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vs. Stranger Stuff: Send in the Clowns Special Edition
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/28/2017 17:21:05

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.

This product contains two separate downloads - in addition to the main product itself, there's a printable set of character sheets you can duplicate as-needed for your table.

Now, then. If you're anything like me, then you have... let's call them "feelings" about clowns. Well, vs. Stranger Stuff is pretty much all about the weird, creepy 80's movie vibe, so you probably already know whether or not this is something you want for your group. No, really. Some products are ambiguous without more information, but this isn't one of them. There's even a part of this product dealing with the fear of clowns (and the this-should-be-obvious note that this probably isn't a good choice for anyone with that fear. With that not-so-cheerful thought, let's get into the technical details, then the content.

The main product here is a 54-page, full-color file. As with most releases, the full rules for playing - including character creation - are included so that you only need to purchase this product in order to enjoy the game. Well, that and the basic supplies - pencils, paper, and a deck of normal playing cards. If you're not familiar with the VsM System, it's extremely simple and straightforward - people can easily dive in even if they've never played it before, making this appropriate for both long-term gaming groups and a party with friends or family.

Once we're past that, however, they really are sending in the clowns... starting with a page describing various plots that could be used for a clown-oriented adventure, from cannibal clowns to animatronic clowns desperate to get back at anyone who laughed at them. If you'd like something a little easier - or at least a good guide for creating your own adventures - this product also comes with three complete games worth of adventures. Note that as with most VsM system adventures, it's honestly not going to take too long to get through any one adventure. You could realistically play through all three of them in one session.

Now, that's where most products would stop... but by the time we're through the appendixes of the adventures, we're only at Page 45. The rest of the product contains useful extras, especially if you're printing them. Page 45 is essentially a draw-your-own-clown page (which can be as funny or as serious as you want), and there's also a paper puppet, some printable clown miniatures, and a couple of maps suitable for the adventures published earlier in the book. The final three pages include two of advertisements and the back cover.

At this point, though, there's honestly only one question that need answering: Is this a good "evil clowns" product? Personally, I think it is. I mean, the subject alone is really the selling point here, but I do think it holds up to what it set out to do. Fat Goblin Games has published quite a few products for this system now, and I definitely think they've got a good handle on this.

That said, part of the success of the game will come from the atmosphere you create and the players you have. This isn't a game for everyone, so make sure your intended group is onboard with the idea of playing it.

And other than that? Just don't sleep. The clowns might eat you...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Send in the Clowns Special Edition
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CLASSifieds: The Technopath
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/26/2017 10:58:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive installment of the CLASSifieds-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, the first thing you should know is that this class builds on the Technology Guide's rules for science-fantasy tech. The book thus should be fully compatible with Call to Arms: Fantastic Technology...and the hinted at, but per the writing of this still unreleased sequel book.

The technopath receives d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per levels and begins play with proficiency with simple weapons and laser torches as well as light armor. Technopath spells may be cast in light armor sans spell failure. Technopaths have their own spell-list and cast spells of up to 6th level drawn from it. The class does not need to prepare it in advance, but uses Intelligence as governing spellcasting attribute - if you're particular about the Int/Cha prepared/spontaneous-divide, that's something to bear in mind. Rules-wise, I have no complaints in that regard, though. Chassis-wise, we have 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves, though it should be noted that 20th level's 6th level spells per day-column is missing its numerical value.

The technopath begins play with a special cybernetic brain implant called spirit core (yes, spirit core and laser torch both are presented as items herein, in case you were wondering), which powers all but the spells regarding class abilities. This is also the place where the technogeist lives (Geist = German for "ghost", in case you did not know...yeah, we're pretty much in Ghost in the Shell territory here...). The technogeist may be hosted in either the technopath's consciousness or wirelessly connect it to computers, cybertech or similar features via root access or control a robot drone. All of these are distinct class features, so let's take a look at them in order:

Skill memory, the ability that hosts the geist in the technopath's consciousness, is gained at 4th level. For any two skills for which the technogeist has more skill ranks than the technopath, the AI grants Skill Focus' effects. problems here: Does that apply to ALL skills or one of them? One skill per two the technogeist exceeds the ranks of the technopath? I assume that only one skill is affected since 8th and 16th level yield an additional skill. I'm not 100% clear on how this works. Secondly, the benefits stack with Skill Focus, which they frankly shouldn't - skills are easy to cheese as is; potentially doubling Skull Focus benefits is ridiculous. At 12th level, the ability yields the weapon proficiencies of the technogeist as well. These benefits are suspended when using root access or planar networking.

What's planar networking? It's a 1st level ability, which lets the technopath, via one minute of uninterrupted transmission of a signal through an adjancent plane like the astral, target a robot within 50 ft, whose CR is less than the technopath's level - should probably be class level here. The target must be unconscious or currently non-operational and may then be controlled by the technopath, but must remain in the vicinity. While thus affected, the robot receives the aggregate template, representing that it's inhabited by the technogeist.

This would be a CR +1 template, using Int instead of Dex for initiative, adjusting Will-save to account for the AI's Wisdom score and the robot retains the AI's Int, Wis, and Cha-scores. The robot retains its feats, adding the AI's feats as well, which can be pretty potent. If such an aggregate (or another piece of equipment possessed by the technogeist) is destroyed, the AI spends 1 minute rebooting in the spirit core. The AI is not affected by mind-affecting effects, but since it is a technological entity that employs magic, its abilities are hampered in zones of dead magic and the like. A technogeist's three base scores may be assigend at character creation (14, 12 and 10) in any order and the AI increases one attribute by +1 every 5 levels. The technogeist receives 6 + Int-mod skills per every 2 levels and begins play with 1 feat, gaining another feat at 3rd, 6th, etc. level. The technogeist begins play with share spells and all Craft skills as class skills, with a +4 insight bonus to Knowledge (engineering) as well as Technologist as a bonus feat. OP: It can repair 2d6 points of damage to any robot as a standard action. No daily cap, nothing - if you have a PC-robot-race, this means infinite healing. Even in other contexts, this needs a hard daily cap.

2nd level yields evasion, 14th improved evasion, and 7th and 17th level provide additional weapon proficiencies. 12th level yields Multiattack and 6th level decreases the reboot duration from 1 minute to 3 rounds. 8th level yields the choice of +1 to atk, initiative or all saves and at 9th level, the technogeist may affect nearby robots as a standard aaction, commanding them as per suggestion. The rules-text contradicts itself here - in one sentence, it says that the ability can be used 3/day and 1/day.

Starting at 2nd level, a techonpath may btw. share senses with the technogeist. Okay, that out of the way, let's return to the different abilities the technopath can use with her geist, the second of which would be root access, which is unlocked at 3rd level: As a swift action, the character can touch a technological object, granting the technogeist root access, which can be maintained for a daily total of class level rounds per day. The precise benefit here depends on the type of object thus accessed: Armor and shields can convey a significant AC boost (+5 shield bonus, increases to +8 at 13th level; 18th level provides a powerful force field with fast healing and the consumption of rounds of this ability instead of charges). Weapons net bonuses to atk and damage with somewhat weird sclaing (standard +4, +7 at 13th level) and additional attacks - the latter should die or at the very least offer a caveat to prevent additional attack stacking via haste, flurry, etc. 18th level allows the technopath to levitate adjacent to the character, allowing it act and move independently.Computers etc. allow for the sharing of skills etc. and Mark models, prismatic augmentations etc. may be improved as well.

The third functionality of the geist would be to duplicate a kind of pet - the technopath begins play with a security drone, a CR 1/3 robot with a chargeable laser turret and a gripping clamp that can be used for clumsy manipulations. 2nd level yields Craft Robots as a bonus feat and allows the character to craft from scrap and may apply temporary hit points to a robot, though thankfully sans easy cheese option. 5th level yields at-will technomancy with a CL equal to class level -3, ith 14th level making that constant. At 6th level,, the character may use discharge or recharge 1/day as an SP at -3 class levels as CL. 9th level and every 3 levels thereafter yield an additional daily use, with 18th level increasing the CL by +1, up to class level maximum. 10th level makes the bonded senses always on when using planar networking to hijack robots as well as skill memory's benefits while the technogeist is within a robot. 11th level provides 1/day memory of function as an SP at full CL, +1 daily use at 17th level. This also allows a geist to immediately establish control as part of the action, if so desired. 17th level provides a persistent virtual demiplane - this plane has stringent limits, but represents nearby interaction points and can only be accessed by the virtual consciousness, basically duplicating in flavor and effect something akin to Shadowrun's matrix. As a capstone, the class can also represent and interact with creatures, including those on overlapping planes, within this mode.

Now, I mentioned recharge/discharge - fret not, the spells, part or the new spells contained herein, have a burn-out chance for batteries, so not cheap infinite resource cheeses there. Glamering robots as fleshy beings, detecting technology via technomancy or the like - there are, spell-wise, some cool ideas here. Immediate full restoration of construct hit points, even as a 7th level spell, can be considered to be rather potent and should be handled with care. The spell-representation of magnetic field is pretty nice, as far as hard terrain control goes.

The class comes with a total of 3 archetypes: The compatibilist android, who replaces fused consciousness and memory of function via a variant, robot-based Leadership. The class abilities, like the recharging mentioned before, also tie in with that. The archetype also receives a capstone that nets the divine source mythic ability and herald apotheosis. Circuit breaker technopaths receive a modified skill list and their technogeist gains more weapon proficiencies . If the name was not ample indication, let me spell it out: These guys are more about using a sledgehammer, so to speak: Damaging and destroying technology, via discharges, EMPs and the like. In contrast to this more offensive archetype, the artificial empath is all about Teamwork with the technogeist, a form of co-existence, if you will - represented by 1st level gaining the Empathy feat, teamwork feats and the option to grant the technogeist a persistent form at 10th level. At the highest levels, they can even create artificial life and make the AI a real boy, to use the classic analogy.

While some feats mentioned may be familiar to those of you who own CtA: Fantastic Technology, the pdf also features a selection of new feats: AIs and robots can learn to make Backups in case of destruction; binary communication can also be achieved and another feat allows robots, androids etc. to disable emotions - which may or may not be something that you'd already assume as a given in your game. Why is it here? Empathy. The feat nets an empathic robot/AI. Emotion-and-fear-ignoring metamagic via Forced Empathy Spell is also included and faking emotions can also be found here. As an aside/nitpick, the latter has its benefits/prerequisites not properly bolded. More interesting would be Transform, which lets your robot/android/etc. selectively doe the transformer and change arms, grow wheels, etc. Temporarily wearing a robot is a cool concept, but the execution, even with its hard cap per day here, can be a bit powerful and should only be attempted by advanced players.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' nice two-column full-color standard. The pdf uses a mix of new and stock full-color art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Garrett Guillotte's technopath is NOT for the faint of heart. This is a complex class that requires quite some system mastery to understand...and play. A 1st level technopath that doesn't take care will be left sans drone, for example. Similarly, you have to know how AIs work to run this and most players probably don't. Including a step by step explanation would have made this significantly easier to grasp. You see, you have basically two entities here - technopath and technogeist. However, the technogeist is basically the fuel of class abilities: A distinct entity, yes, but also the source of the technopath's powers. And this is where a lot of the issues of the class, in fact, the grievous ones, lie. RAW, the AI is a distinct entity, with its own actions. At the same time, the technopath governs these actions. This does create an overall feeling where the lines between the two entities are blurred: Compared to e.g. spiritualist or tinker, I found myself wishing that the two would be separated more clearly. This also goes for the technogeist-powered abilities. These generally are pretty cool, yes, but their presentation is, at least when reading the class for the first time, rather challenging.

These didactic shortcomings can be a bit tough, particularly on newer players, but more problematic would be the issues here and there like doubled Skill Focus, wonky bonus iterative attacks and the like, that drag his class down. There is one more thing to bear in mind: Several of the class abilities allow the technopath to potentially make use of powerful foes. While these are thankfully limited, the class only really reaches its full potential in a campaign that sports sufficient amounts of tech. If you run a low-technology game, it loses some of its appeal and power. How to rate this, then? In the end, I consider this to be a flawed class, yes - but also one that manages to get a lot of complex concepts done right. It has some aspects that could have used further clarification, but at the same time, it manages to do something interesting, which is a plus for me. In the end, I consider this a mixed bag on the positive side, which translates to 3.5 stars: Advanced players and GMs willing to invest a bit of time in a tech-heavy campaign may well want to check this out! I'd usually round down for this, but as per the writing of this review, the class is available for 1 buck, which is really cheap for the amount of content - hence, I'll round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CLASSifieds: The Technopath
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5th Edition Racial Options - Kitsune!
by John W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/24/2017 13:23:36

DESIGN Attactive, but relatively basic and not terrible printer friendly. The only significant piece of original art, save for a small picture of oragami, is the cover image and variations thereof.

CONTENT An interesting array of information, beginning with fluff and crunch on the race its self (+4 subrace variants), then migrating to 3 new feats, a new spell, and 2 new magic items. It will take repeated usage of the material to judge its usefulness and game balance, but it all looks reasonable on first blush.

VALUE I'd like to see a little more content and / or a slightly more inspired design for the price point, but that's often the case in sub-$5 offerings from indie publishers.

SUMMARY A decent little piece, well conceived and relatively well executed, that could use some refinement to bring the value more in line with the price point. If the subject matter intrigues you, I doubt you'll be disappointed by the purchase.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5th Edition Racial Options - Kitsune!
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Castle Falkenstein: Firearms & Margarine: An Adventure Entertainment
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/20/2017 07:46:20

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.

All right, going into this product, I had absolutely no idea what it was about. I mean, seriously, just look at that name. It turns out that this is a 44-page, full-color murder mystery adventure for the Castle Falkenstein system. The adventure is divided into a prologue, three chapters, and an aftermath. For spoiler reasons, I obviously can't get into too many details on the plot, but simply knowing it's a murder mystery is probably enough to tell you whether or not your group is interested in playing it. The credited author, J Gray, has contributed to quite a few quality titles in the past, and that's always reassuring since mystery adventures tend to be very hit-or-miss.

That said, I probably wouldn't run this as the first Castle Falkenstein adventure for a given group of players. That's not a knock against its quality, by the way - it's just that this is the sort of adventure that works much better when players have a good understanding of their abilities and what they can accomplish. After all, if they don't know that (for example) a feat in Education or Tinkering can help them get certain kinds of plot-relevant information, they're not likely to try that and may instead be reduced to blindly trying to figure out the way forward. (Groups of veteran gamers who have thoroughly studied their characters and the system, or those who have played a lot of mystery adventures in the past, are exempt from this suggestion.)

Similarly, this game will require a certain amount of preparation to run properly. There are a few places where content from the book can be read as-is, but the game master will probably want to write up scene information and dialogue that they can read to the players while also being sure they don't accidentally rattle off information they're not supposed to. Given the nature of this adventure, I think having clear text for the GM to read (as seen in many other roleplaying adventures) would have been a better way to create this. Running a mystery game is complicated enough as it is.

On the more helpful side, the product does tend to include a variety of responses for things that Dramatic Characters (i.e. players) might choose to do in any given situation. It's always possible that players will go further outside of the bounds than the adventure has planned for, of course, but it's nice to see they aren't expected (or required) to do things in exactly one way.

Overall, I feel like this is a solid mystery adventure that fans of the genre will enjoy. It's definitely something to talk over with your gaming group before you get it - not everyone enjoys a big helping of mystery during their gaming sessions, after all - but anyone who does enjoy it is probably going to come away from the table satisfied. I do have to knock off a few points because of the extra preparation a GM will need to do, giving us a final score of 4.5 (rounded down to 4) stars.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: Firearms & Margarine: An Adventure Entertainment
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RPCheese
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/05/2017 11:12:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This RPG clocks in at 54 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 49 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

We begin this pdf with a fluffy intro-text and a brief explanation of the basic terms like GM etc. and the dice used in playing this game. So...what do we have here? Well, the premise is that mankind has managed to wipe itself out via some sort of cataclysm. From the ashes, the rodents rose, walking on two legs, becoming the dominant species. What would have happened if Chip 'n' Dale, Rescue rangers, would have been set against a more complex futuristic backdrop, if you will.

As a result, the world looks pretty much like "a cross between a Midwestern pet store, a post-apocalyptic demilitarized zone, a Renaissance faire and Sean Connery's bathroom." Scattered towns have risen from the ashes and we enter the game not in an age where the cruel aftermath of the fallout is still felt, but where the emergent civilizations have similarly not yet spread to all corners of the globe, leaving plenty of wilderness and danger, but also enough civilization to not devolve into a struggle for survival. In short: Tone-wise, this is very much appropriate for kids and the rules, while not necessarily "lite" in the traditional sense, are pretty simple.

Character creation is relatively simple. We begin with choosing a rodent's race and adding six slices to the attributes. Slices? Well, two slices make up a block and attributes may range from 0 to 8 blocks (16 slices). RPCheese knows a total of 4 attributes: Fitness, Strength, Wisdom and Hardiness. Pretty glaring and a BIG no go: Fitness is explained as "finesse", something rather different. Also: Finesse seems to be the better explanation for what the attribute allows you to do, with hardiness being the attribute for hit points, endurance, etc.

Each of the starting races have sliced assigned to their attributes as racial traits. Hamsters would be the jack-of-all-trades, beginning with one slice per attribute. Gerbils start with 3 slices (or 1 block and a slice) of Wisdom and 1 slice in fitness/finesse. Guinea Pigs begin play with 2 blocks of Hardiness and one block of Strength; Mice have 3 slices of fitness/finesse and 1 slice of Wisdom. Rats get 1 full block in both Hardiness and fitness/finesse, 2 full blocks of Strength. Chipmunks start play with a block of Fitness, Strength and Hardiness. Squirrels receive 3 slices of Hardiness, 1 block of Strength and a slice of fitness/finesse. Finally, rabbits get a slice of fitness/finesse, 3 slices of Strength and 3 slices of Hardiness.

You'll notice some inequalities there. Each race gets additional benefits to even that out. While every character receives 6 slices to allocate, hamsters get 2 slices to "any attribute you choose" - which could mean that this extends to ONE or ALL attributes to which you apply slices; the wording here needs to be more precise. Hamsters also gain +1 to 3 skills of the player's choice, 1 feat per level and a bonus feat at every odd-numbered level after first. They have 4 starting feats and begin play with 20 hit points, unless you increase hardiness.

Gerbils would be the casters and begin with only 15 hit points, 5 feats, +1 to academic skills and 2 feats at every new level. Guinea Pigs begin play with 30 hit points, 3 feats +1 to smithing, swimming and use human devices. They gain 1 feat per level. Mice start with 15 hit points, 6 feats +1 to acrobatics, charisma, outdoorsmanship, etc. and 2 feats per level. Rats start with 26 hit points, 3 feats +1 to climbing, espionage and searching and 1 feat on every new level. Chipmunks get 20 hit points, 3 feats +3 to acrobatics, climbing and outdoorsmanship and 1 feat per level. Squirrels also get 26 hit points, 3 feats, +2 to acrobatics, climbing and outdoorsmanship and 1 feat per level. Rabbits start with a whopping 35 hit points, 1 feat, +1 to acrobatics, climbing and outdoorsmanship, but only get a feat every odd level after 1st.

Each slice you allocate to an attribute nets the character +1 with skills associated with the attribute. Each block nets +1 to saves corresponding to the attribute. Skill checks work as in most d20-based games: You roll a d20, add the skill's bonus and compare it to a DC. Much like 5e, these DCs are pretty low: Easy tasks would be DC 5, extremely difficult ones 20. That means that even a completely clueless character has RAW a chance to succeed at these.Natural 20s are critical successes, natural 1s critical fumbles. PCs can block or dodge critical hits by exceeding the NPC's roll by 6 or more. It should be noted that skills once again call the attribute "Finesse", not Fitness, which means I'll assume that to be the correct one for the purpose of this review.

During character creation, you may perform up to 5 skill adjustments, which allow you to take away one point of skill bonus and take it to another skill, allowing for some pretty pronounced specialization, should you choose to go that route. The game knows a total of 23 different skills, 6 of which are allocated to Finesse, 6 to Strength, 4 to Hardiness and a total of 11 to Wisdom. Wisdom contains all those academic skills and the magical lore/human device using tricks, while the Hardiness skills include Husbandry, crafting non-weapons, etc.

Each of the four attributes has an associated feat pool: Finesse is associated with the Stealth pool, Strength is associated with the Might pool, Wisdom is associated with the Spirit pool and Hardiness is associated with the Stamina pool. Each pool has a number of points equal to the number of slices in the chosen attribute, and using feats subtracts a number of points from the pool. Sleeping recharges these pools. (You btw. also regenerate all hit points upon getting a good night of sleep.)

Beyond the aforementioned bonuses, every slice of hardiness yields +3 hit points. Every block of Strength yields +1 to melee accuracy and damage. Every block of Finesse yields +1 to dodge and ranged accuracy. For every 2 blocks of Finesse, you also get +1 to movement. For every block of Wisdom, you gain +1 to initiative, +2 to saves magic and perception. For every 2 blocks of Wisdom, your spells impose a -1 penalty to saves vs. your spells. For every block of hardiness, you get +2 to saves versus sturdiness and horror and for every block and slice (or 3 slices), you gain +1 to block. This is all displayed in a pretty easy to grasp table.

Spellcasting is done via feats and when a feat applies to a die roll, it must be activated before the roll is made. The cost of feat points ranges generally from 1 to 4 and a handy table provides type, duration, cost, target and the action - which may be either combat, non-combat or free.

Which brings me to combat: When a character has 0 hit points, he is killed. Characters have a default movement rate of 4, modified as mentioned before, with each unit corresponding to about 1 inch. Characters can move through squares occupied by allies, but not by enemies. Initiative is a d20 + 1 per block of Wisdom. Characters may perform one mundane and one combat action per turn and any amount of free actions. So far, so familiar. When attacking a foe, you roll 1d20 and add accuracy modifiers associated with the attack. If you exceed 6, you hit - unless the opponent blocks or dodges the attack. To block, you roll 1d20 plus your block modifiers; on a success (i.e. exceeding or rolling equal to your foe's roll), you negate the attack. Dodge works the same way and in both cases, characters take a -9 penalty when trying to avoid projectiles. Flanking an enemy yields +1 to accuracy and damage in melee. This engine means that combats can drag quite a bit, as the swingy mechanics can mean that there's a lot of rolling sans successful damage. Personally, I'm not the biggest fan of such swingy mechanics, even though it can yield pretty cool scenes. I also think it's a bit of a pity that block and dodge, mechanically, are identical, at least regarding their base effects. It also means that Finesse characters are better tanks than those focusing on Hardiness, if you go by damage negation capabilities alone.

Saving throws follow the old formula: d20 + bonus, with DCs ranging from DC 5 to DC 20. The system knows 4 saves: Horror, Magic, Perception and Sturdiness. Natural 1s and 20s are, as always critical fumbles and successes, respectively. Horror does not pertain to "horror" alone, but also to frightening situations - it seems like a bit of a loaded, weighty world for such a carefree, fun little RPG. But that may just be me.

The system knows 10 levels, with each level yielding 2 slices for the attributes and feats based on their race chosen. They also gain +1 to a skill of the character's choice.

Now, it should be pretty obvious at this point, but the majority of the tactical options of the game stems from the use of the feats, which basically act as the limited resources of the respective characters. These include a pretty wide variety of options: Shadow jumping while hidden, +1d6 damage on the next ranged attack, longer jumps, etc. As a whole, these are pretty nice, though there are a couple of instances where the pdf could be more precise: Let's take Fingertip Lightning, which allows you to create a sustained bolt of lightning from two fingertips, hitting targets and increasing the damage output every round. Do you fire both bolts as that combat action or only one of them? The feat could be read either way. The pdf also fails to specify what happens when feats like these lightning bolts, which have a fixed range, have their targets move out of the range - does the spell collapse or not? The feats or the range-explanation do not explain this particular aspect. Other than that, the section does provide, as a whole, a respectable, cool array of options.

Now, as for weapons, armor and shields - these generally modify block dodge and move: When you're wielding a knitting needle, for example, you may have the absolute apex of base damage, namely 2d12, but you do suffer a -4 penalty to dodge rolls. While we're speaking of items - yep, cheese would be the currency here. Enchanting items is pretty easy - the formulae are based on spirit point cost, daily uses. The pdf also provides rules for two types of VERY lethal fireworks and RC vehicles.

The pdf also has a basic introduction to GMing, sample NPCs, lizards, birds and spiders and some brief guidelines for awarding XP.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups there. On the rules-language side, the system has some ambiguities in the details that still need to be ironed out. Layout adheres to an absolutely gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The full-color artworks are cute in an awesome way - the one-eyed rabbit with plaid pants and a bow-tie had me seriously laugh out loud.

Joseph Caldera and Jon Adams have created a solid, pretty easy to grasp ruleset here. The rules are familiar enough for PFRPG and 5e players to get the gist of it sans any significant hassle - which will also be my frames of reference. Much like 5e, it is a very much streamlined experience that does something pretty smart with blocks and slices, visualizing basic milestones and "1/2 character level etc." types of formula in a nice manner. The system also allows for a surprising amount of tinkering for a game that got rid of character classes: The fact that slices and blocks etc. affect your stats in the respective tasks means that the system does allow for a bit of optimization.

At the same time, I am not 100% sure whether this is as player-friendly as it could easily be. Beyond the REALLY BAD fitness/finesse-glitch, the pdf sports quite a few instances where the rules simply should have been more concise. It would have been nice to see e.g. spelled out how a critical success in attacks interacts with a critical block/dodge. It can be gleaned from context, sure, but still. Similarly, from range interactions to some of the finer details, there are a bunch of instances where, once you get down to the nit and grit, a bit more precision would have been warranted, particularly if you want to appeal to new players and GMs as well and not just the veterans who're looking for a change of pace.

There are definite plusses as well, though: The structure of the rules and their presentation, as a whole, is very concise and didactically sensible - the sequence and way in which the rules are presented make sense and introduce the finer details at a steady pace without overburdening the player. So that's a big plus.

Now, how does it play? This is where taste comes in. The playing experience of RPCheese is closer to OSR games than modern ones in that the options for the characters are more limited. At the same time, the characters do have a lot of customization tricks that allow for specialized tasks, but only in short bursts. The skill system is closer to PFRPG than 5e, though attacks are tied closer to the attributes...like, well everything. The cool, unique options the feats allow you to perform behave pretty much like 5e features, with the streamline that they universally require a long rest to recharge and draw upon the respective feat pool. That means you have to really plan when and how you'll use them. This rewards planning by the players, but also means that they'll hoard feat points where possible, which can, depending on the type of game you want to play, feel frustrating. Here, the game feels more like GUMSHOE than a d20-based game. Personally, I don't feel this stark limitation works too well, but you may have a different opinion.

On the plus-side, different feat pools reward diverse characters rather than singular specialists. This mechanic also, unfortunately, can result in 5-minute-adventuring days. A more diversified feat pool-recharge mechanic would make the game more rewarding in my book. Why? Because combat itself is a pretty lengthy affair. Since each attack can be met with a competing roll, it'll take time to fight and more feat uses in combat would make that more rewarding. Suffice to say, if you're not the biggest fan of swingy RPGs or one of the players that wants a lot of options in combat, the system may not be for you.

I have a bit of a hard time rating this system, to be honest. To me, it felt a bit divided in its focus. On the one hand, we have the child-friendly visuals. On the other, we have the Telekinesis feat actually mention that it's not possible to throw GERBIL BABIES at foes with it. I so wished that was just my mind, but it's right there in the pdf. I was utterly mortified when reading such a sentence in a book like this. The visuals in my head were not pleasant, to say the least. I get that that was supposed to be humorous. It's not. Yes, it's the exception, but such statements imho have no place in such a book. This strange dichotomy extends to the rules.

On one hand, we have streamlined mechanics and a beginner-friendly presentation and theme; on the other, we have an actually pretty complex engine of interactions and serious rewards for stingy resource management. I am pretty positive that new players or relatively inexperienced roleplayers would certainly prefer using their cool tricks more often than the system allows.

At the same time, you have to buy into races and classes being blended. While every race can potentially do every task, rabbits, with their feat-dearth, will always suck as skill monkeys or mages. Similarly, gerbils will never be good tanks or front-line fighters. Whether or not you like that is ultimately a matter of taste.

Is the system viable? For the most part, apart for some hiccups in the details, it most certainly is. And I really like many aspects of it. But at the same time, I feel like it has an identity crisis. It's not really go-play simple and it's not as complex as e.g. 5e or PFRPG. It's cool to see all those abilities that usually are class options streamlined. I love the presentation and structure of how the file presents its rules. But for high complexity/options games, you burn through feat points too quickly. For rules-lite games, character creation takes too long and is a too complex affair. In short, this does feel a bit like it couldn't decide what to focus on.

If all of that sounds terribly negative, then rest assured that it shouldn't - this can provide a fun change of pace and the artworks are cute indeed. I like a lot here. But at the same time, I feel that, at least for now, this falls short of its own potential. I fervently hope we'll get to see a revised version in the future, but for now, I can't rate this higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down - it is a mixed bag with some pros and cons going for the system in pretty much every aspect, situated slightly on the positive side.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
RPCheese
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RPCheese
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/28/2017 13:07:04

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.

All right... the first thing you really need to do is take another look at the title of this work, then at the cover image there in the description. That alone is probably going to tell you whether or not you're interested in this work, and I'm not really sure what else I can say... but I'm going to try anyway.

This is a 54-page, full-color product that functions as a fully standalone roleplaying game. Featuring, yes, intelligent rodents - don't think too hard about it, because this product is clearly more about having fun than worrying over the small details. It is, however, newcomer-friendly - many of the common terms of the industry (like d6, Tabletop RPG, and so on) are defined in the document to help give people a better sense of what it's talking about.

After a brief introduction, this product delves right into character creation - reassuring people that they don't need to worry about terms they don't understand, because all is explained in due time - and the friendliness remains as basic choices (like which race of rodent to play) are outlined in nicely straightforward terms.

I'm not going to go into the nitty-gritty of character creation, but I will note that it's a moderately-involved process, and newcomers will probably want to do it with someone who's played the game before and can give advice. Skills like Acrobatics, Sneaking, Swimming, and Chemistry are present in the game, and use a flat difficulty check (ranging from a roll of 5 or higher for easy tasks to 20 or higher for truly difficult things).

Characters can level up during the course of the game - it's recommended to give out XP at the end of sessions - and can achieve a maximum of 10th level. The main character creation rules and guidelines for play end around Page 30 - starting on Page 31, we have the complete feat list (with more details on each), and that continues on for 10 pages until we get to Items & Equipment. Page 46 is the start of the game mastery suggestion (with lots of advice for those who haven't done it before), and also offers a number of sample bad guys that can be used during play.

Overall, this is an amusing, self-contained system. It doesn't take itself seriously, and you probably shouldn't treat it that way unless your group actually likes the idea of playing a grimdark rodent game (I'm not judging). I'd definitely ask people if they were interested prior to buying this, but if what you've heard in the description and here in my review sounds like fun, know that you'll be getting a complete game to play.

Just don't forget your cheese.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Kits: What Lies in the Shadows Under the Trees
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/27/2017 05:40:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Campaign Kits-series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Okay, what are campaign kits? Basically, they are backdrops and encounters that you can insert into your campaign; in previous installments, we had the skeleton of a village, loosely tied to a theme. This theme is represented in more detail by a collection of more detailed encounters that provide a tad bit more detail - haunts, traps and statblocks for these brief adventure/sidetrek-sketches are included. This installment differs a bit from previous installments of the series - instead of focusing on encounters that are intended for the use with pretty much any forested terrain.

This time around, the encounters contained here will range from level 1 to level 6 and have not hub to tie them together - think of this instead as a general sidetrek-encounter-collection. Got that? Great!

In order to go into more details, I have to start with SPOILERS now...thus, potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Okay, only GMs around? Great! The first locale/encounter-sequence takes place in an ancient fey burial site and features the altercations with a leaf ray and a jack-o'-lantern, with options to put the spookyness to rest. At level 2, we have a little safari scenario that can result in an evil druidic item to be found and destroyed. The second level 2 scenario presented here focuses on defending a caravan versus roving goblinoids.

More interesting would be the level 3 encounter up next, which is an interesting twist - the PCs encounter a man who asks them to help prevent further disappearances of loggers; what might first look like an opportunity to save a damsel in distress...who turns out to be a rather pissed off dryad who is NOT in a good mood...including her enslaved humanoids and assassin vine...

The next level 3 encounter would be a hunting party scenario, complete with traps and moss trolls potentially trading places as hunters and hunted in the interaction with the PCs. The next encounter does have a sad dimension to the proceedings - the PCs happen upon a down on his luck ringmaster and the tiny, dilapidated circus he owns...and, as they take a closer look, they are attacked by the unleashed beasts, as the sad ringmaster tries everything to feed his hungry dire wolverine, owlbear , etc. - if you enjoy a melancholic downer-encounter once in a while, this certainly delivers.

The encounter for level 4 would be "Don't Open the Gate!", where the PCs stumble upon an evil acolyte trying to open the very gates of the abyss, conjuring forth demons - pretty straightforward. The level 5 encounter centers on the plight of a druidess, who has a bug-issue, powered by the evil magics of a hostile witch - an extermination job for pros! At 5th level, the PCs can also be hired by saddened folks who think that local brownies have turned evil - though the culprits for the recent deaths, as it turns out, would be fire drakes.

The level 6 encounter speaks of a mist-shrouded tower in the forest and braving the locale will require the defeat of a wood golem as well as the besting of Twigsnap, gnomish necromancer par excellence. As always, we get stats for the creatures and NPCs encountered in the respective encounters.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a very nice, aesthetically-pleasing two-column full-color standard and the pdf features some really nice full-color pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Kalyna Conrad's collection of forest encounters is fun, diverse and hits some nice notes in some of the respective encounters. Not all are mega-interesting, but for what they try to do and the relatively fair price-point, I can see these work as an expansion for the sidetrek-folder of most GMs. I generally like the options here and they certainly are worth the low asking price for the convenience of the stats, the set-ups, etc. - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars. Nice one!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Kits: What Lies in the Shadows Under the Trees
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Campaign Kits: Maidenhill and Her Many Secrets
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/27/2017 05:35:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Campaign Kits-series clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is a campaign kit? The simple reply to this question is that is somewhere between a dressing file and a sequence of encounters that can be developed into basically a collection of different little modules. We get the small city of Maidenhill, with full-color map (alas, sans key-less version, but since it has no SPOILERS, I'm okay with it) and settlement statblock - Maidenhill can easily be placed in pretty much any campaign setting: You just need a forest and a river.

The city itself is pretty sketch-like and basic in its depiction - it basically acts as a kind of everyday village backdrop for the encounters/adventure-sketches presented herein; we get 2 level 1, 2 and 3 encounters/modules as well as 1 for levels 4, 5, 6, and 7. Why am I using these brackets? Well, the respective sections do provide the required statblocks to run them in appendices, but as a whole, these scenarios are basically organic little sidetreks - they are basically starts and set-ups for modules, but still require the GM to steer the respective adventure and build upon it.

Okay, got that? Great, so let's take a look at these, so let's dive deep into SPOILER territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, still around? Great! So, the angles for the level 1 would be that transients have been going missing - travelers, homeless...but why? Is the mayor involved? What about the rumor that a local vampire is covertly living here, tolerated for as long as he leaves the locals alone? Fact or fiction - the GM decides. The second one has the PCs hunt down a particularly nasty wild boar that has attacked a supply train...which yields not only a reward in food, but also in bacon.

At 2nd level, we have an investigation of a mill haunted by ill-fortune, where components of the mill can turn out to be pretty dangerous traps...and pugwampis need to be purged from the building. The second level 2 scenario. The second scenario is pretty hilarious - and focuses on an elderly lady cursing the male population of the town with baldness...and it turns out the old lady did have her reasons for doing so!

At 3rd level, PCs will get a chance to solve a brief trail of clues for a little investigation after a robbery; and the second of the little encounters would be a minor goblin extermination. The level 4 set-up deals with the logging community aspect of the settlement and requires that the PCs catch an elven anti-deforestation activist. The level 5 encounter builds upon a very important component for the peace and morale of any frontier town: Namely, the PCs are asked by one of the prostitutes of the settlement to help them - two of their profession have been killed and the trail leads to a rather nasty, religious bigot. At level 6, the pdf offers perhaps the best of the angles - there is a tragic mansion out of town, one haunted by the spirits of tragedies past...but in the past, these spirits, also represented by nice haunts, have remained contained to the place...but now, an infamous highwayman has taken up residence in the mansion...and in order to restore peace, the PCs will have to deal with this intruder.

Finally, for level 7, we go full circle - remember that level 1 hook about the vampire hiding in the settlement? Well the highest level set up is all about taking down this vampire alchemist and his spawn. The pdf also feature a bunch of statblocks for the beings featured herein and two smaller maps for locales featured herein beyond the town map.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a nice, aesthetically-pleasing 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf features really nice, picturesque full-color artworks. Cartography is decent and functional, but not as impressive as the artworks.

Kalyna Conrad's Maidenhill makes for a great little base between big adventures; it is a change of pace in as far as it is really, really down-to-earth; even the traditionally more scary set-ups are relatively benevolent in their resolution,, evoking the equivalent of a fantastic small-town's tasks. This campaign kit does not sport world-changing events or the like; instead it acts as a nice grounding between bigger tasks and adventures. While the town could use a bit more detail in the beginning and a handy summary of key personalities or the like, Maidenhill makes for a great little home away from home for adventurers. It may not be a spectacular book and a little bit too idyllic and picturesque, but it is a very useful and inexpensive one for the amount of content provided. Hence, my final verdict for this neat little offering will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Kits: Maidenhill and Her Many Secrets
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Witch of New Hope
by Ben D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/17/2017 10:27:10

This is a fun adventure for the vs. Ghosts game. A note to anyone getting started with the game. I'd use the adventure Ghost of Pendergrass first, and put the town of New Hope near the old Pendergrass logging village. After the players complete Ghost of Pendergrass, the parks committee can begin cleaning it, and expanding it as a living history tourist destination. This expansion could be the lead into Ghost of New Hope. Just my two cents.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Witch of New Hope
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vs. Ghosts
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/16/2017 17:28:33

"Hey JD, here's another game that uses playing cards for a randomizer instead of dice! You're gonna give it a high score, aren't you?"

"That's not true, come on!! There's plenty of...okay it is true. I give high scores to all playing card based games. BUT THAT'S NOT THE ONLY REASON WHY"

I've been a fan of the "vs" series ever since it was printed on quad-fold, 4" x 4" glossy paper with pulp cowboys on the front panel. It's fun, it's light, and it's simple. Traditionally it has relied on your group's knowledge of and love for the source material to make it really sing. vs. Ghosts looks to action-comedies like (but not limited to) Ghostbusters for it's fun, and it does a lot of things right in making it work. The system is based on the flip of a card - players can also supplement this with bonus cards they have in hands, though replenishing those cards is much rarer than card flips. For a rules-light system it's fairly good. In terms of what characters actually do and how the opposition is portrayed, it nails something that even the venerable Ghostbusters RPG from West End Games didn't always remember, which is that the comedy in horror-comedy normally comes not from the monsters, but from the absurd actions of the protagonists. The ghosts, demons, eldritch beings and cultists in the Ghostbusters films are not overtly comedic (okay, that one guy's accent is pretty funny), it's the reaction of the mundane world to them and the actions of our heroes that bring the comedy. Hence, the ghosts and spirits in vs. Ghosts are presented in a faux-Victorian manner, and the characters and NPCs are presented in broad, cartoony pictures and statistics. Yet the scenarios are largely serious! This demonstrates that vs. Ghosts understands its genre, and presents a bullseye for the players to target. The GM gives a "serious" horror scenario, and our heroes the exorcists (Repossessed), mad scientists (Ghostbusters) or whatever (Scary Movie) go loping in to blow up the bar mitzvah and try to get paid for it at the end.

The areas I would suggest for improvement would be to urge some caution in the use of comedic stereotypes, or suggest ways to subvert and reimagine the stereotypes. We aren't limited by a 22-90 minute presentation format, so we have the freedom to make comedic stereotypes more interesting than television or film. Also, although this is a game that claims to be open content, it literally says "all material" here is designated Product Identity. Oh, uh, okay. You know, you can just copyright your game book if you want? Oh well, nobody pays attention to that stuff but me anyhow.

All in all, you get what's on the cover with vs. Ghosts. I recommend it!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts
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Amazing Weapons, Armor, and Equipment for 5th Edition Fantasy!
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/24/2017 04:11:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This item-book clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

One thing I really enjoy about 5e would be the assumption that magic weapons and equipment is rarer and more wondrous. Conversely, this does carry some issues when looking at the equipment available for low- to mid-level characters, though, namely that the pretty restrictive array of tools and weaponry available restricts the customization options available and thus, player agenda. the pdf's reply to this conundrum would be the inclusion of special types of items - the first of these would be the succinctly-named "quality" item. Following 5e's pretty hand-waving item creation rules, the pdf does not seek to impose a linear system for the creation of such items and instead suggests percentile chances, narrative angles and the like, emphasizing GM-control.

Beginning with quality armor, we receive a brief table that lists them alongside whether they can be applied only to shields or armors or both - here is also a cosmetic glitch, a ")" that does not belong and should have been caught, being pretty obvious. Now each armor may only have one such quality feature and they actually allow for some interesting operations: Basher shields, for example, may be used to inflict 1d6 bludgeoning damage and, when shoving with them, they can inflict damage. Now, as a nitpick, I'd love to know how this interacts with TWFing and whether shields generally are treated as regular martial weapons or not. Granted, this is only relevant in some interactions, but yeah. Nice: There would be durable items that not only gain advantage on saves to avoid destructions, they also have a 50-50-chance of avoiding destruction, even when they'd fall prey to it.

Armor with a once for day-cycle blessing of good fortune (deliberately not tied to resting mechanics), armor that helps making a good first impression...pretty nice. Taking a cue from mythology, there would be the mirrored shield that nets you advantage on saves versus gaze attacks. Another quality would be nimble, which helps when wearing armors that hamper Stealth and have a minimum Strength score. Resilient armor is one type of armor that a group will either adore or outright ban: You see, you choose one type of physical damage with these upon creation. The wearer may use his reaction to gain resistance to the chosen damage type, but only versus one attack. Now, this is a pretty potent option, but one that taps into 5e's restrictive action economy to work. Furthermore, it is based on the rock-paper-scissors-principle I personally enjoy very much in 5e's mechanics. Still, as much as I personally enjoy this, the matter of fact remains that some groups won't like this - hence me drawing awareness to this one in particular.

Soul armor is similarly an option that will polarize groups: A total of 3 times, the armor can prevent you from being reduced to 0 hp, instead resulting in you being at 1 hit point. The limits are harsh, thankfully: Only 1/encounter (insert all my rants ever regarding how per-encounter abilities make no sense in game...regardless of system)...and once the armor has saved you thrice, it will never do so again. Granted, this would still allow a character to gain another soul armor, so seriously restricting these is very much in the interest of the GM. At the same time, this very much represents a cool take on an ancestral armor that saves the hero while also reducing the potential for player frustration if your group tries to minimize PC death. At the same time, one that will be divisive would be stalwart armor, which allows you to use your bonus action to stay in place for one turn, but which also locks you in that spot, preventing voluntary movement. I am not the biggest fan of such abilities that deal in absolutes, though the cost of the bonus action can, depending on the class employed, be a steep cost indeed. As far as I'm concerned, I think that a scaling mechanic or one based on a save or advantage would have been more elegant. An armor that helps versus no thirst/starvation or supernaturally-caused exhaustion, but helps against the other types on the other side, should have universal appeal. Slight inconsistency: One type of armor is called "tastes bad" in the table, "bitter" in the text.

Weapons receive similar qualities, with ammunition, for example, getting the chance to be particularly accurate: "This ammunition confers advantage, allowing you to attack at long range without penalty, or to attack at short range more accurately." So, does that mean no disadvantage at long range AND advantage on the attack roll? Or does that mean it gets advantage on the attack roll at short range, no disadvantage at long range? The item's benefits are not 100% clear here, alas. The power of these pieces of ammunition is mitigated slightly by them not being able to be scavenged, but still, this one should only be used after careful consideration by the GM - inclusion of this ammunition will further increase the potency of ranged weapons. Very much cherished by yours truly: Dual purpose weapons, which have more than one damage type, allowing for, among other things, the representation of Kyuss' evocative favored weapon, to just note one example.

Macabre weaponry nets you advantage on Intimidation checks, but penalizes your attempts to hide the grotesque weapon. Protecting weapons are VERY cool and add a serious element of tactics to the game play: These allow you to forego your bonus action; if you do, you may use your reaction to impose disadvantage on an incoming ranged or spell attack. Very cool visuals of parrying rays and the like here and the deliberate choice and lost actions mean that player agenda is increased. Two thumbs up! Allowing a character to use his bonus action to attack again after missing with an attack is another interesting option, if one that represents a straight power upgrade.

Now, since I have complained about one piece of ammunition, it is only fair that I also mention one of my favorites herein: Tenacious ammunition is the classic representation of barbed ammunition: After being hit, you shouldn't move too much, for it'll cause damage otherwise...until it is removed with an appropriate Medicine check. I like this one very much.

The pdf does offer more than weaponry and armor: Tools may, for example, be particularly impressive, granting recognition and prestige to those that use them, helping in social situations. Efficient tools decrease the amount of time required for a given task and the good ole' manuals make an introduction of sorts: Instructional literature. Each comes in a set of 6 volumes, and you gain a +1 bonus per volume studied for the skill or tool in question, capping at proficiency bonus - sufficient and long-term studying of the whole set can net you proficiency in the respective skill or tool, replacing the bonuses granted before. The cool component here, obviously, is that the item speaks to the collector and can be used as a nice way of leading PCs to certain tasks...and due to the massive donwtime required to learn the proficiencies, it is unlikely the PCs will ever be able to cheese this item-class.

We can also find notes on toolkits that are particularly feasible for carrying around, and the pdf comes with suggested pricing and selling guidelines as well. The next section is very interesting as well: Between the special quality items and the full-blown magical ones, the pdf introduces so-called charms. Charms allow for a limited specialized benefit, which is, internally consistent, tied to the cycle of dawns. To give you an example: The charm of the defender can be activated as a bonus action when you hit a creature. Said creature must then succeed a Dexterity save versus DC 13 or restrained, with a success yielding halved speed. The restrained condition can be ended by the saves on subsequent rounds, but RAW, the reduced speed has no duration, though one round would make sense to me. Charms require attunement and are added in a relatively simply process to weaponry, armor, etc. and their benefits, unless explicitly stated otherwise, do not work in conjunction with magical items. RAW, more charms can be attached to one item, but the maximum attunement limit obviously still applies, preventing abuse there.

Armor that may change its precise look as an action, a charm that cloaks an item as useless or broken - the pdf has some cool tricks here. I am also really liking the charm that allows for the use of a reaction to teleport 30 ft. in a cloud of mist, negating the attack on a successful save for some nice ninja-action. A charm that negates the Stealth disadvantage on an armor also makes for a cool option...but the charm actually requires that you spend time doing charitable work to recharge it - cool angle! Spell trick charms can store level 1 and 2 spells and tie them to a condition, on which they are triggered, which is pretty amazing, though personally, I would have preferred a hard word-cap for the determining of the condition...but that may be me.

The pdf also sports charms that include the option to temporarily gain access to a skill or language of a vanquished creature and adding an Intimidation upon defeating a foe makes for an interesting option. Also cool: Making a melee weapon behave as a thrown weapon that returns to you or a charm that allows you to recall a nearby weapon to your hand...some nice tricks here!

The engine is pretty nice and is supplemented by 3 magic items: One that allows for charm-recharge (but crumbles thereafter), one for additional uses and a sash that allows you to attune two charms to it, which then proceed to grant their benefits/work in conjunction with all weapons/armor you're wearing. Nice!

The pdf concludes with a brief tour of the fluff-only set-piece of Zagoren's Curios Emporium, a magic shop, if you will, and his interesting shopkeepers alongside sufficient advice on how to integrate this into your campaign.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, but slightly less precise on a rules-language level; as noted above, there are a couple of verbiage instances that could be a bit clearer. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with nice stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ismael Alvarez' item options represent a worthwhile purchase for the extremely low and fair price point. Regarding the quality items herein, the pdf represents a bit of a hit and miss for games - not necessarily because the items are problematic, but because they represent different types of power-upgrades that may or may not be welcome in a given game. I'd strongly discourage allowing all types of quality items in a given game, but for cherry-picking, this represents pure gold.

Speaking of which: The charms as a concept and engine are amazing and definitely need further support: There is so much to be done with the cool concept and as far as I'm concerned, they should not result in issues in any game. While the minor hiccups prevent me from rating this as highly as the amazing gems herein would warrant, when I consider the low and fair price-point into account, this most certainly is worth getting. My final verdict hence will clock in at 4 stars and I'm signing off with a definite hope for a sequel.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Amazing Weapons, Armor, and Equipment for 5th Edition Fantasy!
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Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/13/2017 10:44:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive bestiary for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at an impressive 146 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a truly impressive 139 pages of content, so let's take a look!

It has been a long time since Castle Falkenstein, beloved by many, has seen any proper support - which is, in itself, a surprise, considering its presence among many a favorite RPG-list...but it is also not surprising: Pioneering high adventure in the Edwardian and early Victorian age of an alternate world, it managed to miss both the rise of grimdark aesthetics and preceded the latter steampunk boom, which provided a slew of ill-conceived fads and sloppy prose - prose that would, had more people taken the time, paled before Castle Falkenstein's merits as a novel as well as a game. Castle Falkenstein's framing narrative of Tom Olam being stranded in this allotopia has always been a great selling point, at least as far as I'm concerned; it made reading the books a true pleasure rather than a just a joy.

This book takes up this framing narrative seamlessly, taking "previously unpublished" accounts penned by Tom Olam and converting them into the respective books - and thus we begin with prose, which represents the journey to find the missing manuscript of none other than Dr. Dolittle. It is hence that Tom Olam comments on the material found and retrieved, his work on the conversion...and fans of Castle Falkenstein will indeed notice the seamless consistence of the whole sequence.

That is, until the introductory rules-section begins. Here, we can clearly see the influence of the current age, and I mean that in the most flattering of ways. If you've read my review of Castle Falkenstein, you will notice that I am very much in love with system and setting...but my criticisms towards the system are profound. I consider myself to be a pretty experienced RPG-player, but the presentation of the rules was at times at obtuse and inconsistent as the prose and setting were inspired. The book, in short, suffered from what I'd dub "90s-itis" - an age where a lot of amazing RPG-books with glorious prose, particularly in rules-lite systems, were released, but often suffered from a less than stellar editing and inconsistencies in the rules. And yes, particularly in relatively rules-lite systems, that can really grind the game to a halt. Castle Falkenstein suffered from exactly this phenomenon, and while it certainly is nowhere near the worst offender in that regard when compared to my gaming library's relics, it did, from a current point of view, suffer in this regard. (Ahem, can we have a new edition? Please?)

Anyways, this book begins with PRECISION. Creatures in the Great Game are categorized as natives, faerie pets and things from beyond the Faerie veil, which can be things from other worlds, darker places...or pretty much any setting/trope you can come up with. Furthermore, we classify creatures in 6 different sizes and a handy table categories damage inflicted by creatures with an easy chart, separate entries for partial, full and high wounds and harm ranks included - including notes that wounds and size must not necessarily correlate. The same holds true for creature health and size, strength and size...and the pdf goes through the Castle Falkenstein abilities and notes how they apply to creatures: Flying/Running/Swimming speeds based on physique, for example, can be found here. Oh, and the book provides 5 abilities for use around, with and by creatures - Animal Handling, Animal Speech, Creature Power, Outdoorsmanship and Poison. All of these abilities are concisely presented and, while precise, still maintain the levity in theme and tone that made reading Castle Falkenstein's rules interesting and...well, less dry than in comparable settings. The book provides quick and easy creature creation guidelines and also spends a whole page talking about the ramifications of pets, sidekicks, animal companions - you get the drift. And yes, since Dolittle, Animal Speech, et al. is part of the parcel here, the book does cover, extensively, I might add, the role of intelligent animals in the Great Game - but only after a nice piece of prose, which keeps the overall flavor of the book consistent and high-concept...which btw. would be a term I'll return to! Have I mentioned the clockwork self-destruct mechanism codified in a side-bar?

Speaking of side-bars: Whenever you would begin considering the array of rules-clarifications provided start becoming dry, you'll find one of them: Like Beth-Ann, San Francisco's gigantic bear that was gifted to Napoleon. So yes, this book retains a very nice and inspiring reading flow, as far as the blend of prose and rules are concerned. I was talking about clarifications: TER (Thaumic Energy Requirements) for creatures are easily and precisely presented, codified by creature type...and both giant animals and familiars not only exist as concepts now - they have actual rules governing them!

Indeed, unlike in most bestiaries for roleplaying games, this is no mere accumulation of critters and stats; rather than that, we have vivid pieces of prose leading into the respective entries of creatures, elaborating upon them: Did you know, for example, that sphinxes are aliens, captured by faerie and thus particularly ill-disposed to their ilk? Did you know that true unicorns not only receive their bestiary entry, but also can act now as proper dramatic characters? And yes, this is still not the bestiary section, but rather the section leading up to it, telling us about the kingdom of Kongo in Castle Falkenstein's world, wild children and more.

Now the book does, obviously, begin a section clearly denoted as bestiary, providing creatures in alphabetical order, but unlike bestiaries provided for other systems and settings, the bestiary here takes its debts and associations with our own real world myths very seriously, retaining a mythology-enhanced plausibility: In a world where faerie is a very real force, it's not too hard to picture the existence of the amphisbaena or basilisks, correct?

Each of the creatures herein is not simply presented as a statblock, if you will - instead, the respective entries come with detailed ruminations on the creature, a brief cliff-notes version of it and detailed ideas for the host to employ the creature in question - often as basically a rather detailed adventure hook. The book's selection of creatures, as a whole, resonates very well with real world myths and contextualizes them properly in the allotopia of Castle Falkenstein.

Now, I have called this a bestiary and the moniker is truer than in pretty much every reference towards any Monster Manual-like book for other systems: Let me elaborate. Back before the period of enlightenment, when superstition and make-belief and the dogmatic realities constructed by the church still held sway over our cultures and science was indistinguishable from fantasy, there was a class of book called "Bestiary" - a zoological treatise on various creatures, both real and imagined: Think of this category as basically a category of literature resembling a blend of zoological encyclopedia and travelogue, one in which the fantastic and real blended into what we'd nowadays consider a form of magical realism, a representation of a form of weltanschauung that is in equal parts informed by a harsh reality and vibrant fantasy, by innocence and grime, if you will.

However, with the advent of a progressive secularization and ever more accumulating rebuttals to the world-views eschewed by organized religions, the scientific method began cleaving apart the previously existent "science" and founded the concept of a rationally definitive reality. Now, one accomplishment of this book is that it exists in the strange intersection between the grand psychological traumas mankind experienced in the transition to its (relatively) enlightened state and a more innocent or ignorant world-view when the world was defined by what we can now consider to be fantasies -in this strange no-man's land of transition that is quoted by Castle Falkenstein's allotopia, the question ultimately remains how this strange world, in this transitional phase, would behave if there actually was magic, if there actually existed faeries. Basically, if the medieval superstitions made the transition into a more enlightened era BECAUSE they turned out to be true...and what would happen if these moved with the times, how they would react to the transitional era in which Castle Falkenstein is set.

This is relevant for this book, because its sensibility is not merely that of a basic monster manual, but of a book that takes the established traditions of bestiaries and logically evolves them in a manner akin to how the core book managed to logically develop the campaign world under its chosen premises and contextualize the culture of these days. The book not only manages to retain the feeling evoked by the original Castle Falkenstein books, it progresses them organically and in a manner that bespeaks a deep and abiding love not only for the concept of the age of high adventure Castle Falkenstein depicts, but also for the magical realism and historicity demanded, nay, required by the setting.

This tangent may sound weird to you, but it carries more significance than me just listing critter upon creature and commenting on how they are well made; sure, I can tall you about hippocampi, hydras and the jabberwock - but what help would that be? We all have absorbed these mythological creatures via our collective canon of literature and media productions over the years - or so I hope. More interesting would be how they are depicted, how they are contextualized - as something more plausible and real than current-world cryptoids, as beings fantastic, yet real. The very existence of one such being can potentially radically change the ways in which aspects of culture and society evolved and it is the book's most impressive feat that it manages to retain the plausible consistency the beings require without losing their mythological impact and significance.

Scholars of mythology will smile, from kraken to mi'raj (also known as al-mi'raj or, more colloquially as "that weird unicorn bunny from myths around the Indian Ocean"), from monoceros to pushmi-pullyu to sapo fuerzo and yale - indeed, if you consider yourself a scholar of myths, even a casual one, you'll recognize many of the creatures...but chances are that several of the more obscure ones will surprise you indeed.

It should also be noted that a ton of regular, less fantastic animals receive their stats...but that, once again, would not even be close to encompassing the book, for there is also a chapter on characters and it is here that the ardent and diligently performed process of myth-weaving is exemplified even better: Obviously careful historic research and similarly careful thought has went into the respective representations of real life persons and fictionalized characters: You can find Black Beauty herein alongside famed naturalist Amalie Dietrich; Dr. John Dolittle is just as real here as Fantomas and Moriarti indeed has reason to fear M, the hidden paw. Dr. Jekyll and Mowgli are very real...and Mendel, understandably, is conducting experiments on faerie pets...with Auberon obviously interested in keeping the knowledge about DNA hidden...but why, what's his agenda? See what I'm meaning? We have a logical, and yet inspiring blend of fact and fiction, but one that very much is indebted to the concise realism of historicity as well as that assigned, constructed array of rules generated by the collective of mythology, literature and Castle Falkenstein's own established cultural pastiche.

Indeed, the research that went into this book is as evident as the obvious care and love that went into these adaptations - from Mme Pauline de Vere to Eliza Carpenter, the book presents a truly amazing array of beings for hosts to employ: And it also has no less than 10 dramatic characters, from true unicorn to paleontologist, from falconer to jockey. They universally are well-balanced within the context of CF's rules.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, particularly for a book of this size. The rules-language and prose is vivid and I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard, with the artworks employing public domain stock art...which, for once, does actually enhance the feeling of the book more than original artworks would have managed. The artwork makes it feel...more consistent. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with detailed, nested bookmarks.

So, the authors Mister Thomas Stubbins, Captain Thomas Olam and Doctor John Dolittle obviously are legends in our world as well as in others; the transcribing scribe, one mister J Gray may have so far received less universal renown, but one should indeed not remain silent regarding his accomplishments. I have read a lot of RPG-books, many with a quasi-historic context/setting; at one time, you begin to perceive the lines that separate the wheat from the chaff, the books that were made as tasks in opposition to those born out of true and honest passion and love. This book is such a book. From the rules-clarifications to every single entry, the vast array of in-jokes for history- and culture-buffs, the commitment to consistency... to both CF's style and its type of mythweaving, is not only commendable, but exemplary.

The first bestiary of any given setting, by any publisher or licensee, is a risky book and one hard to get right; more so in the case off a setting with such a distinct and hard to properly pull off thematic identity and theme as Castle Falkenstein. This pdf manages to accomplish exactly that feat with flying colors, providing excellence in all categories I can measure. How deep does the thematic consistency go? Well, look at the dinosaur section: Know why there's no T-rex inside? Because the first skeleton was discovered by Barnum Brown in 1902. I am SURE that someone is going to complain about that, but me, I applaud this adherence to truth, as it enhances the myths laid upon the history, as it adds a dimension, and, or so I hope, knowledge to those inclined to read...and pursue the handy bibliography included in the back. And yes, this big book is FULL with decisions like that and feels like it is extremely cognizant of its responsibility to the high concepts of the system.

In short: This is a phenomenal continuation of Castle Falkenstein, an excellent addition to this often overlooked gem of an RPG, a book that brings modern precision to the narrative gravitas of CF's mythbuilding and a book that makes me seriously hope for a 2nd edition, for more Castle Falkenstein books. This breathes spirit, love and soul in all the right ways, represents a carefully-constructed labor of love and is an amazing deal, even if you just get it for the purpose of idea-scavenging. In short: This very much represents a gem in Fat Goblin Games' library as well as among the books available for Castle Falkenstein and should be considered to be a must-have addition to any fashionable CF-host's library. Get this. 5 stars + seal of approval + candidate for my Top Ten of 2016. Regardless of system, this is the best book J Gray has penned...eh...transcribed so far and sets an incredibly high bar for the product line.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
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Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Collection
by Ben D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/11/2017 09:52:14

Avery nice collection of art. They are Public Domain, so you can find the same images elswere, but Rick has organized them by groups, and cleaned up the original art. This is a huge collection, and will be guarenteed to save you time when looking for art pieces for your own use.



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Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Collection
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Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
by Kristy C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/01/2017 07:39:28

I'm new to the Castle Falkenstein World (I was only 9 when the books first came out on the market). I feel like it was fate that I began to run my very first game using this system at a time when Fat Goblin Games is bringing Castle Falkenstein back to the role playing community with new material to add to our adventures.

The book is written from the viewpoint of Dr. Doolittle, which gives this book even more value than just being a "monster manual." There is narrative written amongst the rules, as in the tradition of all of the other Castle Falkenstein books. The Memoirs of Auberon covers all of the fairy creatures and player characters you could ever hope to add to your steam adventure, but there really wasn't much in the way of animals or creatures from other magical mythologies present. For creating interesting encounters and battles for my players, I feel that Curious Creatures fills that niche quite nicely with creatures ranging from manitores to unicorns and everything in between.

There are also interesting new player characters available to play, you can even play as a Unicorn and a Beastfolk (hello, werewolves anyone?) The layout and art direction of this book is absolutely beautiful with tons of illustrations, decorative borders, and it is laid out in a very user friendly way. I think it is easily the most beautifully designed books from The Castle Falkenstein canon.

As a friend of the writer of this book, I want to tell you all that his passion for this game is incredibly apparent in all of the historical and mythological research he's done for Castle Falkenstein, in this volume in particular. Please give this game a try if you are on the fence, it is immensely fun to play if you are at all into faeries, magic, dragons, steampunk, Victorian culture, melodramas, and role play heavy gaming!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
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D20 Generator: Crazy Town Events
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/28/2017 19:48:47

There are only 20 events in this products. Some of them are great but most things you would see as headlines in the newpaper just replace man or woman with race and a few other descriptors. All of it together it is not worth .50 mabye .10



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[1 of 5 Stars!]
D20 Generator: Crazy Town Events
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