Jan 102018
 

Mists of Akuma: The Yai Sovereign of Storms (5e)

This adventure for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Now it should also be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to providing a recap of the mechanics for both dignity and haitoku, the attributes introduced by Mists of Akuma. The module is intended for 7th – 8th level PCs and should be used with a well-rounded group. While this is intended to be run in the bleak, mist-shrouded lands of Soburin, the module works in other settings as well, provided you can tweak it to include Soburin’s peculiarities – i.e. Japanese Horror with a subdued steampunk angle.

 

It should also be noted that the pdf contains a wide variety of stats for creatures; from the Mists of Akuma CS reprinted would be the hebikontorōra, the adeddo-onis, the tikbalang and the gaki – though the latter has a name and is called “chief”, the stats of that individual are identical to the standard gaki.The pdf also provides the stats for the oni bengoshi Xiqzoxix. It should be noted that the stats for the eponymous sovereign of storms are new and that a particular, new tsukumogami can also be found within. In short: While there is some overlap with the campaign book, this makes handling the module more convenient.

 

All righty, this out of the way, let’s dive into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

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All right, only GMs around? Great! It is a dark and stormy night as the PCs are traveling the haunted landscapes of Soburin to be contacted by xiqzoxix, who holds a blade to one of the PC’s throats. Despite of the, oni-typical, rather hostile introduction, the creature actually has a quest for the PCs, namely to travel to the remote settlement of Tuskisasu, which has recently been taken over by Obiemashita, who is growing in power. EDIT: Once more, I was not aware of a gender-neutral pronoun employed herein. My apologies if anyone has taken offense. Anyway, the oni offers quite a hefty reward.

 

At first, the intruder seemed like a feral child, the entity soon grew and has since elevated the bakemono and shikome to unbecoming status…and in Soburin’s rigid hierarchies, that alone should elicit a gasp. Anyhow, in order to find the village cloaked by ancient magics, the PCs will have to travel 100 pages North, and throw a handful of rice over their shoulder after every 25 steps, and that’s only the first part of the ritualistic approach to unveil the village – it is small details like this that make the module feel more organic – nice means to highlight the strangeness of magic.

 

When within the settlement (which comes with a small map – I wished we’d get one in proper hand-out size), though, the PCs must exert caution – while they get an item, which, when affixed to the yai lord, will influence the future of Yōna, the local oni warlord, currently firmly under the yai sovereign’s control….so yes, some subterfuge will be required. As the PCs approach the settlement, they will have a chance to save two inhumans from the hidden village from the ravages of a tikbalang, thus allowing the PCs to get some potential information and help…while leaving them to die has consequences of its own.

 

Filled with pretty much a who is who of the more monstrous and not too popular races of Soburin, the settlement may once have been considered to be a jewel – but the chaotic rulership of its new sovereign. The PCs get to witness the local issues first-hand, with (hopefully!) the saved individuals at least deflecting some level of scrutiny. They will need a place to stay low and an abandoned machineshop may provide just that…and if you have that component to drive home, a particularly brutal storm may help you. It should be noted that the shop is pretty free-form apart from the 3 traps provided for it. Once the PCs have secured the place, they will have a nice place to base their further operations on…and, more importantly, take a long rest, which they probably require at this point.

 

Here, the main meat of the module begins – we get an interesting vista of the strange settlement, but the fully mapped fortress of the oni lord is where the true showdown will happen: There are 7 circles that the yai sovereign uses to control the storms, and the downside of his chaotic edicts is that the guards show less discipline than they should. The PCs will have to destroy the 7 magic circles, as they explore the de-roofed fortress with its bone doors, poisoned railings, etc., all while harried by Obiemashita, who harries them in attempts to learn their tactics as they dismantle his circles. Whether or not the rightful ruler of the settlement is reinstated, or a new lord rules, defeating the yai sovereign will net the PCs some leeway…and the option to acquire an amazing blade, the Katana of Rizushi Kentaro, actually a spiteful takara tsukumogami, which is, in itself, already a nice angle for a subsequent adventure.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good. While there are a couple of hiccups, they don’t necessarily compromise the atmosphere of the module. Layout adheres to the pretty busy 2-column full-color standard of Mists of Akuma, which fits a surprising amount of text on each page. Artworks are a combination of full-color pieces and modified public-domain-art, the latter fitting on a meta-level really well with one of the themes of Mists of Akuma. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

This module, ultimately, makes for a good convention scenario: The brisk pace the module sports and its pretty linear structure lend itself well to such environments, with particularly the final reminding me, in a good way, of the Onimusha-franchise. That being said, I found the adventure to feel, ultimately, like a hurried piece that suffers from its self-imposed limitations. The PCs are expected to do some investigation while in the wondrous city, but that aspect is somewhat underdeveloped – on the one hand, the module implies the need for a homebase to gather information from; on the other, RAW, there isn’t that much to be found here; the investigation per se is an afterthought, when it could have been a really rewarding part of the module.

 

As written, the PCs can explore a series of cool, but mostly fluff brief vignettes that ultimately don’t contribute much to their goals. This feels like it could have carried, you know, PCs facing a difficult mission; with the unearthing of clues, gaining allies, etc., all so they could gain advantages in the final assault. Instead, the investigation and the biggest strength of the module, the unique and wondrous settlement, become basically backdrops on the way to a challenging and per se fun boss fight. With 10 more pages, and consequences for how they tackle the investigation, this could have been an amazing module, but, in its current form, it leaves me somewhat disappointed at a high level.

 

The module sports a cool finale and unique backdrop, but it falls short of what it easily could have been. As presented, I’d consider this to be worthwhile as a convention scenario. Beyond those confines, it can use some GM-work to flesh out the way to the finale and locale. In the end, I consider this a somewhat mixed bag, with my final rating clocking in at 3.5 stars. If you’re looking for a convention scenario, round up. Otherwise, round down. My official verdict will reflect the latter rating, since I assume that most GMs are looking for material for non-convention contexts.

 

You can get this module here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jan 092018
 

Fighters of Porphyra (Revised Edition)

The revised edition of Fighters of Porphyra clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 35 pages of content, which are laid out for use as a digest-size (6’’ by 9’’ or A5), which means that you can print this out and fit up to 4 pages on a page, making it pretty printer-friendly.

 

The revised pdf sports V.1.1. on the cover, just fyi.

 

All righty, after the original pdf took a sound beating from yours truly, the Purple Duck crew didn’t just shrug and move on; instead, they sat down and made this upgraded version, so how does it hold up?

 

Well, first of all, you’ll note that the original pdf’s proposed global rules-changes have been modified: We get 4 + Int mod skills per level and Perception becomes a class skill. A fighter’s Intelligence, if below 13, is treated as 13 for the purpose of prerequisites, representing a workaround for the annoying ability tax. Furthermore, fighters in Porphyra gain good Will-saves. Helpful: All of these proposed rules-changes are explained, including ramifications, making it easy for the GM to determine whether or not to implement them.

 

The pdf also sports two proposed, new skill uses: Craft gets basically a no-hassle version of its mechanics, which, while not perfect, should be suitable for less simulationalist games. Knowledge (nobility) is expanded to include knowledge of the lore of the land, fighting styles, etc., which makes sense.

 

One of the issues that combat maneuver specialists will encounter would be the steep feat tax – the pdf suggests the option to merge a couple of them for the purpose of using them: E.g. Improved Bull Rush and Improved Overrun constitute a set; Succeeding on a check with a 10+ margin allows for the application of a feat in the same set as well. This works surprisingly smoothly and significantly better than the somewhat ill-advised original concept of halved feats – kudos for salvaging a very much worthwhile concept.

 

Okay, the first massive surprise comes in the archetype-section – the Doppelsoldner. (Purely aesthetic nitpick – it should be Doppelsöldner; Söldner being German (Singular and Plural) for mercenary/ies.) These fellows are usually not good or chaotic and modify their proficiency-list to encompass simple and martial melee weapon, simple ranged weapons as well as all armors, but not shields. Instead of the bonus combat feats gained at 2nd, 6th, 12th and 18th level and the lost proficiencies, these fellows gain a linear series of abilities called doppelsöldner drills, focusing on using two-handed weapons. At 1st level, when charging an enemy provokes AoOs, that is double damage for the attack; combat maneuvers instead ignore size restrictions – this still can only be used with brace weapons, but makes for a potent tool; 2nd level nets an AoO triggered, but only 1/round. 4th level adds brace/trip to any two-handed melee weaponry wielded and may substitute melee attacks for a distinct set of maneuvers. Penalty-less attacks versus foes within a weapon’s reach and using weapons as though the item had various qualities, adding reach to regular two-handed weaponry…all in all, interesting, particularly, since the archetype gets the interaction with magical movement codified right. Interesting 2-hand-weapon-specialist.

 

Next up would be the Elusid, who must be good, gains a modified class skill list and for each skill rank they put in Intimidate, they also gain a rank of Diplomacy…but ONLY for the purpose of making moral arguments. Evil creatures are unfazed. Putting actual ranks into Diplomacy lets them use these as usual – basically, it splits Diplomacy…and is a cool way to depict a rhetorical specialist. This replaces the tower shield proficiency. At 2nd level, elusids gain morale reserve, measured in morale points equal to ½ class level + Charisma modifier. As an immediate action, an elusid may spend 1 such point to grant himself and all allies within 30 ft. a +1 morale bonus on saves. The bonus increases by +1 at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter and the ability codifies multi-target effects properly. 3rd level nets the ability to use this bonus on Perception and Sense Motive checks, while 7th level allows for something rather cool, namely penalizing a variety of actions by moral reserve while a foe’s threatened by the elusid; kudos: The pdf managed to cover rules-behavior for actions that constitute as multiple triggering conditions. 11th level lets the elusid use morale reserve to bolster himself against spells and effects with certain descriptors, while 15th level nets the ability to affect multiple targets, while the capstone prevents changes of alignment, as well as being disarmed. The archetype comes with a nice code of conduct…and is a winner. It is interesting, provides meaningful options, has a strong leitmotif and makes for a great mundane, good fighter-face – think Roy from OOTS: The moral compass of the group, with tactics, minor buds, etc. – still very much a fighter, but one that is beholden to ideals without becoming a divine-themed pala. In fact, in a deity-less campaign, I’d consider these guys to be e.g. perfect stand-ins for enlightened humanist martial artists. As a neat plus: Palas that fall can trade in their levels for elusid if they’re still good – in a campaign where the deity turns out to be evil/is corrupted, that can make for an amazing angle.

 

Giant killers lose medium and heavy armor proficiency and are immune to fear effects caused by humanoids with the giant subtype. Instead of 3rd level’s armor training, these fellows gain scaling bonuses to AC and Reflex-saves while only wearing light armor. Now,, 7th level’s rock evasion interacts with that and also mentions a house-rule I’d strongly suggest pretty much everyone should adopt in one guise or another: 3.X/PFRPG vanilla Rock throwing is wimpy as all hell; either via items, mythic tiers, feats or templates or as a houserule, make them touch attacks that act as ranged bull rush maneuvers. Usually, I’d be weary of such a suggested houserule, but in this case, I can only wholeheartedly applaud it – not only does it make the already pretty wimpy PF-giants more potent, it also enhances the impact of the archetype…and makes sense in game. Oh, and I’ve been playing with basically this by slightly different rules-basics in my home-game forever, so yeah – works!

 

11th level lets the giant killer move sans provoking AoOs from giants and 15th level nets free overrun, regardless of size, with the scaling bonus added. Additionally, giants felled take damage and 19th level lets the giant killer redirect attacks against adjacent Large or larger creatures. Cool take on the anti-giant specialist.

 

The immortal would be a racial archetype and must be zendiqi or one of the genasi-races (infrit, oread, sylph, undine); the immortal may not be chaotic and loses heavy armor and tower shield proficiency. They begin play with the special weapon and tiarah of their brotherhood; the weapon and tiarah are upgraded later and focus the honor of the character; loss is problematic. The weapon allows for pretty early bypassing of a variety of DRs, while the tiarah nets a save-bonuses versus visual, audible, sonic, and language-dependent effects and occupies the head-slot. 1st level immortals are locked into Old Porphyran as a starting language, representing the insular and xenophobic outlook of the champions of the elemental lords. Starting at 5th level, immortals start inflicting bonus energy damage depending on race (genasi) or bayit (zendiqi) with a chosen weapon group, which is later enhanced, while new weapon groups are unlocked. 7th level nets Leadership with another immortal as a cohort.

 

Janissaries would be up next; slaves trained and conditioned for war, they lose heavy armor and tower shield proficiency, but gain one firearm proficiency. They treat scimitars as light weapons and may use Weapon Finesse to apply +Dex-mod to damage instead of Str-mod. Additionally, we get Amateur Gunslinger. Instead of bravery, we get save-bonuses representing conditioning. Instead of 7th level’s potential for full movement in heavy armor, we get the option to immediate action attack with specialized weapons when moving in and out of being adjacent to an enemy.

 

The Itsukami (aka Lone Wolf) is all about using blades as an aggressive means of defense – foes that roll natural 1s may see their weaponry (or bodies) damaged and the archetype nets improved uncanny dodge as well as the option to add weapon enhancement bonuses to AC, with higher levels pulling off the delimiters of blocking edge without breaking it. Next up would be the Meirger’s, who represent mystic warriors. The editing here is a bit weaker than in the rest of the pdf, they can’t decide whether they’re meiriger, merigers or meirgers. The archetype gets a modified class skill list and at 5th level, adds a chosen energy type as bonus damage to attacks with a chosen weapon group. Cool: The ability differentiates between easier resisted and less common energy types – kudos for that and not lumping them all into one group….though I have a rather big issue with positive and negative energy dealing damage to both living and undead, since RAW, vanilla options provide no means to resist either…and there are ramifications for these suddenly affecting creatures that would usually be immune to them on a cosmology-level…so yeah, not a big fan of that decision. The upgrade component of this component has been properly covered.

 

Next up would be the pawns, who gain decreased starting wealth and only training with light armor and simple weapons as well as regular shields. These fellows begin with a trade (represented by Craft/Profession) as a means to gather information as though using Diplomacy. They also gain an additional trait and may choose more at higher levels. Interesting: They gain bonuses against targets whose CR exceeds their HD – while this is a bit meta-gamey for my tastes, it does convey the idea of the underequipped hero triumphing against the odds. Pawns have good Will-saves – if fighters already get it due to using the global rules, they get more skills per level. We also get a scaling AC bonus instead of armor training and mastery and at 5th level, the option to treat simple weapons as their own weapon group.

 

Primevals lose martial weapon and heavy armor and shield proficiency, and are only proficient with simple melee weapons as well as dart, javelin, sling and shortbow. They gain claw attacks (properly codified) that scale as monk unarmed attacks – nice: The limitation of iterative attacks for natural weapons is noted. The primeval may add combat maneuvers to crits via immediate actions and later increases the threat-range of the claws; basically, we have a claw/maneuver specialist here, one that makes most sense in conjunction with the suggested maneuver-set-rules, though it does work without them.

 

Spellfighters get a modified class skill list and gains proficiency in simple and martial melee weapons as well as simple ranged weapons and light armor. The archetype can cast arcane spells sans failure chance in light armor. Kudos: Only works for the archetype’s spells, which are btw. Cha-governed and are drawn from the wizard list, but only abjuration, evocation and conjuration (creation) spells may e chosen and all other spells are not on the spell-list. The spellcasting progression extends to 6th spell level – basically spontaneous spellcasting. These fellows get +2 to concentration, but MUST deliver spells with a range of touch via a mandatory form of spellstrike…and as a balancing tool for full BAB, the archetype can only deliver such spells when hitting regular AC, making touch attack spells behave as basically regular attacks. The archetype also gets the touch spell weapon group and higher levels provide the expected medium and heavy armor upgrades.

 

The varonis, the final archetype herein, would be a representation of the wandering folk hero: As such, the archetype loses heavy armor and tower shield proficiency in favor of an exotic weapon and may use Handle Animal, Survival and Profession to gather information – you know, working and getting info, as noted in many a tale. We also get bonuses to a few skills and initiative while near roads, dodge bonuses while wearing light armor or none and 5th level rewards skirmishing by adding combat maneuver tricks to standard action attacks, an ability that is expanded at higher levels for an actually working combo engine – nice.

 

The equipment section provides a variant of the healer kit that allows for multiple daily deadly wound treatments (nice); a second variant allows for substituting Fort-saves for Heal, but provides scarification and Wisdom damage…which makes all kinds of sense to me. You know, the drug-heavy field-medic-style kit? Cool! A helmet that can be used for bite attacks (a s a secondary natural attack) and acts as an exotic weapon can also be found; Tinderclubs that may ignite and we get a weapon particularly associated with janissaries, the trench gun. Then, we get weapon modifications…and, as you know, I’m a huge fanboy of Bloodborne, so yeah: Banghammer with gunpowder? Hybrid weapons? That section is really cool and could have carried a pdf of its own, at least in my book.

 

The feats are interesting: Combat Prudence acts as Combat Expertise for the purpose of prerequisites and allows you to take a -4 penalty to initiative for +2 AC for one combat. Charge/grapple-combo, better bracing, bypassing DR when inflicting unarmed damage in grapples (not a fan of not differentiating between DRs here, scaling ignoring based on HD would have been more sensible)…but I particularly like the feats to make tower shields Pavises, requiring no longer a hand to hold them when thus set up. Crossbow and firearm specialists will relish the option to add Dex-mod to damage with their chosen weapon – kudos: The feat has a neat anti-abuse caveat. We also get Quick Sheathe as a concept done well. No, that is not all here, but yeah – nice section.

 

The final part of the pdf contains magic items: There would be a longsword that nets you a lesser globe of invulnerability while drawn; we get an interesting special weapon quality to attack foes with cover or shields…but which may only be applied to very light weapons (2 lbs. or less) as a balancing tool and reason to use such weapons. Mass-produced janissary shields are here as well, and we get a quality for AoOs when an opponent rolls a natural 1 on an attack against the wielder, missiles that quell energy…cool. An armor that unveils nearby Stealth-ing/invisible targets and a particular type of immortal tiarah complement this section.

 

The pdf comes with a bonus file, the Blindbraun monster by David N. Ross – CR 2, undead dwarves with a horrid wail and a blinding gaze.

 

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting of the revised version are very good on a rules language level and similarly, for the most part, very tight on a formal level. Apart from a couple of minor hiccups, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights. The pdf sports a couple of nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks, etc.

 

The revision of Aaron Hollingworth’s “Fighters of Porphyra” is a vast improvement. Bringing Carl Cramér on board was obviously a good idea: You see, the original file sported a significant assortment of really cool IDEAS, but the execution was pretty problematic; the rules had issues and didn’t manage to capitalize on the concepts. This pdf, then, would be a case study in why I consider developers and rules editors to be the unsung heroes of the roleplaying scene: I checked the original pdf back to back with this one and the improvements, in many of the small components, are MASSIVE. It’s often with minimal incisions, but suddenly, there are properly working, meaningful engine-tweaks that emphasize the concepts of the archetypes. The most significant improvement, beyond the numerous small tweaks that make stuff, you know, work, would be the complete rewrite of the elusid (now one of my favorite archetypes herein!) and the feat-set-concept. Big kudos! The weapon mod section could carry its own book, just fyi.

 

How to rate this, then? Well, it’s not on the same amazing-levels as Witches of Porphyra, but it is now a proper addition to the series, on par with the quality we’ve come to expect…and it is fun, diverse and makes for a worthwhile set of options. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

 

You can and should get this cool, vastly improved pdf here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Purple Duck Games here on patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jan 092018
 

Orphic Hybrid Class

This hybrid of psychic and barbarian clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

The orphic gains d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Fort-saves and proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. Starting at 4th level, they gain Charisma-based spontaneous spellcasting, drawn from the medium’s spell-list. They begin play with knacks (I assume drawn from the medium list as well.) and fast movement (+10 ft. movement while not wearing anything heavier than medium armor and not carrying a heavy load) as well as mindcasting and mindrage. Mindcasting allows the orphic to cast spells while mindraging, also allowing explicitly for defensive casting and concentration and overriding the issues that may spring from the emotion component.

 

Mindrage can be entered as a free action and may be maintained for 4 + Constitution modifier rounds per day, +2 per class level gained; temporary increases do not increase the rounds per day. While in mindrage, the orphic gains +4 Str and Con, +2 to Will-saves and -2 to AC so far, so good – bonus types make sense. While in a mindrage, an orphic may use skills and abilities that require concentration. Upon ending the mindrage, the orphic is fatigued, and it is treated as rage, bloodrage and soulrage for the purpose of feat prerequisites, etc. This can potentially result in somewhat weird situations regarding feat-choices and items – personally, I’d strongly suggest limiting that to the barbarian’s rage, unless you’re prepared to make some tough calls. The bonuses are increased to +6/+3…and provides a strong ability: Upon entering mindrage, the orphic may apply the effects of a 2nd level or lower spell with a range of ouch or personal to herself upon entering mindrage; if the duration is greater than 1 round, instead only lasts for the duration of the mindrage – this, however, thankfully still requires spell-slot expenditure. Potent, but the lack of cycling the trick and limited spell levels keep it in check. At 17th level, the orphic is no longer fatigued after mindraging, allowing for novaing spell/rage-cycling – at 17th level, that’s okay, though. The capstone upgrades the benefits to +8/+4 and removes the 2nd level or lower limiter of the mindrage.

 

2nd level yields uncanny dodge, 3rd level a phrenic pool with ½ class level + Cha-mod points. 4th level nets Logical Spell as a bonus feat, 5th improved uncanny dodge and 7th level provides DR 1/-. This DR increases by 1 at 10th level and every 3 levels thereafter. 14th level nets +4 to Will-saves while mindraging, which explicitly stacks with other bonuses.

 

6th level nets a phrenic amplification, with another gained every 3 levels thereafter. 12th level unlocks major amplifications.

 

Where’s the player agenda, you ask? Well, at first level, the orphic chooses a discipline, gaining a discipline power at 1st level, 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. These powers may only be activated while mindraging and 7th level and every 3 levels thereafter up to 16th provide a spell dictated by the discipline chosen. Unless I have miscounted, we get a total of 9 disciplines for the class.

 

The first of these would be abomination, which nets dark half as a mindrage modification – this nets a bonus to damage caused with attacks. Minor complaint: You also can choose to inflict bleed damage with spells cast, which scales – while it is evident from the context that this only applies bto spells, the first mention of extra damage does not refer to spells, which makes this slightly harder to grasp than it should be. That being said, the ability is still clear and functional and thus gets a pass. It should be noted that this discipline eliminates the ability to use concentration-requiring tricks while mindraging – so yeah, this tweaks the base playing experience of the class! Nice one!

 

The discipline also features the option to applying certain spells while mindraging (minor complaint: This does not state that it’s gained as the 4th level discipline power), gaining chaotic resistance to a damage type (you roll a d% and check a small table) and high levels provide rolling twice, SR and finally, fusion with your dark half. The dream discipline has an interesting modification – you lose the AC penalty and become pretty much asleep while mindraging – which is interesting. I do have an issue with the base ability, though: Once per mindrage, you can completely negate any damage taken from a received hit. That’s insanely strong and could allow a level 1 character to negate a hit from a frickin’ deity. I strongly suggest taking a cue from 5e here and instead rolling a die with a scaling bonus, subtracting the damage rolled from that taken. 4th level yields better awareness, with 8th level providing either dream shield or thought shield II when mindraging. Higher levels yield Tiring/Exhausting Critical – minor complaint: The 16th level ability does not properly capitalize the reference to the feats…but the ability is interesting: Foes suffering from their effects are treated as asleep for the prpose of your spells etc. and you may phantasmal killer one such target per rage. The capstone yields illusion and fear immunity and subjective reality while mindraging. Apart from the problematic base ability, this is easily my favorite piece of crunch by Wayward Rogues Publishing so far – the visuals are strong, the theme is excellent and the abilities are mechanically interesting.

 

The faith discipline requires a deity to be chosen and 1st level nets “the ability to enhance your weapon as a paladin or warpriest.” – which is frankly confusing, for both classes have other abilities that deal with this concept – the orphic treats weapon attacks having either her or her deity’s alignment – that’s it. The reference to other classes muddles the rules-integrity here and should have been eliminated. 12th level provides the alignment-based qualities, with 16th level netting brilliant energy or ghost touch. Interesting: The class gets spontaneous conversion into cure and inflict spells, but may only convert one such spell per spell-level per day, only while mindraging, and they’re not treated as psychic spells, preventing abuse there. Furthermore, such a conversion nets a regain of 1 phrenic pool point. 8th level nets a +2 bonus to saves while mindraging, which increases by 1 for every 4 levels beyond 8th. At 12th level, 1/day, when reduced to below 0 hp, you can cast heal (italicization missing) on yourself as an immediate action. 16th level nets a prayer-based aura when mindraging and the capstone nets a DR based on your alignment. The wording here is slightly wonky, but functionality is retained.

 

The lore discipline nets Knowledge skills and Int-mod to atk, CMD and combat maneuver checks, which is bad overkill at 1st level and makes that one much too dippable – double attriute modifiers to attacks should always be treated VERY carefully and this disicplien thus disqualifies itself. 4th level nets the ability to regain a limited amount of phrenic pool points when using divination spells. 8th level nets studied combat at -3 levels, with the limit of one target per mindrage. Cool: While mindraging, you can, at higher levels, counter abilities based on written text and language. 16th level provides limited symbols and 20th level nets free use of spell-trigger and spell-completion items as well as immunity to language-dependent effects…or “written spells effects” – not sure what the latter means.

 

The pain discipline nets a cool ability: Use swift actions to further damage foes you damaged since the previous turn. Sufficient damage dealt nets regained phrenic pool points – and yes, the ability cannot be cheesed via bags of kittens! Higher levels yield Clarity of Pain and Exorcising Mutilation; 8th level nets lay on hands at -3 levels as well as mercies, but may only target yourself. Beyond that, reflexive damage for mind-probing. 16th level’s agonizing wound has an issue – it allows you to heap debuff conditions on foes, but suddenly references “uses of the ability” for better debuffs – the ability doesn’t have uses per se, though, making that aspect non-functional. The capstone nets immunity to nonlethal damage and pain as well as bonus damage on critical hits.

 

The Psychedelia discipline is once more very interesting – you “assume”[sic!] – I think that’s supposed to mean “take/ingest or assume a state akin to a drug” a drug upon entering mindrage, decreasing negative effects. Cool: Upon entering a mindrage, you can exude drugs you have at one point consumed; depending on ingestion methods, foes may the be affected by it. Higher levels yield nausea for foes that influence your mind; after that, we get poison/drug addiction immunity at 12th level and at 16th, a hallucinogenic aura. The capstone nets drug-based at-will spells (should be codified as SPs). The discipline may be weaker than others, but its theme and execution are creative and fun – like it!

 

The Rapport discipline nets basically a collective based on Cha. 4th level nets at-will share memory, 8th and 16th net teamwork feats and 12th level allows you to redistribute damage of those in the emotional bond collective, with a level-based limit. The capstone also nets the option to redistribute a condition. 16th level lets you share Int- or Cha-based skills with your bonded allies. The capstone lets you geas crited foes 1/day and makes the bond permanent, i.e. present even when not in a mindrage.

 

Self-perfection nets Cha-bonus to AC and CMD while unarmored and unencumbered and lets you regain phrenic pools points when successfully attempting Strength-, Dexterity- or Constitution-based skill checks, which also gain a bonus equal to Charisma-modifier, but only once per mindrage, preventing abuse. Cool: 8th level nets a pool of healing dice, which may also be employed at higher levels to negate afflictions – as an aside: In my own campaign, I used a similar engine as a benefit for the few survivors of Vorel’s Phage – and yes, the plague was MUCH more deadly in my game. I digress. 12th level nets evasion, which upgrades to improved evasion at 20th level and 16th level provides immunity to poisons and diseases. The capstone nets immunity to damage and drain to the physical attributes as well as SR.

 

Finally, tranquility modifies mindrage to instead provide a +4 bonus to one ability score of your choice, or +2 to two of your choice. Kudos: The ability gets the scaling and bonus distribution options for mindrage upgrades right. 4th level nets Peacemaker as a bonus feat as well as a fitting, expanded spell-list. 8th level nets calm emotions (italicization missing) as a 1/mindrage SP; 12th level nets you the ability to focus on a single foe, gaining bonuses to weapon attacks and damage rolls. 16th level nets immunity to fear and confusion and lets you suppress those effects with allies nearby or in telepathic contact with you. The capstone nets immunity to fear and emotion spells/effects and 1/day psychic asylum. The verbiage here is a bit clumsy.

 

The pdf concludes with favored class options for the core races, drow, aasimar and tieflings – these generally are okay, though e.g. the drow’s entry is broken: “Gain ¼ resist vs. mental control and fear effects.” – that is not Pathfinder rules-language. The dwarf gaining a full round of mindrage per FCO taken is also pretty strong in comparison.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are much better than what I am accustomed to seeing from Wayward Rogues Publishing – while there are a couple of missed italicizations etc., these issues are not as prominent as usual. The rules-language, for the most part, is intact – there are a couple of instances where a dev could have helped and some balance concerns here and there, but, as a whole, the class is functional. Layout adheres to Wayward Rogues Publishing’s nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a couple of nice full-color artworks. We get basic bookmarks, which is nice…but be prepared for some teeth-gnashing in the comfort-department. Unlike any other 3pp I know of, you cannot highlight or copy text from the file, which means you will have to extract the information by hand, which sucks.

 

Margherita Tramontano delivers the best hybrid class by Wayward Rogues Publishing I have read so far. The orphic could have easily been an uninspired bloodrager knockoff; in fact, that’s what I kind of expected at first when reading the base chassis. Then, the class actually won me over. While linear, the disciplines allow for meaningful differentiation between orphics and ooze passion: They tackle complex concepts, sport really cool visuals and concepts (Sleepwalking mindrage? Sweating drugs? Come on, those are character concepts just waiting to happen!) and with a few exceptions, the execution is spot-on. I really, really like a lot this class does!

 

At the same time, the review-bot in me points out that the class does sport a couple of issues in its balancing, has a few components that can be abused…and ultimately, these shortcomings should make me rate this 3 stars. However, what works, and this is the majority of the class, mind you, is really, evocative, fun and shows both care and passion. None of the glitches really are gamebreakers that cannot be taken care of by a good GM. Fixing the few issues the class has is literally a task of 5 minutes for a competent designer.

 

Which brings me to my final verdict – I really wished that a picky developer or editor had ironed off the rough patches and snafus – the orphic has 5 star-potential and constitutes one of the hybrid classes that has its own identity and playstyle. With the flaws herein, some of which influencing rules-integrity and balance, I cannot go higher than 3.5 stars for this – consider the verdict here to be a conglomerate of 5 stars for the effort and concepts and 3 stars for the issues that haunt the pdf. If you are confident you can handle these hiccups, then give this a shot! The orphic is well worth taking a look at! Which is why, for the purpose of this platform, I will round up here, in spite of the comfort detriments.

 

You can get this hybrid class here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jan 052018
 

Dear patreons, dear readers!

 

What I year! While I’d honestly like to write an excessive restrospective, I figured that your time is better served with me working on reviews for you!

The holidays did mess up my schedule a bit, but I still managed to get out a ton of material for you fine folks! In fact, during a routine-check the other day, I realized that I’m fast approaching 4000 reviews! That’s…kinda insane…and only possible due to the support of my kind patreons, so if you’ve been reading my reviews and considered them useful, please consider donating to my patreon – even a single buck per month helps me keep the lights on!

 

In all brevity, since I have a train to catch: Happy 2018 and thank you for support, comments and interaction with me!

 

Here’s the list of books I finished last month:

Lost Pages – A Most Thoroughly Pernicious Pamphlet (OSR/system agnostic)

DOM Publishing – Fantastic Heroes & Witchery (OSR)

Lamentations of the Flame Princess – Dungeon of the Unknown (OSR)

Legendary Games – Legendary Beginnings: A Feast of Flavor

Purple Duck Games – AL 8: Fire in the Mountain (DCC)

Kobold Press – Beyond Damage Dice: New Weapon Options for 5th Edition (5e)

Rite Publishing – In the Company of Giants Revised (Second Revision, 5e)

Echelon Game Design – Echelon Reference Series: Sorceror/Wizard Spells (3pp + PRD)

Purple Duck Games – Caster Prestige Archetypes: Souldrinker

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Minis: Spells of Childhood

Storm Bunny Studios – Rhûne: Frigid Reflections

Wayward Rogues Publishing – Wonderworker Hybrid Class

Gamehole Publishing – The Terrible Revenge of Simpering Malexineuss the Pretender (OSR)

Purple Duck Games – Heroes of the Haunted Sea

Rogue Genius Games – The Genius Guide to Mythic Subpaths

Outland Entertainment – Villain Codex IV: Monsters for Meddlesome Heroes

Gamehole Publishing – Into the Deep Dark (5e)

Tribality Publishing – The Darkest Night (5e)

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

Everyman Gaming – Yuletide Terror

Geoffrey McKinney – The Yuthlugathap Swamps (OSR)

Geoffrey McKinney – Barrens of Carcosa (OSR)

Geoffrey McKinney – Jungles of K’naanothoa (OSR)

Geoffrey McKinney – The Mountains of Dreams (OSR)

Raging Swan Press – Village Backdrop: Ronak

Raging Swan Press – Village Backdrop: Ronak (5e)

Raging Swan Press – Village Backdrop: Ronak (system neutral)

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Minis: Microsized Templates

Goodman Games – DCC Free RPG Day 2012 (DCC)

Raging Swan Press – Village Backdrop: Skaalhaft (system neutral)

Raging Swan Press – Village Backdrop: Skaalhaft (5e)

Raging Swan Press – Village Backdrop: Skaalhaft

Zzarchov Kowolski – Rampaging Monsters (NGR)

Purple Duck Games – Campaign Elements: Both Foul and Deep (DCC)

Wayward Rogues Publishing – Super Spy Hybrid Class

Purple Duck Games – Hybrid Class: Gestrati

Skirmisher Publishing – Creatures of the Wastelands: Mutational Evolutions (OSR)

EN Publishing – To Stake a Vampire

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Minis: Motherly Options

Raging Swan Press – Be Awesome At: Village Design (system neutral)

Goodman Games – DCC/Xcrawl Free RPG Day 2013 (DCC/PFRPG)

Goodman Games – Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book (DCC/PFRPG)

Everyman Gaming – Star Log.EM: Duelist (SFRPG)

Jon Brazer Enterprises – d66 Compendium (Traveller/almost system neutral)

Violent Media – Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States #1: Some Terrible Beach Besides some Horrible Ocean (system neutral)

Fat Goblin Games – 8-Bit Adventures: The Legend of Heroes

Rite Publishing – The Long Walk: Life on the Grand Stair (DICELESS)

Geoffrey McKinney – Worm Wars of the Dwarven Ice Kings (OSR)

Everyman Gaming – Everyman Minis: Gloom Discoveries

Straight Path Games – And Then…Zombies!

Rogue Genius Games – Four Horsemen Present: Hybrid Class – Mountebank

 

If you like what I’m doiing and consider my reviews helpful, please consider donating here!

 

All the best!!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 052018
 

Four Horsemen Present: Hybrid Class – Mountebank

This hybrid class of mesmerist and unchained rogue clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

The mountebank gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, hand crossbow, kerambit, rapier, sap and sword cane as well as light armor. The class gets ¾ BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves and begins play with consummate liar and hypnotic stare. 2nd level nets Weapon Finesse and finesse training with one weapon group for using Dex-mod to determine bonus damage. 2nd level also nets patter: The mountebank begins prattling away as a move action (maintaining it is a free action) and may maintain patter for class level + Charisma modifier rounds – all spellcasting and SPs within 30 ft. of a mountebank using this ability requires concentration checks to cast. 5th level penalizes this check by -2 and 8th level allows the mountebank to focus on a single target, potentially confusing it.

 

3rd level nets sneak attack, which increases by +1d6 every 3 levels thereafter. At 3rd level, the mountebank also gets a variant gaze that causes the target to lose Dex-mod to AC being flat-footed versus the mountebank, and the mountebank only, though this stare needs to be maintained as a move action. 8th level nets a suggestion stare – with a caveat that prevents abuse. At 10th level, the class becomes superb at lying and requires CL-checks from those using magic to coax the truth out of them. 14th level provides slippery mind and 16th level allows the mountebank to not be remembered by those he interacts with. The capstone nets permanent concealment and the ability to target two creatures with a mountebank trick.

 

The class begins play with one trick and gains another trick every 3 levels thereafter and may implant ½ class level (min 1) + Charisma bonus such tricks per day. The mountebank can implant them at a range of 30 ft. as a standard action, which a Charisma-governed Will-save DC. Trigger range is medium spell range, just fyi. These allows the mountebank to make targets suffer half damage inflicted, for example – big kudos for getting the rules-language right here! Heavily penalizing Sense Motive, causing instant paranoia, fear of the dark, telepathic interrogation, causing the target to be addicted to the mountebank’s presence (!!), implanting hatreds or trust, disguising the target or adding additional damage to the damage the target takes – these are complex rules-operations that handle evocative, really cool tricks and feature e.g. variant mirror images that don’t disperse when hit, etc. – really, really amazing array of options here!

 

At 7th level, those tricks may be implanted when sneak attacking foes, imposing a penalty to the saves versus the tricks…and even cooler, at 14th level a trick thus implanted does not count against the mountebank’s daily maximum of tricks implanted OR towards the maximum number of tricks that may be maintained at once.

 

At 5th level, the mountebank may use more concurrent tricks, upgrading the limit to 2, which increases further at 9th level, 13th level and 18th level, though each creature may only be affected by one trick at a given time.

 

Beyond the tricks, the class has more player agenda to offer, namely the chicaneries – at 1st level, the mountebank chooses one of the 4 chicaneries provided. These represent linear ability gains and provide a combination of bonus feats (with retrain caveat!), 1/day spell-like abilities that are governed by Charisma and act as psychic spells and unique abilities. 6th level provides the option to advance in the chicanery path, unlocking the next ability…or to choose a new chicanery, gaining the level 1 ability there. The paths provide 4 steps in advancement (minor, moderate, major, supreme) and the mountebank gets further advancement options at 11th, 17th and 20th level, which means that full-blown specialization in one chicanery is not expected. Liar’s gambit provides alignment masking and further inscrutable tricks; the grifter’s hustle nets negotiation and intimidation options; cat’s paw specialists are all about Sleight of Hands and Stealing in combat, while those that choose dodger’s strike are Stealth specialists.

 

Among the feats, there is one option to advance a chincanery, but only if it is one level lower than your maximum advancement – no abuse possible. Exluding allies from patter, gaining an additional trick or selecting from unchained rogue talents complement the meaningful feat options.

 

The pdf also sports two archetypes: The cardsharp is locked into one chicanery path, but changes its benefits to instead provide Profession (gambler) boosts, fast fingers and the option to form a deck of cards into a +1 keen magical weapon, which may later be enhanced. Instead of finesse training, we get 1/day forcing a target to roll twice and accept a result (+1/day use at 12th and 20th level). Instead of the 7th level trick, the archetype may 1/day as an immediate action roll 1-3 additional dice when making an attack, save or skill check, using the highest die roll, but at the cost of being forced to use the lower ones for a number of consecutive rolls equal to the number of dice chosen – cool!

 

The second archetype would be the mentalist, who is locked into cat’s paw or liar’s gambit, casting the SPs granted by the chicanery at +1 CL. Instead of consummate liar, they get a boost to Perform and on Bluff/Sleight of Hand checks used as part of a performance. The archetype may use patter to instead sow thoughts, with 8th level allowing for the focus on a target to daze it. Instead of sneak attack, trick attack and improved trick attack, the mountebank gains the option to cast spells as a mesmerist of his level, but only divination, enchantment, illusion and transmutation spells. 4th level nets Psychic Maestro and 10th Psychic Virtuoso, replacing the tricks gained at these levels. 16th level replaces incognito for an illusory double that may perform a physical ability-or skill check – basically a Schrödinger’s situation, where you determine which was real afterwards.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues in either formal or rules-language criterias. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a couple of nice full-color images. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested, detailed bookmarks.

 

Kendra Leigh Speedling delivers with panache aplomb! The mountebank is a fantastic class – it manages to be recognizable as a hybrid class, while still sporting its very own and distinct identity AND playstyle. The class tackles complex concepts and remains easy to grasp and play while doing so. It sports innovative and fun rules and tricks that no other class can pull off. It plays really well, in spite of the notoriously difficult to fill skirmisher/debuffer role. In short, this represents one of the best, perhaps the best hybrid class I have reviewed so far. The only class I’d consider to be on par regarding this amazing offering would be Purple Duck Games’ Vessel. Yes, that good!

 

The mountebank is a glorious class; it is inspired, interesting and, most importantly, fun – 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation!

 

You can get this amazing hybrid here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jan 052018
 

And Then…Zombies!

This pdf clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content in the regular version of the pdf. The file also comes with a second version with landscape layout that is more suitable for e-readers etc. – in that format, it 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.

 

It should be noted that this is the first installment of the And Then….Trouble-series, which focuses o spicing up encounters. Beyond the mechanical modifications, the respective entries within contains a bit of read-aloud text for GMs not that comfortable with improvising, as well as a rather detailed adventure hook. As I will be commenting on these adventure hooks in the following review, I hereby pronounce a SPOILER-warning. Players should probably skip ahead to the conclusion.

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All righty, only GMs around? Great! That out of the way, the first encounter-modification clocks in at CR+2 and has the PCs stumble unwittingly over a mass grave. The read aloud text has a character grappled by a zombie from beneath the soil (no save or CMD here – and for once, I’m good with that!) and every round +1d4 new zombies will climb out of the mass grave, until there’s a zombie for each character. Zombies after the first have the proper CMB-value noted. After having tumbled over this dark edifice, PCs are bound to ask what has happened here – three sample solutions, from a necromantic cult, to raiders, the first two suggestions are pretty much expected: Having magically-preserved ancient dead, with magic reactivated? Now that is interesting!

 

The second encounter suggestion is titled “Don’t Stay Dead” and clocks in at CR 1+; after an encounter with a living creature that ended in the being’s demise, the PCs hear shuffling, as the opponent has risen once more…oh, and all corpses in the vicinity as well! Here’s the thing – it’s not the location. It’s the PCs. Nothing they kill stays dead. Finding out what the reason for this is, the exact parameters of the animating effect – some cool adventuring potential here that turns a classic premise much more interesting. From cursed items to unwittingly being a carrier for a magical plague to being the first portent of the realm of the dead closing – the hooks are intriguing and well-crafted.

 

The third encounter presented herein would be “Dead All Along”, at CR 4: The PCs are beset by brigands in the wild – who happen to have been juju-zombified, retaining some smarts…though not much. They weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed to begin with, you see. The explanation posited by the adventure hooks for undead criminals encompass a juju disease, a crimeboss offering Discount resurrections” (genius!), an unholy relic and a vampire’s doing.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good; apart from the juju-disease not being perfectly formatted, I noticed no relevant glitches. Layout adheres to a solid two-column standard. The pdf sports no interior artwork, but doesn’t really need it. Same goes for bookmarks at this level of brevity.

 

Michael McCarthy’s encounter-modifications herein elicited, when I skimmed over them, a yawn from me. They’re classics, right? Well, a well-executed classic is wort something and that these most assuredly are. There are some nice tweaks in the set-up, the presentation is pretty user-friendly, and all of that costs you a whopping $0.99. This pdf is most assuredly worth its low and fair asking price. Some angles are really creative and the complications presented are diverse and interesting. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars – well done!

 

You can get this nice pdf here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jan 052018
 

Everyman Minis: Gloom Discoveries

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 4.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

All righty, after a brief introduction, we receive the gloom chymist archetype: These fellows replace bombs with glooms, which inflict 1d6 cold damage + Int-mod, +1d6 for every 2 alchemist levels beyond first – this otherwise is treated as bombs, but does NOT qualify as bombs for the purpose of prerequisites. Instead of poison resistance, poison use and swift poisoning, the archetype gains umbral gloom at 2nd level, which allows the gloom chymist to increase or decrease the light level by one step within the gloom’s splash radius, lasting Int-mod rounds. This decision must be made upon preparing glooms. At 8th level, the gloom chymist may expend two uses of daily glooms to increase/decrease light levels as per daylight/deeper darkness instead, using alchemist level as caster level- which is one cool idea!

 

The majority of the pdf then is devoted to gloom discoveries – these include doubling the splash radius for glooms,a dding a nauseating/sickening fume to the gloom…and pretty amazing: The alchemist can learn to create a crawling gloom: Place it, and it’ll move towards the target, crawling over objects etc. – the discovery is pretty amazing, and yes, the gloom has an AC and Ref-saves that scale. Blinding and deafening via a gloom and direct hits, confusing targets – the debuff options have sensible minimum level requirements. There is a fast bomb variant and the discoveries include a cool gravity option, which allows for some soft crowd control to the creatures in the splash radius, entangling them. Temporary fatigue can also be found.

 

Really cool would be options like masochistic gloom, which animates the shadow of a target that was directly hit – this requires an 4th level or higher extract slot expenditure, but animates the shadow to deal damage to its owner. Oh yes! High-level temporary petrification of targets is also neat.

 

Now, a significant part of the options would be devoted to living glooms: By using one gloom class feature use and a 1st-level extract slot, the alchemist can conjure a creature as per summon nature’s ally/monster I, adding the shadow creature template to the creature called. Higher spell-slots can be used for better summons. These gloom summons can be further augmented (analogue to the feat) with a discovery and another ones provides unique, expanded creatures to choose from, enhancing the unique flair of the discovery-tree. Finally, there is a complex one that lets the alchemist add extract levels to duplicate more potent summon spells, using ½ class level as limit. Cool! Speaking of which: Paired patches of shadow for dimensional bounce make sense and rock. The grand discovery lets the PC choose a discovery, which is then not counted as discovery to modify the gloom, applying it for free.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s two-column standard, is printer-friendly and the full-color artwork is solid. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

 

Luis Loza delivers some cool alchemist options here: While less openly available than I’d like them to be, they offer a distinct and fun shadow-themes variant for the alchemist, one that made me really wish there’d be more space for it – the living and crawling glooms deserve expansion and frankly, I think that the gloom-concept could have carried more. That is just me complaining at a high level, though – well worth checking out! My final verdict will be 5 stars.

 

You can get this fun, shadow-themed alchemist-variant here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jan 052018
 

Worm Wars of the Dwarven Ice Kings (OSR)

This hexcrawl covers 16 pages (not counting the front and back cover and their insides), with about ½ a page devoted to editorial and explaining how everything ties together, leaving us with 15.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

So, I am, in spite of sometimes having issues with parts of his work, someone who enjoys the type of material Geoffrey McKinney brings to the table. As such, I have already covered his self-published, first 4 Carcosa hexcrawls…and when they left me wanting more, I figured I could check out his Wilderness Hexcrawl-series as well.

 

First things first, in case you’re not familiar with these: As per the writing of this reviews, this module is only available in print, as a saddle-stitch paperback, to be more precise. As such, I can’t comment on any electronic features or the like.

 

Rules-wise, this uses AD&D-rules and references them regarding spells, notating of attacks, etc. Now, something that is pretty crucial for you to decide on whether you’ll enjoy this would be how you prioritize aesthetics in your purchases. You see, the cover artwork is the only one found herein. The layout adheres to a stark two-column standard and sports no graphical elements or the like – this is, quite simply, two columns of text. Hex-headers have been bolded, spells are italicized (and so are magic items), but that’s about all the formatting you’ll get – if you are looking for anything more advanced or convenient, look elsewhere. In fact, the pages, much like in the Carcosa-crawls, aren’t even numbered, which makes finding information inconvenient, unless you pull out the markers. When a village is noted, it lists population and number of able-bodied folks as well as significant NPCs, which have their alignment and class as well as their level noted.

 

The back cover of the module is a rather nice hex-map that is a step up from the Carcosa-maps. Why? Well, while the white numbers and hex-borders are still here, they now have a shadow added, which makes them easy to decipher, even against a backdrop of a yellow desert. A downside of the hex-map, nice though it is, would be that points of interest like settlements, monuments, etc. have all been noted – including e.g. the fane of the main evil guys, which makes the map not too useful as a player map, unless you just declare all of that common knowledge.

 

It should also be noted that this series is not intended to be the author’s usual blend of the weird, instead focusing on more traditional fantasy – something I will take into account when rating this.

 

The module begins with a brief summary of the geographic features…which sport an odd and imho annoying peculiarity: While plenty of places have normal, proper names, you can e.g. read “G__t River” or “G__y Mountains” or “G____d, Mount” here – the referee is expected to fill these in. I really dislike the inconsistency here – either provide names for all locations or none – when I give one of these places a strange name, chances are I won’t run with “Forest of Galdring”, right? Anyway, I think that’s inconvenient. Your mileage may vary.

 

Okay, this out of the way, let us dive into the main meat of the module – from here on reign the SPOILERS.

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All righty, so the first thing you should know is that this pdf actually manages to evoke a latent sense of mysterious antiquity rather well: There is an Ozymandias-like statue to be found and a titanic statue, impervious to the ravages of time, looms in the fields. A nice change of pace for everyone familiar with Geoffrey McKinney’s usual work would also be that there are quite a few benevolent folks to be found: A friendly, good cleric; an eccentric magic user and his golem – there are friendly folks to be found and indeed, the settlements that dot the map are benevolent as well. A bit of weirdness here and there, like a save-or-die transforms-you-into-ice elemental anomaly exist, but are sparse.

 

As mentioned before, they sport lists of relevant NPCs and, unsurprisingly considering the title, mostly concist of dwarven “kingdoms”…which I call tpldks. Tin-pot little dwarven kingdoms. If you got that reference, you’re into classic British satire.731 is the population of the biggest “kingdom” – yeah, more like village in my book, but I digress. The good thing about these kingdoms is that they’re unique and have some interesting visuals: There is e.g. one whose king does not age, courtesy of a frozen flame found in a meteor. Come on, that’s cool!

 

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – there are also a few elven enclaves (with pitiful populations), but…well…elves. These tie in with perhaps the biggest treasure that can be found in the region – a frickin’ frost brand +3, +6(!!) against fire using/dwelling creatures. Know what the PCs have to defeat for it? A couple of displacer beasts. Lol. A better random encounter. More importantly, the blade is an elven relic – and can be traded to the elves of a small high elf kingdom to get the title “Elf-friend” – or be exiled, if refusing to hand it over. What does the former do? You are treated as Cha 18 and are treated as an elf of that subrace. Which is btw. not as hard a title to get as you’d think it is – an ancient battlefield sports no less than 3 broken items that each allow you to claim the title from one the elves. You could thus become quadruple elf-friends. …I’m sorry, but I think they should at least be tied to a given enclave? Moreover, the battlefield is not haunted or particularly dangerous – there’s no real risk-reward ratio here.

 

Speaking of elves: Know how I mentioned these important NPC-lists for settlements? They are NOT exhaustive, which can be really annoying. There are e.g. the remains of an elven guy…and the book suddenly tells us that it’s the missing brother of the elven maid xyz in one hex. Guess what? First time we heard about both maid and missing brother – the target hex mentions neither of them. Combined with the basic presentation etc., instances like this make the module really inconvenient. A pair of semi-friendly dragons wants a piece of art from a dungeon…in a hex that is not mentioned in the module. There is painting with broad strokes and there is inconvenient. This is the latter.

 

The primary evil-doers in this region of the wilderness would btw. be cultists prone to collecting heliotrope flowers, for they consider them to mimic the purple worms they worship. This cult, apart from the flower-aspect, remains pale, though the worms are tied in neatly with the biggest kingdom of the dwarves: Their king sits on a throne of purple ivory.

 

What’s that? Well, you see, much like regular ivory, purple worm teeth may look white, but are actually tinted purple, darkening with age. Thus, they command a higher price, the darker they are, and mottled worms in particular are sought-after…which is all kinds of awesome. Here’s the problem. That’s pretty much it.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue accumulation of typos. I already commented on the formal peculiarities above, so let me get to the meat of this book’s issue.

 

This has one of the coolest titles EVER. I mean, can you imagine something more METAL and AWESOME than “Worm Wars of the Dwarven Ice Kings”? I could see vistas of halls wrought from glaciers, legions clashing while riding deadly polar worms, remorhazes, when thinking “high-fantasy” here. For grittier options, I could see subterranean vaults and ancient halls, slowly rotting as the dwindling populace fights a retreating war against the corruption of the invading worms…

 

We get NONE of that.

 

Heck, this doesn’t even sport a WAR. Not even a small altercation or brawl.

 

And no Ice Kings either. The tiny kingdoms are…well, not impressive. More like dwarven burgomasters.

 

I have no idea where the “Ice”-angle is supposed to be coming from. One kingdom has beautiful caves…which is wondrous and neat….but are they made of ice? No clue.

 

And don’t get me started on the absence of Worm Wars between ice kings or wars the ice kings wage against the worms. NOTHING.

 

Unless the dwarves enjoy the classic video-game franchise on their PCs to settle disputes, I can see no worm wars here…sorry. I know that one was bad.

 

What I’m trying to say is this: Even in regular high fantasy or gritty fantasy, without any weird, when going full-blown Tolkien, this should have been amazing. It isn’t. It is painfully dull and generic. There are a couple of instances where McKinney’s talent for crafting wondrous vistas shines though, but I have never, in my entire life, been so utterly disappointed by a wilderness module. With a premise like “Worm Wars of the Dwarven Ice Kings”, this had its work cut out for itself.

 

Instead, it delivers pure frickin’ blandness. Again, I LIKE traditional fantasy. But you can do that without being so comparably boring. If this had a title like “Moderately Dangerous Dwarven Pastoral Mountains”, my disappointment would probably have been less pronounced, for that’s what this is.

 

This module has one of the coolest titles ever and squandered it; it has some nice and evocative locales…but ultimately, it falls woefully short of its promises. My advice is to read the title and design what your associations are – it is bound to be more exciting than this one’s content. My final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform. Barely, and only because I can see some folks enjoying a few entries. Now here’s to hoping module #2 of the series turned out better…

 

You can get this bland snore-fest here on lulu.

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jan 042018
 

The Long Walk: Life on the Grand Stair (DICELESS)

This HUGE tome for Lords of Gossamer & Shadow (Abbreviated LoGaS below for brevity’s sake) clocks in at 205 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page dev and playtester thanks, 1 page dedication to Steven D. Russell (Rest in peace, you’re missed, man…), 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 199 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

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

 

All right, we begin with a well-written piece of prose before we dive into this book…but what exactly is this? The question here is less simple to answer than what you’d think – you see, this massive tome is at once a kind of meta-campaign setting for the worlds-spanning LoGaS-setting and a massive toolbox, as it features a TON of powers. It also sports some new worlds to explore and acts as an NPC-codex of sorts. In other words, this is a massive book and I can’t mention every detail herein, if I want to avoid bloating this review beyond what would be useful – hence, I’ll be painting with broad strokes here.

 

The first chapter is pure crunch, showing us new powers: These usually come in different variants for different point costs: You may e.g. learn Aetheric Projection for 35 points…or its advanced brethren, for 55 points. An upgrade, just, fyi, is possible for 20 points – so no, nothing lost there. Each of the powers features herein comes with a distinct definition of its dangers and abilities granted, which, in the best spirit of LoGaS, provide a distinct and diverse variety. The aforementioned ability, for example, would be the separation of mind and body, allowing for potentially quicker travel, visions of other times and concise possession rules; the advanced version allows for the influence of the physical worlds, as well as e.g. the erecting of barriers. Enchantment would be the second power, and does not require Sorcery per se; to use spells with Enchantment, the character will still require it, though. Basically, this ability is about…well, enchanting places, objects, etc. with gossamer material and is thus more aligned with the forces of Umbra. Detailed examples illustrate how it and its two more advanced options work, building on LoGaS’ artifact and construction engine in a sensible manner. Slightly faster Enchantment, disguising it…there are a lot of things to consider here, though ultimately, this will probably be one of the most beloved ability-suites.

 

An interesting addition to the lore would be the inclusion of Keeper of the Void – this ability represents that the character has come into contact with the shadow between worlds, gaining the shadow within as well as a weakness to both Umbra and Eidolon – but also thoroughly unique abilities that center on the manipulation of, you guessed it, the void – sinister and interesting, it makes for a great option for villains and anti-heroes. Scrying is probably self-explanatory in what it does – it is most certainly a great narrative tool for more intrigue-heavy campaigns.

 

But what about the existing abilities? Won’t they be somewhat devalued by the new ones, lacking the multiple steps many of the new ones sport? Well, you’ll be delighted to hear that Channeling, Eidolon Mastery, Invocation (which comes with 3 upgrades!), Sorcery (also 3 upgrades), Umbra Mastery and Wrighting all get upgrade/specialization options – this means that you can, power-wise, further escalate the already impressive options at the beck and call of the lords and ladies. Huge plus here!

 

The second chapter deals with talents, which are intended for use with NPCs – after all, not every adherent of Eidolon/Umbra is an adept/master, respectively – talents represent a limited knowledge or mastery of a power, but they are subject to strict limitations and as not as cost-efficient as buying a proper ability-suite. This means that proper lords and ladies will have an upper hand, but it VASTLY diversifies the arsenal of the GM, allowing for significantly more credible weirdness without an annoying inflation of the appearance of really powerful lords, ladies and wardens. This does manage to alleviate one of my concerns with longer LoGaS-games and diminishing returns for the encountering of such powers – by making them fragmented and more specific, a GM vastly expands the narrative arsenal at his/her command, which, once more, is a very good thing in my book. The fact that you retain full control over how many, if any, of these you wish to include in your game further helps. The chapter, then, constitutes mostly a massive list of these talents – as an aside, the progression from warden to master is covered as well…and in case you haven’t figured that out: It is very much possible to employ this engine for PCs as well, allowing for very fine-grained differentiation and dabbling…and these talents can also be used rather gainfully as a kind of story-reward in-game…so yeah, this section alone imho warrants getting this book.

 

We are not done, though – chapter 3 deals with idiosyncratic powers and qualities, and, while only 2 pages long, represents another MAJOR boon for LoGaS – special abilities granted by tech or magic usually do not work beyond the world of origin. This chapter changes that, providing guidelines to translate such abilities to talent-like options, at the cost of +10 points per Quality, +15 per Power – this uses vampires, fey messengers and e.g. Fantastic 4’s The Thing (minus the IP) as examples, illustrating the process rather nicely.

 

Chapter 4 provides yet another very welcome expansion of the options of LoGaS, namely character creation rules for beings that are meaningful regarding their power, but not on the level of lords/ladies – the easy to grasp rules and considerations are supplemented by several sample NPCs – and yes, this obviously ties back to the talent-system, which allows for specialized characters with a meaningful array of options at lower power-levels. (As an aside, I am a big fan of progression-style games, so this helps me tremendously – in GUMSHOE, I e.g. transitioned from Fear Itself to Esoterrorists to Night’s Black Agents when the PCs reached milestones in their abilities – a similar process can now, arguably even more organically, be achieved here.

 

After this massive array of customization options and tweaks, we come to what essentially constitutes a gazetteer of the Grand Stair – we learn about history, customs, language, the Pax Escalara, economy and travel, long-distance communication and the traditions surrounding the deaths of gossamer lords, hinting at the fabled Polyandrium as a mythological resting place, and yes, burial on the Grand Stair is mentioned.

 

Now, I did note that we’ll get new Gossamer Worlds to explore, and this is where that section starts: We can visit the Academy at Arbanes and learn about the multiversal, massive empire of Bastiano, the Ascendancy, which can make for either hope or deadly foe; we visit the impossible pyramid, bigger on the inside and connected to 4 primal gossamer worlds that otherwise are isolated and share no connections with each other or the Grand Stair; I am not going to SPOIL its details here; suffice to say, unlike the previously mentioned ones, the domain of the impossible pyramid comes with a proper table, and the respective primal worlds are similarly covered. Need a reason to like there? Twin-world. Hurricane world. ‘Nuff said.

 

The market of agora comes with stats for two unique races taking care of business there, and in less detail, we also gain more information on the black market and the previously mentioned Polyandrium. From there, we move to the unique types of people that can be found on the Grand Stair – we learn about ambassadors, the castellans, the allied guilds of the cicerones and porters, heralds and the bardic praecones.

 

All right, I did mention that this was a kind of NPC Codex as well, right? Well, there is a whole chapter devoted to sovereigns, and they are creative: A somewhat lecherous, nut sympathetic gunslinger with a heart of gold, the Indalo Kid, and his faithful bull-horned horse, for example, would be the master of Helldorado. Wanna picture Kaspar the Fixer? Visualize him as an orc in a tuxedo, with a cigar in one hand and a glass of bourbon in the other. Lord Sparda should put a grin on the face of fans of “V for Vendetta” or the Dishonored franchise – the masked individual is currently acting as the Ascendancy’s sword…though he shows up, strangely, on worlds impossibly far apart. We also btw. get stats for none other than Luther, oldest of the known Gossamer Lords and a true mystery…he may have won the last Dwimmerlaik war with his designs…but no one knows for sure if he enacted his horrid Stairbreaker… We also meet the archmaster of the impossible pyramid, the general of the Raven Legion. We meet a professor who REALLY knows people; the caretaker of Agora; Sybelle the Arbiter, happy-go-lucky Uwe, who knows the really weird places; the honorable and dutiful Shield of the Ascendancy is btw. a badass Walrus in cuirassier armor.

 

Now, no matter how powerful a lord or lady may be, ultimately, you need reliable, potent organizations – these are represented by 4 different organizations/knightly orders that are discussed in-depth: The Conciliatore are the foremost defenders of the Ascendancy. They also get their own unique torcqs and sport detailed information on ranks and relationships with others and a sample NPC – a structure that is btw. also employed for the Doormen of Lord Drake and the previously mentioned mercenary Raven Legion. Finally, there would be the Khalderi Host, the step nomads that claim to have always been there. Really cool, btw.: Their entry sports their own glyph-alphabet (numbers included), which I’m *SO* going to present to my players sans comment to decode.

 

The final section of this module presents a campaign outline, namely the “Dwimmerlaik Inquest”, intended as a potential sequel to the adventure “The Gathering Storm” featured in the LoGaS-rule-book; this goes beyond a few, fluffy lines, mind you: cast of characters, timeline, suggestions for alterations, using factions, etc. – all detailed in a rather nice and helpful manner.

 

The book also contains no less than three brief adventures; in order to avoid spoilers here, I will be brief: The adventures follow a similar structure as the outline of the campaign – cast of characters, structure, etc. – a plus would be that they are pretty character-driven, allowing the PCs to make meaningful interactions. The modules deal with the PCs being chosen to undertake the Last Walk and put a deceased Lady to rest; in the aftermath of this module, the PCs may learn about the Impossible Pyramid while investigating the cause of death of the Lady…but the third module is where things get really interesting…though, frankly, module may not describe it adequately: The connected realms of Iridess, unique in composition and nature, come with details, NPCs and are absolutely inspiring – this section could carry a whole campaign!

 

The book btw. also contains talent flow-charts (!!) that break down the respective powers (super convenient and amazing), a detailed index, and form-fillable character, creature & artifact and domain sheets – Wow!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are surprisingly good for a book of this size: Perry Grosshans and the cadre of proofreaders did a great job. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s neat two-column full-color standard for LoGaS-books. The artworks deserve special mention: There are a ton of nice original pieces herein, and while they do not adhere to a unified style, I haven’t seen any of them before – and they stand out. This is a beautiful book. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked with detailed and nested bookmarks, making navigation easy. I can’t comment on the print version yet, since I don’t own it – but oh boy is it on my to-get-list!

 

J.P. Brannan, Thierry De Gagne, Perry Grosshans, Adam Easterday, John Lee, David A McCreless, Selene O’Rourke, Joel Saul and Cliff Winnig would be the developers and contributors to the work of lead author Christopher “Kit” Kindred.

 

In more rules-heavy systems than Diceless, reviewing a core book is often rather tedious, particularly if it’s based on D&D; you’ll inevitably have the standards covered; it is only with the second book, for PFRPG the Advanced Player’s Guide, for 13th Age “13 True Ways”, that these systems really come into their own, become distinct – and it is these books I will most fondly remember in the years to come. While the core Lords of Gossamer and Shadows book was already a reinvigoration of Amber and Erick Wujcik’s engine, it is in my opinion this book that really makes it come into its own. While purists may scoff at the talent system presented herein, it is exceedingly elegant, easy to grasp, and the flow-charts simplify the process of using it to the point where it is a no-brainer. The system not only exponentially increases the array of options for the GM, but also for the players; it allows groups to explore a vast plethora of new and exciting narratives with the system.

 

Beyond that, the book also represents a MASSIVE setting sourcebook of the quality we have come to expect from Rite Publishing’s “Lords of Gossamer and Shadows” – the new vistas depicted herein are diverse, intriguing and captivating; they provide options without being prescriptive, adding political angles and details to the Grand Stair without infringing on the GM’s ability to customize what the Grand Stair means and represents in his/her game.

 

In short, this is art from adversity. The author has evaded blindness as a kid, courtesy of transplants; now, these transplants and the scarification cause crippling headaches and impede his reading and writing ability. It is testament to his passion and vision that this book exists; indeed, it can be *felt* that this was a book he *needed* to write. When you read as many RPG books as I do, you get a sense of when someone is phoning it in, and when someone is really and truly passionate about a task. This book not only represents a true must-have for any Lords of Gossamer and Shadows-group, it should be considered to be the essential work for it. This is a masterpiece, worthy of 5 stars + seal of approval. It also qualifies as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017 and receives the EZG Essentials tag for Diceless roleplaying, meaning that I consider it an absolute must-have for any such campaign I’d run.

 

You can get this massive, evocative tome here on OBS!

 

Curious about the game? You can find the core-rules here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jan 042018
 

8-Bit Adventures: The Legend of Heroes

This installment of the 8-Bit Adventures-series clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Okay, so, unless you haven’t noticed, this is basically a Legend of Zelda toolkit for Pathfinder, with Nintendo IP filed off. As such, I think I should comment on my own history with Zelda: I liked the games, but I wouldn’t consider myself to necessarily be a fan – I have played them all up until Twilight Princess, with Majora’s Mask, unsurprisingly, being my favorite. They are good games, but don’t scratch the story-itch I look for in games beyond excellent gameplay.

 

So, if you are a rabid Zelda-fan, well, then this will probably already be in your shopping cart at this point, right? Anyways, the pdf begins with customization options for the kingdom of Hyrule, erh, pardon, Highland, which btw. comes with a nice full-color map, which, however, sports no scale. Alas, no key-less version for handout purposes has been included either. But I digress. We first begin with basically a critter-by-critter reskinning/modification process. Grippers are upgraded to Large size and based on chokers, with the modifications suggested noted; Robed Wiz (CR 9) is based on a more limited clockwork mage. The rocktopus is based on the Tome of Horror’s mudman. The CR 4 bladed trap (comes with creation notes) represents a new creature, and the section also features the CR 8 burning skull, the CR 11 cactus worm, the CR 1 Treenut and, of course at CR 16 Cursed Warrior Droch-lann, the Gannon stand-in, who is realized as an orc cursed warrior magus 18. I noticed minor hiccups, but nothing serious – the section is usable as provided.

 

That would, btw., be a new archetype herein who gets diminished spellcasting and may sacrifice a prepared spell as a swift action to create a shadowy armor. Instead of 5th level’s bonus feat, the archetype gains 60 ft. darkvision or increases an existing darkvision to 120 ft. – solid, if unremarkable.

 

Okay, so far regarding the bestiary-side of things. We move on to 8 new feats: Bomb shot lets you expend a bomb as part of jumping to add its damage to your Acrobatics-check – which results, obviously, in hugely inflated Acrobatics-results. I would not allow this anywhere near my game usually, but in the context of this supplement, it makes sense. Minor point of critique: While the feat is fully functional, its verbiage is a bit clumsy. Shaped Charge lets you, as a full-round action, expend a use of a bomb a ranged touch attack against a door, lock, wall, etc., ignoring hardness – the attack is always successful against unattended objects and the bomb’s splash damage is negated. There also would be the Luminous Metal feat, which lets you expend 30 gp to make metal objects you craft cast light as though they were candles – no, that is NOT a reference to the spell. Minor complaint: Why not note the range of the light produced? Looking it up is somewhat inconvenient. Improved Luminous Metal lets you upgrade that to 60 gp cost and torch-equivalent light. Would I spend feats on these usually? Heck no. In the context of this supplement? Why not. Shield Ally lets you block ranged attacks with your shield – when using a full attack, you can forego one attack, making an attack roll equal to the foregone attack. If you win the swingy comparison of attack rolls, you deflect the incoming projectile. Shielding allies is possible at -4 to atk, and you may not deflect boulders and must be aware of the attack. My loathing for atk-comparison mechanics is well known at this point; suffice to say, it is a decent representation of the Zelda-game-mechanics.

 

Reflect Shot builds on Shield Focus and Shield Ally and lets you reflect an incoming ranged attack as an AoO against any creature whose ranged attack you successfully block, provided it is within range. Okay, what constitutes range here? I assume the range of the incoming attack, analogue to the games and taking e.g. Shot on the Run etc. into account…but it would have been nice to see that stated. Reflect Ray does the same for rays, with the same minor range-snafu. Shield Rider is a concession to the game aesthetics and may well be a drawback – when riding with your shield, you lose the shield bonus to AC, but movement rate increases by 10 feet when riding downhill, but only when not wearing medium or heavy load…which is closer to a trait than a feat in power-level. The lack of choice for the character is also puzzling – RAW, the feat locks you into this behavior.

 

The pdf also sports three new spells: Retriever enchants a weapon to steal with its next attack (strangely using Sleight of Hand instead of the steal maneuver, which is a bit wonky); freezing ray is a variant of scorching ray which adds paralysis at 7th level…which is WEIRD, for the new ability is not based on caster level here, deviating from PFRPG design tenets. Magnetism is a pretty complex one with various appliances, and is based roughly on telekinesis, which is unfortunately reflected in the rules-integrity, e.g. specifying violent thrust spellcasting attributes for wizard and sorcerer, but not for the other classes eligible to use the spell. Not *bad* per se, mind you, but in such instances, you can see that a bit more polish would have been neat.

 

The pdf also sports new equipment: The diseased goblin poo stick simple weapon and the spring spear exotic weapon, which is a very potent weapon that is flexible in a way usually only magic items provide – it can be used with and without reach and may be thrown – in the context of Zelda, I’d give it a pass. We get 5 pieces of magical equipment: The leaf mask is a plant shape I spell in a can, usable 1/day. The miniscule cap works 3/day as reduce person. Soup stones provide nourishment, while saga stones reincarnate the possessor for a paltry 600 gp, being basically a kind of extra life. Trapfinder torches can be used once and net a bonus on Perception to spot traps and hidden doors, but at the same time, they do not denote how long they last. One could default to the acute senses comparison, but yeah…a bit rough. Aquatic armor (+1) nets swim speed; lava armor nets fire resistance 10 and allows the wearer to execute short-range free action touch attack fire blasts as retribution – it is also somewhat low on the price-scale for that. Dazzling weapons (+1) autodazzle light sensitive creatures or those made of shadow or shadow conjurations.

 

Now, that would be the rules-section – this pdf, however, also doubles as a campaign kit, providing angles to draw the PCs to Hyru…eh, Highland, as well as a fluff-only write-up of the cast of characters. We get a fully spelled-out prophecy of the legendary hero as well – which is pretty neat, for it taps into the suggestions that this could be run as a 1-on-1-scenario. While the suggestions are basic, their inclusion is very much appreciated. The role of the Triforce (here called Tetrahedron Quadriad) as a McGuffin is explained (and is used for an interesting if simple, optional puzzle that can be extremely helpful) and the first quest focuses on saving steeds – the structure of the encounters and their basics are noted in the tradition of Campaign Kits; from there, we move on to the shrines – Lake Highland, the Skull Dungeon and the Mountain of Fire, for the final showdown at Castle Highland. Suggested creatures are noted and APLs for each chapter suggested. More advanced rules, if any, are hyperlinked. We also get a few DCs and the skeleton of the sequence is all ready to be fleshed out by the GM.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, is really tight – no complaints there. On a rules-language level, the pdf sports a few rough patches here and there, but retains its functionality. Layout adheres to a happy and colorful 2-column full-color standard and the full-color artworks provided are loving bows to the franchise. Cartography of the land is nice, though I wished we got a key-less version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Ben Dowell’s bow before the Zelda franchise does what it sets out to do – it translates the somewhat wonky concepts of the Zelda games to PFRPG. It provides a toolkit for playing Zelda in PFRPG. Mission accomplished. Now, if you’re no rabid Zelda fan, then this will have significantly less appeal for you: There are a couple of rough patches in the rules-integrity, and while they don’t sink the pdf, they are enough to disqualify the material for my regular PFRPG games. They are also, system-immanently, as they’re translating very basic concepts, not world-shaking. I am also a bit puzzled by this pdf starting off with monsters, moving to player material, and then once more going for the GM-content in the campaign kit-section – starting off with a player section, then moving to the GM-section would have made much more sense.

 

On the other hand, this pdf’s demographics *are* the fans of Zelda – and if you count yourself among them, you will quite probably sport a broad, nostalgic smile while reading this. Similarly, this may well be a good way to bring younger kids into the roleplaying fold and teach the game o them: While the GM should have some experience under his/her belt, the whole scenario is pretty child-friendly and thus suited for even young kids, provided you guide them regarding mechanics.

 

How to rate this, then? Okay, to be honest, this did nothing for me – I am simply not the audience of this book. I am neither prone to nostalgia, nor a fan of Zelda per se. For me, the rough patches weigh heavy on this supplement and if you feel similarly, then you should probably skip this. I’d be a sucky reviewer if I’d rate the pdf according to these observations, though – I have to take into account that many of the things I consider jarring are directly based in trying to adhere to the franchise as faithfully as possible. While there are still a couple of instances where some rule-component is a bit wobbly, and while I wished e.g. the Gannon-archetype was more interesting, the book does a solid job at what it sets out to do. Not a superb one, but one that will probably warrant fans of Zelda getting this. You should be aware that videogame aesthetics trump those of Pathfinder here, and I strongly discourage using the content herein in regular games, but for what it is, it works – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

 

If you’re a fan of Zelda and interested, you can get this pdf here on OBS, also in PoD, just fyi!!!

 

Endzeitgeist out.