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Everyman Minis: Family Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/17/2018 12:14:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-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!

This pdf focuses on an underutilized component of character development – families should matter. All too often, there are no tangible benefits apart from kidnapping or tragic deaths for a character to have an extensive family. This is a huge component of untapped potential. There is no AP that lets the players play a family-chronicle/enterprise, and we have very few options that interact with familial ties, apart from hereditary curses. This pdf seeks to somewhat change that. On the first page, we get a new spell that takes ACG and OA-classes into account, and this single spell is a game changer. It is a level 3/4 spell that is called blood bond, which may only be cast upon blood relatives and lets you target such a relative with personal spells. This makes e.g. brothers, where one is a spellcaster, the other a rogue or fighter, suddenly much more potent. It is a limited resource, but I love it to bits.

The pdf also provides two new feats: Bound by Blood builds on Psychic Sensitivity or the ability to cast psychic spells. You can choose up to your highest mental ability score allies, using the psychic magic universal monster rule, to cast message, mindlink, sending and status, with PE-values noted. You have 5 + character level PE. If an ally has the teamwork feat, you reduce PE costs to cast the spell for that ally, and on a new level, you can swap a character. This is narrative gold and provides easy access to basic psychic tricks. Love it. Synchronized Assault is a combat teamwork feat, which nets you a circumstance bonus equal to the number of allies within 30 ft. that also possesses the feat when you readied an attack that is triggered. If the allies with the feat also have readied an attack, they may immediately trigger the readied actions after your attack is resolved. Now, I think that the bonus should have a level-based cap instead of just number of allies, but yeah, other than that, I like it.

The pdf also features 4 precisely codified traits, and these deserve special mention, as they are meaningful regarding their benefits, and also have a teamwork component: We get a bonus to saves versus magical effects that works better if an ally also activates it. We get better aid another, a special, jumbled childhood language that is impossible to magically decipher (AMAZING!) and the option to fortify allies affected by mind-affecting effects via your faith. Excellent traits.

The pdf also contains two magic items: The clock of whereabouts is a helicopter parent’s (or mastermind’s) wish come true: 12 hands can be attached, and when an individual puts the name on a hand, the clock will spin to show the preset occupation (like “At work”, “late”, “lost”, etc.) of the character. The second item is the adoption ring: Parents and child to be adopted prick their fingers, having a drop of blood congeal into a gemstone. The adopted kid may then use the change shape universal monster ability to assume the shape of the parents’ race. The benefits of this Disguise are properly codified, though there is a spell-reference not italicized. Interesting: Incompatible parents of different races and shapechanging parents are noted as well. I love this item and all the storytelling potential it has.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, with only a missed italicization as a complaint here. Layout adheres to the 2-column b/w-standard and the artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Matt Morris’ family options are genuinely amazing. The new spell is amazing and both feats are interesting and complex. The traits matter beyond numerical bonuses and offer player-agenda, and the magic items are interesting. This is a great pdf, and my only regret here is that it could have been longer. The topic, as mentioned, is one that hasn’t been addressed extensively. Anyways, this is a great little pdf, easily worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Family Options
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Player's Handbook Like A Fucking Boss
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/17/2018 12:12:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page Kort’thalis glyph, 1 page editorial, leaving 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, the eagle-eyed reader will have spotted, at this point, that this Player’s Handbook is a system neutral book. This may seem counter-intuitive at first glance, considering how PHBs are mostly splatbooks, but bear with me for a while. First of all, while system neutral, the book does offer some crunchy bits – in d20/D&D-based games, these should be represented by a +2 bonus, for d6 dice pool-based games, +1d6 instead. Similarly, the pdf assumes that you know what advantage and disadvantage are. So, while mostly system neutral, the pdf does offer some options to make the content matter mechanically.

Anyways, as we’ve come to expect from Kort’thalis Publishing, the book does contain quite a few random tables: We begin with 30 fantasy-sounding names, before providing 8 different fantasy signs/allocated to months. For example, Iar’tan, the sign of the serpent’s foe, is associated with the color green and nets advantage when fighting serpentine, demonic, etc. creatures. Unique here: The months have variable durations, which can be rather interesting when implemented into your game. The table is interesting and flavorful.

From there on, we get a massive d100 table of oddities you may start your adventuring life with – a 6’ long piece of unbreakable string, a weird, purple wizard’s hat made of velvet, an eternal candy cane, a test tube that makes anything poured inside acidic…you get the idea. We have a lot of delightfully odd bits and pieces here, all of which provide some sort of unique angle, a roleplaying hook or simply something weird. The table is one of the finer ones in Kort’thalis’ oeuvre, and considering the amount of tables Venger has written so far, that’s saying something. It should be noted that this table is just as meaningful and helpful for the GM – something that btw. can be said regarding the whole supplement.

Now, in particularly rules lite systems and minigames tend to gravitate towards serious lethality, which is intended, yes, but once in a while, it may be nice to introduce the “Second Chance”-table: 1d4; dead on 1, unconscious on 2, reduced damage on 3 and totally negating damage on 4. Considering the system neutral nature of this pdf, this is surprisingly nice. The pdf also provides an easy to implement honor/infamy system: The system tracks your deeds, associates and reputation as well as your bonds, a term that encompasses deities worshiped, allegiances, etc. For each honorable or dishonorable deed, 1 point is gained. You roll under your honor value with a d20 in your home turf, d30 in borderlands, and d100 in underworld –on a success, you’re well-known and respected, usually providing advantage for different social skills etc. Both honor and dishonor provide 6 suggested, different degrees of fame/infamy.

Need a name for a named item? A handy table lets you roll prefix, root, suffix, each with a d12, resulting in fantastic names:”Vokfenz’mo”? Sounds like something magical! 20 English names/titles for items are also included. I know that I’d like to wield “Evisceration Complete.” The next page provides a d30-table (updated and expanded from a previous pdf) for abilities for legendary weapons – from creating silence-areas to being poisonous, the list contains a lot of suggested abilities. The verbiage is precise, but this table may be most useful for e.g. Crimson Dragon Slayer and similar VSD6-based games, as there is overlap in benefits with regards to other, more rules-heavy games.

More universally applicable would be the d6 “Did you bring it?”-table. It’s basically a quick and dirty means to determine whether a PC has the given item; if you’re preferring a non-simulationalist item-management in your game, this does the trick. I really like the notion of the influence of personal growth: The section codifies a philosophy or weltanschauung of a character in a 4-step progression linked to levels. The respective developments can each provide a one time static/dice pool bonus to one check. This notion is simple, but one that I enjoy and that is pretty easy to implement for even really rules-heavy systems without breaking the games. A d30-table of core values and belief systems can help you decide some of these for yourself – this is certainly a table that could be expanded further.

Inspired by the parody product “50 Shades of Vorpal”, we get a d30-table. Once per combat, a warrior may roll on the table instead of making the usual attack. This has a couple of issues. One, “per combat” makes no sense in game – a combat can last for anything between a day and a round. You kick in the door, kill a goblin. Combat ends. Door opens, reinformcements arrive. Combat resumes. You get to vorpal in each combat, RAW, If you hadn’t killed the goblin quick enough, you’d have just one roll in the same timeframe. Per combat is a flawed metric to determine ability availability in a logical manner in game. The table includes chances to vorpal allies and yourself…or everything. This table, in short, makes most sense for games that don’t take character mortality or the like very seriously. There is a second d30 table for casters as well. This section was my least favorite part in the book.

If you think that bards suck in your game, there is a list of 12 bullet points that bards may use, at advantage. These are, in a way, mostly social tricks. There is also such a selection for clerics. If you’re playing Crimson Dragon Slayer, this section is absolutely REQUIRED for your game, as it finally provides context for healing. You see, beyond the “big” houserules/tables/etc., the pdf also has crunchy bits/suggestions. On this page, one such boxed text codifies cleric healing (1d8 + level); on a result of 1 rolled, the character can’s be supernaturally healed until after 8 hours have passed. This is an interesting way to limit healing-availability without bogging the game down. Personally, I’d have the no-healing-chance escalate with each healing, but that is just my preference and the tweak is easy enough to implement.

The pdf also contains a massive table, where strange physical characteristics can be found. While nominally a d30-table, the respective entries sport different variables as well, 2 or more, in fact. The pdf also has a rather complex and extensive d30-table that spans multiple pages, with each entry providing a defining moment for the development of your character; from new servants that attempted to murder you to foolish marriage, staggering family debt, etc., there are a lot of diverse angles for taking up adventuring.

Next up is another house-rule, end boss battle bonuses. Each may be cashed in once, and only in fight with the final boss. This adds a component of resource-management based on roleplaying for the boss fight; tragic backstory, catchphrases, etc. can yield bonuses. Particularly rules lite systems will benefit from this, as the variant rules make it easier for the GM to create more potent foes, while maintaining a chance for the PCs to win.

Reflecting upon your life can yield advantage or heal 1d6/level, once per session. The pdf then proceeds to provide a quick and dirty rules to determine the outcome of combats versus swarms etc. – for convention games, this can act as a means to skip past the filler etc. when time’s running out.

The pdf ends with one of my favorite aspects of the book, the “Play Like a Boss”-checklist, if you will. This basically gamifies the act of roleplaying your character! If your phone goes off sans emergency, you lose two points. Attuning new magic items nets 2 points, wiping out factions and settlements, inventing quirks/mannerisms/etc. – all with point values added. This is a really great idea and it actually rewards failing saves etc. – in short, the checklist encourages playing your character in a way that is more fun for everyone. This is amazing, and frankly, I wished it’d be even longer! At 3 pages, it is detailed, but the universal applicability of the section makes it really cool.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches on a rules-language or formal level. Layout is, as always in Kort’thalis Publishing books, gorgeous and adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with red veins in the background. The pdf sports a ton of really nice, original b/w-artworks, including a couple of full-page artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience, and there is a second, printer-friendly version of the pdf included in the deal.

Venger Satanis’ Player’s Handbook works much better than a system neutral Player’s Handbook would lead you to expect. Now, if there is one weakness to the book, then that would be that there is no truly distinct separation between the more house rules-y components and the dressing/flavor-centric and truly system neutral components. That being said, this pdf should be considered to be worthwhile for a wide variety of groups.

If you’re playing in a VSD6-based game, then consider this to be THE must-have expansion that you definitely want to have. From healing to the optional means to make the combat engine a bit more nuanced and interesting, this must be considered to be a must-own book for such games.

If you’re not playing these games, the book will still have a lot of inspiring ideas for your games: The dressing is high-quality and helpful, and the checklist at the end is genius. Now, not all aspects herein will be sensible or helpful for every group, and you will not use all materials herein, but as a whole, this pdf is worth owning. Now, yes, I maintain that sticking to a system would have potentially increased the use for a single group, but it also would have diminished the overall appeal of the book. This notwithstanding, you get a lot of nice dressing and houserules for a fair price here – my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Player's Handbook Like A Fucking Boss
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Hybrid Class: Godsend
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/17/2018 12:10:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 14.5 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’, which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper.

This hybrid class is a blend of paladin and porphyran assassin, which remains one of my favorite PFRPG-takes on the assassin. As a righteous killer, they must be good and get d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons plus hand crossbow, rapier, sap, shortbow and short sword as well as light armor. They get an aura of good and may use detect evil at will. They also get full BAB-progression. The class is intended to have good Reflex saves, but the column in the table NOTES THE WRONG VALUES. Unless 18th level is supposed to nerf Ref-save from +10 to +2, the high levels are wrong for the column – an oversight that even a cursory glance should have caught. 4th level yields paladin spellcasting, governed by Charisma.

The class gets a sneak attack variant dubbed secret smite, which applies when a target is denied Dexterity bonus to AC or when flanking a target. This starts as +1d6, and increases by 1d6 every 2 godsend levels thereafter. Sloppy: “If the target of secret smite is an outsider with the evil subtype, an evil-aligned dragon, or an undead creature, the bonus to dam­age on the first successful attack increases to 2 points of damage per level the godsend possesses.” I kid you not. That’s a downgrade. The godsend is actually WORSE at killing evil things. Also: reference to first attack is weird. OH, and secret smiting good creatures by accident wrecks your spellcasting and supernatural abilities for the day, killing a creature thus does it permanently. 2nd level yields lay on hands and quiet death (Stealth check when killing a creature in the surprise round to prevent notice). 3rd level nets immunity to fear and 4th level provides death attack, governed by Int. Sloppiness continues – we have references to sneak attack that should refer to secret smite.

As an aside: Secret smite is NOT a smite. It is not active. It’s always on. The name’s misleading and the ability just eats wordcount. Make it sneak attack and add a second ability that increases sneak damage versus smite targets. Anyway, 4th level also yields uncanny dodge and 6th level nets divine bond, for a weapon as well as the first mercies; 10th, 14th and 18th level expand the list of mercies available. 8th level nets improved uncanny dodge and an ability that lets you prep a corpse to make the target die once more if returned to life. A spell reference here has not been italicized. 9th level yields immunity to charm spells and SPs, but not effects. 12th level makes weapons behave as though good as well as the option to make a death attack after only one round of study. Detect evil can be sued as a swift action starting at 14th level and 15th level nets + Cha-bonus to secret smite damage versus evil targets and ignores all damage reduction. 18th level provides 1/week atonement. The capstone provides maximum healing as well as “sneak attack the godsend inflicts counts as a death attack, with no study required and regardless of the target’s suspicions.” Which RAW does nothing, since the godsend does not have sneak attack.

The pdf includes a brief code of conduct and 4 feats: One nets limited access to rook-spells. Hold Disguise nets 1/day use of lay on hands for disguise self. Yeah, wouldn’t waste a feat on that either. There’s another one that nets 1/day use of lay on hands as misdirection. Left-Handed Blade nets +2 to Bluff checks made to feint as well as swift action feints. The pdf closes with a HUGE list of favored class options for the vast amount of Porphyran races.

The one good thing here: The Colossus of Dhu, a CR 22 colossal, lion-headed construct that clocks in at CR 22 and makes for a really cool bonus pdf! The monster penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr gets two thumbs up.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not good on a formal and rules-language level. Secret smite, the signature ability of the class, has not even been properly CCP’d. Layout adheres to a 1-page standard that is b/w and sports purple highlights. The pdf has no artwork apart from the cover and comes fully bookmarked.

Urgh. I don’t get it. The idea of the sacred killer is amazing and evocative. The godsend, though, is the least interesting incarnation of it. Its basic abilities are not interesting and lose what made the porphyran assassins cool. The class is super-linear and bland, lacking any distinct identity. The rules-language is not good either. I don’t get it, I really don’t. Aaron Hollingsworth can do so much better. He has done so much better. This, though, feels phoned in, uninspired and really, really bland. I can’t recommend this pdf. Unless you want the bonus file. The bonus critter is cool. My final verdict will clock in at 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Hybrid Class: Godsend
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13 Fighter Talents and Maneuvers (13th Age Compatible)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/16/2018 05:46:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little expansion-pdf for 13th Age fighters clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

The pdf begins with a brief introduction, which takes up the first page. After that, we are introduced to the 4 new talents herein, the first of which would be Bravado, which lets you once per battle, as a quick action (free for adventurer feat, +usable 2/battle, but only 1/day) roll 1d20 + Charisma vs. MD; on a success, AC and PD are lowered against your attacks by the escalation die value for the remainder of the combat. Mooks targeted extend this penalty to the whole mob. For the champion feat, this also reduces the target’s attack and damage rolls, and the epic feat adds hampered to the target once it’s staggered, with a save to briefly negate the condition.

First to Arms lets you spend a recovery to go first at the start of battle; if more than one character uses this, you go by Dexterity modifier, rolling d20 to break ties. At adventurer tier, we add the higher of Dex or Wis-mod to AC until the escalation die is equal to or greater than your level…which is pretty potent, considering the damage 13th Age characters can dish out. I’d have halved that. At champion tier, the feat also extends this bonus to PD and the epic feat lets you spend a full turn before everyone else does and still roll initiative normally after that, at the cost of a recovery. Okay can this be stacked with the base benefit?

Resist & Endure lets you 1/battle spend a recovery as a quick action to immediately reroll a save with a bonus equal to the escalation die. The adventurer feat improves that to free action, +1/day lets you sue it twice in a battle. The champion feat makes this an auto-success, sans need to roll. Not the biggest fan there. The epic tier feat makes a use of the talent free, but only the first after a quick rest/full heal-up. The final talent would be Taunt, which lets you roll 1d20 + Charisma + level vs. a nearby target’s MD. On a success, all allies gain resistance 12+ vs. the target’s attacks and power until the start of the next turn. However, the target’s crit range increases by 2 regarding attacks made against you for the same duration. Mooks taunted apply the penalties to the whole mob, and a target can only be currently taunted by one character. The adventurer feat causes the target to take your Charisma modifier in psychic damage when it attacks an ally. This damage scales to doubled and tripled at 5th and 8th level. The higher tier feats improve the resistance to 16+ and 18+, respectively. Nice: As 13th Age generally does not differentiate between types regarding the effect of psychological tricks like Taunt, the pdf does spend a bit of time explaining how to best handle the like.

Next up would be the maneuvers, two of which are first level maneuvers: Pommel bash triggers on odd misses and may daze a target for 1 turn on a failed normal save, with adventurer feat adding Strength modifier to miss damage. Champion feat modifies the effects and confuses the target for 1 turn before dazing him – no save for either condition. Compared to shield bash, particularly the latter seems a bit too strong. Cunning Feint triggers on natural odd misses and applies the higher or Int or Wis-mod to the next damage roll versus the target. The adventurer feat lets you convey that to a nearby ally instead. Both champion and epic feat sport formatting deviations from the standard – INT and WIS are not used in class feature text, instead using the full word. Effect-wise, we add the higher of the two plus escalation die/twice escalation die, respectively.

The pdf sports 3 different 3rd level maneuvers. Get Clear triggers on a natural, odd hit, allowing an ally to pop free from being engaged with the target as well as move to a nearby location. The adventurer feat adds escalation die to AC and PD for the ally vs. opportunity attacks, as well as to any disengage checks. The champion feat upgrades ally movement to a far away location, but at the cost of the ally’s next move action. Left You An Opening triggers on natural even misses while escalation die is 2+. You forego miss damage, but double the escalation bonus of an ally for their next attack versus that foe. The adventurer feat renders the target vulnerable to the next attack of the ally, while the champion feat adds an extra WEAPON die. I’m not 100% sold on the vulnerable benefit for adventurer, as most abilities that grant this are relegated to champion tier. Wounding shot triggers on a natural 16+ and you deal half normal base damage, but the target suffers ongoing damage equal to the higher of your Wisdom or Intelligence modifier, triple that at 8th level. The champion feat allows you to trigger it with a natural even hit, and ending the ongoing damage is a hard save.

There are also two 5th level maneuvers, the first of which would be Impaling Shot, which triggers on a natural odd hit. The maneuver potentially pins targets to terrain features, rendering it stuck. The target may expend a move action to attempt to free themselves with a normal save, taking ½ basic damage upon success. So, upon failure, no damage? I assume so, but this component could be a bit clearer. The maneuver has a Champion feat associated, which lets you target PD and increases the save to hard. Skullrattler triggers on a natural odd hit. The maneuver deals half damage, but hampers the foe for Strength modifier turns, with a normal save to end. Champion increases the save difficulty to hard, and the epic feat lets you inflict full damage.

Finally, the pdf has two 7th level maneuvers. Rain of Missiles is triggered on a natural even hit on escalation die 2+. You deal half damage, but also to all enemies who are engaged with the same creature as your target, with a maximum of Dexterity modifier. The epic feat extends range of the rain of missile to nearby the target. The final maneuver is Heroic Sacrifice, which triggers on a natural even hit, but requires that you’re staggered. The attack deals double damage, but you suffer half of it as well. Allies engaged with the target may pop free. The epic feat renders the target stuck unless it makes a hard save, but you also become stuck and vulnerable to the attacks and powers of the target.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Apart from aesthetics, I saw no issues. The pdf sports surprisingly great full-color artwork, including a 1-page piece. The pdf has no real bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Richard Moore’s fighter maneuvers and talents are interesting in that they reward fighters with decent attributes in the mental range – there is a reason to have a solid Wisdom score here, and this swashbuckl-y options are something I certainly enjoyed. The maneuvers can be considered to be a bit on the strong side of things, but offer some interesting teamwork and tactics. And there is the price-point. This pdf is really inexpensive. Considering the more than fair price point, I consider this to be worth getting – an interesting pdf that is worth 4.5 stars, and while I’d usually round down, the low price point and interesting design decisions make me round up instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13 Fighter Talents and Maneuvers (13th Age Compatible)
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Star Log.EM-011: Arcane Artillerist
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/16/2018 05:42:31

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!

After a brief introduction, including the by now standard and enjoyable “Query”-dialogue that simulates logging onto a database, we begin this pdf with SFRPG’s take on one of the most trouble-laden concepts of the 3.X history, the arcane archer…erhhh, I mean “arcane artillerist.”

For Starfinder, the concept has been envisioned as an archetype here, with alternate class features gained at 4th, 6th, 9th and 18th level. Artillerist’s Seal lets you create a unique fusion seal chosen from the list: Called, dispelling, glamered, illuminating, merciful, seeking. Odd: “Called” and “Seeking” are not properly italicized. The seal works only for the arcane artillerist, and you may change weapon fusions after an 8-hour rest, or by resting 10 minutes and spending an additional Resolve Point. Daily use limitations can’t be cheesed and the ability notes the conditions to replace a seal. Minor complaint: The example illustrating the limitation uses a fusion that becomes available at 6th level, instead of one of the base ones; as a purely cosmetic observation “(such as blasting, gained at 6th level)” would be slightly easier to grasp than “(such as blasting).” No, I won’t penalize the pdf for that.

At 6th level, this seal is improved, adding blasting, ghost killer, hybridized, spellthrower, torrent or trailblazer to the list. Additionally, the weapon with the affixed seal gets the durable fusion for free, as if it were a 0-level fusion. Finally, you can place up to two weapon fusions into the seal, but their combined level may not exceed half your level. Minor nitpick: I assume, since fusions in the corebook don’t sport 0-level fusions, that the durable fusion is not part of the two weapon fusions that you can combine.

Now, the eagle-eyed reader may have noted that the torrent fusion is new. It is, indeed, one of 3 different new fusions. Torrent clocks in at level 2. This nets a 1/day automatic attack as a full action, with a range of half the weapon’s range increment. Thankfully, automatic, explode, line or thrown weapons are excluded, as are weapons that don’t require an attack roll. The other two new weapon fusions clock both in at level 9, when their corresponding ability unlocks them for the archetype’s seal. The first would be phasing, which translates to a single attack ignoring nonmagical physical barriers, excluding armor, 1/day as a full action. You may choose whether to resolve it versus KAC or EAC and it ignores concealment and cover, but magical barriers (spell references not italicized) automatically stop it. Automatic, explode or line weapons can’t be enhanced with this fusion, and neither can those that don’t require attack rolls. Imbued also clocks in at 9th level, and 1/day lets a spellcaster place an area of effect spell as a full action. When a single attack is made as a full action, the spell’s area is centered where the attack strikes, ignoring e.g. restrictions that would require it to be centered on the caster. Only spells with a casting time of a standard action or less can be imbued thus, and the projectile is fired as part of the action and suffers from -4 to atk. A miss wastes spell and ammo Explode or line weapons may not carry spells, and neither may those that don’t require attack rolls.

You see, the classic shots, re-imagined as weapon fusions. Interesting. As hinted at before, 9th level further expands the list of available fusions for the seal, including the energy and alignment-based ones as well as the new ones mentioned before. For 2 Resolve points and a move action, you can change the seal’s fusions. Additionally, fusions with daily uses may be recharged for 1 Resolve Point – note: The latter ability does not state an activation action; to me, it’d have made sense to make that a move action.

Finally, 18th level delimits the seal: You can place any number of fusions in the seal, up to a maximum of your character level. The pdf closes with a nice piece of flavor text regarding these fellows in the Xa-Osoro system.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting as a whole are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the colorful 2-column standard of the series and the artwork featured is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ take on the arcane sniper is indeed one of the better ones out there. Building on fusions is a smart choice, and the fact that most potent ones will burn through Resolve like a child’s birthday through candy means that you won’t be spamming the deadly ones. Similarly, the restrictions imposed on these ones keep the cheesing potential at bay. Now, personally, I’d strongly suggest keeping the new fusions archetype exclusive, but that may be me being paranoid. This is a good take on the concept, and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars. Worth getting!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-011: Arcane Artillerist
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Transcendent 10 - Feats of the Lost - Figures Forlorn
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/16/2018 05:41:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

So, Lost Spheres Publishing, back in the day, began with the Transcendent 10-series. While these represent the early works of the company, the company flew under my radar for a long while, so it’s high time we took a look at the series, right? It should be noted that the company has evolved since then – reviews of more current books will hit sites soon as well. But how do these early works hold up against the test of time? Let’s find out!

One thing I really enjoy about this series would be the designer’s commentary that is provided for each respective piece of design – they help a GM and player to properly contextualize the content, which is particularly helpful for folks who don’t have a veteran’s level of system mastery. The pdf predates the ACG and OA, and as such, I will not complain about a lack of representation of the classes from these books in the spell-lists.

Anyways, this pdf is 8 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, in Feats of Synergy – Heartbound Heroes, we introduced the Heartbound descriptor to denote a special bond between characters. However, the pdf was remarkably silent regarding the effects of the loss of one’s love. Well, this pdf is what addresses this component. While not exclusively for characters with heartbound feats, such characters may exchange them for Forlorn feats upon losing their partner. Forlorn feats represent an extreme trauma of grief, and as such should not be taken lightly. The forlorn feats are as follows:

-Alone, So Alone: After losing your loved partner, you no longer can benefit from Aid Another, instead gaining a penalty. However, you get to choose Constitution or Wisdom, and may use that attribute modifier times per day a swift action to grant yourself a +1 circumstance modifier to any d20, with the bonus increasing by +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. This imho shouldn’t apply to saves, but your mileage may vary here.

-Aura of Despair: This is a psionic feat For each forlorn feat you have, you may take a -1 penalty to morale bonuses to all d20s rolls; while you have your focus and thus suffer from the profound loss, creatures within 30 ft. also take this penalty, sans save. This should be classified as a mind-affecting emotion effect. Other than that, one of my favorite Aura-feats released in the series.

-Burn It All Down: For each forlorn feat you have, you may incur a -2 penalty to morale bonuses to hit; for each such penalty incurred you add +2 to damage, +4 to damage vs. objects. This should specify that it only applies to weapon damage, as the penalty is insignificant for some spells etc..

-Embers of the Fallen: Choose one spell per spell level that is not on your class list, but which was on the lost partner’s spell list. These spells may now be learned as spells of your character’s class, at the spell levels of the fallen love. Each spell cast this way imposes a penalty equal to the spell’s level to all saving throws and lasts for spell level rounds. Rules-verbiage is a bit rough here. Also problematic: While the verbiage prevents duplicating spells (once at 2nd or 3rd level due to different classes, for example), the new spells and their interaction with crafting becomes rough. Still, I like the notion of this feat, if not the precise implementation.

-Faces of the Forlorn: Bluff (not capitalized properly) at the start of combat to appear flat-footed, when you are not. The sequence is not 100% clear here; I assume this check to happen prior to initiative being rolled, but then, it can actually provide some issues with how surprise rounds are handled.

-Forlorn Spell (Metamagic): Unlike the heartbound equivalent, this one does have the Forlorn-descriptor. At 1 spell level higher, this is design-wise exciting: It tracks the stats of the creature affected. If it failed the save to the spell modified, it takes a penalty to all stats, skills, ability scores, attack rolls, etc. that isn’t 0 or a positive morale bonus. I like this idea. Problematic here would be that the feat fails to specify how it behaves regarding the penalties of dependent complexes. If both a skill and its governing attribute are penalized, does this translate to twice the penalty? Technically, it’s not the stacking of an effect with itself, but of two different effects of the same spell. This needs a bit of clarification, but represents an interesting “insult to injury” type of debuff.

-Heart of Winter and Spring: Lets you take both heartbound and forlorn feats and count them as each other for the purpose of benefits. Polyamorous may be exchanged for this one upon losing a heartbound partner.

-Sorrow’s Song: Basically inverts the benefits you’d usually grant to your allies via bardic performance and applies them as penalties to the same number of enemies. This is the type of verbiage that works well in houserules, but not in a finalized product, as debuffs should note range, effect type, saves, etc. and just flipping bonus to penalty can become really problematic really fast. I like what this attempts, but the execution is rough.

-Stilled Heart; Select Constitution or Wisdom; the chosen attribute times per day, as an immediate action, you may choose to ignore an effect that would result in a negative condition other than death on a failed Fort- or Will-save, postponing the effect for the chosen attribute modifier rounds. Nice.

-Wordless Pain: Communicate simple concepts sans language or the use of Diplomacy etc.

The pdf also sports a bonus psionic power, absolute loss, which is a mind-affecting telepathy of 4th level for dread, tactician and telepath. The power targets one creature in Medium range, with a Will save to negate. On a failed save, the target gets a Fort-save; if it succeeds this one, it takes untyped (boo!) damage and a penalty to all d20 rolls. On a failure of the second save, it falls to -1 hp and starts dying. The power may be augmented for more (+1d6) damage and penalties (one more) for one power point, or for 2 power points affect an additional target within 30 ft. of the first. This should definitely be a death effect, and is, for the chance of hit point ignoring mega-damage, too powerful. Would not allow it, in spite of the two different saves providing a decent chance to mitigate it.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are solid, if not perfect. There are some minor deviations in rules-verbiage and a few hiccups, but as a whole, I have considerably enjoyed this. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard with read highlights and a subdued border. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Christen N. Sowards’ feats are NOT boring. That is a pretty big plus in and of itself. While he has grown as a designer in leaps and bounds since the release of this supplement, there already is potential and ambition evident here. Indeed, this pdf is a good way to showcase the series’ pros and cons: The GM advice and designer’s commentary is useful and renders the pdf more user-friendly than it would otherwise be. Additionally, the very concept of the feats ties in with roleplaying, as opposed to just providing some crunch. This is a design-paradigm I’d very much love to see more often. Forlorn and heartbound feats, as a duality, are a compelling concept and one, which, while rough around the edges, can be a neat cornerstone of a character concept. Indeed, the concept itself is so prevalent in media, that it may well be worth contemplating revisiting at one point.

That being said, as much as I enjoy the ideas featured in the series, this pdf does feature some aspects where the lack of experience back then shows, regarding verbiage and some finer details of balancing the feats etc. As such, this must be considered to be a somewhat mixed bag that a GM should explain and modify prior to giving it carte blanche. With the material slightly less intriguing/refined than the heartbound file, my final verdict cannot exceed 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Transcendent 10 - Feats of the Lost - Figures Forlorn
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Star Log.EM-010: Operative Specializations
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/15/2018 05:37:29

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!

After a brief introduction, including the by now standard and enjoyable “Query”-dialogue that simulates logging onto a database, we begin with 4 new operative specializations.

Since the operative specializations make use of new exploits, we should talk about those first. 4 are provided, and they all are unlocked for the general operative public that doesn’t have the proper specializations, at 10th level. Fast poisoner lets you once per round poison a slashing/piercing melee weapon or load a poison into an injection weapon as part of the attack. Frightful trick can render the target of debilitating trick shaken instead of flat-footed or off-target. Foes immune to fear can’t be affected. Spell Steal allows you to attempt to steal a benevolent magical effect from a target via debilitating trick, using the targeted version of dispel magic (not italicized), using operative level as class level. On a success, the target gets a Will save – on a failure, you hijack the remaining duration. Cool! The exploit is btw. balanced by requiring 10 minutes of rest a Resolve Point to use it again. Finally, unconventional skill lets you choose one class skill, adding that skill to the specialization’s associated skills. Previously invested ranks in a skill chosen are refunded, and e.g. Skill Synergy et al may also be reassigned.

The first of the operative specializations is Crackerjacks may choose two skills from the operative’s class skills or have been added via racial traits of theme powers. These skills may be used to make a trick attack, and if the chosen skill is not Dexterity-based, you get +4 on the skill check to do so. The exploit would be unconventional skill and the specialization’s 11th level ability lets you choose a skill for which you have less than half total character level ranks at the start of the day. When you make a skill check with that skill, you are treated as though you had +1/2 character level ranks invested, up to the usual maximum. This does allow you explicitly to use previously untrained skills with the +3 for being trained, and the skill thus chosen may be reassigned “rest, by taking a 10-minute rest to regain Stamina Points and spending 1 Resolve Points instead of the usual 1 Resolve Point “ – while it’s pretty clear what’s meant here, this is a bit confusing. This should probably read “and spending an additional Resolve Point…” Alternatively, you may reassign the skill as a move action by spending 5 Resolve. I really like this, as it rewards NOT specializing and min-maxing core competence skills.

The second specialization is poisoner, which has Medicine and Sleight of Hand as associated skills. When making a trick attack with Medicine with a weapon with an injection weapon that deals slashing or piercing damage, loaded with poison, you get +4 to the check, unless the target is immune to poison. The exploit is fast poisoner. At 11th level, we get the trick poisoner ability, which lets you increase the save DC of poisons used with debilitating trick, and additionally, you can make lethal poisons stop one step before death. The scaremonger would be the fear specialist, with Bluff and Intimidate as associated skills, and +4 to Bluff and Intimidate checks to make trick attacks if the target isn’t immune versus mind-affecting effects. 11th level basically combines frightful trick’s benefits with the standard benefits of trick attacks, allowing you to add shaken to one of the standard conditions, rather than to replace it.

Finally, spellstealer gets Mysticism and Sleight of Hand as associated skills. When using Mysticism for trick attacks, you get +4 and treat it as magic for purpose of overcoming DR and affecting incorporeal critters. The exploit gained would be Spell steal, obviously. 11th level is cool_ If you hit with debilitating trick, you cause the target to lose a spell slot of 3rd level or lower, higher level slots first, with every three levels thereafter increasing the maximum spell slot level affected.

The pdf concludes with a brief series of notes on operatives in the Xa-Osoro system. Nice.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting as a whole are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the colorful 2-column standard of the series and the artwork featured is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ operative specializations present classics regarding the themes they cover, but this does not mean that the design-work here was simple. Spell theft is a notorious tough one, and the crackerjack’s take on a rewarding dilettante with eclectic interests also managed to walk that precise line, that makes it worthwhile, without being OP. In short, this is, in spite of the hiccup noted, represents a very much worthwhile supplement. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, and considering the degree of complexity and difficulty of the material presented, I will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-010: Operative Specializations
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vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Love vs. Hate
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/15/2018 05:34:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page char-sheets, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’, so let’s take a look!

Now, it should be noted that this review was requested by my patreons. Also, the module was designed for the first and less refined season of Vs. Stranger Stuff – it is fully compatible with the significantly-improved second season and in the context of that game, it works a an easy-mode scenario regarding difficulty.

All right, got that? Great!

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

..

.

All right, so the premise of this one is simple: There’s a Valentine’s Day dance, and if we know our 80s-nostalgia, that’s a big deal. It becomes even more relevant: You see, two GODS, namely Ares and Aphrodite, have put on a private wager: Aphrodite’s chocolates provide “Love”, while Ares’ punch nets “hate” – the former is associated with brains as an attribute, the latter with muscles. Drawing the right cards may see you invited to dance…or turn hostile.

Things become more complicated, once Ares conjures forth a Kobalos, who attempts to tip the scales in his favor, and who represents the one potential monster to defeat herein. And that’s already pretty much it, though it should be noted that, whatever’s the result, the surviving characters will get permanent attribute boosts.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay, I noticed a few minor typo-ish level of glitches. Layout adheres to a one-column full-color standard and the pdf has no interior artwork, but needs none at this length. The pdf has no bookmarks, you don’t need those either at this brevity.

Ben Dowell’s “Love vs Hate” is a very basic set-up for the GM. The two gods feel somewhat out of place, and the kids don’t have a good way to deduce what’s actually going on, or to resolve the influence of the meddling gods – apart from playing their game. From a narrative perspective, this is very barebones, though the mechanics to govern and develop the evening are rather neat and dynamic and deserve applaud. The adventure/encounter itself pretty much requires that it’s run as part of a longer campaign. Without paradigm-shifts in NPC-relationships (and the usual drama that comes from them!), this loses its raison d’être. In short, this requires, to properly work, that you have established characters, NPC-associates, etc. Without this, things will become dull and lack the gravity of “Stephanie no longer talks to me!” “Did you see who Jack danced with?” – the dance can be a great catalyst for roleplaying and changed social dynamics, but it is contingent on the GM to make it shine as such. However, at the same time, this humble pdf comes as PWYW, and for that, is most assuredly is worth checking out! As noted, the drawing mechanics employed for resolution are interesting. All in all, this is a very brief ad rather rudimentary, but generally interesting set-piece. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, and while I’d usually round down, considering its PWYW-nature, I can justify rounding up here.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Love vs. Hate
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Transcendent 10 - Feats of Synergy - Heartbound Heroes
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/15/2018 05:33:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

So, Lost Spheres Publishing, back in the day, began with the Transcendent 10-series. While these represent the early works of the company, the company flew under my radar for a long while, so it’s high time we took a look at the series, right? It should be noted that the company has evolved since then – reviews of more current books will hit sites soon as well. But how do these early works hold up against the test of time? Let’s find out!

One thing I really enjoy about this series would be the designer’s commentary that is provided for each respective piece of design – they help a GM and player to properly contextualize the content, which is particularly helpful for folks who don’t have a veteran’s level of system mastery. The pdf predates the ACG and OA, and as such, I will not complain about a lack of representation of the classes from these books in the spell-lists.

Anyways, this pdf is 8 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, ½ a page blank, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This installment of the series introduces a new feat-descriptor, with the eponymous (Heartbound) feats. Heartbound feats are akin to teamwork feats in that they require another character to work, but there is a crucial difference: The feats do NOT need to be the same. However, you do designate a Heartbound partner upon taking the feat, and said partner becomes important when it comes to triggering the effects of the feat.

All of the following feats are Heartbound feats, and as noted before, they come with design notes, elaborating the respective design decisions.

-All’s Fair: When you see your love harmed, which is defined as taking damage, ability damage (oddly, not drain) or incur a negative condition as part of the actions of an enemy, your attacks may target the foe as though he was flatfooted in the following round. This oversight regarding drain btw. extends to all feats that adhere to this formula of harm. The sneak attack prerequisite is nice, and I enjoy where this feat attempts to go. There are a few rough spots here, though: “The following round” is a weird duration for the trigger; “until the end of your next turn” would make more sense. Additionally, I think that the feat would make more sense when the “being treated as flatfooted” would only work in the context of sneak attacks to avoid cheesing. Other than that, this, idea-wise, represents a good idea to render sneak attack more feasible and enhance teamwork.

-Heart’s Vengeance: Upon seeing your love harmed, you increase (not gain – important distinction) morale bonuses to atk and damage by +1, which increases to +2 at 11th level. Compared to the first feat, this may well be a bit weak, as its utility partially depends on how you read the “increase” component. That being said, it is pretty evident that gaining the bonus if you don’t currently have a morale bonus, is what’s intended here, and the GM advice does clear up this minor ambiguity. Still, I’d have preferred that to be explicitly stated in the rules-text.

-Inspiring Glance: Aid another the partner as a swift action with a range of 30 ft., usable up to Cha-mod times per day. Here, the benefit should be increased to account for Pathfinder’s increased power-level since the release of the pdf.

-Love’s Resolve: This one is inspired. When witnessing your love come to harm and prevented from acting due to an ongoing effect from a failed save, you get an immediate action rereoll. Con be used Con- or Wis-mod times per day. This is so iconic, so present in media etc., that it frankly baffles me why it hasn’t been a more central part of the game. Definite winner here!

-Magic Entwined: Beneficial spell effects you cast on the partner are resolved at +4 CL. Potent, but cool. Other creatures get the regular spell effects.

-Polyamorous: May be taken more than once; lets you select +1 heartbound partner.

-Songs of the Heart: Morale bonuses you grant your partner are increased by +1 and last for 1 round longer, but only for the partner. Cool.

-Surge of Passion: Choose either Charisma or Constitution. That ability score modifier times per day, as an immediate action, you can grant yourself 4 temporary hit points er heartbound feat you possess, including this one.

-Wordless Bond: Nets you basically telepathy with your partner, with a range of 10 ft. per heartbound feat you have. Nice.

There is one feat herein, which is not a heartbound feat:

-Heartbinding Spell (Metamagic): Creatures affected by a mind-influencing spell with this feat added are considered to be Heartbound partners; cost +1 spell level. This one is really cool regarding its ramifications, etc..

The pdf also sports a new spell as bonus content: Heartbound call is a 1st level immediate action spell that lasts for days and conveys a general sense of direction for your partner to find you, as well as a bonus to Diplomacy, Sense Motive and Survival to find you. We also receive a new psionic power, call partner, which is basically the psionic version of the spell, with 2 augments, one for increased bonuses, and one for a 4 power point correspond.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are solid, if not perfect. There are some minor deviations in rules-verbiage and a few hiccups, but as a whole, I have considerably enjoyed this. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard with read highlights and a subdued border. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Christen N. Sowards’ heartbound feats are an enjoyable concept. The line of sight requirement is interesting, and the benefits are, in a couple of cases, significant enough to warrant taking these feats. Taking them also represents a roleplaying opportunity, and such blending of flavor and mechanics is something I generally really enjoy. Now, not all feats are gold or have aged too well, but the pdf still offers plenty of inspiring material that allows you to depict the behavior of power-couples throughout fantasy media at the table. This may not be a perfect offering, but if the concept intrigues you, it’s worth checking out. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, a mixed bag on the positive side of things, but I can’t round up for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Transcendent 10 - Feats of Synergy - Heartbound Heroes
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Spellbooks of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/14/2018 06:27:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

And now for something completely different! This installment of the “…of Porphyra”-series clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a brief introduction, we take a look at different spellbook styles, a section that, on its own, should already be considered required reading for many GMs. After all, why should all spellbooks be profane paper or vellum? Instead, this section talks about birch bark, jewelry, tiles, runesticks and magic itself acting as the medium to record magic. It may just be a page, but it is a page that can really jumpstart the creation process. Icons and talismans are similarly mentioned, and an important, often overlooked note is provided: Unless specifically enchanted and modified, spellbooks are per se not magical! That is important for hiding them in plain sight, etc. Spellbooks are categorized in 5 general categories: Formula books, spellbooks, occult books, meditation books and prayer books. Meditation books are used by spontaneous arcane casters, occult books by psychic casters and divine books by divine casters. Using another type of book than the intended one requires UMD and, if this differentiation makes no sense to you, an optional rule to ignore that is provided. I would not suggest doing so, though, as it can upset the careful balancing between spell types. Calculating value and the conditions to get the respective preparation ritual’s benefits are covered next, with writing and ritual costs collated in a handy little table.

And then, we begin the massive, main meat of this supplement. Spellbooks. Formula books. Prayer books. A metric, frickin’ ton of them. The respective entries feature a read-aloud description of the respective books, the values notes, price with and without preparation ritual, and the spells, of course. They also note the class and level of the author. Class-wise, all Paizo-classes, including antipaladin and bloodrager are covered, with rook and primordial mystic also getting their entries. The Wizard chapter is divided into sub-chapters for specialist wizards, with a universalist chapter as well. As hinted at before, ACG and Occult Adventures classes are included in the deal.

The nature of these texts varies wildly – Research Report MCMIII, for example, allows you to expend the boon as part of a thrown weapon attack the increase the range increment of the thrown weapon by 5 ft. per highest level “elixir” (should be “extract” – but at least, the glitch is consequent) in the book that you can cast – apart from the minor terminology snafu, a cool scaling mechanism. Pondering an investigation by testing a hypothesis, increasing a poison save DC, increase polymorph duration at an increased counter-vulnerability for the effect…really cool tricks here. The more well-read of GMs will also find quite a few unobtrusive easter-eggs here: The antipaladin prayer-book “Geranine, or the Misfortunes of Sin”, obviously represents a now to the writings of Marquis de Sade. Gnomic proverbs, which encompasses Wisdom such as “what you see is not what you get” made me chuckle. Some of these are really subtle: “Abyssmal,” according to the descriptive text, praises the abyss, and is very confused about what it is, noting devils, angels and armies of elemental siege engines. If you’re like me, you probably couldn’t help but smirk, for, in parts, the title was indeed my response to some chapters of “Paradise Lost”, the book this undoubtedly parodies – the preparation ritual’s boon, planar defiance, fits well with that theme.

There are also books about the world tree, collections of remedies, a heretical text that attempts to unify two faiths..what about collected posters from the walls of temple-inns? Divine records? A truly boredom-inducing snorefest that hides truly potent powers? Lore literally recorded on leaves? An inquisitor tome called “Watchers on the Wall”? (It refers to the Wall of Sleep in Porphyra, fyi) The Hexenhammer can be found, and mediums, with the right book, may ask famous Mr. Blaine, main character of a series of occult books. (In fact, several other books for other classes also reference Mr. Blaine…which was something I rather enjoyed.)

Did I mention the “Fall of the House of Strat” (XD) or the fact that psychics will really like finding the “Horrors of Old Dunmark”? And guess what? Witches will certainly want the account of “Dreams of the House-Witch”, which allows you to anchor an area when preparing spells, becoming nigh impossible to pin down. A clever twist, represented in rules as well. At the highest power levels, we can find the option to make some conjurations last 24 hours…and “Advancement by Fireball” is certainly a book that sounds like fun reading. (It can also enhance your damaging spells.) The illusionist tome “Selling Out” also got a chuckle out of me. The pdf is suffused with great ideas for the respective tomes, varying themes and focuses as well as boons constantly.

The pdf comes with a bonus file, depicting the CR 3 apiary devil, poisonous drones with a hive mind that can construct room of black foam in bewildering speed. I liked this critter, as it provides a rather neat excuse for the Gm to suddenly generate an alien and horrific environment.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level, bordering in both cases on true excellence. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard that is mostly b/w with purple highlights. The pdf does not sport much artworks, just one previously used one – yes, this means that it is absolutely CHOCK-FULL with content. The pdf also comes with detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience, making navigation as easy as can be.

Every GM has their pet-peeves regarding the prepping of the game. For me, the one aspect of the game I loathe with a fiery passion, is making spellbooks. I just don’t consider it to be enjoyable. Other folks will hate adding templates to monsters, but for me, it’s the much easier and quicker task of making concise spellbooks.

Because I want them to have a theme. An identity. And I seethe internally, whenever my players miss them, after I have puzzled together so many fitting spells, after I came up with a cool preparation ritual/boon. I talked about this in quite a few reviews; it’s one reason I tend to use more spontaneous casters than prepared ones.

And it’s, honestly, a damn pity. With all my books and pdfs, I can name surprisingly few that provide a decent accumulation of spellbooks with character, and these cases tend to gravitate towards the grimoires/high-powered end of things, where the books almost become their own characters. Now, don’t get me wrong: The most treasured possession of my current gaming group may well be “The Inverse Calculus of Unseen Refraction” by Legendary Games, but you can throw books of this power at the PCs all the time. You need moe subdued, yet relevant books, preferably ones with character.

Enter this pdf. Carl Cramér has done what I wouldn’t be able to do without rage-quitting at least 100 times. This book contains more than 100 (!!!) spellbooks, ready to use. Had-crafted. With unique benefits and character. This humble, unpretentious pdf managed to make reading through this vast amount of spellbooks actually INTERESTING. Heck, its allusions are so subtle and unobtrusive that you may not even get them all and still have a blast with this. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. The book retains its serious angle and concise in-game aesthetics without compromising its raw, undiluted utility.

In a surprising coup, this humble book represents honest, unpretentious design-WORK. Capital letters. This took a ton of effort, and it shows – it’s not something you can put together in a day or two. At the same time, this pdf very clearly emits a sense of playfulness and joy, which is remarkable, considering the very limited space that it has to operate within; each book does not have that much room to make it unique, and it should be seen as testament to the author’s passion that they don’t start to become redundant after half the book.

In short, this is a supplement that oozes passion and care, that genuinely feels like a supplement that was not only made to make the lives of GMs easier, but also to inspire, to spread some joy. This could have been an excellent example of “solid workmanship”, but it doesn’t settle for it, instead adding those little artistic flourishes that elevate a good book to a truly great one. Considering the type of book this is, the success in this endeavor should be considered to be even more impressive.

In short: Do yourself a favor, cut down your prep-time and get this pdf. Heck, even if you like making your own spellbooks, this may well be worth checking out, based on the strengths of the concepts this contains, based on the versatility of the books featured. This is an excellent, super-useful book, and receives 5 stars + my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spellbooks of Porphyra
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Thornroot Hill
Publisher: Stuffer Shack Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/14/2018 06:21:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This FREE mini-adventure clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, this adventure was created to highlight the companion-pdf for this little module, the “Truly Terrifying vampires”-pdf. It should be noted that you do not need this pdf for the module to work properly.

As a system neutral adventure, the module lacks any stats, information regarding general difficulty or the like…at least not for the most part, for the adventure does need to reference a couple of rules, courtesy of its plot. More on that later. The adventure features copious amount of well-written, and somewhat grisly read-aloud text. On a formal level, the way in which read-aloud text is presented isn’t too convenient: We have a bolded statement to read or paraphrase the text, followed by the read-aloud text. When a character speaks, as opposed to the GM, the text is additionally italicized. Just making the read-aloud text boxed text would have made the distinction of what is and isn’t read aloud text slightly clearer.

Thornroot Hill, as such, is a small, xenophobic hamlet, and the module begins with bandits accosting the PCs. Anything beyond that, and I’m going into serious SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

Only GMs around? Great, so this small adventure hinges on a gimmick. The PCs will meet a man named Buckley Topper, and his servant Lorne Westwood, as they’re invited for a little feast, before the NPCs go to bed. Here’s the thing: The PCs have been drugged. That’s the first thing you need to pull off, and it’s not that easy, considering the amount of magical and alchemical detection options available to PCs in many games, much less their paranoia. I know that not all of my players would have partaken in the meal…or that they’d have stuck to their own rations.

Anyhow, the module interrupts the sequence of events with a fragmented retelling of the last victims of the pair of murderers, for the PCs have unwittingly eaten their flesh during the meal, generating a conduct of sorts with the deceased. The module simulates these pseudo-characters with a 2 1d10 rolls, one for a descriptor, and one for a profession. While the idea of living through the final moments of these unfortunates is certainly spine-.chilling and well-presented, it is, in effect, an extended cut-scene, a gigantic monologue wherein any regular player agenda is utterly and thoroughly suspended. Nothing they do here, nothing they RP, has any consequence.

As the proper PCs awake after these horrid visions, they will have ample reason to attempt to put the killers to justice, but at this point, the system-neutral component of the adventure becomes even more problematic. The PCs witnessing the visions is already predicated on two decisions: One, they have to eat, and two, they have to succumb to the drug/poison. Considering that quite a few classes and races and characters have resistances or immunities to the like, this may be problematic. I mentioned before that rules would be required: The resistance to poison kicks in with the tactic of the delayed poison save – call for it, when its effects would kick in; here, after the visions. Thing is, the visions could already be construed to be effects. The precise effects…need to be determined by the GM. There is another issue here: If your game contains divine casters with strict requirements regarding moral fortitude, paladins and the like, then partaking in human flesh, no matter if that was intentional or not, may see them stripped of their powers.

In short: the adventure hinges on the PCs NOT being paranoid, without providing failsafes for the GM to fall back on; and, indeed, the module penalizes the PCs for not being paranoid. I know that I’ve seen this gambit pulled off more than once, and a railroad that leaves PCs in peril is one of the most overused and loathed horror narrative devices. Players need to be able to get their PCs into trouble on their own, out of their own accord. Anyhow, this very, very linear structure is exacerbated by the massive de-facto-monologue that characterizes the middle of the adventure, where the players are basically stripped of any meaningful agenda.

Now, while design-wise, I consider this to be structurally a failure, the prose and general creepiness of the adversaries somewhat makes up for that.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, apart from the formatting that could have been tighter, I have no serious complaints. Layout adhere sto a 2-column full-color standard with stock photography and artwork. The pdf comes bookmarked in spite of its brevity, which is a plus.

Chris Stevens can write good horror – that much is apparent. The flavor, in spite of the lack of maps and the like, is tight, and the atmosphere evoked is grisly and interesting. At the same time, the module really suffers from its attempt at being system neutral, which undercuts the sequence of events regarding rolls required, etc. It also is needlessly railroady in its middle part and significantly undermines the ability of players to choose the fate of their PCs, with the very kick-off requiring some serious GM-mojo to pull off if the players are not total newbies. There is, as written, a very high chance that the module will simply not work as presented. That being said, the adventure is FREE, and as a free supplement, it may be worth checking out for the nice prose. That being said, my final verdict cannot exceed 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Thornroot Hill
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Truly Terrifying Vampires
Publisher: Stuffer Shack Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/14/2018 06:19:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This system neutral pdf clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, in a nutshell, this pdf represents a kind of brainstorming tool for the GM, one specifically geared to helping you with making vampires. We thus begin with a brief discussion of how most vampires have become laughable and trope-ridden in media representation, and endeavors to find way to make them fearsome once again.

The pdf then proceeds to isolate three important components that represent aspects of what can be used to make vampires interesting once more: The first would be the Fear of the Unknown, which is something that cannot be overstated in its importance: Varied abilities, bloodlines and weaknesses can do a lot to help you customize different threats without them going stale. That standard vampire statblock from your Bestiary or Monster Manual? Never, ever use it. Vampires shouldn’t be just another thing to beat down.

The fear of catalepsy and disease, rampant in the Victorian age, which saw the rise to infamy of the vampire motif in popular fiction, is another aspect that can easily be adjusted and modified for the game. The notion of plague-bringing and consumption, which tied in with the erroneous medical “knowledge” of humors, added to the symbolically-charged blood drain, though the pdf does not give this historical context.

Thirdly, the fear of the unholy would be next. Now, these three core fears are nice first angles, and the pdf does note implementation strategies for the game itself, but I found myself puzzled to see the obvious left out.

Vampires are creepy because of their psycho-sexual connotations. Fear of blood and fear of the flesh are inextricably entwined on a metaphysical level, and Stoker’s novel was this scandalous due to the pronounced upheaval and contrast to the social strata and, in particular the horribly limited means of sexual expression available to Victorian women. There is a reason early vampire novels are often read as a form of criticism in Feminism. Indeed, there are plenty of progressions we can see to this date in that regard: While Dracula was originally anything but appealing, aesthetically, the allure of taboo-less, violent and aggressive sexual conduct is a leitmotif to this date, at least with proper depictions of vampires. Twilight et al. serve a different semantic and fantasy, but the “dark and handsome stranger”, the “vamp” indeed is alive and well today. And can be utterly terrifying and horrific…but I digress. I assume this component was cut out in order to avoid any mention of sexuality, since the subject matter is taboo in the US. At the same time, this is a horror-supplement and as such, is aimed at a mature audience…so yeah. It strikes me as odd.

The second part provides basically a DIY-generator for vampires. You roll once to determine whether a vampire is alive or undead. Then, you roll a d6 for living vampires, a d8 for undead ones, to determine how they became vampires. These are…underwhelming. “Forced into cannibalism by starvation,” “cursed by a witch”, “killed savagely”, “committed suicide”…perhaps that’s me being a jaded prick, but I didn’t need those. They’re kinda boring. Run of the mill.

Next up, you roll 1d4 to determine who they are – we get a table for living and undead vampires, each. Living ones could be hermits, a local family, an inmate in prison, for example. Undead have three means to leave their grave – clawing through the coffin, lifting it or turning to smoke, bypassing all. These…don’t tell me anything about who they are. Just how they rise. The 4th entry doesn’t have the vampire rise at all, and while it doesn’t tell me anything about the vampire, chewing their lips, tongue and shroud, thus generating diseases in the area, is interesting and an angle I can see worth pursuing. There are tables for living and undead vampires to determine the frequency of their hunts, with living vampires getting 4, undead vampires 6 entries. These are okay. We get 4 sample goals for living vampires, 8 for undead vampires. Stealing the soul of the ritualistically consumed, hunting only to drink blood, feeding via dreams, an Alp-like feeding over the sleeping. There are a few very basic entries here, but also some that quote more rarely seen concepts. A d8 table for living vampires and one with 12 entries for undead ones provides an answer to how they “look” like. The table for living vampires include preternaturally young-looking folks in 3 of the entries (somewhat redundant) and entries like “especially attractive/muscular” are…there, I guess. Open sores and a bad small are two tells also noted here. The undead vampire dressing includes having hair fallen out, being stark white…and one entry is “Their skin looks normal.” Come on. We don’t need an entry for that!

The next page is only half full and sports a d10 table for living vampire abilities like “exceptionally fast/strong/dexterous”, being able to befriend folks or disorient them with the voice. There also are 10 undead vampire abilities noted, which includes shifting into mists etc., massive leaps, causing roots to grow or targets to suffocate, etc. This section would have been more immediately useful if the book had committed to a system…and then, it could have been a bit more extensive, for most of the abilities sported on the page are hard-coded in the vampires of most systems anyways, making it, as a whole, not too helpful.

Okay, the next table is a real winner: Vampire derangements! 20 of them, to be precise. Taking a long time to respond, lecherous looks, becoming very touchy/feely, being unable to walk (dragging yourself with the arms, paranoia, constantly picking scabs…this table is gold and the best in the pdf so far. I’m gonna skip ahead for a bit to another one page table of 8 entries that provide classic means of repelling a vampire. While moderately detailed, there are new things here for veterans. Mirrors, garlic, grotesqueries, hawthorn…the latter two may be new for novices of vampire lore, but not for anyone who has taken a closer look. The pdf then proceeds to name 4 ways of preventing a living vampire from rising as undead, 3 to end an undead vampire’s haunting and 4 to defeat them once and for all. Nothing new here. Drown them. Kill them. Burn them. Stuff the mouth. Stake them. We’ve seen that all before.

The next section is another one that really, REALLY suffers from being system neutral. The pdf sports two pages that are devoted to the tricks of vampires – having vampire blood spatter on you can provide bonuses, but also carries a temptation and curse. Means to resist, vampires being high level and hard to kill – design aesthetic-wise, I can get behind all notions expressed here. At the same time, the immediate usefulness of the material is hobbled by the insistence of not adhering to a system. To give you an idea: “After the encounter, make some sort of Willpower

save (average difficulty).“ Yeah, sure, I can translate that to every single game I play. Problem is that the boon of the tempted condition does not translate. Average difficulty determining can also be problematic, as there are plenty of games where this does not exist. This section feels like templates or 5e-monster features, diluted down to this state. And yes, the pdf does quote specific rules: Being cursed by a vampire can result in a 25% of rising as one – something that can only be broken via wish, in direct violation of pretty much every rule regarding curses in any game that sports the wish spell I know. In short: This section is faux-system neutral. Instead of championing ideas, the pdf seeks to sort-of-half-way present rules, but not really. That doesn’t help anyone.

The pdf comes with a non-form-fillable work-sheet (why isn’t this fillable?) as well as two sample, filled versions. The pdf concludes with 14 different plot seeds/adventure hooks. There are a few solid ideas here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, I noticed no undue accumulation of glitches. Layout adheres to a solid two-column full-color standard. The artwork within is stock art and photography on the cheesier side of things. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Chris Stevens’ “Truly Terrifying Vampires” started off as a well-intentioned book; the observations in the beginning, while not exhaustive in their discussion, are sensible and generally present a well-founded reasoning. The underlying sentiment is valiant indeed and something I certainly can get behind.

That being said, after this section, the pdf comes somewhat apart. The pdf is advertized as a book that is intended to help you make vampires horrific, and it spectacularly fails at that job. After remarking how trope-ladden and done the concept of vampires is, the pdf fails to provide anything beyond the plainest of vanilla vampires. Flip open and Vampire: The Masquerade or WoD-book, and you’ll find better inspiration. Similarly, scouring the old AD&D Ravenloft MMs, Warhammer’s Vampire-armybook or a dozen of other supplements will yield infinitely more compelling material.

Did we really need a table to tell us that holy symbols or garlic or mirrors were bad news for some vampires? Really? Each of the playmodes of Night’s Black Agents is more interesting than this…and does the angles for disease, a focus of this pdf with its “blood spatter-equals tempted/cursed”-mechanics better.

The only metric by which this makes an improvement for vampires, is the one where you only know the glittering kind. But then again, you’re bound to have found other supplements, with concise rules, that provide a more captivating diversification here.

In short: The system neutral dressing generator, which was supposed to provide the jamais-vu, the creative, the idea that transcends systems, that makes it worth adapting to your game of choice…is remarkably bereft of unique ideas. The abilities and ideas presented are almost universally already hard-coded into the stats for vampires for most games.

The brief “rules”-section, on the other hand, shows some promise; it feels like it once was a guideline, a template of sorts to make vampires for one system more deadly, less wimpy…but systems have different assumptions, different rules…and that also includes the representation of aforementioned dressing. Where the dressing section, where system neutral components and details should have kicked the varieties and strangeness wide open, and instead opted for vanilla vampires, this section would offer actually nice rules-tweaks, if it adhered to a system properly.

This, to me, feels like a generator written for a system and its vanilla Monster Manual/Bestiary vampires. With, at one point, perhaps some ideas for codified powers, taken out of the context of the original presentation, applied into a generator. Then, alas, the rules were thrown out, made abstract, and we’re left with a boring, uninspired generator and rules that are not worth the hassle of translating to a system.

And don’t get me wrong! I wanted to like this! There are traditions of vampiric monsters in pretty much every culture on this planet, all with unique angles…but we don’t get any here. Neither do we get something weird or far out. This is paint by the numbers, standard vampires. And I don’t understand it. At all.

After the per se well-reasoned introduction, how could this pdf fall into exactly that been there, done that, no longer scary pitfall it so harshly criticized in the first place??

I can’t begin to tell you how much I wanted this to succeed. Where is the vampire with the mosquito-proboscis? The one that drinks your shadow? The living snow-storm? The thing that lives in light and travels through mirrors? There are PLENTY of supremely creative, uncommon and exciting twists on the vampire out there, but this has none of them. The pdf both fails regarding its mission statement, its generator, and its rules don’t warrant the hassle of translation. The 5 introductory pages are a decent reading experience, though.

Unless you are utterly new to anything vampire-related, unless you have never played Vampire, never read Dracula, seen Nosferatu or heard about Bathory, in short, unless you barely know what a vampire actually is supposed to be, this will have nothing for you. I really try hard to find the good in a product and shine a light on it, but I am hard pressed to do so here.

I guess, if you’re really that innocent regarding vampires, if you have no idea regarding lore, etc., then this may have some value. I don’t know. It’s not an expensive pdf, but frankly, I can’t rate this higher than 1.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Truly Terrifying Vampires
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Black Dogs 'zine - issue 1
Publisher: DaimonGames
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2018 05:43:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first issue of the Black Dogs-zine, intended for LotFP-rules, clocks in at 47 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page intentionally left blank, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction/credits, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 39 pages of content, which are formatted to adhere to the classic 6’’ by 9’’ standard.

This review was requested by one of my patreons.

Now, this differs in a way from most ‘zines you can find out there, in that it presents pretty much a hack/mode of play for LotFP, basically supported by houserules etc. In a way, one could argue this to be the first book of a sequential presentation of a setting.

As such, it makes sense that we begin this pdf with a summary of differences regarding setting assumptions. First, one should be cognizant that the Black Dogs mode of gameplay assumes a setting that is based on our earth, but slightly earlier than LotFP’s assumption of basically the early modern period. We’re talking, in essence, about the very end of the medieval age, with all that entails – in cities, the first breeze of freedom wafts around the noses of city-dwellers, while the chokehold Christianity had on the populace is slowly but surely undermined. The contrast of cities vs. rural areas, and more pronounced, the wilderness, is tangible. It’s a time of change and transition, where firearms and the new warfare exist side by side with classic knights and the respective forms of medieval Weltanschauung. This is per se an interesting premise, though one that is not that radically different from what LotFP offers per default. Something that galled me slightly would be the lack of notes when exactly we’re supposed to assume the game to take place. While precise chronology is not required in a fantasy setting, one of the big plusses of setting a game in a variant of earth lies, ultimately, in being able to draw on a detailed and rich historic background, something that becomes harder to pull off precisely when you do not have precise dates to go by.

Rules-wise, the system makes use of e.g. 5e’s advantage and disadvantage mechanics, and takes a cue of sorts from DCC’s funnels, but extends it. Each player is assumed to control multiple characters, two to be precise, with the GM similarly controlling two GM-PCs, with some picked for any given adventure. This, obviously, means that there will be more character-management up front, but it also means that PC-death is bound to be somewhat less jarring. The relatively rules-lite framework of LotFP also means that less of a strain is put there on the PCs. An important restriction here is somewhat akin to that in Darkest Dungeon – you need to alternate between characters. You can’t just run one character through all sessions. A brief, basic no.frills one-page sheet for new recruits is provided.

The pdf notes upcoming differences regarding the Black Dogs setting/game and similar hacks, noting different score system, another encumbrance system (pretty interested in that – LotFP already does a rather impressive job there, as far as I’m concerned), etc.

But what are the Black Dogs? Well, think of these folks as a kind of informal organization of monster hunters, often feared by the general public. The PCs are assumed to be part of this order, not longer in service to the church or any higher authority, fighting to protect an ignorant and often hostile public from the darkness that learns in a mostly untamed and harsh wilderness. They are, in short, monster hunters, ostensibly good, but it may well be a matter of time before they succumb to corruption…

Now, I’ll be honest, this resounds with me tremendously. My longest-running campaign, which did span more than 7 years of weekly play, focused pretty much on that idea, save that my PCs were members of an organized church that kept the ignorant public unaware of the extent of magical powers, I used complex, rules-heavy systems and focused on questions of humanity regarding growing power, about religious strife, the notion of ignorance vs. knowledge, etc. In short: The premise resounds with me. A similar way to think about Black Dogs, would be to assume the group to operate as a part-equivalent to the solitary fighter/mutant assumed in e.g. the Witcher-franchise. Or, well, to consider this to be a means to blend the aesthetics of Warhammer with LotFP, with e.g. the parallelism of medieval and early modern aesthetics immediately reminding me of that game. There are some differences, obviously – beyond IP-related, obvious components, the invention of Gutenberg’s moveable type would be one important factor, though literacy, obviously, is still a scarce thing.

The pdf explains the role of the Black Dogs in the setting, how they’re perceived, etc., before providing a bullet-point summary. While this is helpful, I still maintain that properly placing the game in a chronological context would have made sense.

On a rules-level, we get 3 secondary scores, which range from 1 to 6. These are Luck, Talent and Saves. You can burn a point of Luck to reroll a roll. Talent allows you to burn a point when reaching a new level, increasing the related ability score or the related Save. The presentation here is a bit obscure, mainly due to the pdf not specifying a uniform rules-language term for ability scores. The secondary attributes mentioned are applied for EACH of the classic six ability scores. You thus have Luck, Talent and Save for each of the 6 ability scores. You roll 6d6 and may apply these freely, but you may NOT apply 6 to a Save value. After that, for every ability score, you roll 2d6. This means that you have to assign one number to each of the ability scores, which is not readily apparent. These then fill up the rest, with Save getting the lowest value, followed by Talent.

Ability score modifiers range from +3 to -3, with 9 -12 being the +0 range. This is, oddly, noted AFTER the secondary ability scores, which may come off as needlessly confusing, since these apply to the classic 6 primary attributes.

As you can glean from the presentation, save scores behave more like in 5e than the regular OSR-games in that they are assigned to ability scores. However, you roll a d6 equal or under the save score related to the attribute in question. 6 is an autofailure, and a save score of 6 nets you advantage on the respective save. Ability checks are roll under ability score with a d20. While I get the rationale for the design decisions here, I couldn’t help but feel it to be odd that saves now are directly tied to attributes, but attributes don’t really influence them. They are neither disjointed, nor connected in a linear manner, which makes them feel a bit weird to me. The ‘zine may develop that further in the future, but right now, I fail to grasp the benefit/improvement.

The ‘zine then proceeds to present an introductory adventure, situated in Flussburg, a German village. As a native German, I can say that the name is plausible, translating to “Rivercastle/burg”; I don’t know a place with that name, but nomenclature-wise, it makes sense. The village (fully mapped in b/w) is presented in a brief summary, noting the need to repair an Imperial bridge as well as the desire of a local clan of powerful Smiths, the Schmieds (which literally means “Smiths” – btw. how many of our family names came to be!) hoping to improve commerce and their situation in town, i.e., gain more influence. Small eyes and big hands are directly correlated to ability score traits, i.e. high Strength and an inability to grasp plotting/scheming, as well as clearsightedness. Whether you like that or not depends on your preferences.

Now, the module presents the clan and its agenda, as well as the village, in a per se clear and concise, sandboxy manner. The local happenstance are complicated somewhat by the presence of a cadre of dangerous beings (with a nice Achilles’ Heel to exploit) and the place also has a weird phenomenon to exploit, adding a second layer of complications to the proceedings. The sequence of events is depicted by faction, if you will, and timelines. The adventure provides full stats for adversaries featured within, as well as for a unique and disquieting “creature” of sorts, which further drives home the strangeness of the Wild. This creature is only featured regarding a random encounter table that supplements the module. All n all, this is a per se solid introductory adventure, that shnes primarily regarding its weirder components. The village of Flussburg, apart from the key NPCs, does remain a bit pale as far as I’m concerned, though. The module does not sport read-aloud text or a synopsis, but does have a couple of sentences to paraphrase.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are per se good on a rules-language and formal level, but both categories suffer from the organization of the material being somewhat counterintuitive. The sequence of rules-presentation and setting-assumptions as a whole feels less cleanly structured than it should be. Layout adheres to a no-frills 1-column standard. Artwork is thematically fitting public-domain art for the most part. There are a couple of one-page b/w-pieces of e.g. a tree and the like – these are not aesthetically-pleasing, eat a lot of ink/toner, and one of them is horribly pixilated. Considering that there are 4 of these, I’d have preferred none/more content. The pdf, puzzlingly, lacks any bookmarks, which makes navigation needlessly complicated. The cartography is the aesthetic highlight here, but unfortunately notes the territory of the monsters, which means that it can’t be used as a SPOILER-free player-map. A map sans key/notes would have added value here. I can’t comment on the virtues or lack thereof of the print version.

Davide Pignedoli’s Black Dogs tugs at my heart’s strings. It hits a lot of the right tunes and presents, in essence, a more dark fantasy-like approach to LotFP, which, theme-wise, is something I can totally get behind. Black Dogs has a ton of potential, but leaves me, as a reviewer, in a tight spot.

On one hand, the book manages to present some interesting deviations from LotFP’s basic rules. On the other hand, since this is not the entirety of the rules-tweaks/houserules, it’s hard to objectively judge the merit of these deviations or lack thereof. While I for example like the notion of the secondary attributes, the rules-language regarding the respective nomenclature and sequence of presentation could be tighter. Additionally, judging just from the material presented herein, I so far fail to see the reason for them. This feeling of being incomplete, system-immanently, also extends to the small rules components: LotFP for example does not have versatile weapons. While a somewhat cross-system savvy reader will understand what’s meant, this generally makes the rules-aspects less useful for immediate use.

Now, chopping apart a system of houserules is hard; I get that, but at the same time, this feels like the presentation could be somewhat streamlined. The ‘zine, in short, is an interesting first sojourn into the world of Black Dogs, but it is one that does not stand as well on its own as it probably should. That being said, this pdf is available for PWYW, which allows you to easily determine for yourself whether you’ll enjoy what this offers. My final verdict, taking this and the freshman offering bonus into account, will be 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Black Dogs 'zine - issue 1
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Creator Reply:
Hi Many thanks for the review! If you'd like to get in touch, I'd love to share the other PDFs with you and hear your opinion about those (so that you can also see how the Black Dogs idea develops in subsequent issues).
The Trail of Stone and Sorrow
Publisher: Zzarchov Kowolski
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2018 05:40:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This small roadside encounter/mini-module clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, this adventure is provided with rules for both NGR and OSR-style games, both of which receive basic tools to allow you to contextualize the challenges posed by the respective beings. Characters can, for example, note that they are “4th level magic-user or alchemist with a random assortment of spells.” As you can see, this means that you will probably need to do some statting work. The NGR-stats are slightly more detailed, offering, for example: “He is 2 part wizard (Sage, Anti-Magic: Dispel, Psychic Potential) and one part rogue (Expert). He has a random grimoires (see Hark! A Wizard!).“ Skills are called, for example „difficult tracking check“ and the like.

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

..

.

The stage is set in a small mountain valley, where a local boy found a perfect statue of a bear – probably petrified! There was no contact to a local farmstead, and the townsfolk are concerned that, ostensibly, a warlock living in a nearby chattel, may be responsible. The man is actually not involved – Dr. Brenner may be an alchemist who has currently developed something akin to kerosene, and he has interest in the phenomenon, but apart from being wealthy, he is innocent of the charges fielded by the suspicious populace.

The PCs can, with some cajoling, make nervous villagers lead them to the statue and track, from their, the way to the cliff and valley beyond, which contains a strange cavern with an odd statue, as well as hints of something large having hibernated there. Game trails may also lead the PCs to the cantankerous Ol’Lady Bibic, who is a whopping 27 years old, with prematurely grey hair. She is responsible for the snares that dot the landscape. The aforementioned farm, then, will show the PCs that they’ve closed in on the threat: A few petrified sheep will be seen next to living brethren, and similarly, the sheepdog. A local pilgrim’s wagon and the fully mapped environment, as well as some social interaction should make clear that the ox-sized beast reminds veterans of the Catoblepas…but why the inconsistent petrifications? Why the odd sequence? Well, here’s the part where the “sorrow” from the title comes into play. When you meet the gaze of the catoblepas (which comes with full stats for both systems) you are not only petrified on meeting its gaze, you also switch minds with the monster – the beast, thus, currently is inhabited, tragically by Polde Kosovel, the man of the household, whose petrified remains had been, barely, secured by the family. Slaying the beast does not return beings turned to stone back to life, and thus, this brief module does actually provide potentially much more challenges for good groups – attempting to undo the soul-switching chaos could provide enough motivation for plenty of gaming sessions. Or, well, you could play this as a brief, somber one-shot.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard, is elegant and nice. Structure is clear as well, though I wished a couple of boldings and the like would have made the sequence easier to run for the GM. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The b/w-cartography and artwork is surprisingly neat and b/w.

Zzarchov Kowolski provides an interesting, fun sidetrek here, one that has a truly intriguing fallout potential that clever referees and players can develop far beyond the humble confines of this PWYW-module. While a few more notes regarding potential solutions for the conundrum presented in the aftermath would have been nice, and while I would have loved a means for really smart PCs to revert the damage wrought by perfectly reconstructing the sequence of events, this is a PWYW-scenario and as such, allows you to take a good look and then determine whether you consider it worth your while. Personally, I think this is very much worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform, as I consider this to be closer to being good than to being excellent.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Trail of Stone and Sorrow
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Conversation Cards
Publisher: Straight Path Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2018 05:35:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This is something different, a system neutral game aid of sorts. The pdf either comes as an 8-page pdf, with half the pages depicting the back cover of the cards noted; the other half the respective cards.

This is, in short, a helpful guideline to determine somewhat more complex and varied starting attitudes for characters – and they also help as roleplaying aids of sorts for PCs and GMs in particular

The first pages are used to explain the mechanics of these, and each page contains 9 cards. There are three sets of cards: Passive cards, submissive cards and aggressive cards. These sport a speech-bubble that is color-coded, allowing you to immediately discern the type of card featured.

Now, each of the cards provides also a glyph inside the speech bubble. These glyphs allow for differentiation between subtle, casual and overt emphasis. 3 cards per emphasis are provided, with one page devoted to each card type.

The helpful thing for GMs and players less comfortable with roleplaying (or, for example, social nuances due to one reason or another), is that each card sports suggested conversation verbs, as well as actions to suggest roleplaying gestures at the table.

In short, this is made as a decision-quickener, as a catalyst that should be helpful for particularly newer players or groups, or individual GMs that are uncomfortable deciding the emotional state of copious NPCs. The product comes with a full array of .PNGs in an archive, which makes printing/only-use easy.

Michael McCarthy’s conversation cards are an unpretentious GM-aid. Veteran groups probably won’t need these cards, and they are not something that will blow you away, but for the right people, they can be a godsend, a neat aid, a fun potential randomizer. The cards, priced at just $0.99, are fairly priced for what they provide, and as such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Conversation Cards
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