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vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/06/2017 12:17:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This second and vastly expanded iteration of „Vs. Stranger Stuff” clocks in at 112 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 108 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so first things first – this is obviously inspired by the AMAZING series Stranger Things – while I can still argue about why the D&D-name analogues in the series don’t work too well and that the kids should know better, I adore it and have rarely had this much fun with it; the original iteration of this game was pretty much a quick and dirty adaptation of the VsM-engine, with the primary focus on some easy gaming inspired by the hit series, or pretty much another form of weird 80s-inspired adventuring.

Fast forward and we get this massive expansion of the system. Beyond a list of inspirations that can be helpful, you don’t need much to play – a playing card deck will do the trick (minus Jokers) and, should you want to, there is actually a custom deck you can get; it is by no means required to play though! Big kudos here for not going for the cash-grab option and locking the system to a custom card deck.

Anyways, the first crucial difference to e.g. Vs. Ghosts will be evident pretty much from the get-go: This system comes in 3 modes: In Easy Node, the Kids are basically superheroes and PCs don’t die – they are just knocked out, which allows you to tell kid-friendly stories sans frustrations. Normal Mode lets PCs only die if they do something really dumb and the Kids are above-average in power. Finally, there would be Hard Mode (preferable setting for experienced roleplayers, whether they’re kids or adults) – in this mode, PCs die when their Toughness falls below 0 and the attributes of the Kids are as bad as everyone else’s. Season One adventures are retroactively classified as Easy Mode scenarios, just fyi. (It should also be noted that the Easy Mode is available as a FREE pdf and at-cost PoD!)

Character generation is simple: The player character is the Kid, and is defined by two attributes: Brains and Muscles. You either have 3/5 (strong Kid), 5/3 (smart kid) or 4/4 (balanced Kid) in these. These values determine how many cards you draw when you face an obstacle. 7 is usually mortal peak, 13 is basically “god”-level. These are the normal mode rules – easy mode nets 6/4 or 5/5, while hard mode nets a 4/2 or 3/3-distribution.

Much like vs. Ghosts, these can be modified by good and bad gimmicks. Some of these represent attribute increases, while others are what you’d expect: A cool older sibling nets you a reliable older buddy; being popular or schooled or rich; these similarly are pretty self-explanatory, I assume. They also include increased Toughness (hit points/health of the system), etc. – but while you have a good gimmick, you also have to pick a bad one: Broken homes, poor depth perception, nosy siblings – they are pretty much as self-explanatory as the good ones. Every character starts play with 10 Toughness, basically your hit points, which may be modified by gimmicks.

Vs. Stranger Stuff usually doesn’t track equipment – the system has you draw a card and compare it to the equipment value of the desired equipment. Cool: There is an optional rule for groups seeking to track money etc. and there are plenty of sample values and items. Cool: There are optional rules for off-brand equipment, which has a chance of malfunctioning and causing even injury…but at the same time, it’s less costly.

The core mechanic of the game is incredibly simple: When you e.g. have a challenge to Muscles, it sports a TV – the target value. You draw the associated attribute number of cards and succeed when you draw at least one card of the TV value. Opposed checks have two characters draw their attribute cards; the one with the highest card wins. Teamwork is emphasized: The character with the highest attribute draws cards, plus one per assisting character! This means that players will want to help each other out.

Okay, so, reading cards: Red suits are generally good, black ones generally bad. The sequence of suits is Hearts > Diamonds > Clubs > Spades – so yeah, cue anguished looks and Motörhead when you draw the “ACE OF SPADES”! …Sorry, couldn’t help myself there. A simple draw is an easy decision facilitator for the game: Hearts = something very good happens, Diamonds something good…you get the idea.

Okay, so how does fighting work: Each character can act once during a Turn; Turns have a variable duration, not a fixed frame of time – so, in one combat, a Turn could be a minute, in another a couple of seconds. Attacks and actions are usually resolved when the character takes then, unless a delay is in order and determined by the GM. Initiative is simple: The player left to the GM goes first, then the next, etc. NPCs and monsters act last. In Hard Mode, an alternate system for drawing for initiative makes things more interesting and causes less potential for bickering about seating order at the table- I strongly suggest using it, even in Easy Mode. Surprise is handled by providing a free Turn.

Movement in combat is similarly abstract per default, with drawing based on brains or muscles as an alternative to the freeform; if you prefer a more crunchy solution, hard mode bases movement on muscles: move muscles units of measurement and act, or move twice that amount but don’t act. This, once again, is easy to grasp, but makes the game more tactical…and, at least to me, rewarding. Melee is based on Muscles, ranged combat on Brains – so, either way, you’re automatically competent at what you do. Melee requires you beat the opponent’s Muscle value to hit, ranged attacks require that you beat the RV – Ranged Value. Some monsters may have a Defense Value that overrides these; weak monsters that are hard to hit. Hard Mode does provide optional values for tougher damaging of foes, basically a confirmation; otherwise, it’s fairly easy to damage targets, but not necessarily to kill them – attacks only inflict 1 – 3 damage, typically. That being said, incurring damage matters: 5, 2 and 0 toughness are thresholds that impose penalties to the attributes due to pain; -2 is the threshold for being dead. Wimpy kids are more susceptible to pain, while certain NPCs can be less susceptible. Furthermore, you can make bad gimmicks based on injuries – broken limbs, concussions.

Now, per default, there is NO HEALING. When taking basically a long rest, you regain 1 toughness; short rests reduce pain levels. There are rules for first aid, pain killers and long-term treatment that allow for the regaining of functionality, though, as a whole, characters will want to avoid serious injury. From basically video game logic to unreliable healing and drugs that require draws, the customization options presented for the system are impressive here as well.

Notice something? Customization is the name of the game and this book has more for you. Need rules for damaging objects? Included. Rules for fire, fireworks and explosives? Right here. Rules for Fear Challenges (including negative repercussions for (failing to) sleep)… really cool. Now, the GM gets some serious array of tools here: Hazard-wise, we get rules for falling, light/darkness, rules for sneaking through the shadows, water as a hazard, drowning, hazardous weather, endurance required by long-term tasks, food, air and water – these are simple and fun; the leitmotif for the GM is “keep it simple, make it fun” – as such, the GM section provides advice on the creation of 4-act adventures, reward bonus draws, reward good gimmicks, earned bad gimmicks…and we actually get downtime rules between adventures: These include ways to add/remove gimmicks, bonus draws, equipment or attribute increases; playing games within the game (The PCs are Kids, after all), is also handled – and sidequests can be either used as a story-facilitator, etc. The pdf provides examples for specific games, from whack-a-mole to pinball, including easy examples. Tickets can be turned into rewards – though here, something went wrong in the table – there are strike-through boxes placeholders where card-icons should be, which is somewhat odd…but since the basic resolution mechanic is simple, you can deduce the symbol meant). Oh, and if you’re lucky, you can perhaps get ninja throwing stars, switchblades, basically a Commodore=64 with serial numbers filed off…( As an aside: If your German is passable and/or you enjoy good Synthwave – check out Welle:Erdball, one of my favorite bands…they actually make music with them.)

Really neat: Locations have a cost to hang out there and rules that provide restrictions; they also have a cool rating; the higher the rating, the less likely bad stuff will happen there. They usually have points of interest, NPCs – you get the idea. It’s a simple, easy to grasp system to codify how you think about locales. Beyond generic NPCs, GMs also get a premade NPC babysitter as a nice example on how the rules can be employed.

Oh, and there, obviously, is the eponymous Stranger Stuff: We get enthralling recorders, a sentient build-your-own robot toy, tomes, x-ray specs that work…and there are strange powers; from astral projection t being forgettable (which comes with a nasty scenario-suggestion earlier) to parasitic rejuvenation and the classic pyrokinesis, these powers run the gamut of the iconic classics. Once more we get a sample character – 13, who is, surprise, wanted by the MIB…

The monsters presented in the next section fall in 4 general categories – Aliens, cryptids, humans and supernatural threats – from maniacs to aliens and sentient ideas, the basic tools here are nice. Cooler yet: The year is 1984, so we get a list of highest grossing films, TV programs (with network), full moons notes, billboard year-end Top 10 songs and important events. The town of Crestview Hills comes with some sample NPCs and locations and serves a brief backdrop and default setting for the adventures for the system, with a small town named Slim River being close to it, though it is less detailed.

Okay, so the pdf also provides an adventure by Kiel Howell – “The Mask Behind the Make-up” – it is intended as a Normal Mode scenario and sports a bullet-point break-down: At one glance you can see “Adolescent Mischief”, “Crude Humor”, etc. – in short, at one glance, you can determine what could be problematic if you use this for kids or sensitive folks, allowing for instant awareness and an easier customization…on the other hand, if you’re into horror and/or have hardened players, these can just as well act as bullet points to make the respective aspects more extreme. I really like this and hope that further season 2 scenarios will employ it as well! The adventure is pretty well-made (though it doesn’t sport maps or the like) and enjoyable – and it ties in well with the other Vs. Stranger Stuff offerings, which I will cover in due time.

A random generator for adversaries, their motivation, etc. allows you to quickly come up with adventure frameworks. We also get a neat full-color character sheet, a full-color location sheet…and a b/w-map of a town, which you can use as a coloring prop…or, you know, color unlocked/pertinent locations.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, for the most part, are very good; on a rules-language level, I have no complaints; on a formal level, there are a couple of relics where card-suite symbols should be and use/us-level glitches can be found here and there. Not too many, but if you’re picky, it may come up. Layout adheres to an album-style and the pdf uses graphical elements from 80s’ gaming/videos/etc. in subtle ways – it’s not obtrusive, but it is a nice touch and shows the extra care that went into the gorgeous layout of this game. Artworks depict e.g. collectible playing-card paraphernalia, poster-facsimiles, “photos” with strange stuff inside…the overall aesthetics are really neat. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lucus Palosaari, with additional content by Rick Hershey and Kiel Howell, has really stretched his design muscles with this modification of the VsM-engine. My main issue with vs. Ghosts, in comparison, is that it is very reliant on the ghost-hunting equipment. The acquisition of these isn’t linear, so planning longer games isn’t too easy. Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 eliminates that component – it emphasizes different aspects of the game. The locations and their cool rating, and, more importantly, the versatility of the system, deserve a big round of applause: With this game, you can conceivably play a Scooby-doo-type of wholesome kid-mystery…or you can basically go Stephen King-grimdark smalltown-dystopia.

The more detailed and simulationalist hard mode rules add a SERIOUS amount of potential for longer games; while the VsM-engine isn’t perfect for epic tales and massive character progressions, the hard mode options allow for well-made and enjoyable “mini-series” – you know, half-year/year campaigns. The emphasis on roleplaying, the dead simple rules – what makes the system work well is still here; this is very much a rules-lite system, even with all optional hard mode options included. However, it is my firm conviction that this works infinitely better than vs. Ghosts to tell stories that are not just a few sequential adventures; in sort, it lets you tell “bigger” stories, with more nuances. The fact that it allows for kid—friendly entertainment and darker stories for adults (or for kids that are like yours truly was…I always had a penchant for the dark and macabre…) in equal measure is another HUGE plus for me. The modularity provided allows you to customize the game according to your preferences and it works well in all scenarios. What more can you ask for? This succeeds triumphantly at its intended vision and most assuredly represents the VsM-based game to get. While the pdf does have a few cosmetic rough edges, I thoroughly enjoyed this system and look forward to playing through scenarios for it. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2
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Castle Falkenstein: The Ability Variations
by Kane D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/29/2017 09:27:18

As someone who is attempting to fit the wonderful Castle Falkenstein system to a homebrew world, these variations are heaven sent. I've fallen in love with the CF system and find it easy to use and exciting to play. The Ability variation has answered a lot of questions and given me official advice on how to tweak the game to my group's individual needs and I truly appreciate that.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: The Ability Variations
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The Crystal Planet: Player's Guide
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/03/2017 05:54:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 41 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so this is a nod to a cartoon show. I am not familiar with that show, so please bear that in mind. This pdf begins with an overview of the crystalline world of Scintilla, talking about places like the Halls of Memory or the Arena of Shards – flavorful and well-written so far!

Chapter 2 deals with the Mineralites – they are basically sentient, polymorphic gemstones that create a holographic, physical form – this unique premise influences the premises of the society of the planet, which is really intriguing – with a lack of a need to eat, sleep or breathe, their society and relations take these unique components into account and weave a surprisingly captivating yarn. The mineralites, racial trait-wise, come in 6 castes – each caste comes with a +2 attribute bonus and a Hardness value that ranges from 8 to 12. Mineralites are half-construct monstrous humanoids with the minerality subtype, normal speed, Medium size, darkvision 60 ft. and two forms: The gemstone form is a Fine object with a hardness that sonic damage ignores and hit points equal to twice the Constitution score and a Break DC equal to twice the Strength score. It has blindsense 5’, and may not move. A gemstone reduced to half hit points, is broken; upon being reduced to 0 hit points, the gemstone is “wrecked” (Basically the equivalent of dying/unconscious). The projected form behaves as a light-based force effect akin to a shadow illusion. The mineralite has a constant, at-will disguise self (italicization missed – not the only one) for visual aspects and voice alterations, though the bonuses granted are reduced to +5, since the mineralite always has monochrome color shades. Mineralites suffer a -4 penalty to saves versus darkness effects and are slowed by being affected by them, with a Will-save to negate. As beings of force, negating that also dissolves the projection.

Mineralite sorcerers with the earth elemental bloodline treat their Charisma at 2 points higher. They may fuse with other mineralites to create fusion forms, but more on that later. They take +50% damage from sonic effects and gain +2 to saves versus diseases, mind-affecting effects, and those that cause exhaustion/fatigue. Darkness effects suppress these bonuses. Mineralites don’t need to breathe, eat or sleep, but must rest for spell preparation etc. Being born into adult status, mineralites are naïve and take a -4 penalty to Charisma-based skill checks and may, as a full-round action, project masterwork weapons from photons. Cool: SR can dispel these weapons.

Mineralites don’t treat damage as other races: The projected form gains hit points (vigor) normally, but winks out of existence upon being reduced to 0 hp. Excess damage affects the gemstone form and the pdf thoroughly and concisely explains the interaction between the different forms, inckuding the aforementioned broken/wrecked/destroyed condition sequence and the explanation of healing etc. The pdf also sports a ton of potent alternate racial traits: 20% miss chance while in bright light, low-light vision, an alternate penalty to Strength-based checks instead of the naiveté penalty, bonus feats at the cost of losing the ability to fuse, concisely codified natural weapons to replace the projected weapon, perfect sight in darkness… interesting.

There is also a Small variant of the race, who is less naïve and slower. Gem Hybrid is an inherited or acquired template that nets CR +1, minimum 2 and represents a hybrid between a living creature and a mineralite. Okay, now, regarding fusion: That would be a full-round action, which may be interrupted as though it was a spell: This form is basically a gestalt of the members, using the best skills, attributes, saves, combat bonuses and the pooled hit points of the participants. A creature can’t end the fusion with more hit points than it had as it entered it, preventing healing-abuse. Similarly, ability score damage/negative levels/etc. are divided among the participants. Conditions apply to all participants, providing a detriment to offset the buffing-advantage the form provides.

Damage is divided evenly upon the fusion’s end and gear is absorbed and does not work while in fusion form. The form is treated somewhat akin to an eidolon with a biped form and 2 evolution points per contributor. The summoner level for variables of these effects is based on the lowest HD of the contributing creatures and the actions of the fusion are determined in sequence by the contributors: Each players gets to control the fusion in alternating sequences. Vetoing an action can be done, and is, rules-wise, concisely presented. There is also a new evolution that blends held weaponry – in a surprisingly concise manner.

Cool: We get a ton of flavored class options, which actually come with flavor-text and cover some ACG classes, the kineticist and even the vigilante. Nice. The pdf also features new class options: the crystallized bloodline for sorcerers nets crystal shard missiles with bleed-inducing shards, chances to negate crits/precision damage and mineralite-apotheosis. The crystal lasher magus must be one of the Small mineralites and is basically, bingo, a whip-magus specialist. The future warden is an interesting brawler – the archetype replaces martial flexibility with the option to gain temporary focus, which can be used to grant basically advantage (roll twice, take better result) – interesting twist of the engine. Harmonic savant bards gain diminished spellcasting, but also lingering performances (thankfully with anti-stacking caveats) as well as AoE-sonic damage etc. Solid. The servant of war is better with teamwork feats and, as an archetype, enhances multiclassing options.

We gain new materials, namely shaped and grown crystalline and 10 types of memory storing crystals – really cool! Cool: there are crystal wyrds and roving bottles as familiar candidates – while not brief familiar stats are provided, we get proper stats for them and they’re both interesting and have unique tricks. Beyond these, we are introduced to crystalline locations, from anchorstones to prism pads and superclusters…speaking of the latter two: Prism pads transform mineralites into light, fire them in space, at a supercluster, and from there to the target destination. NEAT! There are also new weapon qualities. Gembound provides projected weapon synergy at +1, while formbreaking can be particularly nasty versus the projected form of the mineralites. Pressure Suit and Starfaring Robes help with interstellar travel; gem bezel aegis reinforces the gem form of mineralites.

The pdf also sports a ton of Projected Form feats, allowing for e.g. beats shape I forms and a ton of other modifications to the form projections. There also would be feats that e.g. add Extra Arms to the forms, additional uses of class abilities, quicker fusions, improved projected weapons, etc.

The penultimate chapter of the pdf is devoted to new spells – protective bubbles around gemstones, high-level reconstruction of destroyed gemstones, 9 variants of projected holographic constructs – and interplanetary versions of some classics – as well as greater make whole and reprinted classics like planetary adaptation.

The final chapter is devoted to roleplaying advice for playing mineralites.

Conclusion:

Editing is very good on a formal and rules-language level: The pdf juggles some VERY complex and unique concepts and does so with panache. On the downside, the same can’t be said regarding formatting: The pdf sports A LOT of missed italicizations, bolded lines that aren’t properly formatted, etc. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a nice blend of unique, new full-color artworks and some nice stock pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Kristopher Cruz and Lucus Palosaari deliver a book that I loved more than I figured I would: The mineralites are extremely unique, creative and surprisingly well-executed, considering the complexity of the tricks the race employs. That being said, I STRONGLY suggest playing an all-mineralite party. Mineralites are very, very strong character options and the strong, cool fusion tricks require multiple characters – internal balance is pretty tight, but compared to regular races, the mineralites will come out on top. That out of the way, it should be noted that they are so different, so creative, that this pdf is very much worth checking out. It’s not perfect, but it oozes that the authors actually CARED, that they wanted to do something creative and new. They succeeded.

This is a selection of very powerful options, with the added toughness of mineralites and the focus on cooperation making the supplement particularly suitable for younger audiences: Death is less likely and the fusion can generate some remarkable scenes, particularly among players that are familiar with the intricacies of PFRPG. And yes, kids can and do grasp PFRPG. For novices, this may be a bit too complex, but as a whole, this deserves being picked up. If there was a scaling option included and if there were less formatting hiccups, this would be a 5 star + seal of approval file. As presented, I can’t go higher than 4 stars for it. I will remain with a heartfelt recommendation for everyone looking for something thoroughly different, though.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Crystal Planet: Player's Guide
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vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/31/2017 22:09:23

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

This full-color, 112-page product is a definite tie into Stran- Ahem, I mean, this is a totally independent product that is definitely not taking advantage of a certain spooky but popular franchise! ...But nobody would believe me if I said that.

More seriously, this is not just a simple tie-in. Rather, this is a new and improved version of the game, complete with all of the rules necessary to play under the vs. M Engine. In keeping with the theme of kids-vs-supernatural stuff movies, this product includes three sets of rules (Easy, Normal, and Hard) to help customize the flavor of the game. This makes it suitable for anything from a light-hearted romp to some serious terror... though a lot of that is going to come from atmosphere, since the card-drawing and character-creation system is simple and straightforward.

My overall feeling about the entire vs. M system remains. This isn't something you're going to be playing for ten, twenty, thirty sessions over a bunch of months with your friends. It is, however, fun and fast enough to play at a party, after marathoning a show, while some movies are playing, or when some people from your normal group are missing and you don't want to play a longer game without them.

There aren't very many adventures included here - you'll want to buy those separately - but it does come up with a random adventure generation system that can provide a creative Game Master with all the inspiration they need to run a variety of unique games with this system. It's a nice touch - maybe not for people who haven't run these sorts of games before, but it definitely adds some value to this product.

At the time of this writing, this product was listed with a standard price of $19.95. I think that's a fair price for the amount of content you get, and the system itself has been well-tested by now. I have no problem with recommending this to anyone looking for a fast, fun game to play with friends.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Night Sparrow
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/24/2017 07:33:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mini-adventure for Vs. Ghosts clocks in at 2 pages, 1 page content, 1 page editorial/SRD/Etc., so let’s take a look!

This being a mini-module, I do not expect epic storylines or intricate plots – I’ll review this for what it is, namely a short sidetrek. As such, the module doesn’t offer in-depth details and should be considered to be more of a sketch to be fleshed out further.

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

..

.

All right, only Ghostmasters around? Great!

The J-pop band CHI48 are on tour in the US, but rumors abound that the band’s been cursed – multiple concert-goers have been struck blind after attending their shows. The band has been extremely popular (reskin to current pop phenomena for kids) and thus the PCs are assumed to be in the crowd. The concert seems to proceed rather well – but just as the latest smash hit “Night Sparrow” kicks off, people start collapsing in pain, clutching their eyes. Emergency responders act immediately, but smart characters may be able to glean additional pieces of information – like the illusion of black birds coming from the stage and the belief that they heard a strange bird call.

Investigating these folk, the band’s manager Goro Watanabe sports and hires the PCs, who then get to interview the manager, the band, Lighting and FX and the soundboard…and as the investigate the latter, they’ll see a horde of black sparrows manifesting. Special equipment may show the PCs that the computer equipment seems to sport some sort of possession – Yosuzume, a division IV yokai, has become entangled in the equipment, painfully so, and lacking means of communication, the spirit lashes out. Full stats are provided and the pdf provides a fun idea – having the exorcism spill out into the performance – after all, the show must go on!

The pdf ends on a nice high note, with meet and greet etc. and some nice further employment angles for the GM.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a pretty busy three-column full-color standard. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t need any at this length. The pdf does not sport any artworks.

Ben Dowell’s mini-adventure is surprisingly creative: The visuals are amazing, the hook is creative. The module makes great use of its limited space and manages to provide a fun mystery for kids and adults alike. In short: This is a great little adventure, well worth 5 stars. Kudos!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Night Sparrow
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Witch of New Hope
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/24/2017 07:32:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for Vs. Ghosts clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content. It should be noted that the pages are formatted for A5/digest-size, which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper, if you want to conserve ink/toner.

This being an adventure-review, the following obviously contains SPOILERS galore. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only ghostmasters around? Great! The town of New Hope has seen a series of strange deaths: Each night, one member of the community is found drowned – in their homes and sometimes even in their beds. The police is baffled, as there seem to be connections between the mysterious deaths. So far, the town has managed to keep the deaths of locals hidden from tourists, but in the long run, the town is looking at a full-blown PR catastrophe, not to speak of the actual deaths of citizens! We thus begin with a summary of New Hope and its environments, which allows the ghostmaster to get a decent idea of the surrounding area, including the Branton National Forest, near idyllic lake Pawik Kachina.

Now, it’s pretty easy to involve the PCs in this adventure: The classic holiday-angle, locals seeking help, the police – the possibilities should not provide an issue for ghostmasters. Suggested additional encounters with ghost orbs and ectoplasmic mists are touched upon. The first night the characters spend in town will see the murder of Agatha Lashank at precisely 12: 12 AM – how do the PCs find that out? All clocks stopped at this time! Randy, Agatha’s son, witnessed her floating in the air, struggling for breath, and when he tried to help, a woman materialized and flung him across the room.

Nice: After this incident, the module becomes relatively free-form for such a brief adventure: The local newspaper, police files, library – the respective investigations note crunchy bits, target-values etc. – nice! Sooner or later, the PCs should manage to unearth the case of an old serial killer, one Millicent Billington, who killed 13 people, including occult symbolism and all – the bed and breakfast where she killed her victims still stands. Here, thorough PCs can find her diary – while steeped in occult topics, it lacks clear motivation for her crimes…and states the wish of being burned and then to have her ashes spread.

Either at the B&B or at her rediscovered gravesite, the PCs will sooner or later happen upon the eponymous witch-ghost: Millicent is an old lady in black, division IV, and a potent threat – she is angry and will keep on killing until her ashes have been spread as per her last wishes. Doing so will end the threat, but leave the players with a couple of question marks you can use for further adventures.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to the neat one-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a nice piece of stock art. The pdf does not sport bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length – they would still have been nice to have.

Rick Hershey’s “The Witch of New Hope” is a nice, short investigation – it is not a complex or world-shattering adventure, but it is a solid little adventure for vs. Ghosts. While the plot won’t win any awards for being original, the module is an inexpensive offering and provides sufficient enjoyment for the low price to be considered fair. Now, if you’re playing vs. Ghosts with kids, you should be a bit careful regarding the body count herein and the drowning – making the victims comatose instead may help here, particularly when dealing with young children or particularly sensitive kids that want their happy end. It’s not hard to make the witch just a misunderstood spirit, either.

Anyway, all in all, this is a solid entry – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to the low price and in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Witch of New Hope
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Ghost Next Door
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/24/2017 07:30:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mini-adventure for Vs. Ghosts clocks in at 2 pages, 1 page content, 1 page editorial/SRD/Etc., so let’s take a look!

This being a mini-module, I do not expect epic storylines or intricate plots – I’ll review this for what it is, namely a short sidetrek. As such, the module doesn’t offer in-depth details and should be considered to be more of a sketch to be fleshed out further – this is particularly true in this one. You should consider this to be a pretty basic set-up.

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

..

.

All right, only Ghostmasters around? Great! So, selling property can be a pretty tricky business – and a family in the neighborhood has had trouble there. The family believes it’s because rumors are spreading that the house in question is haunted. Enter the PCs! The house, just fyi, doesn’t look haunted – it’s just old…but strange things soon will happen. As the PCs investigate, they are almost hit by a hammer thrown their way – turns out it flew right from under the face of a young man named Jack Todd, who offers to help the PCs.

As the characters spend the night, ghostly phenomena start happening – they range from Division I to II. The upper floor, we’ll see division IV haunts – remnants of the grisly things that happened. While the pdf doesn’t go into the grisly details, domestic violence and suicide are mentioned – something to bear in mind/tone down, should you run this for kids. As the night progresses, the rooms of the house start shifting between eras – for, in the attic, a confluence of activated leylines has taken hold of a mirror, which now acts as a gateway to the netherworld. In the attic, the boss of the module, Abigail Todd, is a POWERFUL ghost – division IV, the former daughter of the architect can drive PCs insane: Madness 4 vs. Mental – on a success, the PC becomes mad and is removed from play. Yeah, that’s pretty nasty and not too fun. While she has a health value, she can’t be destroyed while the mirror exists. Somewhat puzzling: The pdf doesn’t specify how the mirror can be destroyed. Would that be the 8 Health noted in Abigail’s stats? Automatic? Not sure.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a pretty busy three-column full-color standard. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t need any at this length. We get a rather cute artwork of a ghost girl.

Rich Hershey’s “The Ghost Next Door” is a per se cool set-up: Particularly the idea of rooms moving through epochs and the hinted at dark things that happened in earlier ages makes for a cool set-up. That being said, the module suffers from its sketch-like presentation: Such classic ghost stories live and breathe via the details…details this cannot present due to its format. The story can’t really employ its full potential – neither the family angle with Jack and Abigail, nor the other aspects. The lack of a map and different descriptions for different areas (the house is not described) – all of it points towards the adventure simply requiring more room to shine. I like the writing and ideas here, but as provided, this falls short of what the product-line usually offers. Even when taking the limitations into account, I can’t really recommend this pdf as anything else but as a basic starting point. My final verdict will clock in at 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Ghost Next Door
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Shadows over Vathak: Hauntlings - Enhanced Racial Guide
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/19/2017 09:21:11

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

This is a full-color, 40 page PDF - but in all honesty, you probably already know if you're interested or not. It's worth noting that this product is a complete resource for the hauntling race and includes their stats - you don't need any other products to actually use this supplement, though most of the flavor is specific to the Shadows over Vathak setting.

The first quarter of the book is almost entirely flavor, and covers physical descriptions, personalities, society, lands, religion, alignment, adventurers, and names - basically all the flavor you'd expect from a complete racial writeup.

From there, however, we actually start to get quite a lot of rules material - including some that I don't believe were published in the past. The section opens with several racial variants, then moves into favored class options, four racial archetypes, feats, traits, equipment, special materials, magic items, and spells. These sections typically cover 2-3 pages each - it's not a lot of material in any one section, but together, there's options for almost everything.

The most notable option here is the inclusion of Lineage Feats, which are a lot like Corruptions from Horror Adventures. These feats are fairly unusual in that taking them provides both benefits and drawbacks, starting at the chance to be forced to take a Natural 1 on a skill check once a day, and progressing all the way to getting possessed by ghosts. (Will saves can negate the effects, so it's not going to be troublesome all the time.)

Each of the feats also comes with a specific drawback. For example, the Spirit Form feat gives you a bonus to stealth checks and provides you with an armor bonus that's also a force effect equal to your Charisma modifier - handy as heck for some classes, but people also have a harder time using the Heal skill on you, and it requires you to have several other lineage feats (and their drawbacks) to get it.

The entire lineage feat line essentially revolves around the idea of ghosts being hard to hurt - and the cumulative benefits are quite potent, but there's also the opportunity cost of not investing your feats elsewhere (which limits of a lot of builds). On the other hand, characters being moderately tough has basically never broken the game, and any GM allowing these in the first place is probably planning for that. I don't know that I'd say these feats are perfectly balanced, but I think it's well within the range a good GM can work with.

Overall, this is a pretty solid product for anyone who wants to play a Hauntling - including GMs, if they'd like to have some NPCs. (A Halloween town full of ghost-like people, say?) Editing and formatting is generally good, and I didn't notice anything that really stuck out. Overall, I rate this 4.5/5, rounding up for the purpose of this system.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows over Vathak: Hauntlings - Enhanced Racial Guide
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: A Christmas Carol
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/16/2017 04:52:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mini-adventure for Vs. Ghosts clocks in at 2 pages, 1 page content, 1 page editorial/SRD/Etc., so let’s take a look!

This being a mini-module, I do not expect epic storylines or intricate plots – I’ll review this for what it is, namely a short sidetrek. As such, the module doesn’t offer in-depth details and should be considered to be more of a sketch to be fleshed out further.

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

..

.

All right, only Ghostmasters around? Great!

Recently, an unprecedented amount of CEOs, Wall Street bankers and similar folks known for their charity (/sarcasm off) has donated their fortunes to charitable organizations…particularly those clashing with their erstwhile enterprises. The PCs are contacted by Mr. Fezziwig, clearly an alias of the intermediary, who works for E.S. – the CEO of a major bank. E.S.’s CFO has suddenly resigned, selling all personal stock in the company. After being pressured by Fezziwig, the CFO has admitted to having been visited by 3 ghosts who showed him the error of his ways.

E.S. and Fezziwig are certain that the man believes this – and has hired the PCs to debunk the story or stop the ghosts, should they really exist. Some in-depth investigation provides some puzzling insights: There are no Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future – nor have there ever been. However, three heads of struggling charities has recently died – on Thanksgiving, of all days. These 3 spirits (division IV) now seek to do right, punishing scrupulous corporations….like the one that hired the PCs.

And yes, if the PCs aren’t smart about it, the corporation will try to cheat them out of their well-deserved salary. Each of the 3 ghosts has a fitting signature ability…which are nice, though they could be a bit more precise regarding in-game effects, like relieving your worst moments. Ultimately, the module poses an interesting moral conundrum for young players and adults alike: Do the ghost hunters destroy the ghosts in favor of a pay-check, or do they ignore the money offered in favor of having the spirits dispense social justice?

More intriguing for adult groups: What kind of impact would the series of CEOs retiring have? Will the well-meaning ghosts destroy more than do good? Surprisingly interesting conundrum!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a pretty busy three-column full-color standard. The pdf has no bookmarks or artworks, but doesn’t need any at this length.

Lucus Palosaari’s riff on the classic Christmas Carol theme, Vs. Ghosts-style, is surprisingly good for a 1-page adventure: The contemporary riff on the theme has been done to death, yes, but the moral conundrum posed can render this more interesting than what you’d expect from such a small pdf. Equally fun for adults and kids, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I can’t round up for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: A Christmas Carol
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Talking Board
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/16/2017 04:51:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mini-adventure for Vs. Ghosts clocks in at 2 pages, 1 page content, 1 page editorial/SRD/Etc., so let’s take a look!

This being a mini-module, I do not expect epic storylines or intricate plots – I’ll review this for what it is, namely a short sidetrek. As such, the module doesn’t offer in-depth details and should be considered to be more of a sketch to be fleshed out further.

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

..

.

All right, only Ghostmasters around? Great!

First things first – this becomes much cooler with a prop: Get an Ouija board – the module assumes that a character has gotten one and focuses on trying it out. The board in question was in the possession of one Hason Schmidt, a little-known Pittsburghian spiritualist. At first, the communication via the board will deal with Hason…then, the responses become rushed, as the dark spirit Zozo (full stats provided) starts taking over….and sooner or later, Hason will spell “HELP” as the lights go out.

While they turn back on, temperature has dropped and Zozo has taken over. Screwing with the investigators, unleashing ghost orbs, angry shadows (with modified abilities)…and at one point, Zozo will attempt to dominate a character. While the specific means of destroying the evil spirit are presented, the pdf is silent on how the PCs are supposed to deduce the steps, which serves as a minor hiccup in the set-up.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a pretty busy three-column full-color standard. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t need any at this length. The pdf does not sport any artworks.

Jason Owen Black’s Vs. Ghosts-adventure is pretty fun – and if you have a Ouija board and use it, you can make it really horrific. The premise is simplistic and not too grand, but a prop makes it really shine. You can run this for kids and adults alike by emphasizing certain aspects, though as written, it probably is the creepiest Vs. Ghost module – squeamish kids may be a bit frightened here. The tweaks on foes are interesting and, as a whole, this can be a rather nice adventure, particularly if you have a Ouija board. My final verdict for this one is 3.5 stars – though ghostmasters who believe themselves to be capable of doing a Oujia-séance and integrate it in the module should add a star – as noted, that adds a whole level of atmosphere to the game, particularly if you can rig the light to go out… And yes, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Talking Board
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Alien Evolution: Cosmic Race Guidebook
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/13/2017 15:58:36

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

As the name suggests, this 112-page, full-color book is a compilation of new races for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. Just looking at the description above is enough to provide a good sense for the races contained within - and honestly, that's probably the best guide you're going to get. Unlike character options, which are suitable for a wide variety of games, people generally either want to play a race or they don't. The start of the book provides a brief explanation of its contents, a copy of the brief racial descriptions, and a vital statistics table should details like height and weight be relevant.

Past that, each of the races follows the same basic format - name, ability score, and HP information on the first page, then a few pages that include the actual stats, unique racial abilities, and some flavor text to describe their homeworld, society, and relations with others. For example, Abrials are described as probably disliking using their legs to travel (because they have natural flight), while other races likely "crack jokes about grounding you". This flavor content is a nice touch, and helps give the GM some ideas for NPC behavior.

The races do seem reasonably well-balanced, though GM's will definitely want to review each one prior to release. There are a few options here that are at least moderately questionable - for example, Belrops can choose to gain a bonus to KAC or EAC for one minute per character level, but there's no limitation on the number of uses. Given that, it might as well not have a duration at all.

Some races also have very distinct attributes. Cilderon, for example, have +6 to Con and -4 to Wis - still only a +2 bonus in total, it provides the potential for a much higher ability score at character creation than usual. (They also have a somewhat worryingly flexible set of racial skills - being able to transform into different objects, and be used as those, could be a bit too strong with a creative group). Note that the races aren't entirely balanced against each other - Nogard can step out in front of an attack and get a bonus against it once a day, which is distinctly less powerful than the earlier "+2 to one of your AC's pretty much infinitely".

This doesn't mean I think every race should be totally equal - that would be a bit less fun, really. It's just something you should know, and some GM's may want to increase or decrease the power of a given race for their game.

The art for this book is done in a comic book style - some may like it, some may not, though it's relatively easy to ignore if you don't. Layout adheres to the standard two-column format except for the racial traits, which are single-column (and typically half a page each).

Overall, this is a solid product. I do think the racial abilities could have used one more pass through to check for potential issues (too few/many uses, mostly), but otherwise, this is a compendium of races that get well away from simple humanoid clones. Whether you're a player looking for something distinct or a GM looking to get some rather more memorable choices, this book has options. My gut says this book is currently at a 4/5. The issues are relatively minor, but it's definitely a product that you either want or you don't.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alien Evolution: Cosmic Race Guidebook
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8-Bit Adventures: Vampire Slayer Gear
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/12/2017 03:51:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the 8-Bit adventures-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so this time around we take a look at items that are designed to, bingo, duplicate the experience pertaining one of my most beloved video-game franchises, namely Castlevania. No, not the less than impressive 3D-games. I’m talking ‘bout old-school, baby. No save states, no continues. The clock tower was FEARED.

So, first, we take a look at the names of the in-game items and correlate them to PFRPG-items in a handy table: Keys from the Castlevania games, for example, act as skeleton keys, PFRPG-rules-wise. So yeah, so far, so good.

Anyone who played Castlevania will recall whipping candles. A LOT of them. The pdf does provide some advice on how to use this as a very transparent leitmotif in the game – and it sports a treasure table for candles. The use of this table, however, remains limited – one table is provided for all levels. I get it. Castlevania had no level-increases for Trevor. It was a platformer, not an RPG. That being said, PFRPG IS an RPG- and as such, more differentiated tables for different PC-levels would have significantly increased the value of this section.

The pdf then proceeds to present two new weapons, the first of which would be the cross boomerang – and as sad as I am to say this, it does not work RAW as written, requiring a readied action to catch (an impossibility) or a weird immediate action attack versus AC 10 that just eats an important action and is yet another delay at the table. It also fails to specify how many hands you need for it – assuming default 1 for thrown weapons, but yeah. The second item, the star whip fails to specify this as well. While both of them have been cleaned up in an errata by the author, the information has not found its way into the file and as such, can’t be taken into account.

Next up are 3 magic weapons and armors, starting with the slayer’s shield of defense…which sports one of my pet-peeves: It calls the wielder of the shield wearer instead. Shields in PFRPG are wielded. It also is a spell-in-a-can and has “goes into total defense” – which is NOT proper rules-language for that. Whip crystals can be added to a whip, bestowing the deadly special weapon ABILITY (not property!) and if the whip already possesses it or already inflicts lethal damage, it “increases the damage progression dealt by the whip by one step.” – yeah, that’s not how this is phrased. Does this refer to damage die size? Weapon size? No idea. Slayer’s Mystic Whip is a really potent star whip with spells-in-a-can. It “ constantly seeks out and can detect any undead within 60 feet, warning the wielder with its empathic link when danger is nearby.” Oh boy. How does it seek them out? Does it detect undead as the spell or instantly? What are the precise stats of the empathic link? Does the whip need to be drawn? Is it undead or danger? What are the effects – no surprise possible? No idea. This is non-operational.

The final section of the pdf deals with new magic items, ranging in price from 50 gp to 11.520 gp. The latter, btw., would be angelic wings of ivory, a jump/feather fall spell-in-a-can item. The blue crystal, a single use invisibility, also is a bit weird, in that shattering it has not been codified, action-wise. Bracers of Multi-Blow let you incur a -3 penalty to get an additional attack at the highest BAB. Which can be really strong, as it stacks with TWF. Interaction with flurry, etc. is wonky and the 1/day bonus damage is weird, as the damage is not properly codified. Candles of secrets outline secret doors and hidden compartments – like the visuals here. The holy water bomb deals holy damage. Which does not exist, and the item is even inconsistent in its own damage caused. Next. Hourglass watch is utterly OP: 1/day hold monster, AoE, for 9 rounds. For 7650 gp. WTF.

Hunter boots are better than comparable items as well. Large heart crystals replenish limited use charges when shattered, which can be rather problematic. Small heart crystals double the base weapon damage for some time when used – okay, how does this work with crits or similar multipliers?? Master keys are slightly better skeleton keys with spells-in-a-can added. The rosary of holy destruction cuases a burst of…holy damage. It also lacks an activation action. Urgh. The sapphire ring’s rules-language, alas, is also a bit wonky and contradicts itself, lacks a reach caveat…nope. Wall meat is a powerful healing item and the white cross is needlessly verbose – and for once, should reference the spell that it actually duplicates.

The final page of the pdf is devoted to a monster table, noting classic monsters and pathfinder substitutes.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting can no longer be considered to be good – while formally, the pdf does a pretty good job, the rules-language quality leaves A LOT to be desired. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard that evokes the classic Nintendo-booklet/cartridge-aesthetics – kudos! The artworks similarly are neat. The pdf has bookmarks for the chapter-headers, but not for individual entries.

I really wanted to like Derek Blakely’s pdf. I’m a huge Castlevania-fan and these items tug at my heart’s strings. Their execution, alas, is simply not up to par. They provide bland spells in a can, sport a lot of glitches, and even if I could take the errata into account, this would constitute a failure as far as I’m concerned. Unless you are a really hardcore old-school Castlevania-fan, I can’t find a justification for this pdf, even considering its very fair and low price. Even then, this falls very short of what it easily could have been. Personally, I did not get anything from this pdf – there are too many issues here. My final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars – if you really are a hardcore Castlevania-fan, you may want to round up…and since these fans are the target demographic, my official verdict will also round up. Otherwise, I would have rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
8-Bit Adventures: Vampire Slayer Gear
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Lights of Sand Island
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/11/2017 05:39:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the fun vs. Ghosts game clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content. The pages are laid out for digest-size (6’’ by 9’’/A5), which means you can fit up to 4 of them on a given sheet of paper if you’re conserving ink.

Now, first things first: The adventure takes place around mysterious circumstances in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore – my US-readers will probably be aware of this beautiful area at Lake Superior, but for an ole’ German like yours truly, checking them out via google etc. was rather inspiring and really made me wish I could visit them. This also grounds the module in a believable sense of reality.

In my review of the rules-book, I mentioned that the engine can be easily used to run games for both adults and kids. Well, this module retains this aspect. As a whole, I consider this to be a child-friendly module. As an aside: If I had the option, I’d probably run this on site! Running this around the campfire while staying on the islands would add another, special touch to the proceedings. Now, I strongly suggest reading the module in its entirety – this is not necessarily a go-play module and its brevity may warrant further research if employed at the table rather than while on a trip, but that as an aside.

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

..

.

All righty, only Ghostmasters around? The residents of Duluth are worried. In the few weeks, a couple of boats have stranded on Sand Island, ostensibly following lights. While none of the big lakers have stranded so far, it is only a matter of time. The module does provide some guidance regarding the general area and also points towards further articles on the net for research, should additional details be required. Since the area is known for being rather touristy, it should be no problem to get the PCs involved.

The night the PCs arrive on location, the Benjamin Lark runs ashore on the east side of Sand Island – working with Coast Guard and/or rangers (who include a fair share of “believers” in vs. Ghost’s world), the PCs get a chance to interview the captain, who speaks of malfunctioning navigational instruments and lighthouse-like light – which seasoned ghosthunters may tie to Ghost orbs – but much larger! The Benjamin Lark could have almost hit the Sevona – a wreck popular with wreck divers.

Cool: The pdf does note that investigation may actually take the form of real life online research – the Sevona is a real wreck! 7 men died in the wreckage of this ancient ship, with two bodies found on the beach. Talking to rangers and collating further information from previous incidents will help: The PCs may even question the grandson of a survivor from the Sevnoa’s wreck. Mysteriously, the lighthouse sports no malfunction – though diligent research will unearth that a cottage of Camp Estella has been built from a part of the Sevona and is currently undergoing repair.

Which also would be the poodle’s core: The damage to the cottage has disturbed the rest of the per se noble D.S. MacDonald, captain of the Sevona – and when visibility is poor, he haunts the shores. Ghosthunters can find him in the fog – and he thinks he is warning the ships away from the shoal that wrecked his ship. A benevolent, if misguided division IV ghost, he does have stats for combat, if desired, but he may similarly just be convinced that he isn’t helping, allowing for a happy ending for the module and the option to solve it sans violence. Destroying the whole cottage may be another way to stop the haunting, but ultimately how the finale pans out s left up to the discretion of the GM.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any serious glitches. Layout adheres to the colorful, nice 1-column full-color standard of vs. Ghosts and the pdf doesn’t sport bookmarks. At the brief length, that’s okay and only represents a minor comfort-detriment. The hyperlinks to real world homepages help enhance the illusion of plausibility, as does the stock photography used as artwork. The pdf has no maps, but neither system, not set-up require them and the real-world backdrop means that there’s plenty of cartography to go around.

Jennifer R. Povey’s module is what I’d call a “Feel-good ghost story” – it lacks any malevolence, is a bit educational and provides a simple, brief mystery to unearth for the players. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t have to. As per the writing of this review, this module is ridiculously cheap and for its very fair price-point, it is a truly entertaining little set-up. This is not a module that will challenge seasoned investigators, but as a sidetrek or, as a first investigation for kids, it makes for a great offering that may actually expand the player’s horizon. Kids in particular will enjoy the module – for this audience, I’d rate this 5 stars. Adults may be less impressed by the simplicity of the proceedings and plot; such audiences should probably deduct a star. My official verdict will reflect the use for kids and thus, the 5-star rating.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Lights of  Sand Island
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vs. Ghosts
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/04/2017 03:52:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game clocks in at 64 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 58 pages of content. It should be noted that the pages are laid out for the digest-size (A5/6’’ by 9’’), which means that, if your sight’s good enough, you can fit up to 4 of the pages on a single sheet.

So, what is vs. Ghosts? To put it simply, it’s a game hat lets you play in a Ghostbusters/Supernatural-esque scenario; whether you prefer grim realism or a fun, kid-friendly Scoobie-Doo-esque playstyle depends on your personal taste, though the often really FUNNY text herein and the comic-style artwork does emphasize the less serious takes on the tropes.

The GM (Ghostmaster) is…the GM. To play, you eed one deck of playing cards, sans Joker. Character creation is simple: A character has 5 Attributes:

Offense and Defense are used to attack/defend in physical combat. Mental is the attribute for knowledge, willpower, etc. Physical is the Attribute used for feats of strength, endurance, etc. Investigation is used for noticing clues, research, etc. You assign the following values to these attributes: 6, 4, 4, 3, 3.

You also get to choose Gimmicks: There are Good and Bad Gimmicks and you can have up to 4 good gimmicks. For each Good Gimmick, you have to take a Bad Gimmick, and when you take more than 2, you have to lower one Attribute by 1 for each additional Gimmick – I assume this refers to Good Gimmicks – otherwise, each Gimmick beyond 2 would cost 2 Attribute points, one for the Good and one for the Bad Gimmick. These include Attribute modifications and other tricks and include classics like allergies etc. on the Bad Gimmick side.

A character begins play with 10 Health, which represents how much damage you can take.

The core mechanic of the game is as follows: when performing an action, you draw a number of cards equal to your appropriate Attribute score. The highest card’s value is compared to the target value of the difficulty of the task – if you equal or exceed the target value, you succeed. Otherwise, you fail. As cards are drawn and used, they’re put into the discard pile. When no more cards can be drawn, that pile is shuffled back into the draw pile. Jacks are equal to 11, Queens 12s, Kings 13s and Aces as 14. However, low cards are better when dealing damage, so aces count as 1 there. A dice-based alternative is provided, but personally, I’d suggest sticking to cards here.

When multiple characters use teamwork to best a challenge, the highest score is used and +1 card is drawn per assisting character. Opposed actions are resolved by drawing and comparing the highest value.

Combat is divided into Turns, which are not precisely codified – they could last an hour or a few seconds, depending on your needs. Typically,a character may move and attack during his turn. Other actions, like drawing weapons etc. can freely be taken. Initiative is determined by drawing cards. Ties of the card-values are resolved via the Physical attribute, and if that still ties characters, we go clockwise. Surprise is represented as a free attack. A character can move a number of units equal to his Physical attribute. Ranged combat determines its difficulty by range. Melee attacks are resolved as a contest between Offense and Defense.

A character takes a penalty to all attributes at 50% Health and 1 Health and 0 Health equals death, unless playing with an alternate rules for death at -1 or below. If you succeed in hitting your foe, you take a look at your Offense cards: Each card that managed to surpass the target’s Defense lets you draw one new card. The value of each of these new cards is then compared to the damage cap of the target: Each card that has a value BELOW the damage cap then inflicts 1 Health damage. Character recover 1 Health for every 10 hours of uninterrupted rest. If a physician attends the character, he may also draw a card – if it’s a heart, he gains an additional Health. Situations may instill bonuses or penalties to attributes.

Equipment is gained at the start of each session: In initiative order, the players name one equipment and then draw a card: If the card drawn is equal to or exceeds the equipment’s value, the character gains the equipment; otherwise, it’s a failure. After a maximum of 4 successes (or one failure), the next player may draw. 4 successes do net a bonus card, though. Old equipment is kept. This also includes living space, transportation, etc. – just fyi. And yes, you can get less reliable vehicles, for example. Weapons come with values and damage caps, range modifiers etc. and the section also includes ghosthunting equipment like lucky totems, aura analyzers, etc….and yes, these include e.g. spirit containers.

At the end of each session, a player may remove a Bad Gimmick, improve an Attribute, add a Good Gimmick or take a bonus card from a separate deck – this card can then be substituted for one the player draws at a later time. If it’s a 2, the player can use it to add +2 to the value of a card instead.

The pdf provides simple rules for window-dressing NPCs (bystanders) and Nemesis rivals as well as simple rules for hordes of foes. Extras are NPCs that make a difference, and as such, the pdf provides some sample stats and unique Bad and Good Gimmicks. Ghosts can similarly easily be created. Fear is resolved by drawing Mental attribute number of cards and comparing them to Offense + Defense of the target (OUCH!) or the value determined by the GM. Failure imposes a -2 penalty to all Attributes for a length of time determined by the GM.

This is where we begin with the GM-section: “Dr. Corontze’s Spirit Guide” – which comes in a COMPLETELY different layout, looking like an old, weathered document – kudos for going the extra mile, aesthetics-wise. It also looks sufficiently different to keep e.g. kids from diving head-first in, looking less playful. In this section, GMs learn about the divisions of ghosts, special abilities…and there are some sample ghosts, with sketch-like drawings/stock-art/photos that actually can be a bit creepy – nice array. The pdf concludes with a selection of sample hooks to create adventures.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – apart from the aforementioned one hiccup, I noticed no glitches on a formal or rules-based level. The language employed is furthermore didactically sensible and makes grasping the system EASY. That’s a big plus. Layout adheres to a nice, full-color two-column standard with kid-friendly, comic-style artwork…apart from the GM-section, which becomes more creepy, though not to the point where it should become problematic for all but the most sensitive of younger readers. Pretty cool! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Okay, let me come clean first: I didn’t want to review this book. Vs. Ghosts didn’t interest me. At all. I like Ghostbusters etc. well enough, but I’m not enamored with the franchise. Furthermore, it was explained to me as pretty much a nostalgia-trip. Well, I don’t do nostalgia well. Perhaps I’m too analytical or cynical for it, perhaps my excellent memory is responsible – but those nostalgic goggles…they just don’t work for me.

Well, I got the first coupon. Deleted it. The I got another. Ignored it. This went on for a while. Then I finally caved and figured I’d give it a fair shake.

Guess what? My congratulations to Rick Hershey and Lucus Palosaari – this game is actually MUCH better than I anticipated it’d be. Vs. Ghosts is no complexity monster, but it doesn’t try to be – it’s a perfect game for a longer trip, for a relatively quick session – it plays fast and rather well, can easily be modified and while it can carry real horror stories, its RAW focus on the goofier aspects makes it a real good candidate to teach folks how to play. The tactile notion of drawing cards can be fund for kids and the easy teamwork rules similarly can make the game particularly rewarding for younger audiences.

In short: This is a well-made game using cards as randomizer; it’s easy to learn and explain, the presentation is concise and makes grasping the rules super simple. The stereotypes and tropes employed don’t necessarily hit home with me, but that may be because I am probably as far away from the target audience as I can possibly be. In spite of that, I do consider this to be a neat, inexpensive and fun, relatively rules-lite game, well worth owning. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts
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Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/02/2017 13:24:50

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

This is a 30-page, full-color product. The book focuses on a region of hyperspace called the 'Fiendish Wastes', created by accidentally mixing the planes of Hell and the Abyss through hyperspace engines. As such, it's home to both Devils and Demons (who explicitly do not like each other, but are willing to at least pretend to work together in order to work home).

Aside from offering a flavorful realm to explore, though, this is mostly just a setup for the bulk of the bulk: Starfinder conversions of the Babau, Balor, Dretch, Glabrezu, Hezrou, Marilith, Nalfeshneee, Succubus, and Vrock demons, and the Barbed, Bearded, Bone, and Horned devils. In addition, there are two new ships - the Tier 10 Abyssal Dreadrazor and the Tier 6 Hellish Soulreaver.

Following this rules content, the book includes some advice on setting adventures in the Fiendish Wastes at various levels (2-4, 5-7, 8-10, 11-13, 14-16, and 17-20, each with a unique adventure hook), and closes out with a copy of the OGL.

This book is pretty handy as both a flavorful setting and a quick conversion of some common infernal foes (if you'd like to add them to your Starfinder game without doing the conversion yourself). It's a solid product overall - and while it's clearly not for every game, Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Close Encounters: Hyperspace Fiends
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