May 162019
 

Star Log.EM: Great Cthulhu (SFRPG)

Why in large size? Because the artwork’s awesome, that’s why!

This Star Log.EM-installment clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This supplement begins with the new Great Old One subtype graft: Great Old Ones are immune to ability damage and drain, aging, death effects, dead and dying conditions (YEP!), disease, mind-affecting effects, paralysis, petrification and polymorph effects. The Great old Ones get a stellar alignment variant unique to the respective Great Old One, and they have a 300 ft.-aura of unique effects. Oh, and they are genuinely immortal. Reducing them to a 0 Hit Points and Resolve just makes them dormant.

This graft alone is great already. It does not chicken out. It retains their essence – that they can’t be slain, only…postponed. Many a fantasy/science-fantasy/pulp game gets that wrong, so kudos from the get-go.

Cthulhi, as presented herein, are situated at CR 20, and use the spellcaster array, with SPs , etc. – they are immortal and have an overwhelming mind – basically a representation of the star-spawn, or for games that enjoy bashing Cthulhu-looking critter’s faces in.

Great Cthulhu, as befitting, is situated at CR 25, 700 HP, 8 Resolve, and uses the combatant array. Great Cthulhu gets resistance 25 against all core energy types, immunity to cold, a massive SR, and the claws attacks can behave as though they had the automatic special property, attacking targets in a 15-ft.-cone. Cthulhu can communicate with sleepers and invade their dreams; as a non-euclidean entity, all attacks against him have a 50% miss chance, and he is immune to being grappled or entangled – this may be offset with true seeing, but at the risk of insanity when gazing upon Cthulhu’s splendor. Cthulhu can use Mysticism to demoralize targets, and if the target is within range of his planetary telepathy, Cthulhu may spend Resolve send visions that can potentially scare the victim to death. Cthulhu can sense the creative, and may affect these targets at even longer ranges. Creatures affected by Cthulhu’s aura are affected by snuff life, and those damaged are staggered.

Cthulhu’s stellar portents feature has 3 modes: Unattuned, dreaming and waking. In dreaming mode, he can render sleepers insane, cause targets to fall asleep and gets some serious defensive boosts. Waking mode instead nets Cthulhu the option to make full attacks as a standard action, and, when fully attuned, a whole second turn per round! As far as his immortality is concerned – Cthulhu rejuvenates fully after 1 minute, and then is staggered for 1 minute. If slain AGAIN during this minute, he is truly sent back to R’lyeh. Good luck with that if your players think that trying this is a good idea…

There is one single thing I am not too fond of: Cthulhu’s flight (and that of the cthulhi) is extraordinary, when flying through the void is pretty much canon – that should probably be supernatural.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level (noticed e.g. a doubled “After a minute” and a “,.”, but nothing serious) and very good on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and Jacob blackmon’s drawing of Cthulhu is easily one of my favorite pieces of his – I did not expect that it’d be possible for him to make a genuinely scary critter in his signature drawing style, but there you go – happy to be proven wrong. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ take on Great Old Ones is cool – it doesn’t chicken out, and the unique stellar attunement now makes me want Cthulhu-serving Solarians, seeking to wake their dread master. The build is cool, deadly and the cthulhi are a nice bonus. All in all, a great little pdf – well worth 5 stars!

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

Do you want to bring forth the endtimes to waken the dread master? Cool! In the meanwhile, you could ensure that this reviewer whose name is a pun on “Endzeit” (end-times) and “zeitgeist” (not associated with movie etc.) can continue his work? You can contribute to this dread cause here on patreon!

Endzeitgeist out.

May 162019
 

Star Log.EM: Combat Feats (SFRPG)

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

All right, after a brief introduction, we dive straight into the 16 new feats contained within. These would be:

-Adaptive Guard: Nets you an untyped +2 bonus to Reflex saves, and provides the option to choose a nearby target, increasing bonuses for fighting defensively and Reflex saves originating from that foe at the expense of being slightly more susceptible against assaults from others. Nice!

-Barreling Momentum: Requires Step Up and Improved Combat Maneuver (bull rush), and lets you Step Up to bull rush targets. NICE! (As an aside – pretty sure that should be “barreling” – the pdf writes the feat with two “l”s.)

-Burst Fire: Reduces damage dice employed by automatic weapon by half, but targets only one target. Takes single damage die weaponry into account. NICE, though this one warrants closer examination if SFRPG introduces burst fire mode weaponry.

-Cleaving Lunge: Combo-feat for Cleave and Lunge, with the option to spend Resolve Points to reduced the total AC penalty for using the feats in conjunction by half.

-Defending Counter: Readied melee attacks are resolved before the opponents attacks, and the attack roll may be used as EAC/KAC if you hit. Nice – makes readying actions actually viable and doesn’t require the annoying compare atk-values swingy mechanics. Kudos!

-Explosive Leap: When using automatic, blast, explode or line weapons, use Resolve to move backwards, utilizing the recoil. Also lets you rocket-jump when aiming to the floor. To nitpick: This should specify that the short term “fly speed” ought to be considered supernatural or extraordinary.

-Flurry of Swings: Makes your melee behave as though automatic, with a range of 5 ft. + natural reach. This would be utterly OP, but requires Resolve Points to power, so I’m kinda okay with it. Still, this is one I’d watch carefully.

-Grazing Critical:  When you hit an opponent with a natural 19 or 20, you can spend ¼ of your total Resolve to treat the damage dice as though you rolled the maximum on the original damage dice. This one has a nasty glitch: It should refer to the maximum Resolve, not total you have, as the verbiage atm can be read to pertain Resolve you currently have, allowing for abuse when you only have a bit of Resolve remaining. Alternatively, this should at the very least have a minimum Resolve cost noted.

-Hammer the Gap: When using full attack, designate a target and spend 1 Resolve: All successful hits total damage for the purpose of DR etc. This is OP and the like already broke the system in PFRPG, tilting the game’s math even more in favor of attack. This should die.

-Improved Suppressive Fire: Toggle automatic weapons into a suppressive onslaught mode: Attack in a cone twice, at -4 per attack. Attack #1 is an attack, attack #2 provides covering or harrying fire. High prerequisites etc. make this viable.

-Merciful Strike:  Does what it did in PF – gets rid of atk-penalty for using lethal weapons to deal nonlethal damage.

-Prone Shooter:  When prone, you can steady your aim, gaining basically advantage on the next attack roll – rolling twice, taking the better result. Unwieldy weapons require a standard action to steady. Nice one.

-Selective Autofire: Shape automatic, blast, explode or line weapons to exclude a square. At BAB +5 and higher, spend Resolve to exclude any number of squares. I’d have made the latter scale based on BAB, but that may be me.

-Slamming Strike: When you hit an opponent in melee and surpass KAC by +4 or higher, you can spend 1 Resolve to treat the attack as a bull rush. There is no immediate action in SFRPG – this should refer to reactions.

-Snap Shot:  You count as threatening squares when armed with ranged weapons you’re proficient with, provided they’re loaded. They may be used for AoOs, and doing so doesn’t cause AoOs.

-Tumbling Targeteer: Use Acrobatics (DC 15 + 1.5 times opponent’s CR) to negate AoOs for making ranged attacks. DC increases if threatened by multiple targets. Serious failure may see you flat-footed.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, an immediate action remnant and some balance-concerns regarding a few of these feats remain. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a nice artwork and no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Blaine Bass’ feats here provide a couple of nice options, but the pdf feels odd to me: A couple of the feats herein feel like they should be weapon rules (*cough* burst-fire), and I have some balance concerns regarding others. However, on the other hand, there also are some options that I consider to be rather cool, making this, in the end, pretty much a mixed bag that might require some vetting by the GM. My final verdict will be 3 stars.

You can get these feats here on OBS.

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Endzeitgeist out.

May 152019
 

Deadly Gardens Collection

This massive collection of the Deadly Gardens-series clocks in at 76 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 70 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The Deadly Gardens-series has, so far, provided quite a smattering of plant-creatures and related material, and this book collects the material in a handy compilation. From the get-go, we can see that this is not simply all the pdfs tacked together – the content has been reorganized in a sensible manner.

We begin the book with 4 new feats, which center around a couple of crucial components: There are feats that allow for the harvesting of poison from living creatures, for better resilience versus poisons, and, most interestingly perhaps, one that allows you to use poisons to treat diseases and addictions. The other key-feat included herein would be the Deadly Gardener-feat, which lets you Handle Animal plants without the DC-penalty, and even handle unintelligent plants and use wild empathy, if available, in conjunction with them. As far as organization is concerned, I’d have appreciated the plant companion stats that are provided for some creatures to feature here in the beginning as well – instead, they are located in the individual plant creature entries, which is slightly inconvenient, as most GMs probably wouldn’t want to hand out the creature-information.

From here, we get a couple of natural hazards like quagmires, and then move on to one of my favorite aspects of the series – the expansion of mechanically-meaningful terrain types – from kudzu to salt flats to razor shale and scree types, there are quite a few really amazing means to make combat more exciting and dynamic here. As a minor complaint: Damage types generally are concise, and so are the rules, but the scree types don’t mention the proper damage type they inflict –it is readily apparent that bludgeoning is correct here, though. Analogue, thickets should probably inflict piercing damage. These are cosmetic gripes, but I figured they’d warrant mentioning.

The next chapter is one of the hearts of the book, and seriously one of the best reasons to get the book: We receive a massive item-chapter. And I mean *massive* – if you’ve been following the series, you’ll know that it has championed natural items long before the release of Ultimate Wilderness, and did so rather well. Particularly for low level games and campaigns that enjoy a down-to-earth tone or a more dark fantasy and/or low/rare magic-approach, this’ll deliver in spades! If you’re like me and adore Playground Adventures’ fantastic Creature Components-books, then it should be noted that use of the books in conjunction is a pretty painless procedure!

Category-wise, the book first lists 5 alchemical items that include oil that hardens plant skin, liquid fertilizers, salt bombs, and the like – these are neat, but on a formal level, I noticed that sometimes there is a blank space between the gp amount and “gp”, and sometimes there isn’t. The salt bomb also mentions salt damage, which technically doesn’t exist, but seeing how circumstantial its effects are, I don’t necessarily object to that here to the extent where I’d usually do. The book then goes on to present 8 herbal remedies that range from aloe and lavender, to super-hot peppers that may sicken you with heat, but also help stave off the cold. Their benefits are subdued, nice and would theoretically be appropriate in even a no-magic game. Here, I have no nitpicks. The lion’s share of the items herein, though, are natural items – they note a source creature, the related skill check and the yield you can get from the target – as well as the price these components fetch on the market. The rules for preserving them are as simple and painless as the base engine. While quite a few of the natural items listed here are sourced from the new plant monsters that may be found within these pages, the majority hail from classic critters like intellect devourers, leucrottas, etc.

The eyes of accuser devils, for example, may be used as a kind of grotesque video camera that records things it sees; achaierai oil can be added to flame to create noxious, nauseating and nasty black smoke. Adherer tendrils may be used to facilitate the creation of sovereign glue. The voice-boxes of androsphinxes may be used to double the range of sound-based spells when used as a material component. Blood root vitae can be used to heal and also lesser restoration targets. Boggard tongues can be used as impromptu bungee ropes, while bulette musk is a kind of aphrodisiac that helps you influence those attracted to you via Diplomacy (Skill-reference not properly capitalized). The items also include e.g. items that can act as insect-repellant, as a power component to enhance fire magic, provide metamagic synergy, etc. I am still not a big fan of the cyclops eye soup, which makes the next critical threat within 8 hours automatically confirm. There are also small hiccups in the otherwise generally well-made rules language here – for example, an item that deals sonic damage, but its splash damage fails to properly type the splash damage’s damage type as sonic. This doesn’t impede the functionality of the items, but if you’re as anal-retentive as I am regarding these components, it may bug you here and there – a careful additional pass regarding rules-integrity could have further increased the value of this section. (As an aside – some of the glitches of the individual pdfs that I called out in my individual reviews have actually been rectified, so kudos for those!)

Beyond the ton of items, a massive table of almost 2 pages of natural poisons and 4 power components can also be found here. The book includes a new special material, an armor quality to grant/enhance woodland stride, and a whole array of magic items that include particularly smelly onions that you can eat to become really unappealing to eat (or get near…); there are classic quickly-growing beans, a silver apple  that acts as a lycanthrope detector. The rules here generally are solid as well, often doing interesting things (such as with an assassin vine-based whip that can constrict on its own), but there also are some instances where damage is untyped that shouldn’t be.

Now, obviously, this being a compilation, the book also contains the stars of the Deadly Gardens-series – the monsters! From the lowly ophidian vine to the CR 23 Kaiju Verdaxag (who comes with a summary of kaiju traits and a spell to call for its wrath), the book contains a lot of interesting critters – and while it’s not included in the bookmarks, the wandering sundew is actually included in the book. The artworks btw. are sometimes glorious b/w (like the hypno-lotus) and sometimes in full color – in most instances, I ended up liking the b/w-pieces a bit more, though exceptions exist. Now, I really don’t enjoy repeating myself too much, so if you want a critter-by-critter discussion of everything within this tome, please do consult my reviews of the individual Deadly Gardens-installments.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good on a rules language level, but on a formal level, there are still a couple of minor hiccups present herein that should have been caught. Layout adheres to a nice and generally printer-friendly two-column standard, with matte backgrounds. The artworks are, for the most part, really nice, particularly considering the super-indie niche of the series. Really impressive! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, making navigation comfortable.

Russ Brown, Matthew Carroll, Kim Frandsen, Jeff Gomez, Chris Hunt, Sam Kaplan, Joe Kondrak, Jacob W. Michaels, Stephen Stack, Andrew Umphrey, Isaac Volynskiy, Mike Welham – considering this cadre of authors, it is pretty impressive to note how unified this book ultimately is. Compilations are difficult for me – on the one hand, I don’t want to unduly repeat myself; on the other, I still need to present valid advice and check the book. So yeah, this was a bunch of work, but work I’m glad I invested my time in.

There is value in this compilation, and it lies in convenience and organization – in contrast to the individual pdfs, you can have all those small tidbits and items all at the flick of the wrist, conveniently-presented in one book, and this ultimately renders the book a useful resource. If you do NOT have any Deadly Gardens installments so far, then this is most definitely the iteration I’d recommend getting. However, if you already have them, the usefulness of the compilation lies primarily in its unified presentation and organization. So yeah, as a whole, I consider this to be a good compilation product. While I would have loved to report that is has gotten rid of the small tidbits and inconsistencies, there are a few still here that made me wish this had received another editing pass to remove the remaining aesthetic blemishes. This notwithstanding, we have a rather nice book here, though my final verdict can’t exceed 4 stars for it – a good book, and an excellent resource if you’re new to the horrific plant-threats and natural items presented by the series.

You can get this massive collection here on OBS!

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Endzeitgeist out.

May 152019
 

Cavers of Porphyra (Porphyra RPG)

This class clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 10 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper.

If you buy this class, you’ll notice a little comment bubble in the cover page – this is very helpful for folks new to Porphyra RPG, as the game does have a couple of differences from PFRPG. This bubble explains a couple of them, which is really helpful and something I hope the final book of Porphyra RPG will do. Porphyra RPG, as per the writing of this review, has not yet been completed and is still being tested; as such, I can’t provide the same in-depth analysis regarding formatting.

Relevant for this review: Porphyra has no alignments (YES!!!), spells are grouped by scarcity (common, rare, exotic), and touch attacks are replaced with caster checks – in this pdf, 1d20 + caster level + Wisdom modifier; I assume that other classes use their own spellcasting-governing ability score modifier. These also replace and unify spell penetration and concentration checks. This also explains changes in the skill-system. It’s a small touch, but it really helps using this fellow in context with PFRPG, for example, and makes transition to Porphyra RPG easier.

After a brief introduction and flavor, we are introduced to the framework of the class: Cavers get d8 HD and 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, hand crossbow, long sword, rapier, sap, scorpion whip, shortsword and sword cane as well as light armor. The class gets a ¾ BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves, and starting at 4th level, we have spellcasting progression. This is spontaneous spellcasting, and gets up to 4th level, with Wisdom as governing spellcasting ability score. The class may not choose spells affecting class features.

At 1st level, cavers choose a career from a list of 5 that encompasses bard, bloodrager, medium, ranger and zealot. The first gets the bardic performance, with 2 + Wisdom modifier rounds , +2 per level gained. We start with countersong, inspire courage, gain inspire competence at 3rd level, dirge of doom at 8th level and soothing performance at 12th level. The choice of bloodrager nets a bloodrager bloodline and bloodline powers at 1s and 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, with a limited descriptor choice re spells and no normal bloodline spells gained. As a minor nitpick: The notation of levels is inconsistent herein: 1st level vs. level 1. That should be unified in the final iteration.

The Medium choice nets fey and mind descriptor spells, haunt channeler at 3rd level, location channel at 5th, connection channel (level 7), ask the spirits at 13th level and astral journey at 14th level. Ranger gets endurance and wild empathy at 1st level, combat style at 2nd (6th, 10th, 14th, 18th), with favored terrain and camouflage modified to interact with the class abilities. Descriptor-wise, we have animal and plant as the ones available here.

Finally, zealot nets darkness and rune spells, descriptor-wise, sneak attack at 1st, uncanny dodge at 4th, improved uncanny dodge at 8th level. Sneak attack progression is tied to every 2 levels after 1st.

A crucial key ability briefly mentioned in the ability text, but not this review, would be the so-called “Caver Tub.” As a standard action, the caver declares herself and up to 3 + Wisdom modifier allies as part of the caver tub. The caver is always part of her tub, even when it’s not declared. The members must be within 30 ft. of the caver at any point during the caver’s turns to be members of the tub, and if they don’t fulfill that criteria, the caver has to designate them as part of it again. Members share the favored cave feature and gain the use of teamwork feats the caver has, without having to meet the prerequisites. Unless the teamwork feat-engine is overhauled to make them stronger, this is a valid design-choice to make them not suck. 9th and 17th level increase the range of the ability by +30 ft. each, while 13th and 19th level allow for the optional designation of a caver tub as a swift or immediate action, respectively.

Favored cave is btw. gained at 3rd level and nets ties with a particular community, denoted as “cave” – the caver gains +2 to initiative, Knowledge (local), Perception, Stealth and Survival there, and the caver adds Survival skill bonus to the attempts to track her there. Unless in immediate danger, the caver can find shelter there, and at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the caver gets an additional cave and the bonuses increase. Cavers start play with +10 ft. land movement speed, and further increase that to +20 ft. at 12th level.

The class begins play with an anthodite, a rare crystal, that looks like a sea urchin and that inspires the caver to defend the tub. Cavers receive an untyped (intentionally?) bonus to atk and damage versus creatures that have attacked a member of the tub during the last minute, and the bonus is also applied to aid another when helping the members of the tub. The bonus increases from +1 to +5 over the class’s progression. I love the flavor – but why make this an ability? RAW, the crystal as a physical entity has no impact whatsoever. It doesn’t occupy a slot; it’s not clear whether it must be worn, held, etc. What if it’s lost? Can it be stolen? This, to me, looks like it should be a magic item, not a class feature. (And if it should be a class feature, it needs better verbiage.)

The class features a talent-array, so-called capers, the first of which is gained at 2nd level, with another unlocked every 2 levels thereafter. These include canceling size benefits of foes trying to Intimidate the tub, bonus feats, and some interesting tricks: Like making Diplomacy or Sense Motive as part of total defense, a code language, conceal thoughts, the ability to hide 1/day magical properties, immediate action aid another, a swift action one-round debuff to Will-saves, rogue talents, poison use, stealthy sunder attempts (nice!), social talents, Dexterity modifier to damage for a crossbow or firearm, trap rigging and breaking – you get the idea.

As a capstone, the caver may 1/week, as a full-round action, call for rebellion and include all targets within 1000 feet that choose to join the caver a part of her tub, and in the round of joining, they get break enchantment  and freedom of movement, with caster level checks automatically succeeding. This is an epic and awesome capstone.

The pdf includes a sample level 1 caver NPC.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay, but not impressive. While the rules-language is solid, the verbiage per se is pretty inconsistent, which makes the class seem rougher than it actually is. Layout adheres to a one-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes with bookmarks in spite of its brevity. Nice! The artwork on the cover is neat as well – you can see for yourself.

Carl Cramér’s caver is an odd one – it’s a skill-monkey class with a guardian angle – not exactly what I expected when I read “caver.” The class does a few things very well – namely showing advantages that Porphyra RPG will have regarding aesthetics and design space when compared to classic Pathfinder. At the same time, the class doesn’t do that much beyond that. The teamwork angle of the caver tub is something I generally enjoy seeing, but ultimately, the class suffers from not having that much unique stuff going on. The urchin-ability is a bit weird, and frankly, I didn’t get where this was supposed to be going, until I got to the capstone. Then it clicked. The capstone is awesome, and it opened my eyes regarding what this class needs: It needs persistent abilities that kick in when the tub is in effect, and abilities that only kick in when it’s established. Granted, that’d make it a wholly different class, but it’d also make it more distinct. (Supplemental material would be nice as well, but considering that the game’s still being tested, I understand the omission.) As a whole, I consider this a solid offering, though not one that will blow you away. My final verdict, taking the very low and fair price into account, will clock in at 3 stars.

You can get this inexpensive class for just $2 here on OBS!

You can support Purple Duck Games keeping the spirit of PF1 alive here on patreon!

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Endzeitgeist out.

May 152019
 

Starfarer Adversaries: Sentry Robot (SFRPG)

This installment of the Starfarer Adversaries-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, it should be noted that we do get a nice, handout-style one-page version of the full-color artwork for the sentry robots in this book. Said robots come in three iterations, at CR 6, 9 and 12. They come with integrated lasers as the high attack, slams as the low attack. The slam attack’s damage output of the CR 6 robot is off by 1, and it should be noted that the damage-type indicators in the statblocks are using erroneously lower-case letters instead of uppercase letters – “b” instead of “B”, for example. It’s a cosmetic thing, but something that stuck out to me. On the defensive side of things, the robots have integrated force fields appropriate for their respective CR.  I’m also pretty sure that the damage for the CR 9 sentry bot’s slam is odd – in contrast to the other two, it adds 1.5 Strength modifier to its slam attack damage for +18, instead of the default +15. This may, however, be an intentional decision, though not one I see reflected in the other statblocks.

The sentry bots, unsurprisingly, are constructs with the technological subtype, and the modifications have been properly applied. The bots are vulnerable to electricity and critical hits.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules language level; on a formal level, this is solid, if not perfect. The pdf’s layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the artwork presented in full color is nice indeed. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jacob E. Blackmon’s sentry robots are solid obstacles to face; they probably won’t blow you away, but they are executed in a solid manner. If you’re looking for a couple of sentry robots for a fair price-point, and don’t want to bother with making some yourself, they are worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down.

You can get these inexpensive robots here on OBS!

If you’re enjoying my reviews, please consider supporting me on patreon.

Endzeitgeist out.

May 142019
 

Blades Against Death (DCC)

This module clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It should be noted that this module contains 3 pages of handouts – one depicting one of the more complex environments in b/w, and the other two provide full-color renditions of special cards that feature in the plot of the module. It should be noted that the module does also contain a full-page B/w-artwork of another key-scene, which is a handout in anything but name. As you could glean from the page-count, this review is based on the 2nd printing of the module.

Nominally, this adventure is intended for 6 – 10 4th level characters, though it should be noted that it is a BRUTAL adventure that may well result in a TPK. While difficult, the stakes do warrant this difficulty, and the adventure is fair in its brutal challenges posed. A well-rounded group is very much suggested, and the players should exercise sense and care when faced with the dangers within. The scales are high – as you could glean from the title, this module is about saving someone from the grasp of Death. If you’re groaning now, be aware that the module does acknowledge that there are bound to be multiple deities of death – the entity featured herein is just one of them, so no, this will not wreck your cosmology. I enjoy this premise per se, as I’ve been a huge enemy of the notion of the no-penalty death that many more current systems have employed. Death, in my game, tends to be final and requires a quest of serious severity, like the one presented herein, to beat. In that way, my aesthetics are very much aligned with DCC’s “Quest for it”-mentality, regardless of the actual game I’m playing. In case you do not have a dead PC or beloved NPC on your hands, the module does offer for an alternative hook, but ultimately, said alternate hook is pretty weak.

This module, as a default, is set within the city of Punjar, and does have some overlap with “Jewels of the Carnifex” – the Carnifex is actually related to Death, so if you’ve played that masterpiece, you’ll have a secondary angle. As an aside: Can we please have a Punjar boxed set?? Like, now? There have been few cities in fantasy gaming that I wanted to see detailed so badly.

But I digress. The module does provide rumors and information for PCs doing their legwork, and those groups failing to do so will be hard-pressed, so yeah – if by now you haven’t learned that your legwork matters in DCC, this will teach you – the painful way. The rumors and information is, in an interesting angle, grouped by class of those asked, and, as always, an encounter table is provided.

The module provides a ton of amazing read-aloud text oozing flavor, and begins as the PCs navigate a maze of tents and stalls towards the abode of the Witch of Saulin – but beyond that, anything I can relay would be firmly routed in the realm of SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only judges around? The witch provides a reading using the card-handouts included, and depending on the card drawn, the PCs get different prophecies – and, later, benefits! And yes, they’ll need them. Badly. You see, Death has two divine daughters – the Carnifex and Máni, the latter of which would be a moon-deity. The Carnifex’ shrine in the Charnel pits contains the entry to the realm of Punjar’s Death, but to have any hope of living through this region, the PCs will need to acquire the legendary Argent Falx a mythical blade bestowed upon Máni’s cult at full moon, only to vanish once more with the moon’s phases. Tomorrow, there’ll be a full moon. The clock is ticking.

The first massive part of the module, then, would be a heist, and it is one of the best heist adventures I have read – PERIOD. From multiple means of egress and strategies (including infiltration, sneaking in, disguises, brute force, etc.) to the fact that it depicts the ziggurat of Máni, the religious service and the priesthood in a truly amazing manner: Blending genuine magic and divine grace with sleight of hand and components of the ritual provided by the priest-hood, this is amazing: A mirrored shaft, for example, may be a means of getting inside, but it *is* constructed to generate blinding light when the full moon ascends…oh, and if you’re like me and LOVE heists, it should also be noted that there is a “radiant victory”-clause: If the PCs manage to pull off the heist without casualties, they are rewarded for it! Huge kudos there!

In order to pass into the veils of death, the PCs will need to use the argent falx (or reasoning!) to placate the raging spirit of Moira and gain access to the realm of death – provided they can survive exploring the brutal realm of death and cruel mockery of an undead court held by the lich-like Rastvik and his undead cronies! His realm, a more conventional dungeon, btw., would be illustrated rather well. If the PCs managed to bypass Moira in some way, they will be faced with Eris and Death – a game of chance with the cards separating them from triumph or death…and yes, while cheating is possible, you’d better be lucky and know what you’re doing! Either way, this will remain in the memory of your players for years to come!

The bonus adventure in the second edition, “The Abbot of the Woods”, is also penned by Harley Stroh, and is intended for characters level 1 – 3. It is a brief dungeon exploration that focuses on a high-priest turned sect-guru, who sought immortality by staving off the 5 dooms of mankind. As such, the remnants of his complex contains pieces of the abbot and the dooms – and clever players will have a huge advantage here: You see, the dungeon teaches by showing how the abbot, in a way, achieved immortality by staving off the dooms, but also drove himself insane – the relicts that may be found can thus potentially end his tortured and maddened immortality, yes, but it also can free him. This, alas, will make him possess the whole damn dungeon as a twisted god-thing– and each of the relics can be used to weaken, and, finally, slay the abbot. This is actually really clever, and provided the PCs pissed off Death in “Blades Against Death”, may be a cool sidetrek to get back on the reaper’s good side…if that can be said to exist…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Goodman Games’ two-column b/w-standard, and the b/w-artworks included are awesome. As always, the cartography in b/w is pure excellence, but particularly the heist really should have offered a player-friendly map for clever PCs to attain. The lack of player-friendly maps sucks. Speaking of which: The adventure has no bookmarks, which is a big no-go for the electronic version. I strongly suggest printing this or getting the print copy.

Harley Stroh’s “Blades against Death” is a masterpiece, pure and simple. It is one of the best heist-modules and Sword & Sorcery yarns I have ever read; while dipping its toes in the high-fantasy side of the sword & sorcery pond, it manages to deliver its content with such panache, that everything remains plausible without straining your sense of disbelief. From the awesome heist to the brutal dungeon, this module delivers with all of its components, managing to evoke an atmosphere that blew me away, that made me cackle with glee. The bonus module just adds icing on top of the awesome cake as far as I’m concerned, and content-wise, this should be deemed to be a must-own book for DCC-judges, and a recommendation for purchase even beyond the system. The module is just brilliant, and the flavor it oozes is fantastic. If you’re really picky and just want t play this using an electronic device, detract a star for the lack of bookmarks and player-friendly maps, but if you print out your modules or go for print, consider this to be a must-own 5 stars + seal of approval gem, a module well worth the rarely awarded “best of”-tag as a testament to its awesomeness.

Harley Stroh delivers once more, in spades – now, dear Goodman Games-crew, can we please get that Punjar boxed set? Please?? I so need that in my life…

You can get this glorious gem and pit your wits and blades against death here on OBS!

Missed the awesome Jewels of the Carnifex? You can find it here!

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Endzeitgeist out.

May 142019
 

The Sanguinist’s Handbook (revised edition)

The revised edition of this expansion for the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue because it provides a serious revision, and I want to reward publishers for caring. The correct file to download is btw. the one with” 1.2” at the end.

After a brief flavor-introduction, we start with the archetype section, but this time around, it is more prudent to skip ahead and return to these later, for this supplement, unlike previous Spheres-expansions, presents a wholly new sphere, the Blood Sphere.

The base ability of this sphere would be Blood Control: As a standard action, you establish a link to the blood of a target creature within close range. Unwilling targets receive a Fortitude save to prevent the establishing of the link, and targets at less than half maximum hit points or currently suffering from bleed damage suffer a -4 penalty to this saving throw. Creatures immune to bleed damage due to type, subtype or template are immune to blood control, but sources that otherwise bestow immunity do NOT prevent the use of blood control – an important distinguishing component that retains the sphere’s viability. A creature affected by blood control may use a mental-only standard action to repeat the Fortitude saving throw, which may even be used when dazed or nauseated. A second creature attempting to establish blood control over a target already controlled must succeed on a magic skill check.

As part of establishing blood control, you may also apply one (quicken) or (still) ability, and once established, a standard action may be used to apply additional of these effects, unless otherwise noted, as a standard action. This doubles as counting as concentration on ongoing blood control. If you can concentrate as a move action, this may work in conjunction with such sped up effects as well.

As you could glean from that, the tags to look out for among the effects are (quicken) and (still) – and you probably have deduced that these cancel each other out, not unlike the modes of certain antipodean casters or solarians: A (still) talent ends a (quicken) talent and vice versa (typo there – it’s “vice”, not “vise”, but that’s cosmetic only) – a target can’t be affected by both a (quicken) and (still) talent at the same time, with the new effect superseding the old one. Notice something? If you’re reading my review on my homepage, you’ll have noticed that blood control is now properly rendered in italics – this greatly enhances the readability of the at times complex rules presented within.

The blood sphere nets Bleed (quicken, which causes caster level damage that may not be stilled until blood control ends; Coagulate (still) is the inverse, and reduces bleed damage by 1 + 1 per 3 caster levels, and creatures using abilities that would cause bleed effects must succeed a magic skill check to avoid having the damage negated. Non-magic means substitute the BAB instead – yep, this is Spheres of Might compatible with e.g. blooded strike.

There are, unless I have miscounted, 24 blood sphere basic talents included, so let’s take a look at some of them – and let us begin with the untagged ones. Self Control allows yourself to be treated as always under the effects of your own blood control, and allows you to use (quicken) or (still) abilities on yourself as a swift action. You also don’t count towards the limit of Mass Control. This talent allows you to spend an additional spell point to target 1 additional creature per 2 caster levels (minimum 1) within range, with all needing to be affected by the same ability. This additional cost only applies once when used in conjunction with blood control. (Nice catch!) Slick penalizes targets under the effect of your blood control regarding CMD versus maneuver like disarm, trip, etc., and the effect may be started and ended as a free action. Interesting to note: While this is an untagged talent, it has a second use that is designated as (quicken), namely  the means to make the blood potentially having the target fall prone; for spell point expenditure, this can render the blood a slick patch that may make others that enter it fall as well.

Red Mist lets you evaporate blood streaming forth from blood control’d victims, generating concealment, with the option of spell point expenditure to increase the area of effect. Kudos: This does get interaction with winds, sight, etc. – and it has a cool angle: You can choose to take Constitution damage to make all creatures in the mist treated as though they were bleeding for the purpose of blood control saves. There is a talent called Lengthened Control that allows you to make blood control last longer – useful for buffing, as you can still, obviously, save; Lingering Control lets your blood control remain in effect for a number of rounds after you cease concentrating on it Hemorrhage increases the damage output of bleed (quicken); Improved Range extends range, and Improved Bleed increases the DC to stop the bleed (quicken) ability. Really cool: Mana Bleed allows you to drain away spell points or spell slots, with equivalents provided and the loss increasing based on caster levels. This can be combined with Absorb Blood to grant temporary spell points, though thankfully it does have an anti-abuse caveat. Absorb Blood allows you to grant temporary hit points and cause Constitution damage to heal damage, and much to my pleasant surprise, the latter has a spell point cost that prevents the ability from being cheesed – and yes, Mass Control synergy does exist, and yes, this combination still retains its rules-integrity.

Blood Tracking may be taken twice, rendering you always aware of blood control’d and bleeding targets, and even blindsight for such targets upon taking it a second time. Crimson Vortex allows you to create a kind of blood sphere trap that may be maintained and moved, with spell point expenditure as a means to increase the radius. Exsanguinating Strike allows for use of blood control in conjunction with attacks, including Spell Attack. Inject lets you increase casting duration of blood control and take Constitution damage and make a ranged or melee touch attack (ranges tightly defined!), and if you have Hemokinesis, you may hold this charge. If successful, the target is treated as though bleeding for the purposes of blood control save penalty, and you get to ignore SR for the purpose of Blood sphere effects for some time. Cool: Immersion in water etc. may end the effect. More importantly: This talent does allow you to bypass type/subtype/template-based Blood sphere immunity. And yes, Mass Control synergy is provided.

What is Hemokinesis? Well, it is a kind of blood-themed telekinesis with multiple options, including synergy with Slick, the option to make Blood Constructs (yep, you can make them with the right talent!) fly, generate arcs of blood that may blind targets or even transmit alchemical effects or diseases. (Yep, Spheres of Might fans – Alchemy-synergy!) With Greater Blood Control, you can spend an addition spell point or increase casting time by one step to apply two effects of a (quicken) or (still) talent. (This gets action economy discrepancy verbiage right – good catch.)

Since I already mentioned the option to make blood construct, let us take a look at the tagged talents – which btw. sometimes tend to have (quicken/still) noted – yep, there are quite a few that offer more than one option. Manipulate Health acts as a kind of variant status, with means to make diseases nasty or get rid of them added. Manipulate Alchemy is a pretty genius one, as it allows you to exert your control over blood to affect the circulation and potency of formulae, potions and poisons, including the means to force such effects from a target. Control Oxygen provides a variant haste that thankfully can’t be stacked atop similar effects, and also comes with options for fatigue-based condition manipulation. And yep, it has a cooldown to prevent abuse of e.g. constant rage-cycling exploits. Note: In a VERY limited manner, this still allows for very limited rage-cycling, but not to an extent that would exceed options already available.

The Blood Puppet (quicken) talent does what you think it does – it lets you control targets over their blood! AWESOME. Migraine is a sickening pain effect, while the (still) talent Numb acts as a nasty deduff. Big plus: Interaction with other spheres like Duelist, Divination, etc. is provided.

Among the advanced talents, we have 3: Puppet Master lets you make all puppets perform the same sequence; Sanguine Minion enhances your blood constructs, Overclock is an upgrade of the oxygen-controlling haste effect, though at the cost of burn – still, awesome! Drain Lifeblood lets you cause Constitution bleed, and Arrest Flow (still) is restricted to high levels and can render the target unconscious. These are well-placed as advanced talents – potent, yet tight. Like them!

Okay, now that we know how the Blood Sphere operates, let’s take a look at the 3 archetypes included: the Bloodscarred symbiat replaces Linguistics with Bluff and uses Charisma as governing class ability and spellcasting ability score. Mental powers are replaced with the Blood sphere, and, since they have a strong vampire angle, the bloodscarred gets the option to check the presence of undead, a scaling bite attack (including high-level minor temporary hit points that will not unbalance the game), wall clinging, darkvision (or darkvision range increase), mist form and a Mind Control variant. Psionics are replaced with the ability to ignore the negative effects of negative levels and a capstone that enhances their vampiric domination. Nice one.

Hemophage bloodragers are only proficient with simple weapons, light armor and bucklers and is a Low-Caster using Charisma, with class level + Charisma modifier spell points. Fast movement and bloodline feats, if the proficiency list was not enough indicator, are lost in favor of blended training. Instead of a bloodline, these folks can access bloodlines by drinking the blood of creatures with the appropriate bloodline or associated creatures, gaining use of the bloodline powers. Big plus: No, you can’t cheese the ability to gain infinite use bloodline powers by cycling bloodlines. Blood must be harvested fresh, but a limited amount of special draughts may be prepared, with creature-sizes and draughts they can provided noted. Nice: This, probably by design, arrives at similar caps as my own blood-based designs and those of similar supplements. A handy list is provided for suggested types and bloodlines, and per se, only the bloodrager’s core bloodlines may be taken thus, though your home-game may allow for more. The bloodrage enhancement abilities are modified to work in conjunction with the sphere-system instead.

The Hemetic philosopher alchemist gains all knowledge skills as class skills and is an Intelligence-based Mid-Caster with class level + Intelligence modifier spell points and a magic talent gain with every caster level attained. Throw anything and bombs are replaced with the Blood sphere, using class level as CL. Swift alchemy and poison use/resistance/immunity are replaced at 3rd level with crimson vials. The character can spend one minute to create a temporary potion, which may be done as a full-round action for one spell point. This does provoke an AoO, and the potion only lasts for 1 hour per class level and its complexity may not exceed 1 per 3 class levels. The archetype can have up to Intelligence modifier such potions, and the character can create potions at a lower caster level. Since the potion is made from his blood, this doesn’t cost gold, but requires a scaling save that causes damage – and this damage MAY NOT BE HEALED save via resting. Higher levels allows you to ignore sphere prerequisites, but at the cost of an increased DC.

The pdf also offers means for alchemists to take the Blood Potion feat, and a rage power that provides minor healing to barbarians (can’t be cheesed, based on limited resource); beyond that, we do get a nice incanter sphere specialization, a prodigy imbue sequence (HOORAY!!!) that lets you extract blood constructs as finishers (awesome) the Monster troubadour trope that lets you smell fear, climb, healed by negative energy – very Hyde-like. There also would be the Path of the Moroi for the Wraith class (review forthcoming).

The book contains 14 new feats, with aforementioned Blood Potion allowing you to create potions that may only ever affect you, but you can activate multiple ones, or do so as a swift action. Gaining blood drain, acidic or burning blood (good ole’ Geralt’s Black Blood, anyone?) – cool. The latter burning/acidic blood can be weaponized via Hemokinesis. Want a humor familiar? You can have that. You can wrap extracted blood constructs as a kind of blood-based power-armor around willing allies (OUCH!), and e.g. feats to negate AoOs, adding (form) talents to constructs, combining death and blood – nice. Champion feats, though, are, with the options for Blood-using Duelists can attain their weaponry to blood spilled, for example: Bloodmonger and Spell Attack are reproduced here. Of course, an (Admixture) feat for Destruction-users may be found. Reservoir nets you blood points that you may, for example, store in a new item – crimson flasks. The points can be used to mitigate the Constitution damage/bleed costs of Blood sphere abilities, fyi.

Two really cool unified traditions, 3 sphere-specific drawbacks, a boon and two properly codified traits are provided. The pdf also sports 3 alternate racial traits, two of which are for Skybourne races.

The book contains two rituals: Water from blood is level 0 and does what it says on the tin (love it), and lifeblood sacrifice lets you kill a willing or helpless creature to restore life to a dead target. There also is a neat level 5 incantation, steal lifeblood, which allows you to go Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed and become younger via blood. Speaking of which – yep there is a blood bath artifact. Oh yeah. At +1, the thirsty weapon special ability also ties in with the aforementioned Reservoir engine as basically a storage extension. Rules for crafting Blood sphere items in conjunction with the sphere-crafting rules can be found.

Absolutely awesome: There are optional rules provided that propose blood as spell component and focus, or as a substitute for alchemical components. Oread blood as acid flasks, for example. This may just be a page, and just a start, but I LOVE it. It makes adventuring matter. Aforementioned blood constructs: 7 stats, from CR 1/3 to 11, with familiar notes where applicable, are provided. We also get stats for the CR 1/3 humoral ooze and CR 3 mosquito swarms. The book closes on one final, triumphant inclusion that I got ready to complain about when opening it for the first time: Yes, it does come with its own, custom 100-entry strong Wild Magic-table! AWESOME.

Conclusion:

YES! The Drop Dead Studios crew listened! Now, not only is the editing really good on a rules-language and formal level, the formatting is also up to par, making the book easier to read and it gets rid of almost all glitches; I noticed e.g. a remainder of a non-capitalized skill-reference in the Wild Magic-table, but as a whole, the full array of formatting and some modifications have really helped this book; its formal criteria now mirror the awesome nature of the engine. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf provides a blend of well-chosen stock art and some pieces I hadn’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I freely admit to having a soft spot for blood magic. Something about its visceral nature appeals to me. However, most iterations of the concept I’ve seen, suck, and as my fervor for the subject matter means that I tend to look at material VERY closely.

Andrew Stoeckle’s “The Sanguinist’s Handbook” is awesome. It is, now in its revised iteration, even better. I love the subdued scale/mode-component, the combos, the precision in complex interactions. Beyond the mechanical precision, this book offers the cool visuals – Red Mist, for example, not only is useful, it’s plain cool. And there are A LOT of those inside. Add to that the Spheres of Might and Champions of the Spheres synergy, and we arrive at a sphere, which, while poaching liberally in the other sphere’s playgrounds, still feels distinct in both mechanics and execution. The book also feels like a work of passion. There is nothing in this book that feels phoned in; it shows passion and commitment alongside a deep mastery of the intricacies of the spheres rules that allows for the avoidance of the pitfalls of the system.

I love this book. I really do. The only other supplements in the whole series that managed to excite me to the same degree would be the Telekinesis-expansion and, obviously, the (almost entirely) brilliant Chronomancer’s Handbook.

If anything, the sanguinist’s handbook has me clamoring for more – the Blood sphere deserves more love, and I’d really love to see an expansion to the sphere.

And here we are – the revised edition takes away the one serious gripe I had with the book, making it perhaps the best incarnation of blood magic divorced from classes or archetypes I have ever read for a d20-based game. If you’re like me and enjoy a bit of visceral bloodletting in your game, then get this ASAP. The revised version receives the full 5 stars and my seal of approval, and is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018.

You can get this inspired sphere here on OBS!

You can directly support Drop Dead Studios here on patreon!

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Endzeitgeist out.

May 132019
 

Mythic Treasures

This collection of mythic items clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of 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 47 pages, which, as always for Legendary Games, contain quite a lot of information, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, this book begins with a bit of advice regarding the use of mythic items in conjunction with nonmythic games and suggested rules for identifying them, before diving into legendary item abilities, 5 to be more precise: Inestimable beauty renders an item impervious and makes it behave as though it had an enhancement bonus of ½ tier. This one lets you use bardic performance (distraction/fascinate only) as a bard of your mythic tier level, with tier stacking with bard levels), and  twice ranks for the purpose of using them. Legendary power may also be used to use enthrall or hypnotic pattern with a CL equal to HD + tier. Mighty servant lets the item assume the form of a Small or Medium construct, a Large form for legendary power, using a modified version of animated object stats, with the option to fortify it via mythic power expenditure.. Resonant regalia does what you’d expect – it provides a mechanical framework for the classic notion of multiple items in a set increasing power. Soul drinker  can only be applied to weaponry, and does what it says on the tin, snuffing out lives and making it hard to return the slain to life. Soul safe, finally, reforms you body, lich-style, in the vicinity of the item when slain, and the item’s legendary power may be used to negate death effects etc.

After this, we get 4 new mythic armors: The cloudcloth armor is a padded armor that nets mistsight, allows for the assumption of mythic gaseous form, and it can also be used to force gaseous creatures into corporeal form or negate toxic gasses. Nice. The cuirass of miracles is a bolstering deathless determination armor made of elysian bronze, which is interested in that it enhances the determination ability and upgrades the breath of life effect to its mythic iteration. The armor may also store mythic surges, though storing these takes A LOT of downtime – thankfully. If the armor contains 7 surges, it gets an additional ability, which, while potent, will not be overused thus – it’s a last ace in the hole. Dragonmail is dragon-defiant energy resistance banded mail, applying the dragon defiant bonus universally to all dragons, but the armor does not provide flexible resistance; this is instead governed by the source-dragon’s hide. For mythic wearers, we also have the effects of evasion and a mythic power-based temporary improved evasion. Earthenport plate is a stoneplate engraved with mystic runes – these may be chanted to apply invulnerability, titan or wild temporarily to the armor; additionally, a different chant allows the wearer and surrounding area to soften stone etc., sink under, and teleport with all sunken-in characters to another place. This gets teleportation-blocking effects etc. right, and the armor is better for dwarves.

This section also provides the jawbone shield that is specifically designed to help against creatures with grab or Snatch – an AoO-shieldbash; 1/day, such a smash vs. a bite attack can temporarily wreck the fangs of a target. The mythic power/surge mechanics also interact neatly here. Minor complaint: The cost to create here has one number too much – the “0” noted should have been eliminated.

The pdf also contains 11 magic items: The blade-eating battleaxe is made from adamantine and can sunder multiple weapons at once, and parades/parries may trigger sunder assaults. There are three magic boomerangs included (one, comically, called boomerage in one of the funniest autocorrect typos I’ve seen in a while); these include a sharp boomerang that has an increased threat range and Constitution damage. It may be thrown in a buzzsaw-like 30-ft.-line for AoE-attacks; the second boomerang allows for ranged trips/feints and the use of other combat maneuvers. The third boomerang is all about ricocheting. Dauntless machete lets you move swiftly through natural difficult terrain, and even clear quickly magical plant-effects, and it can be used to become plant bane’d. Kinslayer’s knife helps you go Dalek-level “EXTERMINATE” regarding a bloodline -the keen kinslayer kukri allows the wielder to blood biography the wounded, and the name of the creature appears on the blade – really potent for games of intrigue, particularly since mythic power allows for the tracking down of relatives…ouch. Outback woomera is a spear-thrower club that may be used to enhance shortspears cast via it, and it also allows you to create magical foodstuffs.

Redflame trollblade is a mighty weapon created with an eye towards the destruction of trolls – and since it emits a long-range call, including a subliminal suggestion that compels trolls to seek out and attempt to destroy the wielder, it should come as no surprise that the blade gets enough use. Rokurokubi whips can transform their end into the screeching heads of the namesake monster, and alternatively act as a scarf and allow you to emulate the monster. Silverspark longbows were once created as means to hunt down evil witches and wizards, focusing on anti-caster tricks. Finally, there would be the tombo fan, a weapon that allows for flight in conjunction with bardic performances, including fluid turns.

4 rings are included, the first of them being the gauss ring, which can be sued to charge melee attacks or in grapples; rings of returning allow you to return to a destination after teleportation, a kind of failsafe; the ring of truth can really help inquisitors, but prevents lying…and the ring of warmth can be considered to be a kind of survival-angle in the cold regions out there.  The book also features 4 different rods – the gnarlthorn rod doubles as a wounding Morningstar (or club) that also causes ability score damage alongside the options of using burst of nettles and similar plant-based effects. The pyroclastic rod allows for the creation of ash or volcanic storms, acting as a flaming light mace that can dispel cold effects; plus, it allows for entangling magma that may be hardened by cold damage. The rod of spell-focusing may be attuned to schools or the 4 core energy types and enhance the attuned spell effects…while the rod of defoliation allows you to go Dark Sun defiler.

The book also contains a massive selection of 31 (unless I’ve miscounted) mythic magic items that contain a who’s who of some of the greatest mythic items released by Legendary Games so far – the awesome yoke of the brazen bull and the classic witch’s broom may be found. Classic mythology gets its nods, the teeth of the hydra, and the oni mask, to note two. The hei tiki amulet and hei matau amulet are here, and magi will benefit particularly from the arcanamach’s vambraces, while prepared spellcasters will enjoy the book of the banned that allows for limited access to e.g. prohibited schools, acting as a great tool for complex investigations – my spellbook doesn’t have that spell! (The book can also be glamered and uses secret page…) From the crane kimono to the crown of iron sorcery and the diamond of everwinter, fans of Legendary Games will have a couple of smiles here. Errant’s gage are gloves that help with smite, challenge, etc.

Beyond those, we do also get a massive 16 different artifacts taken from legendary Games’ illustrious history – from the pirate queen’s pearl to the elder talisman, from the sacred scroll of language to the undead-horde assembling midnight beacon and the lucky mallet, from the golden fleece to the funerary pyramid, from fractured phylacteries to the good ole’ dimensional bomb and to the deva’s wings or the crescent blade of the green dragon, this book is a grand collection of awesome artifacts with proper mythic rule-interactions.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, with the items often juggling very high-complexity concepts with panache. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a couple of full-color artworks that fans of LG will be familiar with – the cover of my copy looks a bit blurry, but the content and interior artwork etc. is as crisp as you’d expect. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jason Nelson, Loren Sieg, Pedro Coelho, Matt Goodall, Linda Zayas-Palmer, Thurston Hillman and Alexander Augunas are an all-star team, and it shows here.

While it should be noted that this is a kind of compilation (if you have as many LG-books as I do, there won’t be that much here for you); there is value in this book’s convenience of having a pretty massive selection of mythic items, all collected for your convenience instead of being spread out over a gazillion of different books. EDIT: I kinda assumed that to be a given, but to make the verbiage of my review clearer: This content is included in the Mythic Character Codex and Mythic Heroes Handbook, if you for example want only the items, this is definitely your go-to-place, and I applaud Legendary Games for providing a stand-alone version that allows the customers to have the option to get only the items, if desired. Full of cool ideas and resonant with myths, this is well worth 5 stars + my seal of approval; if you already own most LG-books, I’d instead advise in favor of getting the big books, though.

You can get these cool items here!

You can get the massive mythic character codex here!

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

Endzeitgeist out.

May 132019
 

The First Sentinel (OSR)

This module clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This adventure is intended for characters level 3 – 5, and, as far as old-school modules go, is dangerous, but not a meat-grinder – though there is one instance that can be considered to be brutal. It still should be noted that death is very much possible, and that a well-rounded party is recommended, with particularly a remove curse being a recommended thing to have. The adventure takes place in the Whisper Vale introduced in Whisper & Venom, and uses the same rules – descending AC, HD-ratings, etc. – use in most OSR games should not be an issue. While it can be used as a stand-alone adventure, it does lose a bit of its impact when divorced from Whisper & Venom. As a minor nitpick: The pdf’s formatting is a bit off, using primarily bolding for everything – magic items, statblocks, etc., while italics are generally not employed.

The adventure features no read-aloud text, and if you do use it in conjunction with Whisper & Venom, I suggest using it as either an epilogue of sorts, or when the PCs are moving towards the end of the module, to avoid spoiling one of the most effective scenes in the big book.

The pdf contains a total of 3 different encounter tables for different regions in the vale, an appendix containing 5 monsters, and something that was a hugely pleasant surprise to me: PLAYER-FRIENDLY MAPS. Not only the gorgeous isometric full-color pieces of the vale, but also of the respective adventure-locales! Awesome! The artworks herein, which often are full-color, are btw. ALSO provided as handouts – a total of 5 of these are provided!

All right, that’s a good start, so let’s see whether the module can hold up…but in order to do that, I will have to go into serious SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

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Jarls Mitby has gone missing – and just after he had been incarcerated for ostensibly having an affair with a landowner’s daughter. That is a nice little rumor, and piece of local color. A capable GM can seed another component at one point – namely that Jarls had only 3 fingers left on one hand. This becomes relevant, and allows for a brief investigation lead-in for this one…for Jarls, alas, has met his end.

The tale of this module, is one of retired adventurer Færgo Cromworth, the best tracker around – who has found something that he shouldn’t have. As the PCs find his burned down cabin, the body left in its smoldering ruin will be Jarls, and two different trails can be followed by capable PCs towards where Færgo now is – provided they survive the resident dire wolves attracted to the ruins’ remnants. (And yes, the scene is one of the handouts, providing a visual clue – cool!

You see, Færgo has become the eponymous “First Sentinel”, and two paths lead to his watch-post – one with a rigged rockfall, and the other leading through a cavern inhabited by cave imps, which represent one of the most dangerous encounters in the module, and the most problematic. You see, the cave imps’ battleground features more holes than Swiss cheese, and the humanoids favor hit-and-run attacks. Considering the different means of tackling initiative for different OSR-systems, this can be a bit weird. While the module does manage to provide a tactical encounter here, said encounter is based in a way on “readying action” attacks and a counterattack engine, which, while reasonably depicted, makes for a very awkward insertion – after all, once you use it, it should be an option all the time, right? I’m pretty sure that this could have been solved more elegantly. On the plus-side, there are means to bypass this encounter and grant the PCs an edge via magic, so that’d be a plus.

The true dungeon, though, would be a strange, military-style tower that appears as a hazy mist with no apparent detail; it is solid, though ethereal it may be, and may be entered and explored. It is, obviously, a symptom of the Corruption spreading from the Nexid Mouthgate, and indeed, the exploration of the linear floors pits the PCs against three types of Nexids, rewarding them with strange chemicals (including random tables for mixing the volatile materials), blackmetal items…and, well, the truth. Atop the tower, Færgo uses a strange device, a spyglass, a weird helmet atop his head – the combination of the nexid’s influence, spyglass and helmet have started to control the poor man, subsuming his identity under the irresistible compulsion to watch and guard for the approach of his masters, flooding his mind with touches of the alien nexid’s world and their strange thought-patterns….a fate that will break him sooner or later, but then again…he only has to last until proper nexids can take the mantle of sentinel…

The pdf provides its own table of strange locales the spyglass may be pointed at, as well as featuring several, unique spectra that it may be adjusted to show – but whether the PCs can free Færgo from the corruption, or whether the tower and its sentinel will be but the first of a dread invasion – only the PC’s prowess can answer that. (As an aside: An unchecked tower will run through attracted folks, littering the vicinity slowly with desiccated corpses, which is a rather grim picture – so if you want to go grimdark here, you have your work cut out for you…)

Conclusion:

Editing is very good on a formal and rules-language level. Formatting is slightly less impressive and sports a few inconsistencies. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, and the artworks deserve special mention – they are original pieces, with 2 b/w-artworks and quite a few nice full-color pieces. The inclusion of handout-versions of them is a great plus. Cartography is isometric full-color for the region, b/w for the adventure-locations, and once more, we do get player-friendly, key-less versions. Nice! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, is layered (!!) and has a navigation panel at the bottom of the page, allowing you to swiftly and painlessly jump to and fro from maps to the text and back again. Kudos indeed!

Edwin Nagy’s “The First Sentinel” is a great further exploration of one of the strongest components of “Whisper & Venom.” It almost feels like a transition, or like a means to get PCs on trek. The atmosphere it manages to evoke is nice, and in spite of being pretty much the definition of a railroad, structurally, it sells its linearity very well with details and unique, weird flavor and adversaries. Usually, this would, as a whole, make this clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down, but the sheer abundance of supplemental material regarding handouts and player maps, regarding these small comfort-enhancers, makes me round up instead.

You can get this fun expansion for Whisper & Venom here on OBS!

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Endzeitgeist out.

May 102019
 

Occult Skill Guide: Blood Madness Corruption (SFRPG)

This installment of the Occult Skill Guide-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review.

So, one of the most unique components of the Xa-Osoro setting shared by Everyman Gaming and Rogue Genius Games would be blood space – and as such, the first page, beyond the introduction, offers us an encyclopedia-style summary of blood madness. The strange phenomenon was bred by the death of a star, the viscera of the dead sun Osoro. Its properties are thought to be linked to the abyss, and as such, the gigantic, interstellar pollution, is pretty nasty. The pdf provides a couple of different effects blood space had on different planets, which pretty much jumpstarted my imagination from the get-go.

Now, the next two pages provide all the rules that govern how corruptions work in Starfinder, but since I already explained the mechanics in my review of the excellent Occult Skill Guide: Classic Corruptions, I won’t repeat myself here and bore you – plus, I REALLY want to dive into the corruption!

Blood madness has Will as the associated save, and Charisma as the associated ability score; you may acquire this corruption through direct exposure or e.g. hemihigh (see Pop Culture Catalog: Vice Dens); at the latent stage, exposure nets you 1d6 corruption points, and the corruption actually progresses at the rate of 1 point per day, making it a ticking timebomb! The victims’ eyes start glowing red in the dark (cool), and their alignment drifts slowly towards Chaotic Evil. How to get rid of it? Well, ouch. You have to go to a righteous deity’s font, scoured until they reach 0 Hit Points and starts dying. Each round while thus close to death, the victim can spend 1 Resolve Point INSTEAD of stabilizing to roll a Will save. This reduces corruption points by 1d4. The victim remains dying, but does not die for failing to spend Resolve Points due to this. This is…BRUTAL. You really don’t want to get into a serious blood madness addiction! At stages 1 and 2 of the corruption, the character gains a mutation, and 3rd stage lets you choose either ferocity (or ferocious charge, if they already have ferocity) or another mutation. The final stage nets full-blown CE outsider apotheosis.

What mutations can you find? Well, there is a 28-entry d%-table, not counting the GM’s choice entry, and from becoming a tiefling to getting wings, climb speed (called, probably in a nod to Outlast, “Wall Rider”), a fluid form, a 1st-level polymorph form, you can become a shapechanger, become more resilient – these benefits are serious – and they should be, considering how brutal the corruption is!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ neat two-column full-color standard, and Jacob Blackmon’s artwork is really awesome this time around, easily one of my favorite pieces from his pen! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alexander Augunas provides a huge piece of the cool Xa-Osoro puzzle here, and it doesn’t disappoint! The corruption is brutal, visceral and tempting, a magical affliction and corruption that made me grin indeed, and its presence alone should provide a TON of adventure hooks for PCs and enemies alike; why did they turn violent? Blood madness. Fighting the corruption and its spread, taking care of spreading influence, etc. – I love this. Considering how stoked I am for the upcoming Grimmerspace setting and the possible crossovers and contrasts with Xa-Osoro, this definitely will see a lot of use. Verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval, no doubt.

You can get this glorious corruption here on OBS!

Missed the awesome classic corruptions? You can get them here!

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Endzeitgeist out.