Jan 172019
 

Star Log.EM: Levialogi (SFRPG)

You *know* you want to inflict these on your players…

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

With an original debut in PFRPG’s Paranormal Adventures, levialogi were high-CR threats, tailor-made to withstand the punishment that high-level PCs can dish out, designed to NOT be a wet paper-towel under stress…suffice to say, I absolutely loved them to bits, and now, they have come to Starfinder!

In a great bit of encrypted (and already decoded) introductory prose, we are introduced to the threat of the levialogi, with [redacted] components enhancing the atmosphere generated from the get-go. Originally, levialogi were inspired by the Leviathan as depicted in the Supernatural TV-series, and as such, their original shape is pretty much liquid. Encountering flesh, it can rewrite the creature’s genetic code, creating indistinguishable copies of the originals, stalking among mortals. Careful and calculating, they are intelligent and combine themes of doppelgangers, body horror and cthulhoid horror. And I mean horror. They are genuinely frightening.

Their bites ignore all DR, and when they devour at least a light bulk’s worth of flesh, they can assume that flesh’s owner’s appearance. With a ton of immunities and resistances, they thus retain a crucial function they had in PF, perhaps doing that aspect even better: Know this anticlimactic scene, when player cheers turn muted as they realize that their strategy/insane luck has just one-shotted/crited to smithereens this cool adversary? When being really good isn’t as fun anymore? Enter these fellows. Unbeknown to the PCs, the mastermind was a levialogos, and bam, suddenly, the combat turns into a whole new thing! Beyond immunities, they also have regeneration and DR, both of which are notoriously hard to deal with – and full functionality is provided, in that the levialogi get a full subtype graft write-up that codifies traits and how they can emulate class-based abilities, all perfectly in line with the Alien Archive’s graft-system.

The pdf also contains three sample statblocks – the CR 1 Cessilogos that still has to consume an appearance, and the mighty CR 20 Erythologos (with soldier tricks), as well as the CR 25 Leucologos, who seems to have feasted on an operative. Their stats are within the parameters of what you’d expect from really difficult targets – as a minor nitpick, the Leucologos’ EAC and KAC are not properly bolded. A minor nitpick that won’t influence the verdict: It would have behooved the pdf to mention that devour appearance’s class graft granting does not provide the benefits of the class graft’s adjustments, if any. While this can be deduced from studying the Alien Archive, it may be a minor stumbling stone for less experienced GMs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Star Log.EM’s two-column full-color standard, and the artwork is neat. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ levailogi have been translated exceedingly well to Starfinder. Indeed, I do believe they may fit Starfinder better than Pathfinder; the statblocks are solid (though some signature tricks would have been nice – but then again, their subtype already provides a ton of them…), but the subtype graft is where the gold lies. The levialogi graft just plain rocks, and I’m sure to use it in the future! It makes creating them swift and painless, and allows crafty GMs to create a failsafe to make sure that, even if in the future power-creep changes the power-balance of SFRPG, the old materials can still be sued…just add in a levialogi subplot and add some serious staying power to the big bad guys and gals and other things… A nice toolkit indeed, this gets my recommendation at 5 stars + seal of approval.

You can get these amazing threats here on OBS!

Seal of approval, baby! You can check out the artist that made this cool rendition of my seal by clicking here!


Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 172019
 

Kobayashi Maroon (OSR)

Yep, that scene on the cover actually happens in this supplement…

The first part of what once was supposedly the last Alpha Blue supplement, released on its own as this file, clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page kort’thalis glyph, 1 page blank, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As always, the following disclaimer applies. Alpha Blue is a gleeful parody of 70’s/80’s scifi porn spoofs, and doesn’t take itself seriously; there is puerile humor, drawn nudity and the like herein. If you are offended by naked bodies or the like, then steer clear. This supplement makes use of Alpha Blue’s iteration of Venger’s rules-lite VSd6-dice pool system, which is based on d6s, so mechanically, there isn’t that much depth (unless you combine all the disparate optional rules spread throughout Alpha Blue’s catalogue), but since the main-draw here would be concepts anyhow, I don’t see why you couldn’t create stats of the like for systems like “Stars Without Number”, should you choose to do so. If beer-and-pretzels gaming is what you’re looking for, then stick to Alpha Blue, obviously. I assume familiarity with Alpha Blue in my review, so if you have no clue about the setting, I’d invite you to read my reviews of its supplements. I’ve covered all of them released up to this one, and if you read this in a couple of months/weeks after release, probably all of the,

The supplement does start with a couple of pieces of advice for roleplaying in Alpha Blue, easing them into the more explicit themes.

All right, that out of the way, let’s dive in! The following discussion contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only BDSMs (Bold Dungeon Space Masters) around? Great! The PCs start aboard the vessel “Get Woke Go Broke”, when they witness a distress signal by the space-luxury line “The Vanessa”, which is breaking apart due to proximity to a pink hole. The first set-piece lists a bullet-point suggestion of what may entail when the PCs do enter the rare space phenomenon. Some suggestions for strategies to save the folks will help – but in the aftermath, the PCs will witness a Great Old one oozing from the hole, asking them its favorite color – further exacerbating the situation, and potentially killing PCs for answering incorrectly. And yes, as the title suggests, this was a simulation – and the PCs get to roll on random tables if they shat their pants. But why? There are 6 random reasons for having subjected yourself to it. All of this fits on two pages, and as you make have noted, this is pretty much an adventure outline.

The second chapter, episode #2, starts as a solo-adventure, but may be quickly expanded to cater to a whole crew of PCs. This episode takes place during Pr0n Fa’ar – the Vulcan parody should be readily apparent for everyone. The module begins with read-aloud text that references a Hendrix song, as well as a wife wanting to take the space cardboard with you. I…could relate there. Minus space, obviously. XD As the PC returns, he finds himself cuckolded by an alien, and, to make things worse, the no-longer-BAE lady has actually been an agent in disguise all these years. Both the alien and the unfaithful wife are btw. fully stated, in case the first reaction of the PC has something to do with an itchy trigger-finger…or otherwise existent pseudopod. Going through Agent Spectra (true name of the wife)’s phone will yield a reference to a space station, where the agent is not there – his vorpal whoopee-cushion, though, is. (Including a d8 appendage severing table.) Random (and kinda funny): If the agent-contact is killed (stats provided), the PCs will be teleported by his failsafe device into the middle of a Mexican standoff between S’pock, two martians from Sesame Street (I meant, the Seza’ame System…), Fade Hardkockian, Clint Eastwood…and a Tron Girl, for a fat battle royale – for the price of the last female of an all but extinct species, including sexual encounter aftermath random table. Funnier than the first one (objective though that may be), I enjoyed this quick series of encounters more than the first scenario; it’s more of an adventure, and less of an outline.

Episode 3 is the longest of the 3 short modules and begins with a read-aloud message for zith lord try-outs, with a fortune and the right of the first night in the whole system. Thus, they are sent to a big VIP-laden party, which is supplemented by 8 sample, suspicious NPCs. This section also has notes on “safe language”, which translates to being penalized for blowing stuff out of proportions. Space muslims attack the party, and when a bonafide zith lord enters, things can become more dangerous…though the contest for the title may also be resolved via a vagina eating contest, which is resolved in a quick and dirty (haha) mini-game with the usual dice pool mechanics.

The pdf also has a rule for sneak attacks, a d100 table of “WTF are NPCs doing right now” (and a d6 table to determine how they take the interruption)…and, apart from the backstab rules, also a pretty interesting optional rule – for blue balls (or ovaries, I guess): Not having sex in Alpha Blue, with this system, will brutally penalize you, the less often you get off. 7 steps, from bonuses to brutal penalties, are provided, and the pdf comes with a Blue Ball tracker (also included as separate pdfs in color and mono). This brings me to one point: Right now, the best rules of Alpha Blue are spread out over x supplements. At one point, a second edition that collects a new array of core rules may be a smart move. Just sayin’, since this is a nice method to gamify and reward roleplaying in convention with the system’s lewd themes. It should also be noted that an 8-name table (with a column for male, female and non-binary entities) is provided, and we do get stats for none other than Venger Satanis himself, who btw. *does* come with full stats. He’s brutal.

As you could glean here and there, there are a few politically charged terms used herein, which may or may not annoy you. It is not my place as a reviewer of RPG products to comment on the lampooning of these terms in a product for a game that focuses on parody.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level; Venger’s (pardon, Zoltan’s) rules-fu precision has increased. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes with several nice full-color artworks, which of course feature nudity. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Venger’s (Pardon, I mean: Zoltar Khan Delgado’s) Kobayashi Maroon collection alternates in its usability somewhat. The great premise of the eponymous scenario, episode #1, is somewhat marred by being little more than a sketch; while the second episode does feel a bit random, it is also wild – the scene on the cover? That actually happens in the adventure! The third scenario is a bit more straight-forward. While they all have wild vignettes, they ultimately feel like brief sidetreks – which they are. The presence of proper stats for all involved is a plus, though, and the optional rules herein rank among the best in the whole series. Frankly, the blue-ball tracker mechanic is smart, and having a visual representation helps. Backstab rules are overdue as well – these rules should become core, should there ever be a second edition of Alpha Blue.

So yeah, within the confines of the rules-lite VSd6-system, the rules were my favorites here; simple, cleanly presented, easy to grasp, fun. This may actually be the first Alpha Blue supplement where I genuinely liked the rules presented and what they bring to the Alpha Blue table more than the modules/adventure outlines did. If you’re no fan of Alpha Blue, this will not change your mind. If you like what you’ve seen so far, this provides more of the same, with some cool vignettes, but ultimately, the variant rules will be the biggest drawing point…with the probably and notable exception of the scene on the cover. Which is pure, glorious madness.

That being said, while Venger, äh, Zoltar, has definitely improved the structure of his writing, I couldn’t help but wish that one of these scenarios had instead been extended to proper module length. As written, Alpha Blue has a metric ton of sketch-like vignettes, but not that much in the vein of longer modules – at least not without the GM extrapolating from Venger/Zoltar’s outlines. All in all, I found this to be an enjoyable addition to Alpha Blue’s canon, though the influx of politically-charged terms may irk some folks. It’s not the best supplement in the product line, but for the low price point, it represents a fair offering. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

You can get this bonkers supplement here on OBS!

Like my shiny 4-stars-icon? You can find the artist by clicking here!


Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 162019
 

Eldritch Elementalism

This supplement clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, though, as always for Legendary Games, these are cock-full with content – many other publishers wouldn’t have crammed this much text on a given page.

Okay, so, in a way, this pdf represents partially a player’s option booklet, partially a GM’s toolkit that also is somewhat relevant for players…but in order to explain that, we should take one step at a time.

Upon opening the pdf, we are greeted with something I did not expect, but very much enjoyed: The book presents us with a variety of ecologies for the respective elementals for the 4 core elements. This may sound like a small thing, but to me, text like this helps getting the creative juices going, and indeed, few beings require this little help as much as elementals do…but I’ll get back to what I mean by that later.

For now, let us take a look at the two new archetypes, which both aim to fill a hole in the rules regarding elemental-themed support. The first of these would be the elemental channeler druid archetype, who receives Knowledge (planes) as a class skill and chooses an elemental focus among the 4 core elements. For the focus, the channeler gets a +1 bonus to CL when casting spells with the corresponding descriptor. This also determines the opposing element. The archetype has diminished spellcasting, but gains access to a kineticist’s simple blast associated with the chosen element, with 6th level increasing the range of the blast to 120 ft. – and another ability nets basic aerokinesis for air, geokinesis for earth – you get the idea. The elemental channeler treats the latter as at-will SPs. Nature bond, nature sense and wild empathy are lost for these abilities, though. At 3rd level, the elemental channeler can learn a 1st level utility wild talent associated with the chosen elemental focus, which becomes an at-will SP or SU, depending on the utility wild talent in question. Every 3 levels beyond that yield an additional such utility wild talent, which must be of a level equal to half the elemental channeler’s class level or lower. Instead of being governed by Constitution, they use Wisdom as governing key ability modifier, and instead of accepting burn, they are powered by expending a spell slot of a spell level equal to the wild talent’s level.

The archetype can also choose to learn the element’s defense wild talent, though here, the spell slot expenditure required is equal to the amount of burn accepted. Instead of woodland stride and trackless step, we get different abilities depending on the chosen element. Instead of resist nature’s lure, we have a bonus to spells and effects originating from elemental creatures with the druid’s subtype. A purely cosmetic hiccup: A bit of a sentence here is bolded that shouldn’t be. This does not impede functionality, though. Wild shape is altered to allow the druid to assume elemental form, counting as +2 level for the purpose of assuming the form of the chosen element, but prohibiting her from assuming the form of the opposed elemental. Instead of a thousand faces, the archetype, finally, has an apotheosis to native outsider with the chosen element’s subtype, but sans the immunity/vulnerability, and with the explicit caveat of that not hampering raising from the dead. All in all, an interesting kineticist-y engine tweak for the druid.

The second archetype within would be the elemental witch, who is locked into Elements, light, Mountains, Storms, Water or Winter as patron. The elemental witch chooses a single element to focus on, and the choice is in part determined by the patron chosen, and the elemental witch does not have an opposed element. At 6th level, the witch may choose to gain another elemental supremacy in place of a hex, and she may select several, provided they are allowed by the patron chosen. Subsequent choices after the one at 1st level are treated as witch level minus 5, though. We get custom elemental supremacy effects for each of the elements, and I was surprised to see some interesting angles here – air, for example, allows you to ignore wind effects up to a certain strength, while also providing +2 to Fly, a bonus that increases over the levels. Air descriptor spells get a +1 CL, and the supremacy includes an at-will SP, with 5th, 10th and 20th level providing upgrades in the face of additional SPs and better defensive tricks. This paradigm applies to all of these supremacies, though in different ways. Beyond supremacies aligned with the 4 core elements, we also have a supremacy for cold and storms.

At 4th level or whenever she gains a new hex, the witch may choose Improved Familiar instead, gaining an elemental patron associated with the respective patron. 6th level nets elemental shape, basically a wild shape variant for elemental shapes only. Minor complaint: One reference to elemental body I is not italicized properly. The ability upgrades at 8th, 10th and 12th level, with durations and uses per day increasing per level. The ability replaces the 6th and 12th level abilities. The archetype also may choose from among 8 unique major hexes, which include Augment Summoning elemental summoning, and the option to grant some supremacy benefits to other summoned creatures. We also have a cyclone, a crashing wave that can push targets away, etc. – these are interesting, and, you guessed it, contingent on the patrons chosen. All in all, a nice archetype!

The pdf also contains 5 feats…for elementals! Smothering Grapple is a feat for air and water elementals, and allows an elemental to suffocate grappled targets. Manifest Armaments is an overdue trick for elementals, allowing them to manifest armor and weaponry, with unique benefits depending on the elemental subtype – air elementals have weaker armor, but get scaling miss chances, for example, while earthen armor is better, but bulky, and thus subject to an increased armor check penalty.  Improved Manifest Armaments increases the range of the base feat, now allowing for the creation of medium armors and two-handed weaponry, or light and one-handed weapon at once. Cool! Manifest Earthen Bulwark increases DR granted by the armors, and unlocks heavy armor equivalents. (As an aside: The feat is called “Earthen” because it’s earth-exclusive.)

Shape Summons is a key-feat here – it’s not for elementals, but for their summoners, allowing the summoner to apply elemental templates to called elementals. This brings me to the lion’s share of the book’s content, namely what I always wanted – rules-relevant tweaks to diversify elementals, here, in the guise of a plethora of templates that may be applied to elementals. Before you ask, yes, interactions with planar ally et al. are covered, and each of the templates comes with a sample creature, many of which come with actual full-color artworks! One of these fellows you can see on the cover – it’s an air elemental with the CR +1 avian template applied, the “Roc of the Gales.” We also get templates for cephalopod elementals, exemplified in application…by the sky squid! The pdf does contain rules for the CR +2 draconic elemental template (yep, they’re indeed harder than regular elementals…) and, as you could probably deduce from aforementioned Armament feats, there is the humanoid elemental template, which, also at +1, would be a great place to note that the respective sample creatures are NOT just lazy applications of the base template. Instead, e.g. the sample humanoid elemental does make use of the new feats…and has class levels. (As a cosmetic note: The armor class-header is not bolded in the template.) Predatory elementals take the form of hunting animals and beasts, while piscine elementals – bingo, resemble fish…and yes, you *can* make a piscine fire elemental! Finally, there would also be serpentine elementals – the last three all clock in at CR +1, btw.

However, beyond these roughly creature-shape-themed elemental templates, there is more to be found within: Consuming elementals, at CR +1, can consume the elemental energy, and a kinetic blast-based breath weapon. Speaking of which: The kinetic elemental gets kineticist tricks that improve based on HD. A pleasant surprise for me was the presence of the CR +1 radioactive elemental template, which draws upon the Technology Guide’s radiation rules, with HD governing radiation strength. The sample critter here is particularly neat: We get a consuming radioactive kinetic humanoid earth elemental with invulnerable rager levels! CR 17. You *know* you want to send this fellow to kick your PC’s behinds! On the more down to earth side, the unbound elemental template at CR +0 represents a more mutable elemental.

Beyond all of these, the pdf also contains two eldritch elementals as a bonus of sorts: The Flamboyant Flame, a CR 13 humanoid fire elemental swashbuckler that masquerades as a graceful efreeti – and yes, we have notes to call this fellow via planar ally. And then there would be the endboss. If your players ever laughed about the notion of a campaign ending in a battle versus an elemental that is not a prince or, well Tharizdunian in theme, here you go: Infernatrox, the Draconic Conflagration, is an advanced draconic mythic fire elemental that clocks in at a cute CR 25/MR 10. AC 47, an ability called “Immortal Flame” that not only has him detonate upon death, but makes it possible for allies to quickly and fully revive the fellow, an ability called “Everything Burns” that bypasses all resistance and immunities of nonmythic targets and also compromises that of mythic beings…and I’m just getting started. An interesting thing about this brutal beast, though, is that it is designed to reward planning and clever PCs. Several abilities have specific means to offset them – yep, mythic characters *can*, with a clever trick, benefit from resistances and immunities versus his flames. In a way, this is a great build that is both mechanically interesting and a small puzzle of sorts. Really enjoyed this fellow!

Conclusion:

Editing is very good on a formal and rules-language level. Formatting sports a few more glitches than what I’m accustomed to see from Legendary Games, but none of them are impediments to grasping the concepts within. Layout adheres to the blue-tinted two-column full-color standard of the reign of Winter-plugins, and the pdf sports quite a few nice full-color artworks. While I had known a few before, I also found several new ones within. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Deborah Kammerzell, Chris van Horn and Jason Nelson have crafted a pdf I frankly did not expect to like. At all. When I read “elemental” on most books, I get this immediate yawn-reflex. I have seen elemental options done so often, and often so well, that I am hard to excite. However, the simple form-templates for elementals in this book really serve a niche: they provide a quick and painless, fun toolkit for the GM to finally make elementals top being so damn boring. If you have ever bemoaned that e.g. no birds of lightning, no fish of fire graced your table, here you have an array of templates that elevates elementals from boring hunks of elemental matter to actually interesting adversaries that get players talking: That eel of lightning sure was creepy, right? Anyhow, if there is a minor weakness here, then that would be that I would have loved to see a few more outré templates for the elementals. Predatory, for example, is a pretty simple one, and not all of them are equally exciting. However, that is me complaining at a high level. The pdf does have its genius moments, and some of the sample elementals indeed go above and beyond.

All in all, this represents a pleasant surprise, and as such, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars – a super-handy toolkit for GMs, and particularly if you’re too lazy to make all these small templates yourself, a real time-saver. (Plus: Sample critters rock!)

You can get these cool elementals and the related material here on OBS!

An excellent offering! Like my shiny 5-stars-icon? You can check out the artist’s designs by clicking here!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 162019
 

Night Soil #ZERO (DCC)

The #ZERO issue of the Night Soil ‘zine for DCC clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, laid out in approximately 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), meaning that you can theoretically fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this.

As the editorial page makes clear, the theme of Night Soil as a ‘zine would be art – or, to be more precise, the art of the 4th printing of the DCC core rules. Basically, we get rules that correspond to the artworks in that book. Thus, content herein is not governed by type of material, but instead, in its sequence of the artworks that inspired their respective creation. While I do get the notion here, from a purely practical point of view, I am not particularly happy with this decision, as it ultimately makes finding a specific bit of content harder if you’re e.g. looking for a magic item. On the other hand, if you’re skimming through the DCC core rules for inspiration and flip this open right next to you, well, then it works as intended…but still is, at least in my book, somewhat inconvenient.

Anyhow, I will attempt to structure this review by content, not be the sequence of the art that inspired it. All right? Great! So, another thing you have to know, is that this ‘zine follows the tradition of e.g. many articles in Gongfarmer’s Almanac and similar ‘zines (Yep, do own those – however, as they’re free/at-cost for print compilations, I won’t review them unless tasked to do so by my patreon supporters) for DCC, in that it employs a quasi-type-writer style font. While this obviously is intended as a draw for nostalgia, as a callback to the old days of DIY-‘zines, it’s not a decision I am particularly fond of. While DCC is not exactly intense and hard to grasp regarding its formatting conventions, the adherence to this typewriter-style font means that even basic formatting conventions like bolding and italicization of certain rules-materials, are not properly implemented within. In essence, the pdf chooses nostalgia over convenience, and while DCC is not as reliant on such formatting conventions, they do exist for a reason. They make processing information simpler and quicker. For me, this is a definite drawback.

Anyhow, the first piece of content within would be a monster, the terrordactyl (guess what that fellow is), which has a nasty stench and can actually insta-gib you on a natural 20. Not a fan of that one. As an aside note – the movement ratings throughout the ‘zine tend to lack the feet-indicator, presenting only the number. I know. I’m nitpicking. Phlogiston elementals are more interesting – pretty powerful at between 6d6 and 10d6 HD, they have act 1d20 + 1d14 and are more vulnerable versus wooden weapons, while metal ones are less efficient. I like this type of design paradigm. We also get somewhat unremarkable stats for unicorns, that are primarily relevant due to the notes on using them as mounts. The coolest creature herein, both conceptually and mechanically, would be the lobsterclops: Beating the fellow on initiative isn’t necessarily beneficial, and its tongue-lick can cause freakouts on a failed Will-save. Cool! Stalking demons are pretty creepy, and can wreck your movement until there literally is no escape.

The pdf also has brief notes on dogmen, who can only advance to 3rd level in cleric, thief, warrior and wizard. These fellows are Small, have a 1d3+Strength modifier bite attack, get a keen sense of smell, and bones they discover that are used for magical effects get a whopping 40% increase when employed in the presence of the dogman. They are easily distracted, though, and must make Personality checks to avoid being distracted, which translates to losing an Action Die when confronted with such stimulants, or move a step down the dice chain when saving. On the semi-stat-like side, we have a brief write-up for catbat familiars, as well as for zombie retainers, and one for “Death Guards” – basically schmucks that have been indoctrinated to think that they have great fighting powers – which they don’t have. However, as long as enough of them are standing, they actually can rise above their crappy stats via 4 different inspirational tactics, though the verbiage here could be clearer: Do all guards get the benefits? Can each choose their own benefit? Can the group use a total of one trick per encounter, or is that tracked by death guard? And finally: Why, for f***’s sake, per encounter. Per encounter mechanics have never made any form of in-game sense.  *insert my tired old rant and examples*

Now, the ‘zine also contains a collection of different magic items: Horseshoes of returning are certainly one of the most inconspicuous weapons I can think of, and they are particularly intended for halfling use and for thieves. Speaking of halflings: The pipe of contentment can only be used once every two days and takes a calm hour to smoke. Upon finishing the pipe, the user gets either a temporary luck boost on a failed Fort-save, or a longer lasting temporary luck boost and also heal Intelligenceor Personality damage. Halflings get better boosts and proceed to heal the two attribute damage types faster for a couple of days. A brief sequence also notes 4 uses for a dead giant, which mentions the skull being desirable as a witch’s cauldron (sans mechanics) and effects of feasting on the flesh of a giant personally killed. 5 effects are provided. The other uses are closer to story-relevant and turned out to be pretty cool: Polar kraken bait? Heck yeah! Vorpal swords get an interesting mechanic: 1-in30 chance of decapitating the target on a critical hit, which increases by 1 every time the decapitation’s not rolled. *Sigh* Hand me the bag of kittens…I’ll start slaughtering until the heads-off effect is higher… Aethereal quarterstaffs can only be held by one of 3 persons, and a wielder can call it to the hand or send it to nothingness. Okay, how do you become the guy that can call it to your hand? No idea.

The Not-two brooch of time has a nice mechanic and can bolster spell checks and deflect incoming spells on a 1-in-5, as well as stop missiles. The dagger of fire steering can generate a 5-in-7 reliable bubble of fire-negating on the wearer, and it can hasten or slow the spread of fires by 50% The cauldron of contact  is one of my favorites within, coming with a d20 table of side effects, and requiring specific wood to use. Horned caps enhance Luck burns regarding animal or fear-related spells slightly. Dragon staffs can 1/day be thumped to the ground to net a unique power from dragon table VI for level rounds. Ouch! The amulet of six segments requires a cleric to use and is aligned – each of its segmented effects can be used exactly once. Solid. Enchanted skull bookrests act as magical ciphering tools for wizards – remove the scrambled book from the skull, and you have gibberish. Yep, textbook example of “Quest for it!”-material. Straddling the line between item and plot-device, speaking headstones do pretty much what you’d expect them to, and there are rules for a collection of inspirational lore. An armlet of Azi Dahaka helps traverse desert storms – provided you’re a disciple of the dread entity.

Speaking of somewhat dressing-related things: A submerged skull of a titan, and some unusual effects for a hanging tree can be found herein, and the pdf also notes a weird monk-tradition that inscribes spells on insect-based scrolls that revert to live insects upon being cast…unless the caster’s lucky, for there’s a chance these scrolls are not consumed.

The pdf also depicts three new spells: At level 1, we have shadowblend, an AC-buff for wizards. The pretty lame eye of chaos that pretty much is an anti-law alignment spell and clocks in at level 2 – both of these are wizard spells. Clerics can get the new level 2 spell seeking shrieking shrike, which fires an animal-shaped bolt of energy that takes a while to hit the target, but does pretty decent damage. Not genius, but this one is at least conceptually compelling, in contrast to the previous two.

Finally, the pdf also contains a few hazard-like obstacle/creatures: Lock defenders are tiny beings that can attempt to prevent intrusion into a lock, but most importantly, carry all sorts of nasty diseases. Frogmoths are a winner, drifting through the air. They are loud, then exhibit a hard shellack coating stuck to the surface, making for a weird kind of temporary armor that makes movement impossible. Minor complaint: No suggestion is provided for a movement speed reduction when putting these moths on you – other than that, this represents one of my favorites in this book!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay on a formal and rules-language. I noticed a couple of typos and some instances where the rules-language could have been clearer. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes with quite a few sketch-like b/w-doodle-style artworks that range from nice to not-so-nice. Like the cover? You won’t mind the aesthetics. As noted before, I’m not a fan of the layout decisions within. The pdf version, alas, has no bookmarks, which provides a further comfort detriment.

Bygrinstow’s Night Soil #ZERO is a solid grab-bag of miscellaneous things for your DCC game. The content within ranges from inspiring and cool, to bland renditions of classic tropes. While the cool components that get this DCC-weird-vibe, this Appendix N-flair, definitely are in the majority, the formal criteria and lack of bookmarks are hard to ignore. All in all, I consider this to be a good example of a mixed bag – some aspects are definitely worthwhile. The low price, however, does net this half a star, but not enough to round up. My final verdict will hence be 3.5 stars, rounded down.

You can get this inexpensive ‘zine here on OBS!

The product is a mixed bag…but this illustration is not! You can check out the artist’s work by clicking here!


Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 152019
 

Languard Locations: Under the City (5e)

The final installment of the impressive Languard Locations-series, which further elaborates upon the unique locales to be found in the city of Languard clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It is time, my fellow travelers, to once more walk the streets of Languard, of this beautiful and horrible pearl of the Duchy of Ashlar – and this time around, we won’t go to a particular neighborhood. Instead, we will light our torches and delve below the dirty, cobblestone streets and explore what lies beneath the surface of this city.

In case you were wondering – we do get the full-page map of Languard, beautifully hand-crafted by Tommi Salama, and on it, the respective places are noted. While I very much would have welcomed a map of the main tunnel systems, this map does do its job and contextualizes the respective locales featured within.

A total of 9 new locations are provided in this pdf, and, as before, the respective write-ups all feature their own adventure hooks. They sport the sensible letter and number combination that allows you to easily assign them to a neighborhood. “S7”? Obviously a location in the shambles. It’s a small thing, but one I enjoy. Key NPCs note race and class, as well as alignment, but otherwise remain focused on flavor-text. Where applicable, the 5e-iteration references the default NPC-stats, and where this would make no sense, a combination of class-name and suggested level allow for easy contextualization. There are no stats provided, but you probably won’t expect them at this point.

6 of the locations are roughly in the vicinity of the High City, and there is a reason for that, as the introductory paragraphs duly note: North of the Svart, an abundance of natural caverns made for an easy choice to expand into a proper, full-blown sewer system…but the same did not hold true for the poor South of the city: Low City, shambles, fishshambles, wrecks – these places will feel just as grimy as you probably envision them to be, as noted in their respective reviews. In the context of a fantasy world more so than within the context of a mundane one, there is obvious danger looming within the darkness of sewers – and indeed, Languard does have a force that takes care of that…the Dark Wardens. Languardians living in the High City call the tax that pays for these men and women the Shit Tax – for obvious reasons.

In the dark recesses beneath the earth, you can find the “House of the Clouded Mind” – more commonly known by its informal moniker – The “Screaming Halls.” These darkened and damp corridors house Languard’s insane, and while the house above ground may be pleasant enough, the same can’t be said for the regions below that act as a dumping ground for undesirables.  Less grim and heart-wrenching would be the dwarven shrine, set into Languard’s cliffs, where the stout folk may worship in peace and in cavernous settings.

In a cavern, right in the midst of a pool, there is a shard of clearly unnatural rock – the low shard. In the dim twilight, a toll must be paid to enter, but in the strange presence of the rock formation, couples tryst and both dalliances and alliances are commemorated. A cavern beneath a lamp-lit tent conceals the entrance to the black market of Languard, where freak show entertainers, exotic goods and weaponry and more may be purchased…if you can pay the price and know where to look, that is.

And then there would be the tunnel of shades, and amazing adventure location. A prior ruler of Languard once had the idea to give the unemployed something to do, and attempted to tunnel under the Svart, connecting the two halves of the city. Well, turns out that this did not go well. Partially flooded, courtesy of incompetence, and haunted by the spirits of the dead, this tunnel may exist, but it is a dangerous proposal to navigate it by skiff.

Right beneath the eminent Father, there are the Languard catacombs, divided by class just as the city above is. In the Shambles, south of the Svart, there is Saren the rag-lady – a potent information-broker rumored to be undead…and a glance at her sloughing skin and blisters may well lead the PCs to conclude that the rumors are true. Prices for information on specific targets are provided. If you’ve read the supplement on the Shambles, it should come as no surprise that the chaos of the place does extend to the area below the surface. And indeed, the maze of wooden passageways and linked cellars makes for a labyrinthine environment, while also housing the headquarters of the Shadow Masks. Finally, beneath the notoriously unstable and wretched Wrecks, there lies the place known as Smuggler’s Crux,  a maze of half-sunken canals, crawl-holes and soughs of connected barrels – unreliable, notoriously dangerous, and twisted, air pockets can be found in side vents and wells, subterranean rangers and rogues lair here…and there even is a tiny subterranean sanctum for the truly desperate. I adore this one!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. As this basically contains next to no rules, there isn’t much to do wrong here. Layout adheres to the series’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a plethora of really nice b/w-artworks. As noted before, Tommi Salama’s cartography of Languard is excellent, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf also comes in two iterations, one intended for screen-use, and one intended to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst, Steve Hood and Richard Pett provide a triumphant farewell to Languard and its locations. The series has managed to seed the already impressive city with truly remarkable, down to earth, grimy and gritty locales that get the creative juices flowing, and this supplement is no exception. The 5e iteration holds up to the comparison with the other two versions of this installment, retaining the strengths of the supplement. A worthy final offering, this pdf gets 5 stars + my seal of approval.

5 stars + seal of approval, well-earned! Like the rendition? You can check out the artist’s cool work by clicking here!

You can get this cool, final trip to Languard here on OBS!

Missed the city-supplement? You can find it here on OBS!

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!


Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 152019
 

Languard Locations: Under the City

The final installment of the impressive Languard Locations-series, which further elaborates upon the unique locales to be found in the city of Languard clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It is time, my fellow travelers, to once more walk the streets of Languard, of this beautiful and horrible pearl of the Duchy of Ashlar – and this time around, we won’t go to a particular neighborhood. Instead, we will light our torches and delve below the dirty, cobblestone streets and explore what lies beneath the surface of this city.

In case you were wondering – we do get the full-page map of Languard, beautifully hand-crafted by Tommi Salama, and on it, the respective places are noted. While I very much would have welcomed a map of the main tunnel systems, this map does do its job and contextualizes the respective locales featured within.

A total of 9 new locations are provided in this pdf, and, as before, the respective write-ups all feature their own adventure hooks. They sport the sensible letter and number combination that allows you to easily assign them to a neighborhood. “S7”? Obviously a location in the shambles. It’s a small thing, but one I enjoy. Key NPCs note race and class, as well as alignment, but otherwise remain focused on flavor-text. There are no stats provided, but you probably won’t expect them at this point.

6 of the locations are roughly in the vicinity of the High City, and there is a reason for that, as the introductory paragraphs duly note: North of the Svart, an abundance of natural caverns made for an easy choice to expand into a proper, full-blown sewer system…but the same did not hold true for the poor South of the city: Low City, shambles, fishshambles, wrecks – these places will feel just as grimy as you probably envision them to be, as noted in their respective reviews. In the context of a fantasy world more so than within the context of a mundane one, there is obvious danger looming within the darkness of sewers – and indeed, Languard does have a force that takes care of that…the Dark Wardens. Languardians living in the High City call the tax that pays for these men and women the Shit Tax – for obvious reasons.

In the dark recesses beneath the earth, you can find the “House of the Clouded Mind” – more commonly known by its informal moniker – The “Screaming Halls.” These darkened and damp corridors house Languard’s insane, and while the house above ground may be pleasant enough, the same can’t be said for the regions below that act as a dumping ground for undesirables.  Less grim and heart-wrenching would be the dwarven shrine, set into Languard’s cliffs, where the stout folk may worship in peace and in cavernous settings.

In a cavern, right in the midst of a pool, there is a shard of clearly unnatural rock – the low shard. In the dim twilight, a toll must be paid to enter, but in the strange presence of the rock formation, couples tryst and both dalliances and alliances are commemorated. A cavern beneath a lamp-lit tent conceals the entrance to the black market of Languard, where freak show entertainers, exotic goods and weaponry and more may be purchased…if you can pay the price and know where to look, that is.

And then there would be the tunnel of shades, and amazing adventure location. A prior ruler of Languard once had the idea to give the unemployed something to do, and attempted to tunnel under the Svart, connecting the two halves of the city. Well, turns out that this did not go well. Partially flooded, courtesy of incompetence, and haunted by the spirits of the dead, this tunnel may exist, but it is a dangerous proposal to navigate it by skiff.

Right beneath the eminent Father, there are the Languard catacombs, divided by class just as the city above is. In the Shambles, south of the Svart, there is Saren the rag-lady – a potent information-broker rumored to be undead…and a glance at her sloughing skin and blisters may well lead the PCs to conclude that the rumors are true. Prices for information on specific targets are provided. If you’ve read the supplement on the Shambles, it should come as no surprise that the chaos of the place does extend to the area below the surface. And indeed, the maze of wooden passageways and linked cellars makes for a labyrinthine environment, while also housing the headquarters of the Shadow Masks. Finally, beneath the notoriously unstable and wretched Wrecks, there lies the place known as Smuggler’s Crux,  a maze of half-sunken canals, crawl-holes and soughs of connected barrels – unreliable, notoriously dangerous, and twisted, air pockets can be found in side vents and wells, subterranean rangers and rogues lair here…and there even is a tiny subterranean sanctum for the truly desperate. I adore this one!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. As this basically contains next to no rules, there isn’t much to do wrong here. Layout adheres to the series’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a plethora of really nice b/w-artworks. As noted before, Tommi Salama’s cartography of Languard is excellent, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf also comes in two iterations, one intended for screen-use, and one intended to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst, Steve Hood and Richard Pett provide a triumphant farewell to Languard and its locations. The series has managed to seed the already impressive city with truly remarkable, down to earth, grimy and gritty locales that get the creative juices flowing, and this supplement is no exception. A worthy final offering, this pdf gets 5 stars + my seal of approval.

Like this cool rendition of my seal of approval? The artist also does e.g. critters rather well. You can check his work out by clicking here!

You can get this cool, final trip to Languard here on OBS!

Missed getting the city? You can find it here on OBS!

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!


Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 152019
 

Languard Locations: Under the City (system neutral)

The final installment of the impressive Languard Locations-series, which further elaborates upon the unique locales to be found in the city of Languard clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It is time, my fellow travelers, to once more walk the streets of Languard, of this beautiful and horrible pearl of the Duchy of Ashlar – and this time around, we won’t go to a particular neighborhood. Instead, we will light our torches and delve below the dirty, cobblestone streets and explore what lies beneath the surface of this city.

In case you were wondering – we do get the full-page map of Languard, beautifully hand-crafted by Tommi Salama, and on it, the respective places are noted. While I very much would have welcomed a map of the main tunnel systems, this map does do its job and contextualizes the respective locales featured within.

A total of 9 new locations are provided in this pdf, and, as before, the respective write-ups all feature their own adventure hooks. They sport the sensible letter and number combination that allows you to easily assign them to a neighborhood. “S7”? Obviously a location in the shambles. It’s a small thing, but one I enjoy. Key NPCs note race and class, as well as alignment, but otherwise remain focused on flavor-text. There are no stats provided, but you probably won’t expect them at this point.  The system neutral version properly references old-school class nomenclature – you won’t see rogues or newfangled wizards here – it’s all thieves and magic-users.

6 of the locations are roughly in the vicinity of the High City, and there is a reason for that, as the introductory paragraphs duly note: North of the Svart, an abundance of natural caverns made for an easy choice to expand into a proper, full-blown sewer system…but the same did not hold true for the poor South of the city: Low City, shambles, fishshambles, wrecks – these places will feel just as grimy as you probably envision them to be, as noted in their respective reviews. In the context of a fantasy world more so than within the context of a mundane one, there is obvious danger looming within the darkness of sewers – and indeed, Languard does have a force that takes care of that…the Dark Wardens. Languardians living in the High City call the tax that pays for these men and women the Shit Tax – for obvious reasons.

In the dark recesses beneath the earth, you can find the “House of the Clouded Mind” – more commonly known by its informal moniker – The “Screaming Halls.” These darkened and damp corridors house Languard’s insane, and while the house above ground may be pleasant enough, the same can’t be said for the regions below that act as a dumping ground for undesirables.  Less grim and heart-wrenching would be the dwarven shrine, set into Languard’s cliffs, where the stout folk may worship in peace and in cavernous settings.

In a cavern, right in the midst of a pool, there is a shard of clearly unnatural rock – the low shard. In the dim twilight, a toll must be paid to enter, but in the strange presence of the rock formation, couples tryst and both dalliances and alliances are commemorated. A cavern beneath a lamp-lit tent conceals the entrance to the black market of Languard, where freak show entertainers, exotic goods and weaponry and more may be purchased…if you can pay the price and know where to look, that is.

And then there would be the tunnel of shades, and amazing adventure location. A prior ruler of Languard once had the idea to give the unemployed something to do, and attempted to tunnel under the Svart, connecting the two halves of the city. Well, turns out that this did not go well. Partially flooded, courtesy of incompetence, and haunted by the spirits of the dead, this tunnel may exist, but it is a dangerous proposal to navigate it by skiff.

Right beneath the eminent Father, there are the Languard catacombs, divided by class just as the city above is. In the Shambles, south of the Svart, there is Saren the rag-lady – a potent information-broker rumored to be undead…and a glance at her sloughing skin and blisters may well lead the PCs to conclude that the rumors are true. Prices for information on specific targets are provided. If you’ve read the supplement on the Shambles, it should come as no surprise that the chaos of the place does extend to the area below the surface. And indeed, the maze of wooden passageways and linked cellars makes for a labyrinthine environment, while also housing the headquarters of the Shadow Masks. Finally, beneath the notoriously unstable and wretched Wrecks, there lies the place known as Smuggler’s Crux,  a maze of half-sunken canals, crawl-holes and soughs of connected barrels – unreliable, notoriously dangerous, and twisted, air pockets can be found in side vents and wells, subterranean rangers and rogues lair here…and there even is a tiny subterranean sanctum for the truly desperate. I adore this one!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. As this basically contains next to no rules, there isn’t much to do wrong here. Layout adheres to the series’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a plethora of really nice b/w-artworks. As noted before, Tommi Salama’s cartography of Languard is excellent, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf also comes in two iterations, one intended for screen-use, and one intended to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst, Steve Hood and Richard Pett provide a triumphant farewell to Languard and its locations. The series has managed to seed the already impressive city with truly remarkable, down to earth, grimy and gritty locales that get the creative juices flowing, and this supplement is no exception. The system neutral version of this supplement retains all the strengths of the other iterations. A worthy final offering, this pdf gets 5 stars + my seal of approval.

Seal of approval, duly earned! Do you like it? You can find the artist behind this cool seal by clicking here!

You can get this cool dressing file here on OBS!

Missed Languard? You can find the city-supplement here on OBS!

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!


Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 142019
 

Dear readers!

As you may have noticed, today’s reviews have cool, custom rating graphics that look really badass, right? Well, they have been provided by the amazing Tony “MrKrane” Carter, and will now show up on my reviews. Color for the regular iteration, silver, as befitting of my seal of approval! Once more, my heartfelt thanks go out to Mr. Carter.

If you like the artwork (I sure as heck do!) and/or are looking for an artist, you should definitely check out his profile here on artstation! There are some seriously impressive drawings there!

Secondly, it has been brought to my attention, that Jeremy Tangman, the creator of the Steampunk RPG Avenadia, among other things, needs help covering medical bills...and you’re well rewarded for doing so, courtesy of the generosity of a collection of good folks, including Dark Naga Adventures, Thunderegg Productions, etc. – you can read more about the campaign (and what you can get for donating!) here!

If you can chip in and help Jeremy, you can find his facebook donation page here!

All right, that’s it for today!

Hope you’ve had a good start of the week!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 142019
 

Vacant Ritual Assembly #6 (OSR)

This installment of the Vacant Ritual Assembly-‘zine clocks in at 53 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of introduction/editorial/recommendations, 5 pages of advertisements, leaving us with 45 pages of content. These are laid out in approximately 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), and it should be noted that one advertisement also serves as the back cover. The other advertisements are spread throughout the ‘zine, but thankfully, none of them bisect an article – they are used as breaks between articles, which is okay, if not ideal – at least in my book.

In case you’re new to the ‘zine – the default rules-system assumed within is LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess), and thus, we’re looking at a comparably low PC power-level (though magic generally can have super serious repercussions). Conversion to other OSR-systems is pretty simple as far as the material within this ‘zine is concerned.

So, let’s start with the material within that I can discuss without going into deep SPOILER-territory. The first article, penned by Clint Krause, would be “Grigoro’s Wonders Untold”, a traveling sideshow of weirdos. The write-up contains stats for the cast of NPCs, which include magically-conjoined twin orange yetis, a frog demon pseudo-aristocrat, a bubbly four-armed fairy, and a melancholy spirit trapped in a glass tube…to note a few. Much to my surprise, we get a rather well-drawn b/w-artwork depicting this cast of characters, and beyond stats, we also get a breakdown of how a show actually runs and can purchase some slightly magical oddities, that include cake that makes you dance, and brownies that give you explosive diarrhea.  No, I have not made the latter up. They are called…Browntownies.

Later in the pdf, Clint Krause also presents us a twist on the killer-children trope, with a brief one-page excerpt of the Grimsly Hill Cherubs, taken from the long-time upcoming Driftwood Verses book – which I backed and still very much look forward to, though, when compared to what I’ve seen there, this sneakpeek seems comparatively conventional. Not my favorite piece herein.

The Gallows on Heretic Hill, and the Noosefriars, are two articles also penned by Clint Krause that do a much better job at highlighting what he’s capable of. In a way, these two brief articles represent a whole campaign template that will prove to be a godsend to many gamers out there. With a fully mapped cathedral and stats for Penitent jack, this section does have rules-relevant components and map-support, but the strength here is the concept: Basically, you can picture the Noosefriars as a kind of church-sanctioned black Ops strikeforce…one that is immortal. You see, when the noosefriars get a noose from gallows’ hill, they won’t die. Instead, upon death, their spirits are transplanted into one of the corpses dangling from aforementioned gallows, with them retaining their personality, but losing 50% XP. This set-up allows you to retain one “character” through multiple deaths (of which there are plenty in LotFP) and also explore identity-questions, transhumanism, questions of faith and free will…all through a dark fantasy lens. It’s a brief two connected articles, sure – but it’s really inspiring, not just for LotFP. If you ever wanted to play a really deadly campaign, but have players that really dislike having to come up with new character identities time and again, this makes for a great solution. Similarly, for Dark Souls/Salt & Sanctuary and similar gamestyles, emulated in RPG, this does its job rather well.

Speaking of jobs done rather well – the ‘zine also includes an interview with Emmy Allen, the mastermind behind Dying Stylishly Games and author of “Wolf-packs and winter snows”, a book that I really want to finally see the PoD version for the revised edition. Anyhow, I digress.

These are the aspects of the module that I could discuss without going into SPOILERS – but the ‘zine actually contains not one, but two fully-mapped modules, and one particular environment/complex encounter/sidetrek. All of these are generally suitable for low level parties, approximately from levels 1 -4. The second adventure I’ll discuss will be exceedingly hard at these levels – 3 to 5 seems like a better level-range there.

In order to discuss these, I have to dive into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great!

So, the first adventure, penned by Kathryn Jenkins, is “From Dunnholt it Rises”, and it is a brief, but furious dark fantasy yarn that is easy to expand upon. It is presented in a pretty barebones general level of detail considering its complexity, but without that ever really bothering me. Dunnholt is a miserably island, some distance from the coast of Scotland, or any other locale you choose, really. In fact, with barely minor cosmetic reskins, it can be easily be transplanted to pretty much any cultural sea-adjacent sphere. Dunnholt doesn’t have much to offer – a few docks, a fortified hold, atop cliffs, a bit of rock, and a bit of forest…and it recently got worse and less welcoming than it was before. Dunnholt has been transformed into a quarantine island, receiving plague victims and not much more. Now, the PCs are faced with the task of investigating the late arrival of the latest ship – and when it comes, the crew is riddled with black tumors, black rats scurrying in the shadows, carrying “Dunnholt’s Gift”, a horrid degenerative disease that basically slowly turns those afflicted into tumor-ridden plague-zombie-like things, so-called yearning ones. The spread of this darkness must be stopped, particularly if the PCs want to find a cure against the horrid disease.

Dunnholt itself is a foreboding place, and while each individual location is only briefly sketched, they all have something going for them: As the PCs explore the island, they’ll be attacked by the tumor-ridden yearning ones. In the hold, an anthropomorphic giant rat flutist asks for a dark pact, while a dying plague doctor utters cryptic warnings…and indeed, beyond the forest and beneath the hold, there lie the labyrinthine plague dens (alas, sans scale), the tunnels in Dunnholt where the miserable truth can be found. The only reason that the island’s vileness hasn’t yet spread further is the state of checkmate between two of three dark forces: There is a coven of three witches, which have been drawing power from the dark heart of the island. They want the PCs to eat from the heart of the island – they’ll provide a cure…but unbeknown to the PCs, this will be fatal for them. The island is alien – an alien parasite of vast proportions, which has, tick-like, afflicted our planet. Eating from the heart will have a new island gestate years later, rupturing the PC, spawning a new such den of evil. The other faction is a horribly disfigured plague doctor, known as “The Good Doctor” – fused with his plague-mask, the grotesque thing of tumors and mutations is behind the spread of Dunnholt’s Gift…and slaying him is a condition for the help of the witches. Killing the heart will have cataclysmic effects, as the island sinks and the floods will destroy coastal towns…so the decision the PCs are making and the consequences thereof will not be pleasant…

The second adventure, “Death Planted the Esther Tree”, is penned by Kreg Mosier, and is labeled as “A Rootmire Mansion Crawl” – much to my chagrin, I found no additional scenarios written by the author, and frankly, that’s a damn pity, for this is not only an excellent mansion crawl that is genuinely horrific, it also represents one of the best iterations of what I’d consider to be Southern Gothic traditions in an RPG-adventure. Not only is the prose absolutely excellent, the mystery pertaining the fates of a well-to-do, if clannish family, the Relecroix, is absolutely genius. We have a three-level mansion-crawl with a plant-theme and rot/dilapidation suffusing every location – not just in theme, but also in rules-relevant aspects. The horrid tragedy that is at…the root (pardon the pun) of the tragedy here can be discovered by the PCs as they explore the perpetually overcast and rain-shrouded house. Vat-born albino-slaves and animated twig-things roam the grounds, and skin pierced with ebonwood can afflict the PCs with a kind of rot. An undead mire dragon can be found in a subdued optional boss battle (and nod towards fantasy traditions), while the true final boss proved to be not only evocative, but downright nasty. This is easily one of the best modules I’ve read in a ‘zine, and I seriously hope we’ll get to see more from the author in the future! I want to know more about Rootmire! And yeah, the amazing map does not have a scale, but it does have squares, which allows you to easily run this.

Can this be topped? Well, it depends on your preference. As much as love my classics, I am always enamored with things that are thoroughly novel – and Anxious P. delivers in the final article that I have to comment on: “Papa Lathmos Sugar Cane Crop.” This series of extended encounters/environment is, by its own subtitle, a “hyperglycemic nightmare”, and this description pretty much tops whatever I could say regarding the content presented. The prose here creates images of sweltering, relentless heat and hallucinations. To give you a brief excerpt: “The sugar cane shakes without breeze as you waddle or tromp towards its edges, like thousands of rattlesnakes in a rain storm. The stalks are striped in a violent black camouflage […]“ – we learn about the people of sugar, subsisting on a sludge of dehydration and sweet rot, speaking dreams through rotting teeth, chattering a language too „dripping“ to be understood. Their swaying is infectious, and being in the presence of an elder may make you…move..into the sugarfield, where 4 different nightmareish encounters hearken. With dream-logic and truly disturbing and resounding visuals, as you turn into sugar, only to have it melt away, rendering the clearing a sludge…with strange things of multiple bodies attacking you, laughing, as you can see a man punctured and drained by sugarcane…and worse. These brief encounters are not meant to be an adventure, but they are genius and understand how nightmares work. I’d totally buy Anxious P.’s book of nightmares without a second’s hesitation after reading this article. It’s a masterpiece of weirdness, supplemented by the stats of ephemeral, but deadly things. It’s not mechanically complex per se, but it doesn’t have to be. I love it.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. While I noticed a few minor hiccups, nothing really impeded my enjoyment of the articles within. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the ‘zine sports a surprising amount of neat b/w-artworks I haven’t seen before. The cartography for the adventures is b/w and impressive – particularly for the Rootmire crawl and the Cathedral on Gallows’ Hill, though I would have loved to get player-friendly, unlabeled versions of these maps. The pdf version has bookmarks, but only three of them, which limits usability of the ‘zine. I strongly suggest getting the softcover PoD version – I actually got it right here in my hands, and it’s definitely worth owning.

Clint Krause’s decision to move Vacant ritual Assembly to PoD and expand its breadth is a great call – the expanded room for material makes this easily the best of the installments of the ‘zine so far, and while usually, the lack of bookmarks and player-friendly maps would see me penalize this in some way, I frankly can’t bring myself to doing so here. Why?

Well, for one, even the weakest article herein can still be considered to be “good”. The majority of the content, though, is, frankly, awesome. Clint Krause’s noosefriars are a stroke of genius and blow his previous factions clear out of the water. Kathryn Jenkins delivers with her dark fantasy island-tale – it’s compressed and requires that the GM fleshes it out, sure, but if you’re good at improve, you can get a ton of sessions out of this one. I know I’m going to expand it!

Kreg Mosier’s Rootmire crawl, though, and Anxious P.’s nightmare-encounters are, what ultimately, to me, elevate this issue above all previous installments of Vacant Ritual Assembly. They are absolutely inspired – the former as a near perfect execution of genre-piece in a genre that is all but unrepresented in RPGs, and the latter for just being so…disturbing and novel. Either of these articles would have imho warranted the asking price, but combined? Yeah, this is a ‘zine that’s very much worth owning, particularly if you have even remotely a thing for Southern Gothic themes. My final verdict is 5 stars + seal of approval, with the caveat that the pdf-only version loses a star due to the comfort detriments noted above.

You can get this inspiring ‘zine here on OBS!

My seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 142019
 

Monster Menagerie: Bulette Points

editorial/ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, so first of all, the pdf acknowledges the folks that contributed in a FB-chat that gestated into this book – kudos for giving credit where credit is due! The introductory page provides a bit of optional setting-contextualization for the bulettes herein…and then we begin with what may be the most pun-tastic monster book for Pathfinder.

How pun-tastic is this? Well in case you missed that the title obviously is a reference to Rogue Genius Games’ Bullet Point-series, each monster herein represents some sort of pun regarding bullet/bulette. Every. Last. One.

Yeah, who am I kidding? I love puns. Particularly bad ones. The real groaners. So let’s see what we got, shall we? We begin with a pretty harmless one – the CR 7 armor-piercing bulette, a bulette like one from a final fantasy game, with a massive adamantine blade embedded in its head. This obviously also is represented in the specialized leap and charge assaults these fellows have. Nice and delightfully odd critter, though I would have loved to see a unique Achilles’ heel here – after all, the blade impedes line of sight of these beings, at least judging from the artwork.

The CR 8 frangible bulette has strange pustule-like pods on its body, and has some serious resistances and defensive tricks. Negating such damage, or being struck by physical damage, charges these bulettes, to be more precise, said pods/pustules, which the bulette may discharge in a nasty 60-feet blast, as the immature bulettes gestating in these pods are fired in a living shrapnel blast. While the young of this mutation are usually killed by the impact, not all of the survivors grow to become full bulettes. Some of them stay Tiny CR 1 bulettes…that are called…yep. BeeBee. With rolling leaps and the ability to curl up, they are a nice example of a low-CR critter that makes sense.

Leave it to magic-users to devise solutions to problems that make things worse: The Blank Bulette is a CR 7 incorporeal version of a bulette, shunted to the ethereal to make it cause less havoc. Well, the entities have developed a life drain aura, trigger conical force energy blasts on critical hits, and the avoid detection of undead or living, being invisible to lifesense and the like, as well as not registering for locate creature. Yeah…definite “improvement” of the bulette problem…

At CR 8, the cross-cut bulette has the good subtype, and gets smite evil. Basically good bulettes. Hmm..okay. Not particularly interesting. Why don’t they get a “named bullet/bulette”-type of ability that allows them to engrave an evil-doers’ name upon themselves? Some interesting tweak to the smite evil angle? Anyhow, at the same CR, the Dum Dum is more interesting: It can crush targets and may, as a swift action, expand itself to twice the size and 8 times the weight. Yeah, this one’s pretty cool – can see this being a fearsome foe! Also at CR 8, the incendiary bulette radiates heat for +1d6 fire damage, and the charges of this bulette also result in a 30-ft.-radius fire blast, with a cooldown. Also at CR 8, the multiple-impact bulette can divide itself up into two Large or 4 Medium versions with magical fission, which do have identical statistics…and yes, we do get the modified stats  for them, and hit points are evenly divided. Awareness is shared, making these fellows pretty lethal one-monster-pack-predators, which is also reflected by the feats chosen – nice one and mechanically, one of my favorites within.

The Percussion Cap also clocks in at CR 8 and gets a leap into combat that allows it to slam its head against targets of the ground, detonating embedded thunderstones for a blast of shrapnel that is in equal parts stone shards and pure sonic damage. And yep, it looks like a being that attacks you by literally smashing its detonating face into you.

Clocking in at CR 10, the full metal jacket (XD) gets a boost to overrun and bull rush targets, and they come with rules to remove the plates fitted into these war-beasts. How do you call an undead bulette? …Hollow Point! Yeah, this got a long chuckle out of me, and at CR 9, the undead bulette has a detonation upon destruction, gets an Acrobatics-based pounce-bite, and swallowed foes are energy drained. They also rejuvenate unless their remains are specifically treated and consecrated.

The final bulette within would be the CR 7 tracer, basically a tracking specialist that leaves a trail of faerie fire-like glow, and gets a trigger scent, falling into a frenzy upon reaching a target whose scent it tracked. Cool concept, and one of the critters within that I’ll definitely use.

The final page provides two feats: Number One With A Bulette nets an adjacent bulette you trained a +2 bonus to Wisdom, and allows you to…bingo, train bulettes. The more ranks in Handle Animal you have, the faster you can teach them tricks. High Caliber Summoning allows you to call the monsters within this book via the use of summon nature’s ally/monster, with a handy table organizing them by CR.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules languages level. While I noticed a couple of minor hiccups here and there in the statblocks, as a whole, the pdf is pretty solid. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, mirroring a grimoire, and the pdf comes with pretty neat full-color artworks for all of the bulette-variants – all of which are original pieces! Kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf comes with a second version that has a smaller size, and thus is more mobile device friendly.

Jeff Lee’s menagerie of bulettes is a cool and pun-tastic little bestiary. There is plenty of flavor and background story to contextualize the critters, which is a good thing, as it helps render them more organic and inspires the GM. While this book is not flawless, and while not all variants within are genius, there are plenty of outré and interesting bulettes within, quite a few of which I considered to be genuinely interesting. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up, since the book is closer to being good than to being a mixed bag.

You can get these pun-tastic bulettes here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.