Aug 202018

On the Siberian Line

This module clocks in at 66 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 58 pages of content, quite a lot, considering the amount of information per page Legendary Games’ provides.


Now, “On the Siberian Line”, as the name implies, is an adventure that takes place in our world – to be more precise, it is intended to be spliced into the “Rasputin Must Die!” adventure, between the first and second part. The module is intended for 13th level characters, and is roughly based on historical facts, with a bit of the fantastic spliced in, obviously. The pdf includes the bushi fighter archetype, who gains a modified proficiency list and exchanges a couple of fighter bonus feats with a samurai or cavalier’s order. Instead of bravery, we have bonuses to chosen Knowledge skills, and instead of weapon training, we get a scaling bonus to atk, damage and combat maneuvers with the weapon in question, as well as applying the bonus to e.g. sunder attempts versus the weapon. The pdf includes the stats for 4 different types of real world armor, with the heavier ones providing DR versus firearms. The pdf also provides stats for percussion grenades and the Lewis M1916 machine gun.


Now, the cartography deserves special mention – it is amazing: Both settlements and combat-map-style encounters receive maps, and the latter are provided in aesthetically-pleasing, isometric versions. Cooler yet: In style, they are deliberately crafted to be reminiscent of propaganda posters of that time There is one downside here: While quite a few of these encounter maps work perfectly well as player maps, not all of them do, and there are no explicitly redacted versions sans keys provided. The adventure does come with copious amounts of read-aloud text.


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



Okay, only GMs around? Great!

We begin with the arrival of the dancing hut on Earth – it materializes on a rozen river, and that river may well collapse. Similarly, there is a shadow projection nearby, allowing for seamless integration into Rasputin Must Die. However, the hut will be spooked and run – causing an avalanche. Worse yet for the PCs: The Strange occurrences will make the PCs targets for an air raid executed by Nieuport 12 biplanes! It does not end there: Drawn by the battle, soon, a troop of Bolshevik soldiers will approach, briefly discuss the weirdos…and then open fire! In the chaos, all but one of the prisoners of the Bolsheviks escape: The PCs will have a chance to save the remaining British soldier after dealing with the deadly troop: Sam Hooley. Pointers for the discussion with Hooley and his rationalization of non-human beings and magic are provided, and the pdf does a solid job keeping the scenario on track here.


Not soon after, the PCs will hear shots ringing – and Sam immediately recognizes his fallen comrades. Spread of the bodies indicates that they have been shot from a single position, and indeed, this area is the hunting ground of Snezhana Bovarina, a rather deadly sniper working for the Russians. The combat encounter here is rather interesting, courtesy of the complex terrain, which includes a whole array of bear traps to keep charging characters at bay. Unfortunately, this is one of the maps that does not come with a player-friendly version, which means that the traps and sniper’s position are actually notes on the map, requiring some work by the GM. On the plus-side, it is very much possible that the PCs take the sniper alive – Sam does note the Hague convention preventing the killing of combatants that have surrendered.


Completing their overland trek, the PCs arrive at Priiskovyy, where the joint allied forces currently have their camp under the command of General Henry Nicholls and Katashi Wada. The camp is fully detailed and mapped (once more sans player-friendly version, but here, it’s okay – Sam could theoretically explain what the Cs and numbers on the map mean…), and, after meeting the brass, the PCs quite probably are enlisted. When confronted with news of Rasputin being alive, the commanders note that a double-agent that goes by the name of “Scriba” has provided similar intel.


At this point, the book takes a much-welcomes departure from the combat focus that is so prevalent in the AP at this point, splicing an investigation into the structure of the AP. There are things amiss in the camp, as the PCs will soon find out while waiting for the train. The module provides a massive amount of different, scaling pieces of information regarding the occurrences here – and indeed, there is a traitor among the soldiers: Arsenic intended for syphilitic soldiers was stolen and mixed into food, providing a rather creative angle here: Perceptive and particularly curious PCs will also pick up the mention of the “Order of the Evening Star” and notes towards magic: There is an imperial foo lion that will not be acknowledged, and Sam will be framed for murder –it’ll be up to the PCs to prove his innocence, as the Japanese drag him away. Unearthing the master spy responsible will be a hard task indeed.


Once this section is completed, the PCs will take the train, and here, missed information may be imparted – oh, and a potent, high-level ninja sans tongue may well try to assassinate the PCs…but due to the man’s tongue missing, interrogation will be difficult. This is where the module shows some serious care, as the module does take PC abilities to read thoughts etc. into account, proving a connection to General Wada, and providing the association should be difficult, as the mean do not recognize the ninja. That being said, the PCs may actually start putting together pieces of information here, concluding that Baba Yaga has touched Japanese shores as well. If the PCs botched their interaction with the spy, they may face a deadly encounter, wherein the bridge crossed by the train is blown up by an elite cadre of saboteurs – stopping these fully statted folks will be a hard task indeed. Whether the reinforcements for Irkutsk, currently held by the Czech Legion, will either have to walk or arrive by train in Port Baykal to board a ship and prepare for the invasion of the city.


Sam, in the meanwhile, was taken aside by Wada, who, with his men, left the ship in reach of Irkutsk. Sam believes that Scriba is endangered by Wada and his men and thus shares the code phrase. Irkutsk is intriguing: The city features quite a few armies, and the PCs can use various ways to get through the fully mapped settlement: The module takes Stealth and high-level magic into account and provides guidance there – oh, and since we’re talking about high-level PCs, the adventure also features one-man army rules for the PCs, which make for a fascinating and fun mini-game using the mass combat rules! That being said, if you do dislike these, the module does offer not only for variant rules within this context, but also for means to play the adventure without resorting to them!


However, as the PCs arrive at Scriba’s location, they will have been outmaneuvered: Wada has already taken the agent and hijacked the SS Baikal, hell-bent on killing both Rasputin and Baba Yaga – mistrustful, the PCs will have to best the Japanese that have taken control of the ship and general Wada – as well as the mighty foo lion. Explaining why they wear the witch’s dark mantle can make for an interesting angle, and indeed, the general and his order turn out to not actually be that opposed to the goals of the PCs…but that doesn’t mean that the stubborn samurai will just lay down his weapons…


The adventure concludes with detailed notes on how to proceed with the AP.




Editing and formatting are top-notch and adhere to the high quality we’ve come to expect from legendary Games in both rules-integrity and formal criteria. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with nice full-color artworks as well as neat cartography; as noted below, the absence of player-friendly maps is a minor issue that primarily hampers one encounter, but represents otherwise less of a problem. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Pedro Coelho’s yarn during a Weird World War I is a compelling adventure that adds further context to what is often regarded as a highlight, perhaps the highlight, of the Reign of Winter AP – for those groups out there that enjoy its premise, that is. The additional time spent in our world can make for a compelling angle, and indeed, the challenges posed are diverse: From challenging tactical encounters to the investigation and the mini-game, the mixture of genres helps render the stay in Russia more diverse and interesting, at least as far as I’m concerned. If anything, the adventure excels in a variety of different ways, particularly in accounting for high-level capabilities. The incredulity of locals when confronted with magic and the like are explained in a sufficiently concise manner, and the adventure, as a whole, makes for a great addition to the AP. In short, I consider this to be a great addition to the series, and a yarn that is both mechanically compelling and diverse – if anything, I wished that this was an even heftier tome! Rating-wise, there is next to nothing to complain about. While the lack of player-friendly maps hurts the adventure, everything else is compelling, creative and fun. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars – if you and your players loved the premise of “Rasputin Must Die!”, then get this – it’ll make that chapter of the AP shine so much more.


You can get this cool adventure here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Aug 202018

Starter Adventures (OSR)

This compilation of beginner’s modules clocks in at 51 pages, 1 page front cover,1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 47 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


So, we begin with a brief introduction that sets the stage – this pdf offers 4 brief, introductory one-on-one gaming scenarios/encounters for each of the 4 core classes – fighter, cleric, magic-user and thief. Then, we get a fully depicted starting tavern and an introductory module intended for a group of adventurers. The rules default employed within would be Swords & Wizardry Complete, and we get, where applicable, solid maps for the encounters/areas. There are no player-friendly versions of the maps provided, alas. It should be noted that these are brief enough to be spliced into the start of gaming for a party, allowing each PC a defining moment to kick off the adventuring career. Alternatively, they can be run as a series of brief vignettes to explain the PC’s training.


The pdf also includes 4 nice new monsters, which are rather nice, and two sport solid artworks. They also have component use – i.e. taking remains can have tangible effects, which is something I like to see. One of these does note that the liquefied brain of the critter makes writing scrolls easier, but fails to specify precise effects. The pdf also offers 3 magic items, and these are solid, with particularly the torch knives being an interesting item, in spite of the simple concept. However, formatting in the pdf of such items deviates from established standards. Read-aloud text is printed in italics, setting it apart from the rest of the text.


Now, as far as the introductory mini-modules are concerned, these could also work as roadside encounters most of the time, and they note a general setting/environment. They are generally very easy to integrate into the game. Now, there is one addition to the game here, the so-called Skill Challenge. Before you boo and hiss – it’s not PFRPG’s take, but the rules are simple: Character level + attribute bonus + d20. If you beat the DC, you made the check. These are not essential and may be ignored, if you so choose.


Now, these being adventures, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.



All right, only GMs around? Great, so let’s start off with the cleric scenarios! The first one has the cleric save a young boy who is about to be roasted by 2 goblins; noticing footprints, the creatures can be stopped in time. In the village of Aquin, two skeletons roam in a crop field – smart PCs will find unmarked, shallow graves and sanctify them, preventing further rising skeletons. Now, the third of these vignettes deserves special mention: Test of Faith has the PC in front of an archway of swirling energy – there are 4 different tasks, all of which are assigned to different spells. This teaches the clever use of spellcasting to solve issues. Love it. The final one has the PC deliver a healing potion to a friend of their mentor – en route, they can fight skrivs (one of the new creatures) and retrieve the woodsman’s axe. This one teaches the importance of thinking and items – its reward includes a bracelet with minor AC-boosting properties.


The first fighter scenario has the PC fight 3 encounters in a fully mapped arena; the second one takes the classic trope of the boar hunt and may result in a friendly rivalry. Encounter number 3 is pretty tough – a caravan has been attacked, and while the PC gets a Strength-boosting potion, while 6 orcs + chief make for deadly foes. Only two orcs will attack first; after that, the chief will challenge the fighter to single combat. Defeating the chief will scatter the orcs, which is yet another valuable lesson: Take down the leader and the foes may scram. The final encounter is a classic tavern brawl that preferably should not result in deaths – as such, the player is taught that killing is not always a smart chance.


Magic-Users begin with a test – their instructor has been missing for a while, and the potions they have been working on may spoil. Clever observation may note a hidden trapdoor, where giant rats loom and a pseudo-corpse lies. This one, in short, teaches problem-solving sans resorting to spells. The second encounter begins with a little map, and may have the PC ally with a balan versus a nasty necromancer and his skeletons. Thing is: The necromancer does not wish to harm the sacred bush, and has no intention of harming a fellow magic-user…allegiances can be muddy indeed. The third encounter has the PCs hunt for the aforementioned squishy squab birds, whose brain liquid can help write scrolls. The final encounter teaches magic item interaction and focuses on dealing with two pet stirges that have escaped. It should be noted that the presence of NPC allies in these help to somewhat counteract the squishiness of magic-users.


The thief-scenarios begin with the PC earning their lockpicks by stealing a purse; scenario number two features a training burglary: The PC has to enter a guarded building and steal the contents of a box – and yes, it has a secret compartment. The third scenario nets the PC a torch knife as the thief enters a barrow (a 3-room mini-dungeon) recently cleared by adventurers. Nice one! The final test has the PC observe a cabin – and the mentor wants something from inside. What? Up to the PC to find out! We don’t get a map for the cabin, but interestingly, the most valuable item (in GP-value) is NOT what the mentor wants – this one teaches that value, though codified, can be subjective!


After these, we get a very well-written and detailed tavern: Beyond the staff, the rooms are described in exquisite detail, with different rates and some cool hooks included. The place is fully mapped (though I wished we got a player-friendly version) and its cellar also holds a secret – a well-made, fun tavern that once more showcases Tim Shorts’ talent of writing plausible NPCs that feel alive.


The final section of this book is devoted to the “Betrayal at Bender’s End” introductory scenario; a well-rounded party is recommended, and while the adventure notes that the PCs should have backup characters, this is no funnel or save-or-die-athon. That being said, it’s a dungeon, and PCs may well die. The cleric’s mentor notes that one of his acolytes has been kidnapped. The trip to the eponymous “Bender’s End”-complex can be spiced up with a 20-entry long, detailed table of random encounters. The fact that a dungeon requires some respect is driven home from the get-go: The PCs find the corpse of an unfortunate thief, and it’s infested with rot grubs…so yeah, this can end deadly. The PCs will witness the efforts of a tougher adventuring party here as they explore the complex, but also their…well, less than successful members. Beyond goblins, the PCs will find the missing acolyte as well as a nasty deserter. Each class will have something to do, and the complex does a good job at environmental, indirect storytelling. Similarly, it rewards smarts and can be considered to be a good example of a rewarding introductory scenario. It’s tough, but fair and manages to evoke a concise atmosphere. In short: A good example of what such a module should do! Kudos!



Editing and formatting are good – while not every rules-relevant aspect here is perfect, and while I noticed a few typos, nothing serious. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with no frills, and the pdf sports quite a few nice and sometimes slightly humorous original artworks by Jason Sholtis and John Larrey. The maps are detailed and deserve special mention – they are functional and neat, but I wished we got player-friendly versions. Unfortunate would be the lack of bookmarks, which constitutes a significant comfort-detriment. I can’t comment on the print version’s merits or lack thereof, since I don’t own it.


Tim Shorts’ Starter Adventures book surprised me in a positive manner, mainly because it strays from the clichés while still providing the essential beginner’s experience. If I have to read one more 1st level module where the PCs kill goblins, hobgoblins, an orc and then an ogre boss or a shadow boss, which is invariably defeated by manipulating a magical light source, I may barf. This collection does feature goblins, orcs, etc., yes – it features the classic components. But at the same time, their execution and presentation makes these feel fresh, not like a stale rehash. The details provided for the tavern also are impressive, and the vignettes allow for the contextualization of the PCs and start them off with adventure hooks and some NPCs; they are not tabula rasa anymore. This helps with the task of making the group gel together and evoke a sense of consistency. While the lack of player-maps is somewhat saddening, it is only the lack of bookmarks that makes me round down from my final verdict of 4.5 stars. If you’re looking for well-crafted introductory adventures for players, this delivers in spades and is well worth checking out!


You can get this neat collection of introductory options here on OBS!


You can get the PoD-print version here on lulu!


Endzeitgeist out.



Aug 202018

Star Log.EM: Eldritch Trickster (SFRPG)

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


We begin with a nice little introduction and the contextualization of the archetype herein within the Xa-Osoro system, before taking a look at the archetype. The Eldritch Trickster may only be added to characters with classes that gain spells or spell-like abilities from the 1st level feat or the race. The eldritch trickster as presented herein replaces the 2nd, 6th and 12th level class features.


At 2nd level, we get psychokinetic trickster, which nets at-will psychokinetic hand as a SP, and if you already know it, you may lose it in favor of another spell of the same level. The rules language also takes the SP-angle into account. Additionally, the ability allows for the lifting of up to 20 lbs. or 2 bulk, +10 lbs. OR +1 bulk per every 2 levels beyond 2nd. Starting at 6th level, you may use Engineering or Mysticism’s disable device use and all skill tasks of Sleight of Hand at the range of psychokinetic hand.


At 4th and 9th level, you may optionally choose to get expanded arcana, i.e. a Minor Psychic Power feat or one based on it. If you have a spellcasting class, you may instead choose a feat using spellcasting as prerequisite. Additionally, if you ever choose Major Psychic Power, you may substitute augury or status with a new spell, burglar’s insight. This spell is a 2nd level divination for mystic and technomancer, and, should you be using the Starfarer’s Companion, also for the legacy bard and wizard. The spell nets a scaling insight bonus to Bluff, Sleight of Hand and Stealth. If you have a class feature that grants an equal or greater bonus, you may instead spend 1 Resolve to roll twice, using the higher result. Unique: The spell runs out after using it key ability score modifier times. Nice catch: caster level increases do not increase the potency of this spell.


The 8th level ability would be invisible thief, which lets you spend 1 Resolve as a standard action to use either disguise self or invisibility as a SP, with a duration equal to character levels. 12th level improves action economy to alternatively allowing for swift action activation. Also at 12th level, you can spend 1 Resolve Point as a reaction when provoking an attack of opportunity, preventing the provoking of the AoO.


The pdf also features a new operative specialization, the spell scoundrel, which features Bluff and Mysticism as associated skills. You can make a Mysticism check with a +4 bonus to make a trick attack by using essentially a variant of token spell for your advantage. The exploit would be the flight hack, and whenever the spell scoundrel moves 10 ft. or more, you may designate up to Dexterity modifier squares. When moving from these squares, the movement doesn’t provoke AoOs. This is properly codified as a teleportation effect.


The pdf also sports new operative exploits: At 2nd level, there is a Dexterity-governed Minor Psychic Power – follow-up exploits also use Dexterity instead of Charisma. 6th level has an analogue ability for Psychic Power, though the spells added to the list, charm person and command are not italicized properly. At 10th level, we have the Major Psychic Power follow-up allows for hold person or inflict pain to be chosen. I already mentioned Flight Hack: this one may be taken at 10th level, and it provides a 30 ft. fly speed with average maneuverability that is governed by 40 flight points, Per round you’re flying, you consume 2 fly points, or 1 flight point per minute for cruising flight, during which you’re off-target and flat-footed. Changing flight modes is a standard action. This requires being able to cast at least 2 spells or SPs and can’t be used while encumbered or in powered armor. Cool twist on the classic concept, though it would have been nice to know when these points replenish…



Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. The missed italicization and lack of replenishment clause slightly hurt an otherwise fun offering. Layout adheres toa 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has a nice artwork and no bookmarks, but needs no bookmarks at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ Eldritch Trickster is a surprisingly fun take on the eminent concept – I enjoy how it brings the concept to the game, and how it spreads its abilities. All in all, I consider this to be a fun, worthwhile offering. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars – well worth checking out!


You can get this nice Star Log here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Aug 202018

Star Log.EM: Ganzi (SFRPG)

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


This Star Log begins with the traditional introduction, as well as a nice, brief contextualization of the Ganzi race in the Xa-Osoro system that is shared by Rogue Genius Games and Everyman Gaming.


But what are the ganzi? Well they are mortals whose bloodlines have been mutated by generations of exposure to the energies of chaos, whether by living on planets saturated by such energies or the direct lineage tracing back to beings like proteans. They can, in theory, be born from any race, but humanity, being numerous as it is, is the most likely base stock of the race. Their physical descriptions may thus vary wildly: Shimmering hair, fluid eyes, barkskin – quite a few such ideas are noted. They do not claim a single homeworld, and have increased in number since the regicide-event. As chaotic beings, they are prone to wander and come into conflict with law and order – something that also influences their racial relations. Adventurers and nomenclature is also noted, though we don’t get the side-bar that notes what other races usually think about you, you know, the “Playing a *insert race name*”-box.


Ganzi are medium outsiders with the native subtype, get +2 Constitution and Charisma, -2 Intelligence, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Sense motive and Survival and acid, electricity and sonic resistance 5, as well as +2 to saves versus transmutation effects. Once per day, they can twist probability with their supernatural Quibble ability, using their reaction to force a creature they are aware of to reroll a d20 they just rolled, with a Will-save to negate. The DC here is governed by Charisma, and this is a curse-effect. Notice something? Yeah, the HP-value, alas, is missing. *sigh*


Ganzi get three racial feats: Boon Quibble lets you use quibble as a standard action. If you do, the target gets 4 luck points, which may be spent when rolling a d20. For each point spent, the target adds an untyped +1 bonus. Multiple uses on a target don’t stack, thankfully. Resolute Quibble lets you spend Resolve to use quibble once more. Twisting Form, finally, nets you 1/day disguise self (italicization missing) that lasts for 24 hours or until dismissed. Disguise is also gained as a class skill and if the target already has it, the character instead gains a +2 racial bonus.



Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level – apart from the missed italicization and the missing racial HP, that is. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Alexander Augunas’ ganzi have a nice mechanic angle with the fate/luck point idea, but, at the cost of sounding like a hipster, the chaos-tiefling/aasimar/plane-touched angle is not exactly super-interesting. The chaos-angle could have been implemented in much more interesting ways – as a template race that accounts for the different parental races, this could have been more interesting. Similarly, a slew of sample mutations would have been nice. As a whole, this is a solid, if not mega-exciting race, particularly when compared to the genius and both mechanically and conceptually inspired Msvokas. (Seriously, get these!) My final verdict for the ganzi will hence clock in at 3 stars.


You can get this race here on OBS.


You can get the inspired Msvokas here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Aug 172018

Dungeon Crawl Classics: Sailors on the Starless Sea (DCC)

This adventure clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


This review was requested by my patreons, to be undertaken at my leisure.


Now, if you’re playing DCC, chances are that you will be familiar with this adventure, and it being a classic funnel, it has kicked off countless campaigns – it was the first stand-alone adventure released for the system, after all. This is a pretty well-known adventure, but is it still holding up? Does it make sense today, and could it work in other contexts? We’ll see. Now, this is a funnel – that means it’s intended for 0-level characters. A lot of them. 10 – 15 are suggested, noting that typically, about half of them will survive. The module could be run as a level 1 or 2 adventure as well, though compared to most such DCC modules, it may be a bit easy for those levels. It *may* be – or it may not. You see, this module does a surprisingly good job at blending rules-relevant aspects and player-skill. While your characters can and will probably suffer a few casualties, their survival will be more contingent on the skill of the player than on the roll of the dice. I will highlight a few examples for this design-philosophy, which I btw. thoroughly enjoy.


Now, on a formal level, as pretty much all adventures in this series released for the DCC-rules, this is a beautiful book: The b/w-artworks are really neat, and the cartography depicts the main-module in a top-down style that is slightly tilted. The map of the bonus complex (see SPOILERS below) is delivered in an isometric perspective. All maps come with artworks and style galore. Thing is, I really wished we got a player-friendly key-less version of the maps, as the letters break immersion for me. Having the maps layered would have been another easy way to ensure that more groups get to see these gorgeous pieces, handing them out, piece by piece as the PCs explore. The module does come with copious amounts of read-aloud text that show the author’s talent for descriptive prose: The atmosphere evoked by these is compelling and captivating. The adventure comes with a handy encounter table that codifies the base module’s encounters by type and provides a handy summary for the judge. The module also includes a list of 10 different rumors pertaining the adventure-locale.


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



All right, only judges around? Great! So, in ages past, when the forces of Chaos (think of a more Warhammer-esque, nasty capital letters Chaos…) were more potent, they had champions – so-called Chaos Lords. Two particularly evil individuals, Felan and Molan, were such beings, but their wickedness did end, with one of them slain, and the other one retreating into Chaos itself, vowing to return once more. This foretold time has come, and the PCs are dumped right into it. As 0-level folks, they are assumed to be villagers and similarly unimpressive folks that respond to the recent abductions and raidings executed by beastmen from a nearby, ruined keep. This, thus is a combination of rescue mission and retribution, depending on your character’s motivations. These beastmen are btw. more versatile than the ones featured in the Warhammer universe: A table of 12 entries allow you to generate spontaneous and diverse looks for the beastmen, which may feature iridescent scales, weeping maggots, etc. – these are delightfully icky. Beastmen as a general notion, are assumed to have animal cunning, with only their leaders retaining a semblance of distinct personalities.


Now, while these beings constitute the primary antagonists of the module, they are not the only foes encountered, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The PCs may approach the keep from a variety of directions, which all carry their own dangers, and it is here that we already see the design paradigm I mentioned in action: Scaling a ruined wall’s slope can trigger an avalanche of rubble that can be lethal at this level, and that destroys equipment. Noticing that, well, scaling a steep slope of rubble may be dangerous can help here. The check is so low that succeeding it is all but guaranteed if the PCs just think. There also is a massive sinkhole, but approaching it may have the PCs tumble to a horrid fate – 500 ft. below, as the area seems to be hollow. The attention to detail here is impressive – the pdf even accounts for the unlikely case that PCs could have 500 ft. of rope! (Yeah, super-unlikely, but still – it’s nice to see this go above and beyond!) The extraction of PCs and approaching the sinkhole safely is noted as well as splaying out on the ground – mind you, this is not a dickish save or die: It does come with a creepy premonition warning the PCs!


In a way, this adventure, from the get-go, teaches by virtue of its design: PCs approaching the keep from the front will have to deal with rather dangerous vine horrors, basically corpses animated by corrupt vines; these things are actually more deadly than beastmen, so avoiding them, may be wise. In the best tradition of old-school modules, two threats are tied to curiosity and greed: Interacting with the Well of Souls can result in death or corruption, introducing the PCs to the potency of such decisions. The tomb of one of the Chaos Lords would be another such example: Lighted by an unearthly glow emitted from the ice covering all and exceedingly cold, the tomb offers treasure, yes. But the tomb is warded by 4 banes – which double as curses that the judge can later use for additional complications and as segues into other modules. Ideas regarding their use are provided. Still, this aspect of the module is completely optional, but that may not be evident.


This would be as well a chance as any to note how clever the adventure deals with magic: Exploring the charnel ruins, where the forces of Law locked in chaos cultists and had them burn. There is a darkened tar ooze that is a deadly foe, but with smart observations, the ooze may not need to be fought at all – smart players can find here an item that constitutes one of the solutions of the perhaps most deadly encounter herein. Placating the ooze is btw. something that smart players can extrapolate from the area and its description. Now, the regular “boss” of the keep level would be a beastman champion with some footsoldiers added, and, depending on how much you want the PCs to explore, you can disperse the villagers to be saved accordingly.


This ties in with the fully mapped “bonus content” additional dungeon included here. At the end of the module, there is an extra mini-dungeon, the “Summoning Pits.” This bonus module is rather creepy and slightly more deadly than the regular complex: These pits are the origin of the vine horrors noted before, and the place does contain a truly deadly and dangerous weapon – the Fiend Blade, which can provide power, but also corrupt and may even help casting some spells…but it does demand a price: It needs to be mentally battered into submission, requiring difficult Personality checks to use to its full capacity…or alternatively, a cost. Note that the danger this blade poses is clearly shown, and once more, the PC’s greed is what may be their undoing, for entering the circle that seals the blade may be rather deadly. Now, I mentioned the vine horrors – the PCs can find a rather twisted scene of these, seemingly locked in place, in the process of providing a human sacrifice. Serving the plant-entity known as the Slow God, they are executing a super-slow sacrifice, as the entity, curious about the concept of worship, dips its toes into the concepts. The Slow God can provide unique boons to brave adventurers, but it may also well lose themselves to its glacially-slow, alien thought-processes. Now, tinkering with the Slow God’s vine horrors may well be one of the most deadly encounters in the module, so once more, we have a sensible risk-reward ration here.


I really enjoy this bonus dungeon, and it may well work as a nice stand-alone scenario for conventions etc. Considering how challenging this one is, it is smart that it’s an optional sub-level, though one with massive benefits. You can completely ignore it – which is a plus or downside, depending on how you look at it. The main adventure’s text does not note the access points to the adventure, and as such, this is truly an optional bonus content. Now, personally, I think it would have been nice to see the main module text modified to acknowledge the existence of this content, but oh well.


Now, where was I? Oh, yes – having defeated the first beastman champion, the PCs can make their way into the bowels of the earth, where perceptive PCs will be able to notice two mosaics, which have been provided as a gorgeous handout. These handouts are important, for they contain clues that are potentially crucial for the PC’s survival. In these darkened halls, smart PCs that do a thorough job exploring may find a potent magical item, the band of fire, which can well spell the difference between life and death. The climax of the module deals with the subterranean shores of the eponymous starless sea: On it, the PCs can see a dragon boat awaiting, and clever characters may also deduce the magical means by which it may be called to the shore, for the waters are dangerous and home to an entity known as the Chaos Leviathan, a horrid, tentacle monstrosity far beyond the PC’s capabilities to best. The gigantic thing may be driven off by super lucky groups, but it also represents more of a puzzle than an actual combat challenge. If the players have been attentive, they may well have an idea on how to placate the leviathan – and while sacrifice is one possibility, it’s certainly not the only one. Tricking the leviathan is also an option, though one that can add further danger and a sense of frantic nature to the already challenging finale.


On an island in the starless sea, there lies a ziggurat, where beastmen are in the process of sacrificing villagers, throwing them into the magical forge crucible that is intended to reunite the body and mind of a vanquished chaos lord. Here, player smarts once more may make the difference between success and failure: Using robes of fallen chaos priests or sneaking are probably preferable, considering that there are quite a lot of beastmen attending the ceremony. This crowd of beastmen also acts as a unique terrain hazard of sorts, with PCs caught in their hands inexorably being moved towards the horrid fate of the sacrifice.


In order to come out on top here, the PCs will have to stop the shaman of the beast-men, and also get a chance to defeat the as of yet unstable form of the chaos lord – the skulls of challengers to the title of the chaos lord, which some PCs may have picked up, represent a potent weapon here, flaring with hatred. Defeating the as of yet weak form of the chaos lord with have pretty epic and cataclysmic repercussions, requiring that the PCs make haste to avoid annihilation, as the cave risks collapse. In the time-honored tradition of adventurers, they should run and get what they can – but tarrying may well see the PCs killed…once more, risk and reward.



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues on a formal or rules-language level. The layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and fits a surprising amount of content into its pages. The b/w-artworks are great, and the module’s cartography, as noted, is inspired, offering a top-down look of the keep and main complex, an isometric perspective for the bonus complex. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks for the headers, but not for individual rooms.


Harley Stroh’s “Sailors on the Starless Sea” is a fantastic adventure in the best sense. It is very dangerous, but never in an unfair way. The adventure manages to transport the notions of a thoroughly magical world without requiring the meta-concerns of RPG-systems: There is method and an internal logic to how magic works within the game; players that think are rewarded, whereas approaching this with solely a rollplaying attitude will result in pain galore. I love this, as the adventure teaches being methodical and consequently rewards players ability over that of the PCs, making this an all out fun module to play. Compared with MANY “first” adventures for systems out there, this is a phenomenal achievement and clearly highlights the strength of the aesthetics of both DCC and its aesthetics. Now yes, I could complain about the fact that integration of the second printing bonus dungeon could be smoother, but that may well be a feature for you. Similarly, the lack of player-friendly versions of the amazing maps DCC modules tend to have galls me to no end, but the atmosphere and epic climax of this complex, the expert prose and fantastic execution make it all but impossible to rate this any other way than 5 stars + seal of approval. This is a great adventure, and one that holds up very well to this date. Much like “Doom of the Savage Kings”, this is good enough to get it even if you’re not playing DCC. Yes, that good.


You can get this inspiring module here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Aug 172018

The Idolator Hybrid Class

This hybrid class clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


So, this one takes a bit of a different approach than most hybrid classes – we begin with pretty extensive notes that first explain the design rationale, and then proceeds to provide a flavorful legend and some in-character prose. I enjoy books that take the time to set the stage. Now, idolatry has a bad reputation in the monotheistic religions that many people nowadays follow, but at one time, worshiping statues that actually properly represented the deity was the standard procedure. (One may well argue that, while nominally, most Christians don’t worship idols of their god, worshiping an abstract cross with a depiction of Jesus crucified on it, is actually not that different, and call hypocrisy on the idolatry ban, but I digress.)


Anyways, the idolator thus does feel somewhat “old”, a theme that is further emphasized by the quasi-Mesopotamian flair evoked by the cover and the layout. The class also is unique in that it lists 3 parent classes: Cleric, oracle and unchained summoner. Now, this sounds interesting, right? The class gets 2 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, good Will-saves, proficiency with simple weapons + their deity’s favored weapon and light armor.


At 1st level, the idolator gets a favored ability score valued by the deity – these basically represent different specializations: These follow a similar design paradigm: You get either +1/2 class level (minimum 1) or + class level to all ability checks pertaining that ability score. Additionally, the class gets to select two skills based on the ability in question to add to the class skill list – this one, obviously, is not part of the parcel for those choosing Constitution – which is a good thing. The ability score chosen counts as two higher for the purpose of qualifying for feat prerequisites. In spite of the class not getting spellcasting per se, choosing Intelligence grants this boost also for the purpose of concentration, assuming Intelligence as the concentration-governing attribute. Beyond these, each ability score comes with bonus feats granted thus – Strength yields medium and heavy armor proficiency, for example, while Dexterity nets Lightning Reflexes and Weapon Finesse. All of the favored abilities have in common that they render the idolator immune to ability score damage for the chosen ability score at 10th level, with 20th level upgrading that to immunity to ability score drain of the chosen ability.


This also interacts in an interesting way with the class’s take on the mystery feature: We begin play with one, but idolators don’t get class skills or bonus spells from the mystery chosen; they start play with one revelation chosen from the mystery’s list and get another one at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. As a mostly aesthetic nitpick – the class feature should specify that idolator levels count as oracle levels for the purpose of revelation prerequisites. The unique thing, though, would e that revelation DCs are governed by 10 + ½ class level + the ability score modifier of the favored ability chosen! Yep, that means Constitution, Dexterity, etc. could be the governing attributes for these DCs! This has me intrigued, so let’s take a look on how this all comes together!


Now, an idolator is obviously also defined by the idol, right? An idol has a base form and subtype and sports the deity’s alignment. It understands and speaks common and all of the idolator’s languages. An idol is only destroyed upon being educed to negative hit points equal to the idol’s Constitution score. The idol has two forms – statue and animated. Idols remain in statue form until an idolator performs a 1-minute ceremony to animate it. This ceremony necessitates that the idolator remains adjacent to the statue. While in statue form, the idol has a hardness of 8 + the idol’s Charisma modifier. In this form, it’s generally 1 ft. tall and weighs between 10 and 20 pounds. Less portable idols could be Large or Huge, with correspondingly higher weight. Animating the statue transforms it into a Medium creature, and it remains animated until the idolator reverts it back to statue form as a standard action. Dismissal and banishment can revert an idol to statue form. Important: If the idolator is rendered unconscious or asleep, the idol IMMEDIATELY reverts to statue form! This is a small thing, but it means that “Get the priest that animated this monster!” suddenly makes sense – a small touch, but one I enjoyed. The idol, chassis-wise, is based on the unchained eidolon, though the table is provided for your convenience. A crucial difference would be that the idol does not have a max attack column, since it does not gain additional attacks with natural weapons – however, the idol may make iterative attacks when wielding the deity’s favored weapon, with which it has proficiency. The idol may not be altered to conceal it – no alter self, polymorph, etc., though invisibility et al. remain viable.


The idol, when damaged in either form, may be healed by healing magic, but it may also be fixed by spells à la make whole. Idols do not naturally heal hit points, and while nominally constructs, they do not get the construct traits – a fact the discerning reader will have picked up earlier, when the pdf specified the extended death threshold. Instead, they get a subtype, base form and base evolution as though they were an eidolon. Idols don’t have an evolution pool, and they eat and sleep and breathe, but unlike mortals do: Being in statue form constitutes resting, and the idol must rest 8 hours in a 24 hour interval. (“We must raid the temple while the idol sleeps!”) While the idolator does the preparation/resting routine, he burns incense and offers sacrifices of negligible cost to the idol – idols thus can be affected by harmful gasses. Idols may not wear armor, but do qualify for receiving construct modifications, which is an interesting differentiation angle. Now, as an aside, bioconstruct modification makes no sense for an idol, so having a prohibitive list would have made sense, but that is me nitpicking.


The idol begins play with darkvision 60 ft., gets Bluff, Craft, Knowledge (religion), Perception, Sense Motive and Stealth as class skills, +4 of their choice. Idols that gain a fly speed also get Fly as a class skill – nice catch there! An idol begins play with two cleric domains known, chosen from the deity the idol represents, gaining their domain powers and treating the idol’s idolator’s class level as cleric level for the purpose of determining their powers and gaining new ones. Domain powers usually governed by Wisdom instead employ Charisma as the governing key ability score. Subdomains etc. qualify. At 1st level and every level thereafter, the idol chooses a spell from these cleric domains chosen. The idolator’s class level must be at least twice the spell’s level for it to be selected – slightly odd: This means that the idol can’t actually cast the SP chosen at first level, only unlocking it at 2nd level. 1st – 3rd spell level SPs may be used 3/day, 4th to 6th level 2/day, and higher level spells may be used 1/day. A single spell may be chosen multiple times, increasing the daily uses by 1. Material costs higher than 5 gp must be provided for, in spite of the SP nature, but the costs for these components are halved. (minor nitpick: There is a missed italicization here. Idols begin with a starting Charisma of a whopping 17. Minor complaint: A sidebar is a bit confusing: “As an idolator gains levels, his idol gains specific evolutions based on its subtype as if it were an eidolon.” – this directly contradicts the class table and other class features – the text here is probably referring to the abilities gained by a subtype’s base evolution class feature, at least that’s how I read it. Ability score increases are gained at 5th, 10th, and 15th level.


Now, beyond the idol, the class gets their own unique class features dubbed “Sacrifices” – the first of these is gained at 2nd level, with additional ones gained every even level thereafter. There are more than 6 pages of these provided, but they probably could have fitted on fewer pages: The sacrifices are indented below the main ability, and the layout already has pretty wide borders, which makes the pages depicting these look pretty empty. Anyways, as you can glean from the amount provided. Some of these are exclusive for some favored ability scores and/or domains chosen; to give you an example, you can have multiple forbidden languages, and when having the same class skill as your idol, you may roll twice, taking the better result. Charging sans penalty to speed imposed by armor, Improved Unarmed Strike, 20 ft. burrow speed, causing bleed damage when flanking with the idol (there are various flanking upgrades), charmed life, +2 AC for purposes of determining crits versus the idolator, deathless fervor, increasing darkvision building up to seeing through magical darkness, resistance to an energy for Constitution based idolators, divination SPs…and there are some unique tricks: Lock down one magic item slot for a permanent +1 luck bonus to a save that increases to +2 at 10th level. This one is particularly interesting for low magic games. Flight granted scales and retains the implicit 5th level cap for unassisted flight. There also are flavorful choices, like offering a 10 gp meal to the idol to be exempt from requiring food or drink for a week. You can also share potions between idolator and idol, granting both the benefits, though this takes a full-round action and provokes AoOs. Better Stealth, integrating a magic item into the idol, gaining additional, limited SPs, gaining scent…some cool ones. Alas, one of them is obviously a cut copy paste from another source, mentioning a reaction as triggering action, which does not exist in PFRPG. That should be an immediate action. Also odd: On one page of these, the font used around an artwork suddenly changes to a different type, which makes the page a bit harder to read.


Starting at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the idolator gets a bonus feat, with the list governed by the favored ability score chosen. The capstone allows for the choice of one of 4 different ones, three of which are apotheosis-style abilities, while one sports one time miracle and 1 true resurrection, usable by the idol once as an immediate action.


The class comes with favored class options for the core races + orc, and there are 3 different archetypes for the class: The earthly divinity archetype locks the idolator out of variant multiclassing, since that’s basically the angle: The idol loses subtype and base evolutions and instead grants variant multiclassing style abilities at 1st, 4th, 8th, 12th,16th and 20th level. These benefits have been reproduced for your convenience, and encompass the pre-ACG classes. So no, there is no occult support here. There also is an issue here: These benefits can yield animal companions, familiars, etc., and that is problematic regarding companion stacking and interaction. Not a fan. The strange font-glitch also can be found on one page here. The revelator replaces the 6th and 9th level revelation, and the 11th level sacrifice with material component less, improving divination SPs. At 4th level, the revelator can share the benefits of a revelation with a willing target for 24 hours via a 1-minute ritual. During this duration, the revelator loses access to the revelation, though the revelation may be revoked as a standard action. I get what this ability tries to do, but it is a bit rough in the details: Does the recipient use the idolator’s stats to determine the efficiency of revelations loaned? What about revelations with limited uses/durations that need to be spent in increments? Is the limit persistent between characters or not? What about revelations that build on others? Do they cease to function upon the prerequisite revelation being traded away? Does the recipient have to meet minimum level requirements, if any? As written, alas, RAW not 100% functional.


The wordgiver is basically the Moses-style archetype and loses the mystery and revelation class features, instead gaining a tablet. Once per day, the tablet may be used to cast any cleric/oracle spell, using class level as caster level and the favored ability score as governing modifier. The spell’s level must be half class level or lower (here, the minimum caveat is properly implemented), and an additional such wildcard spell is gained at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. Damaged tablets restore their hit points upon resting, and when destroyed, they may be replaced after one week in an 8-hour ritual costing 200 go x class level. The tablet may be hurled as a thrown weapon with a range increment of 10 ft. Annoying: Since the wordgiver does not have Throw Anything, unlike the alchemist, this means that he takes a -4 penalty to atk with the tablet. The tablet, upon impact, deals 1d6 times class level energy damage to the target, with the energy type associated with the deity. No further guidance is granted there…so what if I worshiped Nethys? Free choice? The fact that the table can be thrown thus also is a bit odd, considering that the subsequent spell-upgrades granted don’t yield additional tablet – you have but one. 7th level’s bonus feat is replaced with Leadership.


There is a per se interesting suggested variant rule regarding moral ambiguity, which mirrors many of my own sentiments, but as often before, the like tends to take a lot of time to implement concisely, and what’s presented here cannot really comprehensively cover the repercussions of doing so; thus, I’d strongly discourage attempting to do so, even though personally, I do believe that a big book to make the game more shades of grey-y may be a smart choice. The pdf also includes 4 magic items: chime of divine summons may be rung 1/day as a standard action – 10 minutes after that, the idol appears adjacent to the idolator. The delay here is interesting from a narrative angle: “Look, I’m unarmed. Yeah, you can bind me and put me in shackles. You’re throwing me in a cell? Oh boy, what should I do….” Divine clay of mending can be used to heal the idol. Eyes of the idol lets you see through the idol’s eyes. The rotulus of command draws heavily from the Golem of Prague myth – place a simple order in the idol’s mouth, with conditions, have it execute it. Simple, yet cool. We end the pdf with a sample level 5 human idolator using the mystery of lore and his idol.



Editing and formatting, on a formal and rules-language level, are both rather good – very good, in fact, though there are a few minor blunders here and there. The archetypes in particular feel a bit like afterthoughts and like they received less care. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard that enhances the quasi-Mesopotamian vibe of the class. Artwork is a blend of new full color pieces and fitting stock art – though it should be noted that these manage to all invoke the same ancient flavor. Layout –wise, I think that the sacrifice ability-arrays pages look a bit empty. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


This collaboration between Aaron Hollingsworth and Mark Hart deserves applause for a couple of things: The class is wholly cognizant of the power of the idol, and is structured thus in a clever way to account for its power. The flexible chassis allows for really fine differentiation between different favored ability score idolators, and from mystery to revelations and domains, there is a TON of potential to customize these fellows. No two idolators will be truly alike. Indeed, this hybrid class does have its own distinct identity that renders it distinct from its parents in a rather fun way.


The idolator has a distinct flavor and takes the flexibility it provides into account. In fact, this is a hybrid class that I consider rather worthwhile – it is intriguing, and the small tweaks to rules and the distinct flavor make it feel unique. While the minor hiccups and, in particular, the less refined archetypes do mar this slightly, I consider the base class to still be worth checking out. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.


You can get this flavorful hybrid class here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.


Aug 172018

Stone Fields of Azoroth (OSR)

This is a bit different: The Stone Fields of Azoroth represent a mini-sandbox of sorts, and the deal includes 3 different pdfs as well as a .png-map. Said map depicts the village of Bad Water and looks charmingly hand-drawn. Much to my chagrin, no player-friendly version sans numbers and the like is included.


Rules-system wise, these pdfs adhere to Swords & Wizardry, though, as always, adapting the content to another old-school rule-set is pretty simple. AC is presented as ascending. Magic items are bolded in text. Monsters get full stats, while NPCs note their class levels, if any, and their actual profession in the context of the village. Now, this bundle of sorts presents a sandbox of sorts – two of the pdfs depict the “adventure-locations”: Book 2 presents a 6-room mini-dungeon, while Book 3 sports basically a climactic multi-stage encounter in the wilderness. The only maps for these also double as the front covers of these books, showing the region inside a circle in the middle of the front cover. Oddly, no .png maps for them are provided, even though the covers do make clear that these should indeed exist. While the map of the mini-dungeon sports squares, the like can, alas, not be said about the one that depicts the area of the confrontation on book 3’s cover, making dimensions somewhat opaque.


Book 1 is 20 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 17 pages of content.


Book 2 clocks in at 8 pages, with the front cover acting as the map – and all pages sport content.


Book 3 also clocks in at 8 pages, with one page devoted to a nice “Thank you”-message, leaving us with 7 pages for this one.


All pdfs are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), and the font-size is pretty large, which makes it feasible to print out 4 pages on a given sheet of paper. As for level-range, I’d suggest a well-diversified party, and difficulty-level-wise, this is tough – the finale can easily result in a TPK due to a few bad rolls. As for level range, I’d probably situate this somewhere around the level 3 – 5 range.


Now, while the books are numbered, they are not necessarily be required to be run in sequence, though it is very likely, and suggested, that the PCs begin exploring the village of Bad Water.


This is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.



All righty, only GMs around? Great! So, Book I begins with a handy overview of the keyed locations with names noted, making that aspect pretty GM-friendly, The services available are also explicitly noted here, which is a comfort-plus. The village of Bad Water is depicted in LAVISH detail: We begin with a handy overview noting the high-quality stone and how it makes farming challenging, while also briefly touching upon terrain features…but it’s the NPCs and homes that make this stand out: Each and every NPC in the village is discussed. Every house, every farm aid. All have names, all have agendas, all have things that drive them and characters. Tim Shorts really play to is strengths as an author here, managing to conjure a vision of interesting and evocative folks that feel surprisingly multi-faceted: Much like authors like Stephen King in a fantasy context, his “small people” feel alive, with all the foibles and flaws of the conditio humana in full display. In short: This village is inspired and feels organic, detailed and alive – it may well be this settlement that makes you get this, and personally, I consider the village worth the asking price. It’s really worth the praise and shows a keen insight into the human(oid) mind. Bad Water, as written, is a place you will want to use.


Now, unbeknown to most residents, the stone fields also are the place where a civilization once fell down, and this ties in with the adventuring locales. The connections between them, alas, remain somewhat opaque and remain open to GM placement.


Book 2, the one depicting the mini-dungeon, takes places in the “Last Temple of Praxus”, a recently unearthed temple of a long-forgotten deity of imprisonment. That being said, chances are decent that the PCs will be sent fleeing: The first monster herein would be a screamer, an undead that screams every round (no idea regarding the range of the scream) that can scream while it attacks. It has two claws, so two screams per round? No idea. On a failed save, the PCs will have to run away for an hour. Yeah, that can becoming pretty annoying. Anyways, the second unique creature herein, the manifestation of hopelessness, is not only mechanically more interesting (it splits, ooze-style) and has unique effects for its attacks, with a save to negate. Alas, no durations for these effects are noted anywhere, nor how you can get rid of them. Are they curses? On the plus-side, a couple of scrolls and the context here allows the PCs to discern and piece together some aspects of the background story. As a minor complaint: The PCs may get a rod of cancellation herein and potentially thus lose all magic items, so if you#re stingy regarding magic, this is one aspect to look out for.


Now, ultimately, the PCs will find a statue of a pretty mighty warrior wielding two short swords – that would be Samsus X, last champion of Praxus. He is petrified, and he is mad and animates if someone enters the room – the erstwhile champion/tyrant of the forgotten deity makes for a deadly enemy, being a fully statted 7th level fighter. Samsus X was devoted to his divine liege and offered sacrifice – but had his own people turn upon him. How bad were things? The folks rather worshiped devils than be subject to his whims. Yeah, pretty bad.


Praxus indeed seems to be a rather nasty god: He has created items called imprisonment stones, one of which holds the infernal commander still hidden from the world. They also detonate, but don’t specify how much damage they can withstand etc. Samsus X is deadly courtesy of his save or suck blades – each of the blades can immobilize a target hit that fails a save. Thankfully, they require blood, and eventually, quests to maintain their power, which means that triumphant PCs will have to think twice. Besting the erstwhile champion and destroying the stone will have the prison of infernal Azoroth manifest once more, though a shrouded figure, Praxus’ last vestige of power, will manifest, attempting to recruit the PCs. Failure to comply results in easily one of the most lethal encounters herein, as 14 (!!!) animated chains drop from the ceiling to attack.


Book 3, then, is pretty apocalyptic: A darkness has fallen of a part of the stone fields (not sure how big the section is, though) and temperatures have dropped to freezing: Approaching the darkness will make the PCs encounter one local fighting with 2 imps – the man is crazy, and the imps, well, are deadly. Worse: Two more are waiting in the wings. Since we’re talking old-school gaming, this means that the PCs will face 4 enemies with save or die stings. Ouch. More imps will assault the PCs as soon as they enter combat with another creature here. Within 5 monoliths, one of which lies shattered (that one was tied to the imprisonment stone, there is an armor, bound by mithril threads. While the threads can only be cut with +3 or higher weapons the PCs are unlikely to have, the monoliths may well be destroyed. Doing so unleashes a bulette, an insect swarm, and a save-or-die spore-cloud. Once the monoliths are destroyed, the mithril threads holding the armor fall from the item and unleash Azoroth. The armor is actually a custom-made magic item, an armor of imprisonment made by Praxus’ clergy. Azoroth, with AC 24, after all these save-or-die-saves, makes for a hardy horned devil type-foe with a short-range fear aura. His damage capability falls behind that of e.g. glabrezu etc. and he has no XP value noted – which btw. extends to all creatures within this supplement.



Editing and formatting are pretty bad. There are rules-relevant deviations that make understanding how some critters work hard. On a formal level, the often nice prose suffers from verbs, sentence-fragments etc. missing. There are a lot of these instances. Layout adheres to a no-frills 1-column b/w-standard. The pdfs sport a couple of nice, original b/w-artworks. The full-color map of the village is nice, but the lack of a player-friendly version is a bit of a bummer. The lack of full-sized artworks for the adventure-sites of Book 2 and 3 are puzzling. Annoyingly, none of the three books come with any bookmarks.


Tim Shorts’s “Stone Fields of Azoroth” constitute a mixed bag, if there ever was one; on one hand, we have a massive, inspired and smart village that feels alive in the best of ways. I love it. On the other hand, formal deviations, the aforementioned map snafus…these do somewhat compromise this offering. The mini-dungeon is pretty hardcore and difficult, but in a (mostly) fair way; however, the finale is a ridiculous assortment of save or dies thrown at the PCs, and is imho not challenging, just frustrating – which is a pity, for the atmosphere is great. The structural issue of the locations and their relation to each other in a spatial sense also represents a detriment here.


This was once a mythoard exclusive, and this makes me think that it was written with a strict deadline: The village shows the care and detail we expect from the author, but the finale in particular feels rushed. The numerous glitches also add to this impression. With some careful editing and a bit more gestation, some smart connections and a timeline or the like, this could have been an impressive 5-star achievement; as written, it sports an assortment of serious flaws. With these, I can’t rate this as highly as I’d like to – if you are interested in the village, check it out. I have to rate the entirety, though – and for the whole packaged deal, I can’t go higher than 3 stars.


You can get this flawed, but interesting supplement/module here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.


Aug 162018

Ithreians of Porphyra

This installment of the „…of Porphyra“-series clocks in at 35 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 31 pages of content. These pages have been laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper if you print this out.


All right, so we begin this supplement with a deity write-up of Ithreia, also known as “Old Mother Owl” or as the “Queen of the Blinding Wind” – a deity of birds, sea and winter. The deity is Lawful neutral, with 4 domains and subdomains and the pilum as favored weapon. The write-up goes above what you’d expect – it also features an obedience and evangelist, exalted and sentinel boons – the second of the evangelist boons is particularly cool: It lets you tread through difficult terrain, and allies may follow in your footsteps, but only for a round! The boons, as a whole, are intriguing indeed.


As a deity associated with the elements, Ithreia is particularly loathed by the elemental lords, and her legend, realm and divine relations are explained in well-written detail, making full use of Porphyra’s unique cosmology. The write-up also sports notes on her holy texts and holdings and even features cool (get it, because ice….Ouch. Yeah, 2 cents into the bad pun jar…) aphorisms and a fully depicted spell preparation ritual. 2 meaningful and well-written religion traits are included as well, and worshipers of Ithreia can call different creatures – these minor spellcasting option changes add some nice details to the write-up. The pdf also notes divine servants. So far, so amazing!


Now, as far as class options are concerned, we get a variant of the less than impressive Accursed class that exchanged positive/negative energy resistance with cold resistance. (Boring.) The icebreaker is an archetype of the armjack hybrid class, who replaces bardic knowledge with +1/2 class level to Swim, Acrobatics, Survival, Climb profession (sailor) and Knowledge (religion) pertaining to Ithreia. Instead of versed with armor, we get Endurance and scaling cold resistance. At 6th level, the archetype can endure elements via cry to arms. The way in which the duration works here requires a bit of close reading – this could be slightly tighter. At 19th level, the archetype gains the option to use cry to arms to shatter ice/crystalline surfaces.


The pdf also sports quite a few different bardic masterpieces, with Blizzard’s Lament netting you an aura that staggers and blinds nearby targets with a save to negate. There is also one for blindsesne and one that nets allies within 30 ft. +10 (!!!) to initiative. And yes, 5th level bard spell known is hardcore, but considering how rocket launcher-tag-like high level PFRPG gaming can be, this will get nowhere near my game. A crazy prepared effect is also nice, particularly since it actually manages to be uncheesable! Huge kudos there! Fortifying targets versus cold and bleeding at the cost of initiative, Perception and susceptibility versus sleep also is interesting.


The order of the owl for the chronicler (see Prestige Archetypes) replaces well-versed with Endurance. The archetype also replaces mass suggestion with the option to call an Ithreian 11th level cleric. (And yes, statblocks are provided!) via the capstone. The druid archetype Eye of Old Mother Owl replaces nature sense with +2 to Perception and Sense Motive and is locked into a couple of choices regarding animal companions taken via nature’s bond. At 4th level, the archetype gets to cast divination spells while wild shape’d, and retain concentration on them as a move action while in wild shape. Additionally, sense fear and discern lies may be spontaneously cast and discern lies is added to the class list. This replaces resist nature’s lure. Instead of venom immunity, Perception-penalties due to distance are quartered and the druid increases range and area of divinations cast by 50%.


The hermit hybrid class gets a new illumination: +4 to Stealth and Survival in snow, and immunity to cold of up to -50°F and winds of less than hurricane force. The illumination also nets commune with birdsas the spell, may look through the eyes of a bird in long range (what happens with regular sight?), and at 8th level, the hermit knows when population is dangerously depleted or groups are ailing, as if she asked via commune with nature. Okay, does this require concentration? An action? Is it instantaneous? No idea.


There are two hunter foci: Gyrfalcon nets a scaling fly bonus, whale a scaling Survival bonus.


The keener hybrid class gets two laments: One that knocks prone a target and moves it, one that allows targets healed to stand up as a swift action or move 5 ft., even through difficult terrain, sans AoOs. Does the latter count as a 5 ft. step or not?


We also get new kineticist wild talents: Sheltering Snow is a utility wild talent, which lets you make walls of ice and tiny hut, with 1 Burn cost to make it last longer. Squall infusion can be applied to cold blasts and has no burn cost: It dazzles the target on a failed save, regardless if the target was damaged or not. Witheout is another substance infusion is cool: It makes your kinetic blast, the squares it moves through and area of effect provide concealment; at 2 burn cost, this is feasible.


The gyrfalcon of the blinding wind paladin must choose a mount, which must be a roc. Instead of spellcasting, the paladin gets to forage potions, which is damn cool – particularly since this class feature may not be cheesed – only a limited amount may be maintained, and the scaling is sensible. The aura of justice is replaced with…+10 to initiative, +4 for nearby allies. OP as all hell. Kill it with fire. The paladins of Ithreia may remove penalties to ability scores (NOT damage or drain!) with a mercy and fortify allies with a bonus to Fort saves and temporary hit points.


The cool quartermaster class gets the pack tinkerer archetype, who receives Ride as a class skill instead of Linguistics. The archetype gets a cavalier’s mount and may apply inspection only to it. Similarly, trap evasion only applies to it. Unique and cool: Instead of repurpose mechanism, the archetype can teach his animal to activate, ready or deploy items! Love this little engine tweak. The singing Guide ranger must chooses companions as bond and may share ½ favored terrain bonuses and Endurance with allies. The archetype never falls as a result of a botched Climb checks, never falls prone on ice or due to a vessel’s movement. 11th level nets a blindsense granting song that upgrades at higher levels and replaces quarry. There is a share sense based shaman hex with scaling range and we get two shifter aspects: The gyrfalcon one is based on the falcon and replaces the minor form benefit with scaling Fly-bonuses. The Whale aspect does pretty much what you’d expect: Minor form is analogue to the hunter aspect, major provides whale-associated tricks. Nothing spectacular. Finally, storm rider skalds replaces song of strength, dirge of doom and song of the fallen with custom raging songs: The base one if a cold blast; group flight and swimming and storm control make these nice. Well-versed and versatile performance are exchanged for counting as larger for withstanding winds and scaling cold resistance.


The pdf also includes a total of 10 spells that focus on Ithreia’s strong leitmotifs: The cold spells here are nice and do more than just damage, and having a spell that interacts with bardic performance in place is interesting: It nets you early flight as a level 2 spell, but requires maintenance of bardic performance and thus wrecks Stealth. It may also be discharged to reroll an attack roll, which is an interesting tactical angle. Using a spell to prepare a domain/subdomain spell (prepared casters only) is also intriguing. Particularly impressive here would be the spell that manages to preserve other spells – the rules-language here is impressive indeed and it is not cheesable! I really liked this spell section.


The magic item section provides a custom blue bag of chosen tricks, basically the ithreian version of the classic item, as well as three new figurines of wondrous power: opal gyrfalcon, pearl owl and sapphire whale.These are more potent in the hands of Ithreians, which is something I enjoy and a notion I’d very much love to see more of in the final version of the Porphyra RPG, but that as an aside. A glass to see through snow and ice is here, and what really made me smile: Remember that preserve spell trick I mentioned? Well, ithreians get an item class that are LITERALLY spells in preservation jars. Great meta-commentary and a way to make them, well, fun!


We end the pdf with a CR orcam armjack icebreaker and a CR 10 harpy cleric.



Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games’ no-frills 1-column standard with purple highlights and the pdf sports a few really nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes with EXCESSIVE bookmarks, making navigation both easy and comfortable.


David N. Ross is a very precise designer; he has created quite a few of my favorite class options and tricks out there, from covenant magic to his illuminates and shadow weaver, there are several neat examples of what he’s capable of. This depiction of the followers of a deity is admirable in the best of ways: Ithreia and her followers come to life in this little pdf: The class options breathe the leitmotifs of their patron deity and establish a sense of cohesion and consistency I love to see. I hope that faiths and how they are presented by Purple Duck Games in the future will adhere to similar principles. Beyond the flavor, the pdf manages to provide quite a bunch of complex rules-operations within its surprisingly extensive collection of engine-tweak archetypes and class options. Now, there are a few instances where the rules are slightly less tight, but that wouldn’t irk me. I’m flabbergasted, though, by the ignorance pertaining the gross power of initiative boosts this has. The massive initiative boosts a few options herein grant are ridiculously potent in the right hands and should be purged with extreme prejudice, marring an otherwise compelling and flavorful tome.


That being said, these components are easy to nerf and should not dissuade you from checking this out. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, but I’m afraid I can’t round up for it.


You can get this pdf here on OBS!


You can directly support Purple Duck Games here on patreon!


Missed the cool quartermaster? You can find the class here!


The Hermit class can be found here!


The Armjack class can be found here!


The Keener class can be found here!


The Prestige Archetypes compilation can be found here!


Endzeitgeist out.


Aug 162018

The Manor #9 (OSR)

The 9th installment of the Manor-‘zine clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means you could theoretically fit up o 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this ‘zine.


Now, first things first: Unlike previous iterations of the ‘zine, this one assumed the Swords & Wizardry Light (SWL) rules set as the default OSR-rules-set employed. As always, conversion to other old-school systems remains relatively simple. Upgrades to Swords & Wizardry Continual Light (SWCL) are simple enough, but are not done for you – you’ll have to extend the level-range by hand beyond 3rd.


After an introductory page, we get something I applaud: Actual gods for the clerics featured in the minimalistic rules of the SWCL –and each of the gods noted here are defined by basically a tweak on the cleric base class, differentiating between the adherents of different gods. I wholeheartedly welcome this notion, and 4 such gods and associated cleric variants are provided, the first of whom would be the exemplar, devoted to the War God Sarranth. Exemplars get linear HD progression (1 per level) until third level. Saves start at 14 and improve by one every level, and in a helpful manner (if you want to upgrade to SWCL), BHB is noted to improve at first and 4th level. (SWL only goes up to 3rd level). The exemplars have no armor or weapon restrictions and favor spears. They get +2 to saves versus death and poisons and gain a first level spell slot at 1st level. Taking cure wounds I nets the inverse as well. Their turn ability inflicts 1d3/class level against undead instead of the usual benefit and beginning equipment is noted.


The clerics of Delaquain are called Lions, and their base chassis is identical to the Exemplars, save that they may choose a 1st level spell at 1st level to choose from either cleric or magic-user list and they get normal turning. Curates, the cleric of Lavinia, a goddess of healing, have the same HD and save-progression, but only get a BHB at 3rd level, which makes extrapolating higher level BHB gains a tad bit harder when upgrading to SWCL. They are restricted to leather armor and daggers and staves, get the same save bonus vs. death and poisons, and they get a 1st level spell slot at 1st level and “additional Cure Wounds I” – the verbiage could be a tad bit clearer here. Their turning paralyzes undead, but requires maintenance each round, which is a nice compromise and preferable to the oftentimes annoying fleeing. The clerics of Possimium, a god of nocturnal creatures, share the chassis of the Curates, and are known as Parsons. They share the rules chassis of Curates, but have no armor restrictions, are limited to blunt weapons and get the 1st level spell slot as well as access to the charm person spell. They turn undead normally.


As a whole, I found myself enjoying these cleric kits/specializations. They offer solid tweaks on the class, and, while rules-verbiage isn’t always perfect, add some much needed flavor to SWL-clerics without unduly complicating the simplicity of the system.


The next page provides 6 different monster traits that cover classic abilities for SWL monsters – these include burrowing, being diseased, a concisely defined drain ability, pack mentality, etc. A 3d6 random encounters section is helpful, though it should be noted that monster damage does increase beyond SWL’s confines – the hill giant, for example, inflicts 2d6. This is analogue to SWCL, but, deepening on what you’re looking for, is something to bear in mind. Nice: The random encounters are not simply lists of critters – each one has a bit of lore and a small description to contextualize it. Treasure, if any, is noted.


The next chapter provides the Crooked Man, which would be something cool: A semi-legal dungeon-tavern that sometimes is open, sometimes isn’t – it can be slotted painlessly into even mega-dungeon campaigns and sports notes on determining randomly the beverages available. The tavern also comes with a nice b/w-full-page map that is player-friendly! Big kudos! The write-up also includes three fully statted NPCs, all of whom receive their own, nice b/w-artworks. The pdf concludes with explaining the concepts of hard silver and death coins.



Editing and formatting are pretty good – not perfect, but better than in some installments. Layout adheres to a no-frills b/w-1-column standard and the pdf sports surprisingly nice b/w-artworks. The b/w-cartography similarly is pretty neat – doubly so since you can easily use the map as a handout. Kudos indeed! Alas, the ‘zine does not have any bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.


Tim Shorts’ ninth installment of The Manor benefits from using SWL/SWCL as the rules-set. It’s obvious that the author likes and enjoys the system, and similarly, the rules are tighter than they sometimes were in the past. While a few deviations from strict conventions and the like exist, this inexpensive ‘zine does offer some fun options for fans of the stripped-down, rules-lite iteration of Swords & Wizardry. Now, it doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but it is a fun and handy offering. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.


You can get this ‘zine here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Aug 162018

Rampaging Monsters (revised edition) (NGR)

The revised edition of this little generator clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page inside of back cover (with a nice little artwork of a slimy golem thanking us for the reading the file, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


So, as we’ve come to expect by Zzarchov Kowolski’s books, this one sports a rather neat and dry sense of humor, evident from the introduction onwards – sometimes, you don’t have the time to prepare a new plot, right? You’ll need filler, because “that Golden Girls marathon doesn’t watch itself”, to paraphrase the supplement. Well, the solution this booklet proposes is to generate a rampaging monster that scours the countryside!


The generator provided here indeed allows you to generate a creature, depending on your speed and familiarity with Neoclassical Geek Revival (NGR)-rules, in less than 5 minutes, so the convenience angle is definitely fulfilled – you could, in theory, do this behind the screen while the PCs are shopping, for example. Now, an important note here: Unlike many offerings by the author, this is NOT a dual-statted NGR/OSR-product – we have only Neoclassical Geek Revival support here and thus this does not translate too well to e.g. S&W or LL since NGR (which you should check out!) is pretty far away from standard OSR-rules.


All righty, that out of the way, how do we proceed? Well, first, we think about the monster’s size in relation to humans and then, we take a look at attributes – 6 values are provided, allowing you to quickly and easily generate scores with descriptors – very dexterous monsters would have Agility (A) 16, very clumsy ones instead Agility 7 – simple, quick, convenient. If in doubt, you revert to rolling 3d6. Now, in the new version, these pieces of information are clearly assigned mini-tables, and they employ one-letter abbreviations – this is made possible due to some rules-nomenclature changes of the system in its latest iteration. Then, you determine how a monster behaves and assign pies to the monster as though it was an NPC. Does it stalk its prey? Rogue. Bruiser? Fighter. Does it spread plague? Priest. You get the idea. While not all abilities may seem like they seamlessly apply, the pdf provides a bit of guidance there. The new iteration also provides a suggestion for when pie pieces of fool would make sense.


Here, the pdf becomes actually valuable beyond convenience for the GM – for next up, we get combat tricks…and if you recall my review of NGR, you should know how much I like the modular combat and its tactical depth…in spite of how easy to grasp and run it is. Size 8 monsters may e.g. damage foes by jumping up and down; shaking vigorously can cost grappled targets their actions, etc. – while these may not look like much, they can actually be employed in rather cool ways. If you’re like me and absolutely ADORED “Shadow of the Colossus” back in the PS2-era, you may be smiling right now – yep, the content herein does allow you to create such scenes…though, this being NGR, they will be much deadlier than in SoC…but the cheers will be louder. Believe me. Snatch attacks, knock-down assault with wings…pretty cool. This design-paradigm also extends to innate monster spells, which translate just as seamlessly to NGR. The examples cover the cool basics – breathing fire. Breathing exploding balls of fire…and LAZER-EYES[sic!]. Yes, this is a misspelling in the pdf. Yes, it made me cringe. Still, laser-eyes? Heck yes! Here, we can also see some system-changes: Breathing explosive balls of fire, for example, now either affects areas or Long Missile Range, and the innate spells of monsters no longer have a complexity rating, which makes sense to me.


Anyways, so now we have a monster…but why does it rampage? Motivation is up next – 6 basic ones, ranging from hunger to greed and malice, add at least a little bit of depth to the critter created.


Need a hamlet to destroy? Roll a d12 and a d8 and compare it with a table of 24 entries – 12 for the first part and 12 for the second part of the name. The position of the dice denote which one you’ll use for the first part and which for the second. These names will also hint at the peculiarities of the place – hamlets named “Carp-something” will e.g. sport ponds etc. Now, the new version has the two columns more cleanly laid out, so that’s a plus.

The pdf sports 4 sample rewards for slaying the critter.


Finally, if you absolutely have 0 time left, a sample giant, a big statue, a wyrm and a T-rex are provided, should you need a monster to drop immediately. The presentation of these monster stats imho really benefits from the new presentation: It’s clearer, using bolding and smart structure to make reading the statblocks swifter. Obviously, the stats have been revised and adjusted to reflect the new version of the game as well. However, in the new version, we get more: A wyvern, a giant skull floating in a pool of ectoplasms, a giant spider and a cockatrice complement this section now, doubling the sample monsters featured.



Editing and formatting are good – I noticed no glaring issues in the rules and only minor typos. Layout adheres to a nice, printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard. The pdf use fitting b/w-artwork, but is mostly text – the pdf’s new layout is much cleaner and makes the pdf easier to read. Information is compartmentalized better, and the overall impression is one of a more professional file. Utterly puzzling: In stark contrast to the previous version of the file, this one has no bookmarks, making navigation slightly harder.


Zzarchov Kowolski’s little toolkit is still helpful, fun and easy to use; in particular the combat tricks and monster abilities, both mundane and magical, made me smile from ear to ear. The generator does what it’s intended to do…and yet, it made me realize how much I would have liked a full-blown monster-expansion book for NGR. The tricks and abilities presented are cool and fun and made me crave more…to the point, where I almost lost sight of what this tries to be and what it doesn’t try to be. This is not a big monster-enhancer toolbox for NGR – it is a generator for the time-starved referee caught unprepared…and though I very much would have loved to see a big monster book, and though this made me CRAVE more, it would not be fair to rate this generator according to a premise which it never intended to fulfill. As a generator for monsters ravaging the country-side, this does a great job – not a perfect one (it is hampered a bit by its economical size and the corresponding loss of depth that it could have had), but yeah. Now, while it *looks* like the revised version is shorter, that’s not the case – the new presentation is just tighter, and we actually get more content! While I’d usually contemplate upgrading my final verdict, the loss of bookmarks in the revised edition does partially mitigate the benefits of the streamlined layout and additional content. Thus, this remains a neat book for NGR-referees that is well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.


You can get this revised edition here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.