Apr 302019
 

The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia – Vivimancer Edition (OSR)

This campaign setting/toolkit clocks in at 83 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 77 pages of content, laid out in approximately 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

The majority of this review, like the book, is identical with the review of the regular iteration of this book. The tl;dr-version would be that this is the mechanically-superior version of the book.

Before we take a look at the content, there are two things of note: For one, I am very ambivalent about this product, so I advise you to read the entirety of the review. This one will be either a hit or a miss for you, depending on your priorities. Secondly, I have based my review on both the pdf-version of this supplement and the PoD softcover I purchased on OBS. The softcover has the book’s name on the spine and is solid, if slightly less impressive than the hardcover PoD-version of the regular edition of the book.

The next thing you ought to know, is that this is pretty much a blending of player-centric book and GM/referee-material, but that its organization does not reflect that particularly well. We begin, for example, with the general introduction of the campaign setting (prefaced by the classic and amazing “The Conqueror Worm” by good ole’ Poe, which could be seen as a leitmotif) before we dive into the player-centric material. This is somewhat unfortunate, as you can’t simply hand the book to players and tell them “Read only this far.” Instead, you’ll have to curate the content before using it, which is a bit of an unfortunate decision as far as I’m concerned. I don’t like it when my players know the stats of the movers and shakers of a campaign setting. That being said, the vivimancer edition does offer some definite improvements to the usability of the content within – for example, we now do get tables for prices of the individual items, which makes it much more comfortable to use for the referee.

The second unfortunate decision pertains the rules employed. The supplement uses a combination of OD&D and LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) rules, using the latter e.g. for hit point calculation. The precise choices are never made evident, and it should be noted that e.g. ability score progression of NPCs within assume a linear +1 to the respective bonus for every point above 18, which makes e.g. a Strength of 21 clock in at +6 bonus. This is never clearly stated as such, so depending on how faithful you are regarding the translation of your ability score-based components in your system, this *might* cause issues. HD (or levels) are noted alongside hit points, and the supplement uses ascending AC. Movement rating is missing the feet-indicator in the bestiary section, for example, and statblock components lack formatting, which makes them slightly harder to use.

In order to talk more about the other mechanical aspects of this supplement, though, I have to go into mild SPOILERS. If you prefer to experience the game sans previous knowledge of the basics, please jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! So, as noted before “The Conqueror Worm” could be construed as a form of leitmotif here, and if I had to pinpoint a second, it’d be “gonzo body horror” that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but serious enough to be potentially really wicked. Meatlandia is not a country – it’s the last megalopolis of the world. It’s not a kind city – it’s a moloch, a magical-industrial nightmare-fuel juggernaut of almost Silent Hill-ish proportions in tone, expanded to the level of a city. (And before you ask: The book actually does come with a cartography appendix that does include maps of the city!) This is not a city like Freeport et al – it’s a ginormous, grimy thing, a hive, a collection of beings – it’s a city of proportions like Shenzhen, Laos, Mexico city; a collection of individuals far beyond what the term “city” usually means.

It also takes a classic metaphor, namely that of a city consuming its populace, and makes it very much tangible. More than once, I felt myself reminded of Silent Hill’s first pre-title card: “the fear of blood creates fear of the flesh.” There is some truth to that, and indeed, Meatlandia makes it very much evident that you can’t expect mercy in its chaotic and dangerous streets.

Speaking of chaos: The cosmic backdrop of this setting is pretty much the return of the chaos gods, the worms that tunnel through the earth – ostensibly beholden to a Conqueror Worm like thing, consuming everything. Meatlandia sees refugees galore, and indeed, when we visit this place, it is the last megalopolis on the planet – all others have fallen to the influx of chaos brought about by the worms tunneling ever closer to the surface, consuming everything.

…Did your PCs fail to stop Rovagug, Kyuss or a similar entity in your last campaign? Well, this may be a nice way to show the aftermath. But I digress.

The worms are a crucial component of the setting, and they are everywhere – in spells, hazardous effects and magic “items”; and their “worm honeydew” is an extremely potent component of spellcasting and magic in general – buts consumption carries the risk of transforming (as per Ravenloft’s tradition, over 5 steps) into a worm-like monstrosity. This transformation is supplemented by appropriate tables for 6 random effects, with stage 5 meaning, as per tradition, that the PC has transformed into a white worm NPC. The worms, obviously, are agents of chaos, of change – and Meatlandia, in contrast, is not exactly…better? The city is a tyrannical place, held together by iron will and adherences to a brutish and brutal form of Law, and yet, teeter-tottering on the edge of inevitable changes….though their guise if left to be determined by the PCs.

This brings me to the “classes”, of which 3 are basically “Archetypes”, or if you loathe the term, kits, for the bard. The first of these would be the raconteur, whose main draw is that he can gain a so-called posse of henchmen after singing and carousing for a night; level 5 yields some control over which follower is attracted, and they follow the thief/specialist progression and get d6 HD. With point-based skill-systems, they get 1 skill per level; for percentile-based, -10%, and otherwise, at -2 levels. As far as saves are concerned, raconteurs save as priests/clerics and get +2 to saves vs. paralysis/death, +2 to saves vs. enchantment/illusion and +1 to opposed Charisma checks, and +2 to Dex/reaction-based checks. Additionally, they are hard to influence, imposing their class level as a penalty on such attempts. The posse is left, thankfully, in the back of the book, for the GM, for beyond what they look like, the beings attracted may also have their own agendas.

More interesting and novel would be the Chaos DJ, and it is NOT for every group out there. The Chaos DJ realizes that she is under the influence of foreign forces. Note that this was YEARS prior to Black Mirror: Bandersnatch highlighting that concept. The Chaos DJ gets to make a special playlist for each session, and then achieve…something…vaguely related to the song’s lyrics. In-game. The whole meta-aspect makes these basically reliant on good referee improve, though one aspect also challenges the player: There is a growing, percentile chance that the Chaos DJ does the opposite of what she’s been told by the player – just to spite those powers-that-be that dare impose their inscrutable wills upon her. The base abilities are in line with those of the raconteur, but instead of the raconteur’s save boosts, these fellows get a +1 to saves vs. magic. While mechanically somewhat rough due to their wide open nature, I consider the Chaos DJs to be perhaps my favorite mechanical aspect herein.

The third bardic variant would be the nexus bard; they once more share the chassis with the previous two bard-variants, but get +1 to saves vs. paralysis, -2 to saves vs. magic, and +1 to all opposed chaos-related rolls. What the latter means? No clue, sorry. Their signature ability will make them indubitably compelling for the type of player that relishes casting e.g. summon spells in LotFP. They can adjust, once per day, a roll by class level; this can’t negate natural 20s and has no range. They also are inextricably linked with chaos storms ravaging the landscape. When entering a storm and reaching the nexus, they get one chaos charge, and they can store up to their class level such charges….which may be expended to attempt to call forth chaos storms. Yeah, nexus bards are as popular as you’d think them to be – at 5th level, they can collect a tax to move on to other places.

Why? Well, chaos storms are pretty damn cool, but also brutal: They are a profound, magical hazard, and in the book, we get a massive 100-entry strong table of distinct effects. Save vs. magic negates unless otherwise noted, but they are far out: Turning into puppies or kittens? Yep. Roll one of all your dice types – the highest result becomes the initiative for everyone in the party for the next 24 hours! (Hope you have the d50, d30, d24, d16 et al. ready…) Rain of tropical fruit, gender change, magic weapons (that have a percentile chance of singing), becoming temporarily (or forever, if you’re lucky!) super cool…some really nice ones there. Of course, all gold in the area could turn irrevocably to dust. You could develop a split personality. Ninjas might attack. The table does the CHAOS part of “chaos storm” justice.

But we’re not yet done with discussing the new layer-facing components. The movers and shakers of the city are the meat mages – and this is perhaps the most radical departure of this version of the supplement. Instead of the rather atrocious original carnomancer rules, we now simply reference Gavin Norman’s masterpiece, The Complete Vivimancer. While the artwork depicting the stages of worm metamorphosis has been swallowed by the new layout, using Mr. Norman’s supplement is a damn smart call. The spell-section, which was pretty much unusable in the original iteration, has been condensed to 2 pages…though the rules here, alas, are not as tight as I’d like them to be. One spell that creates a blubber explosion centered on the caster, for example, fails to specify whether the caster is affected or not. Formatting, this time around, gets spell-references right…about half the time, which may be a plus, but still does not suffice. It should also be noted that there is a cantrip that can yield a defense shield of essentially temporary hit points, but that also increases your weight and size, establishing a more high-fantasy tone than some would assume.

The final thing to discuss among the player-facing aspects would be the race of the kaldane – think of these fellows as heads with spider-legs: -6 Str, -2 Cha, +2 Dex and Int, 1d3 hit points per level. They fight as thieves/specialists, and save as clerics, with a bonus of +2 to saves vs. mind control. They are treated as fighters for skill purposes, automatically succeed at climbing, and, being essentially just heads, their write-up notes AC bonuses for helmets etc. They can hide/ as a rogue of their level…when not mounted.

Mounted? Yep, this species has entered a symbiotic relationship with the rykors, basically throwaway idiot bodies, which can fall apart rather easily. Kaldane do get mind control powers and some limited spell-like abilities at higher levels. Kaldane progress, XP-wise, as thieves, with the class table reaching as far as 12th level.

The kaldane represent one of the minor factions of Meatlandia, though the map-appendix does offer a map of a warren sans scale. The big movers and shakers, the key-NPCs, are noted in the beginning, in the campaign setting section: Meatlandia is ruled by the iron fist of the meat lord, a mighty carnomancer whose meat mechs keep the…wait…establish and order….no…enforce his rule. That’s it. His iron will shackles the city, makes it withstand – but the price is aforementioned metaphor of consumption. Meatlandia is a visceral place, and his flesh factories constantly churn meat into the magics required by his cadre of casters, consume, literally, the populace. His enhanced meat men are gruesome mutations – think of cybernetic enhancement, but instead with visceral, organic grafts….the place to whip out all those mutation/corruption tables you no doubt have. This subsection of the book, including the bestiary components, also greatly benefits from outsourcing some of the more daunting aspects to the vivimancer, making them run more smoothly. This extends to the NPCs, just fyi – so yeah, this is hands down the superior version as far as rules are concerned!

The meat lord’s executioner is also noted, and so is his opposition: The valiant rust lord, a champion of death and rebirth, makes for what could be construed as Meatlandia’s Arthurian savior. The adherents of the rust lord wield maces that rust metal items, and they are known as…*drum roll* “Rustafarians!” Come on, that deserves a chuckle! Other parts of the city are firmly under the control of the Death’s Hand guild, but none know their end-game. Famous knights, particularly nasty vivimancers and horrid monstrosities are noted, and, as the folks are wont to tell, “Our Lady of Sorrows” (nice nod to either a) the myth, b) Argento, c) the criminally underrated CoC campaign, d) Thomas de Quincey’s similarly underrated literary contributions, or e) all of the above…) a kind of collective consciousness of the city, roams the streets.

Beyond aforementioned chaos storms, we have an inspired d50 city encounters table, a d20 refugee table, and the book does contain magic items that include meat that can be laced with blood of a target, killing the target upon consumption, literal meat shield and similar gory viscera. And worms. There are worms. For example, you should never say a person’s name and “worm” in the same sentence – otherwise, invisible worms all around might manifest and attack. There is a pretty random type of worm that may hijack your body…and there are witches riding on…bingo, worms…though these actually are the setting’s hippies, attempting to establish utopian communes far from the city. Did I mention the “Society for the appreciation of murder”, basically a serial killer fan-club? Or the unstoppable killer that is Sideways Emily, who *will* kill you? The book also implies e.g. that the world may be eaten by a cosmic fish at one point, and features several nice campaign seeds and hooks, if the massive amount of imagination and ideas herein hasn’t already made you want to run this. It will have, fyi.

Conclusion:

Editing is good on a formal level; formatting is pretty much all over the place and adheres to no convention; better here than in the previous iteration, but still not as precise or consistent as I’d like it to be. The rules-language and rules-relevant components are often opaque benefit greatly from outsourcing components to Gavin Norman’s meticulously precise vivimancer. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the book comes with a surprising array of really nice b/w-artworks (original pieces) that capture well the grimy and gonzo high, but dark fantasy vibe of the setting. The cartography in b/w is rather nice and player-friendly, though it’d have been nice to get a scale for the maps. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the PoD-softcover is solid and probably the most directly useful iteration of the supplement.

Wind Lothamer & Ahimsa Kerp have penned a setting that inspired me; I expected to get a kind of Carcosa-knockoff, and got something different: An, at least for OSR, high-powered setting of easy-come, easy-go, lethal adventuring through one of the most disturbing, and yet funniest, cities I have seen so far. Meatlandia is an inspired post-industrialized nightmare, as seen through the lens of magic, and it can be played as something truly horrifying; similarly, it could just as well be run as a gonzo setting that embraces the over-the-topness of its concepts and runs with it. Stuart Gordon’s “Reanimator” is quoted as an inspiration, and it shows in tone, though I’d probably liken it more to the slightly lesser known “From Beyond” and its treatment of physicality.

The theme of Meatlandia, the inevitable breakdown of bodies into components to be consumed, in some cases literally, is a theme that resounds, particularly nowadays. The writing and ideas herein are absolutely phenomenal, and the supplement greatly benefits from having the amazing, inspired “Complete Vivimancer” to fall back on.

The mechanical and formal aspects still are not as well-executed herein as they should be. Don’t get me wrong – this new, vivimancer-enhanced edition of Meatlandia, is certainly the superior product, but I really wished the authors had taken the time to contextualize the entirety of the content within the formatting conventions established by The Complete Vivimancer. If components that are improperly formatted give you the fits, avoid this.

This sentence still holds true: Ironically, Meatlandia can be best described as “RAW” – and a bit of simmering would have done it good. That being said, Meatlandia is closer to being a delicious, bloody steak of a sourcebook in this iteration than it ever was before, and while the rules aspects of this book still can’t exceed the moniker of a mixed bag, that’s actually an improvement. The city itself, the dressing, the campaign setting presented herein, is still one of the coolest, most visceral and interesting ones I’ve read in a while. It oozes great ideas, and while nowhere near perfect, the vivimancer edition certainly represents a step in the right direction for Meatlandia. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform. The campaign setting as such, and the ideas, it should be noted, are seal of approval material – it’s just the craftsmanship in some details that prevents this from receiving higher accolades from yours truly.

You can get this book on its own here on OBS!

You can get the inspired vivimancer class here on OBS!

And finally, there is a handy bundle that’ll net you both vivimancer and this book right here!


Endzeitgeist out.

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Apr 302019
 

The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia (OSR)

This campaign setting/toolkit clocks in at 92 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page blank, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 83 pages of content, laid out in approximately 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

Before we take a look at the content, there are two things of note: For one, I am very ambivalent about this product, so I advise you to read the entirety of the review. This one will be either a hit or a miss for you, depending on your priorities. Secondly, I have based my review on both the pdf-version of this supplement and the Hardcover available for PoD on lulu. I am noting that because I was positively surprised by this PoD book – it comes with a dust jacket and is a pretty impressive book; as far as lulu-PoDs are concerned, it certainly ranks among the most impressive ones I’ve seen, so if you’re a bit of a bibliophile, this may be the version you’ll want to get.

The next thing you ought to know, is that this is pretty much a blending of player-centric book and GM/referee-material, but that its organization does not reflect that particularly well. We begin, for example, with the general introduction of the campaign setting (prefaced by the classic and amazing “The Conqueror Worm” by good ole’ Poe, which could be seen as a leitmotif) before we dive into the player-centric material. This is somewhat unfortunate, as you can’t simply hand the book to players and tell them “Read only this far.” Instead, you’ll have to curate the content before using it, which is a bit of an unfortunate decision as far as I’m concerned. I don’t like it when my players know the stats of the movers and shakers of a campaign setting.

The second unfortunate decision pertains the rules employed. The supplement uses a combination of OD&D and LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) rules, using the latter e.g. for hit point calculation. The precise choices are never made evident, and it should be noted that e.g. ability score progression of NPCs within assume a linear +1 to the respective bonus for every point above 18, which makes e.g. a Strength of 21 clock in at +6 bonus. This is never clearly stated as such, so depending on how faithful you are regarding the translation of your ability score-based components in your system, this *might* cause issues. HD (or levels) are noted alongside hit points, and the supplement uses ascending AC. Movement rating is missing the feet-indicator in the bestiary section, for example, and statblock components lack formatting, which makes them slightly harder to use.

In order to talk more about the other mechanical aspects of this supplement,. Though, I have to go into mild SPOILERS. If you prefer to experience the game sans previous knowledge of the basics, please jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! So, as noted before “The Conqueror Worm” could be construed as a form of leitmotif here, and if I had to pinpoint a second, it’d be “gonzo body horror” that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but serious enough to be potentially really wicked. Meatlandia is not a country – it’s the last megalopolis of the world. It’s not a kind city – it’s a moloch, a magical-industrial nightmare-fuel juggernaut of almost Silent Hill-ish proportions in tone, expanded to the level of a city. (And before you ask: The book actually does come with a cartography appendix that does include maps of the city!) This is not a city like Freeport et al – it’s a ginormous, grimy thing, a hive, a collection of beings – it’s a city of proportions like Shenzhen, Laos, Mexico city; a collection of individuals far beyond what the term “city” usually means.

It also takes a classic metaphor, namely that of a city consuming its populace, and makes it very much tangible. More than once, I felt myself reminded of Silent Hill’s first pre-title card: “the fear of blood creates fear of the flesh.” There is some truth to that, and indeed, Meatlandia makes it very much evident that you can’t expect mercy in its chaotic and dangerous streets.

Speaking of chaos: The cosmic backdrop of this setting is pretty much the return of the chaos gods, the worms that tunnel through the earth – ostensibly beholden to a Conqueror Worm like thing, consuming everything. Meatlandia sees refugees galore, and indeed, when we visit this place, it is the last megalopolis on the planet – all others have fallen to the influx of chaos brought about by the worms tunneling ever closer to the surface, consuming everything.

…Did your PCs fail to stop Rovagug, Kyuss or a similar entity in your last campaign? Well, this may be a nice way to show the aftermath. But I digress.

The worms are a crucial component of the setting, and they are everywhere – in spells, hazardous effects and magic “items”; and their “worm honeydew” is an extremely potent component of spellcasting and magic in general – buts consumption carries the risk of transforming (as per Ravenloft’s tradition, over 5 steps) into a worm-like monstrosity. This transformation is supplemented by appropriate tables for 6 random effects, with stage 5 meaning, as per tradition, that the PC has transformed into a white worm NPC. The worms, obviously, are agents of chaos, of change – and Meatlandia, in contrast, is not exactly…better? The city is a tyrannical place, held together by iron will and adherences to a brutish and brutal form of Law, and yet, teeter-tottering on the edge of inevitable changes….though their guise if left to be determined by the PCs.

This brings me to the “classes”, of which 3 are basically “Archetypes”, or if you loathe the term, kits, for the bard. The first of these would be the raconteur, whose main draw is that he can gain a so-called posse of henchmen after singing and carousing for a night; level 5 yields some control over which follower is attracted, and they follow the thief/specialist progression and get d6 HD. With point-based skill-systems, they get s1 skill per level; for percentile-based, -10%, and otherwise, at -2 levels. As far as saves are concerned, raconteurs save as priests/clerics and get +2 to saves vs. paralysis/death, +2 to saves vs. enchantment/illusion and +1 to opposed Charisma checks, and +2 to Dex/reaction-based checks. Additionally, they are hard to influence, imposing their class level as a penalty on such attempts. The posse is left, thankfully, in the back of the book, for the GM, for beyond what they look like, the beings attracted may also have their own agendas.

More interesting and novel would be the Chaos DJ, and it is NOT for every group out there. The Chaos DJ realizes that she is under the influence of foreign forces. Note that this was YEARS prior to Black Mirror: Bandersnatch highlighting that concept. The Chaos DJ gets to make a special playlist for each session, and then achieve…something…vaguely related to the song’s lyrics. In-game. The whole meta-aspect makes these basically reliant on good referee improve, though one aspect also challenges the player: There is a growing, percentile chance that the Chaos DJ does the opposite of what she’s been told by the player – just to spite those powers-that-be that dare impose their inscrutable wills upon her. The base abilities are in line with those of the raconteur, but instead of the raconteur’s save boosts, these fellows get a +1 to saves vs. magic. While mechanically somewhat rough due to their wide open nature, I consider the Chaos DJs to be perhaps my favorite mechanical aspect herein.

The third bardic variant would be the nexus bard; they once more share the chassis with the previous two bard-variants, but get +1 to saves vs. paralysis, -2 to saves vs. magic, and +1 to all opposed chaos-related rolls. What the latter means? No clue, sorry. Their signature ability will make them indubitably compelling for the type of player that relishes casting e.g. summon spells in LotFP. They can adjust, once per day, a roll by class level; this can’t negate natural 20s and has no range. They also are inextricably linked with chaos storms ravaging the landscape. When entering a storm and reaching the nexus, they get one chaos charge, and they can store up to their class level such charges….which may be expended to attempt to call forth chaos storms. Yeah, nexus bards are as popular as you’d think them to be – at 5th level, they can collect a tax to move on to other places.

Why? Well, chaos storms are pretty damn cool, but also brutal: They are a profound, magical hazard, and in the book, we get a massive 100-entry strong table of distinct effects. Save vs. magic negates unless otherwise noted, but they are far out: Turning into puppies or kittens? Yep. Roll one of all your dice types – the highest result becomes the initiative for everyone in the party for the next 24 hours! (Hope you have the d50, d30, d24, d16 et al. ready…) Rain of tropical fruit, gender change, magic weapons (that have a percentile chance of singing), becoming temporarily (or forever, if you’re lucky!) super cool…some really nice ones there. Of course, all gold in the area could turn irrevocably to dust. You could develop a split personality. Ninjas might attack. The table does the CHAOS part of “chaos storm” justice.

But we’re not yet done with discussing the new layer-facing components. The movers and shakers of the city are the meat mages – and their rules are NOT good. In fact, the whole “new spells” chapter is basically non-functional and fails to adhere to the conventions of the base systems.I have nothing good to say about it or its lack of organization regarding magic items. The new, vivimancer-based version of Meatlandia is VASTLY superior in this chapter.

The final thing to discuss among the player-facing aspects would be the race of the kaldane – think of these fellows as heads with spider-legs: -6 Str, -2 Cha, +2 Dex and Int, 1d3 hit points per level. They fight as thieves/specialists, and save as clerics, with a bonus of +2 to saves vs. mind control. They are treated as fighters for skill purposes, automatically succeed at climbing, and, being essentially just heads, their write-up notes AC bonuses for helmets etc. They can hide/ as a rogue of their level…when not mounted.

Mounted? Yep, this species has entered a symbiotic relationship with the rykors, basically throwaway idiot bodies, which can fall apart rather easily. Kaldane do get mind control powers and some limited spell-like abilities at higher levels. Kaldane progress, XP-wise, as thieves, with the class table reaching as far as 12th level.

The kaldane represent one of the minor factions of Meatlandia, though the map-appendix does offer a map of a warren sans scale. The big movers and shakers, the key-NPCs, are noted in the beginning, in the campaign setting section: Meatlandia is ruled by the iron fist of the meat lord, a mighty carnomancer whose meat mechs keep the…wait…establish and order….no…enforce his rule. That’s it. His iron will shackles the city, makes it withstand – but the price is aforementioned metaphor of consumption. Meatlandia is a visceral place, and his flesh factories constantly churn meat into the magics required by his cadre of casters, consume, literally, the populace. His enhanced meat men are gruesome mutations – think of cybernetic enhancement, but instead with visceral, organic grafts….the place to whip out all those mutation/corruption tables you no doubt have. His executioner is also noted, and so is his opposition: The valiant rust lord, a champion of death and rebirth, makes for what could be construed as Meatlandia’s Arthurian savior. The adherents of the rust lord wield maces that rust metal items, and they are known as…*drum roll* “Rustafarians!” Come on, that deserves a chuckle! Other parts of the city are firmly under the control of the Death’s Hand guild, but none know their end-game. Famous knights, particularly nasty meat mages and horrid monstrosities are noted, and, as the folks are wont to tell, “Our Lady of Sorrows” (nice nod to either a) the myth, b) Argento, c) the criminally underrated CoC campaign, d) Thomas de Quincey’s similarly underrated literary contributions, or e) all of the above…) a kind of collective consciousness of the city, roams the streets.

Beyond aforementioned chaos storms, we have an inspired d50 city encounters table, a d20 refugee table, and the book does contain magic items that include meat that can be laced with blood of a target, killing the target upon consumption, literal meat shield and similar gory viscera. And worms. There are worms. For example, you should never say a person’s name and “worm” in the same sentence – otherwise, invisible worms all around might manifest and attack. There is a pretty random type of worm that may hijack your body…and there are witches riding on…bingo, worms…though these actually are the setting’s hippies, attempting to establish utopian communes far from the city. Did I mention the “Society for the appreciation of murder”, basically a serial killer fan-club? Or the unstoppable killer that is Sideways Emily, who *will* kill you? The book also implies e.g. that the world may be eaten by a cosmic fish at one point, and features several nice campaign seeds and hooks, if the massive amount of imagination and ideas herein hasn’t already made you want to run this. It will have, fyi.

Conclusion:

Editing is good on a formal level; formatting is pretty much all over the place and adheres to no system’s convention. The rules-language and rules-relevant components are often opaque and not precise enough. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the book comes with a surprising array of really nice b/w-artworks (original pieces) that capture well the grimy and gonzo high, but dark fantasy vibe of the setting. The cartography in b/w is rather nice and player-friendly, though it’d have been nice to get a scale for the maps. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks and all, and the PoD-version, as noted, is seriously worth contemplating.

Wind Lothamer & Ahimsa Kerp have penned a setting that inspired me; I expected to get a kind of Carcosa-knockoff, and got something different: An, at least for OSR-games, high-powered setting of easy-come, easy-go, lethal adventuring through one of the most disturbing, and yet funniest, cities I have seen so far. Meatlandia is an inspired post-industrialized nightmare, as seen through the lens of magic, and it can be played as something truly horrifying; similarly, it could just as well be run as a gonzo setting that embraces the over-the-topness of its concepts and runs with it. Stuart Gordon’s “Reanimator” is quoted as an inspiration, and it shows in tone, though I’d probably liken it more to the slightly lesser known “From Beyond” and its treatment of physicality.

The theme of Meatlandia, the inevitable breakdown of bodies into components to be consumed, in some cases literally, is a theme that resounds, particularly nowadays. The writing and ideas herein are absolutely phenomenal.

The same can’t be said about the mechanical and formal aspects. The latter may be excused, but the lack of adherence to a singular system greatly hurts this supplement; it tanks the wonky spellcasting section, and makes things harder for the referee than they ought to be on all accounts. Ironically, Meatlandia can be best described as capital letters “RAW” (Nor Rules As WRITTEN – RAW…like MEAT) – and a bit of simmering would have done it good.

If you’re in it for the crunch and rules, then think carefully before getting this – in those regards, this is, at best, a 2-star offering, and I wished the book had instead spent more time depicting the amazing setting….which is genuinely inspired, novel and fun. So if that’s what you’re looking for, then this might well be what you’re looking for.

There is no reconciling these positions.

On the one hand, I love the setting; on the other hand, the rules simply aren’t up to par, and as such, my final verdict can’t exceed 3.5 stars, rounded down.

You can get this unconventional setting book/toolkit here on OBS!

If you’re a bibliophile, the impressive hardcover version can be found here on lulu!


Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 262019
 

Occult Skill Guide: Cloning Ritual (SFRPG)

This installment of the Occult Skill Guide-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, after a brief introduction, we begin with the glossary for rituals – yes, this means that this is a full stand-alone supplement that doesn’t require the original rituals-supplements released in this series.

Rituals have three basic ritual components: The ceremony, which denotes the physical actions required to perform the ritual; the lore, which represents the history and information, and the seal – an occult sign that must be drawn to cast the ritual. Some rituals require a focus, and item that isn’t destroyed upon the ritual being cast. The characters engaging in a ritual are known as primary ritualist and secondary ritualist(s). Some rituals have additional requirements: Items consumed by the ritual are called “reagents”; traits the ritualists must shape/have are called “Characteristics”, and creatures offered as payment are called “Sacrifice” – this doesn’t mean that they are killed, though that may well be the case.  Failure to perform a ritual properly can have dire consequences, and thus, this pdf does mention the appropriate failure consequences. Of course, success also has an effect.

A ritual has a key skill, and in order to learn a ritual, you have to have 3 the ritual’s level in skill ranks in the key skill, with the skill usually, but not always, being Computers, Engineering, Mysticism. The pdf also provides rules for learning rituals, and the pdf fully explains the process of performing a ritual in a step-by-step process that is easy to grasp. Since I already explained this in a previous review, I’ll just note that the book thus contains all the rules you require to make more rituals. The pdf even provides an explanation model of why rituals work that you can adopt or ignore – nice! (There is a minor formatting hiccup (a “1.”) in the Ceremony-section of the sample ritual, but that’s cosmetic only.)

All right, so that out of the way, let us check out the ritual, which would be clone creation. This is designated as a level 5 ritual, with the school necromancy and the descriptor [mageologic]. (Ritual descriptors also denote the key skills – mageologic rituals either use Life Science or Physical Science as key skill.). The ritual has a casting time of 5 hours, and requires a crystal formed of pure positive energy as a Focus. As far as reagents are concerned, an artificial uterus and a biochain variant android soul storage unit are required. Beyond that, raw elemental compounds, a sample genetic material and a proper laboratory would be required. Additionally, a mk 3 mnemonic editor is needed. The total cost sans focus of these reagents amount to 60,000 credits, excluding the editor. By the way: You REALLY don’t want to fail this ritual: At 4d3 temporary negative levels, 2d6 ability points damage to ALL scores and 13d20 acid damage, this will probably kill you off…

Anyway, let’s talk about the ceremony: The seal is drawn first, and corresponds to the clone to be created, which will either be a replica or a vessel; then, the growth chamber is assembled, whereafter the fertilization process commences. The clone reconstruction program is up next, and then the mnemonic editor is up next. Skill-wise, we have a lot of Life Science, with some steps requiring Computers and Mysticism checks, and DCs at 39 or 44.

Now, as for success criteria: Replicas are clones with a soul, including artificially memories that are based on telepathic bonds or analogue transfer processes, though the replica can develop independently. Vessels, on the other hand, are basically backup bodies, allowing for excellent means for the villains to return from the dead, for PCs to have an extra life or the like. And yes, the resurrection penalties are still retained. The costs of creating newborn clones and maturing them are covered, and the failure can result in the other clone type, as well as a chance for the primary ritualist to be memory wiped and spat out as an infant version of the clone sans memories or class features. This is a pretty cool way to kick off a campaign – or resume it after a TPK…just sayin’.

The pdf then proceeds to provide a rather cool legend, as well as 3 different sample encounter-suggestions for you to further jumpstart the creative processes.

Beyond that, the pdf also presents the massive “Do-it-yourself”-ritual creation engine that walks you, step by step, through the process of crafting your own rituals, which is a pretty amazing thing, and really easy to grasp, highlighting the author’s teaching experience.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, excellent on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ gorgeous two-column full-color standard, and the pdf contains a bunch of pretty awesome full-color artworks in Jacob Blackmon’s signature style. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alexander Augunas’ cloning ritual is an awesome offering: The supplement ultimately allows you to salvage a campaign from utter disaster and a TPK; it can allow you to change direction, Mass Effect 2-style. It can allow you to have your favorite villain return from the dead, or it can offer a great means to start a campaign, as the PCs try to reclaim their identities after a botched ritual, potentially trying to reclaim their (probably horrible!) memories! The pdf offers, thus, a ton of excellent fuel for creative GMs to take the game in new directions. Heck, you could play a Paranoia-style scenario, or provide a means to play a hyper-deadly meatgrinder. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Highly recommended.

You can get this cool, evocative ritual and its mighty engine here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 262019
 

Mythic Feats: Wilderness Feats

This installment of Mythic Feat-upgrades clocks in at 32 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 back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, though, as always, for Legendary Games, there is a ton of text per page.

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue at the request of my patreons.

Organization-wise, this pdf starts off strong, offering feat-lists in alphabetical order, and then provide a list of feats organized by type, providing for all organization-paradigms you may prefer – big plus. The first list is even internally hyperlinked, allowing for comfortable navigation of the electronic iteration of this pdf.

As always, this book does something I really respect: It takes the feats from one of Paizo’s big hardcovers, here, obviously, Ultimate Wilderness, and provides mythic iterations – for ALL OF THEM. As such, covering each and every feat would obviously bloat this review beyond any usefulness, so let’s start by providing an overview and some samples from within, shall we?

The first feat within is Ambush Awareness, and the mythic iteration allows you to expend a mythic power when benefiting from Ambush Awareness to take a single action instead of a total defense action. Animal Call allows you to add your mythic tier to Bluff checks (not properly capitalized; there are quite a few instances of skills not properly capitalized; btw. not the only feat where a skill hasn’t been properly capitalized herein), and if you succeed, you may call ALL animals within 100 ft. of the type you called, which is pretty epic. Design paradigm-wise, we do have a couple of instances, where the use of mythic power allows for numerical escalation – Animal Ferocity allows for the addition of a +5 circumstance bonus to attack rolls, for example, and Beast Hunter would be another nice example of this design paradigm. The Ferocious feats to upgrade animal companions allow for the addition of mythic tier to the Bluff skills made to feint or intimidate checks made to demoralize, and both allow for the use  of these as a swift action; the demoralize-based, in a nice catch, also allows for Anatagonize use in conjunction with this.

With the proper mythic Verdant Spell, you can affect plant creatures and sentient creatures at once, and when specifically targeting only plants, you penalize Will saves for spell level rounds. Additionally, mythic power allows for the spontaneous use of metamagic. Voice of Beasts’ mythic iteration nets you a non-dispellable supernatural speak with animals. With Boon Companion’s mythic iteration, you can use the full character level as druid level to determine animal companion/familiar abilities, and Command Animals or Command Plants follow a similar design paradigm. Branch Pounce’s upgrade allows you to mitigate the consequences of missing the attack, and similarly, Deep Diver helps you reduce falling damage when diving, and also doubles your range of vision while underwater, which is a cool touch. Mythic power can fortify you against the rigors of crushing pressure as well. With the Bristling combat maneuver feats, you can increase damage output by tier, and has options to use mythic power for more damaging assaults.

Really interesting from a tactical perspective – Crashing Wave Style’s upgrade makes movement taken as part of drag/reposition not count against the amount of movement per round, with mythic power as a means to increase the number of squares. Similarly, Flinging Charge allows you to choose to take the -5 penalty on the ranged attack made as part of the charge instead of the melee attack. Additionally,, when hitting the target of the charge with the ranged attack, you deny the target Dexterity bonus to AC for the melee attack to follow. Now, personally, I do not think that this should allow, as written herein, for a 3/day regaining of mythic power when confirming a critical hit with the ranged attack, as this can theoretically allow you to exceed the standard cap.

Clinging Climber may be used as a swift action, even as a free action with mythic power expenditure. The complex Eidolon Mount upgrade allows you to maintain the eidolon’s size if it’s more than one size category larger than you. Energized Wild Shape’s mythic version increases energy resistance, and also nets a minor retributive energy when struck by unarmed strikes, etc.  Exotic Heritage allows you to take 10 or 20 while threatened with the skill chosen for the base feat, and when using the feat to gain the benefits of Eldritch Heritage, the character also gets the 3rd-level bloodline power, at character level-2. Group Shared Spell allows you to cast targets with a target of “you” on any character that has this feat, with mythic power even at close range – and yes, this is basically one of the few teamwork feats that is really potent, and one that your allies WILL want to invest the feat in!

Obviously, we also cover the Improved/Greater Hunter’s Bond, Spring Attack, etc. feat-upgrades, and e.g. the Indomitable Mountain Style chain is also nice. Jaguar Pounce’s mythic iteration allows you to combine the benefits with Improved Critical, and charge/Spring Attack allows you to inflict tier-governed additional damage: I really enjoyed the power-upgrades for Natural Poison Harvester and Antitoxin. Out of the Sun allows you to blind targets, and Reflexive Interception’s mythic feat nets the character evasion (and its improved version), whether the companion succeeds on the save or not. Shifter’s Edge allows for the threat range increase via mythic power for 1 minute, and increases Shifter’s Edge bonus damage by adding mythic tier to class level to determine damage. Totemic Discipline nets uncanny dodge or the upgraded iteration, and barbarian level for the totemic feats is equal to character level.

The Wilding feat chain also deserves mentioning, as we for example have mythic wild empathy here, immediate action ending of mind-affecting effects, becoming confused instead.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are between good and very good on a formal level – the glitches I found were mostly aesthetic in nature. Rules language-wise, this is as refined and precise as we’ve come to expect from Legendary Games at this point. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports quite an array of full-color artworks, which will be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. The pdf is internally hyperlinked, and the pdf comes properly bookmarked for your convenience.

Alex Riggs, Margherita Tramontano, Jonathan H. Keith, Jeff Lee – you have my utmost respect. Designing books like this can be WORK, and honestly, it’s one thing I personally wouldn’t want to do. For that alone, this series has to be applauded. The work that goes into these mythic feat books is palpable. Now, I am a bit spoiled by now – this particular iteration does go a bit more into the direction of depth regarding the escalation of numbers, rather than providing breadth of new options, though it should be noted that there are plenty of options herein that do represent tactical gamechangers. All in all, this renders the book a great, if not perfect upgrade of feats, one definitely worth getting if you’re using Ultimate Wilderness, and a must-have when using Ultimate Wilderness in conjunction with Mythic Adventures – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

You can get this collection of feats here on OBS!

Do you love mythic material as much as I do? The Mythic Character Codex contains these feats and a TON more! You can find this tome here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 262019
 

Spheres Apocrypha: Light Talents

This installment of the Spheres Apocrypha-series clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with two pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The pdf kicks off with 7 basic talents, one of which, Solar Strike, is untagged: When you hit a creature with an attack, you can make it glow as a swift action, or glow brightly at the cost of 1 spell point. It should be noted that the pdf does miss the proper glow formatting, which can makes the rules-language somewhat obtuse. The pdf also includes a (lens) talent, the Halo Effect, which nets a scaling bonus to Bluff and Diplomacy (and optionally to Performance as well. The skills are not properly capitalized.

The remaining 5 talents all have the (light) tag. Fenestrate lets you create a bright light that makes everything and everyone in the area translucent enough to see through. Objects that grant cover still grant concealment, but Stealth is seriously impeded. Interesting one, though I’d be interested to know whether this means that you can have line of sight through creatures or not – a pretty crucial aspect, as the talent seems to imply so, but the change this would bring for magic would be pretty vast, so I’m not sure. Inner Sun lets you grant a creature you made glow brightly a weapon of light that may be any melee weapon you’re proficient with, with its damage being scaling fire damage. The blade of light can’t hurt translucent targets and may have interesting interactions with reflective creatures. Precious lets you make an item glow – all that see it will then try to get it and admire it, basically turning Gollum on a failed Will-save. This will not make them suicidal or stupid, but it does affect allies. The effect is properly codified and allows for shaking off, but ONLY initially and when admiring it. Shouldn’t this have Hypnotic Pattern as a prerequisite?

Revelation allows you to bestow a light of a text, allowing for the full lecture of the material, including erased text. This can also reveal hidden text and meaning, and even bypass magical protections if you succeed at your Magic Skill Check. Shining Arsenal makes your weapons inflict full damage on incorporeal targets, and fortifies armor and shields aglow to provide full defense against such targets, and you choose a single metal or material – the light mimics this material for the purposes of vulnerabilities, making e.g. cold iron or silver valid choices. Since the glowing items don’t actually get the property, adamantine wouldn’t help.

The pdf also contains 3 new feats: Afterglow lets you add a glow to positive energy ability applicants; Crimson Flash lets you, as a swift action, spend a spell point to expel  a blast that only one ally sees who hasn’t yet acted. The ally may act on your initiative count instead of their own. Lightshow, finally, combos inspiring song with glow, including glow effects, but excluding ones that require targets to glow brightly.

Conclusion:

Editing is good on a formal and rules-language level, but suffers from the lack of quality control regarding formatting – the pdf has a surprising amount of formatting oversights for its brevity, and does not consistently apply the formatting conventions established for the Light sphere, which hurts the integrity of the rules somewhat. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard. I’ll never be a fan of yellow headers for the Light sphere; they are strenuous to read. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Adam Meyers knows what he’s doing, and the Light material herein is, for the most part, interesting. There is, though, as a whole, a sense of this one being rushed, with a ton of formatting hiccups for such a short file, more than necessary. As such, my final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded up due to the low price-point.

You can get this inexpensive pdf here on OBS!

You can directly support Drop Dead Studios here on patreon!


Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 252019
 

101 Aquatic Spells

This massive collection of spells clocks in at 59 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 54 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

The supplement kicks off with a brief introduction that acknowledges that the sub-aqueous environments may be hard to navigate, but also remain truly wondrous. As such, this book’s spells do not seek to per se normalize or negate the effects of adventuring beneath the waves (as there are options for that already), but to enhance the experience. This is a wise decision, as plenty of tables are using e.g. Alluria Publishing’s benchmark “Cerulean Seas”-book for PFRPG-rules, and this pdf thus retains optional compatibility with that book.

As far as the Paizo-books are concerned, we begin this supplement with an array of spells organized by spell-list; these lists take the classic classes as well as the magus and the Advanced Classes Guide classes into account, but the Occult Adventures classes are not covered in the spell-lists, which is a bit of a bummer if you’re like me and love them. But hey, with some luck we’ll have an update at one point…or a compilation.

But you’re here for the spells, right? So let’s take a look at what those spells do, and how they work in context. With an abaia’s gizzard’s fluid (nice touch as an exotic component!), you can cast activation transference, which is a gamechanger of a spell: It enables the subject to use spell-trigger items as though he were the caster – and the caster loses that ability! This is a super-potent spell in the right hands, but at 5th level, it also is a spell that is properly situated in the spell array. Aquatic Alacrity is probably a spell more in line with what you’d expect: The spell allows you to run when moving through water, even if you don’t have a swim speed, as though you had the Run feat, to boot. The spell has another brutal component: As a full-round action in aquatic terrain, which provokes AoOs, you can get an untyped +20 bonus to Stealth, seemingly disappearing. The spell, however, then ends after your next move action. Minor complaints regarding rules-language: RAW, only move actions trigger the end, and this should include full-round actions. Secondly, the spell should clarify whether this allows the target to hide, even when observed, which is a thing as far as Stealth rules are concerned. Now, granted, this is easy to houserule as a GM, but it’s still a minor flaw in an otherwise cool 2nd level spell.

The aqueous spell spells are really cool – they allow the caster to infuse spells in liquid, creating basically spell potions. The spells these can contain obviously cap at certain levels, but yeah – unique. Speaking of which – arcane anaesthetic is basically a spell-like injection that dulls the senses, and the spell halves the duration of magical consumables. Also interesting – the spell can be mitigated with the proper diet (salt-heavy), but this diet requires a save, and on a failure, the target is nauseated.  We have aquatic aspect spells (porpoise and shark), and there is an interesting variant, namely body of water, which is a twist on greater invisibility: This one makes you invisible while completely submerged; outside of water, the spell loses 5 rounds per round spent outside. Considering how many fairy tale stories feature turning to foam and vanishing in water, this really struck a chord with me.

Blood snow, which is an option for blood subdomain casters, among others, creates a storm of swirling blood snow that also starts crystallizing the blood of those inside the cylinder, represented by Strength and Dexterity damage on a success, paralysis and nauseated (short-term both) on a successful one. Casting this spell in too warma  climate reduces its duration and provides a bonus to saves. With a scale of an old or older bronze dragon, you can gain a short-range defensive aura. With drops of a bagiennik’s nasal spray, arcane casters can neutralize poisons and cure diseases in one fell swoop – though the spell does cause some fire and acid damage. As the pdf astutely observes, this does break a barrier between the arcane and divine divide, but I like how it does this – it feels like an arcane remedy – and yes, it may be used offensively! The way in which this pdf employs material components is pretty exemplary and helps render the magic herein more, well, magical.

Now, remember when I claimed that this was compatible with the most extensive underwater adventuring resource released for a d20-based game, Cerulean Seas? Well, I wasn’t kidding. Cerulean Seas features buoyancy rules, and e.g. the buoyant totem  spell manages to retain perfect compatibility with these rules WITHOUT directly referencing or requiring them! Huge kudos! This spell is also a great example of a design-decision I very much enjoy – usually, bloodragers don’t get the spell. However, if you do have the greenrager archetype, you do get it added to your spell list! On the potentially funny side – if you want to reproduce the crab dance meme, there’s a spell for that – cast of crabs, which transforms you and your buddies. (Yep, there also is a dolphin-based spell, for example.) Okay, sure, it’s actually buff spell, but frankly, the crab dance thing was my first association, and it was hilarious. In my head. …yeah, I know, I’m weird. Bonus points if you follow up with the puntastic death by crabs that is BOUND to elicit some giggles, you can call forth crab swarms to slay your foes.

Alchemists, bards and sorcerer/wizards can now cast something that you’d usually associate with the divine – cone of holy water, which pretty much does what you’d expect. Here, I genuinely appreciated that the spell is focused on classes you usually wouldn’t associate with holy water, which, in a way, makes sense. There are plenty of transform into xyz/take on aspects of xyz type of spells. If you already have the excellent 101 Swamp Spells (And seriously, should get all of the author’s 101-spell-books), you’ll be delighted to hear that there are options building on the kin-engine, for example, defend the moor and its greater iteration. The latter btw. does use hero points, which is a nice touch as far as I’m concerned. Power of the electric eel is a winner – it presents a bonus, and allows for its discharging to enhance your electricity-infused touch attacks, which even arc towards the targets on misses. This is an interesting one. Spells for the creations or puddles or rain, calling forth different varieties of drakes and the like can be found.

Personally, I am rather partial to the low level spell that allows you to ingest poisons and spit them towards the targets. Kiss of death-assassin, anyone? 🙂 If you like Risk of Rain, you may want to check out rusting rain, which, bingo, will probably make sweet player tears join the rain, as their precious metal-objects are compromised. Full of slapstick potential – slippery shoes. Duplicating a squid’s quick exit, transforming into a squall of ice and snow…and, nice touch, there is a spell to create supercooled water, and The Bends is a potent one that can make for an interesting chassis to create a rather brutal version of the well-known diver’s sickness.

Dispelling grasp is an exciting combat spell, which allows you to touch items and grasp them, subjecting them to greater dispel magic. Engine-wise, this is based on sunder, getting feat interaction done right. Many folks also associate swashbuckling with the waves, and as such, there are buffs to enhance your grace, options to breathe longer underwater, or spells that make the target’s equipment heavier – which, obviously, can be rather nasty in water. Faerie cold nets your body the option to generate a defensive nimbus that is particularly potent for casters of the fey bloodline. This enhances cold spells, and also the damage dice employed by frost or icy burst weaponry. Minor complaint – it’s resistance, not “resist” regarding energy types. A kind of combo flight/swim speed, that only allows you to fly a certain distance over water.

Gholdako’s darkness is a neat defensive spell that may be discharged in a blinding cone, and there is a language-dependent compulsion that forces the target to hold their breath until they pass out, which is a neat classic trope represented as a spell. Hydromantic insight is incredibly interesting, in that it represents a powerful buff that is contingent on having an uninterrupted pathway through water to the creature against which your defensive buff applies. It may sound like a small twist, but it is one that explains how the magic operates, and one that is entwined with roleplaying and tactics. Love it. Hydrophilia and hydrophobia do pretty much what you’d expect, and at the highest echelons of the power-scale, we have a localized and instantaneous level 9 ice age, which does melt if the climate is sufficiently warm, but yeah. And yep, you can also make instant icebergs. Your pirate foes will hate you. Luxury-liners will hate you even more. ;P

Reducing elementals to speed 0, protection versus ingested poison and diseases…and then there’d be the into the sea spell (mass version included), which includes bonuses to Constitution and Strength checks, adaption to the cold, low-light vision, etc. – basically, it’s the survive in water base package. Nice. Lightning on the sea is also really cool: Basically a misty cloud that is suffused with saltwater, making everything slippery, and the cloud does cause electricity damage. Manifest blizzard is hardcore and lets you generate truly fearsome storms, Mesopelagic pressure  causes force damage, and the melt ice cantrip, well, does what it says on the tin. The pdf also includes the 4th level minor wish spell, which does pretty much what you’d expect it – the costly component accounts for the flexibility this offers.

Underwater scent, really good voice mimicry…and what about a low-level spell to entangle targets in water globules, potentially drowning them? Water runner  is basically a follow-up better version of the classic water walking tricks, and on the curse-side, there is a water-breather curse. There also is a spell that allows you to make fires waterproof, GOT (or napalm)-style, and the pdf does include a variant of dimension door that focuses on jumping from wave to wave. Cone-shaped wave-battle-spells complement, finally, this massive supplement.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good on both a formal and rules-language level. Considering the top-tier complexity many of these spells attempt in their operations, it’s surprising that almost no glitches have crept into this massive book. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s classic two-column full-color standard, and the pdf features quite a lot really nice full-color artworks from various sources. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

David J. Paul’s spellbooks, published by Rite Publishing, you know, all of the 101 spell-books that have a terrain or something like that in the title, are frankly my favorite series of spell-pdfs out there, it’s simple as that. The author understands complex rules-interactions, and the power-levels of the spells are suitable for the spell levels, showing a deep understanding of that aspect of game design. Beyond that, from taking domains, bloodlines and archetypes into account, these often allow for small differentiations. Clever use of material components and variants allow for some rather cool scenes, and more than that, there is an intrinsic understanding of something many a Pathfinder-supplement forgets: Magic, while somewhat arbitrary, does have some underlying rules and conventions; we all carry expectations about what magic does and how it operates with us, informed by fairy tales, fantasy literature, and the games we play.

His spells, ultimately, are cognizant of those unwritten rules, of these subtle nuances, and this makes them feel plausible and “real” – this manages to render even obvious variants as something creative beyond what you’d expect. Your consciousness may not notice it at once, but somewhere deep in your subconscious, you realize it. It’s a crucial component of the tangible appeal these sourcebooks have for me. If I had to choose a singular line of spells, and only use this one series in conjunction with my PFRPG-games to the exclusion of all others, this’d be the spell-series I’d choose. Unsurprisingly, my final verdict will account for this, clocking in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to being closer to 5 than 4, and yes, this does receive my seal of approval.

You can get these cool spells here on OBS!

Missed Cerulean Seas? You can get this tome here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 252019
 

Galaxy Pirates: Ships – Katar Light Cruiser (SFRPG)

This Ship-pdf clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The light cruiser is the workhorse of the Katar fleet and clocks in as a tier 6 destroyer, which comes with medium 100 shields, mk 4 armor and defenses, and an Arcus Max power core. Thruster-wise, we have L6 and a basic drift engine, and the systems are powered by a mk1 trinode computer, and the vessel offers good crew quarters and has basic medium-range sensors. The light cruiser has 3 cargo holds, and also uses the focus on social skills that Katar crew seem to have. The Piloting skill, at +19, is pretty damn high, but in comparison, the crew has less to offer regarding Engineering, as here, we only have +13.

Weaponry-wise, we have heavy laser cannons and torpedo launchers on the front, flak throwers port and starboard, and light torpedo launchers on the aft, and light particle beams for the turrets. Unless I’ve miscalculated, the ship should btw. be using its full assortment of BP available – it does have PU left, but yeah. Nice. Shields btw. are, as with other katar-vessels, slightly focused on front and back. The pdf coems with a Computers-table to know information about it. The table features a minor typo and erroneously refers to the Fast Attack vessel in the header in a  cut-copy-paste remnant

As always, we get a fully filled-out starship sheet version of the ship ready for your perusal, and a one-page full-color handout style version of the ship’s great artwork. We also have paper-standing minis of the ship, and the pdf offers a fully depicted, great map of the ship, which makes sense regarding room placement, offers a katar garden, cold storage, gravity reactor, etc.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes with a great artwork of the vessel, and the cartography for the vessel in full-color is excellent. The pdf doesn’t have bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Paul Fields and Jim Milligan deliver a cool workhorse army vessel that does a good job. It doesn’t feel over-engineered and functional, and thus manages to capture rather well the intended flavor. All in all, this is a good vessel, well worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

You can get this cool ship here on OBS!

Want a massive bundle of these lavishly-mapped ships? You can find the bundle here!


Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 252019
 

Roadside Respite (OSR)

This adventure clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page mostly blank, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper when printing this. Since the font-size is pretty large, this indeed is a solid option here.

This module is designated as compatible with OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord AEC, though it should be noted that there are several inconsistencies regarding rules-language; we have, for example, a mention of summon zombie, which, for example, would in OSRIC rather be handled via animate dead. There is a Fear 15’ Radius noted, when fear uses a cone – these do not make the module impossible to run, mind you, but if you’re like me and like running stuff by the book, this will come up, and it will bother you.

Speaking of which: One of the things that irked me about this adventure, is that it bills itself as a “Mini Mod” – a sidequest that can be picked up and GM’d with minimal prep work. Thing is, when the rules language isn’t perfect, that won’t happen or, at the worst, grind the game to a halt. Worse, of all the pages, the adventure synopsis is actually the one with most typos and weird verbiages – to the point where it becomes a bit hard to understand what’s going on. That becomes clear upon reading the module, but yeah. When compared to e.g. Raging Swan Press’ Go-Play adventures (which CAN be run with 0 prep-work!) for a vastly more complex system, this is particularly galling. That being said, the module *does* do a better job at organizing its content than many comparable ones – stats for enemies, for example, are provided where they’re encountered, and read-aloud text is properly bolded.

A boon for my sore eyes: The formatting of this module is much better than that of many comparable OSRIC-adventures, and actually makes an effort to adhere to the conventions set by the rules. Read-aloud text is provided and presented in italics and bolded, and the module does provide a couple of GM notes.

This module is intended for 4 – 6 characters level 4 – 5, and if I were to categorize it, I’d consider it to be medium to old-school challenging regarding its difficulty; it’s not a meat-grinder, but you very much have a decent chance of perishing, particularly in one instance. A well-rounded party is suggested, and particularly characters capable of handling undead should be part of the party, though wilderness specialists also will have some scenes to shine. PCs definitely should have access to cure disease.

Genre-wise, it’s call this a somewhat gothic fairytale that has somber notes without diving into being grimdark or fueled by misery; it’s a module that will probably leave you with a bittersweet memory, emphasis on the “sweet”, rather than the bitter, which I genuinely appreciated, as it’s a) a rare tone to go for, and b) pretty hard to achieve. The background story includes the death of an unborn child, so that may be a trigger for some.

But in order to talk more about this, I will need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

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All right, only referees around? Great! So, the PCs happen upon a cellar of a dilapidated farmhouse, and soon are haunted by strange visions – these, ultimately, lead them to a shrine, where a riddle awaits (including a visual representation of the shrine in full color and a means to help players that get stuck), and after that, the module centers around a two-part dungeon exploration that starts off as pretty linear and then branches a bit in part II. The dungeon itself begins as a hidden sepulcher of sorts, haunted by the dead – which is, in a nice touch, represented, among other things, with a d12 table of random creepy dressing to enhance atmosphere. I liked that!

The way down a well-like structure and past the first alcoves may well be a rude awakening, as there is potentially lethal, nigh undetectable mold there – as a big plus, though, the PCs do get a grace period of 4 rounds, which doesn’t exactly make this save or die. It is an AoE effect, though – remember how I told you that cure disease would be helpful? Anyhow, exploring the dungeon will have the PCs face ghostly apparaitions mourning in sadness for their families, caught here – and a journal provides the exposition. While not necessarily elegant, it gets the job done. Puzzling to me, though: The journal’s text covers approximately a page, and is provided in a different font. It looks like a handout, it can be used as a handout – and it’s spread over two pages that otherwise contain referee-only information. I can’t for the life of me, fathom why this wasn’t relegated to an appendix as a proper handout.

Anyhow, the journal tells a take of woe: The Torrine family, once guardians of sorts, had a talisman bestowed upon them by the guardian of the woods, this pleasant ginormous, somewhat angelic owlbear on the cover. However, dark cultists of Grenndig infiltrated the family as guest-workers and incited a kind of madness that led the author to kill his wife – his corpse remains, clutching a box. This box is constantly referred to simply as “box” – until it suddenly is referred to as “soul box” when it becomes a prime way to deal with an issue – jarring and annoying.

Once the box has been claimed “activated”, the apparitions, in hopelessness, start to cling to the PCs – once more, this is where a cleric is very much recommended, as the can be turned as type 2 undead. The souls implore the PCs to find the Talisman stolen by the vile cultists, and return it to the homestead. Squeezing through partial collapses, the PCs will ultimately reach a gate guarded by a crypt thing of the more annoying variety, as it sends PCs back to the forest above – not a fan of this inclusion here. Here, the pdf also presents two magic items, which, alas, flaunt verbiage and formatting conventions in several regards.

Defeating or tricking the crypt thing allows the players to pass through the gate to the frozen temple, where Grenndig’s followers have been entombed by the Talisman – these now roam the second part of the dungeon as undead. Situated in the frigid northern tundra, we have giant tundra ants here as well – and a really brutal (but optional) room, where the whole floor is a thin sheet of ice over supercooled water that begins freezing very quickly if ice etc. is dumped in. To make matters worse, breaking through also releases a ton of methane, which, you guessed it, can cause a big BOOM…and potentially a TPK. This room is brutal, and I like it, though less experienced dngeon-crawlers should probably get a warning. In fact, the environmental effects are rather nice. Ultimately, the PCs will find the illustrated armature that holds the Talisman, which keeps blasting the PCs with spell-like effects (this is where such oddities as the aforementioned summon zombie come into place. Withstanding the assault once it’s removed is the brute-force way – you can also put it in the aforementioned soul box, which is here, for the first time, referenced as such. The Talisman will prevail over the dark, and the PCs can take it back from the tomb of these evil cultists – and either keep it, or present it to the guardian, bestowing peace upon the lost souls.

Conclusion:

Formatting is decent, if not impressive. The same can’t be said for editing. There is a ton of typos in this book, and some weird sentence structures can be found – particularly the synopsis was a pain to read. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard, with no graphic elements, making this pretty printer-friendly. The tables provide some unobtrusive touches of color, and the pdf does contain quite a few nice full-color artworks that would showcase Lloyd Metcalf’s talent – were it not for a grating effect that extends to maps and front and back cover as well: While the text is crisp, the artworks and maps are not: They all are pixilated in a  really grating manner,  which is a genuine pity, as I know the artist’s work and quality, and even in that state, they have something going for them. The cartography of the complex is in full color, but annoyingly, we do not get a player-friendly, keyless version. Finally, you guessed it – this has no bookmarks.

Lloyd Metcalf’s “Roadside Respite” made me grit my teeth. SO HARD. Why? Because this is actually a really nice old-school module. It’s unpretentious, challenging without being frustrating, yet has its deadly moments. It genuinely manages to evoke a somber-creepy atmosphere and blend it with the fantastic for a unique, relatively nuanced tone that resonates with me. As a person, after I finally got what this was about, I really enjoyed this sidetrek.

Which brings me to the crux: The formal components. Most of them. There are plenty of issues in both, and particularly the synopsis, the glitches made it really hard for me to get what was going on. The pixilated artworks hamper the book in the aesthetic department, where it’d otherwise offer some cool pieces, and worse, this extends to the map. Which is not provided in a player-friendly version. And to add one final insult, the pdf has no bookmarks. WTF. As far as the formal components are concerned, this must be called a failure.

Which is utterly galling, as frankly, with a strict rules editor, with someone making sure that this works as it was intended, with the proper pdf- and comfort-functions, this could be an easy 4 stars, perhaps even a 5 star-offering. This does feel like a passion project; it’s not cynical, it doesn’t feel like a rushed cashgrab. It is suffused with these little touches that show that the author CARES. And that’s a big thing for me. As a person, I’d take this VERY flawed module over many more professional, but soulless ones out there. It does have this spark that makes it clear that this is intended to be fun.

But as a reviewer, I can’t let the grievous issues this module has in the formal department slide. As a matter of fact, I should most definitely rate this 2 stars. But…I can’t bring myself to doing so. This may be a deeply-flawed offering, but it is also one that has heart, that has soul – and that, provided you can look past the list of issues, really can be a fun and challenging little sidetrek with a tone we don’t get to see often in published adventures. This is why, after much deliberation, I have opted to settle on a final verdict of 2.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform – with the caveat that you have to be willing to look past all the issues I mentioned.

If you’re not, then steer clear. If you are, however, then this might be the best formally-atrocious adventure you’ve ever run. Let me close this with stating that I hope that this review doesn’t discourage the author – I very much hope that we’ll get to see a revised edition at one point. The module would certainly deserve it, and I’d love to revisit a more refined iteration.

You can get this charming, if formally flawed module here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 242019
 

Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 – So You’re A Teenage Witch (VsM Engine)

This supplement for the excellent season 2 of Vs. Stranger Stuff clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page SRD, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, first things first: Yeah, gender is a hot-button issue, so the book starts explicitly stating that, while the book is written with tropes associated with women in mind, it is explicitly not intended to lock out other genders. Beyond that, and this is probably more useful to bear in mind, the supplement is written from a Western perspective, and creeds of witches or traditions can vary, obviously, greatly.

As far as rules are concerned, the booklet takes the notion of witchcraft and portrays it in a simple to grasp method that seamlessly integrates with VsM-engine-based games:  The “You’re a Teenage Witch” good gimmick. This is basically one of the several options that serve as an “unlock” function. The Initiated good gimmick represents when a witch has performed a special rite that initiates you into the coven, allowing you to aid witchcraft. NPCs initiating you double as trusted tutor. The notion of Covens (deliberately spelled with capital “C”) also bears mentioning. Coven spells draw an additional card as long as at least 3 members cooperate in the witchcraft. (Yep, there is a reason that “Charmed”, alongside the more obvious “Chilling Tales of Sabrina” or “Salem” are included in the suggested media list…) This also makes clever use of Easy Mode and Hard Mode gimmicks, allowing you to easily generate gradients of power.

In Easy Mode, we have the assumption of the 90’s era Sabrina sitcom, with asy and reliable magic that can be performed alone without complications. Everyone can use witchcraft (no need for the gimmicks) and the TVs are reduced. More importantly, magic is per default White Magic, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

There are three bad gimmicks included as well – there is one that makes you require a Talisman to cast spells, and is not Stuff, but other witches with your Talisman can draw one additional card. The Talisman can always be your Focus. Complaint here: If a ton of witches have this one, they can just hand all Talismans to one witch for insane amounts of cards – this should probably have a hard limit or a negative repercussion for the person losing their Talisman. As written, it can actually make the group stronger, which is probably not what was intended. Coven dependent Witchcraft is pretty self-explanatory. Tainted Magic locks you into Black Magic, either preventing you from casting White Magic, or making White Magic spells count as Black Magic, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Powerful Witch is a good gimmick that allows you to draw two cards instead of one when performing witchcraft, and mentions interaction with Covens properly. In Hard Mode, one character should have the You’re a Teenage Witch good gimmick. Additionally, in Hard Mode, this may require a bad gimmick, or an increase in TVs. An important narrative option that hearkens closer to the current iteration of Sabrina would be the requirement for a pact with a powerful entity – that doesn’t have to be the devil – it can be a ghost, a manifestation of nature, fey – you get the idea. This option is represented by the Pact Witch bad gimmick, which punishes violations of the agenda of the supernatural patron via either the loss of Toughness or all-out loss of spellcasting abilities.

Now, obviously, all of these can be mixed and matched pretty easily to create a representation of your custom vision, but you didn’t need me to tell you that, right? 😉

Now, as for White vs. Black magic – Black magic basically causes some sort of harm; it’s basically “bad”; in the absence of a proper alignment system, the fluid shades of grey distinction between White and Black Magic and the things between makes for something I very much enjoy seeing. The pdf introduces some interesting questions regarding the subjectivity and fluidity of these, and also presents rules to determine the general nature of the magic type involved.

All right, the basics of access out of the way, how does witchcraft work? The book establishes witchcraft as something being based on Intention (capital I, is, wait…intentional…I’m so sorry. I just can’t stop.) –the witch determines what the spell is supposed to achieve. You need to think of the implications and make sure the spell is specific…open-ended Intentions are dangerous. As the pdf astutely warns witches-to-be: Dead folks have no problems anymore, so phrasing is of tantamount importance. Ultimately, the main challenge of presenting this is one of roleplaying, which is something I very much applaud. Very detailed examples are provided to help you get an idea of this process. A repeatable verse, for example, is something that represents the magic – and yes, the players should write that down! (Aren’t you folks in the US thankful that the age of satanic panic is over?)

After you determined this aspect, you choose and gather ingredients – and the concept of correspondence, is explained – there is a 1:1 correspondence between emotion, value, etc.; thus, a spell dealing with happiness might require ingredients associated with that. There are three ingredients: The Focus, which is the target or catalyst of the spell; the Actor is something that usually changes or affects the Focus, often destroying the third component, the Sacrifice. Cool here: If you prefer light-hearted Easy Mode games, suggestions for e.g. meat from the butcher etc. are provided. You can play this as really dark, or as super light-hearted for-all-ages feel-good. The important thing about the Sacrifice component is, that it goes away; it’s the price you pay for magic. And if you want a bit more complexity, the pdf does offer rules for rare and dangerous ingredients as well. Beyond that, we have an optional rule that allows for powerful sacrifices, implementing a gradient of sorts.

To cast a spell, you draw a single card per witch participating in the witchcraft, compare it to the TV, and there you go! Variable success variant rules and a handy table to sample TVs/durations and example spells and effects helps the GM to judge the impact of these without any hassle. There also are optional rules for the cards being drawn face-down (GM only knows!), and one that makes an effect on Aces permanent – which can be potentially hilarious.

Here’s a pretty big thing: Cards used for magic are NOT reshuffled into the deck, unless you’re playing in Easy Mode/in a setting where magic is intended to be common. Magic is also unreliable: When a card to cast a spell successfully is a Heart, the spell has beneficial side-effects; the inverse happens when a Spade beats the TV. If no successes occur, spades can also cause feedback. Once more, plenty of examples are included. Speaking of witch (I just…can’t stop…the..groan-worthy…pseudo-jokes…) – nine sample spells are provided, and we get a really gorgeous full-color two-page cheat-sheet for spellcrafting that summarized all components. This sheet is laid out as though it was a page from an ancient grimoires. Nice touch! The pdf closes with a Vs. Stranger Stuff 2 character sheet.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard, with comic-style full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lucus Palosaari, with additional content by Rick Hershey, provides something that may look deceptively simple, but really isn’t: We get a properly functional magic engine for VsM-Engine-based games, one that does a great job of depicting occult/folklore style magic. Not the flinging of colored balls of death, but the magic that we know from lore, that feels mysterious and primal.

Now, I get the obvious Sabrina-angle here, but rest assured that this pdf is not simply content trying to duplicate the series; instead, its usefulness goes far beyond the tropes of the Teenage witch – in all but the names employed for the gimmicks, this is a full-fledged magic system that focuses, much to my delight, on the roleplaying, while not neglecting the mechanical components. What really impressed me, though, would be the vast modularity of the system: You can cobble together a ton of different variations of how magic operates and build from there. This modularity ensures that you’ll time and again return to this humble little booklet. I am more than positively surprised by the depth this offers. I consider this to be an absolute must-own supplement for Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2. 5 stars + seal of approval, and this gets a nomination as a candidate for my Top ten of 2018, as well as the EZG Essentials-tag for VsM Engine-based games. If your game has magic, then you need this, plain and simple.

You can get this inspired pdf here on OBS!

You can find Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 here on OBS!

As an aside: Fat Goblin Games is currently having a massive $1.00-sale – these two books? They’re currently a buck each! You can find the whole VsM Engine library here! (And yes, the sale applies to almost all books!)

And yes, this extends to Shadows Over Vathak supplements and Castle Falkenstein product libraries!

Endzeitgeist out.

Apr 242019
 

101 Spells for the Common Man

This supplement clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 31 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a brief introduction, we get a rather nice list of spells by suggested profession – want to know which spells work for doctors and artisans? There’s a list here, and each occupation lists the respective spells by spell level. The spells only cover the spell-levels from 0th to 2nd, focusing on magic for the common man, as befitting of a magical society. If that seems inconvenient to you, fret not, for the supplement also provides spell-lists by class, which btw. also include the Advanced Class Guide and Occult Adventures-classes.

The spells, as would be expected, cover utilities, and the first, Abernathy’s abacus sets an apt tone for the entirety of the supplement, providing a purely mental abacus that helps you perform calculations, including notes on actions to operate it. There are two versions of magical bed-time stories, which send targets down the sequence of fatigue-related effects, and which don’t work in combat – nice! (As an aside: These do work imho even better when combined with Everyman Gaming’s Sleeping Rules)

I was really enamored by bonds of hospitality – a representation of the concept of not partaking in violence against a host whose food or drink you have consumed, using a sanctuary-like basis, Utility spells to boil water, to butcher carcasses or for a butler’s bell, with the latter based on alarm, we have quite a few cool ones here. There also is a really funny one that magical parents would love – castellan’s dungball attracts low weight/value physical clutter and makes it form a katamari-style ball that follows you around! Speaking of order: Categorical organization is great to order those treasure heaps, and chef’s crew lets you have a taste of being a chef in a proper cuisine, providing a crew of unseen servants to follow your directions. Bonus points if you give them red or blue jackets. ;P

Speaking of which: Phantom mannequins do pretty much what you’d expect them to do. There is a spell that allows you to better filter out background noise, and if your mansion isn’t exactly up to snuff, there is pleasing façade, which makes a structure take on the idealized appearance of a painting, while the painting becomes an exaggerated representation of reality – kind of like Dorian Gray lite.

Kidding aside, there is a handy spell that emulates a cock’s crow. I’m not as happy with coiner’s honesty, as it identifies nonmagically altered and counterfeited coins, without taking the skill of the forger into account. Moneylender’s mark allows a bank to make a debtor’s outstanding debt ever more apparent with a darkening sign. A godsend for scribes would be mirrorquill, which makes a quill duplicate your writing as you go.

With two spells, conjure cart and create ice, you could duplicate more wholesome fish/meat markets, and some farmers will certainly love create soil. Particularly in a setting where entities with defiler-like powers exist, this cantrip may be of vital importance. Distill cure is neat, as it enhances the usefulness of a nonmagical curative, allowing for the rolling of a save twice, taking the better result. A spell to make an animal hardier and better suited to working as a draft animal, a herald’s voice enhancer…some cool ones. If the painful time of having to let go of a creature has come, you may want to consult the euthanize spell, which btw. thankfully does come with caveats that prevents abuse. Kudos!

Immediate water-evaporation is nice, and exquisite display case is certainly neat to showcase your triumphs. Fey gift can be used to barter with fey and keep them away (and there is a version for spirits as well!), while invite house spirit does the opposite, inviting a benevolent, supernatural entity into your home. Fortify wine increases the potency of a given draft. Greenery light can help you handle the regenerative properties of plants, and herder’s ward can help you keep your livestock in place – and if you do lose animals, you can still fall back on locate stock, which is based on arcane mark. Quick plucking and defeathering of targets, raise irrigation and prize vegetable growth boosts can really help. And yes, there is a magical sow seeds, a scarecrow spell…

Inner clock does what it says on the tin. Tired of gritty and grimy surroundings and those nasty creepy-crawlies? Louse screen suddenly makes your game much more hygienic for the characters. Projection of memory is amazing, as it creates a visual illusion of an object prior to damage sustained, which can be sued for puzzle/narrative purposes by the enterprising GM. There is a road ward that enhances the integrity of streets, and roots to plowshares turns a tree stump into a plow – very handy! Scent wall blocks, bingo, what you’d expect. Schedule is absolutely glorious, and lets you put a cantrip/orison on a timer, affecting objects. I’d have this one cast all over my stuff! Shadow lockpicks nets you thieves’ tools that later upgrade to masterwork, and surgeon’s watch pings you when the target takes damage. You can also cast a spell to direct vermin to weave and assemble a nonmagic woven item for you, and with the right spell, you can warp glass!

The pdf also includes a 20-level arcane worker NPC-class, basically a caster-commoner with spells of up to 4th level, ½ BAB-progression, good Will-saves, d6 HD and 4 + Int skills per level. The pdf contains also an array of sample NPCs – a CR 3 arcane artist, a CR 4 arcane baker, a CR 1/3 arcane farmhand, a CR 2 arcane parent, a CR ½ magical merchant, a CR 2 magical miner, a CR 2 singing tavernkeep, and finally a CR ½ town doctor.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with red headers. The pdf uses fitting public domain and stock b/w-art, with some other contributions and annoyingly, has no bookmarks, which represents a serious and unnecessary comfort-detriment for a book of this size.

Jeff Gomez crafted this book with contributions from Andrew Ready, Charles Kulick, David J. Rust, Jason Owen Black, Jennifer R. Povey, Kat Evans, Kate Baker, Landon Winkler, Maria Smolina, Matthew Morgans, Matt Roth, Matthew Oatman, Mike Welham, Nik Geier, Nikolaï Samarine, Robert Metcalf and Wojciech Gruchala. And while that are a lot of authors, the quality of the material herein is consistent and high, offering a fun assortment of creative and cool spells that help depicting magical societies. Not all spells herein will be fantastic for all games, but even low/rare magic games will find a couple of worthwhile and intriguing spells in this book. All in all, a great book, only hampered by the really grating and puzzling absence of bookmarks. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

You can get these everyday spells here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.