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Star Log Deluxe: Aging Rules
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2018 08:35:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This extra-long installment of the Star Log-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, after a brief introduction to the subject matter, we begin with defining age categories, a component I found puzzling in its absence from the Starfinder core rulebook.

This pdf seeks to remedy this gap and provide mechanically-relevant consequences of age. The pdf recognizes 8 age categories: Infant, toddler, child, adolescent, young adult, mature adult, old adult, and venerable adult. Mental and physical age category usually are identical, but don’t have to be.

Each age category has an aging modifier that applies to many of the character’s abilities, acting as ability penalties, which may only be lessened, removed or suppressed by other aging effects. The mental age category’s aging penalty is applied to the mental ability score, the physical one to the physical ability scores. Infants and toddlers are restricted regarding both physical and mental acumen, while they and children have restrictions regarding physical traits. The maximum age penalty an age category can impose on its own is -5. The age categories are concisely presented – toddlers and infants are, obviously, highly restricted on the actions they can take, for example.

But more important, the aging process in itself is concisely defined, and a massive table notes age categories for the core races, legacy Pathfinder races and the massive amount of Starfinder races, including the skinwalkers introduced in the Star Log.EM-series. Since the scifi-genre is rife with complex races and uncommon life-cycles, the system can account for reverse aging etc. and similar oddities. Since the pdf provides, step by step breakdowns of aging categories, the pdf is superbly easy to tweak regarding these components. Heck, provided the GM allows, there is the option to treat characters as 25% younger or older to account for differences in maturity.

Now, Julian Barnes once said, that “identity is memory, memory identity”. – it is a sad truth that the deterioration of the physical form represents a fate that all living things have to come to terms with. Optional rules to avoid mental and physical deterioration are provided, which allow you to depict the ever-growing strain that trauma can impose on the well-being of the individual. Particularly if you’re aiming for a more gritty Starfinder-experience, these rules should prove o be inspiring. Special cases like androids or samsarans are also mentioned.

This out of the way, we are introduced to two new themes: Old-times nets +1 to one mental ability score and nets you and Int-based theme skill. 6th level enhances your bonuses for covering fire, harrying fire and aid another, provided your skill bonus in the skill in question, BAB or age exceeds that of the assisted ally – the respective conditions are presented in a concise and precise manner. 12th level lets you add +1d4 to a nearby younger ally’s skill check, provided the ally has been under your tutelage. This can be used only once per day per target, with Resolve paying for additional uses. At 18th level, you can regain limited Resolve when a younger being rolls a natural 20. The ability has a hard cap to prevent abuse. Cool theme!

The second theme is prodigy, which nets a class skill, -5 to all of the skill’s DCs, and nets you +1 in the associated ability score. 6th level allows you to roll a skill check in the skill at advantage (roll twice, take better result) 1/day. 12th level allows you to complete longer tasks quicker by entering a trance that leaves you wide open. As a capstone, at 20th level, you can regain limited Resolve when rolling a natural 20 in the skill you specialize in. The pdf also includes new technology associated with age:

NCNUs (neural cartography nanite units) are implanted in the brain and rewire the mind, enhancing the character to Young Adult category in 6 months; Youth Enhancer Systems (endocrine slot) reduce physical ability score penalties imposed by the aging modifier – these come up to Mk V. Also for the endocrine system, there’d be the quick-gro biotech, basically the biotech means to physically age you to young adulthood quickly. There are two magic serums introduced – one for age regression and one for age progression.

The pdf also contains two different hybrid items, the first of which would be the external neural interface, which allows you to directly interface with powered armor, starships or vehicles. Powered armor pilots gain initiative and Ref-saves bonuses and increased maximum Dexterity values; starships can be piloted better and gunning, obviously, also improves when taking that role. Vehicles can be enhanced regarding attacks and AI autopilots overridden. Implanting this item in adults is more dangerous than usual – though kids have an easier time surviving the process unharmed. Particularly nasty: The higher Mk versions require the previous one to be present, meaning that a new surgery for upgrading is required. Similarly, reducing such a system takes multiple surgeries, so you better know what you’re getting into… Secondly, rejuvies are pills that combine necromancy and nanobots to combat aging in a delightful satire of our culture’s obsession with youth: These can alleviate age penalties and pain, and “Gray Away” pills can get rid of physical age modifiers, with greater versions allowing for the temporary regression of mental age – this can make for particularly interesting narratives in conjunction with the deterioration-rules in grittier games, or to offset penalties of an aged character, with a pressure to adventure for credits to keep the rejuvies flowing…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no significant formal or rules-relevant guffaws. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of the series, and the pdf sports a nice full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alexander Augunas’ aging rules are precise, easy to grasp, and cleanly-presented. They fill an important hole in Starfinder’s core rules and do so elegantly. The material presented is complex enough to be mechanically-relevant, without becoming too potent, too character-defining; your character will be race and class first, then defined by the age, not vice versa. Min-maxing isn’t a good option here either. Sure, there are tangible benefits to age categories, but not enough to unhinge the math. In short, this represents a well-crafted, interesting supplement, well worth checking out: My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log Deluxe: Aging Rules
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #2
Publisher: Red Moon Medicine Show
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2018 08:34:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Vacant Ritual Assembly ’zine clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/introduction/suggested reading/listening/watching, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

As before, the rules assumed here regarding OSR-system employed would be LotFP. As such, it is intended for mature audiences and has a weird/dark fantasy vibe. The pdf sports vulgarity, if you mind the like.

The pdf’s proper content begins with a d66 table of names, with male, female and family-name column provided, and family names focusing on a somewhat English/French-style: Chamberlain and d’Aguillon, for example. This is followed by a nice, painless page that depicts the different, classic zodiac signs, assigning a +1 ability score bonus and suggesting personality traits for the signs. Solid, if not exactly mind-blowing so far.

This changes immediately on the next pages: On a two-page spread, we get a top-tier, gorgeous isometric b/w-map of the forlorn fishing village Dretcher’s Bay. Seriously, I was utterly flabbergasted to see a map of this quality in a humble fanzine, and the map is annotated in a player-friendly, key-less style, thus not breaking immersion. Led by three crabber captains (who come with mugshots on the lower border of the page), the place is pretty miserable, but ties seamlessly into the next article, on carcinology, where the naturalist living in Dretcher’s Bay shares his observations on the local bell crabs and highlights the costly sea coat. And yes, aforementioned Bell Crabs get monster stats. Oh, and there is the issue of the nephropids, lobster-like humanoids that live on a nearby island, making for a further complication for the region. Scratchy pencil-artworks add an illusion of looking into a notebook, and the read-aloud text for these crunchy bits adds to this conceit. Heck, we even get a size comparison.

The next double-page spread deals with the secrets of Acray, ruins nearby, swallowed by the sea. The article mentions briefly e.g. the presence of a dolphin sorceress (alas, sans stats) and loot to be found under the sea, as well as Bell Crab icons noting where these dangerous beings can be found. This is a nice addition to Dretcher’s Bay, though here, we only get a keyed version – no player-friendly version is included, which is a bit of a pity, for the top-down map is pretty nice.

After this, we have a guest article by none other than Anxious P, known for creative and unique artworks in various OSR-supplements. Here, we learn about oarsmen and the strange fares they may demand – from years to fingernails and vitality, this section makes paying the price…interesting. This one also comes with a d66-table of various woes the oarsman may confess to. Another winner!

After this, we take a look at brief sidetrek module inspired by a LotFP-artwork, intended for low level characters: Long ago, a Cyclops roamed the world, doomed to roam the world for the sin of treason. The titular eye has very potent effects and comes with full stats as a magic item. The Cyclops, doomed, died one day, and when an insane backwater guy found the tomb with its cyclopean motifs, he managed to create a misguided pseudo-religion of sorts around it. The hillbilly-ish man has since spawned a clan (called “Behelden” – and yes, the author knows this is no word!) of devoted beings. Wandering monsters and a solid map accompany this mini-adventure, and we get stats. While a player-friendly, key-less version of the map would have been nice, I consider this to be a solid sidetrek.

The ‘zine concludes with an interview with Greg Gorgonmilk.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. The b/w layout deserves special mentioning, as does the artwork and cartography – this ‘zine is absolutely GORGEOUS and aesthetically-pleasing. The cartography of Dretcher’s Bay alone makes the low $2.00 asking price of the otherwise pretty brief ‘zine totally worthwhile. The maps are really cool, but I wished they were layered or came with player-friendly versions. Unfortunately, the pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.

Clint Krause and Anxious P provide a surprisingly inspired installment: Anxious P’s article is great and the connected articles on Dretcher’s Bay are amazing, generating a cool, compelling atmosphere. The crunch-density increased in comparison to #1, and all without compromising the atmosphere. The adventure side-trek is slightly less amazing, but considering the extremely low price, this is absolutely worth getting if you enjoy the slightly odd. 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!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #2
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Places of Power: Khla'Akear
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2018 08:32:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what’s this Khla’Akear? Well, nowadays, this holy stupa is also known as the monastery of the Yellow Dawn; as the pdf specifies in the page depicting the vicinity (including a glorious, original b/w-artwork of the place), it is situated on a bend in a long, tranquil river that traverses its path through a fertile valley. Small settlements dot the surrounding area, and it is said that the region is home to numerous lesser known deities and spirits of the land, lending the place a somewhat quasi-asian theme. To the east, a hostile jungle looms, while the west is guarded by a massive mountain range…but all of that is just tangential to the rather interesting concept of this locale.

As always in the series, we get a brief summary in the beginning, including a selection of 6 whispers and rumors and notes on local dressing habits. The pdf also rewards PCs that do their legwork, providing some lore on the location for those players that value knowing what the PCs get into. On the GM’s side of things, we receive a bit of advice on how to incorporate the location in your game.

Now, if the mere mentioning of “Yellow” ´generated Hastur-associations for you, you’d be thankfully wrong this time around, for the concept of this place is more interesting: You see, this monastery was once the palace of a clan of dread rakshasa, who have been subsequently vanquished and imprisoned in the stupa, removed from the cycle of reincarnation. More importantly, the thus imprisoned evil entities have since been forced to lend their powers to the monks, with the Yellow Dawn adherents healing the damage the horrible beings wrought.

If you’re like me, you’ll notice immediately the interesting moral potential here: Is it okay to basically torment an evil soul in order to do good? If these souls have been removed from the circle of reincarnation, is such an imprisonment in accordance with the will of the gods? If so, where do you draw the line. This supplement, in short, poses an intriguing moral conundrum.

Now, this is part of Raging Swan Press’ evolved formula regarding presentation: This means that we get a whole, massive table of 20 entries of dressing and events to enhance the game and kick things up a notch; this renders the place much more alive than it otherwise would be, particularly since the supplement also explains local customs and laws. Each of the 6 different, keyed locations come with a brief sentence of read-aloud text, and there are “What’s going on?”-entries for the majority of these. Here, we find realized adventure hooks for the GM to employ, and to add further use, two of these locations also receive their own event tables, both of which are 6 entries strong.

In the tradition of Raging Swan Press, we also get write-ups for a variety of NPCs, but said write-ups do not feature stats, instead noting distinguishing features, mannerisms, etc. This time around, we get no less than 6 interesting persons. Cool: Some actually have mechanical repercussions!! The PFRPG-version does come with a nice marketplace section, but alas, lacks any rules for the tapping into souls practiced here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports both really nice b/w-artwork and a high-quality map by Maciej Zagorski. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

John Bennett is one of the authors out there who should get a lot more opportunities to write: His prose is inspiring, and he knows how to create a flavorful atmosphere in a concise manner. This place is no different, sporting a truly intriguing and smart premise that every Gm worth their salt can develop into a truly remarkable place to visit. On the fluff-side, this is amazing.

However, at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like Raging Swan Press’ general low-crunch aesthetics hurt this place. I mean, come on, tapping into rakshasa-souls? That’s awesome, and it should have proper mechanical representations. Special casting tricks, a unique fighting style – this type of thing begs for mechanical realization, something the pdf does not provide. The series has a really high level, and, let me make that abundantly clear, what’s here is great. However, the pdf still left me with a feeling of unrealized potential, at least for the PFRPG-version. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Khla'Akear
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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much, Thilo for your thoughts. I much appreciate the review!
Places of Power: Khla'Akear (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2018 08:30:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what’s this Khla’Akear? Well, nowadays, this holy stupa is also known as the monastery of the Yellow Dawn; as the pdf specifies in the page depicting the vicinity (including a glorious, original b/w-artwork of the place), it is situated on a bend in a long, tranquil river that traverses its path through a fertile valley. Small settlements dot the surrounding area, and it is said that the region is home to numerous lesser known deities and spirits of the land, lending the place a somewhat quasi-asian theme. To the east, a hostile jungle looms, while the west is guarded by a massive mountain range…but all of that is just tangential to the rather interesting concept of this locale.

As always in the series, we get a brief summary in the beginning, including a selection of 6 whispers and rumors and notes on local dressing habits. The pdf also rewards PCs that do their legwork, providing some lore on the location for those players that value knowing what the PCs get into. On the referee’s side of things, we receive a bit of advice on how to incorporate the location in your game.

Now, if the mere mentioning of “Yellow” ´generated Hastur-associations for you, you’d be thankfully wrong this time around, for the concept of this place is more interesting: You see, this monastery was once the palace of a clan of dread rakshasa, who have been subsequently vanquished and imprisoned in the stupa, removed from the cycle of reincarnation. More importantly, the thus imprisoned evil entities have since been forced to lend their powers to the monks, with the Yellow Dawn adherents healing the damage the horrible beings wrought.

If you’re like me, you’ll notice immediately the interesting moral potential here: Is it okay to basically torment an evil soul in order to do good? If these souls have been removed from the circle of reincarnation, is such an imprisonment in accordance with the will of the gods? If so, where do you draw the line. This supplement, in short, poses an intriguing moral conundrum.

Now, this is part of Raging Swan Press’ evolved formula regarding presentation: This means that we get a whole, massive table of 20 entries of dressing and events to enhance the game and kick things up a notch; this renders the place much more alive than it otherwise would be, particularly since the supplement also explains local customs and laws. Each of the 6 different, keyed locations come with a brief sentence of read-aloud text, and there are “What’s going on?”-entries for the majority of these. Here, we find realized adventure hooks for the referee to employ, and to add further use, two of these locations also receive their own event tables, both of which are 6 entries strong.

In the tradition of Raging Swan Press, we also get write-ups for a variety of NPCs, with class-references adjusted to old-school classes, but said write-ups do not feature stats, instead noting distinguishing features, mannerisms, etc. This time around, we get no less than 6 interesting persons. Cool: Some actually have mechanical repercussions!! The system neutral-version does come with a nice marketplace section that has been adjusted to account for the different realities of old-school gaming, but alas, lacks any rules for the tapping into souls practiced here. This being the system neutral version, I won’t hold that against the pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports both really nice b/w-artwork and a high-quality map by Maciej Zagorski. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

John Bennett is one of the authors out there who should get a lot more opportunities to write: His prose is inspiring, and he knows how to create a flavorful atmosphere in a concise manner. This place is no different, sporting a truly intriguing and smart premise that every referee worth their salt can develop into a truly remarkable place to visit. On the fluff-side, this is amazing.

In contrast to the PFRPG and 5e-versions, it would not be fair to complain about a lack of rules for the tapping into the souls of the fiends within, and neither would it be fair to hold the lack of unique martial tricks against this. As such, I am left with a supplement that is frankly inspired and nothing to complain about – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Khla'Akear (SNE)
Click to show product description

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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much, Thilo for your thoughts. I much appreciate the review! Glad you enjoyed the System Neutral Edition version!
Places of Power: Khla'Akear (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2018 08:29:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what’s this Khla’Akear? Well, nowadays, this holy stupa is also known as the monastery of the Yellow Dawn; as the pdf specifies in the page depicting the vicinity (including a glorious, original b/w-artwork of the place), it is situated on a bend in a long, tranquil river that traverses its path through a fertile valley. Small settlements dot the surrounding area, and it is said that the region is home to numerous lesser known deities and spirits of the land, lending the place a somewhat quasi-asian theme. To the east, a hostile jungle looms, while the west is guarded by a massive mountain range…but all of that is just tangential to the rather interesting concept of this locale.

As always in the series, we get a brief summary in the beginning, including a selection of 6 whispers and rumors and notes on local dressing habits. The pdf also rewards PCs that do their legwork, providing some lore on the location for those players that value knowing what the PCs get into. On the GM’s side of things, we receive a bit of advice on how to incorporate the location in your game.

Now, if the mere mentioning of “Yellow” ´generated Hastur-associations for you, you’d be thankfully wrong this time around, for the concept of this place is more interesting: You see, this monastery was once the palace of a clan of dread rakshasa, who have been subsequently vanquished and imprisoned in the stupa, removed from the cycle of reincarnation. More importantly, the thus imprisoned evil entities have since been forced to lend their powers to the monks, with the Yellow Dawn adherents healing the damage the horrible beings wrought.

If you’re like me, you’ll notice immediately the interesting moral potential here: Is it okay to basically torment an evil soul in order to do good? If these souls have been removed from the circle of reincarnation, is such an imprisonment in accordance with the will of the gods? If so, where do you draw the line. This supplement, in short, poses an intriguing moral conundrum.

Now, this is part of Raging Swan Press’ evolved formula regarding presentation: This means that we get a whole, massive table of 20 entries of dressing and events to enhance the game and kick things up a notch; this renders the place much more alive than it otherwise would be, particularly since the supplement also explains local customs and laws. Each of the 6 different, keyed locations come with a brief sentence of read-aloud text, and there are “What’s going on?”-entries for the majority of these. Here, we find realized adventure hooks for the GM to employ, and to add further use, two of these locations also receive their own event tables, both of which are 6 entries strong.

In the tradition of Raging Swan Press, we also get write-ups for a variety of NPCs, but said write-ups do not feature stats, instead noting distinguishing features, mannerisms, etc. This time around, we get no less than 6 interesting persons. Cool: Some actually have mechanical repercussions that have been properly adjusted to account for 5e’s mechanics!! The 5e-version does come with a nice, modified marketplace section, but alas, lacks any rules for the tapping into souls practiced here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports both really nice b/w-artwork and a high-quality map by Maciej Zagorski. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.

John Bennett is one of the authors out there who should get a lot more opportunities to write: His prose is inspiring, and he knows how to create a flavorful atmosphere in a concise manner. This place is no different, sporting a truly intriguing and smart premise that every Gm worth their salt can develop into a truly remarkable place to visit. On the fluff-side, this is amazing.

However, at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like Raging Swan Press’ general low-crunch aesthetics hurt this place. I mean, come on, tapping into rakshasa-souls? That’s awesome, and it should have proper mechanical representations. Special casting tricks, a unique fighting style – this type of thing begs for mechanical realization, something the pdf does not provide. The series has a really high level, and, let me make that abundantly clear, what’s here is great. However, the pdf still left me with a feeling of unrealized potential, at least for the 5e-version. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: Khla'Akear (5e)
Click to show product description

Add to Flames Rising PDF Store Order

Creator Reply:
Thanks very much, Thilo for your thoughts. I much appreciate the review!
Rude Awakening
Publisher: Gamer Printshop
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/18/2018 06:33:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover/advertisement, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, first of all, this is FREE. Originally created as a One-Page-Dungeon, it surprisingly does not show this humble origin; the adventure is intended for 4 1st level characters, and sports a detailed read-aloud introductory text, that presumes that the PCs are in cryosleep, something allowed by the cryogenic pods, bulk 4, which is introduced herein. Once common, in a post-drift era, these have become more rare, and for a reason. The pdf also notes the details for good crew berths and the turbo caterpillar drive, which allow for underwater movement. The pdf also provides detailed rules for long cold sleep – while death is possible, it is EXTREMELY unlikely, and the pdf provides a variety of mental effects…and there may be special effects, like temporarily gaining the ability to detect thoughts (not italicized properly). This generator/hazard encompasses physical and mental effects, and in a nitpick, does not specify the condition-durations for the minor mental effects, but judging from the presentation and explicit statements regarding durations of more pronounced effects, I assume these to last for only the immediate aftermath of cold sleep. On the plus-side, I did enjoy the decision to highlight terrain features and rules-relevant components in small boxes; it makes running the module smoother.

Beyond that, we get stats for a new tier 3 spaceship, the devilfish, which looks just as you’d expect – like a spacefaring mantaray! Now, here, I feel the need to comment on the supplemental material this pdf provides. You see, the adventure comes with a massive archive that includes VTT-friendly versions of the maps employed herein, as well as a pdf that provides the maps once more. Why? Well, you can print out both main map and deck plan of the ship in full scale, large size, 32 x54 inches & 28 x 31 inches, respectively) and as an additional bonus, the main map of the module comes with a LAYERED version! Yes, you heard me. You can easily customize this as you see fit, and the supplemental map-pdf is even bookmarked! Right from the get-go, that is a pretty amazing feat right there, and even if you are not interested in the module per se, I’d strongly suggest checking this out for the maps! (Seriously, this type of map-support should be the standard!)

All right, this is probably as far as I can go without diving into deep SPOILER-territory, so potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion!

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the PCs revive from cold sleep, only to find that, beyond the locker room that contains their equipment, there isn’t much left of their ship – a massive hull breach awaits, and while spacesuits with magnetic boots (to avoid the issues of…well, space and zero G) are available, there isn’t much oxygen left – the PCs will have to hustle to get to safety! Indeed, the adventure, which could easily work in a convention slot, can be rather lethal here…if you choose to. The PCs will have to jump across the hull breach, and the Acrobatics DC is stiff. Consequences-wise, being off-kilter…or, well, dead, provide two variants on different ways to run the module. Indeed, at DC 20, the Acrobatics checks to do the like are pretty stiff. As the PCs hopefully make their way past the pressurized and unpressurized collapsed drone bays. Speaking of which: The first combat encounter will be with a hostile drone, which annoyingly notes just “good/poor saves” in the statblock, instead of noting them. While it’s only a quick flip of the corebook to determine the proper saves, that still constitutes a comfort detriment – the drone should have proper monster stats, not stats based on the mechanic class feature. Another thing you’ll notice, is that the statblock formatting of the stats herein lacks a couple of blank spaces and that sometimes, line breaks are missing, making the statblock formatting feel a bit rough. While I’m nitpicking – it’s still “electricity damage,” not “electrical damage”, as a plasma-hazard erroneously notes.

Anyways, the PCs will have to make their way past hostile mercenaries and navigate the broken vessel they found themselves in – best before the oxygen runs out! This is particularly interesting, considering that quite a few hazards have the potential to break spacesuits and leak oxygen. On the downside, the implementation of hazards like this is not always as concise as it should be: There are instances where no damage type is given, though we clearly have, for example, fire damage. Similarly, there is no such thing as “heat damage” in Starfinder and “enflamed” space suits could also use a more precise rules language. Anyways, the PCs will make their way to the aforementioned mantaray-spaceship, where they should attempt to open the hangar doors and bypass the biometric locks to escape…but, alas, no rules for the like are presented.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay – I noticed quite a few formatting deviations, as well as issues regarding damage types, missing DCs and similar hiccups in the rules-language department. Layout adheres to a solid 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is the star of this pdf – the full VTT-support, player-friendly, layered maps, etc. – it’s worth the download all on its own.

Michael Tumey’s brief little introductory module is, theme-wise, fun and interesting, and the supplemental material is surprisingly detailed, testament to the care that went into this. The adventure works well as a forgiving introduction or as a really deadly convention-style/hardcore game. That being said, the module does falter and stumble a bit regarding the rules-language, sporting more issues in the details than I am frankly comfortable with. As a commercial supplement, I’d consider this to be a mixed bag, but it is actually FREE – and frankly, I’d consider this to be worth downloading for the maps. Considering that this is FREE, I consider this to definitely worth checking out. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars....and the maps warrant granting this my seal of approval; getting these for FREE is a huge deal and needs to be rewarded!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Rude Awakening
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Star Log.EM-016: Stellar Revelations
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/18/2018 06:29:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the Solarian-class clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After the introduction, which also discusses the dualistic nature of the class, we move straight into the new stellar revelations of the class, with graviton and pulsar revelations both sporting a “G” or “P” to denote their respective type. We begin with 2nd level, where 3 revelations are provided, 2 of which are proton revelations: Proton blast lets you fire plasma as a laser small arm, with an item level no greater than one below your solarian level. This cannot have autofire, does not require charges, and inflicts E& F damage. Solar weapon and manifestation apply their benefits to this blast. Proton lash acts similarly, using a taclash as a basis, using Charisma bonus instead of Strength bonus, with the tweaks otherwise being similar. The Graviton defender revelation, alas, is slightly wonky: Whenever an ally within 60 ft. of you makes an attack, you can use your reaction to divert the attack, making it behave as covering fire sans requiring an attack roll, with the penalty being -2 or Charisma modifier, whichever is higher. Covering fire, as per SFRPG, requires that you designate a selected ally, something that this ability does not mention; I assume that the affected ally is the one whose attack you diverted.

At 6th level, 3 new revelations are provided as well: The plasma flare proton revelation makes it possible for enemies hit with plasma weapons while in proton mode to get the burning condition on a failed save,a s you tap into solar armor’s power, which acts as a prerequisite. One of the two graviton revelations also requires solar armor: Graviton impact allows you, while attuned to graviton mode and taking a full attack, attack or charge t spend 1 Resolve Point. If you do, the next time you hit a target before the start of your next turn, you may use a free sunder attempt versus that enemy’s weaponry or armor, using attack roll as the combat maneuver, applying all usual bonuses. When fully attuned, you add the penetrating special weapon quality. The second graviton revelation lets you, as a standard action, target a foe within 30 ft., who must succeed a Fort-save or suffer temporarily as though carrying additional bulk. When fully attuned, you also impose a penalty based on Charisma to determine the amount of bulk the target can carry thus.

The pdf also sports two 10th level revelations. Graviton fluctuations lets you, when in graviton mode and using defy gravity to gain a fly speed, leave fluctuations in your wake that may render targets off-kilter on a failed save, with 12th level allowing for the extension of durations. Damn cool! Nitpick: The ability does not specify that it requires defy gravity, which it probably should. The proton burst revelation builds on the proton blast/lash or solarian weapon: When making a single attack with these as a standard action, you can adopt proton mode until the start of your next turn. You may choose explosion or line mode, adding explode (5 ft.) for melee (should probably note “melee” explicitly, even though that aspect is evident from context), acting as a grenade at range. In line mode, proton burst counts as having the unwieldy and line properties, but no benefits for the other options are provided here.

The pdf closes with a nice section that talks about solarians in the Xa-Osoro system.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, there were a few minor nitpicks for me to note. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series, and the pdf has a nice artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

The solarian is one of the most interesting classes in SFRPG, and easily one aspects of the game that sets it apart from other Scifi games. I really enjoy the flavor and ideas inherent in the Solarian options, and the mode-based playstyle is intriguing. The added options presented here allow for some intriguing tweaks to the chassis and generally are components that I enjoy. However, at the same time, the rules are a tad bit less refined than what I’m accustomed to see from Alexander Augunas, and at this length, minor flaws weigh heavier than in larger files. If you can look past aforementioned nitpicks, then consider this to be worth rounding up; as a reviewer, I can’t round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-016: Stellar Revelations
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Star Log.EM-015: Skinwalker
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/12/2018 06:37:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin with a brief introduction to the subject matter at hand before getting a detailed depiction of the Skinwalker races, including a physical description, notes on their home world and the like – and indeed, the race’s history in the Xa-Osoro system is rather amazing: When Blood Space seeped into Eogawa’s atmosphere, the non-native population of the moon was turned into frothing lycanthropes…and yet, by some miracle, those infected while pregnant gave birth to skinwalkers, rising from savagery courtesy of vanara aid! A young race defined by the culture into which they’re birthed, we get notes on different skinwalker relations and yes, as such a young species, they have adventuring pretty much hardcoded into their DNA. Minor nitpick: No “Playing as…”-section is provided. Vital statistics regarding weight, etc. are not included, alas, though one can assume the human baseline.

Rules-wise, skinwalkers get 4 hp, +2 Wis, -2 Cha and add +2 to a physical ability score of their choice. Skinwalkers are humanoids with the human, skinwalker and shapechanger subtypes, are Medium and have a base speed of 30 ft. One animal or vermin is chosen as lineage. Every skinwalker can assume a hybrid shape based on their lineage as a standard action (reversal is the same), granting them a +10 racial bonus to Disguise. Being knocked unconscious and the like is properly covered. In this hybrid form, they get a +1 bonus to AC. They also have low-light vision, gain +2 to Survival and in their hybrid form, they get natural attacks analogue to the Vesk.

At 2nd, 4th, 6th, 12th or 18th level, a skinwalker may choose the Bestial Shapechange feat as if granted by an archetype. When taking the feat, you get to choose one of several manifestations, provided you meet the prerequisites, if any. These include no penalties to damage and atk underwater with kinetic melee weapons, and being able to hold your breath longer. Being able to speak with vermin, magical beasts and animals, gaining a blindsight (type taken into account; it must make sense regarding lineage – this is an important balancing factor, as it prevents taking the more potent blindsight variants), darkvision (can be improved regarding range), quicker shapechanging and gaining two class skills from a brief list complement this section.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series, and the pdf sports a nice piece of artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas provides an interesting race here: Born from a cataclysmic event, skinwalkers allow you to play, in a balanced manner, the classic lycanthrope concept without the infection issues that usually accompany it. The benefits of the feat are weighed and presented in an interesting manner as well. All in all, I consider this to be a well-crafted little racial supplement. While the supplement could have used a tiny bit more material regarding secondary flavor, I consider it to be a worthwhile offering. 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!]
Star Log.EM-015: Skinwalker
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A Thousand Dead Babies
Publisher: Zzarchov Kowolski
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/12/2018 06:36:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of Zzarchov Kowolski’s self-published dual-format NGR/OSR-adventures clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreons.

So, let’s talk about the pink elephant in the room first. The title is basically a gigantic trigger warning. This module is NOT about killing infants or the like, quite to the contrary. However, it deals with a really sadistic, high-impact conundrum that involves, well, babies. If infanticide by bad guys and the like are not something your group can handle, then don’t even bother. It goes without saying that this module needs to be handled with care, and that it is NOT for everyone. Genre-wise, this is really gritty, really, really DARK dark fantasy, so the title, ultimately acts as a deterrent and as a caveat emptor for anyone contemplating getting this. In that way, the title must almost considered to be a form of fair warning.

Anyways, this is the second of the author’s NGR/OSR dual-statted modules, and difficulty-wise, it is a step up. Some monsters for OSR-games are referred to by being e.g. wraiths, and chances of being heard, for example are presented as e.g. 1/6. Formatting-wise, e.g. magic items are noted as bolded in the text (not as italicized, as in most games), and e.g. some key-NPCs have notes like: “Level 4 Cavalier, Anti-Paladin or Fighter with XYZ strength (not capitalized) and maximum hit points.” If you’re using this module with more classic OSR-games, you’ll need to do a bit of work. For NGR, the book is more precise, noting parts of classes, specializations and the like. More importantly, holy/unholy ground is rules-wise more relevant and noted where applicable. As far as level-ranges are considered, I’d probably play this at the very soonest at 2nd level in most OSR-games, as the adventure can become TPK-y-lethal very fast otherwise.

This can also be found in the new spells: 8 of them are provided in total, but 2 only exist in the NGR-rules – bane of mush’kar, which allows for the storage of a removed tooth of a still living person. When burning the tooth, the spell is cast by the burning being. Breath of the moors is a spell that conjures forth fog, based on the obfuscation spell template. There are three low level (level 1 for OSR) spells for magic-users: One conjures forth a bee swarm, with the OSR version being a bit confused regarding verbiage:”… in a devastating cone with a radius at any given point equal to the distance from the caster.” Cone or radius? The NGR version does not have this issue. Faerie sense lets you smell magical items, and screams of anguish doesn’t generate more than, well, a scream, which can make for a good distraction. In NGR, the scream can slightly increase the difficulty of another spell. At 2nd spell level for OSR, we have a wall of thorns, and the 3rd level spell dire goose makes a goose (which are FRIGHTENING when angered – take it from me, I grew up in the country!) into a massive monster with 3HD, AC as leather and two 1d6 wing attacks. In NGR, the stress mechanics explain the rage of the monster. No, you don’t control it. Yes, I consider that to be funny. Finally, there is a spell to bind extraplanar beings in empty tomes, filling the book with cursed text – in OSR-games, this is a 5th level spell. In NGR, the spell is more interesting, requiring the creature to be defeated briefly after being touched.

There are quite a few magic items to be found in the module as well; even basic items like a +1 dagger of bone that also acts as a holy symbol get their one section, and the book of Aarrrgh (aptly named due to the demon bound within), a scroll made of manleather, a cursed coin, a pouch of teeth and the like provide a surprising depth regarding descriptions and effects for both systems.

One item is btw. also the central fixture and high-impact problem that the PCs will need to deal with, but before we discuss that one, I should note that the module comes with a really elegant layout and cartography (though no player-friendly maps), and that it has consequences for the actions of the PCs, and there is a pretty good chance that things will not end up well for the surrounding area – retaining the status quo should be considered to be a success. Did I mention Old MacDonald’s farm?

All right, in order to discuss further details of this adventure, I need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! So, the module is somewhat akin to the first dual-statted module published by the author, in that it takes places in a remote locale, here, the vale of Corroc, named for the settlement of the same name. As in the “Gnomes of Levnec”, we are introduced to the key-NPCs for the settlement, including the yeoman, a local berry-plucker, the village priest, etc. We also get such a fluff-centric write-up for e.g. the cook of the lumber camp, and the settlement New Smithwald, south of the Thousand Acre Wood, houses a potent knight, who has not been punished for not converting due to his stalwart loyalty and reputation.

Converted? Well, yes, for we once more have a situation akin to that of “Gnomes of Levnec”, where a remnants of a pagan cult are competing with Christianity (or its stand-in), but unlike in that module, there is no misguided cult of blithering, violent idiots responsible for some of the odd happenings. Instead, there is but one active human (she does have elven allies) member of the cult of Titania left – in the power vacuum that accompanied the purging of heathens, a dread cult of Baphomet has taken root. Alas, the none-too-smart village priest can’t keep it in his pants, having an illicit love affair. If his deeds are brought to like, they will have dire consequences for the poor maiden engaging with him, but failure to do so will not be helpful in the long run either. The very medieval aesthetic also is represented in the existence of a rather pitiful example of a black library of the church in town, which btw. also houses the crypts of once mighty pagans, where clever PCs can get magic items…or get a blessing from a fountain that may guarantee offspring. No matter the usual physiological hindrances like race or sex.

Anyways, the PCs are most likely here because they heard about footprints of an upright walking goat, and indeed, the dark cult of Baphomet is busy at work: Beyond the cultists in the settlement, there is a very potent black knight and an upright-walking, razor-sharp teeth sporting demonic goat monstrosity that watch over/participate in the grisly orgy/ritual every night…for they have found a mighty juju tree, once sacred. The tree is now afflicted with a demonic fungal infestation, a literal corruption, one that may be dealt wish, provided the PCs manage to stop the cult and water the heart of the tree with blood…provided they can survive the trip into the small dungeon, that is.

But how can a cult generate enough sacrifices? How does the cult manage to keep up all this mystical pressure on the potent tree? Well, the Goat in the Woods has a potent cursed artifact, found after the previous owner has committed suicide, being unable to cope with the responsibility. This vile artifact would be responsible for the module’s name – it’s the stork’s bassinet, and it teleports to its owner (who may only be saved by death or potent magics from ownership) every day. It then produces a single, healthy baby. Every. Single. Day. In the lack of an owner, the babies simply pile up. Are they teleported away from somewhere? Are they magical simulacra? Clones? No idea, but whatever choice you opt for, the consequences will be DARK. In the aftermath of the cult’s demise, it is quite likely that a PC will end up being the owner of the bassinet, which will require a quest to destroy. While it is easy enough for the GM to rule that one of the magic items in the module can destroy it, this is per se not intended by the adventure. This is also the reason why this adventure can really use the title to scare away folks that definitely will be offended – leaving the item or the babies generated anywhere will be a rather bleak and dark move for PCs and players to swallow, and even if you devise an easy and quick way to destroy it, there still will remain the fact that an untold number of these infants were slaughtered. This is not for every table.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, there are a few minor hiccups and, due to the dual-stat nature of the module, the formatting can be somewhat unconventional. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports two really neat original b/w-artworks that could come straight out of Death Frost Doom – no surprise, as Jez Gordon is responsible for both. Same goes for the cartography, where the absence of player-friendly versions of the maps makes for a comfort detriment. The pdf sports a couple of basic bookmarks.

Zzarchov Kowolski’s “A Thousand Dead Babies” is, on a formal level, more refined that “Gnomes of Levnec;” the presentation is smoother, and while we don’t get a cool “getting lost”-generator this time around, the module’s presentation and sequence is professional and nice. That being said, where the supplement on the gnomes focused on the weird and genuinely hilarious, this one is pretty much the epitome of super-dark fantasy. There is some subdued quip to be found here and there, but considering the subject matter, this is probably one of the darkest modules I know.

…and, to be honest, I don’t think the module required the shock value. If you tone that aspect done, you water down what makes this module have such a gut-wrenching impact, but you’re also left with a rather well-crafted adventure. Now, I firmly believe that a reviewer should be capable of abstracting being offended and the like, and I do not condone the subject matter; killing kids and infants is one of the few things that I do not tackle in my games, which otherwise tend to gravitate towards the dark. That being said, the PCs ARE the heroes here; they get to end this horrid massacre, and while the consequences may be hard to swallow, I can see this work well for groups seeking to explore the logistic and moral conundrums that arise from ownership of the vile item that made the cult’s atrocities possible.

Would I inflict this module on my players? No. But it is not up to me to decide what works and what doesn’t work for you and your game.

Which leaves me with the craftsmanship of the adventure, its locales, etc. – and here, the module manages to create a grim, captivating atmosphere that feels very medieval, grimy and desolate. Prose-wise, this is impressive. As far as the rules-components are concerned, I’d consider the NGR-rules to be significantly tighter than the OSR-material posed; lack of adherence to a specific system and minor inconsistencies mar that aspect for more common old-school games somewhat.

Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot to like here, and the module is not a gratuitous gorefest; however, it is hard to stomach due to its subject matter, and at this point, you probably already know whether this is for you or not.

Which leaves me with the job of rating this. I won’t lie. I wouldn’t have reviewed this sans the request, mainly because I have a hard time giving this a fair shake, because it’s really hard for me to look past one of the few things that I, as a person, consider distasteful and don’t want to see in my games. As a person, I frankly considered the grimdark topic of the adventure to be…well, superfluous. The base line is similar enough to the “Gnomes of Levnec” to allow for direct comparison, and where the latter went the weird (and hilarious) route in a slightly dark manner, this one goes pitch-black regarding its themes. If you enjoy that kind of thing and thought that Gnomes was too lighthearted, if you really wanted a twisted moral conundrum and shock value galore, if you thought that LotFP’s “Doom Cave of Crystal-Headed Children” was too gonzo/goofy and didn’t provide real grimdark themes…well, then this one delivers in spades.

If you’re not that into super-dark subject matter and want to check out what the author has in store, I wholeheartedly recommend the “Gnomes of Levnec” without any reservations; for this adventure, I am left with a per se captivating dark fantasy yarn that, depending on your preferences, either is enhanced or ruined by the themes presented. Hence, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, and I’d ask you to round up if you are interested in the like; if you’re offended, then steer clear. However, the minor imperfections in the OSR-rules and the lack of suggestions regarding the central moral conundrum in the aftermath represent both needless detractors from the adventure; a “solution” or at least some suggestions, would have gone a long way to render this more palatable, at least for me. My final verdict will hence round down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Thousand Dead Babies
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Star Log.EM-014: Eldritch Knight
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/12/2018 06:33:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, after the by now classic introduction, we dive into the rules, though it should be noted that it makes sense to read this, as the design goal here was to encapsulate, in spite of the existence of the soldier-class, the flavor of the classic eldritch knight.

The eldritch knight archetype grants additional class features at 2nd, 6th, 9th, 12th and 18th level. At 2nd level, we have spell critical, which is a special critical hit effect that you can use instead of that of the weapon. When confirming a crit, you may cast a spell as a swift action, which must include the target among those affected. This does not provoke an attack of opportunity. This is problematic in as much as that the spell does not state a maximum casting time, which is not exactly a smart means of future-proofing this one. The ability should restrict the eligible spell in some way. All other class features provide a fighting style technique from the arcane assailant soldier; rune of the eldritch knight at 6th, secret of the magi at 9th, power of legend at 12th and secret of the archmagi at 18th level.

The pdf also presents a total of 4 new feats to complement the concept: Disrupting Grappler forces foes to succeed a caster level check in order to cast a spell when you’re grappling them, with DC scaling via your BAB. Enhanced Dispel Magic provides a bonus to dispel SPs that work like specific spells and extends the counterspell range to long. Nice! Riving Strike requires Mystic Strike or rune of the eldritch knight, and allows you to render opponents vulnerable to magic, penalizing saves or reducing SR temporarily with a standard action attack. You need to expend a swift action to add this, though. Will save DC scales with your highest ability score modifier and BAB or CL. Nice: A target affected by it can’t be affected again for a day, providing a means to prevent cheesing. Interesting here: Full action-using attacks do not allow for this, courtesy of SFRPG’s action economy, which means that the feat promotes more creative play. Kudos! Finally, we have Spell Severance, which once more requires Mystic Strike or the rune, as well as 1 rank Mysticism, which is really neat: 1/day, you can dispel magic a foe hit with a magic weapon, using BAB as CL. Really cool, though personally, I would have added a means to spend (a lot) of Resolve to recharge it.

The pdf closes with a nice piece of flavor-text regarding eldritch knights in the Xa-Osoro system.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no obvious formatting snafus etc. Layout adheres to the colorful standard of the series and the pdf sports the nice artwork on the cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ eldritch knight has a tough heritage – the classic option hasn’t been the most remarkable out there in the first place, and since the soldier incorporates much of the thematic concept, we are left with a solid, if not perfect take on the idea of the eldritch knight that goes as light step further than the soldier, but which doesn’t necessarily feel radically different. As noted, I am convinced that the spell critical class feature should be future-proofed regarding maximum casting time; apart from this one, I enjoyed all of the feats herein, leaving us with a mixed bag that is slightly on the positive side of things. Still, as far as I’m concerned, it’s closer to the 4 stars than to the 3, which is why I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-014: Eldritch Knight
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Everyman Unchained: Bards
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/11/2018 04:18:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The unchained bard clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, the first page, beyond having a brief ToC, summarizes the design-paradigm of this class, and frankly, what’s here sounds feasible – the central focus lies on making the bard more interesting and versatile without requiring archetypes and other modifications, so let’s see how this fellow holds up!

The unchained bard gets d8 HD as well as 6 + Intelligence modifier skills per level – here, it should be noted that the skills are presented in a tidy table, as opposed to the usually cluttered skill-block. I really like this, as it makes looking class skills up quicker. Proficiency-wise, we cover light armor, shields (except tower shields) and simple weapons plus longsword, rapier, saps, shortswords, shortbows and whips. Once more, we have a nice presentation-innovation, as the proficiency-list has a subheader for armor- and weapon-proficiencies. Once more, that represents an improvement in my book. We still have ¾ BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves. The unchained bard retains spellcasting of up to 6th level, and every bard spell has a verbal component, with Charisma as governing attribute and spontaneous spellcasting.

And this is pretty much where the similarities end. On first level, the bard chooses a Muse, gaining skill ranks in that muse’s associated Performance skill for free at each class level. These muses also determine associated skills and denoted the performance components (A for audible, and V for visual; these and the limitations they entail are clearly noted in the bardic masterpiece entry) in their respective brackets, making presentation here once more truly streamlined. 12 muses are presented and range from classics à la strings to keyboard, stage magic, legerdemain, etc., covering even more obscure Perform variants like juggling. What do the associated skills do? Well, starting at 3rd level, a bard can use his total ranks in the muse’s key Perform skill instead for the associated skills; ranks previously assigned to associated skills are refunded. These skills are treated as on the class skill list and also may be treated as though they were governed by Charisma, analogue to the Perform skill, instead.

Bardic performance has been rewired: It now starts a bardic masterpiece, and its effects last 1 round, but the effects may be maintained as a free action, unless otherwise noted in the respective action entry. The decision to maintain a performance must be made at the start of the round, and duration caps at 1 minute per bard level, unless otherwise noted. Performances immediately end upon becoming paralyzed, etc. and performances may be started Charisma-modifier +1/2 class level times per day. Notice something? Yep, the maintenance of performances no longer expends rounds! This means that low level bards won’t run out of juice as fast, and the different ability improvement and metrics mean that high-level bards won’t drown in rounds they can't employ properly.

Now, I already mentioned bardic masterpieces – these are different from the often maligned, yet intriguing feature of the same name that was originally tacked on to grant the bard more unique tricks. The unchained bard begins play with one masterpiece known and gains an additional one at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter. Save DC calculation is interesting: 10 + ½ the ranks in the muse’s key performance skill + Charisma modifier. If the masterpiece requires that an opponent makes a skill check, the DC is 10 + 1.5 times the bard’s skill ranks in the key Perform skill associated with the muse + the bard’s Charisma modifier. A bard also begins play with a so-called performance bonus, which begins at +1 and increases by a further +1 at 5th level and every 6 levels thereafter. The bonus type depends on to what the bardic masterpiece applies it: Attack and damage rolls gain a competence bonus, saving throws a morale bonus and otherwise, we have an insight bonus. This makes sense to be, both from a design and logic perspective. Starting at 7th level, the action economy of starting bardic masterpieces improves, and masterpieces that required a standard action may be used as a move action, with 1th level allowing optionally to start performances that need a standard or move action to be initiated as a swift action. Presentation-wise, it should be noted that all these aspects are grouped under the same ability-header, with distinct subheaders to set them apart. This presentation-sequence makes sense and renders grasping the mechanics easier. Kudos!

Also at first level, the bard picks a so-called repertoire from a list of 7. Each repertoire covers 4 different skills, and the bard gains a bonus on skill checks associated with them equal to ½ class level, minimum 1. Trained only skills may be used untrained. Starting at 9th level, the bard may take 10 in these skills, even while distracted or in danger, and he may expend a bardic performance use to take 20 instead, in spite of the circumstances, and taking the regular amount of time, not the usual, extended one.

Now, as noted before bardic masterpieces are crucial component to the engine, and the class unlocks new available selections at 3rd, 7th, 11th and 15th level. Muses determine the type of masterpieces you can learn, and area, range, effects etc. are part of the masterpiece’s block. Each performance also comes with a bit of flavor-text, which is nice. Now, the pdf does something really clever: The header of each masterpiece sports one or multiple, self-explanatory glyphs that are explained in a sidebar, though personally, I considered their meaning to be self-evident: The glyphs denote basically descriptor types. See a comic-style text-bubble? Language-dependent. Caduceus? Healing. Skull and bones? Death. Brain? Mind-affecting. It’s simple, but it helps render the rules-language less monstrous, while at the same time retaining the complexity demanded.

These melodies, fyi, accomplish a ton of different things, and some of them provide massive changes to party dynamics. We have to look no further than Ameliorating melody, the very first of these masterpieces. All allies in a 60 ft. emanation heal 1 hit point per performance bonus, and one ally heals 1d8 per performance bonus. Doesn’t sound like much? Well, remember that it lasts 1 minute per bard level – that’s a lot of healing, even at first level! While this sounds like much, and it pretty much is, the design-paradigm is clear here: This is slower, less bursty healing than what the cleric offers– but this masterpiece alone provides, mathematically, sufficient healing to classify the unchained bard as a primary healer. While the sheer amount of healing this offers is pretty massive, it should be taken into account that the bard lacks the spell-healing capabilities. Depending on how gritty you like your games to be and your personal aesthetics, you may or may not like this – personally, I’m not the biggest fan of burst-y instant-healing that returns characters constantly from the brink of death. We’ve all been there: The roly-poly syndrome of PCs falling, dying, being healed and getting back up, falling again…the more spread out healing can be sensible for grittier games that prefer to avoid this. Or, well, there’s also a chance that the sheer amount of healing is something you don’t like in your games. The bard’s healing array will be hard to whittle down via attrition tactics. Personally, I very much enjoy how this makes a group sans healing-cleric more viable, particularly in games that sport a darker aesthetic. The one thing that should be monitored here by the GM is, that a combination of a good healer-cleric AND a bard with this option can be really, really brutal and may be something that can, depending on your campaign’s goal and themes, prove to be very strong.

Soooo, basically the very first masterpiece already provides a rather pronounced paradigm change. Now, it should be noted that masterpieces differentiate between effects that begin when starting a performance, and then maintained; others reduplicate their initial effects time and again, as they’re maintained. Summoning critters, for example is an effect that is tied to the start of a performance, with the maintenance of the summoning via maintenance of the performance. The scaling of this one, btw., is based on half class level. Rendering targets prone via laughing, the classic fascinate and inspire competence, courage, etc. can be found, and raging song is also codified as such – and yes, there is a spellsteal option here as well! At 3rd level, gathering of crowds, condition alleviation, mocking debuffs, sonic strikes (that cannot be cheesed regarding action economy). Minor nitpick: there’s a typo here ” work” should refer to “word”; this is cosmetic, though. 7th level includes the options, among others, to antagonize targets (see Ultimate Charisma; the pdf has a few abilities referring to the amazing Psychology DC and antagonize-rules from that book), provide resistances, reincarnate targets (takes time and a lot of daily uses)…At 11th level, we have the dance of the dead, untyped damage based on type/subtype or wandering star motes become available. Finally, we get a discordant confusion effect (that interacts correctly with conclusion), pied piping and raising the dead (at massive cost of resources), all added to the list to choose from at 15th level. The capstone provides the inspire legends bardic masterpiece that combines two others into one.

Now, this is not the end – at 2nd level, the unchained bard gets a performance flourish, with another one gained every 2 levels thereafter. These behave somewhat like talents and are grouped in three categories: The first bunch becomes available for the choosing at 2nd level, with 8th and 16th level unlocking a new array. If a flourish allows for a save, or prompts a skill check from an opponent, the DCs are calculated in the same way as for masterpieces. There is an option to gain an additional masterpiece, which can be taken up to three times, with 10th and 18th level as subsequent minimum levels and applicable level-restrictions. A couple of them are passive, and allow, for example, for 2d4 minutes of time invested to make armor worn to behave as glamered. HOWEVER, there is more to this ability-class. You see, there also are a couple of them that sport an asterisk. These flourishes apply to a bardic masterpiece, and are chosen upon starting or maintaining a masterpiece, allowing for reassigning etc.. Only one such effect can be applied at any given time and this section includes the classic distraction, countersong, etc., as well as escapist’s jig etc. – in short, what previously were helpful, but for the bard-character, potentially boring actions, now are customizations for the heroic, active stuff he does. Poaching among psychic, oracle or sorcerer tricks, being famous, affecting plants, making allies believing in the same deity count as brandishing holy symbols – we basically have tweaks and more active agenda here. Gone are the times when the bard was required to perform away his rounds to maintain support for allies. Tricking targets into spilling the beans has a hex-caveat to limit the at-will availability. There is another balancing component here, as, beyond the masterpiece ability trees, there are some flourishes restricted to certain masterpieces. Increased ranges and numerical boosts, spell kennings and the like – your heart’s desires and classic tricks may be found here. Among the higher level tricks, we have mass expansions for previous flourishes or the means to absorb and return spells with suitable mechanics, building on spellsteal. We thus have a wide array of significantly expanded player agenda during building as well as at the table.

The engine becomes more complex: At 5th level, the class gets accompaniment: When maintaining a bardic masterpiece, he can start a second masterpiece as a standard action, counting the new performance against the total daily uses as usual. The second one must be one that can be started as a standard action or less, regarding of modifying class features that decrease action economy, and its maintenance is a move action. This second one can only be maintained after the primary masterpiece has been maintained. 17th level further upgrades that to allow for the retaining of a third masterpiece. The maintenance action of the third one, however, is locked to a standard action.

Starting at 2nd level, a bard gets a +4 insight bonus versus figments, patterns, language-dependent effects, sonic effects and other bardic performances – minor nitpick here: While the text and table place this one at 2nd level, the header reads 3rd, which is incorrect.

Now, this is not everything: At 7th level, and once more every 4 levels thereafter, the unchained bard gets a versatility talent. These apply the key Perform skill to a variety of different tasks and circumstances: Here, we can once more learn masterpieces, muses, repertoires or increase the starting attitude of animals, with the added option to use bardic performance uses to duplicate speak with animals. Gaining muse key skill ranks as BAB for the purpose of a combat maneuver, expanding the associated skills of a muse, slandering targets, evasion, becoming harder to antagonize, feint, etc., teamwork feats, etc.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good; apart from minor typo-level glitches and the aforementioned minor level snafu, I noticed no significant issues. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s new, two-column standard and the pdf sports several, original, gorgeous full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I love Alexander Augunas’ unchained bard. The class has evolved beyond its linear and oftentimes, somewhat bland beginnings. The massive amount of customization available for the class means that players finally have all the agenda they want. The unchained bard manages to not only enhance the choices of the PCs, it also succeeds in making the playing experience as meaningful as it should be. The bard remains a jack of all trades, versatile and unique, but now, the active abilities have been retweaked, have become stronger and no longer require that you need to spend your rounds doing boring stuff. In short, this is the definite bard. The fact that it can make for a good healer is another huge boon, particularly for groups that lack a ton of players or that are bored by clerics. In short, this is a resounding success of its attempted design goals. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Unchained: Bards
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Creature Components Vol 1 5E
Publisher: Playground Adventures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/11/2018 04:16:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 5e-version of the massive Creature Components tome clocks in at 60 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 51 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested as a prioritized review and has been moved up in my reviewing queue accordingly.

There is a further disclaimer to note here: While Playground Adventures generally focuses on child-friendly supplements, this one is aimed at a slightly more mature audience. The idea of this book is to use parts of vanquished creatures for magic, taking a cue from pretty much all real life mystical traditions and those depicted in fiction. While e.g. spell components already feature this theme, I figured it’d be worth mentioning. If young ones are really young and/or super-sensitive, this may not be for them. That being said, this is, as far as I’m concerned, really harmless. If you’re like me and have grown up in the country, of if you’re raising your family there, you should have no issues.

The first thing you’ll notice upon opening this book, is that it is GORGEOUS. I mean it. With runes on the border and an elegant full-color presentation, the tome looks amazing. Furthermore, the books’ aesthetics are wholly in service to the conceit this presents: Basically, we begin with an in-character framing narrative, and then move on through the tome, with copious amounts of artworks in pencil-drawn style, lavishly-created by Jocelyn Sarvida, generating a sense of holistic integrity, and illusion of flipping through the pages of a xenobiololgist’s field journal. In-character parchment addendums add to this visually concise presentation. I love this.

Now, as noted before, the basic idea of these components is tied to the innovation of power components: Basically, we’re talking about optional spell components that can alter the ways in which spells behave, harvested from defeated creatures. This simple idea is amazing, and frankly makes sense on so many levels. It is a nice reason to start adventuring; it allows the GM to reward the PCs for defeating certain foes, and it makes magic feel…well, more magical. I’m a huge fan of the concept. The harvesting process is btw. as simple as we want from 5e: You basically check Intelligence (Arcana) or (Religion), determining what parts of a creature can be used, with the DC ranging from 15 to 30. While this base DC is relatively high for a bottom DC, it makes sense – not everyone should be able to harvest these components, and it should not be too reliable. The DCs are btw. based on creature frequency – the rarer in a setting the creatures are, the harder harvesting gets, as a baseline. It makes sense: Knowledge and exposure on how to deal with a hunter/gatherer-resource generate a more broadly-spread knowledge regarding how to prepare the materials. I mean, many folks can prepare fish, but fugu? Beyond difficulty, it’s a rare craft there – I’d have no idea on how to prepare that properly.

The harvesting process employs the Survival and Medicine skills, and similarly ranges in skill DCs ranging from DC 15 to higher; a harvesting attempt takes 1d6 x 10 minutes, and the check may be retried on a failure, but only if it wasn’t botched by 5 or more. The character gains a single component on a success, with another component gained for every 5 points by which he exceeds the DC. It is important to note that the pdf explicitly states that anatomical limitations cap this – a creature with two eyes can’t yield three doses from eyes, for example. On the other hand, some components can definitely yield more uses: Powdered claws, for example.

A general guideline of challenge, ability DC and suggested market value is presented, and the book also provides precisely-codified rules for attempting to, at the GM’s discretion harvest components sans killing a creature. While nominally, even a successful attempt deals necrotic damage, this damage can by no means be mitigated, which is important regarding undead. Furthermore, the damage this inflicted reduces maximum hit points, not unlike a vampire’s blood drain, representing the significant potential damage. While this can be regained by a long rest, organs removed are gone and remain so. Now, if this aspect strikes you as a bit problematic, fret not, for the book explicitly denotes this as optional. The idea here is, for example, to allow a noble unicorn to sacrifice her horn to save a king, for a stalwart griffon to help the rider – you get the idea. (That aside, if you’re playing in a mature group, you can play this up as gory as you’d like – the presentation here is very much PG 13, but the content and mechanics here can easily be tweaked to account for a variety of tastes.) Similarly, thematic appropriateness of the use of a component remains, as a whole, firmly where it belongs, in the hands of the GM, and the pdf provides a rather helpful section that provides guidance when implementing this system.

But what about e.g. ghosts and air elementals of different beings that lack a physical body? Well, the pdf introduces the essence vial, an uncommon magic item that allows the character to collect the essences of such beings. The pdf smartly discusses the consequences of introducing these components regarding gold value and risk and reward. Particularly in 5e, with pretty low spell-durations, it should come as no surprise that harvesting, due to its duration, can be a pretty strenuous activity regarding PC resources. Still, for GMs favoring grittier games, the pdf alternatively suggests subtracting the value of these from the rewards otherwise granted. Since 5e is less contingent on WBL-assumptions than PFRPG, this should generally not yield issues, and the solutions suggested are solid.

Now, how does the enhancing of spells work? Well, only a single creature component can be used in conjunction with a given spell; however, and this is very important, maintaining such a spell becomes tougher due to the magic unleashed from the components. Constitution saving throws made to maintain the spell are increased by 5. Additionally, the pdf does not just provide means for the GM to use the components herein; instead, we get concise guidelines to determine effects for creature components, as they’re grouped in three categories: Lesser, moderate and greater. These categories are assigned effects, some of which are rather intriguing, for example featuring the extension of a spell’s effects for 1 round after concentration ceases. Limited damage type changes, slightly increased spell save DCs – the modifications to the spell-chassis are solid and take the peculiarities of 5e’s spellcasting engine into account. Nice: The supplement also discusses potential downsides for particularly potent components.

Such creature components, obviously, also make sense for use in conjunction with magic items, with a table by rarity denoting DCs; the book also discusses the use of such components in conjunction with item creation for non-charge-based and permanent items, providing a brief array of rules for formula research – considering 5e’s barebones means for item creation, I enjoyed this brief section, even though it remains, by design, rather basic. Cost reduction in such a context is also noted, just fyi. It should also be noted that the pdf similarly codifies the means to make magic permanent, though, once more, the means to do so remain in line with the rather easy to grasp 5e-mechanics.

Now, I’ve delayed this long enough, so how do these components work? A component is presented with an easy to read statblock of sorts: The entries list the most commonly-used components, and some creatures may yield multiple, different components. The entries also list their potency (lesser, moderate, greater) and then proceeds to note the spells that can be affected. Important: When a spell can be enhanced, so can its derivatives: If you can, for example, enhance restoration, then you can also use it to enhance greater restoration. Beyond those aspects, we have costs and descriptions noted.

It should also be noted that sub-species are taken into account: You can, for example, harvest devil’s blood from all types of devils, but obviously, you can only harvest barbed devil barbs from, well, a barbed devil. Speaking of which: These illustrate rather well the power and coolness of these options: Said barbs can be used to enhance any spell that enhances AC, and when used thus, creatures within 5 ft. of the caster successfully hitting with a melee or spell attack take 1d8 piercing damage per 2 spell levels above 1st. Vrock spores enhance spells that inflict the poisoned condition and add minor poison damage to the effect…and before you think about abuse, even if the poisoned condition does not allow for a save to end it, the ongoing poison damage bestowed by the component does explicitly allow for a save to end it.

Cool: Dragon turtle glands transform fire-damage causing effects into steam, making the spells functional underwater, and mitigating resistance gained due to immersion in water, but ONLY this resistance. Adding a gibbering mouther’s saliva to an acid-based spell can make it blind foes on a failed save…and here, just fyi, a default save for save-less effects is noted. The potency of components also hinges on the power of the spell they supplement, which is a clever trick: Gorgon horns, for example, partially can calcify victims of spells resisted with a Dexterity save. While nominally, this effect causes necrotic damage, it scales with spell potency, and when used in conjunction with 7th level and higher spells, it can petrify targets! It should also be noted, that, while classified as necrotic, the special damage inflicted does affected undead and instead is ignored by beings immune to petrification. Also interesting: The damage thus inflicted does only heal by magical means. A Hippogriff’s feathers can increase the speed of a fly spell to 80 ft., highlighting another component I very much enjoyed here: Instead of competing/superseding the enhancements available via 5e’s spellcasting options at higher levels, the pdf instead focuses on alternate augmentations, adding another level of resource-bound flexibility to the spellcasting engine.

I mean, come on, how cool is it to have your sorcerer draw forth that lycanthrope’s blood, powering enhance ability…but also risking lycanthropy? Wait, what? Yeah, not all of the components herein are safe to use: PCs that don’t exert the right amount of care may, for example, find themselves with a dangerous addiction to nalfeshnee vertebral fluid. (Ew!) Harsh? Maybe. But, you know, using a greater demon’s brain juice? Yeah, that SHOULD carry a risk! Depending on creature scarcity, there are some rather potent tricks here: When using, for example, an oni’s horn in conjunction with alter self, you also get a whopping +4 to Strength and Constitution and a size-increase to Large! Adding a stirge proboscis to a spell imposes a penalty on death saving throws when reduced by one to 0 hit points. Nice, btw.: The book takes care to account for some of the more subtle distinctions of 5e: While in PFRPG, a succubus is a demon, 5e assumes them to be their own type of fiend, and as such, the listing of the creature component also mirrors this decision in 5e – this is relevant due to the general components like demon’s blood, which can, correctly, I might add, not be harvested from succubi.

I should also mention that specific components have different effects: Skeleton dust can, for example, be used to enhance animate dead…or it can be laced into a magic circle versus the undead. The book covers a ton of well-crafted components, though it should be noted that closed IP-creatures could not be tackled. This is no fault of the supplement, but the consequence of how IP works. Beyond the massive array of components, we have 6 new feats. 4 of these represent having angel, demon, infernal or dragon blood in your veins, enhancing an ability score, helping harvesting, and the options to safely harvest certain types of blood. Beyond these 4, we have Component Caster, which increases a mental ability score of your choice by 1 and eliminates the concentration DC-increase for incorporating components. Component Crafter enhances harvesting and, surprise, crafting. All of these feats, power-wise, are in line with 5e’s aesthetics.

The final section of the pdf provides 12 magic items: 2 of these would be improved variants of the aforementioned essence vial, and elixirs that help control specific creatures can also be found. There is a very rare cloak made from blue dragon hide and the means to create a legendary remorhaz forge! A quill that seals objects with a riddle, a super aerodynamic manticore spike dagger, a powerful armor made of the wrappings of a vanquished mummy lord –pretty damn cool selection here! The pdf closes with 4 variant magic items and ends with a nice piece of in-character prose.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a rules-language level and a formal level. Layout is absolutely gorgeous and adheres, as noted, to a beautiful two-column full-color standard. The artworks, similarly, are mind-blowing, with one single exception: A chapter-introduction artwork depicts, oddly, a solid CGI-type artwork that deviates in style from the others and sticks out like a sore thumb; that being said, the only reason I mentioned this, is that the pdf otherwise adheres to a uniform and tremendously beautiful style. The pdf comes with detailed, nested bookmarks that render navigation of the file comfortable and smooth, sporting bookmarks for the individual creatures.

Now, if you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you’ll have noticed that I loved the original PFRPG-version of Creature Components Vol. 1 – it is a phenomenal book, and made my Top Ten of its release-year in 2016. It should come as no surprise, then, that I did somewhat dread this conversion. The systems are different in many key components, and I really hoped that Daniel Marshall’s inspired book would properly survive the transition to 5e. It is my utmost pleasure to note that the 5e-version does not lose the magic and inspired aspects of the original. Indeed, supporting authors/devs Dan Dillon and Stephen Rowe, two authors that are often synonymous with being fantastic authors, have done an excellent job here. To the point where I’d hesitate calling this a conversion – this is a redesign from the ground up, made lovingly to account for 5e’s needs. All imperfections I found ultimately boil down to be truly minor and can’t, in any way, compromise how awesome this supplement is.

Creature Components render magic more magical; they add to the immersion into the fantastic world. Beyond adding tactical depth and a rewarding component to resource management, beyond making previous victories of the PCs matter more, the book succeeds in improving further differentiating the impact of the creatures themselves on a fantasy setting. While, having already qualified in one of its previous iterations as a Top Ten candidate, this supplement is thus disqualified from qualifying again, I consider this to be a truly excellent and highly recommended supplement for your 5e-games, and as such, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. This should be considered to be on par with a Top Ten-winner, and a must-own offering for 5e, earning this my EZG Essentials-tag, a must have, inspiring, game-enhancing supplement.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Creature Components Vol 1 5E
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The Undercroft #1
Publisher: Melsonian Arts Council
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/11/2018 04:13:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of this ‘zine clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 24 pages of content; the electronic version also includes a 4 page cover-file, which sports 1 page front and back cover and 2 pages of maps. I do own the physical copy of this ‘zine, and it is a surprisingly nice, saddle-stitched pamphlet (both electronic and print version are 6’’ by 9’’/A5), with red covers – stark, paper-quality wise nice, particularly considering the low asking price.

My review is thus primarily based on the print version, though I have taken the electronic version into account as well. It should also be noted that this is a LotFP-fanzine, employing the rules of the system, and, more importantly, as such it adheres to a dark/weird fantasy horror-aesthetic, recommended for mature folks. It’s not explicit in any way, but deals with dark themes.

After a brief introduction, we begin with the first article “Rewriting the Cure Disease Spell”, penned by Alex Clements. Okay, I usually try to go neutral review-robot, reserving my opinions to the sidelines and conclusion, but this, when I read it first, was an eye-opener of unrivaled proportions as far as what I expected from ‘zines and what I expect from them. Why? Because the article if pure frickin’ GENIUS. It is ridiculously simple, but it is something that has, at this point, found its way into all my games in one way or another. Yes, all of them. PFRPG, DCC, 5e, OSR-games – it doesn’t matter. I use this. Because it’s genius in its simplicity. The idea is as follows: A disease has an infection vector and a save (which is converted, should you need to, easily enough). Oh, and not all diseases are instantly cured. Syphilis suddenly makes sense in a world where clerical healing exists, for diseases can now have DHP – Disease Hit Points. These denote, in short, the number of times you need to cast the spell to cure it. In more complex games, you can tie this to At Higher Levels, caster levels etc. – or, well, not. There is a minor formatting snafu here, in that spell-references are capitalized, instead of italicized per the LotFP-standards. Similarly, multiple failed saves often come with progressively weirder effects – amazing.

Beyond the genius base system, we get proper, detailed stats for syphilis, Godrickson’s corruption (with its subtable of strange effects – and yes, you can lose your male genitalia, if any, to this horrid magical disease),the devil’s face tumor, sign of conduct with demons…and, obviously, the plague! Did I mention the glorious parasites or an elf-only curse that can render their magic volatile? Damn, I adore this section. This could carry a whole book, and all sample uses of the system are inspired. This one, alone, makes this a must-own.

Master of the Undercroft Daniel Sell does NOT fall behind this quality in the second section: “The Wager of Battle” is brilliant. In Yongardy, the law is followed and much beloved. Why? Because lawyers duke it out to settle disputes! The peculiarities of 6 different types of law are provided before we get a gigantic 3-page d30-table that lets you determine what a lawyer’s known for, a second section and a caveat. The table is one of the best examples of its kind. Estate lawyers (also known as doormen) battle with huge hammers and shields, while King’s law is enforced in plate and with great swords. I love this. It’s inspired.

Finally, the last section of the ‘zine depicts the “Barrow of the Old King”, which seems to be just a jolly old fetch-quest, to retrieve the ring of an obscure king who ostensibly slew giants. The pdf comes with 11 different random encounters, and the maps noted before, sport asterisks that, apart from referee-decision, are suggested to be when you roll the dice. The adventure is nominally recommended for all levels, but it should be noted that it is deadly and difficult. Players that don’t run may die horribly at low levels; personally, I consider this to be suitable, depending on player skill from levels 1 – 6. As a formal complaint, the monster formatting is somewhat inconsistent, with a few just getting HD-values, while others get hit point values. The adventure sports two levels with 29 keyed locales, spanning the barrow and some caves. Being an old-school module, this has no read-aloud text.

The following represents a brief discussion of the adventure and contains SPOILERS. Potential players should skip ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! So, beyond the lavishly-detailed dressing provided for the locations, which is used in really cool ways (mummified-bear-drawn chariot with a trap-door!), we have salt mummies, and there is a chance that the mighty, eponymous king runs into the PCs. If he does, they better run. At 8 HD, he’ll wreck them. Oddly, pantomiming gold-plated skeletons, Dark Souls II-style tripled zombies, sewn together, visions of the dying king…and yes, dumb PCs drinking metal can die in a nice example of a deserved save-or-die. Blasting crystals, risk/reward for greedy tomb robbers…this makes sense and is fair in its difficulty. There also is a unique, magical mace that gains strange effects when doubles are rolled damage-wise: Each of these are weird and come with their own lines of evocative prose that reminded me of the doom-ladden proclamations in e.g. Bloodborne: “And his heart sang of the deep.” is noted before the effects of one of these, for example. It’s a small thing, but it adds to the overall atmosphere of the complex…and there would be corpse lions, disgusting, deadly insects that make up the weird critters that have entered the complex, getting an intriguing write-up, having nasty gummy resin goo, smells noted and reaction/morale modifications. Size notes “A large dog” here, speed “as fast as a house cat while running” – precise values would have been preferred here. Other than that, this surprised me once more. The set-up is so basic and per se tired, but the creative ideas, detailed dressing and creative ideas elevate the module beyond almost every other module I have seen in a ‘zine. This surpasses many stand-alone adventures.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal and rules-language level are good – there are a couple of utterly unnecessary deviation from established LotFP-formatting and rules-presentation conventions, which somewhat annoyed me. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 1-column b/w-standard, with artwork chosen from public domain in an atmospheric manner. Cartography is b/w and nice, but lacks player-friendly versions. The electronic version lacks bookmarks, which constitutes an unnecessary comfort detriment.

Daniel Sell and Alex Clements provide a first ‘zine that is remarkable in a ton of ways. The supplement is absolutely inspired, with all articles being excellent. Not a single one is boring or even mediocre. They all are excellent. Presentation-wise, this isn’t as elegant or gorgeous, but if you value substance, quality-prose and ideas over style, then you can’t do better than to check this out. The low asking price makes this a steal in my book. Now, I do have to complain about the minor formatting snafus and the lack of player-friendly maps, but considering that this is a freshman offering, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform, and this also deserves my seal of approval. Excellent indeed!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Undercroft #1
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Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres - Hollow One
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/08/2018 03:54:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres-series clocks in at 15, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Note: This is part of the Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres-tome and represents a single stand-alone path from the book.

The series was crafted with an eye towards providing options for some of the more popular 3pp-materials: Psionics, pact-magic-based spirit-binding, temporal shenanigans (Time Thief and Warden), as well as e.g. Rite Publishing’s take of shapeshifting via the taskshaper. The pdf thus provides a lot of synergy if you have these respective supplements. However, at the same time, the book does not lose its value for groups that do not employ there – the mythic paths that help for the respective subsystems are fully viable even without using e.g. pact magic, sporting plenty of options that do not require the use of such a subsystem. In short: While the support is here, the designs within do not force you to employ these systems.

The supplement begins by codifying the origin of power-sources, which is helpful – I have more to say on the origins and structure of magical power, but that’ll have to wait until the review of the big book.

The second mythic path of the lost spheres to have a stand-alone release would be the Hollow One, who gets 3 hit points per tier and is really interesting: One of the base abilities of the path allows you to temporarily assign a negative condition, bad pact (pact magic!), disease of the like and switch it to another creature temporarily. This handling of affliction transfer is pretty tough to get right, and, much like before, the pdf does something smart in that it concisely codifies such terms. I also enjoyed the second of these abilities, which allows you to grant yourself a boon, which scales depending on by how many afflictions you’re affected, capping at tier to prevent abuse. Thirdly, you can use a swift action (SANS mythic power expenditure!) to ignore the detrimental effects of such an affliction. The base abilities already entwine rather well and promise some cool stuff for the path abilities here. The tier 10 option allows you to regain mythic power, allowing you to regain one if affected by two afflictions in a single round.

Among the path abilities, we have access to forlorn feats from that Transcendent 10-installment and a really cool one: Gain Charisma for every curse you suffer from! Similar tricks can be applied to other ability scores, making this a great offering for the angsty, doomed antihero that draws strength from a doomed fate thrust upon him. An aura that renders 1s and 2s automatic failures, ignoring possessions by entities…and the path builds on that: In an AMAZING idea, the path offers the means to tap into the SPs and psi-like abilities of possessing entities! That is frankly glorious! Stealing possessions and curses, leeching off supernatural abilities, gaining sneak attack based on tier versus creatures targeting you with an affliction (should specify that it lasts only for the duration of the affliction), negative energy channeling per affliction borne…or what about making morale or insight bonus granting abilities count as curses? What about reflexive rage or bloodrage? You can tap into the skills of possessing creatures as well. What about delivering poisons that affect you?

At 3rd tier, we have access to an oracle mystery, fast healing contingent on curses borne (not a fan), spreading afflictions in an aura…or, if you’re going for pact magic, bind a spirit OPPOSED to the first one! And that’s only a selection! Gating in an outsider with an opposed alignment that may be heartbound to you is also really cool and rife with roleplaying-potential. Even though I’m not happy with every single aspect of this path, I adore it to bits – this one requires serious system mastery to pull off, but rewards you with as close to playing Many-as-One as I have seen in pen & paper games. Two thumbs up, flavor-wise one of my favorite mythic paths ever.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level and rules-language level can be considered to be good, if not perfect, with minor deviations and rough edges here and there; that being said, considering the complexity of the material presented here, the quality of these components is still rather impressive. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a nice piece of full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for yoru convenience.

Christen N. Sowards’ Hollow One mythic path requires some system mastery to get the most out of, sure. It’s also rougher around the edges than the godhunter, for example, and may require a bit of oversight and minor tweaking. Formally, this may not be perfect. BUT DAMN, I adore this supplement! I really mean it! Condition transfer, unique mechanics based on afflictions taken, blending of flavor and rules. The possession-mechanics are NOT for every game; no even close. But OH BOY, this guy represents, hands down, my favorite mythic path ever. It’s inspired in the right ways. It is creative, oozes narrative potential, and actually manages to innovate. It is rough, being an earlier release of the company, but oh BOY can it be pure amazing! Now, as a reviewer, I can’t rate this as highly as I’d like to; it is a bit too rough for 5 stars. However, what I can do, is to rate this 4 stars and designate it as one of the few supplements that absolutely are worth spending the time to add a few final polishing flourishes…and add my seal of approval regardless. I love this fellow, and if you enjoyed the ideas noted, check it out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres - Hollow One
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Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres - Godhunter
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/08/2018 03:53:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres-series clocks in at 15, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Note: This is part of the Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres-tome and represents a single stand-alone path from the book.

The series was crafted with an eye towards providing options for some of the more popular 3pp-materials: Psionics, pact-magic-based spirit-binding, temporal shenanigans (Time Thief and Warden), as well as e.g. Rite Publishing’s take of shapeshifting via the taskshaper. The pdf thus provides a lot of synergy if you have these respective supplements. However, at the same time, the book does not lose its value for groups that do not employ there – the mythic paths that help for the respective subsystems are fully viable even without using e.g. pact magic, sporting plenty of options that do not require the use of such a subsystem. In short: While the support is here, the designs within do not force you to employ these systems.

The supplement begins by codifying the origin of power-sources, which is helpful – I have more to say on the origins and structure of magical power, but that’ll have to wait until the review of the big book.

This pdf, obviously, depicts the godhunter, who gains 5 hit points per tier and the devour the divine ability, which may take one of three shapes: You can choose to either spend mythic power as an immediate action to add your tier to a saving throw AND gain a reroll versus a divine effect. On a success, you are not affected and instead heal hit points based on tier, which btw., when exceeding your maximum hit points, can partially be converted to temporary hit points. The second option lets you spend mythic power as an immediate action to collect divine remnants, so-called detria. These act as a means to duplicate, spell-storing style, one divine spell or spell-like ability of a creature slain. These may only be used by the godhunter that created them, and require UMD to activate. This one, RAW, does require a lot of spell/SP-tracking and can become pretty potent. Considering the value of mythic power, I have no issue with the power-level this has, and detria cannot be stockpiled as a balancing caveat. The third option represents the means to spend mythic power for a tier-based bonus to atk, and bonus damage versus divine spellcasters and outsiders. The path nets a path ability every tier and the capstone ability nets basically advantage on saves vs. divine spells cast by non-mythic targets, as well as SR versus divine spells.

Now, as far as path abilities are concerned, we have the option to get another one of the aforementioned devour the divine abilities. We have means to prevent teleportation and plane shifting, or, for example, a means to extend the benefits of the aforementioned attack/damage boost to any target currently affected by a divine spell, which is pretty interesting. Making detria behave as potions is nice…but I really like the means to for example steal channel energy uses. The path abilities also include interesting passive abilities – like divine spellcasters needing to save versus their own spells when targeting the godhunter, potentially being dazed for a round. Minor complaint here – the ability only specifically mentions targeting, meaning that area of effect effects not necessarily being included. Extending the benefits of the healing option to allies targeted nearby. Reducing the CL of hostile divine spells to determine duration is also nice – though I think that rounds reduced to 0 should probably cancel out this component; that, or have a 1 round minimum duration. Cool: There is an ability that lets you hijack divine spells. Item-use, transfer wounds.

Among the 3rd tier abilities, we have the means to employ metamagic feats via the burning of detria; imposing basically disadvantage (roll twice, take worse result) on concentration checks is intriguing. Leeching off excess healing in the vicinity. On the nitpicky side, the Hungry Zeal ability, which nets another use of the Zealotry ability, should specify the requirement of the Zealotry ability. Limited domain poaching and becoming immune to a domain of a vanquished spellcaster makes for some cool tricks – particularly since the latter is balanced, once more, by tier, having a sensible scaling. In short, as before, this offers further upgrades, building on previous tricks. The 6th tier abilities include means to hold more detria at once, as well as the option to use detria for Item Creation purposes…or what about tattoos infused with detria that render you immune to a divine spell, with the maximum spell level gated by tier?

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the pdf is also significantly more precise than what we usually get to see. Considering the complexity of the material, this is commendable. Layout adheres to a solid two-column full-color standard, and the artwork featured is original and impressive. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Christen N. Sowards’ Godhunter is an interesting and long overdue means for mythic characters to depict the foe of certain gods…or, well, all deities! I like this mythic path very much, and while I am not 100% happy with all design-decisions herein, I consider this mythic path to be well worth checking out. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres - Godhunter
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