May 222019
 

Grimmerspace: Abattoir 8 (SFRPG)

Yep, you can meet this nice fella. No, he’s by far not the only danger…

This massive module clocks in at 90 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 15 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 70 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Wait, first, let’s talk pregens – level 1 and 2 pregens are provided, with ready to print out character sheets – and guess what? 22 pages of them! Yeah, that is quite a load of work off your shoulders.

This module begins with 4 – 6 PCs at 1st level and, at the end of the module, PCs that survive should have 2nd or 3rd level; a handy appendix lists XP by encounter zone for your convenience. What’s that, you ask? Think of those as the same as a part or sub-chapter, focused on a general region. Think of an encounter zone as a sub-level of a dungeon. I’ve certainly played scenarios with less meat on their bones than one of the encounter zones herein has. While these XP-by-zone-guidelines are provided, the module does suggest leveling up depending on the demands of the story instead. And yes, you read that right -there is a very real chance of PC death here; this is not a cakewalk – after all, Grimmerspace is a science-fantasy horror setting! This module is the first part of a two-parter that may be expanded further, but rest assured that it works rather well as a stand-alone adventure. As a horror-supplement, the usual disclaimers apply – if you want happy-go-lucky, then why are you checking out a horror module by none other than Richard Pett? 😉

Kidding aside, this pdf is actually rather neat in that it (like future Grimmerspace supplements!) has a chart that shows you the TYPE of horror! Does your group really dislike religious themes or excessive gore? One look at the chart and you’ll know what to expect and make an informed decision. Really neat!

There is another aspect to Grimmerspace that everybody, including potential players, should know: It takes a radical departure of sorts from Starfinder’s default assumptions, in that it reframes very basic assumptions of the very space opera/science-fantasy themes of the games to better suit its needs without making serious incisions into the game: You see, Grimmerspace’s default-setting, the Gliding Rim Galaxy, is pretty humanocentric and saw a constant expansion of the “safe zones” of space towards the edge. It also was utterly mundane – only in recent years, a strange phenomenon started introducing magic as a new force – there is a Tear, and with it, magic has come to the G-Rim (the parlance for this frontier – and reason for the term “Grimmer” for the hardened locals…)

It should also be noted that this module comes with a pretty massive FREE map-pack. This map-pack contains a gorgeous, isometric full-color map of the adventure’s location, and also provides handout-style versions of the full-color artworks presented within. (YES! This should have been industry standard ages ago!) Beyond that, we get jpg-versions of the respective encounter area-maps in full-color – two of them per map, in fact. Yep, we do get GM-versions AND player-friendly versions! AWESOME.

Speaking of which – the module begins with a distress call that just begs to be printed out and used as a handout…and guess what? Yep, we do get a handout for it. It’s not the only one: Anotehr note is provided, and a mini-game of sorts comes with an isometric map/visual representation that also acts as a handout.

As far as GM-skill is concerned, this is one of the most newbie-friendly horror-adventures I’ve seen in my reviewing career. It comes with a full page of mood-setting dressing, including a check-list to determine how often you used them – oh, and darkvision gets different entries! Why? The chemicals freed make darkvision capable of seeing certain protein-splatters, which can be really disturbing! Similarly, there is a neat survival-aspect, with an environmental protections-tracker-sheet included. As far as supplemental materials go, this seriously raises the stakes for the game! It should also be noted that the pdf provides a lot of very well-written read-aloud text, and supplements them with pro-tips in sidebars that help you troubleshoot potential problems, provide guidelines, etc. Heck, it even provides guidelines of when session-breaks would make sense. Kudos!

On a technical level and more relevant for veteran GMs would be that this module makes rather clever use of general level-features/hazards – from power surges to loose cables and hot hydraulic sprays, there are several such hazards that are tied to PC-actions; these can be used to enhance the danger of the situation and provide what I like to call “global” effects, adding to how organic the station feels. Beyond these, we have “electroconductive” as a new condition – because you#re wet, you more easily conduct electricity. THANK YOU. Particularly in the slightly more scifi-centric Grimmerspace, this makes ample sense.  It should come as no surprise, but yes, there are different adventure hooks provided, and yes, the adventure does come with its own rumor table for PCs that like to think of their PCs as capable of doing some research beforehand. Also relevant: Details like whether or not detect thoughts works? Yep, they’ve thought of that! Oh, and technically, this is NOT a linear module!

This being an adventure-review, the following obviously contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

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All right, only GMs around? Great! So, Abattoir 8 is an agricultural place that handles food processing, distribution and also acts as a trade hub of sorts. Maintained by the Attien Combine, t orbits the automated agricultural outpost Conviction. The PCs arrive on Abattoir 8 via one of the so-called slingshot ferries, but no one is to be seen. If you’ve played Dead Space 1 (the only creepy one in the franchise), you’ll have a good inkling of the atmosphere that expects you. No necromorphs abound – instead, we have Big Boy Thrask as basically an insane cyborg-slasher-cannibal villain – and easily one of the most striking and gut-wrenching murder-tableaus I’ve seen in a RPG – two of his victims have been decapitated, their bodies turned into clothes-wrapped meat, their arms reimagined as sausages that touch; the victims’ decapitated heads have been placed on the meat-piles in a grotesque caricature, facing each other…and as a final kick, “Love is…” has been written in blood between them. This is some Grade A+ twisted gore! Thrask is btw. the fine gentleman on the cover – and yes, he has custom items. His statblock provides a couple of unique tricks – and, interestingly, he has some smart (and scary) tactics that interplay with aforementioned global effects/hazards – and his goal is kidnapping PCs and dragging them to his aptly-named murder closet. Did I mention the mad zero-G welder who wrecked a section of the station, requiring that the PCs face the cold vastness of space (and, potentially, end out there?)…or the fact that all of this, including the global effects I mentioned in my examples so far, are actually all from the first encounter zone? Did I mention the guy who had his head replaced with a thunk (the cattle-equivalent), and said macabre head? Stuffed with grenades. OUCH.

Yep. The mechanic-turned-crossover of Hellraiser and Texas Chainsaw Massacre? That’s kind of the prologue. Sure, a prologue that wants to dismember you, and that seriously hunts you through the complex, but a prologue of sorts nonetheless. You see, the escape shuttle? It is way up there, between the two massive silos that make up Abattoir 8. And guess what? Getting up those silos? Easier said than done! The PCs can, for example, attempt to get up the malfunctioning thunk silo, where robotic arms can be rather dangerous….but the reprocessing plant is no better: Singapore-style interior fields, where dangerous harvest bots abound – and yes, they have long, sharp blades… That being said, it may actually not be that bad of an idea (from a story-perspective) to have the PCs  traversing  the thunk silo fall – why? Because zone 3 is the abattoir, and it is disturbing. Hardcore. You know, I’ve grown up in the middle of nowhere; I’m familiar with butchering, where meat comes from, etc. – and I’ve seen industrial meat-processing up close. It’s not pretty. Now, picture a malfunctioning super-high-tech version of that – a huge pile of half dismembered carcasses, drones that summarily execute anything that moves and process it…it’s visceral. Really, really visceral. The module is more than just a sick serial killer, industrial processing gone haywire and the like – it also features insane cannibals! Oh, and two people that actually can be talked to and reasoned with. Okay, one of them may be totally bonkers, a cannibal, and someone who’s been eating his own arm…but hey, in this place, that’s as good as it gets…right?

The module concludes with the PCs hopefully taking the fully statted escape vessel towards the Scavenger’s Voice – or safety, if you don’t want to get on board of the Grimmerspace train. But seriously, after this adventure, I’d be very surprised if that’d be the case.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard that is easy to both read and print out (you can save a bit of ink/toner by turning the border off), and yet aesthetically pleasing. The full-color artworks depicting key-scenes deserve special mention: They are drop dead gorgeous and on first-party quality levels. The hand-drawn maps, with full player-friendly map support, the handouts and presence of cool isometric maps to complement the more tactical top-down maps is another plus. While the pdf has bookmarks, they are somewhat rudimentary and are only labeled (incorrectly) as “_GoBack” – a minor snafu there, but one more than made up for by e.g. the handouts!

This is the most hard-R horror adventure Richard Pett, Rone Barton and Lou Agresta produce so far; grisly, visceral and brutal, Abattoir 8 is more than shock-value; it’s not just heaps of gore; it is disturbing because it makes perfect use of the blending of anxiety at the industrialized and automated process, the fear of consumption, and the vastness of space. In short: This is an extremely effective scenario, and is absolutely glorious. It’s also the one of highest quality FREE products I’ve ever seen. Where other companies provide a brief sidetrek, a teaser, a race, we get a fully-functional, inspired horror adventure here – FOR FREE! This is absolutely awesome, and personally, I can’t wait to hold my Grimmerspace books in my hands!

My final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval, given without hesitation. What are you waiting for? There currently are no better deals for Starfinder out there! A masterclass premium adventure for FREE! Download it now!

You can get this glorious adventure here for FREE on OBS!

You can get the FREE map-pack here!

And, obviously, you can (and should) support the massive Grimmerspace Kickstarter here – it went live TODAY and is already funded. With an all-star author-cast, Sean Astin as creative director and none other than Lou Agresta and Rone Barton at the helm, these scifi-horror books look awesome. (And I’ve seen interior art – worthy of more than one cackle, gibber and drool!) Oh, and even if you’ve so far avoided Starfinder, fret not – there are pledge-levels that ALSO include the Starfinder rule books!! Check it out here!

As always: If you consider my reviews to be useful, please consider donating to my patreon – every little bit matters!

Endzeitgeist out.

May 222019
 

Places of Power: Dead Man’s Run

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The location known as “Dead Man’s Run” is something refreshingly different, as far as I’m concerned – this stretch of land is situated on the border between two kingdoms; per default, that would be an elven kingdom and a human one, but it’d be rather easy to change the kingdoms to different races, should your game require that. From initial hostilities and border skirmishes, a truce sprang – one that ultimately saw two villages spring up. As you could glean from the name, this is not where the story ends. A single night of chaos, ten years ago, saw the villages wiped out in a freak flashflood and strange, ostensibly magic weather-phenomena. The disaster saw most survivors flee, though some did remain – today, Dead Man’s Run has a population of 11 folks, 6 of whom get the classic Raging Swan Press NPC treatment: This means we get brief descriptions, notes on background, mannerisms, personality, etc., but no statblocks.

As a quasi village-remnant/almost ghost town, this place does come with a marketplace section – after all, the warfare of the past has left plenty of intriguing items running around for the scavenging. Going even beyond that, the respective keyed locations do feature individual sections of items for sale, going one step beyond in that regard – nice! Indeed, the respective keyed locations do come with a surprising and commendable amount of adventure hooks, often featuring more than one. The ferry even features a localized 6-entry events table.

As always, the pdf does come with notes that will help you provide information for PCs that do their proper legwork. The pdf does feature notes on the appearances and dressing habits of the locals, as well as 6 sample whispers and rumors.

The once gentle Brimbrook, turned into a massive river, nowadays features a proper ferry operated by a former farmer turned ferryman; an abandoned fort, its dungeons awaiting expeditions by stalwart adventurers. Little trade or industry takes place here, and there may not be much law enforcement, but in the absence of many folks, there usually also isn’t that much need for it. Really cool: The place has weird customs that reflect the story of this place and sports an interesting mythological resonance. A 20-entry strong table of dressing-entries and events allows you to further emphasize the unique nature of this storied region, and the pdf does provide further information regarding the landscape in the vicinity of this place.

It should also be noted that this location, beyond the obvious war/fallen-theme, also has a fey-angle, one that works rather perfectly in conjunctions with Kobold Press’ classic “Wrath of the River King.” Just saying!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level and rules-language. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the artwork and cartography provided are really nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, which is a comfort-plus, and yes, the supplement comes in two versions, with one of them optimized for screen use, and one intended to be printed out.

Jacob W. Michaels is at this point a veteran of these supplements, and it shows – this is a great, unpretentious supplement that allows you to develop the angles and local population in a variety of different, intriguing ways, ranging from the fantastic to the down-to-earth.  All in all, this is a well-wrought, fun supplement, worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

You can get this cool locale here on OBS!

You can directly support raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Enjoying my reviews? Please consider supporting me here on patreon!


Endzeitgeist out.

May 222019
 

Places of Power: Dead Man’s Run (system neutral)

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The location known as “Dead Man’s Run” is something refreshingly different, as far as I’m concerned – this stretch of land is situated on the border between two kingdoms; per default, that would be an elven kingdom and a human one, but it’d be rather easy to change the kingdoms to different races, should your game require that. From initial hostilities and border skirmishes, a truce sprang – one that ultimately saw two villages spring up. As you could glean from the name, this is not where the story ends. A single night of chaos, ten years ago, saw the villages wiped out in a freak flashflood and strange, ostensibly magic weather-phenomena. The disaster saw most survivors flee, though some did remain – today, Dead Man’s Run has a population of 11 folks, 6 of whom get the classic Raging Swan Press NPC treatment: This means we get brief descriptions, notes on background, mannerisms, personality, etc., but no statblocks. It should be noted that, while for the most part, the references of class/race nomenclature have been properly applied, some old-school GMs might take umbrage to a certain individual that is a monster, but has class levels applied. Personally, I don’t mind that, but I know that some folks will want to know about that.

As a quasi village-remnant/almost ghost town, this place does come with a marketplace section – after all, the warfare of the past has left plenty of intriguing items running around for the scavenging. The items have been adjusted to reference old-school items and aesthetics – while minor magic items are for sale, I see none of them being an issue here. Going even beyond that, the respective keyed locations do feature individual sections of items for sale, going one step beyond in that regard – nice! Indeed, the respective keyed locations do come with a surprising and commendable amount of adventure hooks, often featuring more than one. The ferry even features a localized 6-entry events table.

As always, the pdf does come with notes that will help you provide information for PCs that do their proper legwork. The pdf does feature notes on the appearances and dressing habits of the locals, as well as 6 sample whispers and rumors.

The once gentle Brimbrook, turned into a massive river, nowadays features a proper ferry operated by a former farmer turned ferryman; an abandoned fort, its dungeons awaiting expeditions by stalwart adventurers. Little trade or industry takes place here, and there may not be much law enforcement, but in the absence of many folks, there usually also isn’t that much need for it. Really cool: The place has weird customs that reflect the story of this place and sports an interesting mythological resonance. A 20-entry strong table of dressing-entries and events allows you to further emphasize the unique nature of this storied region, and the pdf does provide further information regarding the landscape in the vicinity of this place.

It should also be noted that this location, beyond the obvious war/fallen-theme, also has a fey-angle, one that works rather perfectly in conjunctions with Kobold Press’ classic “Wrath of the River King.” Just saying!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level and rules-language. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the artwork and cartography provided are really nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, which is a comfort-plus, and yes, the supplement comes in two versions, with one of them optimized for screen use, and one intended to be printed out.

Jacob W. Michaels is at this point a veteran of these supplements, and it shows – this is a great, unpretentious supplement that allows you to develop the angles and local population in a variety of different, intriguing ways, ranging from the fantastic to the down-to-earth.  Summa summarum, the system neutral iteration of this supplement is on par with e.g. the PFRPG-iteration; it is a well-wrought, fun supplement, worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

You can get this evocative locale here on OBS!

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Enjoying my reviews? You can help me make more of them here on patreon!


Endzeitgeist out.

May 222019
 

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The location known as “Dead Man’s Run” is something refreshingly different, as far as I’m concerned – this stretch of land is situated on the border between two kingdoms; per default, that would be an elven kingdom and a human one, but it’d be rather easy to change the kingdoms to different races, should your game require that. From initial hostilities and border skirmishes, a truce sprang – one that ultimately saw two villages spring up. As you could glean from the name, this is not where the story ends. A single night of chaos, ten years ago, saw the villages wiped out in a freak flashflood and strange, ostensibly magic weather-phenomena. The disaster saw most survivors flee, though some did remain – today, Dead Man’s Run has a population of 11 folks, 6 of whom get the classic Raging Swan Press NPC treatment: This means we get brief descriptions, notes on background, mannerisms, personality, etc., but no statblocks.

Where applicable, the respective NPCs reference the default statblocks from the monster manual…which brings me to a bit of a bummer: The book has a fey-angle, and said fey type, a dryad, has no representation in the default critters, using the dryad statblock instead. This would have been a chance to at least present brief modification to the statblock or a full and proper statblock. Pity!

As a quasi village-remnant/almost ghost town, this place does come with a marketplace section – after all, the warfare of the past has left plenty of intriguing items running around for the scavenging. Going even beyond that, the respective keyed locations do feature individual sections of items for sale, going one step beyond in that regard – nice! Minor nitpick: While the items for sale have been properly adjusted for 5e, they double-list potions of healing, and I’m pretty sure that one of them should probably be a better version.

Indeed, the respective keyed locations do come with a surprising and commendable amount of adventure hooks, often featuring more than one. The ferry even features a localized 6-entry events table.

As always, the pdf does come with notes that will help you provide information for PCs that do their proper legwork. The pdf does feature notes on the appearances and dressing habits of the locals, as well as 6 sample whispers and rumors.

The once gentle Brimbrook, turned into a massive river, nowadays features a proper ferry operated by a former farmer turned ferryman; an abandoned fort, its dungeons awaiting expeditions by stalwart adventurers. Little trade or industry takes place here, and there may not be much law enforcement, but in the absence of many folks, there usually also isn’t that much need for it. Really cool: The place has weird customs that reflect the story of this place and sports an interesting mythological resonance. A 20-entry strong table of dressing-entries and events allows you to further emphasize the unique nature of this storied region, and the pdf does provide further information regarding the landscape in the vicinity of this place.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level and rules-language. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the artwork and cartography provided are really nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, which is a comfort-plus, and yes, the supplement comes in two versions, with one of them optimized for screen use, and one intended to be printed out.

Jacob W. Michaels is at this point a veteran of these supplements, and it shows – this is a great, unpretentious supplement that allows you to develop the angles and local population in a variety of different, intriguing ways, ranging from the fantastic to the down-to-earth. The missed chance regarding the major, mystical element, the nymph, would be the main drawback of this iteration of the supplement – as such, my review for this iteration can’t exceed 4 stars.

You can get this neat supplement here on OBS!

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

You can directly support me here on patreon!


Endzeitgeist out.

May 212019
 

Starfarer’s Codex: Legacy Dragonrider (SFRPG)

I love this artwork on so many levels…

This installment of the Starfarer’s Codex-series clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, the dragonrider class gets proficiency with basic melee weapons, light armor, small arms, and elemental arms – these basically would be weapons depending on the type of the dragon: Black and copper. For example, net access to disintegrator advanced melee weapons and longarms as well as acid dart rifle longarms, while red and gold get access to flame advanced melee weapons, to give you two examples. There is a nice bit of future-proofing with the solar dragon going on as well – it’d usually provide proficiency with laser advanced melee weapons, but in absence of them, plasma is used. The class gets to choose its key-ability modifier: Either Strength or Charisma are eligible candidates. The class nets 7 + Constitution modifier Stamina Points and 7 Hit Points, and has 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level. The dragonrider has full BAB-progression and only good saves, which is pretty potent.

Of course, the signature ability here would be the bonded dragon steed – at 1st level, the dragonrider already has a bonded dragon, and multiclassing into the class results in an eligible dragon approaching the PC within 30 days. A bonded dragon may carry its rider if it is of the same size category or greater, provided, its Strength suffices. Bonded dragons can fly at full speed even if heavily encumbered. Carrying of smaller creatures is accounted for. If a dragon dies, we are looking at a -1 penalty to atk and damage rolls.

So, let’s take a look at the steed, shall we? Hit Point-wise, we have a fixed progression, with a starting Hit Point array of 15, increasing to up to 295 at 20th level. Odd: While generally, the Hit Points are much less than e.g. those of a comparable combat array creature, 2nd level sports 25 Hit Points, which makes this level on par with the combat array default values. The bonded dragon has ¾ BAB-progression, and saves that start at +2 and increase up to +9. At 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the dragon gets a +1 ability score increase, with the ability scores available depending on the dragon type. The dragon begins play with a feat, and gains another at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, though feats requiring a BAB of +1 are locked until 3rd level, and the Armor and Weapon Proficiency feats are explicitly prohibited. Ranged weapons they are proficient with may be mounted on their shoulders at no expense. The dragon gets to choose a single skill chosen from a list, gaining the dragonrider’s class levels in it. Acrobatics and another skill, as determined by the dragon type, is also gained thus. At 4th level and 8th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the dragon gets an additional skill from the list to which these benefits are applied.

The base breath weapon is obviously dependent on the dragon steed type, with the Reflex save DC equal to DC 10 + ½ the dragon steed’s level + the dragon steed’s Constitution modifier. The breath weapon may be used 3 + the dragon steed’s Constitution modifier times per day, with a 4-round cooldown to prevent spamming between uses. At 10th level, the dragon gets ½ its level as Resolve, and may then spend 1 Resolve Point to regain a daily breath weapon use as a 10-minute rest.  As the dragon progresses, its breath weapon increases in potency to 15 times the dice and 5 times the range. On the nitpicky side, while the universal rules for breath weapons establish that Reflex saves halves, it’d be convenient to have the action to activate and the caveat noted here – not complaining, mind you – just stating that this takes a bit more system mastery than it needs.

The core concept here, beyond these, would be the mystic focus: Without the dragonrider establishing mystic focus, the dragon only takes a move actions each round and reactions and things that don’t require an action. Each dragon steed requires a different action to establish the focus that lets the dragon and its rider bypass this – more potent dragons require more investment regarding action economy. Mystic focus must be established each round anew. True dragons generally require more valuable actions; when “free action” (not a term in SF – as the pdf knows and thankfully specifies!) is listed, the focus may be established as part of taking a standard, move, swift or full action. The focus may only be established during the dragonrider’s turn. While the focus is in effect, no verbal communication is required between steed and rider, and the dragon takes its turn on the dragonrider’s initiative count. The pdf specifies what happens when the dragonrider is incapacitated or unconscious. The two share a link and always know each others’ direction and distance while on the same plane, as well as any conditions suffered. 3rd level nets evasion (erroneously called “Evation”[sic!] in the table), and it, as well as 16th level’s improved evasion, only works while the dragon is unarmored and unencumbered, and obviously, the benefit is lost when the dragon is helpless or unable to move.

Third level nets the standard weapon specialization benefit of e.g. the vesk, and 5th level nets share spells. 6th level provides a +4 insight bonus to Will saves against enchantment spells and effects, 11th level nets Multiattack – three attacks at -6 to atk. Each category of dragon steed advances in two steps – we get starting stats, and at 8th and 16th level, we get growth and advancement stats for them. Beyond the chromatic and metallic classics, we have lunar and solar dragons, time, void and vortex dragons. The respective steeds do btw. gain signature abilities beyond the hard numbers of these stats – acid pools, striking through space, etc – these do, however, cost breath weapon uses. Minor nitpick: Not all of them properly list their activation action – the black dragon’s acid pool, the bronze dragon’s repulsion gas lack either a reference to “instead” of their usual breath weapon, or a listed action to activate these abilities. Not a game-breaker, but slightly inconvenient.

On another note: I do like that the respective steeds do differentiate between fly speed types as yet another balancing component. On the down side, I noticed two utterly unnecessary comfort detriments in the presentation of these steeds: We get the base ability scores listed, but the ability score modifiers are not listed. Sure, at this point we all can recite them by hard, but still. More grievous would be that natural attacks like bite and claws fail to list their proper damage-types, which flew back in PFRPG due to how sloppy that game handled them, but dragons in Starfinder very much codify these – to spare you the hassle of double-checking: Bites cause piercing damage, claws slashing damage.

But let us return to the dragonrider: 2nd level nets low-light vision, or darkvision 60 ft. if he already has it; otherwise, darkvision range doubles. 3rd level nets resist energy to the bonded dragon’s breath weapon,, starting at 5, and increasing to 10 at 8th level, and by another +10 at 13th and 18th level. This stacks with other resistance sources, and changes with the change of steeds. 2nd level nets spell-like abilities, with the spell-list determined by the dragon type, and DC equal to 10 + spell’s level and key ability score modifier. PRETTY sure that should be Charisma instead! Otherwise, choosing Charisma over Strength doesn’t make much sense regarding key ability modifier choice. This begins with 2 0-level at-will spells, and 6th level provides 2 1st-level spells, usable 3/day; 10th level, 14th and 18th level provide 2 spells from the respective higher spell levels, with lower spell levels gaining more uses and up to 2nd level spells becoming at-will. The at-will casting is not something that should be available for PCs – it begs to be abused to smithereens. This needs a nerf. Additionally, the verbiage on its own made it impossible for me to determine whether the limited uses of these SPs are tracked by SP, or by level of the spell of the SPs – granted, a swift check of the defaults of how SPs are tracked for critters does make that clear (it’s tracked per SP, just fyi), but I couldn’t help but feel like a slight verbiage tweak could have prevented the requirement for less experienced players to look that up.

3rd level nets Weapon Specialization for each weapon the class is proficient in, and 4th level provides arms training, choosing heavy weapons of the same type as elemental arms, all longarms, all advanced melee weapons, or all sniper weapons. Specialization is these is gained with a 4-level delay, and at 8th level, a new category is chosen, which then gets the Weapon Specialization benefits 4 levels later, etc. 4th level allows for the summoning of the steed as a “full-round action” 1/day, +1/day for every 3 levels thereafter. This ability is treated as a SP, with a spell-level equal to ¼ the dragonrider’s level.

5th, 9th, 12th and 17th level net a bonus feat chosen from a list; 6th level nets darkvision or limited telepathy, 10th level blindsense (scent), 14th level blindsight (vibration), all with notes on how they interact with senses granted other sources. 16th level nets +5 level SR, which is shared with the steed, and the capstone allows the dragonrider to 1/day use a 6th-level polymorph to take the bonded steed’s shape, though oddly, the fly speed type and the like are fixed, not based on the steed.

The pdf features notes for how the class interacts with altered/replaced class features.

The pdf features two new items – at item level 1, the dragon envirocollar wyrmling nets the Large or smaller dragon environmental protection, and the second is level 8, and helps for larger dragons.

This is not where the pdf ends, though: The pdf introduces a new starship combat role, the Draconic Harasser, which allows the dragon capable of spaceflight to play their part. (A magic item for dragons with extraordinary flight would have been nice), Draconic Harasser actions occur in Phase 4, after gunnery, and you can have as many of them as you have dragonriders + steeds. They have a range of 8 hexes. The actions available include using Survival to impose basically disadvantage on the next attack roll; alternatively, you can intercept TL-targeting weapons, grant +2 bonuses to Gunner or Science Officers courtesy to scouting, or provide a minor buff to AC and TL. Opposing gunners or pilots may take AntiDragon actions, which can checkmate you for the round and cause damage – so yeah, starship combat for dragons is nothing for wusses!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level, and good rules language level – I noticed a few inconveniences, a PFRPG-remnant, a missing “a” here and there – cosmetic stuff that doesn’t impede functionality per se, but that accumulates in its collective inconveniences. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and interior art is solid, but doesn’t reach the unadulterated level of awesome that Jacob Blackmon’s cover evoked for me. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks  for your convenience.

Joshua Hennington’s conversion of the dragonrider class to Starfinder is a well-crafted supplement per se – while potent, the dragon is a valid and solid option, and I love the starship combat option. That being said, I do have several complaints that do extend to the rules: For one, the class doesn’t offer much differentiation beyond the steed-selection. Dragonriders with the same type of dragon are pretty similar. Secondly, the unlimited SPs need to die a fiery death. Thirdly, the pdf feels like it could have used a final editing pass to make it slightly more newbie-friendly.

These in and of themselves don’t make this a bad pdf by a long shot – this is, themewise, a great little booklet – one that could have reached the apex of greatness, but as a whole, these small gripes do add up. My final verdict thus can’t exceed 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo. Just watch out regarding those SPs and be ready to do some very close reading.

You can get this inspired, if not perfect class here on OBS!

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Endzeitgeist out.

May 212019
 

Galaxy Pirates: Ships – Katar Heavy Cruiser (SFRPG)

This ship-supplement 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 heavy cruiser is a tier 7 destroyer powered by an Arcus Max power core; with L6 thrusters and a signal basic drift engine, it has a mk 2duonode computer and basic medium-range sensors. The heavy cruiser has mk 5 armor and mk 6 defenses, common crew quarters and 3 cargo holds. Shield-wise, we have slightly better shields on aft and forward, with medium 160 shields. On the offense side, we have 2 heavy torpedo launchers on the front, and laser nets on port and starboard. On the aft side, we have light torpedo launchers and turret-wise, we have coilgun as the chosen weaponry.

Minor complaints on a formal level – “anytwochecksperround” is missing the blank spaces, and the table that notes the knowledge DCs for the Computers skill is missing the “s” at the end of the skill name, but these are cosmetic nitpicks. The crew, as for the other katar vessels, focuses on high social skills and good Piloting. As a nitpick – the values for the crew lacks the ranks noted for the crew members. Unless I’ve miscalculated, the ship makes full use of its BP contingent, and only has 15 PCU not used, which makes sense for a workhorse ship of the katar fleet. It’s a small detail, but rules reflecting flavor is always nice to see.

As always, we get a fully filled out ship sheet, paper-mini-like versions of the ship, and a full one-page handout-version of the impressive artwork. A pleasant surprise, at least for me: The cartography in full color that is rather impressive, particularly if you also have the light cruiser, for the map is not a mere tweak on the light cruiser – the ship’s interior is actually completely different from the light cruiser. Kudos for going the extra mile there.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level and similarly solid on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to the two-column standard of the series, and the pdf comes with a great piece of artwork. The full-color cartography of the ship is great. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Paul Fields and Jim Milligan offer a neat ship here. While the ship has a few minor and aesthetic snafus, the great map and per se solid design make this worth getting. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

You can get this neat ship here on OBS!

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

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Endzeitgeist out.

May 202019
 

Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2: Urban Legends of Crestview Hills – Lover’s Lane (VsM Engine)

This supplement clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover (including relevant text) and ½ a page SRD, leaving us with slightly almost two pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

This is an installment of the “Urban Legends of Crestview Hills”-series of small pdfs that provide brief adventures/hooks (HAHA!) for use with Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2’s default setting of Crestview Hills, though adaption to another setting is simple enough.

It should be noted that the supplement differentiates between the different play-modes for Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2, which is a neat plus.

The following contains SPOILERS, so potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

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Lover’s Lane is a staple of Americana – a dirt road where you can look upon small-town America, where teens go for some alone time. Recently, though, tales of a hook-handed madman abound!

The easy mode version takes a cue from classic Scooby Doo – here, the true culprits are masked (and potentially insane) white men, with the best aspect here being a conflict between “old” and “new money” suggested – this conflict in the American class system has always been interesting to me.

The normal mode suggestion provides stats for a new creature – the hook-handed horror cryptid – sneaky, with wings that reminded me of classic Jeepers Creepers and chitinous armor, the monster is pretty tough and cicada-like, making for a creative twist here.

The hard mode suggestion for this hook is really cool as well, as it takes the easy mode angle and one-ups it – it makes mortals responsible, but adds a sprinkling of supernatural horror, making the true culprit a living idea!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout is great and b/w, adhering to a two-column standard. It utilizes public domain art to great effect. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Lucus Palosaari managed to cram quite a lot of cool ideas with different angles and themes into this hook; from the potentially child-friendly easy mode to the more dangerous and challenging harder modes, this does a really good job providing some diverse angles for you to employ. All in all, very much worth the very fair and low asking price, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up.

You can get this neat little pdf for just a single buck here on OBS!

Missed the inspired Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2? You can find it here!

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Endzeitgeist out.

May 202019
 

Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2: Urban Legends of Crestview Hills – The Hanging Tree (VsM Engine)

This supplement clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover (including relevant text) and 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with slightly more than a page of content, so let’s take a look!

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

This is an installment of the “Urban Legends of Crestview Hills”-series of small pdfs that provide brief adventures and hooks for use with Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2’s default setting of Crestview Hills, though adaption to another setting is simple enough.

It should be noted that the supplement differentiates between the different play-modes for Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2, which is a neat plus.

The following contains SPOILERS, so potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the hanging tree is a kind of macabre cultural icon, and as such, declaring a tree as the proper hanging tree should not be hard; depending on the mode chosen, the angle differs, with different degrees of closeness to the triggering incident, which is the death of someone, found hanging from the tree.

In the easy mode scenario, the solution is rather simple – a vengeful spirit is responsible, and we receive some guidance on making one.

In normal mode, hungry tree spirits are responsible, and we get full and proper stats for the spirits – and, in a nice angle, a tie-in to the Krampusnacht adventure. Hard to injury and with noose-like vines, these will probably require some serious investigation to put to rest!

The hard mode option is one I really liked, as it throws a wrench in preconceived notions – here, the culprits are assumed to be terrible, but thoroughly mundane people.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout is great and b/w, adhering to a two-column standard. It utilizes public domain art to great effect. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Lucus Palosaari’s Hanging Tree offers a surprising amount of material for you to develop into an adventure; it may be a hook, but it is a nice one that offers some neat angles. My final verdict will hence be 4 stars – well worth getting for the low price point!

You can get this neat little supplement for a single buck here on OBS!

Missed the great Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2? You can find it here!

Enjoying my reviews? Please consider supporting my patreon here!

Endzeitgeist out.

May 202019
 

Star Log.EM: Formian Options (SFRPG)

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

On the first page of this supplement, we have a contextualization of the formian race within the Xa-Osoro system before we dive into the formian paragon archetype, which requires, obviously, that you’re a formian. This archetype nets you hive indoctrination as an alternate class feature, which nets you a (Caste) feat. If you choose Aristrocratic Formian, you can opt to become Large; if you opt for Worker Formian, you can choose to become Small, and these do not influence your reach. If you already have a (Caste) feat, you can choose to get a feat that lists the (Caste) feat as a prerequisite. At 4th, 6th, 12th and 18th level, you can gain a feat that lists formian as prerequisite as a replacement class feature. Note that, since SFRPG explicitly calls it out when you no longer need to meet prerequisites, the formian paragon still has to meet these.

Now (Caste) feats are mutually-exclusive – you can’t belong to more than one, and even e.g. mnemonic editor can’t help there – only options that alter race or genetic code can change (Caste) feats.

Aristocratic Formian lets you inspire those that share your language as a full action, which nets the benefits of covering fire or harrying fire to all creatures in range of your limited telepathy or telepathy. You then choose Diplomacy, intimidate or Profession (orator), and if your skill check exceeds the opponent’s KAC by +8, the effect triggers when an ally attacks an opponent or is attacked, respectively. So, instead of fixed AC, KAC+8…so, treated as a maneuver re AC…that’s a pretty big limitation. With the telepathy upgrades available, this becomes better than Suppressive Fire, affects more targets, etc. It doesn’t consume ammo, and it is situationally better than harrying shot, and that’s a 17th level ability!! That being said, it does have a pretty strong limitation with the maneuver AC limit. Still, as a whole, I think it’s prudent to watch this very closely, as the telepathy-basis AND skill-use can become problematic. Skills do scale differently than atk, so this definitely warrants watching. Depending on your game, this may be too strong; personally, I think it would have been prudent to instead take a look at the envoy here, but YMMV. Personally, I wouldn’t allow this one in my games.

Mental Motivator is exclusively available to Aristocratic Formians, and allows you to, as a move action inspire a creature in range of limited telepathy or telepathy, granting a +1 morale bonus to atk, saving throws vs. charm or fear, or skill checks for Charisma modifier rounds (minimum 1). The feat notes interaction with the ability of the same name – and formians with the ability count as Aristocratic Formians for the purpose of prerequisites…so that’s a means to dual-caste regarding follow-up feats, I guess. Aristocratic Formians that chose to become large may take Imperial Reach, which nets the formian 10 ft. reach. The other feat available for Aristocratic Formians would be Formian Stinger, which nets your unarmed strikes the injection special property, and “injection +2” (should be “Injection DC +2”) critical effect, and when the formian rests 10 minutes to regain Stamina, they produce 3 doses of formian poison that may be transferred to the stinger as a swift action. The poison has a scaling DC, a frequency of 1/round for 6 rounds and uses Dexterity as the track. This feat may also be taken by Warrior Formians.

Speaking of whom: Warrior Formian (Caste) lets you make a melee attack with your stinger (unarmed) as a move action when you maintain a grapple. Armored Chitin nets Warrior Formians +1 racial bonus to AC when wearing armor, and reduces armor check penalty of heavy armor by 1. The third (Caste) to choose would be the Worker Formian (Caste), which nets you 5 more bulk before becoming encumbered or overburdened. Burrowing Worker nets you ½ base speed as burrow speed; upon taking this the second time, you get full speed as burrow speed.

Beyond these (Caste) and caste-based feats, the pdf also presents a selection of non-caste-specific feats. Empowered Formian Telepathy upgrades limited telepathy to telepathy 30 ft., and if you take it a second time, up to 100 ft. Resonating Chitin nets you a +2 racial bonus to saves vs. sonic effects or that deal sonic damage. Additionally, sonic resistance increases to character level or 5, whichever is higher. Fists of Fusion is probably one of the most interesting feats herein: It requires Improved Unarmed Strike or natural weapons, and allows for the enhancement of the body with fusion seals, applying the effects to unarmed strikes. This allows for the use of seals as magitech augmentations, and for their wearing as hybrid items that may be affixed to a piece of jewelry. This feat is pretty interesting, and allows you to get rather brutal unarmed/natural attacks.

The pdf also includes the Hive Mind feat, which nets you a +2 insight bonus to initiative and Perception, and if a member of the hive mind sees past an illusion, all members do; similarly, surprise can only be achieved if all members are surprised. Nice adaption of the racial trait, rebalanced and bonus type-wise codified for players. Expanded Hive builds on this feat (or the hive mind racial trait), and allows you to bring any ally within range of telepathy or limited telepathy into your Hive Mind, which makes the allies gain the appropriate benefits as though they were formians.

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 full-color artwork included is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

I like Jacob McKiernan’s formian options as a whole, with the (Caste) feat concept making perfect sense to me. At the same time, the Aristocratic Formian base feat has me somewhat concerned and could have been solved more elegantly – it probably should get a revision at one point. Still, all in all, a solid, if not mindblowing expansion for the formians. My final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down.

You can get these formian options here on OBS.

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Endzeitgeist out.

May 172019
 

Pop Culture Catalog: Vice Dens (SFRPG)

He shot first!!!

This super-sized installment of the Pop Culture Catalog-series  clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

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

Okay, as always, we begin the supplement with a recap of how the smooth and easily integrated fandom perk-rules work, which have been the rather cool mechanical skeleton underlying these supplements. This supplement contains 10 different vice dens, all of which provide their own fandom perks; while nominally located within Everyman Gaming’s and Rogue Genius Games’ shared Xa-Osoro setting as a backdrop, implementation into other settings is rather painless. (As an aside: “Hyperspace Station” is shorthand for the IP-.less reference to Absalom Station – once you know that, integration of the star system becomes even easier.)

Vice dens, obviously, sometimes deal with topics that folks consider to be taboo at the table; while I, personally, do NOT have such lines, I know plenty of folks that are traumatized by their experiences to the point that certain topics seriously impede their fun; as such, this book proposes a discussion and an easy classification: “Lines” are lines that should not be crossed; “veils” are when you fade to black. It is really nice to see these topics acknowledged and how maturely they’re handled here – they neither champion undue censoring, nor present an insensitive trampling of individual sensibilities, providing a compassionate and feasible model to deal with topics that some may consider to be taboo. This pertains primarily how things are handled at the table, mind you – the content herein is VERY tame as far as I’m concerned; at the most conservative, I’d consider this to be PG-13; probably even below that.

Anyhow, we start with the Busty Dragon Inn – and yes, this *is* a genius reference to the classic inn in Sandpoint – the formian construction crew that moved it to space misread an “r” for a b” – which gives the den its unique and hilarious icon – yep, as has become the tradition with Pop Culture Catalog-installments, each vice-den gets its own logo! Doubling as a mordello and tavern, it nonetheless manages to keep it classy and both aspects separate, yet entwined – it sounds like a rather wholesome example of the establishment type, as far as I’m concerned. The fandom perk represents that as well, netting Diplomacy as a class skill, or a +1 bonus to it if you already have it. And no, that “m” is NOT a typo – it is part of the vice-den terminology established herein, which btw. also explains the difference of e.g. an adult theater from a strip club. And before you ask: Yes, these topics are handled in a PG 13-friendly and tasteful manner.

Digiyu would be an underground adult entertainment club that offers a cyberverse server set apart from the larger servers; inaccessible to government networks, it allows for the fulfillment of fantasies in a virtual space, be they forbidden or simply outré. The illegal nature of this alternate cybervserse and the decadence of experiences offered provides a +2 insight bonus to Will saves vs. Charm effects, +2 to opposed Sense Motive and +2 to the DC of social skill checks made against you as a fandom perk. ISAAC (Imperium Substance And Abuse Center) is something I have never seen before in a RPG-supplement – it seriously warmed my heart. It’s a safe space for drug users, following a government-approved plan after realizing that criminalizing substance-abuse actually enhanced the problem.  These institutions dramatically reduced the rate of overdose deaths and crimes, and the perk nets a +2 enhancement bonus to resist drug and addiction effects, which increases to +4 in the center. I love this. It genuinely touched me and made me happy to see it here.

The Howling Esir is an ultranought star citadel run by the genderfluid gnoll High Prajah Jexijar Homerender, and is basically the opposite of wholesome – it is a massive, nasty slaver’s operation, and “fandom” here denotes more having survived interacting with these folk; as such, it decreases the DC to recall information on related topics by 5 and nets +2 to the DC of Charisma or skill checks that gnolls or slavers attempt against you. Now, the above touched on slavery – later in the pdf, when all vices are discussed in detail, some very clear guidelines are provided – slaves are not for PCs, slavery is always evil, etc. – I like that the pdf takes a moral stand here.

The company Love Solutions brew stimulants; but they have another place, one with pretty nasty NDAs: This not-really-legal place would be Love Rock, and here, more potent aphrodisiacs (and chemical conditioning) may be found; as a fandom perk, we get +1 to Charisma-based checks and skill checks, which increases to +2 when used in checks to increase Relationship Scores (as per Advanced Skill Guide). Phantom’s Fair is a cool idea that oozes SFRPG’s science-fantasy flair: It is basically a demiplane housing a black market, with the planar anchor easily moved – and those entering it must be unconscious. This blends slightly macabre aesthetics (patrons e.g. may be found in the tavern known as “Open Grave”) with a touch of Pratchett’s moving shops. Fans reduce the Culture DC regarding the underworld by 5, and there is a chance that you can score a discount – but an equal chance that the King of Phantoms and associated request a favor of you that you should not refuse. It never involves harming yourself or friends and allies, but refusal will result in serious ostracizing – when using the great Advanced Skill Guide rules, a whopping 50 Infamy!

Second Skin, developed by the genderfluid elf Parquon Delveair, is truly interesting – it is basically a means to experience sensory deprivation in a whole-body latex bubble that also can be adjusted to stimulate the user as desired, coupling relaxing, massage, pleasure and a deceleration from the rigors of the Nova Age. The breathing exercises enforced by the experience nets fans a +1 enhancement bonus to Will-saves vs. emotion effects. If all of that doesn’t sound to compelling, and you derive pleasure from cold steel and carbon in your appendages, whatever they may be, then you may want to check out Rex’s Reliable Arms – an institutionalized weapons dealer, Rex is the kingpin of weapon dealers, and, in a twist I did not expect, is REALLY law-abiding! The line of the kobold suffering from anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and ADHD also made me interested here – each of them on its own could easily spark adventures. Rex may be on medication for them, but yeah. Rex’s frantic ramblings decrease the Culture check to recall information on weapons by 5, and the fandom also nets you a +1 to skill checks made to repair weapons. Rex is a cool character – I’d actually love to see the fellow developed further!

The Wobbly Orbit is led by two kasatha, and represents an institutionalized cantina. The two managers Tycha and Zimo seem to be rather snarky, and the fandom perk allows you to recall knowledge untrained, and 1/day spend 1 Resolve when attempting to recall knowledge untrained to get a +5 bonus on the check. Finally, there would be The Ziggurat, operated by kitsune billionaire Tashinado Tymira. The clan once ostensibly set fire to the equivalent of the library of Alexandria – but, well, they didn’t. Instead, the underground library now may hold the largest stash of pre Nova Age lore anywhere. The fandom nets you 1/day, subject to GM approval, a +1d10 bonus to skill checks deemed rare or obscure, provided you pay 1 Resolve Point.

This is not, however, where this massive installment of the series ends – instead, we get a massive chapter on drugs, including rules on slipping them in a creature’s food and noticing. The format presented here is interesting, as it presents a more varied approach to drugs than the SFRPG core rules do – all drugs are assumed to be available at all item levels, with higher level versions being assumed to be more concentrated or magically/technologically-enhanced. A drug has a base price, and a price modifier, which is applied to the drug when purchasing it illegally. Each drug has a Type that notes, well, the type of the drug, as well as means of ingestion. A massive table lists the Drug save DCs by item level, and this DC is also used to calculate the addiction disease save DC to which you’re exposed when consuming the drug; this means that high-level characters don’t become flat-out immune to drug addiction from certain drugs, which is an excellent rules operation I wholeheartedly support. Tracks and effects are noted, and the pdf contains 18 different sample drugs that include twists on the core rules-drugs like dreamshiver, but extends beyond that.

Brawn, for example, enhances Strength for the purposes of bulk limit and nets a scaling bonus to the limit increase and the boost to Athletics and Acrobatics, depending on item level. On the fantastic side, e.g. corpseflower pollen auto-stabilizes for some hours sans Resolve expenditure, and grants a bonus to saves vs. death effects. Hemihigh, which I previously mentioned in my review of the awesome Blood Madness Corruption, is refined from the condensed material of blood space – it can expose you to the corruption, but it also nets a boost to Intimidate and to damage rolls with melee and thrown weapons, which is pretty brutal and tempting…on the more mundane side, rules for marijuana, opiates and nicotine are provided as well. What about a Fallout-style brew that makes you bioluminescent. The hallucinogenic ninetailed fox brew, a draught made from akata resin that enhances your ability to hold your breath, rapture dust and pesh would be further examples. This chapter is inspired, and the scaling drug-rules should genuinely be core in my humble opinion – fyi: The table lists three different price-categories per item level, allowing you to simulate local prohibitions and scarcity.

But, well beyond that, we haven’t covered the basics, right? Well, guess what: The pdf does no shy from talking, in a tasteful and non-explicit manner, about sex toys, sex work, and the differences of institutional and underground businesses, with licenses in 6 steps correlated to minimum level and item level limits. As an aside: It was thoroughly awesome to read a vision of the future where sex work is treated with an enlightened perspective, where securities are provided and regulations don’t necessarily ostracize them. Two big thumbs up! (And if you want, you can still have the seedy, nasty underbelly cyber-noir stories via underground businesses; funny aside: This’d make e.g. Judge Dredd-like characters actually allies of the institutional, legal workers…this made me smile.) After this, we discuss the different types of drugs, from depressants to the psychedelic effects-producing enactogens to hallucinogenics, stimulants, etc. Being also indebted to the whole fantasy-angle, literature is included here in its own section, and as someone who can attest to the rapture of a good book, well, I liked that.

Speaking of which: Exposing minors to vices is a crime. Oh, and there is another thing I really loved here: In the section that discusses weaponry, guess what? There are rules here to make space more believable: Weapon registration (including rules for looking up registered weapons) and licenses; the pdf also suggests that some place may require the merciful fusion to be affixed to weapons, which makes sense. In space, blowing a hole in the station could wreck it, and if everyone’s armed to the teeth, it’s just a matter of time before things escalate, so having some checks and balances here (and yes, you can ignore them…but why? They may for some nice investigation avenues…) enhances my sense of plausibility. And if you’re really pro-guns, setting them to stun in the make-believe RPG, so to speak, shouldn’t irk you, right?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re top-notch on a rules-language level, and just as precise on a formal one – apart from one instance of “craft” instead of “crave” and very few such minor blunders, I noticed nothing to complain about. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the full-color artworks within drawn by Jacob Blackmon generate a unified aesthetic. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alexander Augunas has surpassed himself here; the Pop Culture Catalog-series is a great breath of fresh air, because it is rather light-hearted, yet inspiring. Here, I feared this’d go into dark places, and while it tangentially does, it creates a vision we see all too rarely in science-fiction: That of a future that’d be awesome to live in. There are those that say that the measure of a society lies within how it handles its misfits, its criminals, its vices – and in the Xa-Osoro system, this would indeed mean that the place is enlightened in the best of ways; this feels a bit like Star Trek, a bit like Firefly – not like a grim noir trip down Altered Carbon territory (though it does allow for that as well). The writing here oozes a warm-hearted, compassionate kindness that was really amazing to see.

You don’t care about the fluffy feels? All right, this is still awesome for you: The differentiated drug-engine makes them viable and tempting, dangerous options throughout the adventurer’s careers and vastly enhances the appeal of this often underdeveloped aspect of the mythologies of our games. They are, in fact, so good that I want more, and this mean that this gets my EZG-Essentials tag for SFRPG. This is a must-own addition for the game, and I seriously hope Paizo’s taking a cue here. Beyond that, the inspiring ideas and compelling vistas presented, all the adventuring potential in these pages, leave me with practically no choice – not only is this the so far best installment in the series, it gets 5 stars + seal of approval and also is a candidate for my Top ten of 2019. Get it. Seriously. As an aside: Even if you play another scifi RPG, the wealth of ideas herein may warrant getting this all on its own…just sayin’…

You can get this amazing, inspired supplement here on OBS!

Missed the excellent Advanced Skill Guide? It can be found here!

The Blood Madness Corruption I mentioned can be found right here!

If you’re enjoying my reviews, please contemplate supporting my patreon here!

Endzeitgeist out.