archetype gets ki meridians, which may be activated by spending a ki point as a swift action and last for Wisdom modifier rounds. One is chosen at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, replacing the ki powers that would usually be granted at these levels. 1/day gaining of two ki points, DR, skill or initiative boosts – the benefits are pretty traditional, but the flavor makes them interesting. As a nitpick, I’m not too happy with the bonuses granted being untyped. At 6th level, and again at 10th and 14th, the pinyinist opens a meridian chosen permanently, losing the ability to open them. Kudos: Those that would become really problematic otherwise get unique benefits from being permanently open. 12th level extends the meridian list by a further 6 entries, once more corresponding with organs of the body. Building on that, 18th level provides the means to activate meridians that have been permanently opened for combined boosts, once more featuring a few unique tricks. I love the flavor of this one and the base of the engine, if not necessarily the execution – it could have carried a whole class.

 

The void monk adds Autohypnosis to the class skills (something that would point towards the Naginata specialist indeed referring to the marksman class feature erroneously as a feat) and has a bad Ref-save, but a good Will-save. Instead of evasion, the monk may substitute an Autohypnosis check for a Will-save, which is mechanically not that smart – as noted time and again before, skill checks are notoriously easy to break. Instead of improved evasion, the void monk gets the means to resist probing into his mind, requiring that any entity attempting to do so succeeds at a massive Sense Motive skill check. Instead of diamond body, the archetype gains no breath. Nice ideas here, though I wished the archetype had a bit more active tricks going on.

 

Next up would be the Grasshopper 10-level PrC, which requires BAB 5+, 5 ranks Acrobatics as well as evasion and flurry of blows. The PrC gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level (with a paltry 3 class skills), and does not gain new proficiencies. The PrC has full BAB-progression, as well as ½ Fort- and Ref-save progression. The PrC allows for the addition of both Dexterity and Strength modifiers to attack rolls executed with flurry of blows at 1st level, which, from the get-go, is problematic – this would have made sense for non-unchained monks, but not for the already full BAB unchained monk. The PrC has a ki pool of ½ class level + Wisdom modifier, and thankfully, the ability gets interaction with the ki pool class feature granted by other abilities right. Unarmed strike, flurry and stunning fist scale as though the PrC-levels were unchained monk levels. 2nd level nets a +1 deflection bonus per free hand. Nitpick: The deflection bonus is stated as being cumulative, which could be read as pertaining to the ability (which seems very likely) or as pertaining any deflection bonuses. A more elegant variant would have been to state that the bonus equals the number of free hands, or alternatively increases a deflection bonus accordingly. This would aso have made the interaction with the follow-up ability smoother. At 6th level, while getting at least a +1 deflection bonus from a free hand, they also add Strength modifier as a stacking bonus to AC.

 

Then again, that’s me nitpicking. At 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the PrC gets to choose a ki power from a limited list. There are a couple of PrC-exclusive ones here: Better jumping, ignoring gravity changes (cool), double jumping mid air via ki, create shockwaves (and fissures!), ignoring limited DR, a variant one-strike flurry powered by ki (with a minor formatting glitch) , maneuvers, alternate kick-damage type…the tricks are cool, with the exception of one of the powers, which just represents a numerical escalation. 4th level nets the ability to hover via ki, and even temporarily fly. Cool and gets maneuverability etc. right. At 6th level, while getting at least a +1 deflection bonus from a free hand, they also add Strength modifier as a stacking bonus to AC. 8th level adds +1 attack to the flurry of kicks, and at 10th level, a flurry can be combined with standard or move actions when attacking with feet only; the action may not imply movement or use feet, which is an uncommon, interesting limiter. The action may also not be used for combat maneuvers or melee attacks, but ranged attacks, potion drinking, etc. are viable.

 

There is a second PrC here, the wild master, who requires flurry of blows and wild shape, as well as 5 ranks in the Knowledge (nature) skill. The PrC gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level ½ spellcasting progression for the druid class, full BAB-progression, and half Fort- and Ref-save progression. The PrC nets no new proficiencies. The PrC can use flurry of blows with natural attacks while in animal form (important limit!). At 4th level, natural attacks when flurrying, are treated as +1 size, with 8th level increasing this to +2 sizes.

 

Class levels stack with unchained monk levels for unarmed strike, stunning fist and flurry of blows. ½ class levels stack with druid levels for the purpose of wild shape. The 3rd level nets favored shape nets a choice of 8, which include bears, felines, etc., but oddly no canine specialization. The bonuses they convey to the respective shapes are concisely presented. 5th level and every 2 further levels yield another such favored shape. At 4th level, while in a form that is not the standard form, the PrC can use wild shape as a swift action. At 8th level, when assuming the form of an animal, all animals of that type in a 60 ft. radius gain +2 to atk and damage, which is a bit rough, considering that “fish” or “raptor” are categories, whereas “bear”…is pretty singular. 10th level nets timeless body and adds Wisdom modifier to AC and CMD (stacking) as well as to some skills. I did not like this PrC. It’s very numbers-focused and not that interesting.

 

The pdf also contains 7 new ki powers, which include making weapons temporarily count as monk weapons via ki expenditure to sacrifice hit points to regain ki, with a daily cap. Personally, I think the damage should scale, but at least the hard cap prevents total delimiting of the ki-resouce. Still, that’s up to + Wisdom modifier ki, which can be rather brutal. Temporarily seeing via ki is interesting, though I think that just referring to all-around vision would have been more elegant here. Pinyinist-support for more meridians, wall running and allowing the monk to train weapons, using them as monk weapons on a semi-permanent basis complement this section.

 

The final chapter deals with new feats: I already mentioned the Many Styles-feats; beyond these, there is one that fortifies you against massive damage. Very problematic: regaining ki via crits. Ki is not grit; it’s a limited resource and as such, should not be able to be recharged via critical hits. Worse, the feat lacks a caveat to prevent abuse via bags of kittens: Whip out the bag and start beating up your fluffy friends – it’s for the greater good. Enhanced Dodge is a joke. +1 dodge bonus while you have at leats 4 ki. Yeah, let’s waste a feat on that. Faster Flurry of Blows nets you +1 attack at highest BAB against a foe after hitting a single target at least thrice with a flurry. Unstoppable Flurry of Blows builds on that, for 6 attacks. There is also a feat that lets you use ki to enhance channel energy.

 

The chapter’s main meat, however, would be the 5 imperial styles: In Porphyra, these are considered to be noble arts, and they include Underworld Style (flanking prevention and enhancers), Sovereign Style lets you declare attacks as fake, making them work as Intimidate checks instead. (Erroneously referred to as Intimidation here, but that’s a nitpick.) Combining the style with Everyman Gaming’s psychology rules from Ultimate Charisma makes it even more interesting. Like it. Sky Style focuses on falling/dive bombing on your enemy for potent attacks, unlocking jumps to trigger the benefits. It, like Sea Style focuses on underwater/in water combat, with swim speed and bonus damage in water (which is a pretty nasty numerical escalation). Forest Style is interesting, enhancing attacks versus larger foes (or those higher up) and nets you the means to effectively deal with being prone, etc.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – the Purple Ducks have made sure that the content is functional and solidly-phrased. There are only a few minor hiccups here. Layout adheres to a 1-column, printer-friendly b/w-standard with purple highlights. The pdf sports some really nice full-color artworks. Annoyingly, the pdf lacks bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.

 

Nikolaï Samarine provides a solid expansion for the unchained monk here – it’s somewhat hybrid-concept heavy for my tastes, but mostly handles the task of presenting viable options well. That being said, it’s most interesting when it dares to do something thematically unique – the Pinyinist is, for me, the star here, theme-wise. That being said, the supplement is pretty technical overall – there is a lot of tweaking with numbers, and there is a general tendency towards escalating the numbers, particularly for offense, which isn’t as smart a move in a system already geared towards offense. That being said, while this shows that the author is not yet a veteran, you can see a burgeoning daring here, one that I can see develop into intriguing supplements. As presented, the book is, as a whole, represents a mechanically well-crafted offering that can be somewhat problematic in the hands of min-maxers. The supplement, as a whole, to me represents a mixed bag, and I feel that it’s closer to rounding down than up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

 

You can get this supplement here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Purple Duck Games here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 212018
 

Hybrid Classes of NeoExodus: Anointed Guardian

This hybrid class clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

The anointed guardian class, a hybrid of paladin and unchained summoner, clocks in at d10 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. The class gets a clerical aura of good, detect evil at-will (with the pala’s move action trick to determine an item/creature’s evilness quicker), full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, and at 4th level, prepared spellcasting governed by Charisma (unusual choice) at the usual -3 CL. Spells are drawn from a spell list that incorporates spells from paladin and summoner, with maximum spell level being 4th, akin to the pala.

 

2nd level nets the grace ability (which sports an erroneous italicization of “bless” in blessing) – the anointed guardian starts the day with Charisma modifier, minimum 1, grace points. The pool is shared by anointed guardian and divine eidolon, and grace is spent to perform benedictions. Some of these are passive, remaining in effect until the final point is spent, while others are active. The term of grace does not really contain anything new: At second level, it encompasses smite evil and lay on hands. The rules-language here is inconsistent: Some abilities call out explicitly that the divine eidolon can use them, while others don’t – however, the termino umbrellone rules-paragraph establishes that these may universally be used by both, which makes the inconsistency more grating to me. Getting Charisma bonus to saves, gained at 5th level, lacks a duration. Also at this level, mercies are gained and scale according to the classic mercy-progression (prior to enfeebled etc. being added), though some of them have been moved around a bit. 4th level yields tactician for use with the divine eidolon, and 7th level and every 3 levels thereafter yield a bonus feat. The capstone is a composite gestalt of eidolon and anointed guardian – this ability, oddly, is called “apotheosis”, which is not, unless I am really wrong (I’m not) what that usually means. It’s also somewhat out of left field. The class treats grace as the singular resource for the pala abilities. The eidolon can smite…and guess what? Grace behaves like grit for evil-aligned enemies. Crits on them and killing them replenishes the shared pool, and both guardian and eidolon can refresh it. THANKFULLY, the refresh-methods come with a caveat that prevents kitten-abuse.

 

The class gets a divine, good eidolon – while it’s manifested, a glowing run on the forehead of guardian and eidolon set them apart. The divine eidolon does not heal naturally, but life link’s available from 1st level on. Annoying: The divine eidolon does not have the imho rather helpful “no other companions” caveat of the mechanically-superior spiritualist class – a missed chance to improve the base class chassis employed. Divine eidolons have ¾ HD (d10, btw.) and BAB-progression, two good saves, gains 4 skills at first level with ¾ levels netting +4 skill points. Up to 8 feats are gained and AC bonus improves from +0 to +16….sounds familiar? Yeah, unchained eidolon. This includes the abilities like devotion, evasion, link, etc. Skills are the same as well. The pdf lists the aquatic base form from ultimate Magic, the Avian base form from Cohorts & Companions, and two forms taken from Everyman Gaming’s Unchained Eidolons.

 

As far as subtypes are concerned, Agathion, Angel, Archon, Azata, Celestial Beasts, Foo Creatures and Manasaputra are provided. Oddly, agathion base form is identical to the one from Horror Realms, but lacks the aberrant base form option – once you realize this predates Horror Realms, though, that becomes plausible. Angel, Azata and Archon are old acquaintances, with Foo Creatures and Manapsutra taken from the excellent Everyman Unchained: Eidolons-supplement. Speaking of said supplement: The aligned animal option in that book is imho more interesting than the celestial beast provided within. Oh, and a lot of the new evolutions have been taken straight from that book as well. Armor Training, increased speed, spore cloud, to name a few. Hooves is from Ultimate Magic. Mount is NOT new. Manifest weapon manifests the eidolon with a scaling, aligned weapon.

 

These eidolon subtypes are also the most pronounced difference between the anointed guardian and the second class herein, the profane marauder. Achaierai, Daemon, Demodand, Demon, Devil, Div, Hell Hound, Kyton, Nightmare and Qlippoth are listed here. Once more, demodand and kyton for example is taken from the Everyman Gaming book. Demon, devil, div, daemon…some previously-released material here. The achaierai eidolon gets a nice, tightly-codified breath weapon. This, and the unlimited breath weapon of the hell hound form (which should probably have a cap) lack activation actions. The nightmare eidolon’s fly speed lacks a maneuverability. There are quite a few missed italicizations.

 

I’m not going to bore myself or you with once more listing the profane marauder’s class features – they are essentially a palette-swapped antipala-version of the anointed guardian. Class features of the class reference improving class features via feats, none of which are included in the pdf. There are no favored class options or similar supplemental materials included.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are, considered the amount of text cut-copy-pasted from other sources, surprisingly inconsistent. I found myself neither impressed on a formal, nor on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to the really nice two-column full-color standard of NeoExodus supplements, and the pdf sports a really amazing artwork, as seen on the cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and it comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.

 

Jeff Lee’s anointed guardian is uncharacteristically lackluster in many ways. This is an unbalanced Frankenstein-Gestalt that has not seen playtesting – it’s superior to the pala, lacks means to balance the power the eidolon represents, has rules-hiccups and sports a ridiculous amount of reprinted material. The lack of supplemental material further hurts the class, and the amount of cobbled-together material means that the class never develops anything regarding an identity of its own apart from being a “OMG, KEWL, Ima pala wit ze eidolon 11oneone!!”-angle; the pseudo-grit takes the one interesting resource-management component away, and while the angle is cool and could have resulted in a truly inspired class, the anointed guardian instead opts to create the most bland iteration of its concept possible – sans caring about how its power impacts the game. I can see this work in super high-powered games or solo-play, but even then, the design is simply not interesting or distinct. This feels, ironically, soulless and cynical. My final verdict will clock in at 2 stars.

 

You can get this class here on OBS.

 

Youc an find Everyman Gaming’s Unchained Eidolons here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jun 202018
 

Battle Star: Trek Wars (OSR)

This massive Alpha Blue-book clocks in at 76 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page reserved for notes, 1 page kort’thalis glyph, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, leaving us with 70 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This book is an expansion for Venger As’Nas Satanis’ sleazy scifi-RPG Alpha Blue, which is inspired by 70s and early 80s porn-parodies. If exposed boobs and nudity offend you, if you can’t chuckle over what may be deemed to be puerile humor, then this may not be for you. To give you an example: One b/w-artwork has a guy standing in line at the space unemployment agency, asking the clerk to tell him more about “those outer rim jobs.” That being said, at the same time, there are not artworks depicting intercourse or the like – pin-up-style nudity is as raunchy as this one gets.

 

Then again, at this point I’ve reviewed so many Alpha Blue supplements you probably already know whether the tone is to your liking, so since we have the disclaimer out of the way, let’s take a look at the material herein!

 

We begin this supplement with a massive piece of well-written prose to set the stage thematically, “Cold as Ice,” before the pdf begins with a nomenclature-change that was overdue – The official term for the GM in Alpha Blue now is the BDSM – Bold Dungeon Space Master. The abbreviation was so obvious, I kinda hoped it would catch on. The pdf then provides a seven words/phrases means of character generation that works well with the very rules-lite approach Alpha Blue takes – what does the character do professionally, how does the character look like, who is the character as a person,, what is the character good at, likes/dislikes, special equipment/vessels and stand out traits – there, character generation in a few quick steps. If you honestly dislike rolling dice and want an even bigger step of being almost-0-rules, there is an alternative that gets rid of rolling for damage; the brief table makes you pool up attack dice pool and that’s it. Nice: The BDSM gets default stats for stock character NPCs next to some further DMing advice, which champions sticking to briefer scenes. Shutting lengthy combats down and rough guidelines for the number of rounds acceptable, can be helpful – as the header notes “remember the cantina” – it’s brevity is what makes the scene work. A d12 table to end combats that have stretched on for too long The sleaze once more enters the frame via the rather funny table that provides mechanically-relevant effects that accompany an alien’s orgasm. The pdf also provides a d12 table to determine random underwear worn, a d4 table to determine the condition, and a d6 table for the couture of the vaginal area. If you happen to be a fan of Alpha Blue who prefers males, you won’t get any tables for male underpants or genital area.

 

The section also introduces the dread Cheetosian slut-bots, a sex robot so potent it has a 1 in 3 chance of killing you. Losers of high-stakes games sometimes have to take the bet and introduce fingers etc. in the bot – those that survive end up with permanent cheeto fingers/genitalia, coated in orange dust. A fate that’s rather…disgusting. 12 quick hooks to begin an Alpha Blue adventure, 20 things that folks may want in return for assistance and 30 weapons are next. The latter include assassin blades hidden in clown shoes, crotch cannons, bowel disruptors, etc. 6 weapons, hilariously, were left over and get their own brief table.

The next idea is pretty funny: Snadq’ua is a game, where you have to trick someone to look at your dick/balls. Depending on the move, the loser may have to pay MeowMeowBeenz, and the pdf mentions how this could be used in metagame – the victor can take the loser’s “Steal the Spotlight” for the session. It should be obvious that the latter metagame requires sane and mature adults, but, as a suggestion, it’s very much possible to make this based on boobs as well. Gamifying NOT staring at cleavage may actually do some socially slightly challenged folks some good…

 

30 detailed random transmissions to pick up (assassin guilds celebrating their 110th kill, Purple Prizm, now with aphrodisiac, etc.) and a brief d6-die drop table to determine stability in a region are next, and then we get a MASSIVE, 100-entry strong table of odd NPCs to add to the game – from space dwarves to armed slugs to really weird folks, this table is really useful and breathes Venger’s creativity in the best of ways. While we’re on the subject of the die-drop component: The pdf comes with a MASSIVE, high-res –jpg hex-map of the Ta’andor galaxy, noting the spheres of influence of factions from “Abhorrent Entities of Eldritch Alignment” to the “Church of Arthos” or “Ta’andorian Pleasure Seekers.”

 

There is also a 100-entry strong loot table, which includes a detachable penis, parking tickets, a handheld sonic douching machine, vials LS3-D…pretty fun and diverse table. 10 reasons why you don’t get to pick someone up are also provided, which had me think of a weird combination: Space Quest meets Leisure Suit Larry. I can kinda see that work as a campaign idea! This also ties in with a table that determines the degree of being pussy-whipped (extra points for running Steel Panther’s song when rolling on it…) and one that randomly lets you determine how long it takes for a male to be able to go again.

 

MeowMeowBeenz are concisely defined, btw. – it’s crypto currency that has become popular after the finance markets crashed. Its value is partially contingent on how ostensibly awesome you manage to sell yourself. Here’s the kicker: The system also rates the users on a scale of 1 to 5, not akin to the social rating dystopia shown in the third season of Black Mirror. MeowMeowBeenz thus feel pretty…sinister to me. The fluctuating value and fluid economy is, of course, pretty much carte blanche for the BDSM, so some further explanations give you some guidelines. I really enjoyed this section – the easy come, easy go randomness is appealing and fits the themes of Alpha Blue.

 

All right, as before in the Alpha Blue supplements released so far, we move on towards the adventure/scenario section next. As before, read aloud text is usually reduced to a bare minimum, namely setting the stage for the adventure; there is no plot-synopsis given, and you definitely should read the entire respective scenario prior to running it. Big plus: We actually get stats where relevant.

 

All right, since we’re now taking a look at the adventures themselves, consider this to be the SPOILER-warning for players. If you want to play these yourself, you should skip ahead to the conclusion.

..

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All right, only BDSMs around? Great! So, the first scenario “I Wear My Heart On My Sleaze” begins with at the favorite dive bar, where a Dallas Space Cowboy Cheerleader is waiting for the bathroom to become free, proceeding then to peeing herself when she can’t hold it any more. This being Alpha Blue, the aftermath can result is sex. As the PCs happen upon a flyer noting a libertarian party going on, they also get a note that none Ta’andorian citizens will have to have intercourse in the next 3 hours or die horribly. The consequence is simple: Get laid at the party or die trying is the name of the game, and when a humanoid carrot advertizes the symbiotic jellyfish condoms that can actually form ridges etc., we’re definitely in full-blown Alpha Blue territory. While playing strip-sabacc, the PCs may run afoul of a pick-pocket, and there are 12 reasons for some dude wanting the PCs dead. A super smart inventor is thinking about selling a short-range teleportation device to score; a lady may be saved from a scintillating bastard of an alien from a Zonga-line…and then fungoid spacers (alas, sans stats) kidnap a princess…which may make for another interesting adventure. All in all, a delightfully goofy extended encounter/downtime scenario.

 

The second adventure would be “Emergency Escape Sequence Delta Green,” which begins with a table of 6 different flashbacks as the PCs emerge on the moon A’atu, only to pick up a Romulyn battle cruiser on their scanners, Shasta, which hails the PCs and provides an ultimatum – scram or be pulverized. The moon seems to be suffering from a blockade, courtesy of a change in Federation tax codes. The remainder of the module deals with a free-form approach towards the situation: Do the PCs attempt to save the moon? Will they join the Federation or attempt to brave all odds and eliminate the superior forces of the Federation? In order to defeat a battle cruiser, the PCs will probably have to infiltrate it, and stats for standard troopers and an Admiral are provided alongside a brief d6 table of different welcoming committees. And that’s about it. A solid digression/diversion.

 

Thirdly, we get the “Outer Rim Jobs of Ta’andor” begins with 6 easy-come-easy-go reasons for the PCs to be broke. Facing their dwindling resources, they are likely to say yes to the job awaiting on Avon 7, where a scouring winds ravage the land and a bald, Tibetan-looking monk awaits. A group of fully statted rival spacers will attempt to take out the PCs as they take the job, taking turquoise teleportation bracelets…only to me dread Xa’ax, the mind-raping orange (nice callback to Kort’thalis early works! And yes, it’s fully statted!). The potent fruit asks the PCs to represent it at a singing contest. And yes, the orange can be killed – wearing its peel can net you the potent powers of the entity for a brief time. The contest itself features glory holes in the rest rooms and the rules to resolve the contest are painless and nice. The judges (fluff-only) include a hip-hop-apotamus…and David Hasselhoff. Thing is, the orange is a bastard – it actually wants to kill everyone associated with the contest. How they get rid of the nuke they were duped into carrying before the 5 minutes elapse, is all up to the players. Some suggestions would have been nice. Killing Xa’ax will be tough – he has caught the famous space cops Tango and Cash, and beyond the orange, a deadly Zith lord, the Crimson Chaos, will need to be defeated. The aforementioned Tibetan monk can make for a NPC-aid or replacement PC and as such, comes with stats. All in all, a hilarious, amazing and outré little module – easily one of my favorites in all of Alpha Blue’s canon.

 

The final scenario would be “Panty Raid on Papyrus 5” – you see, Papyrus is a cluster of 5 university planets, with #5 being the one focused on culture, language and the liberal arts. As such, there are a lot of ladies there. The module itself is basically a free-form scenario: The motivation of the PCs can oscillate, and the module accounts for that, by providing the tools to generate such a scenario: There is a brief table of reactions to stealing panties, and patrol ships are noted. Campus security gets stats, as do rival raiders. If you desire a straight narrative, there is a specific lady whose panties are particularly treasured by a gross insect thing…good money in it. There is a planet with economy based on worn panties, and it is here that PCs may end up recalling past lives after being exposed to a strange crystal. 8 Sample previous identities and 6 reasons for memory implants quote the total recall angle, but how that develops is ultimately up to players and BDSM.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, with original artworks that range from amazing to solid, and the map noted before is a nice bonus. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with very detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience, and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. On a layout-perspective, I loved how e.g. “Purple Prizm” is always printed in purple, with its own custom font – it’s a small thing, but I liked that decision. On another note, the per se great layout and artwork clash slightly in a few instances, but that remains an aesthetic nitpick.

 

Venger As’Nas Satanis “Battle Star – Trek Wars” is a great expansion for the Alpha Blue game; from the serious to the utterly ridiculous, the adventures should offer something for all folks that enjoy his take on the raunchy scifi-parody genre. Particularly the 3rd adventure is absolutely hilarious in its outrageous concepts. The random tables also easily count among the best in Alpha Blue’s history so far – much like “Universal Exploits”, this book provides quite a few very helpful components that flesh out the implicit setting without feeling overly restrictive, with particularly the MeowMeowBeenz-economy being a great way to explain fluctuating fortunes. Now, while the adventure components don’t engage in much handholding, they do show that the author has learned from past adventures: The environments are more relevant, stats are provided where they make sense, and as a whole, this elevates the encounters and modules from sketches to material you can run without requiring much preparation beyond reading the respective components.

 

In short: If you enjoyed Alpha Blue or just like gonzo space opera with a dash of sleaze strewn in, then this book is a no-brainer. It is one of the best books in the product line, on par with the quality of Universal Exploits. As always for Alpha Blue-expansions, this will not change your mind if unapologetically puerile, self-referential humor that very much recognizes what it does, if the parody angle, does not work for you. If it does, then this is a gem and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool supplement here on OBS!

 

Do you like Alpha Blue? Well, there’s a kickstarter going on for the game! “No One Warps for Free” is fully funded, and has 4 days to go to crush stretch-goals! You can find the kickstarter here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 202018
 

Star Log.EM: Msvokas (SFRPG)

This pdf 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!

 

After the by now traditional introduction to the subject matter, we begin with the flavorful component of the presentation of the race. The “Playing as XX“-section, as before in the series, is the only missing component in this section that contextualizes the race within Starfinder. As before, if you’re interested in Rogue Genius Games and Everyman Gaming’s shared Xa-Osoro system, you’ll be in for a bit of a treat, as the section unobtrusively notes how the races works within this implicit setting. The msvokas, somewhat goofy-looking though they may be, as you can see on the cover, are pretty unique:

 

They get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Strength, and have darkvision. They also get immunity to nonmagical radiation. +4 to saves versus magical radiation (should be, bonus-type-wise, a racial bonus) and fire resistance 5. Msvokas are naturally radioactive with a radius of 0 ft., extending only to their skin. However, grappling these creatures can cause radiation poisoning. I *assume* that the level of the radiation incurred is based on the scaling save DC, but having that explicitly stated would have been nice. As written, one could assume that the level of radiation is missing.

 

They can also unleash a radioactive ranged blast from their mouth, targeting EAC. Targets hit get a save or become poisoned by low radiation. If the msvoka expends Resolve Point, the blast ignores environmental protection versus radiation, though the usual +4 bonus such protections might convey is still applied. Here, things become really freaky, in a cool way: As radioactive beings that accrue toxic materials etc. within their bodies – after 6d4 months, these toxic substances begin breaking down their bodies, affecting them with the racial disease of isotopic degradation, which is based on Constitution, track-wise. It is incurable and cannot be distilled into doses. Now, here’s the thing:

 

When a msvoka rests for 8 hours, at the end, they can opt to undergo rebirthing, which turns their body to ash, cures the disease, and leaves a 1-foot egg with negligible bulk. The egg needs to be incubated for 4d6 days by a source of radiation; after hatching, the msvoka grows to adulthood in 1d3 days. Rules for infant/toddler-stages are noted, and upon reaching adulthood, the reborn msvoka regains the respective abilities. This rebirthing process may also be initiated upon dying, though at the cost of 2 negative levels added to the process. Death effects or accumulating negative levels, or falling to isotopic degradation, are the exceptions from this. Destruction of the egg also eliminates the msvoka.

 

Notice something? Yeah, the racial hit points, alas, are missing from the write up in an obvious and unnecessary oversight. The pdf also comes with a racial feat, Radiation Flare, which allows you to spend Resolve to extend the radiation aura – cool!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the lack of the racial hit points are the one serious glitch here. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and Jacob Blackmon’s artwork for the race is great. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Alexander Augunas’ msvokas are easily one of the coolest races I’ve seen in a while: The bubbly, somewhat friendly radiation-phoenix-race is creative in the best of ways, and really makes me want to play this critter. The radiation-angle is cool, and while I would have loved to see the radiation-level component explicitly spelled out, the race still is damn cool, one of the most unique races I’ve seen in ages! In fact, this would be a 5 star + seal race, but lacking racial hit points and with the slight inconvenience regarding radiation levels, I unfortunately can’t go higher than 4 stars.

 

You can get this inspired, slightly flawed race, here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jun 192018
 

Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres

This massive supplement clocks in at 78 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, 2.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 71.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review was requested by my patreons.

 

So, as the pdf notes, the book contains, no surprises there, new mythic paths. However, there is one distinct difference here, namely that the book has been crafted with an eye towards providing options for some of the more popular 3pp-materials: Psionics, pact-magic-based spirit-binding, temporal shenanigans (Time Thief and Warden), as well as e.g. Rite Publishing’s take of shapeshifting via the taskshaper. The pdf thus provides a lot of synergy if you have these respective supplements. However, at the same time, the book does not lose its value for groups that do not employ there – the mythic paths that help for the respective subsystems are fully viable even without using e.g. pact magic, sporting plenty of options that do not require the use of such a subsystem. In short: While the support is here, the designs within do not force you to employ these systems.

 

After the introduction, we begin with some cosmological ideas, namely the Lost Spheres as a kind of meta-setting that also codifies power-sources. You can run with this brief summary or ignore it; once more, the pdf does not force you to buy into a cosmological conception, which is a good thing in my book. Similarly, I believe that thinking about magic this way makes sense. In my homegame, I tend to precisely codify magic in a kind of almost scientific way, as that is what my players and myself enjoy the most. Having a solid structure that can be explained and elaborated upon can also yield really interesting thought-experiments that the PLAYERS can undertake, solving magical issues, rather than limiting the solving of a magical problem with just a roll of the dice. I developed my own system regarding the function of magic pretty much on a similar basis as the one that this book posits in brevity….but I digress. In short, it makes sense to think about magic in a somewhat structured manner.

 

The aforementioned Lost Spheres are also noted in the appendix, where we learn about the Black lattice in the shadow plane, the City at the End of Dream, a planar doppelgänger world, and much more. While these are fluff only, they have aged surprisingly well due to this, and if you’re also a SFRPG-GM looking for some amazing ideas for creative worlds, then this appendix delivers.

 

This book contains a total of 10 different mythic paths, with each of the paths, obviously, codifying abilities by tier 1st, 3rd, 6th – as established. The paths all span the full 10 tiers and come with a brief discussion regarding the role of the respective characters, including a paragraph that contextualizes them within the aforementioned Lost Spheres.

 

Note: I am beginning this review with my discussion of the previously released stand-alone mythic paths, with my reviews duplicated for the sake of completion. I will note below when the discussion of previously not covered material begins.

 

All righty, that out of the way, let us take a look at those mythic paths! The first would be the godhunter, who gains 5 hit points per tier and the devour the divine ability, which may take one of three shapes: You can choose to either spend mythic power as an immediate action to add your tier to a saving throw AND gain a reroll versus a divine effect. On a success, you are not affected and instead heal hit points based on tier, which btw., when exceeding your maximum hit points, can partially be converted to temporary hit points. The second option lets you spend mythic power as an immediate action to collect divine remnants, so-called detria. These act as ameans to duplicate, spell-storing style, one divine spell or spell-like ability of a creature slain. These may only be used by the godhunter that created them, and require UMD to activate. This one, RAW, does require a lot of spell/SP-tracking and can become pretty potent. Considering the value of mythic power, I have no issue with the power-level this has, and detria cannot be stockpiled as a balancing caveat. The third option represents the means to spend mythic power for a tier-based bonus to atk, and bonus damage versus divine spellcasters and outsiders. The path nets a path ability every tier and the capstone ability nets basically advantage on saves vs. divine spells cast by non-mythic targets, as well as SR versus divine spells.

 

Now, as far as path abilities are concerned, we have the option to get another one of the aforementioned devour the divine abilities. We have means to prevent teleportation and plane shifting, or, for example, a means to extend the benefits of the aforementioned attack/damage boost to any target currently affected by a divine spell, which is pretty interesting. Making detria behave as potions is nice…but I really like the means to for example steal channel energy uses. The path abilities also include interesting passive abilities – like divine spellcasters needing to save versus their own spells when targeting the godhunter, potentially being dazed for a round. Minor complaint here – the ability only specifically mentions targeting, meaning that area of effect effects not necessarily being included. Extending the benefits of the healing option to allies targeted nearby. Reducing the CL of hostile divine spells to determine duration is also nice – though I *think* that rounds reduced to 0 should probably cancel out this component; that, or have a 1 round minimum duration. Cool: There is an ability that lets you hijack divine spells. Item-use, transfer wounds.

 

Among the 3rd tier abilities, we have the means to employ metamagic feats via the burning of detria; imposing basically disadvantage (roll twice, take worse result) on concentration checks is intriguing. Leeching off excess healing in the vicinity. On the nitpicky side, the Hungry Zeal ability, which nets another use of the Zealotry ability, should specify the requirement of the Zealotry ability. Limited domain poaching and becoming immune to a domain of a vanquished spellcaster makes for some cool tricks – particularly since the latter is balanced, once more, by tier, having a sensible scaling. In short, as before, this offers further upgrades, building on previous tricks. The 6th tier abilities include means to hold more detria at once, as well as the option to use detria for Item Creation purposes…or what about tattoos infused with detria that render you immune to a divine spell, with the maximum spell level gated by tier? Yeah, cool! All in all, I enjoyed this mythic path and consider it to be a nice means to play a dedicated foe of a selection of, or all deities and their agents.

 

The second mythic path of the lost spheres to have had a previous, stand-alone release, would be the Hollow One, who gets 3 hit points per tier and is really interesting: One of the base abilities of the path allows you to temporarily assign a negative condition, bad pact (pact magic!), disease of the like and switch it to another creature temporarily. This handling of affliction transfer is pretty tough to get right, and, much like before, the pdf does something smart in that it concisely codifies such terms. I also enjoyed the second of these abilities, which allows you to grant yourself a boon, which scales depending on by how many afflictions you’re affected, capping at tier to prevent abuse. Thirdly, you can use a swift action (SANS mythic power expenditure!) to ignore the detrimental effects of such an affliction. The base abilities already entwine rather well and promise some cool stuff for the path abilities here. The tier 10 option allows you to regain mythic power, allowing you to regain one if affected by two afflictions in a single round.

 

Among the path abilities, we have access to forlorn feats from that Transcendent 10-installment and a really cool one: Gain Charisma for every curse you suffer from! Similar tricks can be applied to other ability scores, making this a great offering for the angsty, doomed antihero that draws strength from a doomed fate thrust upon him. An aura that renders 1s and 2s automatic failures, ignoring possessions by entities…and the path builds on that: In an AMAZING idea, the path offers the means to tap into the SPs and psi-like abilities of possessing entities! That is frankly glorious! Stealing possessions and curses, leeching off supernatural abilities, gaining sneak attack based on tier versus creatures targeting you with an affliction (should specify that it lasts only for the duration of the affliction), negative energy channeling per affliction borne…or what about making morale or insight bonus granting abilities count as curses? What about reflexive rage or bloodrage? You can tap into the skills of possessing creatures as well. What about delivering poisons that affect you?

 

At 3rd tier, we have access to an oracle mystery, fast healing contingent on curses borne (not a fan), spreading afflictions in an aura…or, if you’re going for pact magic, bind a spirit OPPOSED to the first one! And that’s only a selection! Gating in an outsider with an opposed alignment that may be heartbound to you is also really cool and rife with RPG-potential. Even though Im not happy with every single aspect of this path, I adore it to bits – this one requires serious system mastery to pull off, but rewards you with as close to playing Many-as-One as I have seen in pen & paper games. Two thumbs up, flavor-wise one of my favorite mythic paths ever.

 

Begin of the discussion of not yet reviewed material right here!

 

The Hivemaster would be the first previously unreleased path, who gets 4 hit points per tier and a selection of 3 different base abilities: One lets the character respawn a dying summoned or undead creature with another one, fully healed, or re-establish control over a dominated/charmed target. This is problematic, as it contradicts base summoning rules: A summoned creature reduced to 0 hp is returned to whence it came, while an undead is destroyed – neither can, RAW, be dying, making this aspect simply not work as intended. Temporarily making the next creature to come under your command count as mythic is nice, though the lack of specifics regarding tiers can be slightly problematic; while many abilities only distinguish between mythic/non-mythic (for which this is obviously intended), there also exist comparative tier-based mechanics that aren’t taken into account. Granted, these are rare, but it would still have been nice to see. Still, I assume this to be working as intended, sans tier-reference, and will not take this criticism into account for the purpose of my final verdict. The third ability calls an additional creature or lets you dominate an additional target. Odd here: the verbiage refers to dominate specifically, which does not include charm, an option very much present in the first of these ability choices. Verbiage-wise, employing descriptors would have been a way to more tightly codify this one. The capstone is potent: When your servitors (including summoned beings and dominated ones) kill a mythic foe, you regain one use of mythic power.

 

The aforementioned design-paradigms established in the godhunter path can also be found here: More base abilities and those that build upon them. Adding plants, vermin, undead or constructs to the controlled roster and affecting them with mind-affecting spells etc. can be found; here, the finer balancing aspects of the game should have assigned the construct abilities to a higher tier, for constructs very much rely on their immunities for defenses, which this one bypasses. On the positive side, making your own custom summon list is a cool, creative endeavor for players and GMs alike, though this ability does require somewhat advanced knowledge on the part of the GM in order to make up for the inadequacies of the CR-system, though that is no fault of the ability, and rather a system-immanent one. Doubled undead-controlling HD, and mythic power-based instant spawning are interesting. Problematic, even for mythic adventure’s high power level, would be blanket life link between one another for all summoned critters, pooling hit points of sorts. Once more, this is very potent and should, at the very least, probably be assigned to 6th tier+ OR have a mythic power cost. I have no issues regarding the means to pay mythic power to apply evolutions or mutations to targets summoned, astral constructs created, etc. Leadership, gaining a defensive boost equal to the number of adjacent, controlled creatures, harder to detect control…there are some gems here. There are a couple of rules-terminology issues here, like a control DC, but there also are cool tricks, like making servitors assume the forms of other beings controlled. Forcing targets to take hits for you once per round is pretty damn potent and probably should have at least action expenditure or a cost associated at this tier. There also is a nice means to have summoned beings sport a Heartbound feat from the Transcendent 10-series.

 

At 3rd tier, we have template addition and an interesting idea that can transfer a magic item benefit from a controlled creature to the hivemaster – nice: Slot-issues are taken into account! Also at this tier, you can have the psionic tactician’s collective. I also loved the idea to blow up your summoned creatures in channel energy bursts…and at 6th tier, this may extend to dominated targets, though these get at least two saves. Still, usually the like grants a +4 bonus to saves. Anyways, among the 6th tier abilities, we have the option to reflexively possess servants via marionette possession, which is nice. (Minor complaint: raise dead reference not italicized.) I also like the option to follow a dismissed extraplanar creature controlled to the homeplane. The hivemaster has potential and is a good idea that is pretty well-executed. However, it also has more rough edges than the godhunter and sports a couple of design-decisions that are flawed or balance-wise, problematic.

 

The master of shapes, unsurprisingly, would be the shapeshifting specialist here, gaining 5 hp per tier. This one has the base abilities to reassign shapechange/metamorphosis, etc., combine a charge with such an effect or immediate action cast a spell or use an ability that conveys resistance or immunity to an effect you’re exposed to. Once more, we have mythic power-replenishment as the capstone, this time assigned to defeating targets when activating shapechanging. Hand me that bag of kittens, please…

 

The tier abilities allow for the creation of an additional item slot, wielding weapons of a size larger, transferring weapon abilities to the natural attacks of new forms (OUCH!), growing pustules that allow you and your allies to poison weapons etc., growing a node that can be enchanted as a brow slot…etc. There are further means to conceal rings, wondrous items, etc. in your form, with a further upgrade that makes conceal, integrated rings no longer count against the total number slots. Combining Elemental Body with the aforementioned reactive resistance base ability…interesting. Multiclass characters will particularly love e.g. the means for combo’d taskshaper/psionic characters to spend power points to regains moments of change, and there is a similar means to convert wildshape uses into moments of change.

 

At 3rd tier, there is one that I am not 100% happy: Bonuses of the same type, but different origins that alter the character’s shape, can stack with the Alpha Form ability; it is, in short, an invitation to min-max, offsetting an important balancing factor. Using mythic power to tap into SP/psi-like abilities is interesting, and it can be used to instill chemical imbalances to duplicate rages or cognatogens. There also is one that allows you to gain a short-lived, low-cost wondrous item or temporarily gain feats you have witnessed – however, this should clarify that it requires meeting prerequisites. There also is a marionette possession variant based on parasites and resisted by Fort-saves. While “alchemist class feature of your tier” is not perfect, I do like the idea to make blood volatile and bomb-like, and discovery-synergy is fun. Among the 6th tier abilities, we have blue magic-style access to supernatural abilities, duplicating physical forms of those touched, and limited recharging of integrated wands, which, at this tier, is probably okay. Gaining an internalized sub-mind akin to a psicrystal, with schism-tricks, is also rather cool. I kinda like this path, though it is pretty broad in its scope. Not as cool as the best ones herein, though.

 

Next up would be the overmage, who gains +3 hp per tier, with the base abilities providing immediate action,. Mythic power-based counterspells and mimicking, with restrictions powers, spells and feats used are nice, but using a full-round action and mythic power to cast a spell (up to tier level) from another source, using your primary casting attribute. The 10th tier ability requires that a single creature has to fail 3 saves versus different effects you generated.

 

The path abilities of the overmage allows for the lacing of spells into bombs, including affecting targets in splash range, at -2 DC or half damage. This is still VERY powerful in the hands of the right build, namely one focusing on single-target kill-spells that suddenly can target multiple beings. Really cool, tapping into the sense of consistency and logic I mentioned previously, there is an ability that allows for the use of bloodline-using characters to make extracts, with a solid limitation. Lacing familiars with the ability to temporarily add spells to your array of spells known is also creative. Synergy with the mosaic mage. Dispelling wrack has a somewhat annoying glitch, lacking the word “damage”, which makes the ability look almost like it eliminated spell slots. Access to mutagens and the means to use any spell slots of classes to cast spells known is interesting, if potentially rather strong – as you can glean, this is another path that can be rather potent in the hands of a player with sufficient system mastery. Indeed, there is a path ability that provides full synergy between spellcasting classes, with tier as the limit. This is very, very potent in the right hands. An oracle mystery, short-term item-benefits, dual casting – the powers here are significant, and frankly, quite a few of these should be restricted to a higher tier.

 

At 3rd tier, sacrificing arcane spells as part of a turning attempt to improve the attempt is per se nice, but lacks a prerequisite. Improvements of previous abilities and Leadership-synergy copied effects are creative and complex, while bonuses gained when casting are interesting. The path also has the means to pay psionic power points per spell level to retain spell slots or cast even three spells with a combined full-round + swift action…ouch. This one should imho be 6th tier. Speaking of which: Here, we get eidolons, or a synthesist’s fused eidolon. Interesting and really cool: This tier also allows for the removal (or gaining!) of an archetype! I have never seen the like, but it is a complex and work-intense, but also rewarding ability. Gaining essentially a mythic power-based retributive strike, is amazing. (As a nitpick: Mythic power is not known as points in rules-language, but this is aesthetics.) I like the concept of this super-theurge, but at the same time, I am very wary of its vast power. Several of the lower-tier abilities belong to a higher tier in my book, and compared to the archmage, this one can blow the classic mythic path away.

 

The second magic-themed path would be the scion of high sorcery, who also receives 3 hp per tier. Basic path ability-wise, we get an ability that can change the face of the gaming world,, namely the option to use mythic power to cast spells of family members removed 1 generation per tier. The importance of blood-relation can account for mighty caster-dynasties and carry, concept-wise, whole campaigns. Similarly, using mythic power to lend targets spells to relations and rerolls of saves is nice…though the latter option allows you to regain a spell slot upon success. Aesthetics-wise, this should have a minimum spell-level, though the mythic power expenditure prevents abuse. The capstone tier halves damage from arcane sources after all other reductions. 1/round, when saving successfully versus an arcane effect, you regain a use of mythic power.

 

As before, we get once more the option to get more basic path abilities, and temporarily gain bloodline arcana or powers from a blood-relationship, which lacks a limit based for the powers; low level characters can get access to high-level bloodline powers, which is not okay. Higher maximum age. Extracting blood from targets, learning bloodlines, switching bloodline spells, gaining channel energy and aura (and godling-synergy, if using RGG’s Godling-rules). Did I mention making elementals of blood or temporarily gaining a creature type related to your bloodline when using your bloodline spells? Yeah, cool! On a nitpicky side, quite a few of these should specify the requirement of a bloodline as a prerequisite. Providing surge for followers and the inverse switching of bloodlines (air to earth, for example) is also cool – though, as a minor and purely aesthetic complaint, the opposite of the celestial bloodline could be construed to be abyssal, not infernal. Still, this is nitpicking at the highest level.

 

Among the 3rd tier abilities, we have the means to draw power from the falling of blood-related allies, delivering touch spells through lifeblood elementals and imbuing magic in allies is interesting. There is also a means to regain Constitution damage (as an aside – the ability score is not capitalized in this path). 6th tier allows you to awaken sorcerous powers in others (EPIC!), via quick retraining, and there is an ability that allows the scion to suppress spontaneous casting ability, potentially permanently. This should probably be codified as some sort of effect, and while I love it, the presentation is a bit awkward, as more mythic power can be spent for longer durations –a table would have been more elegant here. Speaking of rough edges – the next ability mistakes “lethal damage” for “being killed”, and lacks an italicization. The idea here is to enter a target upon being killed, which is cool; however, lethal damage in PFRPG is every damage that is not non-lethal. There is also a Will-save reference not capitalized properly. The formatting and rough parts aside, this path is awesome. The idea here can carry whole campaigns and deserves applause, though I wished the path received a little polish to make it shine as brightly as it deserves to.

 

Next up would be the super genius, who gains +4 hp per tier. This one…is problematic, to a degree. One of the basic abilities allows for the substitution of Knowledge skills for an attack roll, something I only consider to be palatable due to the mythic power-requirement. The second one uses a similar ability to render targets flat-footed, and another one has AC as the benefits of such a basis. The capstone allows the regaining of mythic power from defeating identified targets. The path abilities allow for the addition of Intelligence modifier to atk and damage for 1 round per mythic tier. Enhancing items temporarily by tier via UMD and mythic power, denying divine authority (i.e. passive save bonus, plus the option to use Knowledge (religion) as SR versus divine effects, using Handle Animal for magical beasts, gaining Sense Motive-based Ac-bonuses, substituting Wisdom for Constitution modifier, Strength for Charisma, Dexterity for Wisdom…you get the idea here. The power here varies rather significantly, with one really weak one allowing for movement alongside vertical surfaces – per point over DC 30, 5’; contrast that with the potent ability-score substitution and you’ll know what I meant.

 

At 3rd tier, we have some really potent ones: Using Autohypnosis skill checks to negate the last damage taken, provided the check exceeded damage, for example. As you can see, the theme of the super-genius is basically skill-use, and that, system-immanently, is somewhat problematic, considering how easily skills can be blown through the roof via items and spells. Now, granted, the path does not necessarily allow for super-cheesy breaking of rules, but neither is it particularly elegant. Synergy regarding Inspired Creations from Profession (Cook) is nice; on the other hand, a 6th tier ability nets one 1st level psionic power, usable 3/day. Further taking of the ability allows for the selection of another power, one level higher. This one does not feel exactly like a 6th tier power. I am not a particularly big fan of this one.

 

Next up would be the timelord, who gains +3 hit points per tier, with the basic abilities allowing for feat-or spell-substitution. I like the idea to delay a d20-result, and the third ability lets you sacrifice value to gain items, drawing them from another timeline. The capstone nets you one mythic power whenever a mythic effects ends on you. As you can probably assume, the path is particularly suited for time thieves/wardens and clairsentience-specialists. The 1st tier abilities include temporary evolutions. Maximizing an attack’s damage and all random results is BRUTAL for 1st tier and should be relegated to a higher tier. Extending the delaying of d20 rolls to nearby allies, quickened natural rest, extended durations, retracing a move action…interesting. Speaking of which: The deferred d20s may be stored with the right ability, suddenly behaving as a pool. Quite a bunch of abilities are based directly on using this fate pool. Motes of time synergy and the like render this, ability-interaction-wise, one of my favorites within this book. The means to 1/encounter rolling advantage on a save, alas, annoying refer to per-encounter abilities, so please picture me inserting my old rant on how per-encounter mechanics make no sense in-game.

 

That being said, power-level-wise, the timelord’s 1st tier abilities feel more on par with one another than those of quite a few other paths herein. The innovative ideas here also extend to the higher-tier abilities: Choose an attack type, and this will then make the lowest damage rolls be treated as +1 higher, i.e. 1s as 2s – after that, the ability further improves. There is also a GENIUS ability here: When an ally dies, the timelord can alter the timeline so he did not join the PCs; instead, the no-longer-deceased PC met up with another character, who then proceeds to become the new PC of the player. New and old PC know each other, so there is, indeed, a reason for the new PC knowing about current themes. I absolutely *adore* this!! IT’s easily one of my favorite mythic powers ever! Did I mention the means to fuse stored d20 rolls into aevum? Among the 6th tier tricks, splitting into actual two beings that share a single hp pool, is potent – but while it is active, you may not use any other mythic powers. Slightly problematic here – the ability has no daily cap or power-activation requirement. Shielding areas versus temporal manipulation is nice; however, personally, I also adore the means to replace yourself with a tightly-codified alternate of yourself.

…okay, I am a Dr. Who fan, and I adore the ideas and execution here. Winner!

 

The next path takes the award for best name of a mythic path, ever: Will-of-all. Come on, that is cool! The path gets 3 bonus hit points per tier and allows with the base abilities, to either share a feat, regardless of prerequisites, with allies. A complaint here would pertain the necessarily limitation for metamagic feats being based on tier and spell level adjustment – here, total modified spell level would have made more sense. The second ability allows you to sacrifice a spell slot, spell known or power points sufficient to manifest a power as a swift action, allowing an ally to regain what you sacrificed, and their next spell/power gets a +1/2 tier bonus to CL. (As a nitpick, since the ability encompasses psionics, it should also reference ML.) This…is brutal. This basically utterly delimits casting and allows for basically pool-sharing, which does not work. Spell slots are not equal for all classes, and neither are power points. This begs to be broken, particularly due to not requiring mythic power expenditure. Thirdly, we have a swift action means to replenish a class ability with daily uses or pool-based mechanics, replenishing it. You can also grant an ally psionic focus. While there is a hard cap imposed based on tier on how many times an ally can be affected by it per day, this should, rules-aesthetics-wise, differentiate between daily abilities, those than can be used more often, etc. – in essence, this is too wide open. As before, there are means to unlock the other basic abilities not chosen at first tier.

 

The path abilities often blend flavor with mechanics: One lets you set up basically a site of remembrance, and then conveys a sliver of an ancestor’s abilities. I also really like how gaining the mental attributes of a past life! This is REALLY cool. Gaining a collective is super potent and probably too strong for 1st tier, and somewhat to my chagrin, the notion of zones from the rather problematic Transcendent 10-installment returns. These are very problematic, and while indiscriminate, can result in numbers quickly spiraling out of control. On the other hand, there are some true gems here, with the options to establish denial zones that lock down certain tricks. To nitpick: Unfortunately, prerequisites required by path abilities have not been consistently implemented.

 

At higher tier we have the means to treat character level as class level for binder, manifester, etc. levels, which can be a boon for multiclass characters, and the option, and sharing effects and similarly complex operations are included. The focuses of this one are past lives (represented as alternate spirit Leadership, etc.) as well as superb AoE buff/debuffing. The ideas here are really cool, but the finetuning of this one is pretty tough: This could either be a flavorful, evocative option, or super-broken mess. I like it, but it’s an option that demands a gentlemen’s agreement between player and GM to not minmax the hell out of it. Mythic power is, at 20th level, regained when you or an ally have benefited from a path ability (I assume, one from the will-of-one!) and rolls a natural 20 versus a mythic effect.

 

The final mythic path included in this tome would be the worldsinger, who gets 4 bonus hit points per tier. The base abilities allow you to expend mythic power as a swift action, to affect a creature that can hear you with a touch-range power, and you may substitute Perform checks for attack. Skills are easily minmaxed and broken, plus this will make megaphone spells and items really popular. I’d have preferred a hard cap on range that scales with tier. As provided, this is brutal. The second option lets you substitute Perform checks for save DCs. Wait. WUT? Sure, mythic foes can expend mythic power as an immediate action to save versus the regular DC, and it does cost mythic power…but yeah. No. Not gonna happen. Immediate action mythic-power-driven countersong of spells or powers is interesting. The capstone nets you mythic power when a non-mythic creature affected by a morale bonus defeats a mythic creature. Nice way to prevent kitten-abuse. As before, the tier abilities allow you to get the base abilities you have not yet chosen. The path abilities…are strangely underwhelming. They require mythic power expenditure and a Perform check (what happens upon failure?) versus a paltry DC (20) – this unnecessarily bogs down gameplay.

 

There are a couple of innovative, if slightly clunky options here as well: A variety of dances that exchange two ability scores for allies benefiting from your morale bonuses is interesting. Adding a penalty to Will-saves to resist your mind-affecting effects can add a sting to the morale boost and is intriguing. At the same time, balance between path abilities isn’t exactly precise: 10 minutes + 1 mythic power to make a Perform check and have it count as heal for long-term care+ a paltry goodberry? Where can I sign up to waste my path ability? Sorry, I try to keep the sarcasm down, but it’s a tough bastard to get rid of. Synergy with rage or bloodrage that shares them in addition to the boosts in effect. There also is a path ability I frankly don’t understand. “For 1 round per tier damage inflicted due to morale damage bonuses you is returned to attackers as healing. The creatures damaged by these attacks only grant healing if they possess a life-force .” Are attackers healed? Is their damage converted prior or after attacking? Can you still die? No idea. Heartbound feat synergy can be found, and in case you’re currently attempting to play a god-wilder, what about sharing wild surge WITH EVERYONE currently under the effects of your morale bonuses? The path is the bardic superbuffer with a ton of multiclass-based options, but it can be absolutely devastating when handled right. Not a fan of this one.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal and rules-language level, are somewhat inconsistent. On one hand, the pdf gets complex rules-operations of the highest order right, on the other, it fails at more simple ones here and there, becoming more ambiguous than it should be – most of the time due to the difficult concepts this tries to encompass. This is top-tier difficulty, mind you…but still. This could have used a really picky rules-dev. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard that fits a lot of text on the page, and the full-color artworks that are here, are amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. Nice: the pdf comes with a second, more mobile-device-friendly version that only clocks in at roughly 16 mbs.

 

Christen N. Sowards’ mythic paths are an impressive book, considering how early in the life-cycle of Lost Spheres Publishing it was released. This book is ambitious and injects a ton of flavor in many of its options, making them feel distinct and not as generic as some of the basic mythic powers. That being said, the rules-language is inconsistent and the book, alas, also is inconsistent in the power-level of path abilities, which range from preposterously potent to laughably weak. That being said, it is my firm conviction that this book, while not a diamond in the rough per se, does have its truly inspired moments. When the book gets it right, it does so triumphantly.

 

Which leaves me with a bit of a conundrum. You see, this is a flawed book, and there are no two ways around that. I would not allow it sight unseen in my group, and system-immanently, deciding whether an ability works or not, can be a tough call to make for the GM. This requires oversight by a capable, experienced GM who understands the math the rules, the numbers. Without this oversight, some paths herein can wreck havoc with the opposition.

 

At the same time, I really want to recommend this book. There is so much to be loved within these pages; there is honest passion radiating from the material, and it never is boring. It may not be perfect, but it is a worthwhile addition for experienced groups that can negotiate a suitable power-level. For such groups, particularly if you’re using subsystems like psionics and pact magic, this should be definitely worth a look, though I’d strongly suggest reassigning a couple of the abilities, tier-wise.

 

How do I rate this? Damn, this is hard. You see, as a person, I cherish the concepts herein; I have the experience to reassign abilities and nerf them, to polish the components herein that deserve applause. Then again, not all paths share this high quality – the stand-alone paths were wisely chosen and feel like they had more polish than will-of-all, for example; some are rather rough around the edges, and I have to maintain consistency with other reviews. So yeah, unfortunately, while, as a person, I’d round up, my official verdict can’t go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down. For experienced groups using a lot of 3pp with mythic content, this is most certainly worth checking out, though.

 

You can get this massive supplement here on OBS!

 

Just want the Godhunter? You can find it here!

Just want the Hollow One? That one’s here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.