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Ink & Color: Adult Coloring Book Vol. 1
by Joel L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/16/2018 20:26:28

I am a big fan of Rick Hershey/Fat Goblin Games and his artwork. This book is pretty awesome and I have enjoyed coloring several of the sheets since I have bought it.

Here is what I like about it:

  • Each sheet prints wonderfully crisp in black and white
  • Each sheet has a nice frame around the main piece of art which makes it suitable to hang or display
  • There are right at 40 different sheets to color
  • Coloring is a very good stress reliever. Being a fan of his art I have really enjoyed coloring and destressing out after a hard week or day of work.

Also, he has a very cool patreon I support if you really like his artwork-> https://www.patreon.com/fatgoblingames/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ink & Color: Adult Coloring Book Vol. 1
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Shadows over Vathak: Hauntlings - Enhanced Racial Guide
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/11/2018 05:19:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second enhanced racial guide for the Shadows Over Vathak setting clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, hauntlings are easily one of my favorite races of Shadows Over Vathak, and after a brief introductory text, we get information on the race in general, then regarding races and their take on religion, nomenclature, etc. – in case you did not know, these fellows are basically those touched by spirits. And yes, we get an age, height and weight table. Hauntlings get +2 to an ability score of their choice and are Medium creatures with normal speed. Hauntlings are half-undead and thus gain darkvision 60 ft. as well as a +2 racial bonus to saves versus diseases and mind-affecting effects. They take no penalties from energy drain, but can be killed by it. They shrug such negative levels off automatically after 24 hours, though. They are harmed by positive and healed by negative energy as a strong drawback for this, though. They have memories of past lives and thus may choose two Knowledge skills, treating them as class skills and gaining a +2 bonus in them. They also add +1 to the DC of spells of the phantasm subschool they cast and hauntlings with Charisma 11+ gain ghost sound, pass without trace and ventriloquism as SPs.

There is a metric ton of alternate racial traits that sport an actually narrative-wise relevant tie in regarding the unique flavor of the race: A hauntling with faint memories of dying in a fire, for example, may mean you replace the phantasm DC-increase and SPs with burning hands and spark 1/day. Similarly, accidental deaths may result in hauntlings with different SPs. Instead of the Knowledge buffs, hauntlings can perhaps really impersonate a previous identity exceedingly well, and there is an option to 1/day, as an immediate action, treat positive energy and negative energy as usual for 1 minute. Having been drowned may result in a swim speed and the ghostly magic may be replaced for a frightening 1/day rictus grin that is properly codified, with DC scaling. What about generating a mist that can obscure even darkvision or auto-stabilizing after dropping to 0 hp? Remembering weapon training? Or a potent trick to become incorporeal for brief stints? Yeah, these alternate racial traits are not only precise and tight, they are AMAZING and flavorful.

We also get full-blown, distinct racial variants that are more than just a combination of alternate racial traits: Caoineadhs, for example, get +2 Dec and Cha, -2 Con and can emit a frightening howl once per day, with a full-round action and a scaling. They also get their own SPs. Cha-governed save DC. Gan Ceans get +2 to one ability score of their choice and are…HEADLESS. I kid you not. You can attach e.g. a skull of the like. The original head does exist, btw., and makes for a unique adventuring option, for retrieving it can result into a transformation. They also get their own SPs. Shadowlings get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Strength and treat Stealth as a class kill, gaining a +2 racial bonus in it. They also get two neat SPs and enhance shadow-spells. Wraithlings get +2 Con and Cha, -2 Wisdom and have a 1/day Con-draining touch, with a Con-based scaling save to negate. Once more, unique SPs provided. I have no balance-concerns with any of these.

The favored class option array is MASSIVE and provides flavor as well as benefits for them, contextualizing what they represent in-game. Really cool. These include all Paizo-classes minus the ninja and samurai, but including ACG & OA classes and even the vigilante. No issues here and even fortune teller and reanimator are included.

The pdf also includes 4 racial archetype: The dirge caller bard replaces fascinate with an ennui-inducing debuff and expanded necromancy spells instead of inspire competence. Soothing tune is replaces with a bardic performance-powered phantasmal killer. Loremaster is replaces with an improved speak with dead. Nice archetype! The ghostly gunner gunslinger swaps out the quick clear, startling shot and expert loading deeds in favor of having ghostly firearms float around her. How cool is that?? The archetype lets you move these and fire unattended guns, even if they’re not loaded! The archetype can increase the number of floating firearms by +1 instead of taking a bonus feat. This archetype is mechanically deceptively simple, but in fact precise and awesome. The section also sports two different slayer-archetypes, the first of which would be ghost hunter slayer, who is a specialist in slaying incorporeal targets. They can only apply studied target against incorporeal creatures and their weapons are considered to be ghost touch (not italicized properly). They also get automatic Perception checks to notice targets and become experts at quickly and efficiently using holy water. At higher levels, they can bestow final death to spirits and trap them in containers. The archetype comes with a list of suggested slayer talents. The second slayer archetype are the grim harvesters, harvesters and grim judges that can see death, attune a bonded weapon and, at higher levels, generate a circle of death. The capstone lets them pronounce a dire fate for a target which will then come to pass. The archetype btw. rewards choices of weapons like scythes, without penalizing other choices. Flavorful and cool!

The pdf also includes 8 different feats: Floating Presence nets you a balanced floating option; Phantasms and Major Phantasm nets silent images and worse, which exist only for one target – perfect gaslighting/horror device. They can also be made to render yourself invisible to the target via Selective Apparition. Steal Memory lets you claim the skills of those you’ve slain (amazing), and yes, it is limited and restricted properly. Better social skills vs. ghosts and the option to affect more targets with Phantasms and make them spread – I adore these feats here. Full of roleplaying potential for smart players, the feats are precise and unique. Now, I absolutely ADORE the notion of Vathak’s Lineage feats: Unlike corruptions, they allow the PC to properly play the descent into becoming a monster while retaining balance and without being overly punitive. As such, I was ecstatic to see the concept explained here once more (should you have missed SoV’s Lineage-concept so far) and get a proper Spirit Lineage, with no less than 9 options to choose from and 3 general levels of taint. These are potent and amazing. Love them.

The pdf also includes a TON of race traits. These are superb examples of what traits should be: Mechanical effects are correctly codified and types AND we get actually narratively-relevant ones! For example, there is one that nets you the following: “Once per day, you can clear your mind and know where the most recently deceased humanoid creature is and where the largest graveyard is. Both have a range of one mile.“ Come on, that trait offers a variety of cool character concepts on its own! How often can you say that about a frickin’ TRAIT? What about having a ghostly phantom limb? It does not really exist, having no slots, but it can affect spirits! This is amazing! It lets you play bad-ass disabled person, something we only very, very rarely get to do!

Beynd these damn cool traits, we also get mundane equipment: Holy ash. Cremation ash that can open your eyes to spirits. Salt to make your armor apply versus incorporeal targets…Really cool, and yes, comes with Craft DCs. There also are 5 new weapons, including a flail that can generate an eerie sound, a disguised rhompia and war scythes. The pdf also provides the new corpse hair material, tapping into classic myth and providing a wide variety of applications for the material. Ghost glass and spirit coal are also presented, making this chapter a winner!

There are 4 magic items, which include dead man’s tongues, which can animate the dead and fortify the half-undead. Funerary shrouds conceal the target from mindless undead and can absorb one energy drain. Funerary urns let you entrap the slain, preventing their return. Tombstone hammers are just what they sound like. Come on, you want to smash the undead while wielding a tombstone hammer! You know you do! Particularly since the names of your foes may show up on the stone…which is not good for morale… There are 7 new spells included as well: Cold spot is a thematically fitting low-level soft terrain control that also makes the unseen visible; ghostly light is an upgrade of light that also detects spirits. Murder of crows generates a damaging area that also can blind targets and that may be moved. Release from pain rots slowly away the flesh of the living, turning them into skeletons under your control. Tear the void creates a negative energy vortex that can be moved. Through the eyes of the dead lets you imbue a skull to watch through it. Tolling bell destroys weak, mindless undead. Minor complaint: There is no such thing as holy damage in PFRPG Dear lord, I love these spells! Their levels and classes make sense. They are evocative and relevant for their levels. The pdf also includes a new occult ritual, namely Last Chance. This nets you a safety net as an undead on a success and makes for a cool and potent ritual.

The pdf closes with an amazing dressing table of random hauntling features.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are superb on a formal level and almost perfect on a rules-language level. I noticed only a very minor hiccup: Lucus Palosaari and Landon Winkler did a phenomenal job here. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports fantastic full-color artwork, original pieces, mind you. The pdf is fully bookmarked, but the first chapter’s bookmarks are a bit wonky.

John Bennett’s development of Rick Hershey’s original hauntling concept is one of the single most inspiring racial guides available for PFRPG. The options are meticulously balanced to work in both more high-powered and grittier games. More importantly, we get no feature bloat and instead opt to focus on story-telling. Heck, even usually bland, min-maxy rules-components like traits and favored class options are inspiring and matter! Favored class options have flavor. You can play HEADLESS FOLKS. You can gaslight folks with selective illusions. This is phenomenal.

This is a truly fantastic, glorious racial guide that makes the hauntlings one of my favorite races in all of PFRPG! I mean, you can play balanced, headless folks! You can have a good reason to play a one-armed character! From items to options to feats, this breathes care, passion and love - this supplement is inspiring in all the right ways. This is a perfect example of what a racial guide should be. 5 stars + seal of approval. Oh, and since I really love this one, it is hereby nominated as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows over Vathak: Hauntlings - Enhanced Racial Guide
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Simple Settings: Savage Lands
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/23/2018 08:22:32

Simple Settings: Savage Lands is the first in a new series of supplements from Fat Goblin Games. The purpose of this series is to expand the possibilities of 5e and explore new settings, without complicating the rules.

The pdf is 58 pages (counting covers and OGL) and is gorgeous. I love the borders and page layout. The artwork is fitting. Some is modern, but there's a lot of classic public domain artwork and in the context of this book it's appropriate and looks phenomenal.

To keep with the simplistic approach of the title, most of the book discusses how to using existing Player's Handbook content in the setting.  This doesn't mean there isn't new content. There's quite a bit actually.

Three new races emerge from the primordial stew: nature loving apefolk (with orange fur, strong back, and long limb subraces), slow adapting and nomadic Neanderthals, and ancient noble saurian (with big teeth, big stomper, and tough skin subraces). 

After discussing how the classic classes fit (or don't in the case of monks and wizards) in the setting, we're presented with new archetypes. The Bard College of Primal Rhythm is combat oriented. Clerics can take the Oracular Domain to draw from nature and see signs for divination. Since the monk isn't appropriate, the fighter gains The Fist is a primal brawler and force of nature. Finally Warlock's of the savage lands sometimes make deals with personifications of primal nature. Thus we are given the Volcano Warlock Patron.

The Arcana and History skills aren't appropriate in this setting. They are replaced with the Intelligence based Lore skill. In addition, there's a background for being raised by wolves, apes, and other animals. It's known as the Abandoned.

Since industry and such doesn't exist, there's a large section of new equipment, including vehicles and pre-historic trinkets. There are new magic items, such as daggers created from meteor shards and healing fruit (which are more potent than healing potions, but take longer to be consumed).

One of the most important sections (in my opinion) discusses actually using this in your game (with pros and cons). Are the savage lands a new continent that's not been settled? Or is it a hollow earth style scenario? Perhaps there's a primal plane of existence. After discussing the where, the pdf goes into the what. This section is a primer to the cultural aspects of this setting (including a side bar for the gods of the savage lands).

There are a few new optional rules. Detailed foraging and hunting rules (with DC's are presented).

Finally there's a bestiary section. A lot of space is given to discuss how to use traditional Monster Manual (SRD) monsters in the setting. However, there are a few new beasts and foes presented. My favourite is the powerful chaotic fey, known as the Mountain Queen. She used elementals, monsters, and other creatures to impose her will. In addition there are new dinos, such as the headbutting pachycephalosarus, the fearsome looking therizinosaurus, and the undead skeletal pterodactyl. Finally, killer plants are a staple of lost world stories, we're presented with the vine abductor. This malevolent plant can pull an Invasion of the Body Snatchers and sprout clones.

I'm glad I picked up this pdf. While I don't know that I would run a full pre-historic game, this would be an excellent resource to do a Hollow World style game. I think this is 6.95 well spent. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this series.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Simple Settings: Savage Lands
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vs. Stranger Stuff: Send in the Clowns Special Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/21/2018 07:37:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement for Vs. Stranger Stuff clocks in at 54 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page of back cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 47 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

This review was requested as a prioritized review by one of my patreons.

Okay, so, if you’ve been following my tackling of the VsM-Engine-based supplements released by Fat Goblin Games, you’ll notice that I really love the Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2-book; I think it is a really elegant, detailed game that is fun to play and fits its niche perfectly. Now, this supplement is, in a way, a stroll down memory lane – it represents, in essence, a kind of V.1.5 of the base system, with more supplemental material etc. That means, this actually has everything you need to run the game.

As I’ve explained the peculiarities of VsM-based games 4 times by now, I assume you’re familiar with them, in particular Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2. Now, this review, and let me state that from the get—go, will be based on the utility of this book in conjunction with Season 2’s cool rulebook. This may not be 100% fair to the book, but it is the question that customers want answered, and so I’m going to provide that. As a Season 1 supplement, this is retroactively designated as EASY mode for the context of Season 2 gameplay, and this is my testing baseline.

All right, got that? Great!

So, we begin with an intro, one that lists appropriate inspirations for horror-themed clowns; the next three pages are devoted to a basic character-generation-section for the Kids (i.e. the PCs) – this obviously does not reach, by a long shot, the details we get in the Season 2-book, but it suffices to make characters and includes even a few good/bad gimmicks, which are here still called “Stuff.” (As an aside: Whoever deiced to rename them did a good job!) Two more pages explain the basics of fighting and there we go – at this point, only a total of 6 pages has been devoted to information that has become obsolete due to Season 2’s release.

Now, how does the GM-section fare? Well, we begin with an overview of locations that may matter to the PCs and we get notes on dying and hazards as well as a suggested Hard Mode and a bit of guidance regarding advancement and rewards – now, if you think that the GM-section is made redundant by the release of Season 2 as well, then you’d actually be wrong – there is value that holds up rather well to be found here: For one, we get 11 suggested plot lines that you can develop – all of which, obviously, are clown-themed to some extent.

Now, in a really cool section that I absolutely adored, we get a brief list of clown lingo: Do you know what a Charivari is? What “Galop” means in context? Well, you will after reading this supplement. I love it when RPG-supplements convey knowledge like this. After this, we dive into some detailed discussions of clown types and also a couple of clown antics that you can use to flesh out your clowns. Now, the book goes beyond that – we also get a nice, hand-drawn map of a standard neighborhood house and a full-color map of the town of Crestview Hills. Beyond that, we get a color-book-style map of a sample town, which you can color or have your players color – particularly when playing with kids, this can be pretty amazing. There is a full-color puppet-pal on one page that the GM can print out, cut up and assemble…and we get a page of 4 human faces with disturbing smiles – just paint clown faces on them… So yeah, the supplemental material is extensive and goes above and beyond of what one usually expects to see – kudos.

The lion’s share of the book, though, would be devoted to three adventures, the first of which would be Ben Dowell’s “Creepy Clowns.” Now, in order to discuss these, I need to go into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, fall is approaching and, in a time-honored tradition., older kids, bullies and pricks have decided that it’s fun to do the horror clown and frighten the young ones – so that’s the backdrop. The module then proceeds to do something structurally interesting: Taking a cue from RPG-classics like the original Ravenloft module, the adventure has a randomization effect: The module has the players draw cards in the beginning – the suits then determine the structure of certain aspects of the game, hooks, etc.. We begin with an encounter with a clown-painted bully, and after that, the Kids will, after school, notice absurdly large footprints – following them, they may well witness a clown goon, recruiting one of these bullies, transforming them! Beyond the combat, there may well be an epidemic if the kids don’t stop it! And indeed, the local carnival may well be the source, with no less than 4 radically different scenarios, including 3 different boss stats, waiting for them! Really cool little adventure. Huge plus for the replay value! This makes for an excellent convention game that doesn’t become boring for the GM after running it twice. The module also comes with a nice good gimmick as a reward.

The second adventure would be “The Case of Cap’n Freezie” – which comes with a really spooky photograph of an ice-cream truck that managed to send a shiver down my spine. Since the summer’s start, several kids have gone missing, and the legend of the spooky truck have begun circulating. As is often the case in such genre-fiction, the police is, oddly, twiddling its thumbs…so the kids need to investigate the case! This one is directly tied into the Crestview Hill backdrop, but can be easily adapted to pretty much any other town. The tale is actually rather tragic – Joey Prescott’s family owns the junkyard and is known for its “get rich”-schemes, one of which was the eponymous Cap’n Freezie-ice-cream truck. Joey, as a teen, was forced to dress up as a clown and drive around, hawking ice from the truck. Alas, children are cruel, and so he was jumped, beaten p, and locked into the truck. The adolescent culprits figured he’d be found in time. He wasn’t. Half-dead and disfigured by severe hypothermia, Joey was committed first to a hospital, then to an asylum. It took 20 long years, but he has snapped out of catatonia- and he’s out for revenge. After all, his erstwhile tormentors now have kids of their own… And indeed, the kids will notice the van prowling the streets…and, if they’re brave, they may well piece together the evidence and put a stop to the Capt’n before too many kids perish in the refrigerated hell the madman is creating… Nice: Depending on the actions of the kids, different types of good gimmicks may be earned.

The third adventure herein would be “Silhouette of a Clown” by Ismael Alvarez, takes place in Slim River, and pertains a legend of a scary clown that manifests at 3 AM. Slim River is very close to Crestview Hills, but does require some time getting there – and if you can use the scary railroad bridge, you’ll be there quicker…It’s a little thing, really, but it’s something I found I could relate to, and I suspect I’m not alone there. Slim River is also a tiny village – and as such, the finger-pointing has already begun. Having experienced the “fun” of rural hypocrisy for much of my childhood, that would be once more something I considered to be interesting. The clown is creepy, with black, empty eye-sockets – it’s known as Kuzo, manifests, speaks and then lunges, but the Kids always manage to evade it sans waking their parents. The sightings also seem to cluster once a decade. In case you haven’t noticed – this one is, theme-wise, closest to IT. There is a difference, though: You see, Kuzo was actually an immigrant, ostracized from the close-knit community – and he drowned in the river. Now, a curse of death looms over twins, promising death for one if the river is not appeased…and as one of them is rushed to the hospital, the other is possessed by Kuzo! How do the PCs deal with the possessed clown? Well, that is the question – he may well drown if lured to the river; if gotten into the church, he similarly will fall…but the module can end, either way, on a rather somber note, one that can see the PCs get both good and bad gimmicks, and which may make the surviving twin rather creepy. Or, you know, you could put a spin on the theme, as the pdf suggests: Perhaps Kuzo was actually trying to protect the town from dark river spirits, which is an interesting twist that could be used to make the module’s replay value higher for the GM.

The pdf also contains some sample NPC stats, clown special attacks and a list of all collated creepy clown statblocks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to an 8.5’’ by 8.5’’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports some nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is full-color and nice.

I was positively surprised by this book by Ben Dowell, Ismael Alvarez, Rick Hershey and Lucus Palosaari. For one, the modules don’t become redundant – while the modules all sport the clown-theme, the y are vastly different in theme and topic covered. From the mundane slasher-flick to the 80s-grotesque/weird to the ghost story, the modules cover a nice variety of tropes and all of them feature a neat angle. Now, the rules-aspect, obviously, is not as relevant as it once was, but once you take the massive bonus content into account, you’ll realize that this holds up surprisingly well. The adventures may not reinvent the wheel, but they all are interesting in some form, and the book shows that the authors really cared here. I am particularly partial to the replay value of the first adventure, the visuals of module #2 and the alternate, tragic identity of the BBEG in module #3 – so yeah, each of the adventures has something strong going for them. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Send in the Clowns Special Edition
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Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends
by Edward K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/20/2018 22:03:20

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends

Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday!

Product- Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends System-Starfinder Producer- Fat Goblin Games Price- $6.95 here http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/222888/Close-Encounters-Hyperspace-Fiends?affiliate_id=658618 TL; DR-Horrors from the low planes in the upper skies! 98%

Basics-Where we’re going, you don’t need eyes to see! Close Encounters: Hypersapce Fiends is a new book in a series bringing old fiendish monsters and things from Pathfinder into space with Starfinder. This book bring demons and devils into space, TOGETHER! Turns out hell and the abyss collapsed into one horrible thing and now they’ve joined a tag team battle against the universe, if they can stop knifing themselves in the back!

Theme or Fluff- The base Starfinder game is devil and demon poor, but this book brings all your classics back, and their stats feel like they should. There are even some crazy fiendish effects on magic, some ships that are stated out, and some environments traps that can affect your players should they enter the lower plane. There is also story to backup why these two age old enemies are working together to kill everyone. Overall, I like what I’m seeing here as it’s a great way to bring back some fun Pathfinder elements to your Starfinder game. 5/5

Mechanics or Crunch- All the crunch is right. The CR are good and the monsters hit the places they did in Pathfinder with basic updates of the mechanics to fit the slight changes between the systems. I love what's here, and it’s going to fit mechanically well into any game where the GM would like to put a Technomancer in Hell. 5/5

Execution- Is this available in PDF since its past 2015? Check. Is it hyperlinked even though its less than 40 pages? Check. Ok we've hit all the basics to make me happy. Now the extras! This book has lots a art with the creatures looking like the demons you’re used to but with a Starfinder art twist. There are demon/devil ships, but I would like a few more and some close up art of them. The art for the ships isn’t bad but its only one picture of the two new ships. The book even includes the rough seeds on an adventure from levels 1 to 20. Also, my favorite devils the low level lemure isn’t in the book, so that makes me a little sad. Finally the price is a tad high as its about $7 for a 30 page PDF. These are by no means going to keep me away, but it's something to note. 4.75/5

Summary-Fat Goblin was one of the first on the scene making Starfinder Compatible products and they have really demonstrated what you can do as a third party publisher. Its some fantastic material. I love putting demons and devils in my game and now I can easily do so. This is only GM book. It's fun, but honestly players need not apply as there are no player specific material here. GMs get fun new toys and things to inflict on their players. It's not perfect with a few minor things like price and some minor monsters being left out, but in total, this is a great resources if you want to put some horrible demons and devils into your game. 98%



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends
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Castle Falkenstein: The Feat Variations
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/12/2018 11:14:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, first things first – we actually retain Tom Olam’s traditional frame narrative in this supplement, which was transcribed by J Gray. In the tradition of the excellent engine tweaks presented so far in the series, we begin with the first variation. It should be noted that the pdf is suffused with nice prose, making it an enjoyable reading experience, in spite of its focus on rules. Big plus!

But what is the subject matter here? Well, you probably know that RAW, there is no limit to the amount of cards a player can play when resolving a Feat, allowing them to potentially play the whole hand to maximize its outcome. While this does result in rather amazing deeds, it may not be tonally suitable for all games, and, more importantly, it can lead to CF’s equivalent of novaing tasks. While Comme il faut (yes, I will review that book eventually!) does present options to limit this type of behavior, we have alternatives here, the first of which would be the Hard Limit Variation.

In this variation, we have a limit by Ability Rank: Poor or Average means being able to play 1 card per Feat, Good or Great = 2 cards…you get the idea. Basically, this sports a hard limit and the assignment of cards per Ability Rank can easily be modified to suit the host’s specific campaign. As you may have noted, this option greatly diminishes the influence of luck on Feats, and as such is suitable for campaigns that attempt to depict a harder or more down-to-earth (haha!) game. The second hard limit variation is a bit more lenient – oh, and it should be noted that these variations are explicitly tested for use with core-book only and for use with Comme il faut.

If you prefer another variation (or want to combine them for further limitations), the pdf sports the Half-Off Variation: Basically, cards of an improper Suit are worth half their face value, rounded down. The second such option here instead uses the color of the Suits to determine whether or not to halve the face value: If the suit as the same color of the one that is required, they are worth halve value; if they sport the wrong color, they instead only have a value of 1. Big kudos: The variation sports notes on conjunction with Tarot Variations – kudos! This one makes dud-hands less likely and can potentially be used to make things a bit easier for the dramatic characters.

Next up would be the Ability Harmonics Option: These apply a spell-harmonics like tweak to the Half-Off variation. When characters attempt a Feat, the host chooses a Suit or more that may alter the results of the Feat. If that sounds complicated, rest assured that 3 examples per Suit are provided to illustrate the consequences of using the harmonics option. Once more, compatibility with core and Comme il faut’s optional rules is maintained.

Okay, after that, we have the Dwarfish Requirement Variation, which expands the levels of Requirement of Feats from 6 to 13. Guidance is provided to choose difficulty; the new Requirements are properly defined and a handy table illustrates them at one glance. Big plus: If you want even more such levels, the table does actually contain entries for the values between the labeled ones. Kudos! Speaking of which: We get a reprint of degrees of success for our convenience, rendering the use of this section comfortable and neat.

But we don’t have an idea which task would be best assigned to which Ability, right? Examples for Requirements are helpful and the pdf knows it – hence, the pdf covers ALL Abilities in detail, listing examples for each of the 7 new Requirement Levels. Yes, including all the new abilities in supplemental books out there. Now that’s what I’d call considerate! And yes, compatibility with core and Comme il faut’s optional rules is maintained here as well.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues in the formal criteria or rules-language. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games’ elegant 2-column full-color standard. The artworks are thematically-fitting public domain b/w-pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mister J Gray delivers once more (seriously, if there's a new version of CF planned at one point, let this man work on it!): The variant rules herein allow for meaningful, great modifications of the Castle Falkenstein engine. The variations explain their impact, which is helpful for less crunch-savvy hosts. Their modularity and potential for combination with other options and each other ensures that this humble pdf should be considered to be a great change of pace for pretty much every host that is not 100% happy with the base-rules. If you’re looking for meaningful variations to change your game and tricks to give your game a different feeling/theme, then this is pretty much required. Indeed, from simple and more down to earth to more modularity, this offers something for all tastes. Highly recommended at 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: The Feat Variations
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Strange Worlds: Ice Planets
by Ed B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/02/2018 12:34:02

My players just landed on an ice world, so I picked this up for some ideas. There is about 10 pages of content in this PDF. The book, on the whole, is well written, and I didn't find any obvious errors. The layout is nice, and the font choices are fine.

The rules presented are clear and make sense. My only concern was that extreme cold does more lethal than non-lethal damage, which doesn't feel right to me, but too each their own. I liked the visibility rules. The equipment section was a little sparse, and not very heroic.

The sample creatures could use some work. The Deep Cetacean, has no image, and apparently has tentacles. With only four creatures I'm not sure I would have included an aquatic creature. The last monster was interesting, but the description needs a bit more detail.

One thing really missing is any fantasy element. Starfinder is a mix of magic and technology, and no magic was mentioned, no ice spells, or environmental spells or magic items were included.

Am I happy with the purchase? At $1.95 I think it was a fine purchase, the environmental rules were good. I may use one or two of the creatures presented.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Worlds: Ice Planets
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CLASSifieds: Astra (New Occult Class)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/01/2018 05:50:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the CLASSifieds-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, ½ a page blank, leaving us with 8.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so the astra class is all about using the mind as a weapon – quite literally. Chassis-wise, we get d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light armor and shields, except tower shields. The class gets full BAB-progression and good Will-saves. One of the signature tools of the class would be the astral blade:A s aswift action, an astra can draw forth this weapon, which may take the shape of any slashing or piercing weapon the astra is proficient with, being obviously magical. The blade always has the ghost touch special ability. Here we have an issue: RAW, the blade can’t have it. Special abilities require that an item has at least a +1 enhancement bonus. Here is the problem: The blade does not behave as though it had the property – it has it, which means that the +1 equivalent of the ghost touch should actually feature in the deal…but I digress. The blade can be dismissed as a swift action and regains all hit points upon being reformed – sundering it makes thus no sense. At 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the astral blade gains an enhancement bonus of +1.

At second level, the astra gains the first mantra, which ties in with the blade: Mantras are purely mental actions and the second level mantra must correspond to the alignment of the astra – which would be a good place to note that the astra needs to have a neutral alignment component…so yeah, this one is preordained by alignment choice. A new mantra is learned at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Invoking a mantra is a swift action and mantras invoked last for 1 minute; however, the astra can be ended sooner by reinforcing it to increase its effects. Until 8th level, an astra can only have one mantra active at any given time; thereafter, the astra can maintain two active mantras at once, while 16th level provides the option to have up to 3 different mantras active at once. Mantras are psychic effects and have emotion components, making the astra’s mantras subject to the restrictions of psychic spells, in spite of mantras being supernatural effects.

There are a total of 15 different mantras included in the pdf: We get the balance, good, evil, chaos and law to represent the different alignment-based mantras at 1st level. The balance mantra nets a +1 enhancement bonus, as well as +1 to ability and skill checks. The latter bonuses increase by a further +1 at 8th and 16th level, a progression inherent in the passive bonuses of all the mantras. The other alignment-based mantras grant the respective special weapon abilities associated with it, as well as granting the PCs a bonus to saving throws versus spells of the respective opposed “subtype” – that should be “descriptor” for spells. The reinforcement options for the respective alignment mantras allow for the use of an immediate action to add an additional effect – for the different alignments, those would be e.g. 1-round dazes, nauseating, etc. – all with saves to resist. The balance mantra is significantly stronger: It instead grants frickin’ vorpal – pretty much one of the most potent options. The rules-interaction is also a bit strange regarding reinforcing mantras; it looks like reinforcing them ends the mantra…but when? Upon reinforcing or after the round in which it was reinforced? The sequence is a bit opaque.

Beyond these, we get acid, flame, ice, lightning – these all are basically identical, with just damage types exchanged: Passive benefits are resistances and well as the appropriate special weapon ability; the reinforced options upgrading that to the respective burst ability, while also providing brief one-round immunity to the assigned energy type. Beyond these, we can find Defense, which nets defending and +1 to CMD (which improves up to +3); as a swift action, this one lets you add the enhancement bonus of the blade to AC sans reducing its enhancement bonus – I assume for 1 round, analogue to the others. The dispelling mantra nets the ability of the same name, with the passive bonus pertaining all saves versus spells. Crits can be reinforced with dispelling burst for 1 round. The death mantra nets the vicious special ability as well as a passive bonus versus necromancy spells and effects (note: Me not noting application to effects above in other abilities was intentional!); crits can be reinforced to add wounding. Metal nets DR 1/bludgeoning as well as keen and may be enforced to auto-confirm (!!!) crits. Mercy nets a passive bonus to saves versus enchantment spells as well as merciful; crits can be reinforced to send the target to sleep. Finally, the Speed mantra nets agile as well as +5 ft. movement rate at 2nd level, which increases to +10 ft. at 8th level, +20 ft. at 16th level.

Beyond the astral blade, the class begins play with astral projection: +1 to AC, Reflex saves, CMD, which increases by a further +1 at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter…but ONLY when armed with the astral blade AND wearing light armor. Odd that it does not apply when unarmored. 4th level nets uncanny dodge, 7th level evasion – but since these are granted by the same ability, I assume them to only apply in such a context as well, which is odd, particularly for uncanny dodge.

At 2nd level, the astra gains constant detect magic, with CL equal to class level, but only to detect presence or absence of magic auras. At 7th level, the astra may concentrate for 3 levels to detect mindscapes 1/day; 11th level nets 1/day retrocognition; 14th level provides 1/day dreamscape. If dispelled, the sight only resumes after rest. 3rd level and every 6 levels thereafter net a bonus combat feat. Astral step, erroneously called “astral slide” in the class table, is gained at 5th level: As a swift action, while having an active mantra, the astra may slip 5 ft. once per round, a distance that increases by +5 ft at 10th level and every 5 levels thereafter. The ability may be used a number of times equal to ½ class level + Wisdom modifier. The astra may act after using the ability and the interaction with teleportation-hampering means and charges is covered – kudos.

At 13th level, an astra may 1/day reroll a a failed Will-save,. +1/day reroll at 17th and 19th level. The capstone is ultimate mantra, usable 1/day, which activates all mantras you know. You also gain thoughtsense and arcane sight, double astral step range and add a +1 inherent (weird) bonus to atk and damage. The ultimate mantra ends after 1 minute and leaves the astra fatigued for 1 minute, which may not be magically offset, and it affects the astra even when the character would otherwise be immune to fatigue – nice!

We get favored class options for the astra, covering all the core races. They are solid, but lock races in certain alignment mantras. The elven one enhances weapon damage with the good mantra, for example. The class also gets 3 feats: Extra Mantra may only be taken if you already have 3, granting you an additional mantra. Improved Astral Step provides the option to use it in conjunction with mantra activation. Unbound Astra lets you choose to learn any of the alignment mantras, unlocking them.

The pdf also contains two archetypes: The first is the Hundred Arms, who must be neutral evil and replaces astral step with ghostly arm: This arm wields a duplicate of your astral blade and adds an additional attack at the highest attack bonus to your full-attack actions. (!!) Note that, RAW this arm manifests when you “reinforce any of your mantras as a swift action” – I am not sure if this replaces the regular reinforcement effect or not. The additional arm also nets +1 attack of opportunity, increasing by +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. Problematic: The additional attack RAW stacks with similar bonus-attack-granting tricks, blowing astral step out of the water, big time.

Instead of mental discipline, 13th level nets hundred-hand whirlwind, which lets your reinforce a mantra (in addition to its usual effects or instead of them?) as a full-round action, making one full BAB-attack per enemy within the threatened area. …Yeah, I also was expecting something more than a refluffed Whirlwind Attack. Okay, so, note how we replaced Mental discipline? Well, 17th level nets mental discipline 1/day, with an additional use gained at 19th level. The capstone nets you a super form as a swift action, where 5 spirit arms grow, each of which with its own mantra active. You also gain Multiweapon Fighting for the duration. Okay, how can a hand have a mantra active? Can you reinforce them? Do you gain the passive benefits? Not sure.

The phoenix soldier must be NG or CN and adds Fly to the class skills; this archetype is locked into the Flame mantra at 2nd level. 5th level replaces astral step with the option to shoot fire when invoking the flame mantra. This is a ranged touch attack, 60 ft. range, 4d6 fire damage; +1d6 at 10th level and every 5 levels thereafter, double damage when invoking ultimate mantra. The blast may be used ½ class level + Wis-mod times per day. Note that, RAW, you may only fire the bolt when invoking a mantra, which is interesting. Design-aesthetics-wise, full BAB is not necessary for touch attacks. Mental discipline is moved to 17th, and only gained once. At 13th level, the archetype gains phoenix wings, netting you wings of fire when invoking the flame mantra, lasting as long as the mantra does. These net you fly speed equal to land speed and good maneuverability. 19th level nets final conflagration, usable 1/day: When reduced to 0 hp, you detonate in a fire burst that heals allies and respawn with full hit points.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the formal criteria are pretty precise; there are only a few minor deviations here and there. However, as far as sequence of abilities and actions go, this could be a bit more precise. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of the series and the full-color artworks are nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, though the bookmarks comically refer to the hussar class instead of the astra. The bookmark to the second archetype is also not functional.

Thiago Rosa Shinken and Nina Hobbit’s astra is not a bad class per se. I wouldn’t call it an occult class in the sense that it is a pretty simple one, though: We do not have hard-coded narrative tools baked into the class design, nor do we really use the wealth of options of Occult Adventures – instead, we have a fleeting reference to psychic magic, which does not suffice for that moniker, at least as far as I’m concerned. That being said, that is just branding aesthetics.

The astra, while not perfect, is not necessarily a bad class – its attempt at the martial wielding a cool psychic blade is valiant. Here’s the issue: When this class was released, we had not one, but 3 vastly more interesting, dynamic and unique classes that covered the same things…just better. In more interesting ways. Whether you play a blade-kineticist (kinetic duelist, from Kineticists of Porphyra), a soulknife (Ultimate Psionics) or an ethermagus (Strange Magic), these alternatives provide more player agenda, more options, have tighter rules and sport abilities that are simply more interesting. (Oh, and don’t get me started on such concepts via Spheres of Power…The telekinetic’s handbook has a superb Elfenlied-hekatonkheires-style archetype that works smoothly…) The astra’s tricks are all about an escalation of numbers, basically a class with a magic weapon baked into its chassis…and that’s it. You’ll attack. You’ll cycle through the relatively bland mantras…and that’s it. Compared to the versatility these offer, the astra feels, unfortunately, like a bit of a dud.

Now, I have seen A LOT worse classes; with few decisions, you can make this guy work at the table…but why would you? Honestly, I appreciate that the craftsmanship is solid, but this guy feels phoned in; it doesn’t sport a unique trick. Not one. The engine falls short of what it could have been with interesting mantras. The class feels like it would have been decent, perhaps even good, when Pathfinder was a young system. However, it was released 2016, after all the options I quoted above. Yeah. Sorry, but I can’t go higher than 2.5 stars for this fellow, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
CLASSifieds: Astra (New Occult Class)
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Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/26/2018 23:25:44

This very nicely illustrated PDF takes the conventional demons and devils of Pathfinder but gives them an SF makeover that would make the Event Horizon proud. The concept of the Fiendish Wastes introduces an interesting concept, in which the planar realms of the Abyss and the Nine Hells have somehow collided and bled through in to the Drift, creating a new dimension which has captured both demon and devil, and in turn both twisted them for the worse and forced them to work together to try and escape their prison, so they can get back to their rightful dominions. To this end the fiends seek to build drift-navigable ships and they need a hyperspace engine to escape their fate. It includes some guidelines on using the concept of the Fiendish Wastes as well as fourteen adaptations of demon and devil for Starfinder as well as two ships and some adventure seeds. The artwork is incredibly evocative and will probably make you (like me) want to find further ways to repurpose these bad boys for your own adventures.

If you get one supplement for Starfinder from a 3PP, I suggest you check this one out. Well worth it, and will go far toward realizing your own Event Horizon incident in the Pact Worlds for sure.

Original Review: http://realmsofchirak.blogspot.com/2018/01/starfinder-reviews-close-encounters.html



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends
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Strange Worlds: Desert Planets
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/26/2018 23:24:41

Desert Planets is 16 pages, with an overview on how starfaring explorers could survive a hostile desert world (Arakis-like and others), from getting food and resources to dealing with dust storms, flesheater storms, mirages, survival equipment for the desert and so forth. It's not the be-all-and-end-all resource for running your Red Planet or Dune inspired desert campaign in Starfinder, but it gives you plenty for your spacefarers who are jumping around the drift looking to explore random weird worlds. Like the other tome, Desert Planets also includes desert stalkers (CR 7 rat-wolf-cat things), CR 1 dust rats, and the CR 20 sand annelid (sense a theme here?)

So yeah, if you totally want your Starfinder crew to go explore not-Arakis, this book will help you out a lot. Very cheap at $1.95 for the content. I am definitely looking forward to future releases in the Strange Worlds line from Fat Goblin Games, and hope they eventually become available in some POD format, perhaps as a compendium.

Original Review: http://realmsofchirak.blogspot.com/2018/01/starfinder-reviews-close-encounters.html



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Worlds: Desert Planets
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Strange Worlds: Dead Planets
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/26/2018 23:22:56

Dead Planets is a 16 page PDF which provides an overview on typical dead worlds of science fiction, with details on how to survive, gather resources, deal with airless dead worlds, and wrestle with what made those worlds like they are: total war, destruction by AI, extinction events, or the unquiet, worlds ravaged by the undead. In addition to survival, terrain and threat advice the PDF provides stats for four sample monster encounters: the bloodshade (a terrifying CR 20 undead blob), embalmed ones CR 2 denizens of a dead unquiet world), living holograms (Cr 5 relics of the dead civilizations gone) and overseer robots, who somehow survived the civilization that created them (think CR 10 variant on Halo's Guilty Spark).

Good product for the price, and useful for GMs looking for extra content for unexplored planets.

Original Review: http://realmsofchirak.blogspot.com/2018/01/starfinder-reviews-close-encounters.html



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Worlds: Dead Planets
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Cosmic Odyssey: Service Bots and Synthetic Companions
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/26/2018 07:30:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second book in Fat Goblin Games‘ series of Starfinder-supplements in the Cosmic Odyssey-series clocks in at a massive 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover and 1 page sample robot-sheet (Nice!), leaving us with a massive 55 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, we begin this massive tome with a nice introduction (which also specifies that the book uses gender-neutral pronouns for the service bots and synthetic companions within) and moves on from there to a list of influences on the design, which could be taken as a brief Appendix N-like section of sorts. In a rather surprising twist, we go pretty scifi-y, in that the pdf actually discusses nuances between artificial and autonomous intelligence, qualifying e.g. androids as the latter. A SB, or service-bot, is assumed to have an artificial personality, as roleplayed by the player, and they will not provide preset responses to threats etc. unless the like was specified by the owner; as such, one could argue that we do not have autonomous intelligence in this context. In analogues from Pathfinder, we’d treat them more akin to the automatons of tinkers than like e.g. eidolons or similar companions.

Now, SBs are constructs with the technological subtype and they consist of a power source, computer, frame, controller interface, propulsion and add-ons. SBs have a tier, which is calculated based on its computer, +1/2 tier per add-on. Service bots are assumed to be capable of surviving briefly in extreme environments: Without the respective add-ons, they have 1 minute of unimpeded functionality in zero-g, extreme heat, etc. – after that, it will take damage and after 5 minutes, it will cease operations. This does help with the old “zombie-defusing”-problem – send an expendable critter into danger. PCs can’t do that with service-bots. Service bots are assumed to be waterproof and vacuum-proof, but prolonged exposure/full immersion can fry them – the GM retains control over when this happens.

Ability scores and saves are optional for SBs – they are assumed to automatically fail a saving throw if these are not specified, and the same holds true for ability scores and related checks. They are assumed to have 10 in the ability scores, and 0 in saves, except for one, which is equal to the tier, most commonly Fortitude. SBs are assumed to have 0 ranks in skills, with the exception of one skill (optionally), where they have ranks equal to their tier. Provided a service bot has a skill or appropriate add-on, it can Aid Another. The total price of a SB is dead simple to calculate. You just add the costs of he components together – and example illustrates this rather neatly. Most SBs are Small or Medium, though Tiny and Large SBs exist as well, though uncommon sizes adds +1 to tier per size and doubles power consumption of the frame. SBs with a bulk of 25 or more requires propulsion. The frame determines appendages, add-on slots, etc. Their durability may be upgraded at increased costs and tier. Appendages also determine the number of operators that can use a service-bot. Similarly, more advanced controller interfaces may be purchased, but cost credits and require an add-on slot as well as 1 OU to power. A massive 1 page table of frames provides a lot of different basics to choose from.

Now, I mentioned propulsion – once more, we have quite a few cool options here – these are btw. tied to the number of appendages the Sb has; for example wheels require none, but if you want a SB with arm propellers (!!), you’ll need at least 6. SBs have 5 times tier hit points and 2 + tier hardness unless otherwise upgraded, and they may be broken relatively easily. Now, PS and OU (power Source and Output Units) also provide a variety of different options and, in a really cool twist, you can split OUs and e.g. only have certain functions powered at a given time. You still have to meet the minimum requirements to power the SB, obviously, but yeah. Really cool and considerate! Oh, and if you think about jamming a starship power source into a SB – bad idea. But yeah, the book even covers that.

SBs are usually programmed to never harm another being, so combat utility, in case the stats didn’t make that abundantly clear, is limited. If they take more than ¼ of their hit points in damage, they may incur serious damage. Want to ride a service bot? Well, turns out, you can! A SB can integrate into the mechanic’s class feature as either drone or exocortex. In the case of drones, simply add a free add-on slot as a place t slot each drone mod, and the SB takes on base drone statistics and chassis. For the exocortex, you remotely and telepathically control the SB by loading the exocortex into it. Done. See, I really wanted to see this, and, much like the detailed care that went into previous options, this covered it.

And this concludes the section on DIY-service bot creation. It stands out as an excellent example of what I expect to see in Starfinder: Concise rules, presented in an easy to grasp manner, which tie in seamlessly with those in the Core Rulebook. Beyond that, they show awareness and consideration for an impressive assortment of individual choices and needs. The section is empowering in its creativity and I dare say that pretty much everyone will come out of this with at least one cool idea, probably a whole plethora! We all wanted a service-bot beer-barrel that you can ride, with arm propellers. Right? Right! This section really, really excited me – but it is nowhere near to where the pdf stops.

Instead, we get 5 different service bot manufacturers – and these corporation write-ups don’t just stop with brief write-ups; instead, each manufacturer has a bonus and a drawback: Friendly Face Sbs get +1/2 Diplomacy per ties, but have a 5% chance their holoskin DC is 0 when a creature attempts to disbelieve it, to give you an example. In addition to these rules-relevant and fluffy components, we actually get corporate slogans (!) and even notes on legality, copyrights and trademarks (!!). Heck,w e even get corporate logos (!!!) and notes on DIY SBs! Yes, at this point, I am officially impressed. Beyond these aspects, we get a smattering of rumors, which may work as adventure hooks pertaining service bots etc.

Now, I know, I know. Why do these bots exist? Because sentient life is programmed to conserve energy, to make life easier, nicer. As such, it is only fitting that a HUGE chunk of this book is devoted to making life easier for GM and players alike: We get a COLOSSAL amount of pre-made sample SBs. As in: 100 of them. They are organized first by tier, then alphabetically within the tiers. They sport prices and denote manufacturer etc. as well as brief write-ups. Cleanybots! Petsybots! Lifters! Snake-shaped SB-storage units! An inefficient, bouncing SB-model called pogo, a favorite of kids! Emergency-loss-of-atmosphere bots! Movement detectors! A MMO-bot! Search-and-rescue units! An automated magician’s assistant! Do you play in a pan-galactic death metal band, one whose sounds can’t be handled by regular SBs? SounderBot has you covered with its extra foam dampening! Do you hate cooking? A CookerBot can provide gourmet food without the hassle of having to cook. Like cooking and need an aide, but you have a temperament that lest Gordon Ramsey look mellow? We have a bot for that!

…Can we please develop SBs in real life RIGHT NOW? I so want ALL of them.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch. I noticed no formal hiccups and in the SB-stats I dissected, no issues either. Kudos! Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a lot of rather cute full-color artworks I haven’t seen before, some of which quote the aesthetics of e.g. Wall-E. The pdf comes with bookmarks, but only per tier, not for individual service-bots, which remains pretty much the only organizational complaint I can field against this book.

Wow. I mean…wow. Kiel Howell’s service bots and synthetic companions are pure amazing. They make sense on so many levels, it’s not even funny. It makes absolute sense for a sufficiently advanced civilization to have a ton of these little helpers, so this aspect does add quite a bit to the credibility of a setting into which they’re introduced. From a game-perspective, they are challenging: They have to provide a tangible benefit and warrant resource-expenditure and a player’s investment; sure, it’s fun to roleplay the service-bot buddy, but if it’s useless, why bother? The pdf solves this tight-rope act admirably. Service bots do matter, but they will never be able to steal the thunder of PCs and their allies, while at the same time being potentially a) funny and b) life-savers…or c) integral parts of plots. The attention to detail regarding a lot of the finer interactions and things you may want to do with SBs and the seamless integration into Starfinder’s rules-chassis left me positively blown away and surprised. This is the best book by Mr. Howell I’ve read so far and should be considered to be must-reading for any Starfinder group that wanted a cool robo-sidekick: Whether C3PO, R2D2, Marvin…or, well, a heli-beer-dispenser-roadie, this book has you covered. I adore this tome and the vast amount of sample SBs make this super-convenient for the GM as well. All in all, an excellent, highly recommended file, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval. Get this asap!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cosmic Odyssey: Service Bots and Synthetic Companions
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Cosmic Odyssey: Pirates of the Starstream
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/23/2018 06:53:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first of the Cosmic Odyssey sourcebooks for Starfinder clocks in at 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, we begin with a brief contextualization of the Jolly Rogers and the historical pirates and goes on to extrapolate some components that may differ in space – from tight-knit ports to specific practices – walking the plank would be rather lethal in space, with the airlock being the analogue. This, obviously, generates some deviations in the style that is ascribed to space pirates from the clichés we tend to associate with our terrestrial ones; it is important to remain cognizant of this fact, for it represents a thread that is woven throughout the book. This grounding in historical facts is something I personally enjoy very much – while I don’t expect it for space opera gameplay à la Starfinder, it is nice to see some foundation here. In an example, we actually get a reproduction of Captain Bartholomew Roberts (aka Black Bart)!

We have two different themes included here; the Brute nets +1 Str; the theme knowledge allows for the reduction of Medicine DCs to treat deadly wounds as well as for first aid. This also nets Intimidate as a class skill, or +1 to the skill if you already have it as a class skill. 6th level unlocks halved penalty for non-proficient weaponry (-2 instead of -4); 12th level provides hardhead, which is a bit weird: If you’re “reduced to 0, and make you unconscious”, you get a Fort save with the DC equal to damage taken. On a success, you remain conscious, with 1 HP remaining; this applies even if you have no Resolve Points left or don’t want to use them. On a nitpicky level, there’s a “HP” missing after the 0; on a rules-level, this is a bit weird, considering that staying in the fight via Resolve requires stabilizing. Also, how does this interact with nonlethal damage? Technically, that is not “0” per se. This ability would probably have been more elegant, if it modified the Resolve uses instead. As provided, it is rather rough around the edges. Anyways, 18th level lets you regain, up to twice per day, 1 point of Resolve for defeating an enemy whose CR is no more than 2 below your level. Not a huge fan here, considering the metagamey aspect of CR. On a rules-aesthetic level, personally, I’d have used SFRPG’s reaction-system here instead of free access. The theme is not broken, but also feels a bit raw.

The second theme here would be the rogue, who gets + 1 Cha and reduces the Diplomacy check to improve attitudes. Class skill-wise, it nets Athletics, with the usual +1 if you have it caveat. The 6th level ability nets you a +1 luck bonus to all untrained skill checks. 12th level can be a double-edged sword – Culture DC 10 to know your name, 20 to recognize you from appearance alone; on the plus-side, this also means that you have fans of sorts, which makes it easier to find helpful and friendly characters to aid you in your exploits. The 18th level ability is pretty much the same as for the brute, but you may also regain Resolve when achieving hard skill checks (20 + ½ character level). The hard cap prevents abuse, but yeah…would have preferred a wholly different ability there.

We get 3 new archetypes next: The boarder gains his alternate features at 2nd, 4th and 6th level, making it in that regard structurally analogue to the Starfinder Forerunner from the core book. The first ability nets you a +1 insight bonus to EAC and KAC when within 10 ft. of terrain that could grant you cover. 4th level nets a +2 insight bonus to weapon damage with blast weapons, but only versus targets within 10 ft. of you. This bonus increases by +1 for every 4 character levels attained. Furthermore, when aiming to not damage hulls, you can treat the hardness of the objects in your blast as +20 higher; basically, you won’t inadvertently destroy hulls. The final ability lets you always act in surprise rounds, on your initiative. If you “gain surprise” then you get +2 to atk and damage rolls. Okay…so does that mean that you only get this is all foes are surprised? Or do you get it against foes that are surprised, even if not all foes are? The interaction with the surprise mechanics are a bit rough here.

Gunners also gain alternate class features at 2nd, 4th and 6th level...or is that 2nd, 6th and 9th? The archetype contradicts itself there. The first attack with a ranged weapon in any combat (urgh, per combat ability…how have I not missed you) gains a +4 “equipment bonus” to atk and damage. Guess what bonus type does not exist in SFRPG? Bingo. By spending 1 Resolve Point, you can extend this bonus to subsequent rounds. And this makes it weird. So, a brief lull in combat nets you a free round of the bonus when hostilities resume. 6th level nets chain shot: When hitting a creature, it gains a save versus 10 +1/2 your level (class or character? I assume class here, analogue to the general definition) + your key ability modifier; on a failure, their speed is reduced to 0 for the round. Vessels must succeed Piloting checks instead to prevent their speed being reduced to 0; the pdf mentions that, at the GM’s discretion, these may continue moving, but sans directional control. I appreciate this caveat, but I would have loved to see that codified in precise rules instead. 9th level nets grapeshot; i.e. you can use non-blast weapons as blast weapons, but halve their range. Cop-out: Does not specify the interactions with ammunition, which e.g. Starfinder’s Fussilade does; it also can presents some RAW really wonky examples. RAW, this can be used with e.g. tactical crossbows or sniper weapons.

The third archetype would be the senior officer, who gains commanding presence, usable as a standard action 1 + ½ character level times per day, granting all allies within 30 feet +1 (untyped, should probably be morale, analogue to the archetype’s other abilities?) to Will-saves for the next round, which increases by +1 for every 6 levels beyond 6th. 9th level provides a similar boost for attacks versus a target in line of sight; slightly odd here: The ability is phrased in a way that makes it not 100% clear whether you have to attack the target as well (or need to have attacked it), though I assume that this is not the case. If you spend 1 Resolve point, you increase the bonus granted by +1, a further +1 every 5 levels after 9th. The wording here should probably use “increase” instead of “a further”, since morale bonuses usually don’t stack. While the functionality is there, the verbiage is a bit rough. In a weird decision, this has no daily cap. The 12th level ability lets you use a standard action to increase the speed of allies – it does not specify a range, how many allies can be affected, or a daily cap. Nasty typo: “By spending 1 Resolve Point they gain this speed increase for a number of levels equal to 1 + your key ability modifier.” Emphasis mine. Now, if that isn’t the best Resolve point ever spent! Kidding aside, this is problematic.

Next up, we get 6 new drone chassis types for the mechanic: Assassination, demolition, hacker, maintenance, infiltration and sentry drones are provided. As a whole, this section is solid, though I am pretty sure that the demolition drone has a glitch – I can’t deduce where the uncommonly high ACs come from (14 in both, Dex 10, mods don’t account for it); on the plus-side: Rules for laying mines! We also get a new mystic connection, the destroyer, which should fit, theme-wise, the demands of players looking for one that feels less…wholesome. They can channel scaling “electric” damage (should be electricity) via attacks versus an opponent’s EAC, with a range of 30 ft.. 3rd level allows you to undermine the hardness of objects by touching them (with object-size as a limiter, thankfully). The connection also yields a scaling bonus for allies in telepathic bond via Resolve. This ability also has no duration; defaulting to channel skill also doesn’t help, since the bonus applies to atk and damage. 9th level yields a touch attack that deals scaling untyped damage, and heals you for as much, with excess hit points gained as temporary HP that last a full hour. Yes, it costs one Resolve to use, but would you mind lending me that kitten? I need to refresh my shield of temporary HP before entering the fray. 12th level provides a somewhat confused ability: “Whenever you or an ally linked by your telepathic bond class feature scores a critical hit against a foe, you can spend 1 Resolve Point as a reaction to confuse that enemy. The foe must succeed at a Fortitude save or become exhausted for 1 round.“ Sooo…which is it? Confusion? Exhaustion? The ability also refers to the “sow doubt” ability in the following text. Guess what the connection doesn’t have? Bingo. 12th level nets tremor-based blindsense – which should be blindsense (vibration) in SFRPG’s formatting, not blindsense (tremors). The 18th level ability lets you call forth a tremors and a volcanic eruption via 1 Resolve. Here, it should be noted that the ability gets full action right – the pdf has several legacy “full-round action”-references.

The book also contains a new 4th level technomancer spell, nightcloak, which is per se damn cool – basically invisibility for ships. Somewhat odd: Ships of a larger size (Huge +) require multiple castings of the spell…so, when do the benefits run out? How exactly does that work?

Next up would be the new equipment section. Here, we get breaching charges and pistols, chemcutters, the classic cutlass (including several variants, including, but not limited to, molecular rift, buzzblade, and ripper). Two lack the damage-type shorthand in the table. Other than minor glitches, I enjoyed this section – and the same can be said for the starship equipment. Huge plus, as far as I’m concerned: Hyperspace beacons are provided with rules and beacon hijackers make all sorts of sense to me. Ship-damaging thruster boosters…nice. We also get a boarding shuttle and a Tiny gunship and there are rules for ramming other starships.Kudos!

The next section is GM-facing and deals with a couple of sample organizations, each of which comes with supplemental characters. This book predates the release of Alien Archive, so NPCs are built in accordance with PC-presentation and rules. No, I’m not going to penalize the pdf for that. Additionally, we get explanations of methods as well as a couple of adventure hooks for them The Crimson Corsairs get a CR 5 character, the CR 10 leader and stats for her vessel. The Crew of the Misty Maiden is next, and finally, there would be the Swiftsure Pirate Hunters – and much like in real life, the distinction of pirate/freebooter/legal authority may be a fleeting one.

The final section of the pdf presents 8-Piece Port, a pirate neutral zone composed of asteroids, held together by gigantic girders; each of the asteroids can be considered to be its own sub-settlement of sorts, featuring fluff-centric notes on NPCs of note, settlement stats as well as notes on industry and quite a few adventure hooks. We do get a nice full-color map, but no key-less player-friendly version of it.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting of this book show that it is one of the earliest releases for Starfinder – it does sport quite a few relics and instances where the conventions have not been perfectly implemented. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports quite a few nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Kim Frandsen’s book on space pirates has me rather torn. On the one hand, I like the leitmotif and aesthetics of the book – the way in which historical tactics are extrapolated and brought to the space age; I like how ramming is covered and the items also are rather nice. The GM-section is interesting and I can see the 8-Pieces Port become a regular haunt for quite a few PCs. That being said, this book also suffers from being an early release in that rules-language isn’t as precise as it should be. A few glitches in the details can be excused, but the number that can be found within does drag this down a notch. Whether you’d like this pdf imho wholly depends on whether you’re a GM or a player – the player-facing options are not that great, while the GM material is more interesting. In short, the book, as a whole, is a quintessential mixed bag. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cosmic Odyssey: Pirates of the Starstream
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vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 Easy Mode
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/20/2018 04:42:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This version of Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

First things first: This review was requested by one of my patreons. The Easy Mode version of Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 is basically the refined and updated version of Season 1, and as such still contains the original pdf in the downloads. I strongly suggest going with the proper Easy Mode Season 2 upgrade – the rules are significantly more precise.

Now, this pdf is everything you need to play the Vs. Stranger Stuff adventures released for season 1, and indeed, anything in that regard. However, at the same time, even a cursory glance at the page-count in comparison should make clear that the full version sports a LOT more, interesting options, including the other difficulty levels. Let it be known, though, that the supplement, while obviously a teaser of the full Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 experience, is NOT cripple-ware. This is fully functional on its own and the pdf is FREE, the print at-cost at a paltry $3.00, which means that this supplement is great to check out whether you like the basics of the system. As a humble aside from yours truly, I consider the other difficulties presented in the big book to be superior. The different difficulties are briefly explained herein, but this pdf focuses on the basics.

We thus begin with a summary of what’s required for play, which is basically just one or more decks of cards as well as players and paper/pencils. The pdf includes a list of possible inspirations.

Okay, as in Stranger Things, we play kids, who have two attributes: Brains and Muscles. Starting attribute dispersal can be 5 in both or 4 in one, 6 in the other. The numerical values determine how many cards you draw when facing a challenge. There also are Good and Bad Gimmicks. You pick two Good Gimmicks and one Bad Gimmick at character creation: These can include cool, older siblings, further modifications of the attributes, etc. – and on the bad side, we get e.g. broken homes, being a klutz, having overbearing helicopter parents, etc. Every character starts at 10 toughness, which are basically the hit points of the character, though Gimmicks may modify that.

Equipment is handled in a relatively rules-lite manner, potentially requiring that the kids get gear that kids usually wouldn’t have by creative means. Sans roleplaying, it takes a draw to get it successfully: Compare the value of the card to the EV of the item. EV stands for “Equipment Value”, just fyi. You may attempt to get as many such equipment pieces per session as your Brains value dictates. Paired items, like walky-talkies, increase the value by 2 if you want both; this does not apply for items sold in bulk like nails or M&Ms, obviously. Sample values of how hard it is to get items are provided for your convenience. There, done: You can start playing right now – and the pdf has the character-sheet right there.

The next section deals with gamemastery, first explaining the core mechanic: Like the equipment example, you basically draw cards and compare the value of the cards to the TV, target value of the challenge. Actions that are directly opposed are resolved via competetitive drawing, higher card wins. Teamwork uses the character with the highest attribute, +1 card per person helping. Yeah, teamwork is powerful!

Suits mean something: The red suits, hearts and diamonds, are good suits with generally favorable results; the black suits are generally negative, with spades being worse than clubs. This is relevant when e.g. using a simple draw, i.e. drawing a card to get a general notion what happens, and can be really neat to help the GM decide on how an action pans out.

Combat is measured in turns, with turn-length adjusted to suit the needs of the story; player to the GM’s left goes first, in order; after all players acted, the GM’s monsters, NPCs etc. may act. Movement is similarly handled in an abstract, narrative manner, assuming the kids to be able to move a “moderate” distance; anything beyond that may require a test on brains or muscles.

You can perform one attack per round, or one complex action. Small actions like flicking on a light switch, etc., are free. Melee attacks work by comparing Muscles with the target’s DV – Defense Value. Ranged attacks are executed against the higher of DV or RV – RV denotes, bingo, the “Range Value.” The target numbers parallel btw. those of other actions. Damage depends on the weapon used: Fists or improvised weapons cause 1 point of damage, advanced weaponry like power tools 3.

As long as a character has 6 or more Toughness, all is fine; below that, the pain begins hamper them. At 5 toughness, the kid suffers -1 to both attributes, for being in minor pain. Having only 2 Toughness increases this penalty to -2 and 0 Toughness means -3 and extreme pain; -1 toughness means being knocked out, -2 means death. Resting for an hour regains 1 Toughness, 4 hours let you regain 5 and a full night of sleep nets 10 Toughness. First aid and pain killers can help against pain, obviously. And that’s basically the whole combat section as presented herein.

Beyond that, we get stats for 4 different adults, a sample kid and 11 monsters, ranging from greys to werewolves etc….and this is pretty much where the booklet ends. If you want the PCs to have unique stuff (i.e. items)…well, the big book has sentient robot buddies, working x-ray-goggles or spells and supernatural powers like pyrokinesis, parasitic regeneration, etc. A sample NPC with powers, 13, is provided and the pdf continues to provide a list (not comprehensive, btw.!) of further goodies from the big book. Attacking objects, fear, fire and fireworks, hazards, endurance over time, an extended GM-chapter. Rules for games within games, lucky lighters, a nice chapter on world-building and a sample mini-setting all are in the big book.

…yeah, in case you haven’t noticed, I very much suggest you get the big book if this setting/system even remotely appeals to you.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard with nice b/w-artworks, though this version does fall short of the full-color splendor of the big book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lucus Palosaari’s expansion of Rick Hershey’s original season 1 pdf is something I applaud. Instead of taking season 1’s pdf down, we get a full-blown improvement in rules-integrity and precision, as well as a more than doubled page-count. Now, it is pretty evident that this version cannot, and doesn’t try to, replace the massive, proper Season 2 book. Instead, it should be considered to be a handy teaser for the vastly expanded Second Season book; a means for new groups to check out the game without any risk, courtesy of the pdf being offered for FREE. Now, in direct comparison, this obviously falls short of the big book; it can’t reach that level of depth and quality in these few pages. At the same time, this is a fully functional game, which is a pretty big plus as far as I’m concerned.

How to rate this, then? Here, things get tricky. You see, this pdf lacks a lot of what made me really, really love Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2’s full book. It remains a good offering, but unfortunately, I have read the full version before this one, so I can’t help but compare the two, and the big book is my favorite VsM-Engine game released by Fat Goblin Games so far. That being said, this is a perfect way of checking out whether the engine and type of game works for you and yours…and that’s how the pdf is intended. As a whole, I think this is worth checking out if you’re curious about the system. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and the fact that this is FREE.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 Easy Mode
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vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Lucky's Curse
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/14/2018 05:10:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This short module for the vs. Stranger Stuff-game clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page character sheets, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content. The pages are laid out in digest style (6’’ by 9’’/A5), allowing you to theoretically print up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper, if you’re conscious about your use of paper/ink/toner.

Now, this review is focused on taking a look at how well this module works within the context of season 2 of the vs. Stranger Stuff-game. The adventure has originally been released for the first season of the RPG, and as such should be retroactively be declared “easy mode.”

Anyway, what may not be immediately apparent for you would be that this is basically a holiday module of sorts – this is a module centered around St. Patrick’s Day, and as such, players that show up in all green get either Good Stuff Lucky or an extra use of the ability. Once per encounter, this lets you redraw cards. Okay, and here we have an excellent illustration of how the game matured; I don’t have the original first season of the game, but one glance of the rules for the Good Stuff should make progress evident: The rules-text in the adventure is a bit confusing – per encounter/per session are two very different things and it is not clear how the extra use interacts here. The ability also does not state how many cards may be redrawn.

Contrast this to vs. Stranger Stuff’s Season 2 rule-book, and we get a precise and concise definition of this ability. The difference is significant.

What I’m trying to say is this: If in doubt, use the rules from the second season.

All right, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! We join the PCs as they are in Lucky’s, a family-friendly restaurant with a small pub attached to it, owned by Brian MacNally. As the PCs are waiting to get seated, a small man dressed in green runs into the place, to the shout of “Leprechaun!”, which should get their attention. Anyways, the fellow proceeds to serve food and beverages and is, indeed, just a short man. The usual available pub games are represented as Muscles or Brain challenges, with the highest draw winning the round – a solid, if minimalist representation within the confines of the system.

As the PCs are enjoying themselves, they will notice the strangers – dressed in long, ragged coats down to their knees, with fur draped around their shoulders and leather boots. These guys may well start shouting and there is a chance for a minor altercation here. This is also a good place to (re-)introduce characters from other adventures; as a stand-alone, making one of the kid’s parents stand in for Brian may be another tweak to get the PCs involved.

If they’re smart, they’ll notice that the strangers are looking for something. Of course, things escalate, and the strangers drop their guise, as mist flows around them, eyes glow and Brian gets knocked out – the strangers are actually ghost pirates, looking for Brian’s heirloom, one of the coins of St. Patrick, which is responsible for the MacNally family’s good luck…but also what these fellows want. Their telekinesis is pretty potent and we get alternate stats for vs. Ghosts – in that system, they are division III, just so you know. Minor complaint: There’s an aesthetic formatting hiccup in the stats here.

…and that’s about it. The adventure does mention potential consequences for the strangers absconding with the coin or for the PCs defeating them…but ultimately, this is a WEIRD one. The module basically acts as a creature feature; there is no investigation going on and weirdness happens in plain sight of everyone, which may not gel well with all games. If you hearken closer to Stranger Things’ aesthetics, this may well be a bit overkill regarding exposure. The combat in a jam-packed tavern also is…abstract. Why don’t the NPCs help? How does this play out? Panic? The adventure does not manage to convey even the slightest bit of the chaos of a tavern brawl, let alone a supernatural brawl. The lack of a map for Lucky’s also makes the proceedings somewhat abstract, and not in a good way.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay; while I did not note truly serious issues, I did notice a few aesthetic issues. Layout adheres to a nice 1-column full-color standard. The full-color artwork is okay. The pdf does not sport any bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length.

Ben Dowell’s “Lucky’s Curse” is intended as a brief adventure for a rules-lite game, but even within this paradigm, it feels oddly minimalist, and not in a good way; the pdf can potentially provide full-blown exposure of the supernatural for a game, which is not what everyone will want to go for. It also is less of a module and more of an initial encounter: Basically, this module’s entirety is spent on what would be the first encounter in most modules. Instead, the first encounter is the last and ultimately, there’s nothing relevant going apart from that. Brevity is no excuse here either, as the author has shown in his other works that he is perfectly capable of telling a rewarding, short story in less words. This is not horrendous, mind you, but it fell seriously short of what I hoped to see within these pages, both on a narrative and structural level. My final verdict will clock in at 2 stars due to the fair price point.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Lucky's Curse
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