Jul 152017
 

Crimson Heroes: Pregenerated Characters

This collection of pregens for the classic Curse of the Crimson Throne AP clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

All right, so first things first: The characters herein have been created with a 20-pt.-buy method, but for GMs and groups enjoying the added challenge, scaling notes for 15-pt.-buy characters can be found – nice! The presentation follows the by now tried and tested (and really nice) way of the pregen-books released by Legendary Games: We have a gorgeous full-color artwork for each of the characters, alongside a quote that represents the respective characters. It should also be noted that fold-up paper minis for all characters can be found herein.

 

Now, let’s take a look at the characters and start with Ardimaius Trente – and a brief glimpse at the character will tell you that this martial master and compassionate soldier has a built-in reason to engage in the AP; here, an addicted friend. These tie-ins double as a kind of trait, mind you – and this ties into the very modules of CotCT. So yes, the pdf provides deeply-immersed tie-ins of character and module, but it does not stop there: In the tradition of these pdfs, we also have ties between the characters – love-interests, rivalries and the like…and yes, we have notes on character advancement as well as roleplaying advice for the respective characters.

 

The Varisian rogue (rake) Eugeni Yozifari grew up on the streets – and at one point, he had an affair with another one of the pregens…and he barely managed to survive an encounter with a rather dastardly crimelord…and now has more than one axe to grind with the old sod…The Shoanti cleric of Pharasma (It should be noted that closed IP race-names have been slightly altered, but you still get what the respective ethnicities are) Istas Wraithscar is stricken by poverty and had an addiction to an exotic, strange drug at one point, the second death induced by the drug bringing her once again in line with the goddess…

 

Khostur Khyle, half-orc urban ranger, is a tragic one: He is almost human…and his wife was brutally murdered…and while he can’t yet retrieve the ring from a pawnshop, he has found out who was responsible for him being all alone. He will not be denied retrieving the wedding ring….or making his foe pay. Lianna Ieduri, a half Varisian, half Vudrani tattooed sorceress is a sorceress with a heart of gold – and as a reformed criminal, she knows something about module #1’s first BBEG’s operation…and btw., she does come with stats for her viper familiar!

 

Portia Cromathis can hear the spirits of the dead whispering to her – and thus she tries to honor dead and living alike, donning the identity of the Silversheen Ghost -the stalker specialization vigilante with her hauntingly beautiful artwork is most assuredly one of my favorites in the pdf…but then, no surprise there, right? ;P Oh, and she is looking for her missing nephew, once again providing a powerful motivator for adventuring, as well as some romance potential with a fellow pregen.

 

Runyar Locklin, dwarven warpriest of Abaddar, has a rather powerful motivator as well – the man wants to restore the honor of his family…and with a history of connections and a tendency to not be 100% truthful regarding item-value, he makes for a slightly mischievous twist on the trope of what you’d expect from an otherwise classic character/class combination. Finally, there would be Virsaner Tayne, a half-elven dropout of Korvosa’s academia, victim of a smear-campaign paid for by a rival student, executed by, bingo, the boss of module #1, the conjurer with his raven familiar makes for an unkempt, if kind being who represents more of a down-to-earth guy, when compared to the glamorous, slightly femme fatale-ish Lianna.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard and the artworks for the pregens are really amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Power-level wise and rules-wise, the pregens are all effective, on roughly the same power-level and they all manage to feel like organic characters.

 

Neil Spicer’s pregens are amazing: Not only are they interwoven along one another, they sport intriguing personalities and come with strong motivations to become involved with the plot of the CotCT-saga. The diverse ethnicities and personalities collected herein fit well within the context of Korvosa and render this collection a great purchase for groups who want to pick up the AP and just play. Add the scaling and roleplaying advice and we have a great file that leaves nothing to be desired. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get these amazing pregens here on OBS!

 

You can also get a great bundle of LG’s cool pregen hereos here!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 152017
 

5E Mini-Dungeon: Dwarven Dread (5e)

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Unlike most 5E Mini-Dungeons, this one does not come with VTT-maps or player-friendly iterations, which is a bit of a bummer.

 

Since this product line’s goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. Got that? Great!

 

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

..

.

Still here?

All right!

It can always get worse. This simple premise is represented in many an experience, many a module – and here, it is represented by the duergar.

Evil and loathsome though they may be, they generally at least are sane. Well, Argyle the Betrayer has gone off the deep end after encounter the mage Angree, who turned the cave wizard into a kind of mad savior of a duergar cult –  it is up to the PCs to stamp out the cult and stop the madness from spreading. As a minor note, the pdf does sport a whole line where the blank spaces are missing.

 

The dungeon presented here provides a sufficient diversity regarding its challenges, with a small, nice random encounter table adding dynamics, read-aloud rune-inscriptions adding fluff and environmental challenges adding an additional dimension to the encounters.  The hyperlinks in the conversion work as intended and the pdf offers some nice traps, with the respective NPCs and elementals making for solid adversary choices. The big loot here is btw. a stone of controlling earth elementals.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf, but there is no key-less version of the map to print out and hand to your players. The pdf does sport one nice piece of original full-color art – kudos!

 

Michael Smith’s “Dwarven Dread” is a solid addition to the Mini-dungeon line. While it is not as creative as the best of them, it provides an easy to insert dwarven-themed side-trek that features sufficient diversity in the challenges provided to make this a solid, fun romp. The conversion penned by Kyle Crider is solid and while I wished it featured a short-hand adding some unique properties to the BBEG (mage in 5E as opposed to a derro), I do like how the new monster selection still retains a general leitmotif. 3.5 stars, rounded up.

 

You can get this mini-dungeon here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 142017
 

Racial Prestige: Kyubi Paragon

This installment of the Racial Prestige-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

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

 

If you’re somewhat of a Japanophile, you’ll certainly appreciate the pdf specifying the origin of the word “kyubi” as a bastardization stemming from “kyuubi no kitsune” – and btw., if you’re looking the currently by far best take on the kitsune race as a proper race with options galore, be sure to check out the Dynastic Races Compendium.

 

Anyways, let’s move on to the racial paragon class: To qualify, you must be a kitsune with the Kyubi Awakening and Magical Tail feats and either have 5 ranks in a skill, BAB of +5 or higher or the ability to cast 3rd level spells. The class nets 4 + Int skills per level, nets no armor or weapon proficiencies and a 3/4 BAB-progression as well as no good saves. It should be noted that, at 3rd level, you get to choose two saves and gain +1 in them, which increases to +2 at 9th level, evening out at two medium save progressions at the higher levels.

 

The Kyubi Awakening feat, just fyi, nets you a kyubi trick, though you still have to meet the prerequisites of the trick.

 

Here’s the thing, though – Everyman Gaming Racial Paragon PrCs have a so-called aligned class: Upon taking the PrC, you select one class and treat kyubi paragon levels thereafter as though you had progressed in that class for the purpose of its class features. This cannot let you exceed your character level, though, and does not yield new class features that would have been gained: Basically, scaling abilities are not crippled by taking the class, which is something I enjoy. In case you were wondering, the class nets Magical tail as a bonus feat at 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter, with alternate choices being covered as well.

 

The class begins play with a so-called chakra reservoir equal to 1/2 PrC level + the number of Magical Tail feats possessed. As a swift action, the kyubi paragon may expend a number of such points to cast a spell-like ability gained from Magical Tails or use a kyubi trick without this counting against the daily limit of that SP. The cost is equal to the spell-level duplicated. The reservoir replenishes after rest. The astute reader may have noted that this allows for some serious action-economy tricks, which is pretty potent from the get-go.

 

Starting at 3rd level, the paragon may spend 1 point from this reservoir as a swift action accompanying the casting of a Magical Tail SP or kyubi trick to add the benefits of Conceal Spell, with 8th level unlocking the option to spend 2 such points to gain the benefits of Improved Conceal Spell. Furthermore, 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter unlock a Metamagic feat chosen from a list, which can hereafter be applied to the SPs and tricks, but at the cost of a number of points equal to the spell level increase of the feat in question, minimum 1.

 

Now, I have been mentioning kyubi tricks before – these basically constitute the talents of the class and the first one is gained at 1st level, with an additional trick every 2 levels thereafter. They are categorized and differentiated further by being grouped in tail-categories: There are tricks that require 2, 5 and 9 tails to learn. Saving throw-wise, we use either 1/2 HD or spell-level to calculate the saves, with Charisma being the governing attribute for these tricks. The kyubi tricks allow for a variety of different options: From improving upon Realistic Likeness with benefits of vocal alteration and more control over age, height etc. to using Occult Adventure’s Chakra system to disguise other, point-powered Arcane Strike, rogue talents to gliding and gaining darkvision, these are interesting and sufficiently versatile. It should be noted that all those examples were from the first category of kyubi tricks, for the talents differentiate between 2-tail, 5-tail and 9-tail tricks . guess what the prerequisites for taking them are. Yeah, self-explanatory.

 

Using tails for simple tasks, gaining Psychic Sensitivity or the ranged legerdemain feature rank among the more intriguing ones and the strong leitmotif of magical trickster is also represented by the potential to gain access to ranged legerdemain.

 

Starting at 4th level, the class gains the shapeshift shaman hex, using the aligned class + PrC levels as shaman level and is treated as a racial shapechanging ability for the purpose of ability interaction. This is relevant, since quite a few kyubi tricks blend the shapechanging and trickster themes, offering e.g. a means to greatly increase the chance to escape bonds via shapeshifting or use shapeshifting while in your natural form to temporarily adapt to e.g. water etc.. Similarly, at higher levels, we do get the more potent plant/vermin shape and form of the (exotic) dragon/giant form options added to shapechanging with the right talent. And yes, the level prerequisites/unlocks of this trick make sense. Similarly, the potent Acrobatic Pounce is well-placed with an additional minimum-level caveat.

 

It should also be noted that the 5 tails-option potentially ties in with the Everyman Mini: Kumiho, allowing you to assume kumiho or pipefox shapes, with all required rules represented herein. Quick change and reservoir-based telekinesis can similarly be found. The highest-level and most potent of tricks, from screen to constant greater age resistance, are obviously the 9-tails options. Speaking of age: Really cool: We get modified age tables for kitsune with more than one tail! See, that is really thinking through the subject matter, going the extra mile. And before you’re asking: Yes, you can gain an extra kyubi trick via a feat introduced herein. For your convenience, the contagious suggestion and form of the exotic dragon-spells have been btw. reprinted here, so no, you do not need those Player Companions to get all out of this pdf.

 

The class has more to offer, though: At 2nd level, the kyubi paragon chooses the embodiment he wishes to pursue – this choice cannot be changed once made and determines the abilities gained at 2nd, 6th and 10th level. 3 of these are provided: The Embodiment of magic allows the paragon to continue gaining new spells with the aligned class, allowing for basically 9/10 spell-level progression, with 6th level allowing for the use of chakra reservoir points in conjunction with the spells of the aligned class, which is VERY potent, even at 11th level, the earliest you can have it. This is thankfully balanced by double costs for doing so, reigning in the ability to strong, but sensible. The capstone here provides the option to employ multiple Metamagic feats in conjunction with his options. The Embodiment of might turns the class into a full BAB one with d10 as HD and also provides either a bonus feat or proficiency with all simple and martial weapons. 6th level nets a further bonus feat and makes PrC-levels count as fighter levels for prerequisite purposes and as a capstone, we have transformation for 3 points.

 

The third embodiment, embodiment of skill, nets 8 skill ranks at 2nd level and an additional +4 at every level thereafter. Additionally, if he’s trained in a skill or uses an ability check, even if it’s not his turn, the paragon can expend a point from the reservoir to add PrC levels as an insight bonus to the check – even when taking 10 or 20, but the decision must be made beforehand. 6th level allows for a reroll instead and allows for the use of all skills untrained (and the reservoir-based boost on them, conversely, may also now be used on untrained skills). The capstone lets the paragon take 10 or 20, even when prohibited from doing so, but at the cost of chakra reservoir points. These embodiments are genius, as they actually make the class feasible for pretty much all base classes – big kudos there!

 

One final thing to mention: At 4th level, the kyubi paragon gains the racial paragon vigilante talent, using class level plus aligned class level as vigilante level. He gains this talent a second and third time at 7th and 10th level, respectively. What does this talent do? Well, as a move action, the vigilante can gain access to a chosen feat that corresponds to his race for 1 minute, but still must fulfill the prerequisites. This can be used 3 + 1/2 vigilante class level times per day, with limited use feats taking away from the uses of the talent instead. Taking the talent additional times, the character may choose to either get one more racial feat or decrease the action required to activate the ability. Big kudos: This gets duration, interaction of wildcard feat-trees etc. right.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column full-color standard and the full-color artworks are nice indeed. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily requires them at this length.

 

Alexander Augunas’ kyubi paragon is AMAZING. A) It is feasible for all types of character. B) It represents the iconic trickster style of the kyuubi no kitsune better than any other take on the trope I have seen so far and c), it does so while also providing a distinct and rewarding resource-management mechanic. In short: If there were more PrCs of this caliber, they wouldn’t have such a bad rep. The balancing is also rather precise, with the limited resources putting hard and sensible, but not crippling caps on the most potent of tricks available. In short: 5 Stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation.

 

You can get this amazing PrC here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 142017
 

The Complete Vivimancer (OSR)

This massive supplement clocks in at 90 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 85 pages of content. It should be noted that the pages adhere to a 1-column standard and the pdf is formatted for an 6” by 9” (A4)-booklet size-standard – if you print this out, you could potentially try to fit multiple pages on one sheet of paper, but I would not recommend that here, due to some elements of the layout. Instead, I’d suggest going for the PoD-softcover. My review is primarily based on the print version of this supplement, which was kindly provided by one of my patreons, with the task of finishing a review of this pdf at my earliest convenience.

 

All right, so the default OSR-rules-set for this supplement would be Labyrinth Lord, though conversion to other rules systems is pretty simple. The vivimancer class gets d4 HD, 9-level spell progression and behaves basically like a magic user specialist. In basic games, only humans may be vivimancers, while in advanced games, elves and half-elves also qualify, capping at 11th and 10th level, respectively. For our convenience, the level-progression and save-tables have been reproduced.

 

Magical research is unlocked at 9th level, and 11th level usually provides a stronghold. House-rule options for the transparency between vivimancer and magic-user tricks are included. Some vivimancer spells reference a save vs. polymorph, which is treated as the petrify/paralysis save.

 

But what is a vivimancer? Something absolutely awesome. I mean, everyone, at this point, knows necromancers. Well, vivimancers are just as creepy, if not more creepy: Scientists of life, often disturbing and amoral, who can twist the very forces of life to their very whims. Existing in the borderland between science and magic, they allow you to blend the weird and icky; or add science-fantasy to the game…or add some other thematic ideas. The magic per se can be reskinned in a variety of ways…but before we get to the magic per se, let me mention something I adore here:

 

You see, the spells the vivimancer gets reward planning and consideration – but they often require a bit of forethought: The concise rules for laboratories and their constructions is a dream. They fit on one page, are crisp and can easily be tied into e.g. LotFP’s magic-user lab-rules. They also present a resounding rebuttal to the notion that OSR-supplements don’t need or require precise rules or that they restrict imagination – this page is beautiful. Similarly, the concise rules for experimental subjects and tissue samples taken are BEAUTIFUL. Oh, and guess what? All rules fit on 3 pages, 4 with the table. And they can’t be misread. Old-school designers, take a cue here. This is how it’s done.

 

Now, the beauty of this crisp, extremely professional presentation continues with the spells:On the left-hand side of each page, you have the spell-name, duration and range, and if applicable, suggested houserules. Better yet: Houserules do actually include observations in how they impact game-balance, allowing the referee to make informed decisions about their inclusion. Now the spells are organized by spell level first, alphabetically second, and they are not only creative, their balance with regular magic-user options is pretty much impeccable as well: From the utility tricks like a not 100% reliable means of detecting poison (so no, it doesn’t wreck any plots) to binding familiars; from conjuring forth creeping homunculi to warp the bones of your victims, the spells evoke a very powerful leitmotif of biomancy: The manipulation of flesh to form pockets, to control hormones, to enhance senses or meld the flesh of victims all evoke a sense of the delightfully uncanny, with a tint of body horror thrown in for good measure. Surges of temporary life, accelerated bodily functions, absorbing faces (!!!), using insects as messengers – the classic tropes of witches etc. are blended with the strange and evocative for spells that fit perfectly and that feel somewhat…real, in lack of a better term. The magic generally feels like it could work as a strange form of pseudo-science, adding a sense of almost occult legitimacy to the spellcasting tradition.

 

Staunching or speeding up the flow of blood, reversible anthropomorphism, growing new appendages…have I mentioned the spell to decode the genome of a target? Artificial creatures can thus yield the name of their creator from their genome, while enhancements thereafter provide a similarly cool angle to pursue Reverting biology can be pictured as a means to offset the power of the vivimantic arts – with a sole focus on preparation and the modification of living tissue, vivimancy is potent, but ultimately, it is balanced ingeniously and perfectly via its limited focus and the means to undo its radical incisions into nature. And yes, dear fans of Jack Vance, the vats of creation, to a degree, represent the backbone and heart of this tradition. Need I honestly gush more about how amazing these spells are? I do? All right: When I read this book, I immediately felt compelled to convert the spells to ALL of the rules systems I play in. I absolutely adore this tradition and its superbly creative spells. Have I mentioned the 9th level option to create an artificial intelligence? The CONCISELY-presented psionic awakening? Have I mentioned how much I love how PRECISE and yet open the crunch herein is? And yes, if you don’t have a preferred psionics system, an option for the like is included among the appendices.

 

The book is not just the vivimancer and his spell-list, though: We also get a wide array of thematically-concise “magic items” – which may well be creatures in this case. Let me mention some names – they’re pretty much all you need to know: Assassin bug. Brain leech. Lockroaches. The latter are btw. stick insects that you can use to open locks. This could be straight out of a China Miéville novel. Lab equipment. Seeds that grow huts. A whole class of magical lenses. Let me quote something here: “This […] tree […] looks like a normal tree, bedecked in exotic yellow flowers. It is only upon closer inspection that one may notice that the tree is actually covered in a network of blood vessels. Indeed, if the tree’s flesh is cut, it will bleed…” And yes, they produce healing fruit…though eating that is a rather gruesome, bloody affair…Mandrake types, philters that prevent or enhance the fertility of the target creature (allowing for those delightful interspecies crossbreeds…), solvents that reduce to essential salts… these items are amazing in their creativity, their focus, their themes. Wands that instill spasms can also be found.

 

Oh, and yes, animal and plant mutations all get their own page of tables for randomly determining them, and we get a basic spell-list with 12 spells per level as well.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to a crisp and cleanly-presented 1-column b/w-standard with nice sidebars. The b/w-artworks sport the same style as the cover and can sometimes contain a bit disturbing visuals – but that lies within the nature of this magic. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a major comfort detriment that costs the electronic version 1 star – I’d strongly suggest going for the print version. The softcover has the name on the spine and is well-made, so yeah, get that one.

 

Gavin Norman’s “The Complete Vivimancer” is a joy to behold: Precise and to the point, it provides the glorious innovation that you can find in OSR-gaming and supplements it with tight, crisp and precise rules. The balancing of the spells makes sense; the spells are glorious and the magic items chapter is similarly glorious. In short, this supplement is FANTASTIC. This book is worth getting. Heck, even if you don’t like OSR-gaming, this should be worth its asking price: The material is inspired and warrants conversion. Yes, that good. Fans of dark fantasy or weird fantasy, LotFP, DCC, etc. should definitely consider getting this gem. In fact, if what I mentioned even remotely strikes a chord with you, then get this. I know that NONE of my campaign settings will ever lack the art of vivimancy. As an aside: A conversion of these guys may actually make running a cleric-less/divine magic less setting easier.

 

This is absolutely fantastic and one of my all-time favorite old-school rule-supplements. It should be part of the library of any self-respecting OSR-referee. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this inspired, amazing and evocative class/spellcasting tradition here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 142017
 

Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised Edition (OSR)

This massive supplement clocks in at 138 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 131 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

First things first: This review is mainly based on the softcover, though I do also have the pdf. Both were provided by one of my patreons for the purpose of a review at my leisure. The pdf is formatted for an approximately 6” by 9” (A5)-booklet-size and you can, if you choose to print this out, fit up to 4 pages on a single sheet of paper.

 

The default rules-set assumed by this supplement would be Labyrinth Lord, and the material, over 160 new spells codified for three magic-user specialists, is not just simply lobbed at the reader: Instead, we begin this book with a series of considerations for the referee (or labyrinth lord) to add these to the game: The book provides exemplary guidance in that regard, talking about consequences of introducing this material. Similarly, there is an assortment of options to tweak the game using these spells: From fallible scroll-us to limited or reduced chances to learn, the different options are presented in a concise and crisp, exemplary manner, providing perfectly concise rules for both Basic and Advanced era games . The notion of spells as treasure is also explained in a rather detailed manner – it has been a while since I felt that a book offered guidelines this concise.

 

The book, generally, sports 3 different sections: The Elementalist chapter would be first, and the design notes continue the theme of guidance and explanation, providing an insightful expansion to the subject matter at hand. The elementalist, just fyi, does not simply focus on one element, but is a master of the classic 4 – and while elemental summoning is very much a potent aspect of the class, the spells do not just run the gamut of the classics, including the high-powered option to conjure the deadly and hard to control brimstone monolith, or with power word: petrify. What about a bubble of atmosphere? The power to lift land into the air to generate floating castles and the like? Yes, this is an evocative section.

 

We also receive a great selection of items – amalgams of contradictory elements, the ashes of leng that blow away with visions…some cool items here.

 

OSR-gamers who have been clamoring for a crisp and precise representation of the necromancer can similarly find that within this book: From binding spirits to choking targets, pronouncing rotting curses or taking on the visage of a corpse, the spells cover the classics, beyond the standard undead control tricks and death magic. Exterminating vermin, preserving bodies…and of course, zones of weakening, death magic and the like can all be found for these guys here.

 

Once again, we do get a selection of magic items, including the blood jewels of Orcus, magic shrouds, rules for skeleton keys (literal ones) and variant shrunken heads are cool – and yes, there are teeth that you can plant to grow skeletons…yeah, the material does quote classic tropes, and does so well.

 

Regarding the presentation of the spells, we have spell, name, spell level, subtypes/schools listed, as well as range and duration. Spell presentation is by level first, alphabetic second. The final (and imho by FAR best) chapter of the book details the vivimancer – though unfortunately not all of it: Still, this is a great teaser, though if you’re primarily interested in the class, get “The Complete Vivimancer” instead. It has more material that that contained within this book.

 

The book closes with a brief bestiary, with b/w-artworks for all critters – death cap fungi, para-elemental stats, elementines (mini-elementals), flame agarics, monstrous fly agarics, fluid beasts, soil beasts, wind horrors and leprous dead make for a solid array of creatures.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. The content is crisp, concise and well-balanced. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard. The artworks with the full version are really nice b/w-pieces (though it should be noted that a few show exposed nipples in a non-erotic manner, so if you’re prude about that, bear that in mind). The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a serious comfort detriment for the electronic version. The softcover I have sports its name on the spine and is a nice little book – I’d recommend print, if in doubt.

 

Gavin Norman’s massive collection of magic tradition is an inspired look at three iconic traditions. It is extremely fair to allow the customers to get the art-less FREE version to check out the content, so if you’re in doubt whether it is something for you, check it out. That being said, I am frankly not 100% sure I’d get this again. The book is crisp and its precise rules-language is, for the most part, really well-made and professional. However, the best part of the book, at least to me, is the vivimancer…and to get the most out of this guy, you should get “The Complete Vivimancer“; in direct comparison, this book feels more like a teaser.

 

This also extends to presentation and layout – the vivimancer book just looks better to me, with its crisp layout.

 

While this sounds negative, it shouldn’t be – this is an amazing book of OSR-magic, with even old and tired tropes like necromancers and elementalists getting some concise and well-made, creative options.

 

So, how to rate this? Should you get this?

 

Well, I’d STRONGLY suggest getting at least the art-free version and leaving a tip – if you like what you see, get the book. If you’re like me and a jaded bastard who has seen too many books and thus isn’t too into the first two chapters, check out the vivimancer chapter and get the phenomenal book on this specialist.

 

All right, then…how to rate this? To me, at least, this is a good book – but a third of it can be found in the vivimancer book, in a greatly expanded manner. For a FREE book, this is phenomenal – that version most assuredly deserves 5 stars, in spite of the lack of bookmarks. The commercial version is cool, but not necessarily a must-own in my book. My final verdict for the regular version will hence clock in at 4 stars.

 

You can check out the FREE, art-less version here on OBS!

 

You can get the full version, art and all, of this cool supplement here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 132017
 

Everyman Minis: Yroometji (Kangaroofolk)

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review. Furthermore, I received an advance copy in order to have the review done on release day.

 

So, what are the Yroometji? Kangaroo-folk. They gain +2 Con and Cha, -2 Int, are Medium, get low-light vision, +2 to Acrobatics made to jump (and are always treated as having a running start, +1 natural AC and a natural slam attack (cosmetic complaint – you need to resort to default – it does not specify being primary or secondary) at 1d4 bludgeoning and piercing damage and a crit-range of 19-20 when using their feet, or 1d6 bludgeoning damage with the tail. Readied attacks with the tail deal double damage versus charges, as though it had the brace quality. Additionally, they have a pouch that can hold up to 1 cubic foot volume or 10 pounds and if no armor or clothing restricts access to the pouch, transference of an item to or from it requires a swift or move action. Armor that grants pouch access costs slightly more and what constitutes restrictions to pouch access is concisely defined. All in all a solid race that should not provide any problems, regardless of campaign tone or power-level.

 

Now, as has become the tradition with Everyman Gaming’s take on races, this is not where we leave off – the yroometji depicted here are more than what you’d usually expect, with notes on physical descriptions, life cycles, cultures, religion, etc. all being depicted in surprising and neat depth for a pdf of this size. Favored class options for brawler, skald, shaman and druid have been included.

 

Speaking of brawler: The first of the racial archetypes within this pdf would be the Five-Strike Slugger for yroometji brawlers. These guys reduce their proficiency regarding weapons to simple weapons and may not use monk or close weapons as part of their flurries, but may use their slam attack in conjunction with it and also deliver abilities that require unarmed strike use with it. Nice: Instead of maneuver training, these guys can choose combat or psychological maneuvers from a list and add them to the effects of slam attacks, with 3rd level unlocking the first of these and every 4th level thereafter providing a new one. This ties in with the ability that replaces weapon mastery, namely to gain an unarmed strike or slam attack at full BAB minus 5 after affecting a target with a psychological or combat maneuver. And no, it can’t be abused in combination with flurries or the free maneuver added to slam attacks, thanks to an explicit piece of rules-language.

 

The second archetype would be the ancestral hunter for, bingo, the hunter class. Instead of animal focus, these hunters get to choose from a wide array of spirit foci, ranging from knowing the way to communication, blur, etc. – 8th and 15th level provide upgrades for the spirit choices. 3rd level yields the shaman shapeshift hey, with minutes of spirit aspect being usable to shapeshift, but nice vice versa. Additionally, the companion may be thus transformed into a Medium or Small humanoid while under the effects of spirit aspect. This replaces the bonus feat gained at 3rd level. Flavorful and interesting, rather cool tweak of the hunter class!

 

The race also comes with a 2-feat mini-feat tree based on Vital Strike: hop on the tail and execute a particularly potent feat slam, with Acrobatics acting as a means to increase damage – but thankfully capping via the weapon damage dice rolled. pretty interesting -while I’m usually not a big fan of this type of feats, it does work rather well here. The follow-up feat, Disembowling Kick, adds Con bleed to such assaults – ouch!

 

Really cool would be the 2 spells included: Handy pouch makes your pouch act as a variant handy haversack and pouch ally lets you shrink down allies and carry them in your pouch! Amazing!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features a neat full-color artwork. The pre-release copy I have has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Alexander Augunas’ yroometji are actually a mechanically interesting race that also comes with an interesting flavor and theme; I haven’t seen the kangaroo folk done well before and the visuals of the race are compelling, juggling complex concepts. The spells in particular are gold and I really like the race – in fact, I like it so much I hope it’ll get full Compendium treatment with details galore on these unique fellow and their culture. You see, my only gripes regarding this pdf ultimately are due to the format: We don’t get age, height and weight tables, alternate racial traits and the like and while we do receive a glimpse at a compelling race, that’s all there is, all that this humble pdf can provide – when the race is so cool it deserves more. Don’t get me wrong – it is amazing to see how much content and flavor can be found within this mini, but it still left me wanting a bit more and I hope a lot of you will check this out, so we do get a massive book on the race. Still, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 stars for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can get this unique race here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 132017
 

Everyman Minis: Kumiho

This Everyman mini clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Well, first things first: After the introduction, we learn what a kumiho is – in the context of the game, it is a take on the fox spirit that is neither benevolent, nor malevolent, blending the different takes on the trope from real world mythology.

 

The Kumiho is also something you should FEAR. It is Tiny. You’ll stop laughing once you take a look at the impressive defensive capabilities of this CR 17 shapechanging magical beast that can stop time, has a breath weapon, sneak attack and may rip the heart out of the breast of unsuspecting beings…oh, and they are both kami and kitsune, which provides a wholly unique array of class skills, making the build as a whole a rather impressive affair indeed! Have I mentioned that, while casting spells as a sorceror, they may substitute emotional components for their spells, but still have them count as arcane?

Really cool: The pdf goes the extra mile and sports notes on how to make less potent kumiho, by listing the abilities and when they’re gained based on the HD of your custom kumiho. Really cool!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column b/w-standard for the series and the full-color artwork of the creature, as seen on the cover, is cool. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Alexander Augunas’ take on the kumiho blends the different mythologies well, creating a deadly and worthwhile nature spirit that can easily stand in for “THE fox-spirit”, as opposed to a playable kitsune. The kumiho makes sense, is deadly and should put the fear of Tiny threats into the hearts of players. The scaling notes add further oomph to the appeal of the pdf. Well-done, cool and evocative, this delivers all you can ask of such a humble pdf. 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this amazing critter here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 132017
 

Prepared! One-Shot Adventures for 5th Edition (5e)

This compilation of side-trek modules for 5th edition clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Wait, before we go any further, one important note: You need the Tome of Beasts, Kobold Press’ massive and gorgeous hardcover of 5e-monsters to properly use this supplement, as statblocks have not been reproduced herein.

 

Structure-wise, these encounters/sidetreks are pretty easy to grasp: We get a background and then the different Adventure Elements that make up each sidetrek – usually, but not always, 2 – 4. These can all be combined or modified – here, we can find fight choreography, mini-events to keep modules dynamic and complications. Basically the moving parts, which come, where applicable, with read-aloud text. The areas themselves are also covered this way and each of the respective sidetreks gets its own full-color map, with one of them being isometric. The maps sometimes have fitting annotations and graphical elements like scribbled symbols, blood-spatters and the like.

 

All right, this out of the way, let us take a look at the modules within! This, unsurprisingly, entails SPOILERS. Potential players should most certainly jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, still around? Only GMs here? Great!

 

The first mini-module herein would be “The Impregnable Fortress of Dib”, intended for characters level 1 – 2. The eponymous “Dib” would btw. be a goblin who, with his buddies, has a penchant for wrestling. Goblins being goblins, this entailed copious destruction and thus, these guys were exiled from their clan, building a fortress (with pitiful, half-finished moat) from a tipped over, abandoned wagon. It is this “fortress” that makes the short adventure interesting, for the fortress behaves somewhat like a creature of its own, with initiative and attack/defense options – and from burning it down to tipping it over, the means to deal with it are nice. Oh, and below is a brief cavern-complex. All in all, a creative and fun sidetrek!

 

The second quest is for level 1 – 3 characters and is called “The Marrow Mines” – in it, the PCs explore, starting from a cavern, the skeletal wing of a titanic dragon, wherein the addictive marrow is mined by kobolds…and holds visions that may tie in to a greater plot.

 

For 2nd level PCs, the “Vault of Pallon the Pious”, a pirate who turned lawful in his twilight years; ostensibly, this caused him to go mad and now his famous scales are still hidden there…but are they really magical? The module also sports the subtle humor we could see in the first module with the word “Wrongteousness” making for a key leitmotif. You’ll see…

 

The “Claret Wellspring”, for level 4 – 5 characters has the PCs follow strange lights to an oasis, where blood-red waters and arcane secrets of old await…and the mini-module is surprisingly atmospheric, focusing on the strange and wondrous…and the adventure sports a rather cool reskin for a monster. So far my favorite!

 

“The Room with 5 Corners” for characters level 6 – 7, deals with a streegang that has recently been taken over by a dread aberration, who is extracting the solidity from victims, rendering those that survive partially ethereal and unable to cast a shadow, with eldritch symbols awaiting…as well as a disquieting portal…but where does it lead? Can it be easily closed?

 

“Upon the Icebound Terrace”, for characters level 6 – 7, pits the PCs against the machinations of an exceptional ice mephit, who plans to open a planar gateway to the plane of ice…and with the relatively complex terrain and the arrival of an unintentionally summoned dragon, things get even more complicated. Tactics-wise, this is one of the stars in the compilation, with the blizzard not helping in the assault, and it is certainly one of the more complex set-ups, though, much like before, it rewards smart players.

 

“In Its Horrid Wake” put 7th level characters in the aftermath of an attack on temple: The dread demon that compromised it may have moved on, but the gnolls that travel in the aftermath haven’t – and they plan on finishing a ritual to receive the favor of a fang of Nikshi: The scavengers have to be defeated, lest more woe follow the stride of the grand demon.

 

“A Bad Night for Betting” puts level 8 – 9 characters in the remote village of Bleak Rock, where dog mole wrestling is pretty much the only form of viable entertainment…but unfortunately, the alchemical concoction sold to the owners of the beasts is about to result in some seriously lethal mutation…enter the players.

 

“The Burning Crater”, for level 9 – 10 characters, has the PCs find a crater containing a strange metal object – and closer inspection reveals that it is hellshot – basically a cannonball that contains hellhounds…while the fire giants developing this artillery have obviously not perfected it, the arrival of the scout and mere existence of it should prove plenty of motivation for stalwart PCs, beyond the confines of the sidetrek.

 

“Atop the Mountain”, intended for 11th level characters, centers on a fountain, once a planetar rewarded and transformed thus, which lies atop a mountain – the previously pure waters are spoiling, so it’s up to the PCs to save the angel…but easier said than done, for careless spilling of the devilish blood of the corrupting fiends may well spell doom for the erstwhile champion of good’s immortal soul…

 

“Under Reveler’s Feet”, for characters level 12th to 13th, has the PCs explore the basement under a very busy feast hall, and indeed, in the dark below, undeath looms while above, the party continues…

 

The final sidetrek, “The Obsidian Pass”, is intended for characters level 14th to 15th and has the PCs help defend a fey village and resting place of a powerful artifact from the greedy hands of a sorceror, who is in the process of constructing an arcane siege weapon…and whose clockwork soldiers and golems are all too ready to attack….

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports amazing full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is amazing as well…though I am quite a bit sad that we don’t get key-less player/VTT-friendly iterations of the amazing maps.

 

Jon Sawatsky’s collection of 5e-sidetrek and encounters is creative, diverse and fun – pretty much every region and gaming group should find a worthwhile, instantly-prepared scenario herein that can be run on the fly. The options are diverse, the creature selection is fitting and the modifications of creatures with new abilities, the terrain hazards and the like all conspire to make this a worthwhile collection. That being said, the absence of player-maps, particularly considering the no-prep angle of these scenarios, hurts the pdf even more so than it would a regular module. Personally, redacting maps and/or drawing them myself is pretty much the worst timesink in my whole preparation routine (and I suck at it). Considering the gorgeous maps, it really hurt me to note that, quite realistically, my players would never get to see them. If you don’t mind that, then consider this a 5 stars-offering. If you’re like me and consider that an issue, detract a star. Ultimately, my official final verdict will clock in at a rating in-between: 4.5 stars. I’d usually round up, but considering the go-play mission-statement of the compilation and that, at least for me, it does not fulfill it perfectly, I’ll round down instead.

 

You can get this compilation of mini-modules here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 132017
 

Gunslingers Unchained

This pdf clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 31 pages of content. It should be noted that these pages are formatted for booklet-sized supplements, meaning you can fit up to 4 pages of the pdf on a given sheet of paper when printing it out, provided your eye-sight’s good enough, that is.

 

The unchained gunslinger presented herein gets d10 HD, 4+ Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, as well as proficiency with simple and martial weapons and firearms as well as light armors. They begin play with Gunsmith and blunderbuss, musket or pistol as choices. The gunslinger must maintain the weapon each morning – failure to spend 10 minutes with a gunsmith’s kit means that he loses the Gun Training bonuses. These are gained at 4th level and require that the gunslinger chooses one specific firearm: he gets + Dex-mod damage with it and reduces the misfire rate by 1 to a minimum of 0. Misfires with it increase the misfire value by only 2 instead of 4 Every 4 levels thereafter, the gunslinger gains gun training with a new gun and further decreases the misfire value by 1 – I assume for all guns, but RAW, it could be read as pertaining only to guns with previously existing gun training. When a gunslinger gains a new guntraining, he gains a +1 bonus to damage with all firearms chosen for gun training on previous levels A new gun training is gained every 4 levels after the 4th, excluding the 20th. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter net a bonus feat chosen from the combat and grit-feats.

 

True grit, just fyi, remains unchanged, though there is a serious change to grit: For the unchained gunslinger, it is governed by Intelligence, rather than the default Wisdom, which makes the gunslinger class more skill-friendly.

 

Okay, so far, so common, right? Well, this is pretty much where the similarities to the regular iteration come to a screeching halt: The deed-system has been completely revamped: For one, you do NOT automatically get a variety of deeds at certain levels – instead we have player agenda, namely a new deed gained at 1st level and every 2 levels thereafter. Furthermore, the deeds each now have an active AND a passive component: The passive one is always on as long as the gunslinger has a point of grit left. The active one may be activated by spending the grit cost. Furthermore, the class recognizes so-called Trick Shot deeds as a subcategory, which may be activated as part of an attack, even a full attack, with free selection of which shot will be used – however, only one trick shot deed may be performed in one full attack, providing some nice tactical considerations.

 

The benefits of the respective deeds tend to scale in two steps and some feature minimum level requirements. Saving throw DCs, when applicable, are btw. governed by Intelligence. – but let’s take a look at their precise benefits: Advanced Training hinges on choosing two skills; one of these may be a non-class skills, which becomes a class skill: These skills gain a surge-like bonus while the gunslinger has grit, one that actually behaves like an exploding die: Rolls of “4” let you roll again and total the maximum, with Intelligence modifier capping the exploding die. While one sentence is slightly awkward in its verbiage here, the intent remains pretty clear. By expending one point of grit, the gunslinger gains the Skill Unlock’s benefits for the next application with one such skill. I *assume* that ranks still matter and that this works with taking 10 and 20, but clarification would have been nice here, if only to err on the side of caution.

 

Where things get really nasty is Cheat Death: When reduced below 0 hp, spend four grit to instead be reduced to only 1 hit point. This can thankfully only be done 1/round. Passive bonus-wise, we have scaling bonuses to Fort-saves to stabilize…wait, what? That would not be correct – stabilizing requires Constitution checks last time I checked, not Fort-saves! The 4 grit-cost is brutal and means you won’t be doing it often – neither can you maintain a reliable invincibility, which is a good thing in my book. Still, I do think this should have a minimum level. A level 1 gunslinger being able to withstand a meteor swarm just feels wrong to me.

 

We can also find deafening or fascinating shots, the option to cause sonic damage in bursts to those nearby when firing, fire dazzling flares (including the option to shoot them at targets for scaling fire damage instead). Duck for Cover now provides evasion as a passive benefit, and the option for an adjacent ally to use the worse of the two rolls of the gunslinger’s Ref-save – which makes sense to me. There also is an improved version, with higher range and better benefits. Flash rounds are also interesting, increasing condition severity at higher levels as an option included. Fluorescent blasts can be neat as well. At 6th level, there is a deed that lets you spend 1 grit to bet on how often you hit. You wager 1 point of grit per attack you think will hit – if you match or exceed your bet, you gain bonus damage on all shots fired equal to 1d4 times the number of attacks that hit in the following round; if not, however, you lose double the amount of grit wagered AND imposes a penalty to damage equal to the amount of grit wagered. The passive benefit reduces the penalties for attacks beyond the first by granting a +1 bonus that scales up to +3 – which is not only insanely strong, it also can leave you in the awkward position of e.g. having a better BAB with off-hand than main hand.

 

Quick clear’s passive benefit, just fyi, now reduces the misfire rate by 1. Quick draw provides scaling initiative bonuses (which can be very strong, particularly in mythic gameplay, I’d disallow that). Firing rounds that scent the target and make him easy to track thus are pretty damn cool, as is the option to increase movement – and upon getting far enough away from hostile creatures, you regain one grit Which is dumb. Add signature deed and you have infinite grit replenishment. after combats. This is a puzzling oversight to me, since quite a few of the deeds do take this potential reduction into account.

 

At 1st level, 2nd level and every even level thereafter, the class gains a really cool innovation that further sets it apart: Contraptions. These represent mechanical devices and knickknacks, which are mundane or supernatural. Contraptions have limited uses, which replenish upon resting. The verbiage that explains that Intelligence is the governing spellcasting attribute, class level the caster level for those that duplicate spell effects is somewhat jarringly non-standard, though at least functional. Similarly, there are a couple of instances throughout where italicizations have not been implemented properly – remnant (i)s have not been closed a couple of times.

 

But let’s talk about contraptions: From earhorns that grant echolocation to breach explosives that can wreck doors, cream that temporarily increases object hardness, the ideas are really cool, though e.g. the mixing of damage types in the otherwise cool dead man’s explosive west could be clearer – is it 1d6 fire + 1d6 bludgeoning damage per gunslinger level or it half fire and half bludgeoning damage? On the plus-side, yes, we do get the info to disarm them! An exoskeleton that grants haste feels weird to me – it should have stats, weight, occupy a slot…or have different dressing. I get the angle, but it doesn’t really work for the benefit here. On the plus-side: Horseless carriage? 9th level breath of life-defibrillator? Engines that make food and water (prolonged use can make you really nauseous, though…), named bullets – there is a lot of cool stuff to be found, often with slightly science-fantasy-ish flair.

 

The pdf provides 3 archetypes: The bootleg alchemist replaces grit and the 1st level deed with an unstable mutagen and loses all deeds, replacing them with a unique formulae-progression for extracts, though he can still gain deeds via Extra Deed. The archetype also comes with sample discoveries.. The construct tinkerer can choose one of three base construct companions, gaining upgrades instead of bonus tricks – kudos: natural attacks are properly codified and having an afterburner on your companion rocks. The spell-reference to at-will mend should refer to the proper name, mending, though. It thankfully only allows the tinkerer to fix the companion. And yes, it RAW does use Handle Animal – you get a robo-dog/copter…thingy in exchange for 5 deeds. The motley gunman, the third archetype, gains the vigilante’s dual identity and may choose one of three versions of his cloak of motley colors. Unfortunately, the higher level options, with some patches only being available for some cloaks, are pretty hardcore. They are, fyi, replacing the contraptions with magic abilities and a exploding dice mechanic for temporary hit points that is tied to them in per se interesting ways that do, however, oscillate regarding their power.

 

The feats include Extra Deeds, Contraptions, Patches and Upgrades.

 

The pdf comes with a cool bonus-pdf penned by Perry Fehr that depicts the Beavertail (aka Bebruzila), a Small fey with adamantine teeth and a particular aptitude for item creation when wood is concerned – nice critter!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are a weak point of this pdf: We have quite a few remnant “(i)”s that should have been caught and oh boy, could I pick apart non-standard wording in this one. Which brings me to the rules-language…which is actually surprisingly good! I mean it! This is a rather complex modification and for that (and the fact that this is, to my knowledge, the author’s freshman offering!), this is a pretty impressive book! It *is* precise…for the most part. But there is a reason I harp on maintaining the precise wording – the issues that can be found fall in one of two categories and one is the glitches due to nonstandard verbiage. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ 1-column standard with purple highlights and the pdf provides a solid full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Zachery Cothern’s unchained gunslinger is an impressive freshman offering – while verbiage of quite a few abilities deviates a bit from the standard, for the most part, this is a well-crafted class. The author’s inexperience does show in a couple of the balance- and design-decisions, but it rears its head significantly less often than I would have expected from such an offering. More importantly, the unchained gunslinger herein actually is a more rewarding class than the base gunslinger. The Int-focus, use of contraptions etc. makes this a really interesting and, dare I say, fun option. Mathematically, a 3/4 BAB would have made sense and gotten rid of the “I always hit”-syndrome gunslingers at higher levels experience, but you can’t have everything, I guess.

 

This pdf offers a ton of things to love and I found myself enjoying this significantly more than I thought I would. At the same time, I wish a strict rules-developer had gone over the verbiage and some of the more questionably balanced options and smoothed them over. This is, with a bit of work, pretty much a 5-star class regarding its chassis. At the same time, I can’t rate what it would be with some work; I have to rate what’s here. And that could, in parts, use a whack with the nerf-bat here, a minimum level requirement for a deed there – you get the idea.

 

If you’re a GM and willing to invest a bit of time to make this fellow shine, then you’ll never look back to the vanilla gunslinger. I mean it. I like this class much more than the standard version, balance-concerns of some tidbits be damned – this class is more versatile and rewarding and I love the revised deed-system with its active/passive-abilities. With one dev-pass by a veteran, this can be made into a true star of a pdf!

 

On the downside, if you want a class to just plug and play, then this fellow can yield some issues in the details, particularly for lower-powered gaming groups. Hence, my final verdict would be 3.5 stars, for a quintessential mixed bag on the positive side, one with brilliant highlights, but also dark shadows. I’d usually round down here…however, since this also is a freshman offering, it gets the freshman bonus and thus, my final verdict will round up.

 

You can get this amazing, if flawed pdf here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Purple Duck games here on patreon! (You should contemplate it- PDG often gives new talent a chance to break into the industry!)

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 122017
 

The Shapeshifter Base Class

This new base class clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

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

 

All right, so another take on the shapeshifter? This’ll be interesting! Chassis-wise, the class gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level as well as proficiency with light and medium armor and simple and martial weapons. They get full BAB-progression as well as good Fort-saves. At first level, the class gains a pool of primal energy equal to the class levels. Primal energy can be spent or invested – reallocating these points is a standard action and spent points replenish after 8 hours rest. At 5th level, points may be reallocated as a swift action, at 10th level as an immediate action.

 

Starting at 1st level, the class gains visages, which are prepared – 2 at first level, scaling up to 13 at 20th level. Visages prepared may be changed via 1 hour of meditation. This can be done up to twice per day: The first time, this fatigues the shapeshifter, the second time it exhausts the shapeshifter. A new visage level is unlocked at 3rd level and every odd level thereafter – so yep, there are 10 levels of visages. Visages, somewhat oddly-named, can be considered to be less pronounced modifications of the body of the shapeshifer – they represent a cross between talents and spells – like talents, they provide continuous bonuses, but like spells, they must be prepared and can be switched. It is an interesting set-up and one that actually makes the class feel distinct. We can find electricity damage added to unarmed strikes, extra arms (sans combat capability, thankfully), the option to squeeze into tight spaces, natural attacks and armor – interesting tricks here! Primal energy may btw. be invested in natural attacks to upgrade them to primary attacks and the shapeshifter may grow mouths from legs, horns from hands, etc. and thus may have multiple variants of the same natural attack. Have I mentioned fleshpockets? Firing spines?

 

The flexibility these options offer and the choices available make the shapeshifter a potent class from the get-go, one that quickly increases and allows for the duplication of summon spells, use primal energy to heal, boost saves, create deadly toxins, grow internal extra brains…the abilities grow progressively strong, but know what’s absent, for the most part? Means to regain primal energy. While switching and passive abilities are free, the big whoppers and more potent tricks also mean that the flexibility decreases – I have rarely seen a class that makes you want to spend a resource so badly…and not spend it at the same time! While the highest levels allow for very limited energy regaining via autophagy (no, you can’t cheese it). The section, just fyi, is massive.

 

Starting at 2nd level, the shapeshifter gains predatory focus – he can study a target within line of sight as a swift action, gaining an untyped bonus of +1 to atk versus that creature, which increases by a further +1 at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter. In addition to this bonus, predatory focus has an additional effect, with 8 choices available. These include bonuses to critical confirmations (which upgrades to autoconfirms at 15th level), ignoring parts of DR (taking different types of DR into account) or bonuses to Knowledge checks. The power levels of these choices oscillates quite a bit. Slightly problematic: Using focus as part of an initiative check. Does this count as a swift action? does it end being flat-footed? I assume no, but I’m not sure. On a cosmetic side-note, a sidebar has been formatted as another ability here, which is, formatting-wise, a bit annoying.

 

Starting at 4th level, the shapeshifter gains the power to consume the essence of a creature via the mantle class feature. In order to do so, they must kill a creature who is the target of the predatory focus, gaining the mantle associated with the creature. A mantle requires an amount of primal energy to work, requiring investment. Only one mantle may be active at any given time and investing primal energy is either a swift action or used in conjunction with the shapeshifting ability that allows for primal energy reallocation. The ability, while working smoothly, could didactically be phrased a bit better: As I see it, you may gain the mantle upon slaying a creature with the focus, but it only becomes activated upon investing primal energy. I admit to being first slightly confused by the sequence here in absence of a duration for the consumed essence, but yeah. Consider this just me complaining at a high level.

 

A total of 9 such mantles are provided and their activation costs range from 1 to 3 primal energy. It should be noted that these provide scaling benefits and thus also increase the activation cost at higher levels – with the exception of two mantles, who only have a fixed cost. Mantles grant abilities at 4th level, 9th level, 13th level, 17th level and also sport a capstone ability each. There are interesting abilities here – let us take the aberration mantle, as an example: If you make a Will-save, the prompting creature must succeed a save against the same DC or be affected by confusion for one round. 9th level provides a very potent debuff: Targets suffer -2 to saves to resist fear effects and the shapeshifter gains a +2 bonus to Intimidate as well, with both scaling – and creatures affected by the shapeshifter’s fear-effects take an equal penalty to AC, attack and damage rolls. In combination with some options out there, this can make for pretty crippling debuffing. 13th level yields a morale bonus suppressing aura and at 17th level, they are aware of such bonuses and may flip them via primal energy expenditure into penalties – pretty cool! As a capstone, they get a bonus after slaying foes that may be granted to allies.

 

The Mantle of the beast nets either Fight or Flight when below 1/2 maximum hit points: The former lets you reroll minimum damage (not just weapon damage – that should have a caveat) and increases the damage output by 1, while Flight makes them no longer provoke any AoOs from creatures they are aware of…which is VERY, very strong. The abilities activated may btw. be switched as a swift or immediate action. This duality extends to the options at higher levels, including double rolls for attack or saves. 13th level provides the option to add a full attack after a crit confirmation, with a bonus, no less, and when in flight mode, they may perform immediate attack actions when subjected to a critical threat. This mantle is exceedingly potent, to the point where I wouldn’t allow it – and yes, I am aware that the 1/2 max hit point caveat is intended to provide motivation to not have these constantly unlocked, but making abilities available all the time sans this bloodied-style limitation and making them less potent would have imho made this one run more smoothly.

 

The construct mantle, with save rerolls, SR and 13th level spell immunity that is powered by primal energy expenditure makes for a really cool and potent anti-magic defense option (with high-level options to converse dispersed magic into force damage bursts!) – really like that one! The mantle of the dragon nets draconic tricks (properly codified claws, natural armor and energy resistance (or DR) based on the dragon used to trigger the ability. The free 9th level breath weapon may look like a bit much, but subsequent uses require primal energy expenditure and cooldown, preventing spamming as well as imposing a hard cap. Once again, a well-wrought mantle. Fey can yield an immediate action Bluff feint, including self-granting concealment, with higher levels allowing the use of the ability when a foe misses. Alternate effects like dirty tricks are unlocked as well. The mantle of man is also interesting – it focuses on better social skills and features some cool social tricks, like using primal energy to not have creature attitudes worsen towards them or undermine hostile mind-influencing magic. Nice one!

 

The ooze mantle allow for the free movement into the square of other creatures and may even attack creatures within them – here, a sidebar dealing with reach etc. would have imho made sense to explain the various interactions that this uncommon option provides. At higher levels creatures that share squares with the shapeshifter at the start or end of the round take acid damage – and at following levels, Con damage is added to it (with a save to negate) and this damage nets temporary hit points, 20 per creature within…which is eminently cheesable. Can someone hand me the bag of kittens for massive amounts temporary hit points, please? The plant mantle nets tree stride and photosynthesis as well as high-level terrain control – no complaints there. The undead mantle begins with the negative energy affinity-like positive/negative energy change (healed by negative, harmed by positive) as well as temporary hit points. At higher levels, they can add negative energy damage to attacks, replenishing the temporary hit points of the mantle. These hit points are also used as a resource for becoming e.g. incorporeal at 13th level. Once again, an interesting mantle!

 

Beyond the base class and its various mantles and visages, we have 3 archetypes – one for the barbarian, one for the druid and one for the rogue, all of which can be summed up as losing a bit of their base tricks in favor of access to the visage engine of visages up to 7th level. Two feats allow other classes to dabble in the engine, while two other feats net temporary hit points for polymorph-spells casting casters. Fleshy Foxhole is OP – it lets you use items while merged with your form, which can prevent means of destroying them. Similarly, and I did not think I’d say that at one point, the Extra Primal Energy and Extra Shapeshifting feats, which net +4 primal energy or +1 visage (or two, if they’re lower than your highest level visage) prepared are BRUTAL. They are both so good, taking another feat is basically pure foolhardiness, which is not a good sign as far as I’m concerned. While they have caps of how often you may take them, I’d strongly suggest capping them unless you’re playing a really high-powered game.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting have two sides herein: On one hand, I was really impressed by the rules-language. While its wording deviates from a couple of standard conventions, it manages to get complex concepts done right and does so, as a whole, sans serious hiccups. On the formal editing level, we have minor plural hiccups, doubled letters and the like, so not so perfect there. Layout adheres to a solid 2-column full-color standard with original pieces of full-color artwork – many of which are actually quite cute, like the little oozes on the ooze-mantle page. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Designer Dayton Johnson had a really tough job here: One) I have literally analyzed more than 5 base classes dealing with the subject matter…and if I take archetypes into account, it gets worse. Two) He did not go the easy, standard route – the class does NOT use the eidolon chassis or that of the aegis or similar classes – instead it presents its own subsystem with a vast assortment of unique abilities, many of which are actually rather creative! This is NOT a phoned-in class – it is unique and creative.

 

In particular, the resource-management that lies at the heart of the shapeshifter is a true joy to behold: The game of switching visages is absolutely amazing and seriously fun, with a ton of combos hardwired into the class – it feels, at times, almost like a class penned by Bradley Crouch in that regard, and I mean that as the highest form of compliment! At the same time, the free access to all visages once the respective level unlocks, combined with the mantles, makes the shapeshifter a VERY potent class in the hands of an experienced player. GMs running a gritty or less high-powered game should consider implementing alternate restrictions, perhaps limit the visages available and nerf some of the mantle options a bit. What I’m trying to say is that the nitpicker within me could make a case that this class may be too strong, but I honestly don’t want to. Why? Because I really love how it plays. While I will adjust the chassis and details of the class for my game, the playing experience presented by the shapeshifter is rather impressive – if I were to rate just the engine and how it behaves, I’d consider this an easy 5 stars. However, I do have a couple of complaints regarding some options herein and their power and similarly, but to a lesser degree, the glitches do annoy me a bit.

 

How to rate this, then? Well, for me as a person, this is a 5-star+ seal file for the engine tweaks I’ll take out of it and for the actually creative and interesting options it has. As a reviewer, though, I do have to take my balance concerns and the hiccups into account, though, and from threat range increases that lack the stacking caveat to the other tricks, there is quite a bit to be potentially munchkin’d. I could rate this down to 3 for them, but that would not even remotely do this justice. Just note once more: This is a VERY potent option and not for low-powered games!

All in all, this drags my official verdict down to 3.5 stars, rounded up since it does not deserve being called mediocre – it is an exceptional, creative class, though one that imho needs a bit polish from the GM. If you don’t mind the editing and are confident you can balance and tweak it, then get this ASAP – this is one cool class!

 

You can get this unique and creative class here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.