Jul 312018
 

Dear readers!

 

First of all, please excuse me blowing my own horn, but the Occult Secrets of the Underworld kickstarter has 6 hours remaining – so if you want to get a book full of my crunch and weird ideas, get on board here! It’s just $15 for the pdf + print coupon!

Secondly the kickstarter for a new edition of Neoclassical Geek Revival, Zzarchov Kowolski’s gaming system, + its adventure compilation, has 10 hours remaining – you can check it out here!

So yeah, back Occult Secrets of the Underworld first, then the NGR one! ;P

 

Kidding aside, I stand 100% behind the Occult book (I wrote it and had full creative control – and the artwork by Mates Laurentiu is ridiculously amazing…and Jensen Toperzer’s layout is gorgeous…), and NGR, well, it’s a system worth checking out and the modules are truly unique!

 

Thank you for your attention!

 

All right, back to the review mines for me!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 312018
 

Dungeon Crawl Classics: Doom of the Savage Kings (DCC)

This module clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review was sponsored by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my leisure.

 

All right, this is a first level module for Dungeon Crawl Classics, and in case you’re not familiar with the system and the offerings by Goodman Games, it should be noted that level 1 is not the lowest level there is. It should also be noted that there are no less than three GORGEOUS b/w-maps, with artwork and everything, included in the deal. One map for the village of Hirot, one for the wilderness, and one for the dungeon. Now, I know that pretty much the whole series suffers from this, but I will still continue to complain about it: The maps, stunning though they are, are neither layered, nor are there player-friendly versions provided. While I can understand this somewhat for the dungeon, it’s somewhat annoying regarding the map of the village.

 

Anyways, this dungeon is not a cakewalk, and DCC is, aesthetics-wise, a pretty challenging game, so yeah – if you’re not up to your A-game as a player, your PC may well die. This is one important thing to note: This book emphasizes PLAYER-skill and agenda over PC-skill and agenda. If you get your character killed, it’ll very likely be because you screwed up as a player, not because of a dickish save-or-die. All deadly challenges within this module felt fair to me. Yes, even the at times very high DCs (for DCC): 23 could only be made by super high AGI chars with a natural 20. On the other hand, clever PLAYERS can prevent this DC from ever coming up, even when triggered. I really adore this design-sensibility.

 

Theme-wise, this module assumes a quasi-Norse, pulpy environment and should work without a snag in such a context. The other, super-obvious analogue, would be Beowulf. This is basically a dark fantasy-retelling of a variant of Beowulf and mirrors leitmotifs of sögur of the age, contrasting old paganism and fanatically upheld “new values.” In other fantastic contexts, you may need to do a bit of reskinning regarding titles etc., but don’t let that deter you. The pdf does offer quite a lot of read-aloud text for an adventure that champions an old-school aesthetic, and it is better off for it. Beyond this flavorful text, even the non-read-aloud text offers a fantastic atmosphere – the prose throughout this module is fantastic and frankly is beyond anything most longer modules manage to achieve.

 

All right, since this is an adventure review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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All right, only judges around? Great! We join the heroes as they trod through the sodden, darksome moors surrounding Hirot; to be more precise, the heroes as they happen upon locals preparing to sacrifice a maiden! The local Jarl will not be happy if the PCs do intervene, and neither will the grim and frightened mob – but standing against the heroes is a bad idea, so chances are good that the PCs may prevent the sacrifice, which will be helpful, as we’re talking about the innkeeper’s daughter here…

 

Anyways, this encounter foreshadows a lot and sets the delightfully grim and shades of grey tone of the adventure. The lavishly-mapped village, ringed by palisades, is in the grip of fear. The so-called Hound of Hirot, a dread monster, is ravaging the town in predictable intervals, but it seems to be immortal. A d24 table of rumors accompanies the adventure and helps further enforce the atmosphere of xenophobia and fear.

 

Contrary to the beliefs fostered by the Jarl and his nasty advisor, the Hound can be hurt by mortal weapons – just not slain. Vanquishing it only draws out the inevitable, rage-fueled retributive rampage. There are mystic ways to bind and truly destroy the hound. You see, the module, in spite of its brevity, is actually surprisingly freeform: There are several ways to stop the dread Hound of Hirot…and the PCs better hurry, for there is a lottery going on…and the Jarl and his cronies rig the game to get rid of problematic beings….like the PCs. Oh, guess what? The dungeon? It’s optional. How’s that for guts? A module with this page-count, and it’s so freeform that you can skip the dungeon. And yes, it pulls this off.

 

The Hound must be bound to slay it: Supernatural power (Strength + good dice rolling) will do the trick; alternatively, the local mad crone offers to weave shackles from the hair of the dead – which can bind the Hound, but woe to the PCs that try to cheat her…she wants to marry one of them in exchange for the service, the whole subplot resonating with mythological tropes.

 

Speaking of which – there may be another way, and this one actually involves the dungeon: Namely the Wolf-spear of Ulfheonar, which lies in an ancient barrow-mound, where, among other riches and potential doom, a magical cave-bear’s hide may be found. This also is a great place to note the one thing that is most likely to kill off PCs – the mound contains a false tomb with an ingeniously-rigged trap that you can’t best by rolling, only by actual smarts. I loved this, and the b/w-artworks help maintain the atmosphere here. The tomb is also constructed in a way that made sense to me, which is another plus. The true tomb, undead and the means to access it are inspiring and clever (and neatly visualized on the excellent map)…but the module does not end there.

 

Exiting the mound, the PCs will be assaulted by the Jarl’s men, who seek to kill off these dangers to his power-base…and the PCs may well have to track the Hound of Hirot through the dangerous wilderness to its lair…where a blackened pool offers power, but also madness…and unwise PCs may actually become what they have fought so hard to slay…

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. The layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with amazing b/w-artworks and stellar cartography, though the lack of player-friendly maps is a pity and comfort detriment. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks for its sections. I can’t comment on the physical version, since I do not own it.

 

Harley Stroh’s tale here is fantastic. It feels like it was taken straight from the pages of pulp literature and hits the themes of pulpy dark fantasy perfectly. The prose is phenomenal and the module, as a whole, actually has some replay value for the judge. How good is this? Well, good enough to make it worth converting to other systems. If you’re already playing DCC, then this is glorious. Even if you aren’t, this is well worth getting for the amazing prose and dense, evocative atmosphere. This is a fantastic first adventure for the system and establishes a level of quality only rarely seen. Don’t be fooled by the brevity – this has a lot of amazing gaming waiting for you. In spite of the lack of player-friendly maps, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. This is a truly fantastic yarn, a must-own for DCC-groups, and a great buy for other systems as well. Seriously, the atmosphere is phenomenal.

 

You can get this genius, amazing adventure here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 312018
 

The Temple of Lies (NGR/OSR)

This little module clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

As with all dual-format modules by Zzarchov Kowolski, this adventure provides general stats for OSR-games, which are pretty basic. To give you an example: “A level 1 thief. Unarmoured with a high dexterity bonus. Attack as weapon + poison. Excellent morale. Speed of an unarmoured man.” As you can glean, this gives you an idea, sure, but it does mean that you’ll have to hack this into shape.

 

The second set of stats is for Zzarchov Kowolski’s own game, Neoclassical Geek Revival, which is abbreviated as “NGR.” NGR is an amazing game. It takes a bit of time to get into, but it does Stealth really well, emphasizes player-agenda and from customizable spells to martial traditions does an excellent job at creating a smooth and fun playing experience – it’s one of the few systems that manages to marry old-school feeling and aesthetics with the design-improvements of more contemporary games. If you do have the luxury of choice, play this with the NGR-rules.

 

Now, as far as organization is concerned, this is smart: NPCs and enemies are provided with red text; treasure is noted in green text and general terrain features are printed in blue. This makes spontaneously running the adventure surprisingly manageable if you’re fluent in your system of choice. Otherwise, I’d recommend at least a bit of prep-work. Stats are collected in the back and provide information for pretty much anything that can be interacted with. The treasure-appendix deserves special mention for its exemplary attention to detail. We get descriptions for pretty much everything of value within. Yes, gp values are provided for things like silk curtains and the like, so if your PCs tend to loot everything that’s not bolted down, you’ll definitely appreciate this. Orange text is used to denote hidden dangers.

 

The inside of the front cover contains a b/w-map that is isometric – but which, alas, lacks a scale or indicators like squares to denote the dimensions of a room. The map also does not specify where North is. No player-friendly version of the map is provided, which is a bit of a bummer.

 

Now, as for level-range, the module is designed for levels 1 – 2, though personally, I’d use it as an introductory module, as one of the ways to use this module subverts a central tenet of how adventure modules are written nowadays…and I love this subversion and what it can bring to the table.

 

There is one more thing to note: The black humor is strong with this one. I actually chuckled a couple of times while reading this adventure for the first time. “The Temple of Lies is a small light hearted adventure about the typical shenanigans one gets into involving human sacrifice and severe opiod addiction” – to paraphrase the publisher’s blurb. The book does contain references to evil cult practices, but they remain pretty tame. I consider this to be basically PG 13. Unless you’re already appalled by a pdf mentioning sex in a non-explicit context, this will not shock you or anything. It can be sanitized pretty much on the fly, if you’re picky about the like.

 

The front cover artwork, depicting a piece by Jean-Léon Gérôme, one of the artists of what is now known as academism, shows one of his pieces in line with his Orientalism-phase. “The Snake Charmer” pretty much encapsulates the atmosphere of the adventure – we have a decadent tale that could well be set in one of Conan’s desert kingdoms, most places like e.g. Qadira in Golarian, Al-Qadim, etc. Since the adventure takes place almost exclusively in a dungeon-complex, reskinning to e.g. Victorian or fin de siècle England and similar contexts is very much possible without much hassle. The module can easily be inserted into another adventure – in fact, that’s how I used it once: Just have McGuffin/fugitive run inside/vanish and there you go. An extraction, PCs fleeing into the place, etc. is similarly possible. The PCs just have to stumble into a back alley – that’s all.

 

All right, this is as far as I can go without getting into SPOILERS. As always, potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

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All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the alley provides access to a cellar, guarded by thugs and beggars, who are actually killers in waiting – managing to survive through these, the PCs enter the complex, which is basically a combined opium lair/serpent cult crossover. If they’re not careful, they may trigger an alarm. As a minor complaint, for NGR, I would have liked Suspicion increases noted, but the game is designed to allow for defaulting here, and the RAW assumption is that triggering the alarm results in awareness of everyone. The alarm is basically small hammers striking massive crystals, btw. – there is a sense of the fantastic in the very first room, and this is further emphasized by the rather vile serpent cult members: There are, for example, so-called “nuns” that have scales tattooed all over their bodies, and tongues split.

 

There is a very deadly pit of writhing snakes in the complex, and the centerpiece of the cult is a massive python. This very much resounds with Conan’s Stygians and their Set-worship, right?

 

Well, here is the unique part, the subversion I mentioned: The serpent cultists may all be deluded hacks and addicts. The high priest may be either a holy man of a dark religion…or a charlatan who has brainwashed/conned the cult. Yes, with separate stats. Any supernatural component of the module, from the high-priest’s stats to the treasures found, is entirely optional. There may be a serpent demon lurking in a sarcophagus…or just a mummified snake. This is amazing for a couple of reasons.

 

For one, just because that crystal in the beginning *looked* magical, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s mundane. Similarly, this establishes a gritty, low-magic aesthetic that elevates *actual* magic showing up at one point during the campaign. It also does not detract from the module, and rather elevates it in my book. Why? Because, even if we’re playing in a low-magic game or campaign setting, we expect to stumble over magic. It’s just part of the deal, and chances are that one PC or another *will* have magical powers. That makes the impact of the mundane hit much harder. It also humanizes and contextualizes the behavior of the addicts/victims. If no supernatural evil is responsible, that makes the body-modifications and abhorrent human sacrifice practices hit harder. I love this.

 

As an aside: If you do want to go for a magical serpent cult, I recommend Rafael Chandler’s “Obscene Serpent Religion” for abilities and depraved concepts you may want to flesh out. Beware, though: That book is definitely for mature audiences!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a no-frills, two-column b/w-standard, with color used to facilitate running the adventure. Experienced GMs should have no issue running this off a b/w-print-out. I did just that. The pdf has no interior artwork and I liked the cover artwork, as it establishes the themes of the module. Yes, there’s a naked backside on it. Personally, I don’t mind – it’s about as sexual as a Greek bust. The cartography is functional, but pretty weak. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is an annoying comfort-detriment for the electronic version.

 

Zzarchov Kowloski’s “Temple of Lies” is a fantastic introductory module that oozes pulp flair galore. Its down-to-earth nature and two play-modes enhance replayability. The details are surprisingly concise and best of all – this is PWYW. It is definitely worth the suggested donation, and manages to be better than quite a few commercial modules I know. It is smart, atmospheric and just plain fun – it manages to execute the old trope of the serpent cult with panache and grace. That being said, were this a commercial module, I’d have to detract from the final verdict due to the lack of player-friendly maps and bookmarks, but as a pay what you want offering? Very much worth checking out!

 

As such, my final verdict, taking the PWYW-nature of this module into account, will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. If you’re looking for a great module to kick off your sword & sorcery campaign, this delivers in spades and is definitely worth a tip.

 

You can get this adventure here on OBS for PWYW!

 

You can also get this in print, but exclusively via the kickstarter that is currently running…for a few more hours! You can check out the NGR-kickstarter here!

 

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 312018
 

Everyman Minis: Yearbound Phoenix Ritual

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

 

Now, on the introductory page, we get a summary of the effects of age categories as introduced and employed in the impressive Childhood Adventures-tome. This is relevant since the ritual depicted within makes use of them. Still, kudos for including the relevant material here.

 

Now, this pdf provides the detailed rules for the occult ritual called Flight of the Yearbound Phoenix, which is an 8th level necromantic ritual with the aging tag and a casting time of 8 hours. The components include both an afterbirth and dirt from the graves of people that died from old age, with the focuses requiring an alchemist’s lab, a blanket and a costly darkwood hourglass, with the glass wrought from sands hailing from the Plane of Time. As far as skills are concerned, we need Knowledge (arcana), UMD, Heal and Profession (midwife). The backlash is risky…or a boon. Those slain by the fire damage crumble to ash, to be reincarnated as an infant sans memories of the former life. As the pdf notes, this can have amazing story-telling potential: restoring the original incarnation of a target thus changed eliminates the new incarnation completely…It’s but a sentence, but it immediately made me come up with a complex plot. Love it.

 

Now, one thing I LOVE about Everyman gaming’s rituals, is that they FEEL like rituals: The effect actually DESCRIBES how the ritual is performed. This adds greatly to the sense of immersion and makes the rituals suitable beyond the gaming system. Now, what does the ritual do? Well, it regresses the target to a newborn infant – both physically and mentally. After one year, the baby rapidly ages to venerable, crumbles to dust, and from the ashes, the target reemerges as a newborn with all the old memories intact, can from now on use greater alter age to change their physical age category at will, and ignores all aging-based bonuses and penalties to ability scores. The ritual also acts as a kind of extra life while in effect. Oh boy, I have literally thought of 10 plotlines using this ritual in one way or another while writing this review!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to the art-bordered new two-column full-color standard of the series and the artwork provided is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Alexander Augunas just *gets* it. He knows how to craft fantastic rituals that resonate with magic, that inspire, that could carry whole campaigns. This is one amazing, flavorful pdf that left me grinning and excited to use the ritual. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans “ifs” and “buts”.

 

You can get this inspired ritual here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 312018
 

Everyman Minis: Haunted Archetypes

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Okay, first things first: This builds on the FANTASTIC, extremely flavorful Everyman Minis: Haunt Invocations-pdf. If you don’t already own it: The humble little file basically presents an engine for PCs to make DIY-haunts! Yes, it’s as cool as it sounds and oozes flavor and potential left and right!

 

This pdf, then, would be the expansion: on the introductory page, we get the new Enhanced apparition feat, which requires the Phantasmal Invitation feat and the summon apparition invited haunt chosen from that engine. When you summon such an apparition invited haunt, you may spend additional convocation points to call forth increasingly tougher spirits, with a complex scaling up to 17th level making sure that the spirits called actually remain relevant. Kudos!

 

The pdf contains two different archetypes, the first of which has one badass name: Lithographer of Disquieted Graves? Now that’s a name for a witch, archetype, right? Anyways, the archetype begins play with an oracle’s curse, haunted, to be precise, adding spells as patron spells to the familiar, and gets the ability to spontaneously cast these. The archetype can take Phantasmal Invitation and Shaping invocation instead of a hex as a bonus feat. Instead of 6th level’s hex, we get 3+ Int mod gravestriding per day – this works as a dimension door and counts as such for prerequisite purposes, though the target area must be within a recently-created haunt invocation. At 14th level, two uses may be expended to activate this ability as a swift action instead. Minor complaint: One reference to dimension door hasn’t been italicized properly.

 

The second archetype would have a similarly cool name: The sculptor of restless spirits is a fighter who must be evil and adds Knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (religion) to the list of class skills. If he has ranks in either, he gets +1/2 class level to all checks involving necromancy, occult or psychic effects or undead – but for this, the archetype loses heavy armor and tower shield proficiency. Instead of bravery and 2nd level’s bonus feat, the archetype gets soul reaping. The sculptor receives a soul reservoir equal to his BAB, and the reservoir can hold up to BAB + highest physical ability score modifier points. When within 30 ft. of a creature that died no more than 1 minute ago, the sculptor may reap the soul as a full-round action to add 1 point to the reservoir. The sculptor can’t cheese this via kittens or similar harmless animals due to a HD caveat – kudos! If the creature has 2 or more HD than the sculptor, he gains 2 points instead. The sculptor may use soul reservoir points instead of stamina to power combat tricks and fighter class features, and these points may be mixed. This renders the archetype not just compatible with Pathfinder Unchained, but also the excellent Unchained Fighter released by Everyman Gaming.

 

Instead of armor training, advanced armor training and armor mastery, the archetype gets occult bargain at 3rd level: Phantasmal Invitation as a bonus feat, treating class levels as psychic spellcaster levels. He may choose it or feats based on it as fighter bonus feats and may spent soul reservoir points to power these haunts as though he spent half as much convocation points. Once more, points may be mixed. 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter net an additional invited haunt. Damn cool! As a capstone replacement for the final bonus feat, we get the option to rise from the grave automatically as a graveknight while the character has at least 1 soul reservoir point remaining. Upon returning as an undead thus, the character does not have the ability and instead gains the bonus feat as normal – same goes for already undead sculptors.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Apart from the one cosmetic hiccup, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s colorful two-column full-color standard with the artwork-borders. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The artwork is nice.

 

Clinton Boomer is one of the authors whose prowess cannot be overstated. When he gets the balance right, he does purely amazing things, and even when he falters, he’s better than the vast majority. I have yet to read anything he penned that left me bored. He knows what he’s doing. His Haunt Invocation engine is amazing and frankly, could carry a base-class all on its own. The archetypes and feat-expansion provided here further add to an already impressive first mini, providing all killer, no filler, flavorful options that leave me with no recourse but to rate this 5 stars + seal of approval. Hauntingly captivating indeed!

 

You can get these cool archetypes here on OBS!

 

Missed the cool Haunt Invocations? You can find them here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 312018
 

Everyman Minis: Arcane Discoveries

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, and on the introductory page, there is the usual text and a brief recap of how arcane discoveries work. The content itself fits on one page.

 

The arcane discoveries included are as follows:

 

-Arcane Implement: Sacrifice a prepared spell as a standard action, gaining a temporary masterwork version of a simple tool, as one you could get via traveler’s any-tool. Can’t be cheesed due to being short-lived, but long-lived enough for longer tasks. Solid.

 

-Bottled Skill: You can spend one hour to bottle skill, of which you can only have one in effect at any given time. As you can glean, this requires Brew Potion. You choose a Knowledge skill, and the imbiber gets your ranks in the skill and treats it as a class skill for 10 minutes. If the target#s skill ranks exceed your own, the target instead gets a +5 competence bonus.

 

-Draconic Influence: 1/day for every 5 wizard levels beyond 10th (minimum level to take this one), you may change an evocation with an instantaneous duration and an AoE-effect into a 60-ft.-line or 30-ft.-cone.

 

-Familiar Messenger: Also requires 10th level. The ability nets you 3/day familiar melding and share senses. While melded with the familiar this way, you may speak through it as normal, even if it wouldn’t be able to do so. Odd: “You can cast these spell like abilities for every 5 wizard levels you possess beyond 10th.” I thought it’s a fixed 3/day? Something went wrong here. This is confusing.

 

-Ghostly Advisor: You get a constant unseen servant SP that is treated as an outsider with the phantom subtype. RAW, the phantom subtype does nothing but designate a creature array, but I get why it’s here. Dissipated servants reform upon preparing spells. 1/day, the presence allows you to roll twice on a Knowledge check and take the better result. This requires necromancy as chosen school and 7th level as a wizard.

 

-Mysterious Patron: Needs bonded object and nets you a witch patron; you can cast the patron spells via the bonded object. Needs 9th level as a wizard.

 

-Opening Words: Use Knowledge(arcana) instead of Disable Device due to knowing tons of opening phrases, and using it is a full-round action and may be used sans thieves’ tools. You must speak loudly. I LOVE this one!

 

-Subtle Illusions: Detecting auras of your illusions needs a CL-check. Does not work for invisibility et al.

 

-Universal Language: Gain truespeech, needs 15th level.

 

-Weather Mage: Spend 1 minute to predict the weather in a 6-mile radius during the next 48 hours with perfect accuracy. I love this one. Smart players can use this very well!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups apart from the one slightly confused bit. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column standard for the series, including the artwork-border. The artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Matt Morris provides some cool, flavorful arcane discoveries. There are a couple of discoveries here I very much enjoyed, though there also are a few that are less exciting. All in all, I consider this to be worthy of 4.5 stars, though I will round down for it, as it’s closer to good than excellence as far as I’m concerned.

 

You can get these discoveries here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 302018
 

Countdown to PF Playtest/PF 2, Part III – General Hopes for Classes/Spellcasting

 

This series of articles was made possible by the following list of amazing people:

-Jason Nelson

-BJ Hensley

-Chad Middleton

-Randy Price

-Christen Sowards

-Rick Hershey

-Chris Meacham

-Paco Garcia Jaen

-Justin Andrew Mason

-Stephen Rowe

-Jonathan Figliomeni

-Paul Fields

-Lucus Palosaari

-Anonymous

 

As before: I’m pretty excited for PF 2.0 and PF Playtest; I have not yet received the books, and even if none of these wishes/hopes are fulfilled by the system, I’ll remain excited for its final version. I have not read any interviews, previews or anything like this in advance – consciously so. I want to open the Playtest books with a clean slate, without any preconceived notions, positive or negative. These are my wide-eyed hopes for the game.

So yeah, let’s talk about classes. I hope for an emphasis on player agenda on the one hand, and for internal, meaningful differentiation. When one way of building a class is clearly superior to the other in every conceivable way, that’s not necessarily something I’m big on. Partially, this ties in with feats and items.

To elaborate: Ever saw a crossbow and bow specialist back to back? Yeah…that’s one such example.

  • Meaningful differentiation regarding similar specializations.

On a more design-focused level, I don’t object to linear classes – take Legendary Games’ Doomguard, for example. But I really dislike it when one choice is all that differentiates you from your fellows. This is what made the cavalier, though conceptually a class my players liked, all but nonexistent my games.

  • Simple classes should have means to differentiate themselves from their brethren within the linear choices they offer.

These don’t have to be big differentiations or complex ability-chains, mind you – there are simple ways to pull this off.

Beyond that, I do hope that the design-paradigm we’ve seen for the occult classes and vigilante will see more love. Having actual ROLEplaying angles included in how the class works and presents its mechanics is a big plus as far as I’m concerned.

  • Flavorful tidbits to ignite the imagination, without being super-specific.

Now, I do obviously hope that e.g. the fighter will have unique tricks this time around; that the monk will get unique abilities, etc. – but considering the steps taken by Pathfinder Unchained, I consider these to be likely developments.

  • Unique abilities for EVERY class.

Speaking of which: Witch/mesmerist, for example, would be concepts that could warrant unique engines for spellcasting. The occultist’s implements, for example, can make amazing narrative tools. Similarly, it’d be nice to see ritual magic feature more prominently. Considering it’s a staple of high fantasy, pulp and horror gaming, the three most popular playstyles, having a robust ritual engine from the get-go would be amazing.

  • Meaningful differentiation between spellcasting engines.
  • Having a ritual engine would open vast venues for adventure design and narratives.

While we’re on the subject of spellcasting: For classes with a limited array of spells known, exclusive augmentations would make sense: After all, it’s understandable that the dragon-blooded sorcerer’s form of the dragon can become more potent than that of his bookworm wizard buddy, right? This may also allow for spell-streamlining and at least slightly combat the god-wizard issue.

  • Unique augments/modifications for spellcasters.

On the other side of the magic spectrum, I’d really love to see a bookish priest and a war-like cleric, each with their own specialties. Considering how many caster-modification/full-caster-style cleric archetypes and options I’ve reviewed over the years, I seem to be not the only one.

  • Full caster/war-caster differentiation for divine folks.

Similarly, divine magic never felt all that divine to me. Tying it closer to favor with a deity and tenets may be a good idea. I have seen other systems doing that rather successfully, and it really helps makes divine casters feel different from their arcane brethren.

  • Make faith/dogma/etc. actually matter for divine casters.

….and honestly, those are the *big* things I’d love to see. Were I to go into details for every class possible, this’d bloat beyond belief…and beyond being of use to anyone. That being said, the timer’s ticking, Gencon’s approaching, and I am waiting with baited breath for the PF Playtest books, so if all goes well and they arrive on time, I’ll have my first article on the actual books for you next week!

 

See you then!

 

If you enjoy what I’m doing, please consider supporting my patreon! Every little bit helps to keep the lights on!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 302018
 

Everyman Minis: Unchained Favored Classes

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

After a brief introduction, we begin immediately with the expansion of the matter at hand. To explain: This pdf builds on the Unchained Favored Class Options premiered in Everyman Unchained: Skills and Options. The system knows 4 types of bonuses: Class, companion, race and universal, and this supplement focuses on two of them: Classes and Races. As an aside, the explanation text here features two uncommon and autocorrect-style typos à la strictly/sticky and the like. Nothing grievous, but yeah.

 

Now, as you probably know if you’ve read my articles on my hopes for PF Playtest/PF 2.0, then you’re familiar with my issues with favored class options. To claim that I am not a fan of them would be an understatement. They are small min-maxing thingies that don’t really contribute in 90% of cases to how a character develops, at least not in a meaningful way. They are also painfully linear.

 

Everyman Unchained: Skills and Options remedied the linearity angle, which is one of the reasons I really enjoyed that book. Each class gets a whole array of general favored class options, and this pdf provides basically the catch-up expansion for the system: The Occult Adventures classes plus Vigilante and Shifter get their own unchained skill options within.

 

To give you an example: Mesmerists can choose one spell known at a spell level of their highest spell level known -1, +1/5 to the HD limit of the total number of HD affected with illusions or enchantments; +1/3 mesmerist tricks; +1/2 painful stare for mesmerist, +1/4 for allies or add +1/2 to 2 class skills. Sure, these are favored class options. They do not rock the world of classes. But they offer something vanilla favored class options don’t: Meaningful choice. This alone makes this selection worth contemplating.

 

Now, beyond the class catch-up, we also have new racial favored class options; 2 are provided per race, and we cover: Astomoi, Caligni, ganzi, monkey goblins, munavri, naiad, orang-pendak, reptoid, rougarou, shabti, skinwalker, vine leshy and yaddithian. +1/6 to one of two ability scores; expanded racial telepathy by specific type of creature with a language; additional +1/3 racial ability uses – once more, we have actually meaningful choices here. I like that. And yes, there are some hard limits imposed on how often you can take some to prevent power-gaming.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good apart from aforementioned minor hiccups. On a rules-language level, this is top-notch. Layout adheres to the artwork-bordered, new 2-column full-color style of Everyman Minis and the pdf has a nice artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Okay, this one is easy: Alexander Augunas’ expanded unchained favored class options are contingent on one thing only: Do you use Everyman Unchained: Skills and Options? Or do you *want* to use it, but haven’t so far due to the lack of occult/vigilante/shifter support? Then this pdf is a must-own file that you definitely NEED. If you are not interested in the revised favored class option system presented in the parent book, then you won’t be interested in this either.

 

That being said, as an expansion to the excellent parent book, this does succeed at its task and is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool expansion here on OBS!

 

You can get Everyman Unchained: Skills and Options here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 302018
 

Everyman Minis: Far-Flung Races

This Everyman mini is 7 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, what is this? Well, in essence, these are races from Starfinder and Alien Archive, reverse-engineered for use with Pathfinder, as playable races. After a brief racial summary, we dive into the races. Since most folks will be familiar with the racial concepts themselves, I will focus on the mechanics:

 

-Kalo: +2 Dexterity and Wisdom, -2 Charisma; monstrous humanoids with aquatic and amphibious subtype. They have low-light vision instead of darkvision 60 ft., 20 ft. base speed, 30 ft. swim speed, cold resistance 5, +4 to Stealth while in water and blindsight 60 ft. while completely submerged in water. (As an aside – since this is based on sonar and rather potent at low levels, I’d suggest using the Vestraadi’s sonar –engine from AAW Games’ Underworld Races & Classes tome for games with a lower power level.)

 

-Nuar: +2 Strength and Intelligence, -2 Dexterity; monstrous humanoids with a speed of 40 ft.m these guys always know where North is and get +2 to Profession (driver) and Survival as well as a 1d4 gore attack. (The natural weapon requires reference to the table for type and damage inflicted.)

 

-Shirren: +2 Constitution and Wisdom, -2 Charisma, low light vision, +2 to Diplomacy and Knowledge (local); 1/day while within 10 ft. of an ally, roll an attack or skill twice, take better result; limited telepathy 30 ft. and 10 ft. blindsense.

 

-Skittermander: +2 Dexterity and Charisma, -2 Intelligence; Skittermanders are Small, get low-light vision and may 1/day as a swift action take another move action to move (basically a built-in quickrunner’s shirt). They count as +1 size category larger for CMB and CMD for grapple-and grapple-related purposes. Skittermander’s are 6-armed, but may only dual-wield. Instead, their arms allow them to retrieve 1 stored item or draw a weapon as a swift action. Nice one!

 

-Verthani: +2 Constitution and Intelligence, -2 Strength; Verthani get Skill Focus as a bonus feat and as a standard action, they can 3 + Con-mod times per day, augment a part of their bodies: +1 to physical skills, +2 to initiative, +2 to Perception or + 2 to saves vs. disease and poison. This lasts until the ability is used again. They get low-light vision and may, as a standard action, match skin to terrain for +2 to Stealth. While the flexibility is potent, it’s not overbearingly so. Nice one!

 

-Vesk: +2 Strength, +2 Wisdom, -2 Intelligence; reptilian humanoids with +2 to saves vs. fear effects, low-light vision, a 1d4 natural bite and +1 natural AC.

 

Since this is only a mini-pdf, there are no favored class options, race traits, archetypes etc. included.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches on formal or rules-language level. Types etc. are concise and well-implemented. Layout adheres to a new and colorful two-column standard with a border of artworks. The pdf has a nice piece of artwork and no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

This is an unpretentious little pdf by Matt Morris that I enjoyed more than I thought I would. While Kalo and skittermanders are slightly more potent than the other races, I have no balance-concerns for them as written, and quite a few races herein actually have managed to do something interesting. Granted, e.g. the vhesk are kinda boring, but as a whole, I consider this to be a successful little pdf. You certainly can do MUCH worse regarding races! In fact, I could list a ton of races that waste a ton of space and that end up less interesting and precisely-executed than the content within this pdf. While I wished each race had received its own book to shine, you certainly get a nice array here. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I do feel that I have to round down for this one.

 

You can get these cool races here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 302018
 

Everyman Minis: Fey Shaman Spirit

This Everyman mini clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 5.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

After a brief introduction, which also expounds upon the realms of faerie in a sidebar, we begin with the new shaman spirit included within, the fey spirit: The spirit magic spells provide a nice mixture of fey-related tricks, with invisibility at 2nd and conditional curse at 4th level as remarkable low level tricks. The hexes include a fey-themed disguise self that later upgrades the scaling fey form spells. There is also a 1-minute duration curse that enhances damage taken on a failed Will-save and the old teleport from one plant to another striding, with distance traveled as the limit. Better illusion disbelieving (with see invisibility added at 8th level) and memory lapse-use complement the hex-section, making it, as a whole, feel distinctly fey. The spirit animal gets fast healing 1 at 1st level, which can be problematic in conjunction with HP-sharing abilities. Fast healing should have a scaling daily cap. The sprit ability nets a dual blinding/stagger-gaze with a 1-round duration, which is very strong, but kept from being OP by only affecting a target once per day. The greater ability nets DR and a 10-ft. glitterdust burst. The true spirit ability allows the shaman to 3/day increase the save DC of an enchantment, illusion or transmutation spell. The capstone is a fey apotheosis that nets immunity to death effects and fast healing 5, as well as respawning in the faerie realms after death, with a 1/month cap.

 

The pdf also includes an archetype, the fey conduit. This archetype is locked into the fey spirit and replaces the wandering spirit ability with 3 + Wisdom modifier times per day standard action summon nature’s ally II, which improves over the level. As a balancing caveat, no more than one such effect may be in effect at any given time. The ability may also be used for crafting purposes. Instead of 6th level’s wandering hex, the archetype may, whenever the conduit uses the aforementioned summoning ability, choose to call from a lower level spell list and add the fey creature template. Instead of 14th level’s wandering hex, the fey conduit may not call a creature from her highest level summoning list with said template applied, but only Wisdom modifier times per day. Basically a fey summoner archetype. Okay, I guess.

 

The pdf also includes a new spell, available at 6th level for druid, shaman, sorcerer/wizard: Pixie pollen. Oddly not included among the spirit magic spells of the fey spirit, in spite of being a perfect fit, this spell can target up to 6 creatures with a batch of specifically-created pixie dust. Unique: When targeting a creature, you choose the duration individually and modify the spell save DC accordingly: Permanent effects have a lower DC. I like this! These allow the caster to make targets behave age-appropriately (using the mental age rules from Childhood Adventures), modify the age of the affected, reincarnate targets (also into 0-HD-critters, for -4 to the DC), erase all memories of the current age category, shrink targets (Microsized Adventures-synergy…) – and that’s not all! The spell is amazing. Potent, yes, but also limited enough, and by far, the coolest thing in this pdf. Kudos!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the new two-column full-color standard of Everyman Gaming’s latest layout style, and the pdf has a nice full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

David N. Ross’ fey spirit is a solid expansion for the shaman. Personally, I was rather underwhelmed by the archetype, and I am not a fan of the easily cheesable first level fast healing. The spell is inspired, though, and elevates this beyond what I’d otherwise rate it as…but not enough to increase the final verdict beyond 3.5 stars, rounded down.

 

You can get this mini here on OBS!

 

Missed the amazing Microsized Adventures? It can be found here!

 

The inspiring Childhood Adventures book can be found here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

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