Jan 112019
 

The Seitanic Spellbook (Cookbook)

Okay, and now for something COMPLETELY different. I present to you, a black metal vegan cookbook, which one of my friends and patreon supports bought for me and told me to prioritize!

So yeah, ladies and gentlemen – this is a review of sorts of a black metal cookbook. A VEGAN black metal cookbook that clocks in at 210 pages if you take cover etc. away. On the first page, we get a QR-code and link for gluten-free substitutions, just fyi.

Before we get into this, I feel I have to note where I’m coming from, in case you didn’t know: I’ve been a weird hybrid of goth and metalhead for all of my teen and adult my life, and my music taste is rather eclectic; from classic true and power metal to black, death and prog metal to pretty much all types of gothic music, doom jazz, hip hop and even pop, I listen to a lot of music – the reason  for me to emphasize how long I’ve been part of this book’s target demographic, is that there are plenty of vegetarians and vegans in my chosen subcultures.

I am not one of them.

There is this old tired joke out there:

“How do you find out if someone’s a vegan?”

“Talk to them for 5 minutes.”

While this is a gross oversimplification, and recent years have helped a bit, veganism has gotten bit of a bad rep, and I know why. Many a person out there will have encountered the smug self-satisfaction and holier-than-thou attitude that really doesn’t help the per se valiant cause of making humanity less dependent on animal proteins. I actually consider the ethical and moral baselines of veganism great. I applaud them. I don’t want to have another person’s ethics imposed upon me. Many vegan friends of mine are not like that, don’t look down on others…but yeah, it’s still a thing, at least where I’m from.

I’ve had relationships with vegans and vegetarians attempting to “cure” me (not kidding!), and they were not successful, to say the least. (As an aside: One was even a professional vegan chef by trade, but that’s another story.)

Thus, I do have PLENTY of experience with vegan cuisine – and frankly, there’s a lot to like, but I have several limitations that need to be spelled out, as they limited my ability to properly assess the contents of this book.

  • I loathe the consistency and taste of anything tofu-related. This includes seitan. I tried plenty of different versions and ways to prepare them over the years, and I just consider it to be disgusting. I just can’t handle the stuff. I eat meat. I adore good ole’ American BBQ, bacon, etc. I can’t comment on the quality or lack thereof of the homemade seitan recipes herein, or on those aspects of the dishes.
  • I don’t eat any milk-based products. No cheese, no yoghurt, no milk. I also do not eat a lot of sweets, potato chips or the like. Not due to being lactose intolerant or the like, but because I consider that stuff to be somewhat icky, and chips et al. never were to my liking. This dislike extends to soy milk and soy milk substitutes, which I sometimes use in cooking, but try to limit and substitute with water whenever possible. I also don’t do pasta or noodles.
  • The main reason I never went vegan: I can’t eat nuts and almonds sans dying. I have serious allergies, and they extend to a lesser degree to some components that can be found in almost all forms of salad dressing. Vinegar is my enemy. This also disqualifies me from drinking nut-based milks and using the appropriate oils.
  • I’m not gonna eat supplements. Period. If I need supplements to be healthy with my eating habits, something’s wrong.

Yeah, if you’ve ever taken a look at some vegan cookbooks, you’ll notice that I’d probably be half-starved if I tried to implement that. If I had a ton of money, I could go piscetarian, but that’s as far as I would be willing to go. If you want to condemn or hate me for that, be my guest.

That all out of the way, there actually are plenty of vegan dishes, particularly from Jewish and Arabian cooking traditions that I adore. Guacamole? Heck yeah! Falafel? Yes, please! Schawarma? Oh yeah! And if I lived in Mexico, I’d probably have a diet of insect protein…loved the crickets…wait, not vegan.

What I’m trying to say is that, in spite of not being a vegan, I’m all for delicious vegan dishes! As long as it’s tasty, I’m game, and a good naga jolokia-based Indian curry doesn’t need meat.

My main issue with experimenting more with vegan cuisine myself ties back to the notions mentioned before: Every single cookbook I’ve gotten my hands on features this annoying “better than thou” missionary statement crap that gets my blood boiling. The folks that buy vegan cookbooks are probably, you know, vegans or trying to become vegan. Preaching to the choir? These books also, more often than not, also go overboard and combine veganism with a type of ecological elitism, in that spices etc., everything’s supposed to be this type of manufacturer to assure the complete absence of animal produce, etc. One trip to the bio-super-markets here costs as much as three trips to a regular one. For my US-friends: The difference is approximately akin to WholeFoods vs. WalMart/Target in price.

…yeah, I can’t afford that.

And this is where this book comes in. This is vegan cuisine sans all the elitism and BS. The book begins by stating that it’ll use prepared spices and blends and cut corners – because it’s written for the real world. The book being a black metal cookbook, it also contains some fun insider-jokes, and swearing. Lots of it. The text is also hilariously tongue-in-cheek: To quote from the recipe for mushroom broth:  “If too flavorful or salty, call upon the waters of the great flood!” This is funny and unpretentious…but unfortunately, this book as well WILL once more preach to the fucking choir, stating multiple times how super-duper great veganism is in the grating essays interspersed throughout the book.

Newsflash.

We.

ALL.

GET IT.

I don’t know why every single cookbook for vegan dishes has to have some ideologically-charged sermonizing it its pages. It annoys the living hell out of me and makes me want to splurge on a massive amount of meat, just to spite the pretentious tone of being talked down to. I don’t want to join a cult or philosophy, I just want recipes sans animal produce. And not even in a frickin’ METAL cookbook, these folks can keep the sermonizing out. Kinda ironic, isn’t it? Why can’t such abook simply hand me a good recipe of cilantro lime rice (really delicious one inside) sans such sermonizing?

On the HUGE plus-side, some of the essays are actually really amazing: My favorite: Veganism is not an identity. Much like belonging to a subculture, veganism and similar decisions often are used for identity-formation substitution, and having the book spell out that fact was extremely gratifying. Also, because it explains the holier-than-thou/gother-than-thou/more-metal-than-thou trveness nonsense that runs rampant among folks that define themselves exclusively over one aspect of their lives, including feeling threatened when deconstructed/challenged. Big kudos for this one – so yeah, as a whole, the essays interspersed throughout the book may not be perfect, but there is some value to be found here.

The book, as a whole, is organized by regions: Euro-American, Asian, Hispanic & Latino, Indian, Italian, Middle Eastern, Vegan Meat.

Some surprises here that kicked behind in the Euro/American section: The chilli recipe is neat, and the bean-based burger recipe allows you to make a bean-and panko-based burger in less than 15 minutes. It works. It actually tastes good. Not like meat, mind you – not even close…but it *is* actually a good taste! I wouldn’t eat it when I want beef, but I will eat it when I want this taste. Nice one!

“Ricebound, by the devil!” is a quick and easy recipe to make yummy rice. The jambalaya recipe, in contrast, did not blow me away. Perhaps my trip to New Orleans spoiled me, but yeah – it’s a decent recipe, but not what I’d consider to be a winner. Some winners among the Asian entries would be Pad Thai (minus peanuts and tofu for me, but spices-wise, solid) and the basic tempura advice. I also tend to be a big fan of summer rolls, though we can’t get La Lot around here, which is imho crucial for a good filling, but I digress. The Thai curry also deserves special mentioning in this context – the recipe is nice, though I personally prefer green curry. The sushi guidelines also provide some nice pieces of inspiration to start experimenting…

…and this brings me to a nice plus about this book. It encourages to experiment and provides real-world advice. How to get good coconut milk, for example. The chapters also begin by providing advice on more basic, quick to make dishes, and then provide the more complex/combination-options at the respective chapter end, which can indeed be rather helpful. My favorite chapter, though? Hands down? The Hispanic/Latin started off well…but then focuses strongly on bananas and plantains – of which I’m not a big fan. I’ve got a thing for beans, chick peas and avocados, though, so I did get something out of this chapter. Yuca? Kickass, wish I could get it around here… The tostada recipe rocks, just fyi, and in the Indian section, chana masala is delicious as well! Pakoras? Heck yeah!

I do not own a slow cooker, so I couldn’t try the recipe for caramelized onions, but they did sound delicious, and having a recipe on hand will be helpful. I don’t eat much noodles or pasta, so unfortunately, I can’t comment on the quality of the Italian-based recipes. Hummus and couscous recipes are included in the book, though I already was familiar with these, obviously – and yes, love them both! A positive surprise was that this book has a recipe for baba ganoush that doesn’t taste like the floor of a barn…and I can certainly recommend the bagel with hummus and guacamole. It’s glorious and simple and easy to make…and the ultimate falafel/hummus-sandwich is delicious…as is the section that provides advice on baconizing stuff…though, alas, liquid smoke and maple syrup, even sucky one, are hard to get and expensive as hell over here. My American friends will probably be able to make this more often than ole’ me.

All right…so, when all’s said and done, what do I think of this cookbook? It’s the funniest vegan cookbook I’ve read, primarily because I get all the black metal allusions in the recipe names. It’s also the first vegan cookbook I’ve read that has both tasty recipes and didn’t make me go ballistic constantly due to annoying sermonizing. It’s here, but it’s less pronounced than usual. The qualities of the essays that are interspersed between the recipes fluctuates: Some are genuinely profound and clearly stated pieces of advice, while a few others are…basically self-help 101, with a bit of subdued esoteric thrown in. I’d be lying if I said that these didn’t rub me the wrong way.

But, do you know what this genuinely achieves? It’s a vegan cookbook that does not require spending a gazillion of bucks on esoteric spices and vegetables. Cooking these recipes is a task that’s clearly anchored in the real world. It’s something you can do after a hard day’s work sans starving or breaking the bank. There are many basics herein, but there also are some nice combinations. And the steps are clear, there are a ton of pictures of ACTUAL cooking (not this plastic-glazed advertisement glossy paper pseudo-food) and you can clearly determine how your food’s supposed to look. The dishes are tasty, grounded in reality, and lets you make filling meals without standing in the kitchen for hours on end. The focus on non-salad dishes is also frickin’ amazing.

So, would I recommend this? Well, folks experienced with cooking vegan dishes probably won’t get a vast amount of new ideas out of this one. Neither will this convert non-vegans.

Speaking of which: This makes for a good gift for metalheads that want to dip their toes in vegan cuisine. The dishes herein are not exclusively for vegans, and they can add something to your eating habits, even if you do not adhere to a vegan diet. Particularly since this is the least grating/annoying vegan cookbook I’ve read so far, with the obtrusive sermonizing kept relegated to a few essays. That’s a huge plus. Speaking of which: I was super surprised to see the lack of overpriced nut-pastes required in the recipes – I can’t eat nuts, and I kid you not, I have read whole vegan cookbooks that had 4-5 recipes without the stuff…over 200+ pages.

On the downside, I would have loved to see a few more of the outré combinations, of fusion combo-dishes and the like – while experimentation is easy, a bit more tradition-blending or a chapter on truly advanced dishes would have been nice.

On a formal level, the book comes with QR-codes for updates, as well as an epub, play books and mobi-version. In a grating form of comfort-detriment, the pdf version has no bookmarks. I can’t comment on the physical book, as I don’t own it.

So yeah, all in all, I consider this to be an enjoyable, if not perfect, relatively unpretentious cookbook. Definitely worth checking out. My final verdict will be 4 stars.

You can get this cookbook here on amazon!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 112019
 

Anpur of Porphyra (Porphyra RPG)

This supplement clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, in case you didn’t know: Porphyra RPG is a continuation of Pathfinder’s first edition, with slight tweaks to formatting conventions, some rules-stream-lining and the like. As per the writing of this review, the RPG is still in the playtest phase, so how/whether formal criteria change is still up in the air – as such, I will de-emphasize these aspects in my discussion of Porphyra’s Anpur. That being said, rules-wise, this is pretty much 100% compatible with Pathfinder 1e.

As for the patchwork planet as a setting, the respective races tend to have a *slightly* higher power-level than core races; compared to many settings and supplements out there, they are still rather conservative, and I rarely find myself considering a race in the setting to be overbearing/too strong, particularly in view of how Pathfinder 1e’s power-curve has increased over the years.

As far as the anpur are concerned, we begin with a brief piece of flavor text before diving into the racial stats: Anpur receive +2 Strength and Wisdom, are humanoids with the gnoll subtype and get darkvision 60 ft. They are Medium, with a base speed of 30 feet, and courtesy of their practice of ancestror worship, they are treated as one level higher with regards to divination school spells, the benefits granted by the Ancestor subdomain, the Destined bloodline or the Ancestor mystery.  Capitalizing the respective class feature names is a peculiarity of Porphyra RPG, and serves pretty well to differentiate the respective class features, so as far as I’m concerned, that’s a plus. Anpur are skilled travelers of the deserts, and as such receive a +4 racial bonus on Constitution checks and Fortitude-saves to avoid exhaustion and fatigue, as well as to resist the effects of harsh environments, forced marches, etc. They also get a +2 racial bonus on saves vs. fear-effects, and treat exotic flails as martial weapons, and may use heavy flails one-handed. Additionally, they may use the flail weapon group as a blanket choice when choosing a fear or ability that focuses on one weapon.

This is a very interesting design choice that will, in the long run, positively influence weapon diversification among races: You’re not locked into a single weapon for many of the feats you choose, and weapon training matters more. I like this choice. The anpur also are proficient with khopehses, longbows, shortbows, temple swords, flails and heavy flails. So, that’s the base racial write-up…and it is pretty cool – certainly more compelling than many a gnoll write-up I’ve read!

As far as alternate racial traits are concerned, we have 6 of those: One replaces the divination et al.-improvement with an increased duration for elemental summoning. An alternate choice to replace ancestor worship instead nets a +1 natural AC. One limits starting languages, but nets the anpur 1/day speak with animals. Fearless may be replaces with 1/day deathwatch. The increased resiliency versus harsh environments may be replaced with a 20 ft. climb speed, and finally, the flail specialization may be replaced with taking no negative effects from negative levels (though they still can kill you).

We follow this with something absent from many racial books: An ecology that discusses their temperament and societies. Dubbed “city gnolls” by outsiders, the anpur, the children of Anubis, are a proud and religious warrior race that, while exhibiting a kind of inborn aggression, temper this with restraint, creating an interesting racial psychology here. Speaking of interesting aspects: The primary food source of the race are flightless birds, like chukks, krakka or kochok – dodos, emus and megafauna moa. This is just a line, granted, but it added something to the race and made it stand out to me. The association with Anubis obviously conjured forth images of quasi-Egyptian cultures, or of the Sibeccai from Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved, but this humble line made me think about dodo breeders, moa-cavalry and the like, and I honestly couldn’t help but smile. But I digress.

There is some quasi-Egyptian notion here – as a race with Anubis as patron deity, the Anpur obviously have a structured day that focuses on plenty of religious rites, with a special emphasis given for funerary rites, and the concept of having a building-debt to the deities makes for a great impetus for civilizing efforts and expansion on a scale beyond the personal realm. Age, height and weight tables are btw. provided. The pdf sports an assortment of race traits, 5 to be specific. However, the application of bonus types is inconsistent here – 2 of the traits lack the “trait bonus” moniker, while the other 3 do properly codify the bonus type.

As far as racial feats are concerned, anpur may take Keen Scent and Improved Natural Armor sans making the prerequisites. Two of the racial feats, Desert Warrior and Desert Defense, are assigned to a variety of races, and allow for improvement of offensive and defensive capabilities, though the offense feat also nets you a Persuasion penalty versus the chosen races against which you apply your offense training. Eyes of Death requires aforementioned deathwatch  alternate racial trait and nets at-will deathwatch, and +4 to saves versus effects that cause the shaken condition. Eyes of Endless Death builds on that and is locked behind 10th level, providing 1/day death ward and a +4 bonus to effects that cause the panicked condition. Fate-Servant of Anubis. Nets you one additional hero point – I assume this to pertain the maximum of hero points and not a one time gain, but I’m not sure. The feat also lets you reroll 1 Fortitude save per day. Pack-Hunter Block’s a combat feat that…honestly, is kinda cool, but until Porphyra RPG is done, I can’t judge it. It lets you sacrifice an iterative attack to cancel an AoO against an ally or yourself. Does the iterative attack vanish next round? Do you have to hold it? I like the notion here, and frankly, it’s one that could speed up gameplay if built into the core combat mechanics, but as a feat, I’m currently puzzled as to how precisely it’s supposed to work. Servant of the Gods nets you a specialized familiar if you don’t already have one – the choices are pretty intriguing.

The equipment section introduced crescent axes and ternion flails, both of which are interesting. The latter is exotic and has a dual physical damage type – which is something that Porphyra’s rules have a chance to precisely classify. It always irked me that PF 1e didn’t exactly do a great job there, so here’s to hoping that Porphyra will do better.  One glance at the magic items will note something interesting – the DC-rating is included in the header for your convenience. 3 are provided: The finis crossbow is pretty cool: It doubles as a melee weapon (counts as a dagger +1) and comes with a extra-dimensional storage container that allows the wielder to reload it with specific bolts stored inside; otherwise, the reloading sequence is a bit faster and more linear. Minor complaint: It imho wouldn’t have hurt to explicitly specify that the bolts are not conjured ex nihilo. The crossbow may also 1/day turn a bolt fired into a slaying bolt. The ranseur of conviction counts as a divine focus and may, in a 1-hour ritual at the start of the day, be attuned to exhibit one of several special weapon properties. Additionally, the ranseur can temporarily suppress fire resistance. The scarab armor is per se cool: It is lighter than usual, protects against swarms and lets the wearer call forth a scarab swarm. However, while such a swarm is called forth, the armor loses its light fortification quality, which is mislabeled as light fortitude once. Formatting is also not 100% consistent here.

On the REALLY interesting side, the spell-section here introduces new descriptors – one for Anubis, one for psychopomp ushers and one for Shankil. These ultimately mean that only followers of said entities may cast the respective spells, allowing for more meaningful differentiation between magical traditions. As an aside – spells also note e.g. (Exotic) or (Complex) behind the spell level to denote how common they are. I really enjoy this direction! An immediate/swift action instant pyramid-low level protection, or a buff versus soul imprisonment and the like make for some compelling options here.

Of course, the pdf also contains archetypes and class options. Black dog slayers get a modified skill list and replace studied target with a variant that provides skill bonuses and damage boosts versus targets of the sacred mission. Tracking is replaced with more swift application of oils and weapon blanches, and later holy water etc. 2nd level’s talent is replaced with Endurance and Diehard. Instead of the 2nd studied target and the 8th level’s talent, 5th level provides the means to blend in crowds, while 7th level replaces stalker and swift tracker with an inquisitor’s judgment at -6 levels, with 11th level adding an additional use. 10th level and later provide an assassin’s death attack, with 13th level, 15th, 17th and 20th level improving the ability. Nitpick: The 20th level ability refers to angel of death: “a black dog becomes an angel of death” – this should probably note that the character gets the ability, not “becomes” it.

Stalwart dredge fighters get a modified skill and proficiency list, focusing on mobility over heavy armor. The archetype gains brawler’s cunning, can fight better while squeezing and focuses on weapon training with a given group, gaining Weapon Specialization, as well as Weapon Finesse synergy. 6th level nets a counterattack that does not rely on annoying opposed rolls, instead focusing on retaliating, and at higher levels, we get halved duration of stunning or enchanting effects.

The pdf also features a the sand elemental subschool of earth: Acid cloud is replaced with the  ability to make sand traps, and 8th level nets the ability to blast searing sand at foes – via caster checks. This is, obviously, an interesting angle, though once more an aspect where we’ll have to wait for the final RPG. For use in conjunction with PFRPG 1e, this should probably be a ranged touch attack, using casting attribute as a substitute governing key attribute.

The pdf also includes the Ahmutou – a crocodile with a lion’s mane around head and neck, as well as a golden crook under each eye. The critter clocks in at CR 2 and is an option for Monstrous Companion.

Next up, the pdf discusses how the anpur race views a metric TON of different classes, allowing you to think about the respective role in their society, and the pdf comes with a ton of favored class options that cover all Paizo classes, as well as a best of chosen from Purple Duck Games’ classes, including e.g. illuminates, living monolith, etc. The pdf concludes with a sample CR ½ PC, a cleric of Shankil.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, and just as well-executed on a rules-language level, at least as far as I’m able to determine that by now. Layout adheres to the printer-friendly one-column b/w-standard with purple highlights that PDG favors, and the pdf has a few really nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Derek Blakely’s anpur are an interesting and rather compelling take on the concept o jackal-folk, one that goes beyond the defaults of what one would expect. In another supplement, we’d probably just have seen an inversion – replace the barabaric tendencies of gnolls with being rigid and civilized. Here, it’s particularly in the small touches that the anpur come into their own, start feeling distinct. The items and notes on their culture and how the respective classes behave in a societal context all are interesting and deserve being lauded. The archetypes, alas, are slightly less interesting and didn’t blow me away – they’re not bad, mind you, but in comparison, they are not as well-wrought as the rest of the pdf, which includes the rules-language here.

That being said, many of the changes of Porphyra RPG shown here actually are aspects that do make one excited, and the race itself as well as its overall presentation is generally nice and has some inspiring tidbits. All in all, a solid offering, definitely on the positive side of things. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up, since the pdf is definitely closer to 4 than to 3 stars.

You can get this supplement here on OBS!

You can directly support Purple Duck Games keeping PF 1’s spirit alive here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 112019
 

Advanced Adventures: Under Shattered Mountain (OSR)

This adventure clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

So, as always for the Advanced Adventures-series, this module is intended for OSRIC-rules, but adaption to another OSR rule-set is very much possible. Nominally intended for 5 – 8 characters level 9 – 12, the adventure is very modular and represents more of a sandboxy backdrop than a unified narrative, and it should be noted that, difficulty-level wise, the adventure ranks in the upper echelon. There are a few encounters herein that are very dangerous and that will potentially destroy careless or unlucky players. These are not always telegraphed that well in advance, so an old-school mindset that can deal with character-death is very much recommended. On the definite plus-side, it should be mentioned that the more intelligent adversaries do get tactics that set them apart and help the GM render them appropriately dangerous, making them stand out a bit more than they’d otherwise would.

As far as supplemental materials are concerned, we get 4 new monsters – a pretty deadly toadstool critter, cavern crows that can be driven into a frenzy by the scent of blood, the lightning devil, and a unique devil are provided, all with appropriate stats. As far as adversaries are concerned, some beloved classics can be encountered, and a few of them are surprising – but I’ll get into that below.

The pdf does contain two new magic user spells: At 3rd level, we have Hestler’s Verbal Disruptor, which generates a white noise style acoustic-dead zone, is an interesting one. Black Embrace, a 7th level spell, booby-traps a corpse, which will embrace the living, draining their life-force. Cool visuals there.4 magic items are included as well, with experience and GP values noted properly. One of them, a flask that can be used to poison targets or be harmless, is nice, though here, a deviation from OSRIC’s default assumption of save-or-die for poisons would have imho made sense from a design perspective. A cooldown or countdown of sorts would have certainly made falling prey to that item less frustrating. One of the items is cursed, and honestly, it may actually be fairer than this one.  A bloodsucking dagger (with rather nice mechanics) and a rod are also part of the deal here.

Now, before we go into SPOILER-territory, let’s briefly talk about how this is set apart from most modules: Shattered Mountain is vast, and as such, it contains miles upon miles of tunnels that lead from a) to b) – in a way, it is reminiscent of a wilderness crawls inside a mountain, limited by the claustrophobic tunnels. This structure allows and encourages insertion of your own adventure modules and scenarios and characterizes this firmly as more of a backdrop than a primary narrative. This is also further emphasized by the random encounters table, which is pretty hefty and feels down to earth enough.

In fact, the lion’s share of the adventure is taken up by a variety of not necessarily connected encounters, each of which comes with its own functional little map. These are NOT aligned in a linear manner, which, once more, represents a big plus as far as I’m concerned. On a downside, the respective areas (10 of which are provided) are designated with letters: “Area F”, for example. However, on the respective maps, we have starting positions of dynamic adversaries, for example, also denoted by letters. When you look are the map of “Area B” and read “A, B, C”, you can’t help but feel that this choice of labeling wasn’t too wise. Using Roman or Arabic numbers, glyphs, whatever, would have been more comfortable for the GM in these cases.

Beyond these encounters, there is a more conventional 2-level mini-dungeon included here…

But in order to discuss more of the details of this adventure, I will have to go into SPOILER-territory. From here on out, I strongly urge potential players to skip ahead to the conclusion to avoid SPOLERS.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, among the encounters, we have, among other things, a slightly loopy fungal druid (including the series’ by now traditional deviations from OSRIC’s formatting conventions), a tribe of troglodytes, aforementioned cavern crows in conjunction and cohabitation with gargoyles, trolls, earth elementals, stone giants – the aesthetics here seem to be deliberately close to what you’d expect from a classic AD&D adventure – whether you consider that to be a bug or a feature depends on your own tastes. For the most part, I have to admit to being not exactly blown away by them, as the terrain simply doesn’t matter as much as it probably should. Compared to the fantastic “Stonesky Delve”, the caverns under shattered mountain feel quite a bit more sterile. I did mention that this module can be really deadly, and perhaps unfairly so. This claim primarily stems from one of the encounters, which springs not one, but two very old red dragons on the PCs – once they pass a certain threshold, they’ll be blasted by not one, but two breath weapons. No, the dragons are not hostile to another; they work together.

While it is “realistic” in a way that going down the wrong tunnel may get you killed, I did not consider this one to be particularly fair or enjoyable. There is no foreshadowing here, and I’d strongly advise GMs to seed some warning signs for the players. Otherwise, this is pretty much one of the bad “Lol, you die”-type of old-school encounters that doesn’t earn its lethality.

More fair, if certainly no less deadly, would be aforementioned mini-dungeon: Sheth, aforementioned unique devil, has his own little complex that spans a total of 21 keyed locations. This mini-dungeon is a hackfest in the purest sense, and if you’re looking for some good ole’ murder hobo-ing, this’ll do, perfectly. From the gorgon guardians to a lamia to twin rooms housing no less than 6 (!!) stone golems in total, this complex is brutal. Said lamia has btw. high-level adventurers and a trolls charmed, making the encounter function somewhat akin to handling rival adventurers. We even find nilbogs here, and as a whole, this dungeon is deadly, but cool – there is for example a really cool trap, where a collective of screaming magic mouths may render the PCs unconscious. While this can TPK a group, mundane means to offset the trap (as well as magical brute-forcing) are viable tactics, making this a cool example of a trap that has more than one step, and one that rewards player skill over PC luck. I really liked that one. Sheth and his cohorts are similarly a challenging and cool final encounter. Here is a lost chance, though – the lightning devils and the pool featured in the final encounter don’t really interact, and as cool as some of the trap/hazard-related aspects of the complex are, they don’t extend to actual interaction with the creatures, which makes them feel a bit more sterile than they’d otherwise seem.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good of a formal level, though there are deviations from OSRIC’s formatting conventions. On a rules-language level, I’d consider this to be precise and well-crafted. Layout adheres to the two-column b/w-standard of the series, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf features no interior artwork beyond the editorial page, and cartography in b/w is functional and solid. However, no player-friendly, unlabeled versions have been provided.

James C. Boney can write really, really cool dungeons. The author gets the theme and tropes of classic fantasy really well, and I am particularly enjoying the tactics of his adversaries, as well as the creative and fair traps that his modules mostly seem to feature. At the same time, I couldn’t help but being somewhat unimpressed by this offering.

I love the notion of Shattered Mountain. The crawling through labyrinthine, lengthy tunnels is something I really love. Heck, I’ve written more than one book devoted to the theme of subterranean gaming. That being said, this feels, whether by design or by lack of inspiration, somewhat cookie-cutter in what the encounters offer. They are pretty segregated from one another, and theme-wise, there is no encounter within that I couldn’t have improvised on my own. On the plus-side, the mini-dungeon makes for a rather enjoyable hackfest – I can see that one work great for a fun convention game, for example. If you’re looking for a hard, but fun hackfest, the mini-dungeon included certainly delivers.

Still, this module has the somewhat unfortunate timing of having been released after “Stonesky Delve”, which not only offers a more alive, terrain-wise interesting adventure with verticality, nooks and crannies to explore, etc. – it also offers much more bang for your buck. This is by no means a bad adventure or hub/backdrop, but it also could have been much more. If “vanilla” AD&D flavor is what you’re looking for, then this delivers – if not, then you’ll be better off with “Stonesky Delve” or similar adventures. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

You can get this adventure toolkit/framing device here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 102019
 

Twilight of the Solstice (DCC)

This adventure clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 25 pages of content – +1 page bonus pregens. In contrast to earlier Holiday modules for DCC, this is btw. laid out in standard size, not in the 6’’ by 9’’ trade size of previous holiday adventures.

This review was requested by one of my patreon supporters to be undertaken at my convenience. I consciously decided to post this review before New Year’s, as its Christmas/Yule-themes are rather subdued, but I got injured pretty badly – hence the delay. This adventure is intended for 4th level characters, and works in every season equally well, at least in my book. The respective areas feature well-written read-aloud text.

It also probably works best as a one-shot, as it has something we need to discuss. While it *does* come with notes on how to use it with existing characters, one of its gimmicks results, system-immanently, with a disjoint of sorts when used in conjunction with established PCs.

“Twilight of the Solstice” has a pretty central gimmick, namely the use of scratch-off character sheets. Before you groan, let me explain: You don’t need them. The pdf-version comes with a blank sheet, and a one-page bonus-pdf that contains the stats for 10 different PCs, allowing you to simulate the use of scratch-off character sheets. Kudos for going the extra mile here.

The way in which this gimmick is integrated into the plot is rather ingenious, but in order to discuss the connections betwixt in- and out-game woven here, I must delve into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

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All right, only judges around? Great! So, in the frigid north, in times ancient and primeval, the jotnar were sealed away – a horrid race of rime giants that gets its own d30 table to customize personality traits and the like. These beings, once slain by fire, become a primeval yeast monstrosity, which is an interesting component and tweak on the classic trope. As giants, they are pretty brutal – with Act 1d24 and 8d10 HD for their standard huntsmen, they are pretty brutal. Minor complaint: The editing isn’t as tight here as usual for Goodman Games, with e.g. their three-eyed winter wolf pets on page 7 not having their name bolded, and with the sample giants not having precise hit point values. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

To seal the dread rime-giants away, the world-clock was fashioned – and it’s supposed to keep them at bay until the end of time – a place that PCs that fail the adventure may well get to see. The very subdued Christmas angle is represented by “The Grandmother” – a matronly, female version of Santa Claus, if you will – and a potent magic-user/guardian that prolonged her life by studying the clock. Yet, each annual sojourn from the clock brought her closer to her own demise, until she, in her desperation and desire to not leave her wards alone, made a pact with the giants. Yeah, dumb. Yeah, I didn’t get it either. She reopened the portal to the Jotnar’s prison, and now creation’s going belly up. Faster than you can say “Curse your sudden, but inevitable betrayal” they turned upon the Grandmother, and so she uses the last of her magics to send for the PCs, reach out for them in cryptic visions.

Meanwhile, the jotnar have sped up the progress of the world-clock, and the ripples through creation have wiped the PC’s memories – this is the justification for the scratch-off sheets and doubles as a hard time-limit regarding the completion of the module. There are only 12 “steps” of the solstices, as the world-clock hurtles the world through aeons. Magnificent civilizations rise and falls, and the PCs will watch even mountains perish. On a rest, the Grandmother gets a chance to visit the PCs, but the clock advances; similarly, every hour real time advances the clock. There is no dawdling here, and considering the difficulty of the antagonists here, this is not an easy adventure to pass.

The Grandmother is btw. yet another angle of quasi-Norse themes, should the moniker of “Jotnar” have not been ample clue for you: There will be, later, a fire-giant named Surtr that may help the PCs, and indeed, the Grandmother’s reverse aging process over the course of the module makes her pretty much a one-woman iteration of the classic Norn-theme. You know, Skuld, Verðandi and Urðr. This also is mirrored in some subtle tweaks, like the boss’s pet wolf having 8 legs, mirroring Sleipnir, with the aloliance of giants and wolves carrying resonances with Fenrir etc. This emphasis also extends to the dwarves within, the dvergar, who hearken more to the depictions of entities like Alfrikr, more commonly known as Alberich – mighty craftsman with a vicious streak and no particular fondness for the gods, these fellows are pretty nasty as well…PCs should be careful, particularly since they have pretty much no access to their character abilities and stuff.

Every advancement of the world clock through the aeons unlocks a new aspect of their characters, which is also why I think that this works best as a one-shot. DCC’s rules are simple enough that plenty of players know their PC capabilities by heart and sans looking at the sheet – just taking this information away doesn’t mean that they can’t recall it, creating a disjunction between in- and out-game playing experience that I personally consider to be grating. This is a system-immanent issue here, but I still strongly suggest running this as a one-shot or as a breather from ongoing campaigns. (Perhaps the PCs witness the phenomenon, and you cut to this module and a whole new group…) The gimmick is really strong and well-implemented here, and it surprisingly retains its functionality in the pdf, courtesy of the pregens provided, but it loses its novelty and impact in conjunction with PCs that the players know.

Now, here is a pretty big plus: Beyond the gorgeous (as pretty much always for Goodman Games) maps, the pdf provides 2 specifically designated handouts that help with puzzles within, as well as a one-page artwork that pretty much represents an unofficial, third handout. Puzzle? Yep, but here’s the thing – knowledge of the fuþark doesn’t really help – while there *are* runic puzzles to solve here, they are based on novel runes, including meaning. Basically, the module presents two different primary paths that both lead to the finale, and both offer for pretty different playing experiences. This means that a) the judge has replay value here, and b), the play-style of your group will be accounted for. If you prefer straight dungeon-crawling, you can follow the Jotnar’s tunnels and enter the world-clock through the back door…or you can brave the rather creative and fun puzzles that prevented access for mortals for ages past. Personally, no surprise there, I preferred the puzzle-path, but if you’re in the mood for some good ole’ murder-hoboing, you can get the like herein – just note that your opposition is nothing to sneeze at in either of the paths. Even in the more action-focused path, PCs will need their wits to survive in that path as well. Personally, I do think that some of the traps could use clear telegraphing to avoid them via clever playing, but considering that we’re talking 4th level PCs, and the fact that the traps are not particularly deadly, I can live with that.

Either way, the PCs will have to save the Grandmother and stop the Rime-giant jarl and his carls to halt the aeons and prevent getting a front-line seat to an untimely heat-death of the universe. As an aside: If you’ve been looking for a way to transition your game from DCC to MCC, the time-jump angle, which, alas, is pretty underutilized apart from the scratch-off sheet gimmick, may be a pretty neat way to do so. Instead of dumping the PCs back in their own time, dump them someWHEN else… this also represents my main gripe with this module: While the cold terrain and the scratch-off sheet are well-integrated, the origin of the distortion, the time-angle, is not. The complex doesn’t change, the PCs can’t speed up – the fleeting passage of time, the whole angle, just screams for mechanically-relevant tricks for PCs and foes alike.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level, but on a formal level, I noticed quite a few minor hiccups. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the b/w-artworks and handouts provided are absolutely gorgeous, as we’ve come to expect from Goodman Games. The same holds true for the fantastic cartography, but alas, we do not get player-friendly unlabeled versions of these fantastic maps. This represents a comfort detriment and is a bit of a bummer for VTT-fans. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks for each general area, but not for individual rooms, which makes navigation slightly less comfortable than it should be.

This is the first adventure by Marc Brunner that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, and indeed, it is an impressive one. I expected the module to fall apart when bereft of its gimmick – I do not own the scratch-off character sheets, so yeah. Instead, the module actually does an admirable job at integrating a distinctly metagame aspect and codify it in an in-game context, in a way that seems feasible. So yeah, big kudos for that!

I also found myself really loving the twist on Norse concepts, the different paths to victory, and enjoying the puzzles. And yet, in spite of me loving pretty much anything even vaguely Norse in theme, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling like this somewhat overstretched itself. The Grandmother is basically window-dressing, and represents the one jarring narrative aspect within. Similarly, the tempus fugit-angle could have been developed better, made more central. In a way, the module feels like it tries to do perhaps one or two things too many at once. With the complex slightly shortened in favor of pronouncing these aspects, this could have become my all-time favorite of the holiday/end of year DCC-modules. As written, I consider it to be the second-best of those I’ve covered so far, with only the masterful Trials of the Toymakers besting it. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up.

You can get this unique adventure here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 102019
 

The Assassin: The Fabrication Cold Technique Tree

This expansion for the frickin‘ amazing assassin class by Interjection Games (srsly – check it out, if you haven’t!) clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Soooo…what of an assassin deprived of the tools of their trade? Well, with “Killer Engineering”, that is no longer an issue. Each morning when refreshing the technique pool, you get to build custom gadgets. You get one of them, plus an additional one at 3, 7 and 15 fabrication techniques – this means you can get up to 5 per day. Each gadget consists of two different components: You first select the base tool, then add up to two addons to it, paying the fabrication cost. Upon first gaining killer engineering, you choose one base tool and ALL associated addons, and upon gaining the next fabrication technique, you get the tool and all associated addons.

When building gadgets with this ability, you have a total of class level fabrication points. These don’t need to be spent, but also do not carry over to subsequent days. You can’t hoard gadgets. Building new ones cannibalizes the previous ones, and they may not be sold.

The first base tool presented within would be the hidden blade, which may be attached to pretty much anything like gloves, boots, etc. A maximum of one such blade may be applied to a given item. Hidden blades that are deployed cause 1d4 piercing damage with a 19-20 threat range. Attacks with a wrist-mounted blade while the hand is full are possible, but penalized by -4. Toe-mounted hidden blades may only be used to execute one attack per round. Multiattack or Improved Unarmed Strike negate these penalties and restrictions. The hidden blade is Weapon Finesse compatible. It is treated as a weapon for spells and effects, and I assume that the assassin is proficient with it. Whether or not that needed to be clearly spelled out depends on your reading – I read this as a class feature, and as such, think that it does not need this. This also, however, disqualifies the hidden blade for feats enhancing a specific weapon. A scaling DC to notice the blade is provided, with class level and Intelligence modifier determining the Perception DC. Retracting or deploying the blade is a swift action, and the pdf properly codifies Sleight of Hand et al. to do so unnoticed.

As for addons, 2 are provided: Enhanced blade lets you spend fabrication points to render the weapon magical via enhancement bonuses, with 0 points expended making the hidden blade masterwork. The second addon significantly enhances the capability of concealing the blade from onlookers.

The second tool contained within would be the smoke bomb, which is codified as a thrown splash weapon that may be employed as part of a full-attack action or as an attack action, but for full attacks, using a smoke bomb prevents you from making off-hand attacks. Smoke bombs have a range increment of 20 ft. and don’t generally inflict splash damage. There are three base types of smoke bomb that you can make: You can make 3 classic smoke bombs, 2 incendiary smoke bombs, or 1 smoke bomb laced with inhaled poison. Regular smoke bombs create an obscuring mist analogue with a 10-ft.-spread. Incendiary smokebombs get scaling fire damage, but sport a rules-terminology snafu. The rules language erroneously refers to a Dexterity saving throw, when it should refer to reflex saves instead. The save DC to negate is not explicitly noted, requiring defaulting to the standard, which may be considered to be slightly inconvenient. Poison bombs do require the additional cost of poisons. The tool also gets 3 addons: 1d3 acid splash damage, increased reach by 10 ft. (o point cost), and also at 0 fabrication point cost nets an additional smoke bomb if you create 3 or more smoke bombs of one style, with the same formulation.

The third tool presented within would be the springknife, which may be installed into a willing target. When the creature makes an attack against an enemy it’s flanking or when it’s subject to an attack of a flanking enemy, the springknife activates, making an attack versus the flanked or flanking target. It has a reach of 5 ft. and only activates if the noted target is within that reach. The attack is executed at a BAB equal to class level + Intelligence modifier of the installing assassin + the enhancement bonus of the installed blade, if any. The creating assassin’s Intelligence modifier is also added to damage on a successful hit, and after this attack, the remnants of the springknife fall off. The dagger installed into a springblade may be retrieved as a standard action. I adore this from a design-perspective, though personally, I would have made the blade get a limited number of uses before falling apart….which brings me to the first addon, the double tap, which does, bingo, exactly that. For 2 fabrication points, it nets you a springblade that may be triggered twice before falling apart. This also ties in with a great optional component, but more on that later. At 0 fabrication points, we get sneak attack synergy, and at 1 fabrication point, we get an increased reach, with attacks versus closer targets getting a bonus to atk.

Now, here’s the thing: All of the above? That’s the base killer engineering ability. This ability is NOT a technique per se, which explains the rather subdued power-level of these options. Instead, all of the above represents, ultimately, an extension – something that you get upon taking a technique in the fabrication category! Yep, we’re only done with the prologue, if you will!

All righty, so what do the actual fabrication techniques do? Well, without a prerequisite, we have creator’s confidence, which nets you temporary hit points equal to the number of gadgets installed on your body, lasting for 1 round – basically a kind of replenishing shield. If you have at least 2 fabrication techniques and have a springknife installed and it targets a being with 0 presence, you get one presence versus the target. Full-round gadget installations and getting two springknives as a capacity to hold may also be found. Specialized springknives has three addon options: At 1 fabrication point, you can install an alchemical springknife – i.e. the option to instead install alchemical items and use them in conjunction with springknives, with 9th and 17th level allowing you to install additional flasks/substances into the springknife instead. At these higher levels, the fabrication pool cost is also sensibly reduced. Secondly, also at 1 fabrication point, we have the option to integrate blinding powder – this is incompatible with other alchemical springknife substitutions or the default daggers, but has obvious benefit. In spite of not dealing damage, it explicitly provides synergy with abilities that hinge on targets being damaged. The third one has tanglefoot bag synergy.

Defensive construction (available at 2nd level) provides, like elemental construction (available at 4th level), a total of 3 (!!) new addons. In the former instance, this includes temporary hit points for 1 round after gadget use, scaling AC bonuses (and minor DR), and minor AC boosts that also are applied as a penalty versus targets damaged by the gadget. In the case of the latter, we have minor elemental damage added (scaling) to those that attempt to damage the wearer in melee, while another addon adds energy damage or added energy damage of all available types – in the case of this technique, that’s cold, fire and electricity. Thus, the latter is a pretty nice way to get to know the resistances or lack thereof of a target.

For hidden blades, 6th level unlocks the exotic blade technique for the taking, which allows you to create an autopoisoning hidden blade, natural attack synergy and feinting with it. Field manufacture allows you to spend 3 technique points to produce one unit of an expended gadget you know, with springknife savant reducing this further, though gadgets with 0 fabrication cost do get their cost increased to 1. The 10th level technique mass produce allows you to optionally make more gadgets, but also has your assassin level for numerical purposes reduced by 10 for the purpose of their effects. If you’d rather have a regular, but less pronounced upgrade of gadget uses, under the table, available at 6th level, has you covered.

Liquid smoke unlocks both tar and grease bombs, the former entangling, while the latter duplicate the slickness of the spell of the same name. Minor bummer: There are two techniques that reference a “spare parts technique”, which, from context, seems to allow you to retain technique points. However, I could not find this spare parts technique in the pdf, nor in my other assassin files. This makes these two techniques basically nonfunctional.

On the brighter side, if you ever wanted the classic Batman utility belt…this pdf has it. The technique of the same name unlocks the new utility belt tool, which comes with, obviously, beast repellent, buffered padding versus energy types, extradimensional storage, and indeed, means to quickly activate utility belt tricks 1/round. A peashooter, a rebreather and the like, a Diazepam like sniping enhancer and stimpacks can also be found here. This one had me, once more, smile from ear to ear. And yes, that were all components of the tool’s base functionality. There also are 3 addons provided!

The pdf also contains 5 feats: Bauble Hoarder lets you 1/day pull a reserve smoke bomb out of your behind, which does not count towards your maximum. Killer Engineer increases the fabrication points available by +2. Mundane Munitions Wrangler nets you one additional extra gadget chosen from the classic three – this doesn’t count towards the maximum, but also may not possess addons, which limits the usefulness here rather starkly. Utility in Utility allows you to remote-trigger components of your utility belt, even if someone else is wearing it. Cool! Optimized Process, finally, unlocks a new addon that provides numerical improvements, and it allows you to combine utility belt components with non-utility belt gadgets, though only in a limited capacity.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the absence of spare parts and the Dex-save snafu represent two uncommon guffaws for the otherwise excellent wrangling of complex concepts within. Layout adheres to the classic 2-column b/w-standard of the Interjection games-supplements, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length. They’d be nice to have, though.

I absolutely adore Bradley Crouch’s assassin class, and getting more material for it is amazing. Getting a whole new technique tree in particular is something that has me rather excited. The fabrication angle shows here is intriguing indeed: We have many things here that had me smile – from obvious Batman inspirations to Assassin’s Creed/Dishonored-like tricks, there is quite a lot to enjoy here. The power-level of the choices herein makes the fabrication tree suitable even for no-magic campaigns, which is a pretty neat plus. The focus on supplemental utility this one has ultimately means that it’s a supplemental trick array, and in this aspect, it succeeds triumphantly. However, it also has a few rough edges that make it impossible for me to rate this the full 5 stars. Instead, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down. Don’t let these minor blemishes deter you, though – the options within are pretty damn cool and worth the low and fair asking price.

You can get this complex and interesting expansion for the assassin-class here on OBS!

Missed Interjection Games’ unique and exciting momentum-based assassin? You can find it here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 082019
 

First of all: A happy New Year to all of you – I hope 2019 found you in better shape than it did me!

Ah, the best laid-plans of men and mice. Here I was, working like crazy before the holidays to have some time on my hands – and suddenly, I found myself in hospital.

So yeah, broken foot. Fun times. This pretty much wrecked my timeline, and I apologize to the patreon supporter who requested that I cover the first 4 DCC holiday modules before the new year – “Twilight of the Solstice”, the most New Year-ish one of them, will hit site this week. Similarly, I had planned to have Languard finished by the end of the year – now, the final review will hit sites this week. While I did get a lot of reviews done, including catching up with Everyman Minis (more to come), e.g. the plan for a burst of Starfinder reviews between Yule and New Year fell short.

Now, following the suggestion of one of my readers, this list now also denotes which reviews were direct requests of my patreon supporters.

Everyman Gaming – Advanced Skill Guide (SFRPG) (Patreon Priority Review)

Rogue Genius Games – The Genius Guide to Vampire Magic

Cobalt Sages Creations – Aberrant Codex: Aberrant Allies (Patreon Priority Review)

Everyman Gaming – Star Log.Deluxe: Armored Solarian Options (SFRPG)

Goodman Games – The Emerald Enchanter (DCC) (Patreon Request)

Goodman Games – Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Book (CoC/DCC/MA) (Patreon Request)

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Minis: Mystery of Music

Raging Swan Press – Languard Locations: Fishshambles (5e)

Raging Swan Press – Languard Locations: Fishshambles (system neutral)

Raging Swan Press – Languard Locations: Fishshambles

Expeditious Retreat Press – Advanced Adventures: The Verdant Vault of Malakum (OSR) (Patreon Request)

Rogue Genius Games/Mike Myler – The Genius Guide to the Opportunist

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Minis: Superior Alchemical Items

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Minis: Unchained Fighter Archetypes

Goodman Games – The Old God’s Return (DCC) (Patreon Request)

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Minis: Unchained Ninja Options

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Minis: Dynastic Armory

AAW Games – PF Holiday Mini-Dungeon Bundle

AAW Games – 5e Holiday Mini-Dungeon Bundle (5e)

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Minis: Eidolon Knight

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Minis: Catfolk Options

Goodman Games – Advent of the Avalanche Lords (DCC) (Patreon Request)

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Minis: Lost Children

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Minis: Microsized Monsters

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Minis: Vessel Passengers

Zzarchov Kowolski – Down in Yon Forest (revised edition) (OSR/NGR)

Pathfinder Playtest Analysis V – On Magic Addendum and Design Spaces

Legendary Games – Faerie Bargains

Goodman Games – Trials of the Toy Makers (DCC) (Patreon Request)

Purple Duck Games – AL 9 – Danger in the Deep! (DCC)

Raging Swan Press – GM’s Miscellany: The Thingonomicon (system neutral) (Patreon Priority Review)

Raging Swan Press – Languard Locations: The Wrecks (system neutral)

Raging Swan Press – Languard Locations: The Wrecks (5e)

Raging Swan Press – Languard Locations: The Wrecks

I lost about 2 weeks of focused reading and writing to the accident and the aftermath of the surgery, which means that a couple of plans I had made to conclude series/catch up with a couple of series fell by the wayside. I am working very hard to regain the time lost, but, to be frank, right now, I’m still sleeping more than half the day. (Really odd experience for someone who usually gets by on 4-6 hours of sleep, at the most!)

The painmeds are pretty hardcore, and I’m sleepy pretty much all the time. Things have already improved, as I’m off of Tilidine and Novaminsulfon, but yeah…I’m dead tired as my body does an admirable job of knitting itself together, supplemented by friendly metal jammed through bones.

But I am rambling! Now it’s time to put my best foot forward, keep my feet (and crutches) planted firmly on the ground, take things one step at a time… Sorry, couldn’t resist! 😀

(And if you know more puntastic idioms centered on feet, drop me a line…I need to work on my pun-game!)

Anyways, I’ll be working hard on your behalf in 2019 – and while things, for now, may be slightly slower than usual, I do plan to keep up a steady stream of reviews! As always, thank you for sour support, and if you want me to cover something and haven’t already told me about it, drop me a line!

If you enjoy my reviews and the guidance I provide, please contemplate checking out my patreon here! It’s what keeps the lights on regarding my reviewing. If you dislike patreon for whatever reason, you can also directly donate to the cause here on paypal!

Cheers and all the best,

Your friendly neighborhood endzeitgeist.

Jan 072019
 

Languard Locations: The Wrecks

This installment of the Languard Locations-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We return to Languard, and this time around, we take a look at the Styes…ähem, sorry, I meant at “the Wrecks.” The shambles were poor and cutthroat, the fishshambles dangerous, but vibrant. The wrecks, however, are categorized by their temporariness. As the pdf explains in vivid prose: “The Wrecks reek of it. Shipwrecks grip piers and boardwalks that cling to what little ground there is – and that is itself mostly transient, shifting with the slurry and still oozing unseen below…” Now *this* is a piece of introductory prose! This rotting stain upon the face of Languard is not a nice place to visit, and transit is never fast. Sinkholes, some of them with names (and minds!) of their own emerge and vanish. As many things come up as down – “things birth from seaweed-choked mires below, eyeless wan things flap into daylight.”

This has got to be one of the best introductory paragraphs I have seen for a neighborhood/village/region.  The general sense of dilapidated decay and hostility is further enhanced by the presence of the Takolen, a massive clan of a family characterized by missing beards, stringy and sparse hair and being relatively chinless, these folks add an Innsmouth-style angle to the proceedings, and the write up does feature some intriguing angles. Do they perhaps need strong alcohol? Either way, they don’t like strangers. And everyone who is not from the Wrecks qualifies.

This relatively small section of Languard is expanded with 8 new locations, which, as has become the tradition with this series, lists notable folk in fluff-focused descriptions. These suggest a race and a class or combination of classes, as well as an alignment, but otherwise remain focused on flavor. The locations each sports some hooks to kick off adventuring, and where applicable, costs for food, drink and lodging are provided. And believe you me, these locations do not make the region sound more pleasant to visit. There would be a fop-house, rum-den and place of sin crafted from dilapidated masses of dead ships, where ostensibly every sailor spends a night just before he dies. A huge, bloated effigy of a fat man acts as a grotesque beacon, and the labyrinthine place’s management is NOT nice…though a twisted kind of love does bloom here.

If you need a secret hold in your ship, you should definitely go to “The Cauldron”, which is also where you go when you need alchemical supplies – provided you can withstand the eye-watering miasma emitting from this place. In the infamous shackle, Acrobats dressed up as clowns allow the decadent public to watch the spectacles of bloodsport – or, if they’re unlucky, become part of it. The Devil’s Bridge Wrecks have built themselves from a grounded vessel, and now represent a shanty-town of brothels, dens of sin, and an elder of the Takolen family reigns over this architectural cancerous growth of the city with an iron fist, using the perhaps not all unfounded tales of demonic powers. Did I mention the semi-secret shrine of Dagon situated in a plague ship?

Only the most miserable, sadistic and merciless would visit Gulping Lyza – which may be the world’s sole mermaid brothel. No, the girls are not there by choice. The Faithless, when it ran aground, came with but a cargo of rats and none aboard…and today serves rum and food….but what really happened on the vessel’s last voyage? Finally, there would be the “Gape of the Eye”: At one point Languard resolved to create man-made isles, but said places all sank – and nowadays house sahuagin, associated with the cult of Father Dagon…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no hiccups on a formal or rules-level. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a couple of nice b/w-artworks, though fans of Raging Swan Press will be familiar with most of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, and in two iterations – one intended for the printer, and one for screen-use.

The association of the theme, the prose – you have guessed it by now, if my mentioning of the “Styes” wasn’t enough. Yep, this supplement was penned by none other than master of the macabre and grotesque, Richard Pett, and could almost be taken as a kind of homecoming, constituting a supplement that fits Languard just as well as it’d be suitable for the Styes or the Blight. This place is capital letters DARK and represents a quintessential chaotic evil environment. Here, misery and base impulses reign, half-heartedly painted over by the inhabitants with garish colors – serving to enhance, rather that detract from, the darkness of this place. The wrecks are pretty much the no-go-area that some big cities have, save that it genuinely and truly does not have redeeming qualities. Unless you need to go here, you shouldn’t. The atmosphere and prose are masterful, the concepts grotesque and odd – if you use this, you’ll have a thoroughly black stain on Languard, a place where life is cheap and dangerous. You don’t rise from this place – you are dragged down. Where the shambles and fishshambles represent poor neighborhoods that do have saving graces, this is the den of sin, vice and atrocious beings that a pragmatic would rather burn down and start fresh.

Obviously, I absolutely adore this region of the city! Dangerous, depraved and decadent, this is the place that should illustrate rather well what happens if good men and women don’t do anything. This region has enough hooks and evocative locales, that it could carry a whole campaign. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars +seal of approval.

You can visit this dastardly den of vice and misery here on OBS!

Missed the Languard-core-supplement? You can get it here on OBS!

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 072019
 

Languard Locations: The Wrecks (5e)

This installment of the Languard Locations-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We return to Languard, and this time around, we take a look at the Styes…ähem, sorry, I meant at “the Wrecks.” The shambles were poor and cutthroat, the fishshambles dangerous, but vibrant. The wrecks, however, are categorized by their temporariness. As the pdf explains in vivid prose: “The Wrecks reek of it. Shipwrecks grip piers and boardwalks that cling to what little ground there is – and that is itself mostly transient, shifting with the slurry and still oozing unseen below…” Now *this* is a piece of introductory prose! This rotting stain upon the face of Languard is not a nice place to visit, and transit is never fast. Sinkholes, some of them with names (and minds!) of their own emerge and vanish. As many things come up as down – “things birth from seaweed-choked mires below, eyeless wan things flap into daylight.”

This has got to be one of the best introductory paragraphs I have seen for a neighborhood/village/region. The general sense of dilapidated decay and hostility is further enhanced by the presence of the Takolen, a massive clan of a family characterized by missing beards, stringy and sparse hair and being relatively chinless, these folks add an Innsmouth-style angle to the proceedings, and the write up does feature some intriguing angles. Do they perhaps need strong alcohol? Either way, they don’t like strangers. And everyone who is not from the Wrecks qualifies.

This relatively small section of Languard is expanded with 8 new locations, which, as has become the tradition with this series, lists notable folk in fluff-focused descriptions. These suggest a race and a class or combination of classes, as well as an alignment, but otherwise remain focused on flavor – in 5e, the respective versions point towards default statblocks where applicable. The locations each sports some hooks to kick off adventuring, and where applicable, costs for food, drink and lodging are provided. And believe you me, these locations do not make the region sound more pleasant to visit. There would be a fop-house, rum-den and place of sin crafted from dilapidated masses of dead ships, where ostensibly every sailor spends a night just before he dies. A huge, bloated effigy of a fat man acts as a grotesque beacon, and the labyrinthine place’s management is NOT nice…though a twisted kind of love does bloom here.

If you need a secret hold in your ship, you should definitely go to “The Cauldron”, which is also where you go when you need alchemical supplies – provided you can withstand the eye-watering miasma emitting from this place. In the infamous shackle, Acrobats dressed up as clowns allow the decadent public to watch the spectacles of bloodsport – or, if they’re unlucky, become part of it. The Devil’s Bridge Wrecks have built themselves from a grounded vessel, and now represent a shanty-town of brothels, dens of sin, and an elder of the Takolen family reigns over this architectural cancerous growth of the city with an iron fist, using the perhaps not all unfounded tales of demonic powers. Did I mention the semi-secret shrine of Dagon situated in a plague ship?

Only the most miserable, sadistic and merciless would visit Gulping Lyza – which may be the world’s sole mermaid brothel. No, the girls are not there by choice. The Faithless, when it ran aground, came with but a cargo of rats and none aboard…and today serves rum and food….but what really happened on the vessel’s last voyage? Finally, there would be the “Gape of the Eye”: At one point Languard resolved to create man-made isles, but said places all sank – and nowadays house sahuagin, associated with the cult of Father Dagon…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no hiccups on a formal or rules-level. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a couple of nice b/w-artworks, though fans of Raging Swan Press will be familiar with most of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, and in two iterations – one intended for the printer, and one for screen-use.

The association of the theme, the prose – you have guessed it by now, if my mentioning of the “Styes” wasn’t enough. Yep, this supplement was penned by none other than master of the macabre and grotesque, Richard Pett, and could almost be taken as a kind of homecoming, constituting a supplement that fits Languard just as well as it’d be suitable for the Styes or the Blight. This place is capital letters DARK and represents a quintessential chaotic evil environment. Here, misery and base impulses reign, half-heartedly painted over by the inhabitants with garish colors – serving to enhance, rather that detract from, the darkness of this place. The wrecks are pretty much the no-go-area that some big cities have, save that it genuinely and truly does not have redeeming qualities. Unless you need to go here, you shouldn’t. The atmosphere and prose are masterful, the concepts grotesque and odd – if you use this, you’ll have a thoroughly black stain on Languard, a place where life is cheap and dangerous. You don’t rise from this place – you are dragged down. Where the shambles and fishshambles represent poor neighborhoods that do have saving graces, this is the den of sin, vice and atrocious beings that a pragmatic would rather burn down and start fresh.

Obviously, I absolutely adore this region of the city! Dangerous, depraved and decadent, this is the place that should illustrate rather well what happens if good men and women don’t do anything. This region has enough hooks and evocative locales, that it could carry a whole campaign. The 5e-version is jus as strong as the Pathfinder version. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars +seal of approval.

You can visit this darksome stain upon Languard here on OBS!

Missed the city supplement? You can get languard here on OBS!

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 072019
 

Languard Locations: The Wrecks (system neutral)

This installment of the Languard Locations-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We return to Languard, and this time around, we take a look at the Styes…ähem, sorry, I meant at “the Wrecks.” The shambles were poor and cutthroat, the fishshambles dangerous, but vibrant. The wrecks, however, are categorized by their temporariness. As the pdf explains in vivid prose: “The Wrecks reek of it. Shipwrecks grip piers and boardwalks that cling to what little ground there is – and that is itself mostly transient, shifting with the slurry and still oozing unseen below…” Now *this* is a piece of introductory prose! This rotting stain upon the face of Languard is not a nice place to visit, and transit is never fast. Sinkholes, some of them with names (and minds!) of their own emerge and vanish. As many things come up as down – “things birth from seaweed-choked mires below, eyeless wan things flap into daylight.”

This has got to be one of the best introductory paragraphs I have seen for a neighborhood/village/region.  The general sense of dilapidated decay and hostility is further enhanced by the presence of the Takolen, a massive clan of a family characterized by missing beards, stringy and sparse hair and being relatively chinless, these folks add an Innsmouth-style angle to the proceedings, and the write up does feature some intriguing angles. Do they perhaps need strong alcohol? Either way, they don’t like strangers. And everyone who is not from the Wrecks qualifies.

This relatively small section of Languard is expanded with 8 new locations, which, as has become the tradition with this series, lists notable folk in fluff-focused descriptions. These suggest a race and a class or combination of classes, as well as an alignment, but otherwise remain focused on flavor – and since I know that some of my readers want to know: Yes, the pdf has consistently applied references towards proper old-school class names: Thieves and magic-users are referenced. The locations each sports some hooks to kick off adventuring, and where applicable, costs for food, drink and lodging are provided. And believe you me, these locations do not make the region sound more pleasant to visit. There would be a fop-house, rum-den and place of sin crafted from dilapidated masses of dead ships, where ostensibly every sailor spends a night just before he dies. A huge, bloated effigy of a fat man acts as a grotesque beacon, and the labyrinthine place’s management is NOT nice…though a twisted kind of love does bloom here.

If you need a secret hold in your ship, you should definitely go to “The Cauldron”, which is also where you go when you need alchemical supplies – provided you can withstand the eye-watering miasma emitting from this place. In the infamous shackle, Acrobats dressed up as clowns allow the decadent public to watch the spectacles of bloodsport – or, if they’re unlucky, become part of it. The Devil’s Bridge Wrecks have built themselves from a grounded vessel, and now represent a shanty-town of brothels, dens of sin, and an elder of the Takolen family reigns over this architectural cancerous growth of the city with an iron fist, using the perhaps not all unfounded tales of demonic powers. Did I mention the semi-secret shrine of Dagon situated in a plague ship?

Only the most miserable, sadistic and merciless would visit Gulping Lyza – which may be the world’s sole mermaid brothel. No, the girls are not there by choice. The Faithless, when it ran aground, came with but a cargo of rats and none aboard…and today serves rum and food….but what really happened on the vessel’s last voyage? Finally, there would be the “Gape of the Eye”: At one point Languard resolved to create man-made isles, but said places all sank – and nowadays house sahuagin, associated with the cult of Father Dagon…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no hiccups on a formal or rules-level. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a couple of nice b/w-artworks, though fans of Raging Swan Press will be familiar with most of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, and in two iterations – one intended for the printer, and one for screen-use.

The association of the theme, the prose – you have guessed it by now, if my mentioning of the “Styes” wasn’t enough. Yep, this supplement was penned by none other than master of the macabre and grotesque, Richard Pett, and could almost be taken as a kind of homecoming, constituting a supplement that fits Languard just as well as it’d be suitable for the Styes or the Blight. This place is capital letters DARK and represents a quintessential chaotic evil environment. Here, misery and base impulses reign, half-heartedly painted over by the inhabitants with garish colors – serving to enhance, rather that detract from, the darkness of this place. The wrecks are pretty much the no-go-area that some big cities have, save that it genuinely and truly does not have redeeming qualities. Unless you need to go here, you shouldn’t. The atmosphere and prose are masterful, the concepts grotesque and odd – if you use this, you’ll have a thoroughly black stain on Languard, a place where life is cheap and dangerous. You don’t rise from this place – you are dragged down. Where the shambles and fishshambles represent poor neighborhoods that do have saving graces, this is the den of sin, vice and atrocious beings that a pragmatic would rather burn down and start fresh.

Obviously, I absolutely adore this region of the city! Dangerous, depraved and decadent, this is the place that should illustrate rather well what happens if good men and women don’t do anything. This region has enough hooks and evocative locales, that it could carry a whole campaign. The system neutral iteration is just as strong as the other ones. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars +seal of approval.

You can get this delightfully icky supplement here on OBS!

Missed Languard? You can find the city here!

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 042019
 

GM’s Miscellany: The Thingonomicon (system neutral)

This massive compilation clocks in at 188 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page foreword, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 179 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested as a prioritized review by my patreon supporters and moved up in my reviewing queue accordingly

First of all, this supplement has got to have one of the coolest names ever – kudos there! In case you did not notice, this one represents a compilation of Raging Swan Press’ first 25 installments of the #20 Things-series of dressing files.

This means it covers ancient necropolises, bustling marketplaces, creepy graveyards, cultist lairs, curio shops &pawnbrokers, dark caverns, fallen dwarven holds, forts in borderlands, goblin lairs, haunted houses, hill giant steadings, kobold warrens, looting bodies of various professions, necromancers lairs, noisome sewers, ocean voyages, seedy taverns, slaver compounds, smuggler lairs, subterranean mines, sun-scorched deserts, townfolk and villagers, troublesome treasures, war-ravaged lands, wilderness camping and wizard towers. Coincidentally, I have reviewed all of these individual dressing files, which means that, should you require a detailed breakdown of the files, you can just click on the “#20-things-series”-tag on my homepage and have the reviews listed in a convenient manner.

I’m not particularly fond of repeating myself, so I will refrain from discussing all of these aspects in detail once more, instead focusing on how this works as a compilation.

Well, the first thing you’ll notice would pertain organization of the material – the respective entries have been organized alphabetically, which is one way to do it. We thus begin with “Ancient Necropolises” and move through the list above in the sequence I presented it.

This means that you won’t e.g. have one section for dungeons, one for urban environments. One for NPCs/corpses, instead, focusing, well, on an alphabetic presentation. While usually, I’d consider that to be a detriment on a comfort level, closer examination of the book led me to a different conclusion: Since the topics covered are rather diverse and disparate, there is not a single properly suitable organization paradigm I could come up with that would have been more efficient that a simple alphabetical presentation. If one would have e.g. grouped necropolis and crypts together, what’d one do with necromancer stuff? Put it there, or adjacent to the wizard’s tower? Closer examination of the book yielded a lot of these conundrums – so yeah, organization in an alphabetical sequence is pretty much the one feasible way to go here, and it makes sense that the book went that route.

Slightly less amusing – there is some overlap among a few of the respective #20 Things-entries. This, for example, affects the entries for the necromancer’s lair and wizard’s towers. Both of these have a duplicate of the same “20 Things to find in a Necromancer’s Sanctum” page, including the same 6 pickled and preserved things. It’s certainly nothing that sinks the supplement, and considering the quality, this duplicate doesn’t hurt the book in the slightest, but it still remains a minor blemish in my book. Then again, it thus *is* a faithful compilation of the material. Heck, you know me by now – I always have to find something to complain about. 😉

Kidding aside, the Thingonomicon’s dressing, as a whole, is ridiculously useful, and having the book in proper print is a huge boon – much like the phenomenal Dungeon/Wilderness-dressing books (still among my most-used books EVER), this is used much more when you just have it lying there, within reach, at the table. Flip it open, and viola! Need a blasphemous tome? The Rat’s Nest was written into the very fabric of the world, and cannot be unwritten, showing up as glyphs and symbols in filth, mold and rat’s nests. Now that is one damn amazing angle, right? What about a tome that may only ever be tattooed, vanishing if written otherwise? Got a kobold warren? 10 trap suggestions, right there. PCs wandered into a seedy tavern? 10 strange things behind the bar will certainly piqued their curiosity. This is one of those books that are just…useful, that allow you to focus more on things that matter.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good on a formal level, and being system neutral, rules-wise, tehre’s nothing to complain about either. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks, though, oddly, the Wizard’s Tower-section does not list its bookmarks as nested. They’re still here, but yeah. One of the bookmarks has a superfluous “s”, and I noticed a few not linking to the correct page: Dead adventurer bookmark links to the subchapter header, while dead bard erroneously links to dead adventurer. These only ever are a single page off, and if you display two pages at a time on your reader, this is a non-issue. The pdf comes in two different versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer. Kudos!

Alexander Augunas, Aaron Bailey, John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Ronald Calbick, Seamus Conneely, Kalyna Conrad, Jeff Gomez, Eric Hindley, Cole Kronewitter, Jacob W. Michaels, David Posener, Paul Quarles, Alex Riggs, David N. Ross, Liz Smith, Amber Underwood, Mike Welham – if you know anything about the authors currently working in the 3pp-circuit for Pathfinder, you’ll be familiar with most, if not all of them – the cadre of talented authors has crafted a wide array of useful dressing articles, which are enhanced even more by being compiled in a concise tome. Much like Dungeon Dressing back in the day, I wholly expect this book to be significantly more useful in print that in its electronic iteration, and indeed, I plan on purchasing the hardcover at my earliest convenience. While I can’t comment on the merits of the print version of this book, I do own plenty of Raging Swan Press print books – many of which are crucial tools in my game prepping and running. This book, while system-immanently less focused than previous Dressing compilations, nonetheless serves an important role, in that it really helps you bring to life complexes and adventuring locations, particularly those that are depicted in a more sketch-like manner – a perfect example of a book that can really use the details provided here will hit sites next week. For books like that, spontaneous adventures, mini-dungeons and locales, etc. in particular, this must be considered to be an all but invaluable resource, and as such, in spite of its minor flaws, which pale in view of what it brings to the table, this book gets 5 stars + seal of approval, as well as a nomination for my Top Ten of 2018.

You can get this inspired tome here on OBS!

You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.