Jul 122018
 

Villains of Porphyra

This installment of the „…of Porphyra“-series clocks in at 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 8 pages of SRD, leaving us with 42 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’, pamphlet-style, which theoretically allows you to fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper, should you choose to print this supplement.

 

So, what do we get here? Well, basically what it says on the tin – this is no NPC Codex-style supplement that presents nameless adversaries and mook-fodder, but instead should be considered to be a collection of named and framed villains, ready to wreak havoc on your PCs. This obviously means that they all get their own piece of aptly-written prose, as well as statblocks, with the latter making use of Porphyra’s impressive cadre of creatures, races and content in general. Note that you do not need to own Porphyran books to use this, though! There is also a pretty neat Porphyra wiki, just fyi!

 

A total of 16 dastardly villains are provided within, so let’s take a look, shall we? For brevity’s sake, I am going to assume a degree of familiarity with Porphyra’s lore and races – should you be intrigued by the unique Patchwork plant, click on the “Porphyra”-tab of my review on my homepage, and you’ll have a list of files (and reviews) depicting more in terms of both crunch and lore.

 

We begin this supplement with Lady Daivona Scovalyx, a CR 17 inveigler erkunae investigator (mastermind) of the amazing erkunae race, still one of my all-time favorites of the setting for the cool, old-school non-Tolkien-ish vibe they have (Vance,Moorcock); anyways, she comes, as befitting of her stature, with her own pact creature (think: racial kinda-familiar), and is followed by Vsehnian, the Betrayer – a CR 11 dhosari rook; dhosari are btw. the servant race of the erkunae, but this clever individual, though aligned with Daivona, can make for a potent foe on his lonesome, clocking in at CR 10.

 

Brin is more straightforward, and is a CR 10 hobgoblin assassin (amking use of the Porphyran take of the class). Khorg the invincible would be a CR 19/MR 2 invincible half-ogre runereaper, and his damage output potential…well, let’s just say it’s nothing to sneeze at! Abil Copperborn would be a half-human (one further instance where Porphyra’s pretty cool…) skirmisher ranger at CR 15 – loyal and professional, he is actually LN and one of the most potent and skillful contract killers you’re bound to find. His writeup also features the scarf of camouflage item. Qippal Rillkeeper is a grippli hunter (primal companion) at CR 8, bonded to a dinosaur and victim of brutal and ruthless human “safaris” slaughtering all the once innocent frogfolk knew. Bad idea, humans. Bad idea…

 

Fhemish Darggun is a half-cyclops archaeologist bard at CR 16 – the most ruthless weapon’s fence and dealer of Giant’s Retreat – who, ironically, really likes civilization, even though his trade could potentially be considered to be contrasting with its establishment, or, more importantly, maintenance.

 

Fulgra the hungry would be a CR 10 wolf-shifter and we also learn about Bonebreaker Essrass, a CR 17 nagaji martial artist monk that can strike as a serpent… Ouch, all right, totally deserved that. 😉

Anyways, we also get to meet Kresta, a tengu unchained ninja seeking for the means to create conflagrations to starve and annihilate the land in favor to her divine master…Lady Gloam of Bhaal-aak made me smile, for here, Justin Sluder pulled out his skills: She is a stealthy creature plumekith assimar warpriest (CR 19), kidnapped and then raised and indoctrinated in the city of shadowy demon-worshipers…and yes, she sometimes visits her parents. Conversations are bound to be awkward, but that’d make for an interesting scene to roleplay…

 

Ursk the defiler would be a CR 9 skulk oracle, who champions, in a twisted way, freedom. Freedom from fear. Dignity. Reason. Life. With darkness-themed abilities and vampiric tricks, this fellow is twisted in a cool way. At CR 16, master Gyro is a boggle spell specialist arcanist, comes with notes of the uncommon elf lord’s battle armor spell from Kobold Press’ Deep Magic, as well as with bracers of defense item-class. I did grin when seeing the CR 10 augmented half-giant telekinesis/force specialist Brutus Half-forged and the CR 8 aberrant aegis/fighter multiclass from duergar stock Rosca Hatemonger. We end the supplement on a definite high note, with Ibuel the Frightlover, a fey creature xeph dread with 15 levels and CR 16.

 

The pdf comes with a bonus file depicting the Agropelter, penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr, a CR 3 fearsome critter magical beast, a wiry apelike thing whose arms have no middle joints, capable of quick bursts of speed. Solid creature that makes for a nasty artillery at low levels.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no excessive accumulation of grievous glitches. Layout adheres to a 1-column standard, is pretty printer-friendly and sports the classic purple highlights. The pdf has no interior artwork. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience and ease of navigation, though the bookmarks don’t note the CRs, which, since the villains are listed in no order I could glean, represents a slight usability detriment when in a pinch.

 

Justin P. Sluder and Aaron Hollingsworth make for a good team, at least judging by this pdf. Justin has crafted some of my favorite NPCs/villains ever for the Faces of the Tarnished Souk-series, and his talents at making complex NPCs shows in quite a few of these villains, though not all of them. Still, the means by which this book employs Porphyra’s rich canon of options is nice to see indeed. The villain-motivations also are surprisingly diverse, the brief flavor texts lending depth to them. If anything, I did wish more than once that we had a tad bit more space per villain to further add to their myths. That being said, the use of diverse and interesting material herein and the obvious joy in some of the combinations does render this collection worthwhile – the enemies herein *will* be challenging for your group.

And hey, you can’t ever have enough adversary-statblocks, right? Right! In short: Totally worthwhile if you’re looking for some tough foes to throw at your players! My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

 

You can get this collection of dastardly foes here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Purple Duck Games here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 122018
 

Vacant Ritual Assembly #3 (OSR)

The third installment of the Vacant Ritual Assembly ‚’zine clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/ToC and notes on recommended files/media, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look. It should be noted that the pages are laid out in the standard 6’’ by 9’’ (A5) pamphlet style for many OSR-zines, which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper – in theory. In practice, printing this one out yielded issues for all printers I used, which may be relevant to your interest. I am not penalizing the pdf for that, though.

 

As before, the default OSR-rules assumed herein are the LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) rules.

 

The first article herein depicts the “Dragon trench”, inspired by a real life site in Missouri . the trench ostensibly was created by a dragon crashing down onto the earth with incredible force, The location features a brief introduction, a nice b/w-full-page artwork and a stylized hexcrawl map spanning two pages – the hexes use cut-outs of the cover art as a backdrop, for a weirdly artistic use of resources that I somehow ended up enjoying. A hex is noted to span 5 miles and 6 rumors and an event/weather table is provided for your convenience. The section includes a mini-bestiary of 6 creatures – fairies require that you make up effects, and there are 3 sample plants with supernatural effects, though annoyingly, no silver values for them are provided. This is particularly relevant, since one of them can prevent spell slot loss upon casting a spell, which can be super potent.

 

The region itself comes with 7 keyed locales noted, though these, as a whole, are pretty potent – some guy has boots of water walking, while an intelligent +3 longsword, sans drawbacks, just awaits being found. I consider this, magic-level wise, to be somewhat overkill, considering the dangers faced. Not a big fan. Furthermore, magic item formatting is inconsistent throughout the installment.

The area also contains the Dragon Clan, a legacy organization that fights the minions of The Sting, the big antagonist here. Their VERY brief write-up doesn’t tell me that much about them, and the map for the fortress they inhabit is solid. The section also introduces the falconry skill and notes stats for the critters and use in combat. Fun aspect. Stats for 4 notable knights/dames are provided, alongside stats for their squires, dubbed “The Lost Boys”, which got a chuckle out of me.

 

After this, we are introduced to the Thundercloud druids, the primary source the Ghoul Market (see VRA #1) has for fairy amber, an order of druids that wield a new type of flintlock musket. These druids also fabricate three types of flutes that act as spells in a can. Odd: The Play Wind skill used to activate them isn’t fully depicted, as the falconry skill is. My favorite aspect of this article would be the brief symbol language provided for Ogham. Notes for PC thundercloud druids are provided.

 

After this, we take a look at the timberwives, who get my favorite illustration herein – and no, the reason for this is not the exposed nipples featured here, but rather the badass, dynamic pose. They are horrific thralls to father Sycamore, neither fully human nor plant, and manage to evoke more atmosphere in their one page than any article herein before them. I liked them. Stats are provided.

 

The next article, based on a traumatic experience with stinging insects, includes the stats of the aforementioned lord of stinging creatures “The Sting” (not to be confused with the weird wrestler), and we get a nice map of a wilderness locale and an associated little dungeon themed around this adversary and the creatures and folks serving the being.

 

The final section of the pdf sports an interview with Rick Saada on the roguelike he wrote.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not as tight as in previous installments, formatting is simply not as tight. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and artworks and maps are surprisingly copious for a humble little ‘zine; as a whole, aesthetics-wise, this is pleasant. The pdf has no bookmarks, which serves an unpleasant comfort detriment.

 

Honestly, after #1 and #2, I was rather disappointed by this installment of Vacant ritual Assembly. While Clint Krause’s imaginative potential shines through here and there, this is, as a whole, a rather vanilla experience. Now, don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy the idea of taking a childhood mythology and developing it into a location/module, but the supplement doesn’t do that compelling a job here; the innocent eyes widened in abject terror at the sight of stinging things is not truly conveyed; more hazards and terrain features/peculiarities would have done wonders there. The installment, in short, feels less refined – which can also be seen in the rules-language hiccups and omissions.

 

All in all, I did not get much out of this installment, though that may be different for you. However, if you do end up using this, be well aware of the rather powerful magic items littered throughout, which imho not only lack LotFP’s usually unique flavor, but which also are in no true relation to the challenges faced. As a whole, I consider this to be a rather sparse mixed bag, my final verdict clocking in at 2.5 stars, rounded up due to the low price-point and appealing aesthetics.

 

You can get this inexpensive ‘zine here on OBS.

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 102018
 

The Six-Sided Variation (Castle Falkenstein)

Gather round, ladies and gentlemen! I Am glad to serve once more as your host for this discussion of an ephemeral piece of media associated with the Great Game!

 

This installment of the Variation-rules for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

My dear ladies and gentlemen, it is with utmost concern that I have to express this warning; it is only with greatest hesitation that I even dare mention the existence of a pamphlet which may well shake the foundation of all that is right and proper to the core; were it not for the continuation of the exploits of master Tom Olam, which I did promise you at the last gathering, I would not tarnish the good graces and reputation of my house mentioning this sanctimonious, scandalous development.

 

I do advise those with a fairer disposition to leave the room, for, as the narrative provided makes clear with ample gratuity, the very soul of our cherished and proper Great Game is in danger! None other than the dastardly Professor Moriarty has found a way to, and I ask you once more to brace yourselves, employ DICE with the favorite pastimes of well-bred persons of proper pedigree!

 

Dice! The plebeian, profane gambling tools of the masses! Dice! My outrage, as that of my maids, butlers and angelic significant other, knew no bounds! Indeed, this horrifically deamonic pamphlet, undoubtedly planted by criminal elements of illest repute in the hands of the courteous Fat Goblin cadre of entrepreneurs, includes even more than the means to replace the tools of properly civilized folk – it also sports a means to replace the noble cards with CHITS. 52, divided into sets of 13. 4 are drawn, and spent chits are put back inside and a new is drawn. They are drawn from the same bowl! Scandalous! Preposterous! Imagine the moral decay – for the hand of a proper lady to touch the same chits as that of one of a male! In sequence! The outrage is, indeed, staggering! What next? Are we to take off our gloves?? Truly, this malignant Moriarty is trying to tear asunder the very values upon which our grand station is based!

 

Worse, special chits can be included, including so-called “royal chits”! The implications! As if being of royal blood was not the prerogative of the divinely ordained, as if it was bound to profane luck! Chaos reigns, even before Wild Chits are added – only the most malignant of malfeasants would contemplate this!

 

But…and here, I’d like to ask our faerie friends in particular to remain strong – this is not where Moriarty’s perfidious incursion ends; instead, we are faced with a blasphemy that attacks the very nature of our world-order, implying that sorcery can be similarly…modif. Modif…I can’ bring myself to use any other word that “tainted”; “perverted!”

 

Indeed, while this ephemeral text may adhere to a 2-column presentation and may look as aesthetically-pleasing as other offerings in our beloved series, I cannot recommended this abomination. So please, take a close look and memorize the contents of this pamphlet, so we may warn others of its corrupting nature, which surely only gracious characters of impeccable morals such as we may resist.

 

(5 stars + seal of approval – an amazing little file by J Gray! It’s also a Candiate for my Top Ten of 2018, just fyi.)

 

You can get this inspired file here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 102018
 

Starfarer’s Codex: Witch Legacy Class (SFRPG)

This adaption of the witch class to Starfinder clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

The witch class as presented herein comes with 5 HP, 5 + Con mod Stamina and uses Intelligence as key ability score. The chassis yields ¾ BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves. The class gets spontaneous spellcasting of up to 6th level, and may decipher magic text as a full action. The class gets 4 + Int skills per level, as well as proficiency in light armor, basic melee weapons, small arms and sniper weapons. The witch class uses its own spell list, which also incorporates spells from the Starfarer’s Companion tome – the class is not crippled by a lack of access to it, though.

 

Unsurprisingly, we get an empathic link with the first level familiar granted. At 5th level, the familiar can deliver touch spells for you; at 10th level, it can communicate with approximately familiar animals and you may talk to it in “code” – communication between familiar and witch can RAW not be deciphered. 15th level allows you to look through the familiar’s eyes, which, considering the sniping angle, can be rather nasty. Death, loss, etc. does carry no penalties apart from a grieving period. In addition to the first level familiar, the class also begins play with a patron: While within 60 ft. of the familiar, you get access to the patron’s specialized hex and spells granted by the patron, adding a decision here – scout ahead with the familiar or not? I like this.

 

We get a total of 14 patrons, ranging from vengeance over hyperspace to ancestors. These hexes include active and passive abilities and feature, for example, expanded class skills and and quicker tech dismantling, scaling ability to see through the dark or a nonlethal retributive pulse. Offensive abilities tend to feature a hex-caveat, i.e. that a single target can only be affected once per 24-hour interval. While this is a slight deviation from SFRPG’s default rest mechanic, I am sure that this is an intended departure to emphasize the somewhat eldritch nature of the witch – as such, I like this. Speaking of which – the rules, even when they are known to veterans from Pathfinder, do make use of e.g. fusions. This is not simply a lazy cut-copy-paste conversion.

 

While we’re on the subject of the class-defining hex ability: Regular, non-patron hexes, are gained at second level and every 2 levels thereafter, with Intelligence and ½ class level + 10 governing the save DC and activation action, unless otherwise noted, being a standard action. Important here: Unlike the patron hex bestowed by the patron class feature, regular hexes are not contingent of familiar proximity to use them. The hexes incorporate flight (with scaling), sharp nails, speak with animals, slowly sap away vitality – you will recognize a couple of these from PFRPG. There also is an option that lets you drain charges from nearby technological items…but as this one can already hint at, the internal balance of these hexes fluctuates quite a bit. The very powerful fortune hex makes a return, and while its limitations regarding number of times it can affect a target still remain, rolling twice and taking the higher result, i.e. the equivalent of 5e’s advantage, is VERY potent in SFRPG, compared to analogue abilities: The fortune hex is available as soon as second level and can be used infinite times per day, its limit based solely on target affected; compare that to the 2/day, self-only reroll of the star shaman’s 6th level ability, and you’ll note where I start having issues with the class.The same holds true for the debuff equivalent, twist fate. Lethargy inflicts a 30-yard (!) 1-round stagger, which is wildly better than the 6th level staggering shot exploit. Compare that with +1 to AC and saves until the target is hit or fails a save. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to note that something, somewhere, went horribly wrong with balancing here.

 

And yes, we’re still among the regular hexes. 10th and 18th level unlock the more potent major and grand hexes, respectively, and these are similarly oscillating between power levels. This is before the hex amplifications granted at 5th, 9th, 11th, 17th and 19th level, which allow for the delivery of hexes via melee and metamagic-like extensions of reach. As a saving grace, these all do cost Resolve and Split hex thankfully has its own caveats to prevent splitting mightier hexes until a certain level is gained. 3rd level nets weapon specialization.

 

The class comes with notes for use with archetypes – for most levels, this means losing hexes, with the exception of 9th level, where a hex amplification is lost instead. Familiar skills are improved in two categories, have 1 good and two poor saves and 8 types are provided. While their base engine makes them more fragile and less hardy than e.g. drones, the ability to deliver touch spells can make them rather devastating.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal and rules-language level,a re top-notch. I noticed no serious hiccups in that regard. Layout adheres to Rogue genius Games’ two-column full-color standard. The full color artworks are okay. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

The craftsmanship of Matt Morris’ class is excellent – we can see the experience of both designer and developer here, and the presentation is crisp as well. That being said, once you start to go into the nit and grit of the class and compare it to mystic, technomancer, etc., you’ll notice that it may have overshot its target, which was rather odd to witness in such a refined book. While the technomancer’s Extend Spell is e.g. better than the comparable hex amplification, hexes have no daily limit. Considering that SFRPG, quite consciously in my book, nerfed full casters in comparison to PFRPG, I am pretty damn sure that hexes should have further costs – I’d strongly advocate in favor of Resolve Point costs as further limiting factors for at least a couple of these base hex effects. Furthermore, while quite a few of these hexes do sport a power-level that is in line with SFRPG, others vastly outclass their peers and comparable options from other classes in the amount they can be used and potency.

 

In a way, this supplement buckles under its PFRPG-heritage; it attempts, and rather successfully, I might add, to transport the witch to the nova age. At the same time, it stumbles in the details, with rules-similarities breeding a degree of power-oscillation that is not wholly suitable for Starfinder as the system is right now. The craftsmanship is superb, but I am very weary of the power-level the witch has; as easy way to make this class more unique and well-rounded would be to further emphasize the uncommon sniping angle and familiar, while nerfing the hexes. While the limited spell-list can, in the long run, prove to be a balancing factor, for now, I can’t rate the class on potential developments to come. I certainly hope the class will get a whack or two with the handy ole’ laser-nerf-bat to bring it more in line with the classes featured in SFRPG’s core book. My final verdict, in spite of loving a lot about this pdf, can thus not exceed 3.5 stars, rounded down.

 

You can get this pdf here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 092018
 

Magitech Archetypes

This installment of Legendary Games‘ science-fantasy/Iron Gods-plug-in-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 3 pages introduction/how to use the book, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, though it should be noted that, as always for LG-books, there is quite a lot of content within these pages, courtesy of the consumer-friendly layout.

 

Now, as far as supplements are concerned, this book makes, obviously, use of Technology Guide’s engine and also provides new options for occult classes, core classes and offers some ACG love.

 

Today, I’d champion mention moving through the content from the back of the book, where the 7 new feats can be found. Technopath would be the first feat worth mentioning: This one is amazing and something I’d offer for solo-stealth missions as a bonus feat: The feat requires a means to use the ability to detect thoughts or mindlink and lets you expend such uses to cause erratic functions in computers etc., tightly codifying shutting down power etc. More important would be that, while it’s short range, it blends magic and tech in a cool way and has a very distinct, cool, espionage angle. This is really a more than rewarding one, which comes with a follow-up: Said follow-up feat, building on Technopath, allows you to use your mind to interface with computers in close range. This is pretty iconic and something I definitely liked to see here. Two really iconic winners here. Welker in Rust is a feat that is particularly suited for metal elementalists or urban druids, allowing for the use of a palm-sized metal object as arcane bonded object – minor complaint: For non-arcane casters, the “arcane” may seems slightly confusing here. Anyways, that’s nitpicking. The feat allows you to spontaneously convert summon spells into ones that call a distinct array of junk golems. Minor complaint: It’d have been nice to see the reference to Small sized junk golems sport more than just the HP modification. Similarly, no suggested burn cost for use in conjunction with the Necrotech (see below) material’s included. The object noted can btw. also be used in conjunction with shield guardians, if any, adding a cosmetic rust theme and a stored rusting grasp to the array.

 

Now, 4 of the new feats within deal with Necrotech: The Adept feat lets you use Charisma instead of Constitution to determine Fort-saves, but to make up for this power increase, you lower Constitution by 2. The feat must be taken at first level and influences the ability to take the Necrotech master archetype. Necrotech Genius also lowers your Con, but nets you a save-buff based on the Burn you currently possess. Necrotech Leader lets you accept burn to enslave undead nearby, which is a cool angle for necro-themes kineticists. Necrotech Transformation, finally, changes your type to undead. Since the feat requires a new archetype herein, the interactions are actually clear here.

 

Now, I already mentioned the necrotech master, so let’s start with this kineticist archetype, shall we? The archetype must be a construct or corporeal undead (or have the aforementioned Necrotech Adept feat) and is is locked into machine as primary element. The archetype does note that it makes use of Charisma instead of Constitution for the purpose of kineticist abilities, concentration for wild talents etc. The archetype takes a -1 penalty to Fort-saves per point of burn accepted, rather than taking lethal damage, with 3 + Cha-mod acting as the cap for the ability. This radically changes how the archetype plays, as opposed to the base class: The fragility of hit point dearth is replaced with a susceptibility for what we associate with those dabbling in necromancy – being sickly, easily subject to poisons and the like. This makes sense to me and also emphasizes these often somewhat overlooked components. Particularly for less experienced players that have an issue with the increasing fragility of the kineticist will welcome this rock-paper-scissors-y approach. The second tweak that enforces this notion, would be the unholy union ability: If the character is a construct, he gets + Cha-mod hit points per level, while undead necrotech masters gain fixed bonus hit points as though they were constructs. They are treated as both construct or undead when the like would be beneficial. They are only destroyed upon being reduced to Cha mod + class level hit points. These bonus hit points and type-based defenses replace the basic kinesis utility talents gained by selecting an elemental focus and defense. 4th level allows for the taking of machine’s elemental defense as a utility wild talent instead. Starting at 3rd level, the necrotech master may choose to gain a profane bonus to Charisma in place of a size bonus to a physical ability score, replacing elemental overflow.

 

Instead of 6th level’s utility wild talent, the archetype is locked into taking the construct creator utility wild talent, and may use the ability as though it was animat dead. Constructs created thus as treated as undead for the purposes of desecrate. Also at this level, the archetype may accept 1 point of burn to select a creature created or controlled (undead + constructs only) to grant them a single machine defense or utility wild talent with a burn cost of 0 or –; The level of the ability granted must be lower than class level, and the recipient creature is treated as though its HD were kineticist levels for the purpose of effects, using Cha instead of Con as governing attribute. Targets thus buffed may not accept burn. At 11th level and 16th level, the archetype may grant additional talents for increased burn costs; only one creature at a given time may be buffed thus, though. This replaces internal buffer. 7th level locks the archetype into void as expanded element and negative blast for simple blast. Undead or constructs created gain the aforementioned unholy union ability, with 15th level locking the archetype into machine as expanded element, and into void blast composite blast as composite blast, regardless of prerequisites. 8th level locks into construct hacker, and 9th level adds a negative level to living targets hit by a kinetic blast, replacing metakinesis (maximize); 12th level nets forced reboot, allowing the archetype to revive undead, causing them to return as undead – pretty sure the first reference should refer to “constructs or undead” instead. 14th level provides the means to use the Turing computation utility wild talent, as well as the ability to use it on undead.

 

Okay, so it only makes organically sense to move on to the new kineticist element while we’re at it, right? Machine nets Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering) as class skills, and basic technokinesis allows you to power machines via Burn and use mending on machines, constructs, etc. Junk blast would be the simple blast, and it sports all 3 physical damage types and is, no surprise there, a physical blast. (As an aside: Personally, I prefer damage mode changes, but that’s personal aesthetics.) As noted before, Diesel heart would be the defense wild talent, and it nets scaling DR, with accepted burn for machine talents temporarily increasing that. The talent also allows you to gain scaling percentile chances to ignore crits and sneak attack, based on burn accepted. I enjoy this one! The composite blasts provided and their options make sense and are, theme-wise, rather neat and make sense regarding damage types etc. 5 infusion wild talents are included, which feature causing Con damage via Bloodrust (damn cool name!), nanite-based sunder, soaking foes in oil, etc. – I really enjoyed these. Beyond the already noted basic utility wild talent, we get basically 30 utility wild talents to choose from; the aforementioned Turing computation awakens constructs, and similarly, the focus of quite a few of them, is on crafting and hacking constructs, on blindisght to note them (or metalsense…), on quicker repairs to keep them viable in battle (including tricks to use burn for a better action economy when doing so), on using nanites to duplicate ability score buffs on allies, a surge like auto-buff, a burn-based overclocking that hastes you and enhances your blast damage, subdermal plating…oh, and grafting weapons and upgrading grafts in 3 steps! It should be noted that the rather potent initiative buff twitch reflexes is associated with a cool elemental saturation.

…okay, I’ll say it right now: This is one of my favorite kineticist elements EVER. It really changes up playstyles and makes kineticists that take it go places where other elements don’t. This is inspired and may well be worth the asking price on its lonesome. Huge kudos!!

 

What do we have herein beyond kineticist options? Well, what about the robot fighter ranger, who replaces Knowledge (nature) + (geography) with Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering) and gets +1/2 class level to Perception and Disable Device checks to find and disarm traps, making the archetype, chassis-wise, a good rogue-substitute? Combat Style is replaced with basically a gunslinger lite array, while Endurance is swapped out with technologist. The first two favored terrains are locked and the archetype comes with a modified spell-list and must select a non-animal companion. Higher levels provide hardness ignoring and higher DCs to resist being stunned by crits, free movement through rubble and ruins and higher levels include swift action discharge or, at even higher levels, rebuke technology. Spell sacrifice for electromagnetic pulses and the ability to bypass sensors, penetrate force fields and the like further complement the archetype, culminating in an insta-construct-destruction trick. I’m generally not a big fan of nemesis-classes, but this one at least has its own array of tricks that make it play differently from the base class.

 

The Penumbral arcanist replaces 1st level’s exploit with the option to reduce illumination levels; exploits provided are shadow-themed, including adding new spells or granting creatures shadow fading. The archetype gets a custom capstone….and honestly, I don’t particularly like it. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but compared to Lost Spheres Publishing’s superb Shadow Weaver, it feels bland, and it also kinda feels like an odd man out in the supplement. Not very magitech-y.

 

Thankfully, the nanotech infuser sorcerer does fit: Loss of Bluff and Intimidate in favor of Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering), at-will mending and a touch that damages constructs at touch a limited amount of time, bypassing defenses. Higher levels see the nanites replace parts of the body, making the sorcerer automatically stabilize and take less damage from bleed and blood drain, but at the cost of becoming more inhuman. This transition further improves at 19th level. Cool: At 13th level, we have a nanovirus, which deals Wisdom and Con-damage, and which may make those that succumb to it rise as a nanite zombies.

 

The Astrologer mesmerist replaces consummate liar with skill bonuses related to the profession and benefits from the guiding star under the night sky, Adding Charisma in addition to Wisdom modifier to the checks of Wis-based checks, as well as 1/night free metamagic-modified tricks. This is theme-wise pretty cool. Higher levels provide the option to substitute components with less than 1K costs with astrolabe/telescope use – I Like this flavor-wise. Moment of prescience, which a target may benefit 1/week from, is cool, and getting a satellite of forceful hand that can work as clenched fist is similarly cool. These abilities tend to be used, resource-wise, via mesmerist tricks, and the capstone nets interplanetary teleport. I like the flavor here, but I can’t really see why this fellow is jammed on the mesmerist chassis. It does not interact in a meaningful way with the base-chassis and feels more like an option that’d make sense for the medium or psychic class.

 

The delver wizard replaces Blind-Fight with Scribe Scroll, and replaces arcane bond with favored terrain and at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter providing one of 9 talent-like abilities, which include tremorsense, Craft Technological Items, squeezing, etc. – the archetype basically represents the delving wizard…which is nice, but I wished the focus on tech would be slightly more pronounced. 10th level provides better divination below ground and also a nice, modified summon monster list.

 

The final archetype within would be the engram channeler spiritualist. Oddly, the ability headers here, throughout the whole class option haven’t been properly bolded, representing one of the couple of minor formatting glitches through out the pdf. The archetype comes with a modified spell list. Instead of a phantom, the archetype calls forth an engram, which can’t manifest in ectroplasmic form and is a construct, rather than an outsider, sporting concise modifications of the base engine here. Cool: The engram gets an intellectual, rather than an emotional focus, and sports different special abilities – I really like this, but wished we got more intellectual focuses to choose from. This feels, somewhat, cut-down by word-count. Anyway, taking 10 on Knowledge checks (and 1/day taking 20), at-will technomancy and tech-interacting abilities complement this archetype. This may be me just being a huge fan of Bruce R. Cordell’s 3.X-book “When the Sky Falls”, but I wished this one had had more room to shine; the concept is stronger than the space that it allotted to it.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, for the most part, are VERY good on a rules-language and formal level; however, there are slightly more guffaws here than usual for Legendary Games, though these tend to be cosmetic. Layout adheres to the smooth two-column full-color standard of the iron Gods plug-ins and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks should mostly be familiar for fans of legendary Games.

 

Jason Nelson, N. Jolly, Loren Sieg, Jeff Lee and Clinton J. Boomer provide an amazing book…when it actually focuses on the magitech/science-fantasy promise. It’s really odd – I even liked the nemesis-style ranger, and the tech-y options are inspired; Particularly if you’re enjoying the kineticist, this is a no-brainer book. The machine element is pure amazing. At the same time, there are three archetypes herein that have, at best, a somewhat tangential connection to magitech – the general themes of science-fantasy are kind of there, but feel a bit more like an afterthought; don’t get me wrong – they *are* cool, but ultimately, this means that the book is pretty strongly geared towards occult, in particular, kineticist, content. Now, I am very much happy with that, but if you expected a broader focus, you may end up slightly disappointed. Still, what *does* click, does so with the panache and experience we expect from Legendary Games! Kineticist fans in particular should consider this to be an absolute must-own tome – that part of the book is absolute genius and 5 star + seal material; as noted, ranking among my favorite kineticist options ever.

 

However, I have to rate the entirety of the book, and while never bland or mediocre, a few of the options fell slightly short of the promise of the rest. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

 

You can get this cool book here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Jul 092018
 

Vathak Terrors: Denizens of the Silver Tower

This little bestiary clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

The supplement begins with a brief, one-page run-down of the Silver Tower noted in the title, sketching the environment and noting some sample denizens that can be found within, taking creatures of up to Bestiary 6 into account. While no terrain features or concrete details are provided, this at least provides a nice contextualization for the creatures to come.

 

The first of these would be the CR 7 Riven, a plant that had me shudder and flash back in aesthetics to a certain game – a pair of humanoid legs splits to a body of a vast maw with a leaf-like interior and lashing vines. With grabbing bites, paralytic vines and the ability to consume identities of those it eats, as well as pheromones and the ability to blend into new environments, these lavishly-illustrated plants (kudos for the twisted full-color artwork!) made me flash back to the forgotten Dreamcast title D2 in the best of ways. Cool nightmare fodder!

 

At CR 12, skrianix are 4-armed aberrations of a vaguely insectile bent, making for horrid meat-grinders in close combat – but they are more than that. They have an acidic saliva and, when exposed to other acid (saliva doesn’t count…unless you’re a sadistic GM like I am and ignore this explicitly stated caveat…), they split. Like a frickin’ ooze. Yeah. Creepy as all hell. Yes, their defenses actually mean you won’t easily tear through them.

 

The final creature herein would be the zworoam swarm – at CR 4, we have a swarm of jelly-like flying creatures can engulf targets, hampering their movement…and turn acidic. Yes, you can basically use these to temporarily lock down escaping/fleeing PCs, while the big bad guys draw near… I know I’ll be using them, concept-wise beyond the borders of the system and extensively, particularly in modules like LotFP’s “The God That Crawls.” (Review forthcoming!)

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout is as beautiful as we’ve come to expect from Vathak supplements and the three full-color artworks provided for the monsters are amazing – and I haven’t seen them before. Considering the fair asking price, that’s a big plus indeed! Speaking of which: In spite of the brevity of the file, it’s fully bookmarked! Kudos!

 

Brian Duckwitz’ monsters are…surprisingly amazing. I mean it. I got this pretty much on a whim, since I wanted to show support for the criminally-underrated Vathak product line of Fat Goblin Games, and I was pleasantly surprised to find the monsters within engaging, fitting regarding the horror-tones of the setting, and mechanically challenging to face. I do have to say that I had hoped for the eponymous Silver Tower as a general framing environment to perhaps sport a sample hazard or a bit more context for the critters, though. Now, granted, none of the monsters reinvent the wheel, but this costs 1 buck. As in: One Dollar. The creatures herein are definitely worth more than this. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to the great bang for buck ratio.

 

You can get these cool critters here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

 

Jul 062018
 

Ultimate Covenant Magic

This massive supplement clocks in at 160 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 155 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, long, long before, back in 2013, before we even could conceive of Occult Adventures becoming such a great Paizo book, there was a humble pdf that fluttered on my digital shelves. It came with an unpretentious cover that read: Legendary Classes: Covenant Magic. It included a base class, then called “medium”, which proceeded to blow my mind, earning the supplement a spot among my Top Ten PFRPG products. Then, there were expansions, and these actually managed to retain the quality and imaginary vision of covenant magic.

 

In a way, this was an occult class, before “occult class” was a thing; you know, a class with a complex and rewarding action economy and player agency that does not simply escalate numbers, but instead has unobtrusive and rewarding ROLEplaying angles baked right into its very design. This may just be me, but with the release of Occult Adventures, I never stopped thinking of Covenant Magic as pretty much one of the origins of this rewarding school of class- and RPG- design.

 

Now, it should be noted that Ultimate Covenant Magic is NOT simply a rehash of the previously released material; Purple Duck Games have gone the extra mile here, which should be obvious from the get-go when simply comparing pagecount; moreover, the ducks have went through Covenant Magic with a finetooth-comb and reassessed all components herein, ironing out the very few rough patches the original files offered, while heaping new content galore on top – this is how compilations should be!

 

Fast forward to today and the issue of nomenclature: We get this – the ginormous, ultimate iteration of an already stellar system. With Occult Adventures’ release, this book renames its first class covenant mage. The covenant mage gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, ¾ BAB-progression and Charisma-governed spellcasting of up to 6th level – however, in a radical and daring departure from most classes, these are actually spell-like abilities, with all that entails. It is testament to the robustness of the engine and the skill of the designers involved that this never breaks the game. Covenant mages may not learn aligned spells, unless the covenant mage matches the alignment…OR has a covenant with a creature of that alignment! Yes, you can actually cast evil spells as the good guy here…with all that entails.

 

Now, as the name makes abundantly clear, the focus here are covenants. But wait, sounds familiar? Isn’t there the phenomenal “Grimoire of Lost Souls” already out there? Well, yes, but Purple Duck Games’ system has a radically different focus – covenants are themed around general themes, not necessarily individual spirits – you could have a covenant with a sidhe court, with qlippoths and the like, as opposed to pacts with singular entities. The focus sounds similar on paper, but in practice and roleplaying, actually is radically different. It should also be noted that the systems work remarkably smoothly and distinctly when used in the same game, and could allow for a covenant/pact-only game without much hassle. One of these days, that’s just the campaign I’m going to run!

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I was talking about player agency before, and the class, from level one onward, and again at 3rd, 7th, 11th, 15th and 19th level, gets a spirit boon – basically the talent-list of the covenant mage: These are not simple “You get class feature xyz”-tricks, btw. Wanted to sap speed with a touch attack? You can do that. Conjure forth a shield of roiling spirits? Once more, you can do that! Of course, a better, detective-style speak with dead can be found here, and the basic themes you’d expect have representations, but the list brims with enthusiasm and design-glee – one that is based in the scaling guidance imparted on the covenant mage by virtue of their spirit guide; and yes, while intangible (so no phantom-like pet), this lone, humble ability can engender great roleplaying all on its own…and changes the system in exciting ways, for some abilities require that the spirit guide be sent away/used in a specific manner. If you’re familiar with shadow-usage in shadow magic-based systems, you’ll get what I’m talking about. This could have just been, mechanically, a cool-down timer. Instead, it has this nifty little narrative angle that you can take or leave. It should be noted that the already pretty impressive list of spirit boons is expanded on later levels – multiple times. These alone provide more options than many classes have.

 

Now, a central component of the covenant mage’s engine and perhaps one of the most impressive and concise rules-operations for a caster I know, would be their trance: 4 + Charisma modifier rounds, +2 rounds per class level after 1st; this trance may be entered as a move action, nets you rage-like bonuses to Constitution and Charisma as you channel entities, and allows the spirits to speak through you – which is a GREAT idea to explain why you can’t use spell completion/trigger items in a trance. It’s these little components, where even the tiniest thing makes sense from a narrative point of view, that set this apart…of, and then, there would be the covenants. Oh, and being knocked unconscious nets you +1 free, final round of trance. No, you can’t abuse it, but it does allow the respective entities to deliver threats etc. and corresponds with the classic and evocative tropes.

 

Now, a covenant mage selects an influence – these can, for example, be angelic choirs, abyssal hordes, draconic, the occult, the unity, etc. Here, we have a bloodline-ish ability suite that nets a bonus language and determines the capstone of the class. However, they ALSO govern special spell-like abilities while in trance (scaling with levels) and trance covenants, which also scale. Sounds a bit bland for you? Nothing could be further from the truth! Just take the qlippothic redeemer. Some qlippoths argue that extinction of mortal life may not be the way to go to reclaim the abyss – you just have to ensure that no more chaotic evil souls go down there! Hence, there is a qlippoth-sponsored influence with the goal of redeeming everyone! I ADORE this. Doing the right things, for horrifically wrong reasons can make for a fantastic character concept and interaction with an influence that is malign and alien and just wants everyone to get along. That’s the yarn great tales are spun from.

 

Covenants are grouped in 5 groups, which are progressively granted by the respective influence chosen: Least (1st level), minor (5th level), major (9th level), greater (13th level) and superior (17th level), just fyi. It should be noted that each influence notes a variety of creatures associated with the influence in question, and that such creatures may be called by the covenant mage with their séance ability. Did I mention that these fellows can deal with haunts (You really should take one along next time you go into that haunted mansion/ancient, haunted battlefield…), that the trance engine scales and that item activation etc. also follows a concise progression? The covenant mage is a class you have to play to truly appreciate, but oh boy. Ähem. Sorry. Did it sound like I might that class a wee bit? 😉

 

Anyways, this is NOT where the book stops; where, previously, we had but this one covenant-devoted class, we now get two: The book introduces the dervish, who gets d10 HD, 4+ Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weaponry and light armor and light shields, as well as fast movement, full BAB-progression and a good Ref-save 4th level nets the SPs of the covenant mage style, once more governed by Charisma, scaling up to 4th spell level. You may have deduced as much from the presence of fast movement, but uncanny dodge at 2nd level would be another good indicator what we have here – a hybrid class of covenant mage and barbarian.

 

And, I know what you’re thinking: “Now Endy will whip out the uninspired hybrid-bat.” Well, frankly, that’s not required. Quite the contrary, in fact. The class employs the trance engine; it has paths, which are the equivalent of influences (and yes, we get a ton of them, though not one for every single influence, only for those that make sense in the frame provided); it gets trance powers (kinda akin to rage powers and paths come with suggested trance powers) – oh, and the class is actually a solid skirmisher! I kid you not! Heck, path chosen influences, at high levels, the DR, with 8 different DRs noted, to account for thematic differences! This level of care is impressive; indeed, I’d like to state that the warrior-mystic angle has rarely been done this well; while the parent classes are obvious from the design choices made, the dervish manages to feel and play unique and exciting, rendering it one of the very rare examples of a hybrid class that deserves its name, that deserves being included in the game, that has its own identity and soul.

 

Now, here begin the 28 pages of archetypes – and while both covenant mage and dervish get AMPLE of choices here, it is my pleasure to mention that they are not alone: Wanted a covenant-using summoner? You can find that here. Inner Eye Fighters represent a rewarding covenant fighter option…oh, and did I mention that the book comes with full occult support, providing a means for Paizo’s often maligned medium class to become cooler via covenants? Or the death negotiator spiritualist? Does haggling with spirits for power sounds like a story that reminds you a cherished villain/hero in a comic book? Well, guess what: We even get a vigilante archetype here, with the spirit-chosen! Oh, and what about covenant-related hexes for both witch and shaman?? Want a covenant magic with anti-tech guide tricks? An engine-tweak by donning masks? Covenant mages with hexes, revelations or bloodlines? Yep, you’re covered. Similarly, if you want a divine dervish, unarmed mendicants or mounted dervishes, you’ll find what you’re looking for inside.

 

Now, beyond influences, covenant magic as a system is NOT hard-baked into classes; or, well, it kinda is in a way, but in theory, pretty much anyone could use it! Why? Well, the 5 different covenant ability strengths are concisely codified for Gm and players alike, with save DCs based on the patron’s Charisma and HD. This may come off as surprising, but the mere existence of this simple and easy to grasp component (with prices, assuring WBL-consistency) helps against the murder-hobo syndrome. Players are less likely to want to slaughter, for example, the fey over there, when coming to diplomatic terms with them could provide cool, unique powers…and from the GM’s perspective, that is a rewarding way to dish out treasure and segue into new adventures. The gp-value table makes this pretty much a no-brainer task – look at a table, done. It doesn’t get more comfortable than this. Now, if all this contract-stuff sounds dry or too wishy-washy for you, rest assured that you’re not left hanging: The details and components are discussed in a concise and helpful manner, including the consequences of breaking covenants, etc.

 

So, the covenants – the list of covenants included here, you know, the one that handily lists all the covenants alphabetically, ordered by power…is 4+ pages long. We’re talking about over 30 pages of such abilities, which allow you to breach through barriers, gain a kind of truespeech, a literally stunning voice, high level save-rerolls – they make sense! Want, for example, control of the strands of fate? Well, you better find a really potent being with mythic power or hero points…or a norn! Have a new buddy from the elemental plane of earth? Stone fists. Just sayin’! Know a potent undead or outsider with energy drain? Hej, when you get on with them, you may learn the art of the Soul Stealer… There also are a couple here, obviously, that are more limited, but you get the idea – this OOZES flavor. And yes, the classic restoration of youth can be bargained for… This is, in essence, a continuation of the design-paradigm that made the class options stand out – and it’s, in a way, the beating heart of the book; this is where we not only get material that can easily be integrated into any game, we have enough covenants provided and succinct, clear guidelines, that designing new ones should not prove too big a problem for anyone. This may sound dumb coming from me, with my love of fiddly, highly complex systems, but this level of accessibility is amazing. You could hand this to players and have them tinker with it. The system is that accessible. Oh, did I mention the page of mythic covenants that help if you’re playing mythic games? Oh yeah.

 

Now, I should note that, usually, only covenant mages and dervishes can strike covenants, but the 10-page character-options section provides the feat-basis for universal access, though higher-powered games can ostensibly ignore these; as a whole, this provides the grit and investment decision I love to see, while the aforementioned detailed explanation of the covenants themselves allows the system to be used without prescriptively requiring them. If you’re playing a regular game, use the feats; if you’re going for high-fantasy, go the direct route – simple. Oh, and guess what? Mythic feats AND rewarding Story-feats included! As an example, Spiritual Defiance allows you to enhance the numerical bonuses of trance sans gaining the usual abilities, as you defy your influence. You’re grinning right now, right? I know I am! Really cool: The pdf acknowledges modifying three feats from Pact Magic’s chassis – in the TEXT, not just the SRD. That bespeaks of integrity. Oh, and yes, we also get both traits and drawbacks – and yes, bonus types are TIGHT. There also are a couple of new spells to be found, and we even get two background tables, Ultimate Campaign style, for Covenant Mages and Dervishes. Want advice, and I mean EXTENSIVE advice on running covenants in your campaign, on negotiating contracts, a ton of sample potential patrons for covenant-users? Variant offerings that codify life force, souls and even integrate with Horror Adventure’s corruption-mechanics? This delivers. Heck, we even get two cool sample organizations! Oh, and guess what? Two templates, a ton of NPCs (yep, up to CR 19…), and we even get two ready-made PCs for the new classes, at level 1 and 7.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch. From bonus type to rules language integrity, this is an achievement of a tome. Layout adheres to a nice, printer-friendly 2-column standard with purple highlights. The pdf sports a significant amount of nice full-color artwork, though fans of Purple Duck games may be familiar with the pieces. The pdf comes with extensive, nested and detailed bookmarks, making the use of the material herein super simple. Oh, and this being Purple Duck games, the whole text is open content. Yes. This is too rarely mentioned, but it’s one of the things I adore about Purple Duck Games.

 

David N. Ross and Julian Neale, with additional writing by Mike Myler, provide a masterpiece. I mean it. This is the OG of the Occult design philosophy, and it is superbly impressive, more so than it ever was before – and that’s saying something!

 

You see, I am very much cognizant that my love for complex, fiddly systems à la Interjection Games’ tinker or Michael Sayre’s Akasha is no secret; at the same time, complex systems are not for everyone; while a new system may provide a unique playstyle, not every player enjoys trying to wrap their heads around, for example, an engine like the kineticists. This is where covenant magic comes in. The genius of the design employed here is twofold: For one, the book manages to provide a crunchy system that is rich in story and actual roleplaying potential, which is not something many books achieve. But more importantly, it marries this potential with a playing experience that is utterly distinct and different from all Paizo-classes…while not requiring that you learn one bit of new system! This book manages the impossible feat of having the cake and eating it, too – it teases, coaxes and persuades the d20-system underlying Pathfinder in new and exciting shapes and forms.

 

If you’ve read the Paizo-classes, you can play this. This is the most accessible subsystem I know, at least in this range of excellence; for, while it retains its superb accessibility, it also manages to do utterly unique things with its engine; it manages to carve out its own, distinct and design-as well as flavor-wise, unique identity.

 

This ranks among my favorite 3pp-crunch books out there. It deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as “Ultimate Psionics” or the “Grimoire of Lost Souls.” Yes. That good.

Let me put it differently: I have a policy regarding my Top Ten-list: If the components of a compilation have won a spot on my Top Ten, the compilation can’t be featured on it once more. I have never been this tempted to break this rule. I won’t, as that would be unfair. But oh boy, do I want to!

 

Ultimate Covenant Magic is a masterpiece that oozes passion, care and attention to details; it’s, as noted, the small things that add up, that elevate this book to the lofty place it occupies in my esteem. My final verdict for this masterpiece, unsurprisingly after my glowing review, will be 5 stars + seal of approval. This also gets my EZG-Essentials-tag as a book I wouldn’t want to miss in my games. Why? Think about it: You can use covenants to combat that Christmas Tree syndrome of PCs with too much gear…replace magic item-rewards with boons and blessings that come with obligations and your game will take on a whole new direction.

 

Anyways, while it can’t feature on this year’s Top Ten list, this does get the candidate for my Top Ten of 2018 tag as well – to mark it as a book that has number 1-contender qualities, in spite of not being eligible to win. Basically, any way to make this show up when browsing for excellence. 😉

 

One more thing: Purple Duck Games is currently designing their Porphyra RPG – they will carry the torch of Pathfinder’s first edition with their very own spin. Books like this are what this game needs, so if that sounds like something you’d love, support the Purple Ducks!

 

You can get this glorious book here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Purple Duck Games here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 062018
 
Dear patreons, dear readers!
 
First of all: My undying gratitude for the continued support and faith of my stalwart and amazing patreons! I know that the sequence of reviews released was more burst-like this month. My real life obligations, both regarding family and relationship, as well as the workload from my day job, have wrecked my time-line to a degree.
 
That being said, I have managed to cover a ton of material and I’m hard at work behind the scenes. If you take a look at the list, you’ll note quite a few overdue books, though not all I wanted to finish last month. I have, in particular, a lot of tests of AAW Games, Purple Duck Games, Fat Goblin Games, Flaming Crab Games, Lost Spheres Publishing, Legendary Games and Dreamscarred Press material finished, requiring “only” that I sit down and actually write the reviews…but between grading hell (end of semester paper grading) and aforementioned struggles pertaining my social circles, I found myself in want of the old commodity time. I am also working on a MASSIVE patreon-request when I can. My time to review should increase next week.
 
On the plus-side, I have managed to get my groove on regarding Starfinder, so expect to see Starfinder reviews continue in roughly the extent you’ve seen so far, plus/minus a couple more, depending on what comes up.
 
One of you has asked me for a couple of DCC/MCC-reviews at my convenience, so expect those to come as well. I also have been asked about some of the weirder OSR-titles out there, and I plan to spotlight a couple of the gems I have unearthed there as well.
 
Beyond that, the new month will see a new type of post: A countdown of sorts to Pathfinder 2/Playtest! I am pretty excited and hopeful about the system, so we’ll see how it turns out!
 
Anyways, as always, I’d kindly ask the generous patreons eligible for prioritized reviews to contact me as soon as possible with your requests if you haven’t already. If you’re not eligible for a prioritized review, please tell me nonetheless what you’d like to see!
 
As always, the following list is dedicated to you: Without you, none of these reviews would exist:
 
Lost Pages – Burgs & Bailiffs: Warfare Too (OSR)
Melsonian Arts Council – The Undercroft #1 (OSR)
Playground Adventures – Creature Components Vol. 1 (5e)
Everyman Gaming – Everyman Unchained: Bards
Everyman Gaming – Star Log.EM: Eldritch Knight (SFRPG)
Zzarchov Kowolski – A Thousand Dead Babies (NGR/OSR)
Everyman Gaming – Star Log.EM: Skinwalkers (SFRPG)
Everyman Gaming – Star Log.EM: Stellar Revelations (SFRPG)
Gamer Printshop – Rude Awakening (SFRPG)
Raging Swan Press – Places of Power: Khla’Akear
Raging Swan Press – Places of Power: Khla’Akear (5e)
Raging Swan Press – Places of Power: Khla’Akear (system neutral)
Red Moon Medicine Show – Vacant Ritual Assembly #2 (OSR)
Everyman Gaming – Star Log.Deluxe: Aging Rules (SFRPG)
Everyman Gaming – Star Log.EM: Gnolls (SFRPG)
Lost Spheres Publishing – Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres
Everyman Gaming – Star Log.EM: Msvokas (SFRPG)
Kort’thalis Publishing – Battle Star: Trek Wars (OSR)
Purple Duck Games – Unchained Monks of Porphyra
Sneak Attack Press – Drakonheim: City of Bones (system neutral)
Raging Swan Press – Places of Power: The Last Resort (5e)
Raging Swan Press – Places of Power: The Last Resort (system neutral)
Raging Swan Press – Places of Power: The Last Resort
Kort’thalis Publishing – Dead God Excavation (OSR)
Raging Swan Press – Places of Power: Fort Vigil (system neutral)
Raging Swan Press – Places of Power: Fort Vigil (5e)
Raging Swan Press – Places of Power: Fort Vigil
Frog God Games – Marshes of Malice
Interjection Games – Tinkering 303: Matroishka Automatons
Playground Adventures – Creature Components: Tome of Beasts (5e)
Frog God Games – Mountains of Madness
Expeditious Retreat Press – Advanced Adventures: The Flaming Footsteps of Jilanth (OSR)
Jon Brazer Enterprises – Deadly Delves: To Claw the Surface
Fantasy Flight Games – Genesys Core Rulebook (Genesys)
Gamer Printshop – Ultimate Vehicles: Vehicle Creation Guide (SFRPG)
Massive Review Update
Pyromaniac Press/Dragon Rock Games/DM’s Guild – Faiths of the Forgotten Realms (5e)
 
As always, I remain deeply grateful to my patreons – without their support of my patreon, this stressful month would not have allowed me to contribute even a single day of reviewing.
You fine ladies and gentlemen are keeping the lights on, and, more importantly, you are making a difference in my life. The messages I get, the kind “likes” and pats on the back. They make it worthwhile. You make it worthwhile. Thank you.
If you like what I’m doing, if you want this to continue, then please contemplate supporting my patreon. Every little bit helps and the status of the patreon directly correlates to the time I can spend reviewing and writing for you.
 
Endzeitgeist out.
Jul 052018
 

Faiths of the Forgotten Realms (5e)

This massive supplement clocks in at 200 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, leaving us with a massive 196 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. I had access to the pre-release version to get this done so soon, but the review itself is based on the commercially-available version.

 

Now, first things first: Since this is a massive book with a ridiculous amount of content inside, I cannot provide my step-by-step analysis for every single piece of crunch, as that would bloat the review beyond any actual usefulness. As such, I am going to paint with somewhat broad strokes.

 

All right, got that? Great! We begin with a brief explanation of the Faerûnian calendar of Harptos, noting months and common names used as well as earth equivalents. General holidays like equinoxes, solstices or Greengrass are noted – Realms lore-enthusiasts should enjoy this brief recap. This, in a way, is a great indicator of the approach of the book.

 

A genuine enthusiasm for the Forgotten Realms completely suffuses this book: We begin with something I consider absolutely fun – the first chapter, deeper faith, provides a metric ton of faiths, ranging from Akadi to Bane, Bhaal and Cyric, the old version of Corellon Larenthian, up to Waukeen and e.g. Valkur. Public events and holy days are noted and every single deity gets 4 suggested background story events for PCs to integrate into their game. This chapter, over 20 pages long, thus, adds imho much-needed depth regarding a vast pantheon.

 

After this, we dive into the beating heart of this supplement: Archetypes of the faith. The colossal next chapter covers more than 160 pages and includes a METRIC TON of diverse class options to be employed by the respective characters believing in the deities. This, in short, translates to a cleric domain and a paladin oath provided for the respective followers of the deity. These are not simply soulless mechanics, mind, you, but feature edicts and prohibitions, adding narrative components to these options. There are a couple of options for other classes here as well, with e.g Talos offering access to the Circle of Storms for his druids, while Kossuth offers the Firewalker ranger archetype. As a whole, though, only clerics and paladins will get their true due here – rangers and druids or non-divine characters are pretty much left in the cold. This can be a bug or a feature, depending on your perspective – but personally, I’d have enjoyed rogue options for worshipers of Bhaal or Cyric, Gondian mage-tinkers…you get the idea. Much like the Midgard Heroes’ Handbook, this thus further cements clerics and palas as some of the best-supported 5e-classes, though here, e.g. a Deneir wizard-option, for example, would have made A LOT of sense. Neither do we get a Spellfire warlock for Mystra…oh well..

 

It should be noted that this book makes use of the Elemental Evil Player’s Guide and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything in its references and rules-components. The rules language employed by these, on a formal level, is remarkably good and precise. I mean it. Almost all, though not all, deities featured herein get their own array of sample spells, further adding a huge amount of mechanical content to this massive tome. Impressive here: The formatting is pretty damn meticulous and gets italicizations, bolding of material, etc. consistently right. Similarly, balancing of the components, for the most part, is impressive in its precision. The damage values and types correspond in meaningful ways with the established values – so yeah, execution-wise, this is pretty impressive as well.

 

That being said, I know that quite a few of my readers gravitate to dynamic character options and, this is where one could complain on a high level: The designs employed here, generally, play it very safe. If you’re expecting for example complexity à la maneuver dice-systems or the feeling of radically distinct playing experiences provided by e.g. the best of the Deep magic-pdfs by Kobold Press, then you won’t find that here. We get well-executed and flavorful domains and oaths in the traditional sense, set apart mostly be the lore and tenets provided and the abilities granted. In essence, the respective engines don’t change radically from deity to deity. Shar, for example, does not get a unique form of spellcasting of the like. This, once more, is not a detriment per se, but it is something important: Some folks out there will love the decision to focus on simpler designs, and some will be disappointed. Personally, I’m, no surprise there, in the latter category, but I do absolutely appreciate the impressive craftsmanship displayed here.

 

Now, the book does contain more than a metric ton of options for divine characters: We get information of the holy scriptures of the deities, and these brief entries ooze the wonder I expected to see: To give you an example: “Not a conventional book, the Glarathra is a large bronze flower with eight petals surrounding a spiral-shaped inner section of leaves bound together. It is a widely recognized symbol of the faith. When immersed in holy water and ‘planted’ in any depth of earth within a circle of seeds, the flower fully opens. This reveals the actual text, which is finely etched on the inner leaves.” Come on, how cool is that? Yes, this section makes perfect use of the vast canon of lore the Realms have established over the years, showing a deep understanding of what makes the respective themes work.

 

This also can be said of the magic items presented, which include the claws of Malar or the ring of Myrkul. The chapter also introduces the “overwhelming” artifact property, which represents artifacts that are simply not made to be wielded by mortals – loved that. In case you were wondering: The actual Claw of Malar, as opposed to the ritualistic hunting weaponry, is btw. also included here. Each artifact comes with properties and curse, and from Cyrinshad to Dawnstone, I found myself fondly reminiscing about campaigns of yore and books devoured. Oh, and usability is also retained – the book comes with a multi-page index.

 

It should also be noted that, as per the writing of this review, the book has a (VERY brief) errata file. Now, my practice as a reviewer is to never take these into account, since I’ve seen publishers point to obscure forum posts or FAQs one too many times to justify a lack of product-updates; only improvements actually implemented in the book count for the purpose of my review. That being said, I did a bit of research, and this book *IS*, at least so far, supported rather well – previous glitches brought to the attention of the authors have been swiftly implemented, which makes me hopeful that the very few glitches noted will similarly be implemented. Kudos for supporting the book and not simply calling it quits after release!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are extremely impressive for a rules-book of this size in both formal and rules-language criteria. The tome adheres to a 2-column full-color layout that is rather professional, and I noticed some of my favorite, old D&D- and stock-artworks herein. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with detailed nested bookmarks that make using the file a pleasure; similarly, the index and ability to cut-copy-paste text from the book help rendering this really consumer-friendly. Kudos!

 

Alex Clippinger, Scott Bean and Micah Watt, in the partnership between Dragon Rock Games and Pyromaniac Press, have created a massive and truly impressive tome. From Talona’s poison smite spell to Sune’s chivalrous paladins, this book is chock-full with Realms-lore and rules that make this a must-own tome for fans of Ed Greenwood’s legendary setting. If you’re playing in the Forgotten Realms, then you will want this book, simple as that. It offers an amazing bang-for-buck-ratio and tugs at the heart’s strings of anyone who ever played for an extended period of time in the Forgotten Realms. In a way, this could be considered to be a kind of homecoming for paladins and clerics; and while I bemoan the lack of support for all classes (hey, you can be a believer sans being a cleric/pala, right?), considering the size of this tome, the complaint feels petty.

 

The one thing that I honestly felt was lacking from this book, is the courage to tweak the design of the respective class options to make the worshipers of deities feel more distinct. For example, having Undine’s power alternate like ebb and flow, forcing alternating between channel options or effects; have Shar/Mystra, for example, sport some unique casting tricks – you get the idea. The experience of the systems the class options provide, are rather conservative and don’t provide a truly creative or distinct tweak on the system, where e.g. Deneir etc. would have very well warranted such an inclusion. This book, design-wise, plays it safe – but it does so remarkably well.

 

When all’s said and done, this means that I consider this to be an excellent tome, albeit a very focused and conservative one – my final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform. I’m excited to see more come out of this obviously fruitful collaboration.

 

You can get this massive tome here on DM’s Guild!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 052018
 

Dear readers!

 

It is one of my goals to reward publishers for caring about their customers, for fixing glitches. Hence, I try to adjust my reviews asap if the files do improve. Today, I stared, unbelieving, at a ridiculous amount of revisions that has resulted in hours upon hours of comparing versions. Here are the fruits of my labor!

 

Well, Everyman Gaming has improved a ton of their pdfs. Many improvements are cosmetic, but there are a couple of fixes that have improved the final verdict: Most notably:

 

Everyman Minis – Way of the Eight: Now with more precise rules, for +0.5 stars and a final verdict of 5 stars.

Everyman Minis – Yroometji: +1 full page of vital statistics and backgrounds! This catapults the file to 5 stars + seal of approval.

Everyman Minis – Brawler Archetypes: Most rules issues have been addressed, upgrading the file to 3.5 stars, rounded up.

Everyman Minis – Microsized Templates: Glitches in math have been fixed, upgrading this to 5 stars + seal of approval.

Star Log.EM –  Collateral Characters: Massive healing has been nerfed, rules have been clarified, upgrading this to 5 stars.

Star Log.EM – Assassins: Now with non-evil assassin support properly implemented. +0.5 stars, for a final verdict of 4 stars.

Star Log.EM – Mystic Theurge: Spell Synthesis now works properly. This upgrades the pdf to 4 stars.

Star Log.EM – Mechanic Tricks: Crafting via Genius improved,

Star Log.EM – Gnolls: Improved resiliency; fixed Canine Gait feat; now worth 4 stars.

Star Log.EM – Msvokas: This race was already inspired, but held back by minor flaws; now, it ranks as one of the best races I have read in ages, upgrading it to 5 stars + seal of approval and also granting it the status as a candidate for 2018’s Top Ten. Definitely check out these critters if you haven’t already!

Drop Dead Studios has also done something for their faithful consumers, adding player-friendly maps to their massive Wizard’s Academy modular mega-adventure/Bestiary, thus earning that tome my seal of approval. You can check out the revised review (and links to the product) here!

 

All of the above are linked to their revised reviews here on the site, so if you’ve been on teh fence about some of these, check them out! 😀

 

Endzeitgeist out.