Sep 202017
 

Yggdrasil Fanzine #1: Dark Magic

This fanzine for Kobold Press‘ Midgard setting clocks in at 95 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 9 pages of advertisements (many of which are half-pages), 1 page SRD, leaving us with 83 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

It should be noted that I usually don’t review free e-zines, but this was requested as a non-prioritized review by my patreons and, well, I listen to them. This book being FREE itself constitutes a definite plus for this book, so if something I tell you about strikes your fancy, please do check this out.

 

After a brief introduction by both Wolfgang Baur and Morgan Boehringer, we begin with Curtis Taylor’s Nivayan Codex, an intelligent and rather malign spellbook that can be quite an interesting mastermind. Complete with preparation ritual and boon as well as two spells, corrupting dreams and shadow shackle– particularly the latter is interesting, making your shadow “heavy”, with precise effects depending on the light-source – I really like this spell! All in all, a solid start for the fanzine.

 

Next up would be veteran Mike Welham’s article “Deeper Darkness”, wherein we can find variant darkness-spells: Beyond coalescing darkness into a claw, we can also find darkness that clings to targets and a hard crowd-control spell that renders targets staggered…and there is one at 6th level that represents a shrieking darkness that causes sonic damage and potentially stuns targets – cool: This requires pre-existing darkness-areas. As a minor complaint: A spell-reference to deeper darkness hasn’t been italicized and one spell is missing a “the” somewhere. That being said, cool magic!

 

We remain on topic with Caroline Trotter’s raven magic: Her spell feel astoundingly like MAGCI: Casting iron fillings to create a raven messenger that explodes if intercepted…yeah, that feels like it could happen in one of the classic tales. Pity we only get one spell from her pen! Caroline, if you’re reading this: Write more!

 

Veteran Brian Wiborg Mønster takes us to meet the dread Puppetmother of the Old Margreve, providing a legend complete with compelling adventure hooks and two puppet-related spells – creepy in all the right ways!

 

We get a full-blown adventure penned by James Thomas next, the “Voyage of the Naughty Lass” – and this being an adventure, we have a couple of SPOILERS here – potential players should jump ahead.

..

.

All righty, only GMs around? Great! The Naughty Lass is basically a steam-boat, powered by a fire elemental – one with a kobold crew! While the PCs are travelling by ship, they meet the crew of the Naughty Lass and help them fend off a giant squid attack. You see, the vessel is actually a submarine and the captain invites the PCs on a cool underwater exploration. One hull-breach from aforementioned squid attack later maroons the PCs at the bottom of the sea, where they will have to brave giant anglers and sea anemones to repair the vessel The captain is looking for the legendary dodecahedron artifact, which lies ostensibly in a nearby sunken city that the PCs get to explore. The sunken temple provides cool ankeshelian treasure and is lavishly-mapped in a phenomenal full-color map – while no player-friendly version is included, the map is absolutely stunning. All in all, a nice, well-made sidetrek, though I do wish it made more use of the 3-dimensional combat possibilities of underwater adventuring.

 

/SPOILERS END.

 

From the pen of Marc Radle, we are introduced to Va’zesh, the swaying death, a lamia commoner/serpent blade and his consort. The article also contains two feats – a bland Intimidate enhancer and a feat to speak with snakes – that lacks the italicization of the spell referenced.

 

While Richard Green’s amazing city of Parsantium is not officially located in Midgard, it makes for a surprisingly organic fit in my opinion – and even when not using the city, the fluff-only write-up of members of the Fireball Club (think: Fantastic Hellfire Club) make for nice reading experiences.

 

Henry Wong provides the Hellfire Militant, a battle scion archetype that comes with cool, extensive background notes. The archetype adds spells with the hellfire descriptor from the paladin or antipaladin list to his list of spells known. Hellfire, as depicted here, is btw. composed of half acid, half fire damage, which keeps the hellfire blast properly in check. The dweomer-tempered weapons are replaced with a custom list and at 2nd level, the character learns to make special items from hellfire -defensive mantles, shielding gauntlets, touch attack enhancers – I really like these. However, at the same time, there are a couple of issues in the rules-language: There is e.g. an instances where a retributive strike can be enhanced by expending a swift action – that should be immediate. Or is the action taken and damage caused on the next round? No idea. A chain lacks damage types in its base language…you get it. An inspiring, flavorful archetype with some rough edges.

 

Mike Welham also nets us the CR 7 Blight Drake, CR 8 Festering Drake and CR 11 Iron Drake and the CR 10 Pale Drake – these monsters have in common that they have cool signature abilities and flavorful descriptions – big plus for them!

 

Sarah Counts provides the mousefolk called Natoosi, Midgardian variant ratfolk – solid. Her twisted pair, illustrated by James Austin, is something that made me grin – with a unique vulnerability, its dirges and the ability to exude swarms, this is an amazing critter that made me smile from ear to ear!

 

Caroline Trotter proves that she can write in a nice, compelling legend on the possible origin of blood roses – a compelling, flavorful read that you can easily use for your own myth-weaving.

 

Mark Hoover’s sidetrek Grave Duty is up next – and it has not only has an amazing map by Alex Moore, it also has an interesting premise: The PCs stand vigil over the corpse of a deceased priest, but things are seldom as they seem and while there are undead, the true culprits and dangers here are interesting indeed – two items, a unique hazard and a rather…ahem…precarious situation assuredly make for an amazing way to kick off a new campaign. Well worth running!

 

Wojciech Gruchala is up next and provides a Bear Totem Warrior that focuses on bear shapes. A feat for undead barbarians and non-rage totem-powers are interesting. Weird totems, from aberrant ones to ghoulish and shadow stranger, make for intriguing options – particularly the healing-hampering ghoulish totem can be rather deadly. The aforementioned archetype is btw. pretty extensive and offers quite a few interesting options for players – including swarm totems! At ¾ BAB-progression, ½ Fort-and Will-save progression as well as 7/10spellcasting progression, d10 HD and 4 + Int skills, the berzerkir provides a PrC for healing ragers with a bit of a shamanistic bent. All in all interesting, if odd regarding the choice of name.

 

Jonathan Trotter provides the first of Midgard Legends – Havoc’s Tavern comes with the full CR 12 stats of Temerith the Shadow. Yngvid, the scaled witch by Jarrod Camire makes for a solid low-level character as well. Really cool: Curse of the Witchkeep from the phenomenal Midgard Tales book is vastly expanded: All 69 inhabitants are depicted by Morgan Boehringer, making Loshtadt a proper and cool backdrop – massive kudos here, and yes, this includes a map. One of my favorite articles herein.

 

Andrew Christian provides magic of the ice – with a new bloodline, a wild-blooded variant and an oracle mystery. These are generally nice, though I did notice a missed italicization, an instance of untyped damage that should be piercing damage – you get the idea. Not bad, bt not that impressive either.

 

Brian Suskind provides another expansion for the fantastic Midgard Tales-book – a fully depicted mercenary company, including stats for the leader – big plus and cool expansion here!!

 

Next, we’ll take a trip to the Keramos Isles –where strange plants can be used for poisons and as substitutes for mundane items, and where the volcanic, verdant jungles house the secrets of alchemical ceramics (new material) and a new trait and feat – the latter lets you stick alchemical substances between layers of ceramic plate, for example – really cool and evocative article by Chad Middleton and definitely a high note to end the pdf on.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good; while I noticed a couple of glitches on a formal and rules-language-level, the pdf as a whole is well-made. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column b/w-standard with a blending of stock and original art that creates a unique atmosphere. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and cartography is mostly amazing, though I wished we got key-less player-friendly versions of the glorious maps.

 

Morgan Boehringer, Jarrod Camiré, Andrew Christian, Sarah Counts, Richard Green, Wojciech Gruchala, Mark Hoover, Chad Middleton, Brian Wiborg Mønster, Marc radle, Brian Suskind, Curtis Taylor, Caroline Trotter, James Thomas, Margherita Tramontano, Caroline Trotter, Mike Welham and Henry Wong have created a great fanzine here – the artists James Austin, russ Bellon, Morgan Boehringer, Pete Fairfax, Alex Moore, Jayaraj Paul, Marc Radle, Frank Turfler Jr. and Caroline Trotter also deserve praise here – Yggdrasil feels, as a whole, like an organic extension of the amazing Midgard campaign setting: Slightly darker than Golarion, slightly more medieval and more in tune with Sword & Sorcery and classic fairy tale tropes, this e-zine is most definitely worth getting: While I wished James Thomas module was longer, I had fun with it: As a tip: Add Alluria Publishing’s Cerulean Seas-rules for extra fun! Similarly, the Midgard Tales-expansions were amazing and enhance their modules. Grave Duty makes for a great kickstart of a campaign; the monsters and NPCs are compelling and even the spells, of which I have seen a metric ton, do come with some really nice visuals. Now this is not perfect – it does have a couple of rough patches in the rules here and there…but frankly, this is FREE. And it oozes passion in all the right ways. This is well worth getting right now if you even remotely enjoy Kobold Press’ amazing setting. As a FREE passion-project, this is amazing and worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool, FREE fanzine here on paizo.com!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Sep 202017
 

5E Mini-Dungeon: With a Candlestick (5e)

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

 

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

 

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

..

.

Still here?

All right!

 

And now for something completely different! Lord and Lady Scarlet are wealthy, well-connected and even pretty popular – the nobles have established a national embassy. When the PCs arrive, however, they come at a rather bad time. Mere minutes before, lord Scarlet was found murdered. There are a couple of guests here…and we have a powerful mastermind, doppelgangers and intrigue…as well as a gorgeously mapped massive mansion. Any GM halfway worth his/her salt can further complicate the scenario with a variety of NPCs, making this an amazing set-up…but if the PCs don’t take care, that’ll end up bad for them…very bad. Speaking of NPCs – we get full stats for the Verdant knight, who happens to be a guest here, as well – and clashing blades with him is a distinct possibility!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and really nice, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

 

Michael McCarthy delivers a nice mini-murder-mystery; the map if great, the details surprisingly pronounced for the length, the whole set-up surprisingly well done, considering the limitations of the wordcount. This deserves respect and is really neat. If you’re willing to add a bit of detail, consider this 5 stars; if you want go-play, 4 instead. My official verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to the nice bonus stats of the knight – kudos to whoever did the conversion: Well done!

 

 

You can get this cool mini-dungeon here on OBS!

 

AAW Games is currently KSing a fully funded compilation of Mini-Dungeons – you can find the kickstarter here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Sep 202017
 

5E Mini-Dungeon: The Palace of Ahmad Sahir (5e)

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

 

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

 

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

..

.

Still here?

All right!

 

Ahmad Sahir was once a great wizard, devotee of the three goddesses of divination and oases, goddesses whom he rescued from a scrupulous sultan – and as such, the fantastic map depicts the palace of this man at the palm-covered shore of such an oasis. Cursed by the sultan, madness has consumed poor Sahir and now, he has himself enslaved the minor deities, using the blood of his servants as a means to bind them to his bidding.

 

Ultimately, the PCs will have to explore his exotic compound and deal with the maddened mage, braving guards mundane and magical, ranging from elementals to infernal threats. Amazing: We get full boss stats for Ahmad, who comes with unique tricks – kudos!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and absolutely glorious, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

 

Michael Holland provides a story from 1001 nights; a high-concept fantasy, a unique environment – in short, a great little mini-dungeon. The map is amazing and evocative and the bonus boss stats (whoever did the conversion: Good job!) elevate this mini-dungeon to the level I love to see from the series, namely the one where I don’t have to complain. 5 stars + seal of approval!

 

You can get this cool mini-dungeon here on OBS!

 

AAW Games has also just started a KS to compile these into a massive tome – you can check out the KS here!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Sep 192017
 

Dispatches from the Raven Crowking IV – Megadungeons and Campaigns (DCC/almost system neutral)

The fourth of Daniel J. Bishop‘s Dispatches on the nature of gaming, structures etc. clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 46 pages of content. These pages are laid out for digest-size (A5 or 6’’ by 9’’) and thus, you can fit up to 4 of them on a given sheet of paper if your eye-sight’s good enough and you need to conserve ink/toner.

 

We begin this installment with a historic recap of the concept of a mega-dungeon – in both the context of Appendix N, literature and, well, gaming – similarly, we take a look at the development of so-called balance of encounters and it is here that the growth of the series is readily apparent. Instead of antagonistic opinions, we receive a well-reasoned recap of the development of monster/encounter-balance over the course of various editions – and the sentiment expressed, namely that encounters do not need to be level-appropriate, is one that I wholeheartedly subscribe to. While I am an enemy of set-ups that just screw players over, I similarly am a big enemy of designing worlds all around the PCs and ensuring that they will always have an “appropriate” challenge. As the pdf aptly surmises, this takes away from the organic nature of the world and also eliminates player agenda – when all challenges are strictly level-appropriate, player decisions to play risky or more cautious matter less.

 

Now, beyond this base-line, we take a look at the core subject-matter of the mega-dungeon – the pdf does provide several intriguing pieces of advice for the discerning judge/Gm/writer – whether it’s how to e.g. draw from mythology/myth-based settings or by looking at descriptive elements from the 1st edition DM Guide, we are shown on how to use a couple of words to inspire: We go one by one through the list, brainstorming ideas based on it. This is simple, yes, but it is an exercise well worth engaging in. From here on out, we take a look at some neat tricks to make monsters unique: We categorize them by type of beast and then look at e.g. what happens when you anagram-scramble the names, potentially drawing inspiration right then and there…and you make the monster feel unique! (Hint for those of you who read my own writing: I use that technique as well. One of my published characters is e.g. an anagram for Isaac Asimov…)

 

Similarly, treasure should be worthwhile – not just a +5 sword of killing stuff – the treasure to be found in a massive dungeon should engender greed, paranoia…you get the idea. Treasures are categorized similarly to monsters. The pdf then proceeds to guide you through brainstorming: From the power of names to sketches of critters and how they potentially interact/make sense, the brainstorming general section is fun and directly leads into pattern mapping, which is VERY important. We have an intrinsic idea of what looks “right” and many “makes no sense”-moments in published modules could have been avoided by properly structured planning. Furthermore, the book teaches to envision first how areas interact, rather than their direct proximity – since ultimately, the dungeon’s structure is beholden to the needs of storytelling, this makes sense and yet again makes for an excellent piece of advice.

 

Having done the basic sketches, we use the previously generated list and then note, by respective region, where they’ll fit in: This generates the details and, wholly organically, can generate the whole dynamics of a given dungeon. The shrine the goblins worship is in the vampire lord’s territory? Okay, are they allied? In a master/slave relationship? Is coercion involved? This establishes the general structure of the dungeon, and from here on out, once we have established a general vision, we move to the specific and can marvel at Daniel J. Bishop’s seasoned pen elaborating on the themes and topics previously established, adding the evocative flourishes to the great base-lines – suddenly, Esbastus becomes a gynosphinx; there is a vampire survivor of an age long past. A woman of Jade. Monster hunter Owlgrin. This dressing-series alone may be worth getting this, even if you’re not per se interesting in the design/writing-advice provided.

 

In case you’re interested: Both otyughs and their evolved brethren receive full and proper DCC-stats herein…and yes, the final chapter is where the book transitions from excellent advice for any game to the material directly applying to the DCC-rules: The considerations, colored by the aesthetics, do mention some excellent resources beyond the confines of the rules-set, both regarding literature and gaming material. In short – this section ends the dispatches on the same high note it began.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I noticed no hiccups. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games’ nice 1-column standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf sports quite a few nice full-color pieces. While fans of PDG may be familiar with some, I don’t have reasons to complain here. The pdf does provide a nice map and sketch to illustrate the process. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Daniel J. Bishop’s Dispatches series has been excellent from the get-go: The advice provided goes into more detail and depth than that provided by many comparable supplements. While the author and I sometimes deviate greatly regarding our opinions, I have yet to encounter one of these books that hasn’t provided some sort of trick, idea or knowledge – these are great advice-books, even for veterans. Much to my pleasant surprise, this installment provides a well-balanced look at the subject matters sans needing to rely on the subjectivity clause, which is still here, though – just in case. This supplement provides some very smart pieces of advice regarding the daunting task of structuring big pieces of in-game landscape – whether mega-dungeons, wildernesses or settlements. It is my contention that the advice herein can help you design all of them and more. This is, in short, an inspired little advice booklet, well worth the extremely fair asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. If you struggle with “big design” in games or think you’d like to learn some tricks of the trade – this delivers.

 

You can get this cool advice-book for GMs and writers here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Purple Duck games making cool DCC-content here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Sep 192017
 

Everyman Minis: Spells of Comedy

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

As always, we begin with a bit of supplemental material after the introduction, which, this time around, would be the Tricky Spell metamagic feat, which increases the spell level in question by two: In short, the feat lets you make a dirty trick attempt against ALL targets of the spell in question, substituting caster level for BAB and governing spellcasting attribute for Strength. Feats that enhance dirty tricks apply here as well, but only creatures you either hit or that have failed their saving throw are affected. All creatures targeted by one spell share the same dirty trick effect. I like this feat, though personally, I’d value the flexibility Dirty trick offers higher, at +3 spell levels, considering the less flexible metamagic feats that occupy a precious feat slot and add similar debuffs.

 

All righty, so what do the spells do? At 1st level, banana slippers enchants fruit peels to wrap around the target’s feet, making the area more slippery. Movement may render the target prone, though slowed movement and Acrobatics d help a bit. There is a 2nd/3rd-level mass-version included. The second level spell (3rd for the psychic/witch) gibber imposes a penalty to Charisma-based skill checks and Charisma checks as well as a 20% spellcasting failure chance for spells or abilities with verbal components. This “wastes the target’s action and any uses of the ability” – I assume this means that the action used for the ability/spell and that the spell in question is expended when failing thus. The wording here, while solid, made me twitch a bit. There is a mass-version at one spell-level higher. Dutiful doorkeeper is a level 1 spell that enchants a door, box, etc. – any attempt t open it is thwarted, with the hand attacking (using CL + governing spellcasting attribute) and inflicting CL times 1d6 force damage (max 5d6). Weird: The hand can attack at range, but has no maximum range. At 1 hour per level, it is a VERY potent option for low level casters: Enchant a box/door and wait – lots of force damage there. While the spell has a passphrase, I think it should have a range for its attacks and since its strikes creatures adjacent to the opener, it can be weaponized weirdly and also imho should have a means to Disable Device it. Not the biggest fan here.

 

Illusory trio generates basically a figment of three stooges-like comedians that hamper Perception of those nearby and opposed skill checks as well as concentration of nearby casters. Pie projectile is a level 1 ranged dirty trick, again, using the CL and governing spellcasting attribute substitution, but may only generate the blinded condition. Odd: The rules-language, while not that different from other dirty trick-based options, reads a bit wonky in one sentence: “Attempt a combat maneuver check to make a dirty trick attempt against the target…” – cosmetic, sure, but it sticks out when compared to the other spells. Finally, the third level spell (4th for sorc/wiz) production of endless pies generates up to CL pies, which are held as a charge and may be thrown as an attack or full-attack action, with new pie-creation being a free action. The reference to the previous spell is not italicized properly, but the interaction with haste works. Fyi: No flurrying etc. with the spell.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed nothing too jarring. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s nice two-column standard with a white background. The full-color artwork included is neat. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Luis Loza’s spells of comedy are pretty complex for the concepts they attempt and manage to get the required rules-language mostly right. That being said, the focus lies clearly on dirty trick-spells – the pdf focuses pretty strongly on this one rules-concept and does so pretty well, but this also makes the pdf a bit more limited than I’d have liked it to be. The production of endless pies engine of rules-language is pretty impressive, though, and can easily be scavenged and adapted, making that one of my favorites herein. This pdf is not necessarily a must-have, but it is a fun, humble and nice little offering – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

 

You can get these interesting spells here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Sep 192017
 

The Genius Guide to Homophone Spells

This Genius Guide clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Okay, after a brief and humorous introduction, we move right on to the spells in question – which btw. do take the occult classes, ACG classes etc. into account regarding their availability. The first of these would be Ade, which generates a refreshing beverage that quenches thirst for a day and prevents needing to succeed Constitution checks to avoid nonlethal damage from thirst. At 1st level, that trivializes travel hazards a bit early…and as an aside, personally, I become more thirsty when drinking ade – whether it’s Power- or Gator-ade…perhaps I’m just not used to the chemicals and the sugar/sugar-substitutes… Brake enchantment refers to itself, erroneously, as “break enchantment” in its text and makes stopping vehicles easier. Fey’s door opens a gateway to the First World. Flair makes the clothes of the target look more fancy, potentially allowing a Charisma-based ability- or skill-reroll. Gait is pretty potent for 3rd level, allowing each affected target to either increase its speed (I assume just one…or all?), ignore all types of difficult terrain (OUCH), +4 untyped bonus to Acrobatics or standing up from prone sans AoO. Not a fan.

 

Heel forces an affected animal to follow you and comes with a mass version. Make hole generates a hole under the target’s feet and allows you to make a dirty trick with CL and spellcasting attribute. Meatier swarm is a slightly improved summon swarm. Miner creation creates a digging automaton – oddly, the automaton has no stats, can’t be destroyed and can’t affect structures. No direction scrambles the sense of direction of the target. Plain shift is a cantrip that nets +1 untyped bonus on Fortitude saves versus cold or warm weather. Reed magic is cool: Quickly and magically woven, it makes the terrain over which the reed mat is put less slippery and also use it to trip targets. Sole bind renders immune to caltrops for its duration. Thyme stop eliminates all taste and seasoning from nearby food, making those that eat the fare more prone to being affected by some negative effects.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good. I noticed no undue accumulation of bad glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color standard. The sketches by industry-legend Stan! Are neat and actually my favorite part of the supplement. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Jason Keeley’s homophone spells are pretty funny, or at least quite a few are. While I’m not a big fan of all the untyped bonuses and while I don’t consider all balancing decisions to be that great, this does represent a nice little supplement. System-immanently, the pdf has less use for you if you don’t play the game in English – homophone jokes usually don’t translate that well (see, most famously, Rammstein’s “Du hast”). When you take the joke component away, you’re left with a decent, if not mind-boggling collection of spells that sports some neat ideas. As a whole, this struck me as a solid, if somewhat unremarkable offering, mainly interesting if you enjoy the novelty-aspect of this supplement. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars – and honestly, to me, they’re closer to 3, which is why I’ll round down.

 

You can get these spells here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Sep 182017
 

Psionics Augmented: Occultists

This installment of the occult branch of Psionics Augmented clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

As always, we begin with a brief introduction to the matter at hand, including how to handle campaigns that feature both psionics and psychic magic – and, as a personal aside, designer Forrest heck’s observations regarding the occultist range true with me as well. When I read Occult Adventures back in the day for the first time, I wasn’t immediately smitten by the class – it took a more careful analysis to really appreciate it and by now, I am very fond of it. But I digress.

 

We begin this pdf with two different archetypes for the occultist class, the first of which would be the govi. Instead of aura sight, these fellows gain a bonus on skill-checks to see through disguises and detect mental control effects equal to ½ their class level. Additionally, possessed and shapeshifted targets within sight of the Govi must succeed a Will-save to prevent the govi from realizing that they are shapeshifters/possessed, respectively. And yes, once successful, the creature is safe for 24 hours – and they’d better be, considering that, thankfully, the DC scales with class levels. Starting at 8th level, the govi gains the signature ability that replaces magic circles, namely sealing techniques. As a full-round action that costs 3 points of mental focus, the govi can exorcise incorporeal undead, possessing creatures, those made by metacreativity, etc. within 30 ft. The target must succeed a Will-save. Cool: Creatures that have not been softened up by damage gain a bonus to the save against this form of being whisked away…into the implement! You see, the govi catches these critters in an implement (an implement can only hold one entity) and they may then proceed to expend mental focus 1/day to force a creature thus caught to reply truthfully. The trap is not perfect, though: The creature retains concisely codified, very limited awareness and keeps healing – upon reaching maximum hit points, it can attempt to break free once every day. Absolutely amazing, cool idea and execution here! At 12th level, the govi gains true seeing (not properly italicized) when carrying an implement with a caught creature inside, replacing binding circles. 16th level allows the govi to spend an additional point of mental focus to attempt a sealing technique as an immediate action instead. Before you’re asking: The govi retains outside contact, but must cast magic circle to use it – good catch!

 

The second archetype herein would be the shattered mind, who replaces Knowledge (planes) with Knowledge (psionics). The archetype gains access to psionic powers and power points, beginning with a base of 1, upgrading that to up to 128 power points at 20th level. The maximum power level known increases up to 6th level. The governing attribute would be Intelligence and the power list employed would be that of the psion/wilder. Instead of knacks, these fellows get talents and as they employ psionic powers instead of spells, they get access to some alternate focus powers: The Conjure implement is replaced with Create False Implement, which lets you expend 1 point of mental focus to generate a duplicate of a psicrystal implement, which may diverge from the original, but allows you to use the powers stored in that implement; it may, however, not be used to store mental focus or use effects that require it. Secondly, psychic fog is replaced with psionic fog as an alternative. As a standard action, you may expend 1 point of mental focus to generate a cloud of fog, duplicating fog cloud (not italicized) and may not be blown away. At higher levels, the occultist in question may expend more mental focus, duplicating solid fog (again, not italicized), but at a reduced duration. Sacred implements and the penalties they impose on opposed schools instead apply to the manifester level of powers of that school’s equivalent disciplines. This represents an interesting change, as far as I’m concerned, and a relatively subtle balancing trick. Now, I did mention psicrystal implements in the alternate focus powers – unlike normal occultists, shattered minds infuse their implements with a piece of psionic power and a fragment of their mind, beginning play with Psicrystal Affinity (reproduced for your convenience!) as a bonus feat. 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter provde an additional implement school. The implements then are treated as psicrystals, gaining the personality and abilities as normal, but preventing the acquisition of a regular psicrystal. Improved Psicrystal and other feats that alter psicrystal only apply to one of the implements, but she may take these feats multiple times, each time applying them to a new psicrystal implement. Class features interacting with psicrystals only affect a single psicrystal implement of the character’s choice. Shared and hel powers are only held by a single psicrystal implement and they are not shared among the collective of psicrystal implements. Upon creating a psicrystal implement, the shattered mind learns a single power from that school’s equivalent psionic discipline (see the handy table provided) – big kudos: The rules-language takes powers with different levels into account and gets the complex rules ramifications there right. If a given school has multiple equivalents, the archetype must choose one. Powers manifested with implements are treated as being manifested with their minimum manifester level (great cheese-avoidance there!) The base focus powers are granted, as usual.

 

Okay, that is a massive codification, and an impressive one. 8th level provides scatterbrained: The fragmentation process takes its toll, imposing a -2 penalty to Diplomacy, Intimidate and Perform checks, but also a +1 bonus to saves against effects that detect surface thoughts. The psicrystal implements can use her Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma scores instead of their own and share bonuses granted to the shattered mind by feats, abilities, etc. Starting at 12th level, the shattered mind can expend her psionic focus as a full-round action to assume control over a target carrying a psicrystal implement. This does not require line of sight, but still has a maximum range, allowing for absolutely amazing set ups, particularly since the effects grow more potent the more psicrystal implements the target wears – 4 steps are provided. Damn cool.

 

16th level provides channel power, even when not within reach and as a capstone, the shattered mind, if killed, is not truly vanquished unless all implements are destroyed, allowing the shattered mind to potentially destroy the mind of unfortunates that find her implements…pretty amazing. I adore the complexity of this archetype and its amazing theme – but there is one RAW problem that can utterly break the balance of the archetype: Psicrystal Containment, aka having the psicrystal carry a spare psionic focus. Since the psicrystal implements allow the archetype to take this feat multiple times, you can amass more psionic focuses than with any other option…and, as any fan of psionics can attest, the psionic focus remains one of the most potent resources. Even a single additional focus is potent. Multiple ones? OUCH. I strongly, strongly suggest for all groups that have a lower power level to expressively prevent this combination – it is OP for all but the most high-powered games and sports a ridiculous combo potential. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Other than this (which will hopefully be nerfed/remedied), I loved this archetype to bits, though! I also was positively surprised to see some nice roleplaying advice for the psicrystal implements – kudos!

 

Beyond these, we also are introduced to the cryptographer psion archetype, who, instead of the regular discipline abilities gained, instead receives a single implement school of his choice, treating his psion level as occultist levels, though the implement school must correspond to the associated discipline, as featured in the table mentioned. Additionally, the respective psionic implement schools may be chosen, but more on that later. The cryptographer only gains one implement as well as ½ class level + Intelligence modifier, minimum 1, mental focus for use with the implement. 1st level provides the base focus powers, while 2nd level and every 6 levels thereafter provide a focus power from the chosen implement school, using, unless otherwise noted, Intelligence as the governing attribute. As the shattered mind, the cryptographer receives the modified focus powers covered before, if choosing them.

 

Now, I already mentioned this, so yes, this pdf contains a total of 7 implement schools, each of which corresponds to a psionic discipline; characters with the psionic subtype qualify for this, but when they cast psychic spells instead of manifesting powers, they learn spells from the associated magic school instead.

 

The 7th path, athanatism, balance-wise problematic for inflicting positive energy damage versus living targets (who have basically no means to resist it), provides a resonant power that provides negative or positive energy resistance. The basic focus power provides a scaling touch attack that deals 1d8, +1d8 points of damage per 2 class levels while psionically focused. These are the combination of negative and positive energy and can’t be resisted by either. *sigh* I can literally rattle off limited-use abilities that inflict damage that can be resisted. Won’t get near my game. The focus powers include a sickening aura and a pretty cool option that nets you better defense versus incorporeal attacks and lets you lock attackers in semi-corporeal form. Binding a corpse to your shadow is pretty cool and inverting healing effects nearby is damn cool. There is also a spectral projection option and a touch-based save or suck that renders a target BOTH confused and unconscious – it make wake up, though and the ability has a save, so yeah.

 

Clairsentience provides an initiative boost as a resonant power and a really cool base focus power: As a swift action, you can select a number of squares equal to the mental focus remaining in the implement (with a maximum that increases over the levels) and ignore difficult terrain in them. You may even treat them as though they were not occupied by other creatures and don’t provoke AoOs when moving into or from a selected square, though you may not end movement in such a square and need to be psionically focused to do so. The focus powers include protection from being scried, duplicating remote viewing and combo it with a psychic spell, daze targets, reroll d20s, agin uncanny dodge, etc. – pretty cool.

 

Metacreativity nets you a scaling AC bonus as a resonant power and an astral guardian as a base focus power – a 1st-level astral construct, which scales in potency with class levels and is limited by mental focus invested. Here’s the thing: You have to expend the psionic focus to call it and can’t regain it while the guardian remains. Big kudos: No servitor-combo-cheese and the ability gets the decreasing mental focus and thus, guardian power after expenditure done right! I already mentioned the false implement, and the other focus powers include ectoplasmic creation, entangling globs of ectoplasm, crowd-control via ectoplasmic pillars and blasts of properly typed and codified shrapnel.

 

Psychokinesis provides active energy resistance to wearers/holders of the implement and the base focus power lets you expend your psionic focus as a standard action to fire a scaling array of elemental missiles (1 +1 for every two occultist levels, up to 10 and equal to the amount of mental focus remaining) that hit on a ranged touch attack, inflicting damage based on your active energy type. Ouch. Even though the number of missiles will decrease, these are ranged touch attacks, each of which inflicts 1d8 + Intelligence modifier damage of the active energy type. 60 ft. range, sure, but as a standard action that is based on an infinite resource. That outclasses several comparable limited resource psionic powers and spells. No. Just no. This imho needs mental focus expenditure. The focus powers includes columns of energy (which, while dealing small AoE-damage, do cost mental focus), increased movement rate, untyped touch (why untyped?) that can propel targets backwards, shape psychokinesis effects to exclude squares via mental focus expenditure (cool!) or control objects (not italicized).

 

Psychometabolism nets temporary hit points in a persistent pool that are carried on from wielder to wielder; these may be replenished via healing, which is pretty neat. The base focus power nets you one or more alternate forms (as disguise self – spell-reference not italicized) and the focus powers include bonuses to Str- and Dex-based checks, bite of the wolf or claws of the beast, DR, metamorphosis, a touch for a touch that can render the target helpless and prone for 1 round on a failed save or alter the appearance of a creature. Psychoportation’s resonant power nets an increasing, minor miss chance that does not stack with concealment. The base focus power is cool – it lets you penalize your own movement speed to make an ally faster – AMAZING! The focus powers include a potent 11th level trick (at 3 mental focus, it’d better be!) to warp space to make all allies within 100 ft., for one round, be treated as though they were in your space – and yes, this gets the interaction with line of sight right. Potent and cool! Swapping places with an ally is nice. I’m not a big fan of untyped damage via a touch, but the mental focus cost at least keeps it limited. Short-range teleport, time hop (not italicized) are okay…but I love twisted path. On a failure, it forces the target to only move diagonally! That’s creative!

 

Telepathy’s resonant power fortifies against mental intrusion and divulging thoughts/mind reading. The base focus power lets you bond with allies, shifting perceptions to their PoV while psionically focused, with more senses shared at higher levels – cool! The focus powers include boosts to social skills and the ability to implant suggestions. Also cool: An ally bonded to you can be granted an attack by you if you expend 1 point of mental focus. Yes, this does provoke AoOs and, being based on mental focus expenditure, does not invite cheesing. Stopping a creature’s move on a failed save is cool, but the ability fails to specify a range – RAW, it doesn’t even require line of sight or effect. Another power lets you infiltrate the senses of targets hit by your bonded allies, which is cool. Another one lets allies use your senses or establishes a telepathic network between the bonded characters – very cool!

 

There also are two feats: Soulbound Implements requires enhanced mind blade and one occultist level and lets you stack them for the purpose of the enhancement bonus of the enhanced mind blade. Additionally, you can channel your mind blade with the implements on your person, reducing its enhancement bonus by +1 to tie it to the implement school in question. 1/round when hitting an opponent, you may use a focus power usually activated as a standard action as a free action for +1 mental focus cost and the mind blade may be reduced to +0 sans having to reshape it. Interesting! The second feat, Absolute Focus, alas, is broken. I mean BROKEN. Choose one focus power you know. Expend the psionic focus to reduce the mental focus costs of the power by 1 to a minimum of 0. Say hello to infinite healing via Flesh Mend! Say goodbye to all diseases and epidemics via purge corruption. Single occultist with this talent can end them. Blergh, this needs to die or be at least nerfed to minimum 1.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are on the one hand very good – on the other, there are plenty of missed italicizations. On a rules-language level, we have, for the most part, the level of excellent precision we expect from Dreamscarred Press. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the artworks within are full-color stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version.

 

Forrest Heck, with additional design by Kevin Ryan, Adam Boucher and Doug Haworth, delivers a truly impressive pdf; rules-language and design-difficulty-wise, this is one magnificent beast of a pdf. I found myself smiling from ear to ear, time and again, and I really enjoyed many of the options herein. The Containment-focus cheese needs addressing, though if you and your group can agree on not gaming the shattered mind, it otherwise is one amazing monster. The implement schools presented were mostly amazing, though their internal balance is a bit weird. Athanatism’s base touch is too good for an unlimited attack that bypasses everything. Similarly, the use of untyped damage without a clear need strikes me as unnecessary. As written, both athantism and psychokinesis are stronger than the others, to the point where I wouldn’t allow them in most of my games…which is somewhat jarring, considering how well-balanced most of the material herein is. Oh, and Absolute Focus needs to die. It’s a delimiter of the worst sort.

 

How to rate this, then? I’m really torn. The formatting was a bit worse than what we usually get from DSP. Still better than many comparable files, though. What’s more difficult for me is that I’d love to unanimously recommend the pdf, but the somewhat schizophrenic dual focus makes it harder than I’d like it to be. For the most part, I’d allow this pdf in my games. Barring aforementioned complaints, there is a lot of really cool, well-crafted material within this pdf. At the same time, I do have some serious concerns regarding the power of quite a few options. Have I mentioned that the feat needs to die? …if you don’t mind infinite healing exploits and/or have subscribed to the high-powered Path of War-style gameplay, then you’ll probably love these aspects…but at the same time, you may consider some of the options too well-balanced with regular gameplay. On the other hand, if you enjoy a more conservative power-level when gaming, then you’ll need to be aware and wary of the flexible elemental artillery, etc. In both instances, I’d strongly advise a thorough close reading before implementing (haha!) the content herein.

 

In the end, I enjoy, yes, even love a lot here, and I hope the aforementioned rough patches will receive re-evaluation. Without these blemishes, the pdf would have been 5 stars + seal. With them in place, however, I cannot go higher than 3.5 stars…though I’ll round up, as this does not deserve being relegated to the 3-star arena; the vast majority of the content, after all, is pretty damn cool.

 

You can get this cool pdf here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Dreamscarred Press here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Sep 182017
 

5E Mini-Dungeon: Last Stand of the Forgotten Pirate (5e)

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

 

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

 

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

..

.

Still here?

All right!

 

The PCs are asked by an druid to check up on a former orc pirate, old Gnarltooth, who has been pretty evasive about some obligations, consumed by his obsession with “The Beast”, an awakened elasmosaurus, which is lurking nearby, as he has had the beast magically bound. The pdf depicts his little island home – the orc is obviously afraid to face-down the creature. The mundane nature of the orc’s life is depicted and provides quite a few options to engage in meaningful roleplaying…but ultimately, the PCs will have to enforce, finally, a confrontation…but they’ll need to help…or the battle will be rather short…

 

Wait, we don’t have elasmosaurus stats in 5E? Well, now we do! The pdf contains the stats for the critter!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and really nice, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

 

Michael McCarthy’s little character study/variant of the Moby Dick trope is a compelling, fun sidetrek that can provide some interesting questions to ponder, an intriguing ally to potentially recruit. In short: This is well worth the fair asking price and also presents a nice, idyllic potential home for the PCs…at least for a while. The 5E-version (not sure who did the conversion) loses nothing of the original module’s appeal, adding the critter stats as a cool bonus…and that should be rewarded: The module is worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

 

You can get this cool mini-dungeon here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Sep 182017
 

5E Mini-Dungeon: The Siren’s Lament (5e)

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM. Big plus: This mini-dungeon comes with a key-less .tif player map as well as a high-res GM map for VTT-use – kudos!

 

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

 

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

..

.

Still here?

All right!

 

Sirens rarely find true love and when they do, it rarely ends well; such was the case here. The lover of the siren was a wealthy captain, drowned by the wrath of the Sea King, the siren’s father…which broke the siren’s heart and drove her to suicide – this complex with its winding passages would be his monument to his rage and remorse. Within this complex remain the remnants of the once proud ship of the captain, guarded by haunts, animated galleon figures. From ghostly tunes to the storms unleashed and a memory child, the PCs can actually find out about this tragedy in both direct and indirect storytelling…but upon witnessing the finale, the complex will flood…with a giant shark…so good luck to the players.

 

In 5E, the new creature called Phantom Foundling makes for an eerie enhancer to the content – neat, though I think its attack value is off by 1 – at challenge 6, it should be +3 proficiency + 3 Dex-mod for +6, not +5.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and really nice, and the inclusion of a key-less map and VTT-capable options is a big plus for me.

 

Colin Stricklin delivers big time in this amazing mini-dungeon; the checks make sense, the story is surprisingly strong. The flavor of this dungeon is fantastic and somber, true fantasy and resonates with strong leitmotifs. In short: An amazing mini-dungeon that has been converted rather well to 5e (not sure by whom) – worthy of 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool conversion here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

Sep 152017
 

In the Company of Aberrations

This installment of Rite Publishing’s „In the Company of…“-series of playable monsters clocks in at 55 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a MASSIVE 51 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

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

 

We begin with a letter, framing the narrative that suffuses the pdf in the tradition of Rite Publishing supplements; the letter is one of resignation this time around, speaking of the horrors that were encountered, and indeed, the formula of the in-character description of the race that makes this series such a joy to read, has been modified here, as aberrations are a significantly less unified topic than previous races covered.

 

Instead, the content is framed as a report by the Voice of the Vigilant – who has basically possessed one of the unfortunates that encountered the aberrant threats, saving the company that encountered these creatures. This whole, strange channeling is a genius way of maintaining the enjoyable reading experience and blending it with a creeping sense of unease that fits the topic perfectly.

 

Anyway, since aberrations cover a wide field of different creatures, the report begins by roughly categorizing aberrant threats as cosmic interlopers (including noting the flumphs!), hadopelagic ancients, perversions of nature, reality-displaced entities and subterranean nightmares are discussed – as are warptouched creatures, making for not only a nice reading experience, but also serving as an interesting basic set-up to contemplate prior to making a character.

 

Now, a big problem for some aberrations would be a non-humanoid physiology – as such, it should come as no surprise that the magic item slot question arises in the context of playable aberrations. This is relevant from a mathematic point of view, considering how item-granted boosts are included in the calculations, particularly at higher levels. The imbued metabolism ability allows such aberrations to swallow magic items to gain their benefits. And yes, the rules-language manages to concisely codify this process and avoids cheesing and still features scaling regarding slot numbers, making the mechanic supremely elegant.

 

Okay, so let’s go through the respective racial traits! Cosmic interlopers get +2 Int and Wis, -2 Dex, a base speed of 5 ft., a fly speed of 30 ft. (clumsy) (5 ft. base speed), darkvision 60 ft., all-around vision, two tentacle secondary natural attacks at 1d4 and interlopers with an Int of 11 or more gain alter winds and whispering wind 1/day as a SP. They also can expend actions to resist vacuum, which is pretty damn cool. While slightly lopsided regarding base ability score modifiers and studded with low-level flight, the bad maneuverability (hovering works sans check, just fyi) maintains balance here and in fact requires some interesting, potentially even hilarious, tactical scenes at the table. There are two alternate traits that provide alternate racial traits: +2 Int and Cha, -2 Str for domination orbs (beholders, minus the closed content IP) – these guys can fire, 1/day, a spell as a ray from their eye. Cool! The stellar ray would similarly cover the classic ixitxachitl (or flumph…) with a proper stinger that deals acid damage as well. And yep, Small size. Instead of air manipulation, you may choose natural armor or sonic resistance (+ save-bonuses versus certain conditions). The all-around vision may be replaced with better Stealth, constant detect magic or a +2 bonus to Spellcraft to identify spells and +1 to atk versus arcane spellcasters. Instead of the vacuum adaptation, you may 1/day choose to roll twice on Bluff/Diplomacy or better tech-use, including decreased glitch probability. Both the vacuum resistant ability and all-around vision can be exchanged for Wild Talent – yep, psionics compatible!

 

Hedopelagic ancients get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Dex, are medium and have a movement rate of 20 ft., swim speed of 30 ft. They are amphibious, have darkvision 60 ft. and +2 natural armor. They get two secondary tentacle attacks and add +1 to the Dc of their illusions and SPs with the pattern and figment descriptors. Those with a Cha of 11+ also gain 1/day hypnotic pattern as a SP. And yes, they are balanced via the slots once again. There are two variants inclided: Deep spawn gain +2 Str and Con, -2 Int, gaining a primary bite and +4 to saves versus poison and diseases as well as a modified slot-list and the ability to make an angler-fish like dancing lights variant. Cool, if lopsided on the physical. The same holds true for reef menaces, who gain +2 Dex and Con, -2 Cha and is Small. They gain +4 to Stealth while underwater and get tangling tentacles as a natural attack, which do not cause damage, but may trip foes. Fully aquatic beings can be made with the Deep One alternate racial trait and you can replace darkvision with deepsight, doubling range for a total of 120 ft., but only underwater. Big kudos: There is a scaling fast healing alternate racial trait that’s reliant on water and that cannot be cheesed – big kudos! Keen underwater scent, an alternative SP, adaptation to water pressure (and cold resistance 5) and an unnatural aura complement this one. This is as good a time as any to voice my utter delight regarding the bonus and natural attack codification here – the rules are exceedingly precise and well-crafted – kudos!

 

Next up are perversions of nature gain +2 Str and Wis, -2 Intelligence, are medium and have a base speed of 20 ft. that is not reduced by armor or encumbrance. They gain the ability to Hold Breath, +2 natural armor, a primary bite, +2 to saves versus diseases, ingested poisons and effects that apply the nauseated and sickened conditions and a +2 bonus to Perception and Appraise to find hidden objects and determine whether food is spoiled. They also always treat Stealth as a class skill. The first of the two variants provided would be the chitined terror, who gains +2 Str and Con, -2 Cha, is amphibious with a 20 ft. swim speed and two claws. Curse-fused yields +2 Con and Cha, -2 Str and gains 30 ft. movement, but s affected by encumbrance and armor. It also gains a climb speed, immunity to magic sleep and a bonus to saves versus enchantments. With Cha of 11+, these folks also gain darkness 1/day as a SP. And yes, these suites are suitably balanced via exchanged traits. The other alternate racial traits net bonuses of defensive casting, a better carapace, carrion sense, better saves versus divine spells, atk and AC-bonuses versus a subtype of humanoid (bred to exterminate them!) and Improved Grapple via tiny grapple-helping appendages, Extend Spell for transmutations 1/day or sewer camouflage complement this section.

 

Reality-displaced entities get +2 Int and Cha, -2 Str, may compress up to ¼ their size sans squeezing penalties, get darkvision 60 ft, +1 to saves versus mind-affecting effects, two secondary tentacles and Dr 5/piercing. Alternate ability-suite-wise, we get the Small body snatcher, who gains 40 ft. movement and two weak claws. Minor example of a formatting hiccup here: The creature is affected by protection from evil as though summoned and the spell-reference is not italicized. The body-snatcher can crawl into corpses of vanquished humanoids that exceed its size, helping it offset its nigh non-existent item slots while wearing this meat-suit, which is btw. concisely codified in the rules – damn cool. The untethered gains +2 STr and Int, -2 Dex and gain two pincers as well as +1 to DCs of possession, magic jar, etc., representing something closer to yithians. The other alternate racial traits encompass burrow speed, lesser telepathy the SP to 1/day detect thoughts, being naturally psionic or immediate action grapple escape attempts. Precognitive flashes and the ability to send itself or another creature into the future or the ability to sense effects that distort time complement, as a whole, a damn cool array of tricks.

 

The subterranean nightmares, per default, gain +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, are Medium with a speed of 20 ft. that’s not modified by armor or encumbrance, darkvision 120 ft., light sensitivity, +3 natural armor, +4 Stealth while underground, stability, a bite attack and roper-like strands – while these inflict Strength damage, it’s only 1 point, has a save to negate and is iconic; moreover, its limits serve to keep it in check even for conservative games. They also get a variant of woodland stride in subterranean regions, but only for natural terrain. The alternate ability-suites include +2 Str and Wis, -2 Int and fly speed 40 ft. (poor), a secondary tail attack and +1 natural armor bonus. Note that the maneuverability and the modified slot-list does help reign in flight, though some campaigns may still consider this to be potent…but then again, you’re basically playing a cloaker-thing! Hungry worms would be the second ability-suite, +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Intelligence, base speed 30 ft., 20 ft. climb speed, +1 to natural AC, scent and secondary tentacle attacks. The alternate racial traits include burrow speed, Knowledge (dungeoneering) and Survival as class skills, better AC versus rays, SR penetration bonuses, hooks claws, -1 to Will saves in exchange to +1 to the DC of mental ability damage/drain-based abilities used, a Cha-variant of the strands or +1 to the DC of sonic effects – once again, neat!

 

Finally, we take a look at the most “normal” race – the warptouched, who gain +2 to an ability score of their choice, are Medium with 30 ft. movement, are treated as aberrations for the purpose of spells and effects, gain darkvision 60 ft., +1 to Bluff, Disguise, Knowledge (local), +1 natural AC, two secondary tentacle attacks at 1d4 base damage, +2 to saves versus SPs and SUs of aberrations and they may, as a swift action, suppress their unnatural traits, helping them greatly disguising their nature. The alternate racial traits include unlocking class skills, constant detect aberrations, a 30 ft. swim speed, +1 to atk versus aberrations, two favored class options, Wild Talent, a maw, +2 to natural armor and Intimidate versus humanoids, technological aptitude or being treated as +1 level regarding the use of revelations from the Dark tapestry or Heavens mysteries. While age, height and weight vary wildly between all these aberrations, a sample reference table is still included – kudos! We also get a massive FCO-list that includes psionic classes as well as occult classes – no balance concerns or complaints there. Well done!
Okay, so the basic racial traits as a whole are amazing – they are balanced in a rather ingenious way; the options will not break any game and provide meaningful options galore. While I am not the biggest fan of races that grant their ability score bonuses to only physical or mental scores, these make sense here and, more importantly, don’t break any of the races. In short: It’s been a long, long time since I was this impressed with a section of races.

 

Do the classes hold up? Well, we have a total of four archetypes and, as always, the racial paragon class to cover. Let us begin with the two briefer archetypes, the first of which would be the conduit of the forbidden psychic, who is locked into the dark half or dream psychic disciplines. Instead of detect thoughts, 2nd level causes anyone who seeks to tap into the mind of the conduit to take Wisdom damage and be dazed. 9th level nets 1/day confusion, with the additional option to expend spells to cast it, getting the complex possibility of metamagic feat use in conjunction right. The archetype loses telepathic bond for this. At 17th level, when a confused creature damages itself, the conduit may assume control over it as dominate monster, thankfully with limited daily uses. The second smaller archetype herein would be the Opener of Ways summoner, who gets a modified summon monster list specializing in calling forth void-called beings instead of celestial/infernal ones, with aberrations added to the summon list. The void-called template is btw. also presented here and is, power-wise, approximately on par with the more commonly-used ones. 6th level yields a thought eater familiar that requires being fed spell slots to keep it from roaming, making it an interesting addition that replaces maker’s call and transposition.

 

A rather complex archetype for the hunter class would be the freak wrangler, who loses all summon nature’s ally spells. Instead of the regular Animal Focus, these guys gain an aberration focus: No less than 16 different foci are presented, basically rewriting the whole class engine with an aberration focus. This also extends to the pet gained: From akata to choker to rust monsters and snallygasters, the archetype features a total of 12 such aberration pets (and yes, rules-wise, they continue behaving like animal companions regarding tricks etc.) – all with their own stats, advancements, etc. big kudos here, this is actually a hunter I’d like to play! A minor complaint: The vampiric mist focus can allow the creature to be healed continuously via feeding it creatures to grapple and bleed dry. Since this is pretty limited and slow, it shouldn’t break the game, though.

 

Now the racial paragon class would be “That Which Must Not Be”, which, chassis-wise, receives good Will-saves, ¾ BAB-progression, d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple weapons. The class, unsurprisingly, can gain natural weapons galore, but only may employ a maximum number governed by level, beginning at 3 and scaling up to 7. Now, ability-progression-wise, we have a massive amount of player agenda: At first level, you choose aberrant power – this acts as a kind of bloodline, which unlocks new abilities every 6 levels after 1st and provides the base ability-suite: Mental juggernaut, for example, nets you at-will instigate psychic duel and builds on that as an engine and also features size-increases. Scion of Madness focuses on causing Wisdom damage and confusion and servitors of the Old Ones gain SPs. So these are the basics.

 

At 2nd level and every even level thereafter, the class also gets to choose an abominable weirdness – basically one of the talents of the class, which, if applicable, has its saving throw DCs governed by Charisma. These include better aquatic adaption, acidic blood, gaining attach with certain natural weapons, reflexive negative energy damage, blood-draining feeding tubes, pulling filaments, extra heads or limbs, etc. Flight is suitably locked, minimum-level-wise, and from fortification-style anatomy to natural weapons and a bit of mesmerist poaching or even a phrenic amplification, we have a very wide and cool array of options here. Wanted to extract brains, illithid-style? Well, starting 12th level, you can. Oh, and yes, toxins etc. obviously can also be found. 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter increase natural armor by +1. 9th level eliminates age penalties and eliminates the threat of dying of old age – strange aeons indeed.

 

Beyond these, the class gains another option for players to customize it in a wide variety of ways, namely Alien Heritages. These are also chosen at 1st level and similarly act as a kind of linear ability progression – one ability is gained at first level, the second at 3rd and thereafter, every 4 levels unlock a new one. Once again, if applicable, Charisma acts as the governing attribute for save DCs for these. How many do we get? Well, more than 30 (!!!). That is in addition to the impressive talent array AND the 3 aberrant powers that maintain basic usefulness! The theme here are specific aberrations – there is a flumph heritage, one for beholders (minus IP, but you’ll now what’s meant!), Yithians, phrenic scourges, ropers, neh-thalggus (yep, with braincollecting…), mimics, moon beasts (which, at 11th level, heal when inflicting Wisdom drain, save to negate – not ideal, but limited in its cheesability), aberrations sans easily discernible heritage, intellect devourers (with 1st level psychic stab that is kept balanced by concise limitations), hyakume, heikegani, grindylows, froghemoths, driders – basically, all the iconics are covered and the ability array also covers some of the under-appreciated aberrations for weirdos like yours truly. Particularly impressive would be, at least from a design-perspective, the fact that A LOT of the signature abilities you’d expect are gained rather soon and kept viable, but balanced via concise restrictions that prevent nasty cheeses.

 

At 20th level, the class gains a unique name and title – and when someone, somewhere mentions it…it KNOWS, making it possible to greater scry the hapless fool…oh, and the poor sod becomes more susceptible to the Thing’s tricks. Worse for your foes, at this level, you are extremely hard to kill, lying dead but dreaming…amazing capstone.

 

“But endy, what if I don’t want to commit to a full 20-level class?” – Well, the pdf has you covered: The final archetype, the aberrant champion, is basically a catch-all archetype that allows the character to dabble in aberrant power, abominable weakness and alien heritage! Oh, and the archetype can be applied to a metric TON of classes: Beyond psionic classes (including, but not limited to the often overlooked cryptic and dread), we also cover the core and APG-options, ACG- and Occult classes AND some 3pp-classics like the warmaster, the taskshaper and hellion. Big kudos!

 

The pdf closes with 6 racial feats, which include the option to knock foes prone with grapples, gain an extra weirdness, a bonus to atk and damage versus aberrations with a different alien heritage (slightly unfortunate wording there), an upgrade for tentacle attacks, swift, mind-affecting demoralize via telepathy and a more devastating rend, which thankfully is locked and reserved for the higher levels.

 

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch: Editor Robert N. Emerson has done a phenomenal job. It’s been quite a while since I read a crunch-book this long that is this precise regarding formatting, types, etc. – big kudos! Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice full-color artworks, some of which may be known to avid readers of 3pp-material. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Wendall Roy’s latest In the Company installment is a masterpiece, pure and simple. It excels in writing and rules-language, provides a ridiculous amount of bang for buck and does so with panache aplomb. The multi-attack monster is a hard trope to get right and the sheer breadth of aberrations this had to cover is daunting. The fact that this allows you to play a vast array of aberration concepts via both races and class options, tweak them and further enhance the options makes this absolutely amazing.

 

I am hard to impress at this point. I have seen A LOT. Add to that the fact that I *also* require races to feel unique and worthwhile enough to integrate them in the first place. Add to that the vast breadth Wendall had to cover. Insert a wide open archetype and a really rewarding racial paragon class with a ton of player agenda and moving parts. By all accounts, this pdf should have stumbled at some point. And I tried pretty hard to find hiccups, flaws in the engine. Apart from the very rare and mostly cosmetic minor glitch, I did not find what I was almost certain would be here. Instead, I found beauty. The options presented herein are potent and tick off a lot of the things I usually complain about, power-level-wise, but when they do, they do so with often subtle, really interesting balancing mechanics to keep them in line.

 

Beyond being an impressive feat as a writer, this represents an impressive feat as a designer and frankly outclasses even his amazing supplements on dragons and rakshasas, as far as I’m concerned. This is a phenomenal toolkit, which, courtesy of the breadth of options, could carry a whole aberration party. The array of races and wide open archetype, the clever paragon class – this is, in case you haven’t noticed by now, a piece of excellence as far as I’m concerned. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars +seal of approval and I nominate this as a candidate for my Top ten of 2017. If you remotely like aberrations, then get this. (As an aside: GMs, this is also pretty much the ultimate aberration-cultist toolkit…)

 

You can get this amazing supplement here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.