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Everyman Minis: Mesmerist Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2018 04:49:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a brief introduction, we get two new spells: Mindshock (2nd level) laces your attacks with psychic energy that adds +1d4 nonlethal damage due to pain; critical hits cause the target to be confused for 1 round, which is pretty strong, considering the absence of a save to negate. That being said, immunity to mind-affecting or pain effects or critical hits prevents the confusion. The spell has another caveat that makes it balanced for the spell level: A target can only be confused by a single casting of the spell once per day. This limitation is crucial and very much appreciated. Well done. The second new spell would be phantasmal flagellant, which, depending on the class, clocks in at 3rd or 4th level. I love this spell, as it fills a rues-hole I always disliked intensely: It is basically a pain-based version of phantasmal killer that inflicts scaling nonlethal damage instead. Descriptors and scaling are perfect and neat…however, there is one rules-relevant inconsistency that, alas, influences rules-integrity: On a failed save, the target takes nonlethal damage, becomes exhausted and drops unconscious. On a success, damage is halved and the conditions are negated…but the condition mentioned here is fatigued, not exhausted. Sooo…which one is it? Sequence would make me think exhausted is correct, but fatigues imho would make more sense.

Okay, those two out of the way, let’s discuss the feats. It should be noted that, in spite of the respective names, only one feat herein has the Stare-descriptor, which is important, considering that only one stare-feat may be applied at any given time, at least if you do not have Compounded Pain.

So, what do the feats do?

-Agonizing Glare: Adds 12 pain-based spells to spell-list, some with metamagic hard-baked into them. They are also considered to be spells known. If you don’t have the metamagic feat in question or know the spell, you may only affect creatures currently targeted by your hypnotic stare, and sans gaining the benefits of hypnotic stare for them. Learning them properly later allows you to cast the as usual and hypnotic stare applies.

-All-Seeing Sight: Adds 8 divination spells to your spell-list and spells known, but with the same hypnotic stare restriction as before. Locate object can only find objects in range in the possession creatures that you have targeted with hypnotic stare; the same limitation applies for clairaudience/voyance. As you may have gleaned, this does not require that you currently target them, making establishing a network of such beings rather interesting…great tool for investigations!

-Burning Stare: Choose electricity or fire; half damage of painful stare thereafter can be turned into that energy type. May be taken twice to gain both energy types.

-Bright-Blazing Stare: Requires burning stare, which means that the 3rd level prerequisite, same as the Burning Stare-feat, makes no sense. That should be higher. Anyways, if a target takes 1 fire or electricity damage, they take -40 to Stealth versus your Perception (important!) for 1 + your Cha-mod rounds. Multiple instances reset this duration. Furthermore, the target of a Burning Stare, regardless of whether it takes damage, must succeed a Will-save or be outlined as per faerie fire until the start of your next turn, meaning that the penalties apply globally, not just to avoid you. And no, they don’t stack with one another.

-Kindling Glare (Combat, Stare): This is another upgrade for Burning Stare, and it unfortunately suffers from the same weird prerequisite-glitch as Bright-Blazing Stare. When using Burning Stare to inflict fire or electricity damage on a target, you inflict +50% damage, as though the target was vulnerable to the energy type. It does not stack with actual vulnerabilities. Additionally, inflicting fire or electricity damage via the Burning Stare feat requires the target to make a Fort-save or contract vulnerability to the energy type for one round.

-Imperious Stare: Cause targets to avoid their gaze from you for 1 round on a failed Will-save, granting you total concealment versus the target. The type of this effect is properly codified. Kudos!

-Majestic Stare: Follow-up feat for Imperious Stare; when a target fails its save against Imperious Stare, it also can’t approach you further for 1 round, duplicating the effects of antipathy. Cool: If a creature fails its save by 5 or more, they also have to prostrate before you, dropping prone, unable to rise. Amazing!

-Wrecking Stare: Whenever the target of your hypnotic stare attempts to save versus pain effects and fails, you can activate painful stare’s effects as though the pain-effect caused damage. If the source is a mesmerist spell you can cast, you inflict damage as though you had made a successful attack and were using painful stare to augment it instead. Big kudos for getting the tightrope-walk of a rules-language construct regarding the second effect! If the triggering effect causes nonlethal damage, you may elect to make the damage caused by this feat nonlethal as well.

-X-ray Stare: See creatures targeted by hypnotic stare up to 20 feet away, through solid matter- Different material densities are provided and interaction with obfuscating elements, are noted. Handy!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are generally very good on a formal and rules-language level; apart from the two issues I noted, which unfortunately influence rules-integrity (though the prerequisite glitch is de facto just aesthetic). Layout adheres to the printer-friendly two-column standard of the Everyman Mini-series and the one artwork presented is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Clinton Boomer is one of my favorite feat-designers. I have seen him write feats that literally make, by sheer virtue of existing, thoroughly amazing character concepts possible. If anything, there are two complaints I could field against them: They tend to be very specific, and they usually end up on the higher side of the power-level. The feats in this book are more broadly usable, but that doesn’t mean that they lose the high-concept impact I expected from them; They juggle complex concepts within a pretty complex engine, all while making me think of cool ways to use them. I am absolutely certain that pretty much all feats herein will see use in my games at one point, making this, at least to me, an all-killer, no filler supplement.

That being said, no matter how much I like this supplement, the fact remains that we have glitches that influence, in minor ways, the rules-integrity of two components. It is only this minor imperfection that ultimately costs this my seal of approval, though both can be rectified by any GM out there. If you don’t mind these, consider this to be a 5 star + seal pdf. If you do mind, then consider it to still be an excellent file, at 5 stars, which also represents my official final verdict.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Mesmerist Feats
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Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2018 04:47:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Village Backdrop clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

What once was a lush forest inhabited by brutal savages, is now a desolate windswept moor where the waters of Blackraven Creek burrow into the acidic, infertile soil. Haunted by will-o'-wisps attracted in times long gone by, the plain is now home to peat-diggers - a harsh folk that reflects the unpleasant environment they live in. The anxiety of the populace is almost palpable, as the locals await a doom most dire.

Unbeknownst to them, one greedy individual has struck a pact with the dread will-o'-wisps and the resulting tragedies have not managed to warm the local folks to strangers. It should be noted that this version sports a properly modified marketplace section of minor magic items to get.

Beyond brief notes on the diverse population that includes the best and worst of people (including proper references to 5e NPCs), we have the usual 3 village lore entries that players doing their legwork can unearth. Beyond these, we also get a write-up of local appearances, dressing habits and nomenclature, we also get the traditional 6 whispers and rumors. Similarly, no less than 6 different events can be used by the GM to establish the proper mood. Big kudos: The special moonshine that is sold in town comes with proper 5e-effects.

Now, in Pathfinder, we got a sample statblock – in 5e, we instead gain something I actually prefer: A massive ½-page table depicting uncommon will-o’-wisps. These creatures are no less deadly than their common brethren, but they seem to prefer a more…specialized diet…like folks that drowned, that became insane, etc. – each of these sample wisps comes with a brief, fluff-only entry that makes each of them a great potential antagonist for an investigation…and if you combine them, you can challenge even experienced players! (The modification of the rules is btw. dead simple, though the pdf does point out how to proceed there.)

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf's b/w-cartography is just as awesome as I've come to expect from the series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Okay, my first impression was "Oh yeah, another swamp/moor"-village - but know what? This is VERY distinct from anything you'd expect in a SWAMP. While Jacob Trier's village works with the tropes, it also subverts them -no degenerate fish-people, no voodoo cults, no looming lizard-men, instead painting a picture of a village of hard-working people that cover the broad experience of humanity and morality, suffering from a climate of fear invoked by some vile individuals. Fulhurst Moors may not be a nice place at first glance, but it can be the town where, once the loyalty of the populace is earned, the evil rooted out, PCs may find haven even if hunted by the king. Remote and believable, with a rich history to develop and hooks galore, Jacob Trier's village is great. Jeff Gomez’ additional design has made sure that the 5e-version is just as worth getting as the PFRPG-iteration, perhaps even a little bit more so. All in all, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors (5e)
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Creator Reply:
I'm delighted you enjoyed this village so much, End! Thank you for the review.
Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2018 04:46:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Village Backdrop clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

What once was a lush forest inhabited by brutal savages, is now a desolate windswept moor where the waters of Blackraven Creek burrow into the acidic, infertile soil. Haunted by will-o'-wisps attracted in times long gone by, the plain is now home to peat-diggers - a harsh folk that reflects the unpleasant environment they live in. The anxiety of the populace is almost palpable, as the locals await a doom most dire.

Unbeknownst to them, one greedy individual has struck a pact with the dread will-o'-wisps and the resulting tragedies have not managed to warm the local folks to strangers… It should be noted that this version sports a properly modified marketplace section of minor magic items to get.

Beyond brief notes on the diverse population that includes the best and worst of people, we have the usual 3 village lore entries that players doing their legwork can unearth. Speaking of the NPCs, and since some of my readers are consider that a pet-peeve: Nomenclature-wise, some characters are referred to by names like “rogue” and “wizard” instead of “thief” or “magic-user.”

Beyond these, we also get a write-up of local appearances, dressing habits and nomenclature, we also get the traditional 6 whispers and rumors. Similarly, no less than 6 different events can be used by the GM to establish the proper mood. Big kudos: The special moonshine that is sold in town comes with proper effects tailored to old-school gameplay – kudos!

Now, in Pathfinder, we got a sample statblock – in the system neutral version, we instead gain something I actually prefer: A massive ½-page table depicting uncommon will-o’-wisps. These creatures are no less deadly than their common brethren, but they seem to prefer a more…specialized diet…like folks that drowned, that became insane, etc. – each of these sample wisps comes with a brief, fluff-only entry that makes each of them a great potential antagonist for an investigation…and if you combine them, you can challenge even experienced players! Now, in the system-neutral version, it would have been nice to get some slightly different suggestions when compared to 5e, since the rules-lighter games tend to e.g. not differentiate between damage types, or at least, to a lesser degree, but that is me nitpicking at a high level.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf's b/w-cartography is just as awesome as I've come to expect from the series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Okay, my first impression was "Oh yeah, another swamp/moor"-village - but know what? This is VERY distinct from anything you'd expect in a SWAMP. While Jacob Trier's village works with the tropes, it also subverts them -no degenerate fish-people, no voodoo cults, no looming lizard-men, instead painting a picture of a village of hard-working people that cover the broad experience of humanity and morality, suffering from a climate of fear invoked by some vile individuals. Fulhurst Moors may not be a nice place at first glance, but it can be the town where, once the loyalty of the populace is earned, the evil rooted out, PCs may find haven even if hunted by the king. Remote and believable, with a rich history to develop and hooks galore, Jacob Trier's village is great. Jeff Gomez’ additional design has made sure that the system neutral version is very much worth getting, in spite of my nitpicks. My final verdict for this version will hence clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors (SNE)
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for this review, End. It is much appreciated!
Mists of Akuma: Scourge of Robai Shita Temple
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2018 06:26:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 44 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now it should also be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to providing a recap of the mechanics for both dignity and haitoku, the attributes introduced by Mists of Akuma. The module is intended for 7th level PCs and should be used with a well-rounded group. While this is intended to be run in the bleak, mist-shrouded lands of Soburin, the module works in other settings as well, provided you can tweak it to include Soburin’s peculiarities – i.e. Japanese Horror with a subdued steampunk angle.

Okay, as always with these modules, you don’t necessarily need Mists of Akuma to run them – all necessary information is provided, though personally, I definitely recommend them within the context of their setting. In this book, we get the stats for the Adeddo-oni. As far as other stats are concerned, we get two wielders of portable cannons, a powerful cursed shikome (hobgoblin, armor covered in prayer slips, who can broadcast radio waves and comes with notes on the Kodoma-Tachi chapter!) and more. As an aside: I have no idea what a leap speed is supposed to be – and the hobgoblin write up doesn’t specify. On the plus-side, we get 4 new tsukumogami, and the Fukō oni, who comes in two iterations. Once more, we also get a pretty potent legendary item, which. Once more, is sentient…and potentially thus rather troublesome. All in all, quite a bunch of new material!

All righty, this out of the way, let’s dive into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! Once more the powers-that-be recruit the PCs via a missive found in an unlikely place; with autumn in the air, the PCs must travel to Kyusokuna, and there, find Hanashichū Grove – preferably without running afoul of the local taboos regarding tech. To reach the grove, the PCs will have to cross a massive suspension bridge, where they will, of course, have to deal with rather potent adversaries (serviceable map included) – and they should better not tary. Becoming lost or falling off the bridge may end up being late…something that is rather frowned upon in Soburin. (As a German, I can relate…)

Once they have arrived at the designated spot for their clandestine meeting, the PCs met the nature-wielder, here on behalf of Lord Sukochi. The task sounds simple: End the troubles at Shibai. It’s not. All the monks of the titular temple have been found dead or missing, and an oni is haunting the village. The famous, cannon-wielding Mubō Brothers have been hired to deal with the issue, but they are deemed to be heretics and too incompetent to solve the issue. The PCs also hear that the settlement was founded by a potent wu-jen and yamabushi, and is considered to be a safe haven from the feared mists of akuma – loss of the area is not acceptable. (As an aside, yes, we do get random encounter suggestions.)

Once the PCs arrive at Shibai, they walk into chaos – a full-blown adeddo-oni attack must be thwarted, which is also the first chance to interact with the rather unpleasant cannon-wielders. Once the chaos has been subdued, the PCs will have a chance to start to loathe the brothers before talking to the mayor, who, after being initially dismissive, warms considerably to them once the PCs flaunt their mission. The fully mapped settlement is at the slope of a steep hill, with heights noted on the map – kudos! The mayor tells the PCs over tea (somewhat of a lost chance for Culture-checks…) about the situation – and indeed, the constant monster assaults represent a ticking timer…the PCs should better hurry!

Ultimately, they will have to investigate Róbai Shita temple – and worse, the brothers will try to smear their names when they set out for the temple. Speaking of temple: The place is fully mapped (2 levels) and, while the maps sport no scale, it is easy enough to assume the default 5-ft.-grid. The maps are rather detailed and can be cut up and used as hand-outs, which is a big plus. Somewhat odd, though: The ground floor of the temple has the functions of rooms noted, while the basement is wholly spoiler-free. Just an observation, mind you – I’m good with the presentation. While the exploration of the temple requires a bit of GM panache (in the absence of room-by-room-read-aloud text), the exploration should elicit a bit of creepiness nonetheless…and upon their return from the temple, the brothers will attack, trying to secure their spot as top dog problem solvers.

The battle will rage, but before one side can claim a decisive victory, the monstrous ukō intercedes with a whole array of deadly creatures in tow. In the chaos, the brothers should manage to get away…and even if bested, the monster seems likely to return. Thus begins a bit of an investigation, which comes in two difficulties – simple and hard; the added difficulty version in particular is something I’d recommend to add a further sense of urgency to the investigation; turns out that an ambitious couple has taken the yūrei-fū wind chimes from the depths of the temple – and, well, they are not necessarily going to just give up on them or their ambitions….and the brothers may pose further issues.

In order to stop the troubles that have beset the village, the PCs will have to venture down into Róbai Shita’s dungeon, which is as much dungeon as it is a colossal accumulation of tsukumogamis! Once more, we get basic room descriptions (no read-aloud text) as the PCs venture through the dungeon to the catacombs. (Once more, the dungeon has room names included, while the catacombs don’t; once more, the maps are pretty detailed and scale-less, but perfectly usable). Placing the wind chimes back where they belong will have the PCs duke it out with the undying monster once more – if they succeed, they’ll have saved the town, hopefully with proof regarding the plot behind the wind chimes and their theft!

It should be noted that the pdf does come with a handy 1-page list of local rumors, which add some local color to the proceedings.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, while not perfect, are pretty good, I noticed no big problems regarding the rules and structure of the module. Layout adheres to Mists of Akuma’s busy 2-column full-color style, which manages to fit quite a bit of material on a given page. Artworks are a combination of nice full-color pieces and public domain art, which, in combination, has evolved into a rather distinct style I personally rather like. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Cartography is probably the best in the Mists of Akuma-modules – the maps are detailed, interesting and can be used as cut-up hand-outs.

Mike Myler’s “Scourge of Róbai Shita Temple” is perhaps the most easily plug-and-play module of all the Mists of Akuma-adventures I’ve read so far; it can be used in other contexts without major reskinning, which is certainly somewhat helpful. That is, however, also the weak spot of the adventure: While distinctly belonging to Mists of Akuma in style, themes and aesthetics, it is a slight bit less unique than my favorite, “Fangs of Revenge”, which I consider to be my personal favorite among the Mists of Akuma adventures.

That being said, I am not judging these modules by my taste, at least not exclusively, and this adventure is well-crafted…and easy to run. Where “Fangs of Revenge” can feel daunting at times and is aimed at experienced GMs, this one is much easier to run and represents a nice investigation with creepy locales, antagonists that the PCs will love to hate, etc. – in short, this is a very well-rounded module. The alternate suggestion for a more difficult investigation is very much appreciated as well and shows a level of extra thought that I certainly appreciate.

While this adventure doesn’t reach the tension of “Fangs of Revenge” or the covert-ops-assignment against the scorpion samurai, it is a module that should work well as an introduction to core tenets of Mists of Akuma, horror-gaming and, well, the leitmotifs of the setting. In short, I don’t have much to complain about here. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars. (Experienced GMs should definitely check out “Fangs of Revenge”, though – That one has potential galore and could be the start of a mega-adventure/series…it may be a bit too ambitious for its scope, but if you can write sequels, it’s amazing…)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: Scourge of Robai Shita Temple
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Everyman Minis: Patriotic Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2018 04:28:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 9 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, after a brief introduction, we begin with 5 new traits, which include being a supporter of a rebellion against an occupying force (and a +1 save bonus to one save chosen), having the ear of a powerful individual (tie-in with Fame-rules), knowing particularly much about your home (translating into skill-bonuses to two Knowledge skills), +1 skill rank and a bonus to Profession (soldier) for being a true shield of your people…and there is one trait that makes you a regional symbol and hence allows you to request small sums in goods and services. All of these traits are well-crafted, meaningful and have proper roleplaying tricks. No complaints.

Beyond these traits, we also get two different story-feats (YES!): Ambassador nets you Knowledge (local) & (nobility) as class skills and with a bonus, with a further bonus if you already have them as class skills; the goal is to broker a major treaty or accord and, yes, this is very much a feat for the faces and similar characters who strive to lead not only by force of weaponry. Cool: We have Skill Challenge Handbook synergy for verbal duels and influence skill challenges!

The second story-feat would be Patriot, which nets you a 3/day +2 morale bonus on ability checks, atk rolls, initiative, saves, skill checks or weapon damage rolls while in the chosen region. The goal is to save the region chosen or supporting it with a hefty donation – upon completion, the bonus increases and becomes more potent versus overt enemies of your nation. Oh, and additional uses. I assume that this self-granted bonus is not an action and that it must be announced before the roll is made, but clarification here would be appreciated.

We also receive two new vigilante social talents. The first would be Patriotism, which requires that you choose a nation you lived in for 5 years; in that nation, the vigilante’s social identity can mix and mingle with government and military, improving their starting attitude to friendly if at least indifferent. The vigilante identity may be loyal to the nation chosen or oppose it, which determines the bonus gained by the vigilante. The second talent would be the Improved Patriotism, which nets social skill bonuses and Knowledge bonuses. On the vigilante identity side, we have diplomatic immunity for loyalists or an escalation of skill-boosts for those opposing their nation – interesting material that reminded me of plenty a masked diplomat/symbol in various forms of media.

The final piece of crunch herein would be the turncoat vigilante archetype, who is locked into loyalist as the 1st level social talent, choosing home country and feigned country – the latter is the opposed country. Instead of unshakeable, 3rd level yields the option to change the feigned country 1/month. Instead of the appearance ability tree, the archetype provides startling betrayal at 5th level: When attacking a creature that considers the turncoat an ally, the creature gets a Sense Motive check: On a failure, the target is so baffled, he becomes flat-footed against the vigilante for a minute, with all attacks against the turncoat penalized. At 11th level, helpful NPCs, instead of having a higher DC, automatically fail this check and the effect gains a 30 ft.-radius range of outrage…indeed, even a whole crowd could thus fall to the betrayal of a turncoat. At 17th level, creatures with an attitude of unfriendly or better may be affected, making it really hard to not be suckered in by these guys.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches on a formal level and the rules-language is tight. Layout adheres to Everyman gaming’s nice two-column standard with a white background and the full-color artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Luis Loza’s patriotic options are cool: While the social tricks are not necessarily world-shaking, they are interesting and made me recall a long-time plan of a campaign focusing on fantasy warfare and diplomacy that I’ve been wanting to run for ages…but I digress. This is a well-made, interesting supplement, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars – well done!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Patriotic Options
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5e NPCs: Goblins! Goblins! Goblins!
Publisher: Dire Rugrat Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2018 03:49:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This NPC-collection clocks in at a massive 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, so, first things first: Not all goblins herein are regular goblins; instead, some employ rules from the Moar Goblins-pdf by Dire Rugrat Publishing. It should be noted that all rules taken from that book that are employed herein. This makes the goblins significantly more diverse and interesting and no, you won’t have issues using this book sans Moar Goblins. This book does provide a bit of a teaser for it and provides stats for the Tokoloshe snare trap, the nacht kabouter and the grindylow…and harpoons.

Now, as far as challenge-range is concerned, the material herein ranges from challenge ½ to challenge 12. The presentation of the numerous goblin NPCs herein is detailed: We get the name at the top of the page, a brief summary of the character (like “Goblin Exile, self-imposed”), a brief quote and then, extensive notes on the background-story of the respective NPC – so no, these are not fire-and-forget NPCs, they are proper, fully developed characters. The characters are presented by ascending challenge, beginning with the lowest challenge and moving up the scale.

What type of character can find herein? Well, the first fellow (aptly described by the summary mentioned above) is a goblin who a) is not much of a fighter and b) despised the lack of civility in goblin society; a survivor with boundless optimism, Zazutk Grimheap is anything but grim and sports something I really like about Dire Rugrat’s books: The lack of cynicism and generally…sense of a latent optimism suffusing their books. Sure, the fellow is basically an information broker, but he wants manners and is a pretty happy fellow.

That should not mean that the goblins here are all looking for a hug-party and acceptance, mind you: Take Wottle Skrimjaw, grindylow chief. This fellow is NOT nice. Then again, he is somewhat lazy, which makes for a nice roleplaying opportunity/rewarding of legwork done right. “Yeah, you shouldn’t go in that territory…but if you do…” It’s small bits like that, which make characters feel alive. It should also be noted that quite a few NPCs herein come with suggestions on how to use the character, but that as an aside. While we’re at the topic of tribal leaders: Grunko Whitemane would be one such fellow, one who is particularly adept at felling larger foes…oh, and if the name was no indication, he is a tundra goblin. And yes, the modifications to create rank and file tundra goblins have been included here. A dreadlock-wearing Pukwudgie chieftain, Tiponi, is a strong woman, the first to lead her tribe, in fact!

Next up would be Neeha of Banga Pracira, a rather charming gudro bonga lady…which brings me to another point that may be of interest to you, particularly if you’re new to Dire Rugrat Publishing’s supplements: The NPCs often sport their own signature abilities, often ones that go beyond the obvious defaults, which can add an interesting angle even to characters which usually, challenge-wise, would not pose much of a threat. Speaking of gudra bonga: Vaishikof Gartakara Rupa (challenge 2) (the place is once incorrectly called “Gartaka Rupa”) is an interesting specimen, as his protectiveness and stout build may make him seem almost a bit dwarf-like, while his uncommon heritage and the abilities granted by it add an interesting angle of the supernatural. While we’re on the subject of these, perhaps one of my favorite goblin subspecies: Eakogs Clutternugget is AMAZING. But let me explain: Each goblin herein gets his/her own full-color artwork, which is impressive in and of itself. The goblin merchant’s artwork rocks. However, it is his FUNCTION, which is the draw. Are you running an extensive wilderness/dungeon-campaign and the PCs can’t restock sans 2 sessions of traveling/running? Enter this fellow! Much like e.g. the merchants of Resident Evil 4, for example, he can show up at opportune moments and help out with just the right tools…which he obviously may have stolen somewhere, so potential further trouble can be set up thus as well.

Of course, aforementioned level of playfulness can take a potentially sinister tint – take Royce Mapplethorp, the mighty (challenge 2) goblin herald, whose fightsong is really potent for his allies. Minor quibble here: Only being able to hear as a limitation for its benefits is pretty strong – personally, I’d include a maximum number of targets affected or range-restriction here…otherwise any halfway decent group will get him a magical megaphone sooner or later… But I digress. This fellow may be basically a potent mascot, but he is not necessarily a nice guy… Speaking of which: Know what happens when a rather psychotic goblin kills a cosmonaut that has just injected him with a nanite solution that links him to a central computer? We get a really smart psychotic goblin, who goes on to make a blade that returns to him…and urns mercenary…after all, this vast knowledge at his beck and call can be applied creatively to all manner of topics…Yeah, shades the blade (challenge 6) is a creepy, creepy fellow.

Sometimes, folks are born that are different; most of us have felt that way at one point and for a few of us, this experience of otherness has changed our trajectory in life. Rilidyx Fastbutton is surprisingly good-looking by the standards of most folks…other than goblins. Her mother did not have an easy time, basically being slutshamed for ostensibly consorting with an elf…and after she vanished, Rilidyx ventured forth to find her place in life, charismatic, alluring and surprisingly deadly. Speaking of deadly (and much less pleasant): Fargrakle the despised, at challenge 5, would be a goblin necromancer who specializes in…animating crawling claws. Yeah, this fellow is creepy…

At challenge 3, N’tambu would be a tokoloshe, who is rather unique and no longer bound to serve vengeance seekers. He can drink water to become invisible and is exciting as a redemption story of sorts, one that celebrates the triumph over what one could consider being doomed to be evil. A child of nature and the representation of an almost obligatory trope, Wrelx would be a Wolfrider. Yes, he comes with stats for his wolf. Know what the name of the wolf is? “Grr.” Yes, they have unique synergy tricks. And yes, that name put a smile on my face. Picture it: “What’s the name of your companion?” “Grrr!” “No need to become aggressive, I just asked what his name was!” “Grr!” XD

Call me juvenile, but I can see that in my mind’s eye and it makes me smile.

Also something of a tale of just desserts would be that of Mekan (challenge 7), a former goblin guinea pig for his cruel master, who managed to turn the tables, becoming a fearsome fire specialist in his own right. Oh, and he can delay his magic in a type of spell-like bombs. Ouch.

The trope of the possessed godhand can be found in Flubboks Hugemitt, a goblin, whose right hand has grown to an enormous size and demonic sentience…oh…and Strength 20. Your PCs won’t be laughing about this goblin… Nix takes the idea of the blue (the blue-skinned psionic goblins known from previous editions) and takes a bow to the concept without requiring the introduction of psionics per se, as the mighty Nix behaves as a self-styled deity of the local goblins, with mind blade and potent defenses. Nice nod! She is not alone: Her sibling Zub makes for a deadly second half to the duo, only that his talents manifest as powerful spellcasting…

And then, there would be the final NPC. Koning. King of the Nacht Kabouters – legend to most, doom to many. He comes with no less than 3 lair actions, multiple (properly formatted!) legendary actions and the challenge 12. Oh. And, you know. He knows everything every single nacht kabouter on the same plane knows. Yes, he does have means to be defeated and weak spots – but PCs will probably have to be pretty clever to best this potent foe! As an aside: His missing cap, his weakness…the character’s stats made me immediately come up with an adventure sketch, where woefully underleveled PCs have to best him with brains, rather than brawn…it’s always a good sign when reading a critter makes me immediately have an idea for a whole module…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, as a whole, are very good, though not perfect on formal and rules-level. As a whole, you should not encounter serious issues here. Layout adheres to a printer.friendly two-column standard with a white background; the statblocks sport parchment-style color-backgrounds to differentiate them. The artworks deserve special mention: There is a ton of them and I haven’t seen most of them before, which is a big plus. There are some original pieces within as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I’ve really come to like Kelly and Ken Pawlik’s style. There is a positive core to their writing, something deeply human that manages to elicit a sense of joy without being naïve or bland. The characters herein are diverse and feel plausible. They are not just soulless fire-and-forget statblocks and they steer clear of the clichés…and even when such tropes are used, they are employed in a sympathetic manner. It’s hard to properly describe, but it could boil down to a sense of empathy with their fictitious creations. You can relate, in some way or another, with quite a few of them, with their motivations and characters. The NPCs herein are relatable and diverse…and frankly, I enjoyed them much more than I expected. There are a couple of real stand-out NPCs in these pages and the price-point of 5 bucks is really fair for the amount of content you get; the bang for buck ratio is rather great here. So yeah, this comes highly recommended, particularly in conjunction with the slightly less impressive Moar Goblins-pdf, if only so you know about the unique goblin-subspecies the Dire Rugrats have dug up! (without it, the pdf loses a bit of its appeal – not much, but a tiny bit of it.) My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval; a well-made NPC-codex and hopefully, not the last!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5e NPCs: Goblins! Goblins! Goblins!
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Mists of Akuma: Cursed Soul of the Scorpion Samurai
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2018 03:39:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now it should also be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to providing a recap of the mechanics for both dignity and haitoku, the attributes introduced by Mists of Akuma. The module is intended for 7th level PCs and should be used with a well-rounded group. While this is intended to be run in the bleak, mist-shrouded lands of Soburin, the module works in other settings as well, provided you can tweak it to include Soburin’s peculiarities – i.e. Japanese Horror with a subdued steampunk angle.

Now, it should be noted that the module does not per se require the Mists of Akuma setting book, though it most assuredly is recommended; the adeddo-oni stats used are reproduced here, alongside new material, like the stats for the penanggalen (challenge 6), the challenge 4 scorpion ninja and, of course, the eponymous scorpion samurai. The legendary odachi scorpion’s tail is also included and is both really potent and really evil…it should not be too hard to make PCs not want to use the blade, in spite of its definite allure.

All righty, this out of the way, let’s dive into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

We begin this adventure in Yukinokyū, in the Kizuato prefecture, forced to the area by the uncommon spring weather. It is here that the PCs receive a secret missive from the benegoshi of Fuson on behalf of the emperor. (The missive is btw. represented as a nice, potential handout – though you have to cut it out of the page – having it on a single page would have been neat.) Anyhow, the missive is pretty peculiar, in that it requires that the PCs travel to the town of Kakasu, with the request and presence of the PCs needing to remain unknown. Thus, the PCs are supposed to take Hidaretei pass, which is a known hunting ground of ogres. Really cool: We get several nasty hazards for crossing the pass, from microstorms to stinking crevasses, this adds a bit of detail, and we do get a couple of random encounter suggestions. And yes, there will ultimately be a showdown on a nice little battlemap. (It has no scale, but I assume default 5-foot-squares.)

But wait! What if your players are smart and prefer forging travel papers to reach their goal? That option has similarly been covered in a sidebox – kudos! When arriving at Kaksu, the timing couldn’t have been worse, as the mists of akuma are approaching. The hustle to the settlement (which comes with a solid map) can once more include some nasty battles, and, as they arrive in town, the PCs need t be careful: They have to find Fūmiyutakana without alerting anyone – they’re sworn to secrecy, after all! (And yes, failure has consequences here!) Sooner or later, the PCs will find themselves at a restaurant, facing a test of their cultural knowledge – not showing the proper knowledge of etiquette may cast an unfortunate light on them – but ultimately, they will get a map concealed under dumplings, one leading into the forest.

Following the trail into danger once more, the PCs meet Yukari, who tells them about the deaths of various former servants of the Fuson family – and how they all had in common that they were part of the banishment of Hinjuku Nagaro, the titular scorpion samurai. The remainder of folks on the scorpion samurai’s death list, are currently enjoying the hospitality of lord Gabiru Fuson in Shinjitsu on Shōjiki Island. Secrecy is tantamount, for the trap is pretty obvious and the scorpion samurai has many allies – which is why outsiders, an unknown party, is required – secrecy must be maintained as the PCs are tasked to eliminate the disgruntled samurai – preferably before he completes his revenge-driven blood ritual.

Alas, as the PCs either travel on or try to return to civilization for the night, they’ll have to first face down deadly threats (once more with a solid encounter-map) – fun here: Terrain does matter and the bamboo squares can make for nice tactical tricks. Getting to the island has obviously more than one solution, and, indeed, more than one is mentioned. The mists do not let up – briefly after the PCs have landed on the island, the mists roll in – and with them, danger galore, as the populace barricades their doors and windows, leaving the PCs to fight in the tiny (mapped!) hamlet. Oh, and the PCs still have to maintain their secrecy…

Worse, once the PCs, hopefully disguised, ask around, they’ll soon realize that the scorpion samurai is pretty much a local hero here, which complicates matters further. Yukari has set up 3 targets as bait, three chances to catch the scorpion samurai…however, depending on how the PCs fared, one or more may already be dead…so let’s hope they didn’t blow their cover! Ultimately, the PCs should definitely manage to prevent the final sacrifice, for its none other than Chijmatsu, lord Gabiru’s daughter, that will cement the power of the scorpion samurai once and for all – in order to stop her sacrifice, the PCs will have to venture to Ikatteiru cave and stop the dread ritual before the woman’s soul is ripped from her body. While the cave is mapped, in an odd choice, the actual cave floor lacks a grid otherwise present on the map. There are further complications: A penanggalen hell-bent on revenge; a draconic ally…and the significant power of the deadly scorpion samurai. Suffice to say, the finale is challenging indeed...and it has some serious potential for further adventures.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are better than in the first two Mists of Akuma modules and the stats are solid – not much to complain here. Layout adheres to the somewhat cramped 2-column full-color standard of the series, but manages to fit a lot of material on a given page. We get a blending of original and public domain artwork and the cartography is in full color and solid, though the final map’s glitch is a bit annoying. Plus-side: The background story of the scorpion samurai is presented, hand-out style, on two pages – nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Myler’s yarn here is a great example on how to make a high-octane railroad that doesn’t feel like one. The module is, structure-wise, pretty linear, but still provides means for the PCs to jump off the rails. The espionage angle adds further complications to the PC’s task and can be played up for some rather remarkable scenes, all while enhancing the themes of mistrust and paranoia that work so well in Mists of Akuma. In short, this is a great example on how to do a good, rewarding linear scenario that doesn’t feel constrained. Frantic, busy and intentionally opaque in some regards, the scenario, as a whole, is certainly well worth playing, particularly for the low asking price.

It is also a scenario that works rather well on its own: Unlike the (imho superior) “Fangs of Revenge”, this one is less steeped in the peculiarities of the setting. We don’t have a revolution, a vast cadre of NPCs, etc. – while this makes this module less unique, it also renders it easier to run than the somewhat challenging yarn of Fangs. They are two different breeds of module, but ultimately, both are steeped in the themes and atmosphere of the setting – and both are better off for it. In short: This is a well-made module for a fair price-point. It is easier to plug and play it than Fangs, but also doesn’t carry the same level of oomph and impact. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Éndzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: Cursed Soul of the Scorpion Samurai
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Mists of Akuma: The Yai Sovereign of Storms
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2018 13:31:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now it should also be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to providing a recap of the mechanics for both dignity and haitoku, the attributes introduced by Mists of Akuma. The module is intended for 7th – 8th level PCs and should be used with a well-rounded group. While this is intended to be run in the bleak, mist-shrouded lands of Soburin, the module works in other settings as well, provided you can tweak it to include Soburin’s peculiarities – i.e. Japanese Horror with a subdued steampunk angle.

It should also be noted that the pdf contains a wide variety of stats for creatures; from the Mists of Akuma CS reprinted would be the hebikontorōra, the adeddo-onis, the tikbalang and the gaki – though the latter has a name and is called “chief”, the stats of that individual are identical to the standard gaki.The pdf also provides the stats for the oni bengoshi Xiqzoxix. It should be noted that the stats for the eponymous sovereign of storms are new and that a particular, new tsukumogami can also be found within. In short: While there is some overlap with the campaign book, this makes handling the module more convenient.

All righty, this out of the way, let’s dive into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! It is a dark and stormy night as the PCs are traveling the haunted landscapes of Soburin to be contacted by xiqzoxix, who holds a blade to one of the PC’s throats. Despite of the, oni-typical, rather hostile introduction, the creature actually has a quest for the PCs, namely to travel to the remote settlement of Tuskisasu, which has recently been taken over by Obiemashita, who is growing in power. EDIT: Once more, I was not aware of a gender-neutral pronoun employed herein. My apologies if anyone has taken offense. Anyway, the oni offers quite a hefty reward.

At first, the intruder seemed like a feral child, the entity soon grew and has since elevated the bakemono and shikome to unbecoming status…and in Soburin’s rigid hierarchies, that alone should elicit a gasp. Anyhow, in order to find the village cloaked by ancient magics, the PCs will have to travel 100 pages North, and throw a handful of rice over their shoulder after every 25 steps, and that’s only the first part of the ritualistic approach to unveil the village – it is small details like this that make the module feel more organic – nice means to highlight the strangeness of magic.

When within the settlement (which comes with a small map – I wished we’d get one in proper hand-out size), though, the PCs must exert caution – while they get an item, which, when affixed to the yai lord, will influence the future of Yōna, the local oni warlord, currently firmly under the yai sovereign’s control….so yes, some subterfuge will be required. As the PCs approach the settlement, they will have a chance to save two inhumans from the hidden village from the ravages of a tikbalang, thus allowing the PCs to get some potential information and help…while leaving them to die has consequences of its own.

Filled with pretty much a who is who of the more monstrous and not too popular races of Soburin, the settlement may once have been considered to be a jewel – but the chaotic rulership of its new sovereign. The PCs get to witness the local issues first-hand, with (hopefully!) the saved individuals at least deflecting some level of scrutiny. They will need a place to stay low and an abandoned machineshop may provide just that…and if you have that component to drive home, a particularly brutal storm may help you. It should be noted that the shop is pretty free-form apart from the 3 traps provided for it. Once the PCs have secured the place, they will have a nice place to base their further operations on...and, more importantly, take a long rest, which they probably require at this point.

Here, the main meat of the module begins – we get an interesting vista of the strange settlement, but the fully mapped fortress of the oni lord is where the true showdown will happen: There are 7 circles that the yai sovereign uses to control the storms, and the downside of his chaotic edicts is that the guards show less discipline than they should. The PCs will have to destroy the 7 magic circles, as they explore the de-roofed fortress with its bone doors, poisoned railings, etc., all while harried by Obiemashita, who harries them in attempts to learn their tactics as they dismantle his circles. Whether or not the rightful ruler of the settlement is reinstated, or a new lord rules, defeating the yai sovereign will net the PCs some leeway…and the option to acquire an amazing blade, the Katana of Rizushi Kentaro, actually a spiteful takara tsukumogami, which is, in itself, already a nice angle for a subsequent adventure.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good. While there are a couple of hiccups, they don’t necessarily compromise the atmosphere of the module. Layout adheres to the pretty busy 2-column full-color standard of Mists of Akuma, which fits a surprising amount of text on each page. Artworks are a combination of full-color pieces and modified public-domain-art, the latter fitting on a meta-level really well with one of the themes of Mists of Akuma. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This module, ultimately, makes for a good convention scenario: The brisk pace the module sports and its pretty linear structure lend itself well to such environments, with particularly the final reminding me, in a good way, of the Onimusha-franchise. That being said, I found the adventure to feel, ultimately, like a hurried piece that suffers from its self-imposed limitations. The PCs are expected to do some investigation while in the wondrous city, but that aspect is somewhat underdeveloped – on the one hand, the module implies the need for a homebase to gather information from; on the other, RAW, there isn’t that much to be found here; the investigation per se is an afterthought, when it could have been a really rewarding part of the module.

As written, the PCs can explore a series of cool, but mostly fluff brief vignettes that ultimately don’t contribute much to their goals. This feels like it could have carried, you know, PCs facing a difficult mission; with the unearthing of clues, gaining allies, etc., all so they could gain advantages in the final assault. Instead, the investigation and the biggest strength of the module, the unique and wondrous settlement, become basically backdrops on the way to a challenging and per se fun boss fight. With 10 more pages, and consequences for how they tackle the investigation, this could have been an amazing module, but, in its current form, it leaves me somewhat disappointed at a high level.

The module sports a cool finale and unique backdrop, but it falls short of what it easily could have been. As presented, I’d consider this to be worthwhile as a convention scenario. Beyond those confines, it can use some GM-work to flesh out the way to the finale and locale. In the end, I consider this a somewhat mixed bag, with my final rating clocking in at 3.5 stars. If you’re looking for a convention scenario, round up. Otherwise, round down. My official verdict will reflect the latter rating, since I assume that most GMs are looking for material for non-convention contexts.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: The Yai Sovereign of Storms
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Mists of Akuma: Fangs of Revenge
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2018 13:27:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the Mists of Akuma-setting clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now it should also be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to providing a recap of the mechanics for both dignity and haitoku, the attributes introduced by Mists of Akuma. The module is intended for 6th – 7th level PCs and should be used with a well-rounded group. While this is intended to be run in the bleak, mist-shrouded lands of Soburin, the module works in other settings as well, provided you can tweak it to include Soburin’s peculiarities – i.e. Japanese Horror with a subdued steampunk angle.

The adventure contains a rather extensive stat-section, providing full stats for the adeddo-oni and the hebikontorōra from the Mists of Akuma book, but also stats for potent factory workers, a hengeyokai ninja and two true hebi hengeyokai – as well as the template to create more of these fellows. As an aside, the picture on the page depicting the template, while a bit cheese-cake-y, is up my alley, in that it looks very Conan-like; scantily-clad woman + threatening serpents = win (sorry, I just like my Sword & Sorcery…)…but I don’t think it fits Mists of Akuma that well. That just as an aside, though!

All righty, this out of the way, let’s dive into the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! The city of Samon is an important industrial center, and when the PCs are summoned by the benegoshi, they’d better heed its call – to do otherwise would equal a death sentence. But things are less simple than what the PCs may expect to find – as much can be gleaned from the NPC-section provided for the GM: We get 3 pages of bullet point motivations, goals, etc. (as well as pointers towards which stats to use, if in question), allowing for an easy way to get an overview of the plot. Similarly, a nice, isometric map of the city (looks like a modified public domain source and is thus surprisingly atmospheric!) and a brief overview of the city help contextualize the proceedings for the game – for Samon’s architecture is very much defined by foreign influences (allowing you to dive into the (fear of) progress/xenophobia angle and the railroads that the city sports make for a great way to have players into Japanese history (or, well, history as a whole), capitalize on the fear and superstitions surrounding that invention.

Anyways, the PCs are summoned to a rather disgruntled lord, powerful only in station and overshadowed by the importance of both the Taizuki Rail Company and the fudōsoge training facility nearby…and, as the posters the PCs probably saw highlight, a worker’s rebellion certainly won’t help his status…To add to the heap of issues, animal trickery is on the rise, so hengeyokai, kami, etc. may also be at work. He also mentions nine arrows, perverts…and falls promptly asleep, being addicted to black smoke, leaving the PCs with a rather daunting task ahead. (It should btw. be noted that the pdf sports a nice handout of the summons!)

Ultimately, the PCs must investigate the proceedings in the unique city – which sports a rather cosmopolitan populace due to the demands of the heavy industry. There is an easy point-based mechanic for the Gm to track the potentially favor with the Fangs, as they go into deep cover – and here, we get the cool and diverse investigation that matters that I wanted to see in the yai sovereign.

Remarkable, btw.: We get a semi-isometric sideview of the rail company’s base, with the outer walls partially cut open; a really nice picture that does an excellent job at highlighting why I actually comment in a positive manner on how Mists of Akuma books employ the public domain assets in really cool ways. The module here, both regarding investigation and strategy for infiltration, are btw. really varied: there is more than one way to get into the good graces of the Fangs and infiltrate them…though PCs may well end up having to cause some havoc. Similarly, tailing suspects is covered and the pdf does cover several individuals…which may well act as foils as well as targets when the PCs start asking questions.

In the end, the PCs will be led to Chujiang gardens in the middle of the night – which btw. come fully mapped and here, the PCs will probably have a fight on their hand – one in a rather cool environment. EDIT: Here, I botched. I wasn't aware of one of the gender-neutral pronouns, sicne my professional environment uses a different solution. Mea culpa if anyone was offended!! On the plus-side, if the PCs botched their investigations, the aftermath of combat is a perfect way to fill in as many blank spaces as you’d require.

Let’s recap here: The PCs may quite well be fugitives at this point, considering their deep cover; the lord’s addiction makes him useless regarding support, unrest stirs and the mysterious 9th Arrow seems to have an alliance with Harold Itrikasu…oh, and guess what, rebellion is bound to strike! The PCs need to hurry to Tazuki Rail Company, as the streets are suddenly less than safe, courtesy of the uprising…and at this point, the true stakes should be somewhat clear: Unbeknown to most, there once was a serpent hengeyokai race (hebi), particularly vile and nasty; these had been mostly purged in the Kengen occupation, courtesy to a being from the Utamara bloodline absconding with a scroll containing names and guises. Well, guess who’s back and looking for revenge? Oh, one interesting component: Hebi can become stronger – requiring just a horrible sacrificial ritual, one that may well see the last descendants of the Utamara bloodline slaughtered.

The finale has the PCs enter the Tazuki Rail Company’s basement for a truly complex and interesting finale, with a ton of terrain features noted…and while the disruption of the sacrifice ends the module per se, it leaves Samon in shambles…and the PCs in a unique position: They may well be the only individuals who get what happened…and they may well have the tools to negotiate the future of the city and unearth more – the module is a perfect set-up for a sequel and modules to come, while remaining sufficiently self-contained.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are, as a whole, pretty good. Layout adheres to the slightly cluttered 2-column full-color standard of the Mists of Akuma supplements, which cram a surprising amount of content on a given page. The artworks sport a blend of historic, public-domain works and the aesthetics of the series, making the visual style relatively consistent. Original artworks, as for example for the NPC-role-call, are somewhat more comic-like and not that great. On the other hand, there are some amazing pieces herein as well. The module comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I would have enjoyed another battle-map style version of the map for the final battle, but the other maps are neat, particularly considering the fair price point.

Fangs of Revenge is superior to “The Yai Sovereign of Storms” in pretty much every way; it’s smarter, more complex and makes truly excellent use of the unique Mists of Akuma setting. The investigation and plots are grand and require a somewhat experienced GM to portray, but it is fascinating how much cool content is crammed within these pages. The book reminded me, in some way, of the Shin Megami tensei Devil Summoner games, of Vidocq through the lens of Mists of Akuma; this module highlights social tensions, racial struggles, complex intrigues and a snapshot in history, where things change, generating a sense of an evolving world where the PCs may be catalysts or motors of change. In short, this is a really nice module that is modular, interesting and sports serious potential for further expansion – it’s a module that can sell experienced players on the setting. All in all, very much worth checking out, my final verdict for this one will be 4.5 stars, with the map for the finale and the none-too-strong editing being the downsides of what may otherwise be one of the best modules Mike Myler has penned so far. Considering how enjoyable I found this module, I will round up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: Fangs of Revenge
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Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2018 07:33:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deadly Delves-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This is an adventure for 1st level characters and it should be noted that it comes with a second pdf that contains its two full-color maps both with and without grids in player-friendly versions – kudos for providing these! This being an adventure-review, the following will contain SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

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All right, we begin this module pretty much in medias res, as the adventurers arrive at the village of Mossdale, only to find it overrun by spiders – the village does not come with a sample map, but there isn’t necessarily one required. The PCs will pretty much immediately be thrust into combat with the first of MANY arachnid foes – while the main force of arachnids seem to have retreated for now, the search through town will pit the PCs against pretty dangerous foes, including spider swarms – but thankfully, one of the aforementioned mapped locales would be an alchemist’s home, where acid and alchemist’s fire can be procured…and where one of the few survivors can be found. For such a detailed and well-mapped locale, I did wish that that encounter sported a bit more options to creatively use the lab in combat, but that may just be me. As provided, care should be taken, but there are no exceedingly weird things that can happen. Among the supplies provided by the grateful alchemist, there are moss ropes that somewhat enhance climbing capabilities, representing a new item here.

Ultimately, the PCs will have to venture into the woods, where a list of random encounters can spice up things. Credit where credit is due: The woods are interesting and sport only few squares of light undergrowth, with the spider population making climbing to canopy levels rather easy (and feasible) for level 1 characters. Venturing into the woods, the PCs soon happen upon a wererat, who asks to parley – his rats have just been slain by the spiders and he wants them dealt with – he can also point the PCs to two potential sources for the strange incursion: Mites and an ettercap. He can point them towards both. Arriving at the ettercap’s lair, the creature is actually baffled, sad and somewhat innocent – it did not send the spiders to attack and was abandoned by its flock. The mites, meanwhile, are being slaughtered when the PCs arrive, making them also rather poor suspects. There is a 3rd encounter that may be one of the deadliest herein, one with a rather nasty druidess – who is not responsible either, but unlike aforementioned monsters, she is perfectly willing to ambush and slaughter the PCs…and Conrad the wererat only warns the PCs of her if they’re really nice…

Ultimately, the trail leads the adventurers towards a circle of stones left by the Drothic people – here, defeating more arachnid foes will allow them to proceed into the depths (provided they can make their way past the giant spiders and the fiendish trap door spiders) – and ultimately find a giant assassin spider that behaves rather uncharacteristically: The veil to the ethereal plane has thinned, allowing an entity called “The Grand Hive”, a being of pure thought, access to our world – well, it can control spiders. It seeks to expand its dominion…and it cannot really be slain in this module: While its potent host (CR 4, stats provided) may be defeated, the bragging entity can only be sent back to its domain, preferably before all of Mossdale meets a rather nasty fate. Minor complaint here: It would have been really nice to get a map of the arena where the final boos is faced – only the above-ground battle-ground with the giant spiders is mapped.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-level, good on a formal level – I noticed a few minor typos, but nothing grievous. Layout adheres to the nice 2-column full-color standard of the series. The interior artwork is generally rather impressive and the full-color cartography is detailed and nice, where provided. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Joel Flank’s “Along Came a Spider” is a solid critter-theme module; the foes employed are pretty deadly for first level characters, making this a challenging, but fair module, particularly if the PCs don’t try to murder-hobo everything. I absolutely love the BBEG of this module and how it can be used as a great recurring villain that could theoretically carry a whole campaign – a tie-in with Fail Squad Games’ Fosc Anansi (or any drow-book) would e.g. be very much possible. That being said, while I enjoyed the module for the unpretentious offering that it is, it does suffer a bit from the village not being mapped and from the final boss fight having no map – here, some could terrain features and a creative arena would have added this cool final oomph to make this stand out.

Speaking of the BBEG – it may well be a bit too cool for its own good. Personally, when reading this, I figured that it read mostly like a prologue for the big saga, for the tough fight against the entity – an establishing shot, if you will. You may like that (I certainly do!), but be prepared to have your PCs focus on thwarting the entity afterwards – you will pretty much need to deliver a follow-up here, making the module potentially less self-contained than what some GMs are looking for. Personally, I would have also enjoyed the book making more use of its unique wood backdrop’s terrain features, but that is just me complaining at a high level.

That being said, structure-wise, this is a very vanilla adventure – it is pretty linear and while it delivers a good blend of challenges, you should not expect to be utterly blown away by what you’ll find here. All in all, this is a solid adventure, slightly on the positive side, which is why my review will clock in at 3.5 stars…but ultimately, I feel that I can’t round up for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider (PFRPG)
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The Vikmordere: Player Primer
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/15/2018 04:41:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 6 pages of sheets for notes/ancestral appellations, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This pdf was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by my patreons.

First things first: This is basically the Player-friendly, SPOILER-less and system-neutral version of Ancestral Appellations; it deals with the known fluff etc. and allows a Gm control over which items and abilities to allow/use. I wholeheartedly applaud this strategy.

So, what are the Vikmordere? As the nomenclature used in the introduction makes abundantly-clear, they are a culture of various indigenous peoples, steeped in the nomenclature and cultural trappings of Nordic myth, something I find myself inexorably drawn to. However, unlike pretty much all renditions of fantasy vikings, the Vikmordere are more than that: Basically, picture what would happen when you’d replace the (amazing!) fatalism and mythology with a mysticism that is, theme-wise, more in tune with Native American aesthetics. The Vikmordere, as such, employ a thoroughly unique blending of tropes that set them distinctly apart from both the depiction of pseudo-Native Americans or Vikings; they worship the ancestor spirit and still use observe the Old Ways, but in their remote and rugged valley, they have since dwindled in numbers…though, ultimately, they are very much feared beyond.

Their home, the rugged Vikmordere valley is depicted with notes on clime, flora and fauna painting a vivid and wondrous picture. Vikmordere society centers around the use of natural resources, and while they may once have worshipped petty and vengeful gods, they have, in a surprisingly enlightened and encompassing stance, since then resumed a form of ancestral worship that should resound with quite a few contemporaries. The clans and tribes do not sport a centralized government, though a sort of Þing-equivalent does exist around Serpent Lake, with the Northern Fury Council.

Does that sound too friendly for your tastes? Well, the Vikmordere in Aventyr (AAW Games’ default world) are basically surrounded by the Klavek kingdom, which seeks to exploit their natural resources; much like medieval Vikings, their ships are superior and they have a pronounced tradition of raiding and capturing individuals; while these captives may be considered to be slaves by some, the enlightened notions suffusing the culture also mean that these individuals are treated fairly, allowing them to gain freedom and integrate into the respective tribe, another notion that resounds with historic themes, while changing them in an intriguing manner.

Okay, at this point, you should have a good idea why I consider these fellows to be pretty much an amazing addition to a given world, but that is not where the pdf stops: In the lavishly-depicted map of Serpent Lake (included as a pretty glorious one-page version as well), we learn of the wondrous locales in the valley – from the Everflame Isle that houses a forest of red-leafed Everflame Trees in its sunken interior to Ighdenholm, the top of the world, ostensibly seat of mighty evil unvanquished to the snowfields of sorrow, where a particularly warm summer may well unearth artifacts of conflicts long past, the little write-ups are excellent.

Beyond that, we move on to something particularly important for the Vikmordere – their names. A d20-table with two columns allows you to create a spiritual name, with the first being a descriptor, the second a noun; in the aesthetics of Native Americans, you could thus end with a spirit name of “Sulking Sky” or “Ghost Shadow”; as per Norse/Icelandic nomenclatures, Vikmordere also often introduce themselves as “X, son of Y”, where Y would be the father’s (or mother’s!) name; in light of that, the massive 100-entry-strong table of sample names for males and females is certainly appreciated.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to the drop-dead gorgeous 2-column full-color standard for “Into the Wintery Gale”-supplements. The pdf sports excellent full-color artworks, though fans of AAW Games may be familiar with a few of them; same goes for the neat map. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Justin Andrew Mason, with contributions from Jonathan G. Nelson, delivers something I have been keen to see for a while: More information on one of my favorite cultures in current fantasy roleplaying. The Vikmordere have, even during the humble beginnings of AAW Games, been something that set world and modules apart; their culture, practices etc. feel plausible and fresh in a way that we don’t get to see that often.

You see, in many Tolkienesque fantasy (or non-Tolkienesque fantasy, for that matter), the depiction of cultures most often employs a construction-paradigm alongside the line of least resistance:

“Like culture x, but with twist z.” This twist is then thought through to its logical conclusion, with different degrees of success. Sometimes, something amazing comes from that procedure. However, most of the part, we end up being…well. Bored. Okay, so elves, but Egyptian. Got it. Okay, so dwarves are Scotsmen, got it. Elves that are touched by fire/abyss/etc.

Notice something? Those tropes, in and of themselves, have become cliché in the games we play. It is my ardent belief that they are responsible for the tendency often bemoaned by old-school gamers, that races are just stats in more modern games. And know what? Thinking back, I can relate. When I started playing, the German AD&D supplements about races talked about gnomish roby wine, about elven funeral customs, etc. and painted a picture far beyond “You get +2 to two attributes”; The cultures, while Tolkienesque, were WONDROUS, because they felt like more than an accumulation of stats. It is from this solely number-based design aesthetic, that soulless “template” racial variants sprang. If I had a dime for every lame desert-x variant of a race I had to read over the years…but I digress.

As a result of the customization-demands of modern gamers, many racial supplements have simply lost the means to make a culture/ethnicity/race feel plausible…and as a result, gamers skip the ever shortening flavor-texts; it’s a vicious circle and most folks that have encountered it are probably not even aware of it. So, back in the day, when I was tearing through AAW Games’ first offerings, the crew asked me what I’d consider to be their greatest strength.

I replied that it’s hard to grasp, and frankly, it took me a while to enunciate my feelings properly. As someone with a basic grasp of cultural anthropology and social sciences, it dawned upon me that one crucial, undeniable strength was that they managed to tap into a sense of wonder, while remaining plausible. I could picture this strange culture that never was…and in another world, it may well have been. Beyond just a blending and twisting of tropes, the details elevate the culture beyond a mere blending of themes, to something that is separate, but thoroughly distinct from its parents.

While the elevator pitch for the Vikmordere would be “Viking Native Americans”, that ultimately does not do them justice; I find myself excited, always, for new adventures set in the Vikmordere valley, always in the hopes of learning something new…and that is something only precious few cultures have managed to accomplish in the last couple of years.

It should be noted, that the similarities to parent cultures, while only running skin-deep, also allow the Vikmordere to be easily and seamlessly plugged into pretty much any fantasy world; it is only slowly that they transcend the connotations of their parent cultures, becoming something different…which may, in and of itself, generate a sense of tension and excitement at your table.

In short: This is a really good, system-neutral first look at the Vikmordere, one that does not SPOIL any of the modules featuring them, while giving players a good first grasp of these peoples. That being said, for maximum fun, I’d urge you to use this differently: Make the PCs part of an expedition; have them encounter and interact with the Vikmordere, separate fact from fiction…I used that particular strategy in my own campaign to great effect.

…yeah, I think I like these fellows. In fact, I find myself hoping that AAW Games will continue to craft their thoroughly and unique races and cultures, above the ground and below. My final verdict? Well, have I mentioned that this is FREE? As in “costs $0.00”? Yeah, I’d strongly suggest downloading this – well worth checking out! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Vikmordere: Player Primer
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Everyman Minis: Esoteric Implements
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/15/2018 04:38:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Everyman Minis-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, after a brief introduction, we are introduced to the concept of esoteric implements; In case you’re not familiar with the idea, here goes: Basically, they capitalize on the amazing roleplaying potential ingrained in the occultist class (easily one of my favorite classes, btw.) – implements, per default, can be exchanged, but ostensibly are supposed to have some deeper narrative meaning/connection. This is not only a great adventuring catalyst, it also allows groups and GMs to generate meaning and mythology and ultimately represents one of my favorite concepts in Occult Adventure’s class design, one that has been overlooked by quite a few folks since the occultist, as presented, is less flashy than his brethren.

But I digress: Esoteric implements, as depicted herein, would hence be special implements that grant specific powers when invested with mental focus. As such, the items herein do come with brief background stories as well as prices, construction requirements, etc. Basically, these are items that represent specialist replacement resonant powers and as such. Blur the line between item and class option. We get a total of 4 such esoteric implements herein, the first of which would be Gorduin’s Obscuring Cap, which is particularly useful to those with the illusion implement school; mirroring the former wearer, an assassin overexposed to illusions, the cap grants occultists with that school of at least 7th level the ability to form a blanket guise that may conceal a whole array of magic items from detection´, though this is a resonant power that replaces distortion. Furthermore, at 9th level, with at least 6 focus invested, the wearer can gain the benefits of misdirection.

The Hypnotizing Pendant was once worn by a failed bard, who used her powers to convince the audience she was any good; as such, it is an implement for occultists with the enchantment implement school. The power is also unlocked at 7th level, though this time around, it is a focus power and lets the occultist duplicate either hypnotism or lock gaze via mental focus expenditure, with higher levels yielding more targets affected. Slightly weird, but only on an aesthetic level: While unlocked at 7th level, the determining level for more targets s based on 6th, which may be an anomaly or a minor hiccup. Power-wise, I don’t mind the presentation as such and the rules are intact.

Revenge of the Unknown Mercenary would be a robe for occultists with the necromancy implement school; it is the robe of a mercenary’s soul, fused with his fabrics during a horrid expedition into the negative energy plane; as such, it should surprise no one that it is a necromancy implement. The required level for the power would be 9th. The robe grants the focus power to expend 1 point of mental focus as a standard action to grant yourself a shroud of negative energy, which bestows a temporary negative level on those unlucky enough to hit you with melee or natural attacks. The negative level lasts 24 hours, the activation of the power 1 minute or until it is discharged thus, at which point it requires another activation to replenish. 13th level provides the option to activate it as a move or standard action.

Finally, there would be the Dangersight Goggles, which sport a bit of a weird inconsistency: They are obviously intended for divination specialists (7th level requirement), representing the semi-sentient goggles of an ascended samsaran, but they note enchantment implement school as a prerequisite. (The correct school is noted in construction requirements.)(Also: The focus power they grant is formatted in italics, when it should have its name bolded.) The focus power granted is pretty brutal: Expend 1 point of mental focus for +1/2 occultist level to initiative when rolling it…or act in a surprise round in which you usually wouldn’t be able to act as though you rolled a 1, excluding all bonuses and penalties. After the surprise round, you get to properly roll initiative. The powers are mutually exclusive, since the implement has a 1-minute cooldown. This implement can be very potent in PF’s gameplay and should get close GM-scrutiny; initiative boosts can be very, very potent…particularly in mythic gameplay. Personally, I’d increase the cost of the item’s use…particularly since its flavor mentions wearers over-relying on it…sounds like me like a cool angle to nerf this, which is just what I’ll do.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, for the most part, are very good. As noted, the final item has a few minor hiccups, one of which can cause a bit of confusion. Layout adheres to the printer-friendly two-column standard of the series and the pdf sports a nice full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jen McTeague’s esoteric implements are fun,. Interesting and left me wanting more; while the minor hiccups in the final one detract a bit from the pdf, I ultimately still consider it to be a great and inspiring resource for occultists and GMs alike; in fact, I’d love to see a bigger book (or more minis!) that provide such unique implements; sky and creativity are basically the limits here! All in all, a mini worth getting, which is why my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Esoteric Implements
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Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States vol 3
Publisher: Violent Media
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/15/2018 04:37:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of this experimental series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons.

So, in case you’ve been wondering – yes, this is just as experimental and weird as the previous two installments – instead of a standard RPG-supplement, this should be considered to be part poetry, part prose and this time around, it is thoroughly concerned with concepts, not any rules – this is essentially system neutral and should be considered to be a glimpse at a disturbing, psychedelic post-apocalyptic and surreal world. We begin this installment with an expansion of splotch-like overview map of the regions covered so far in the series, with the new locales added.

We move from the forest of dead electric, to the waxy green swaths of rocks, with no plant-life, just sparse rain, naked stone and terrible crystals, an emerald wasteland of poisonous salts – the serpentine stretches as depicted in the prose here is a hostile environment par excellence. Within it, there is “The Only City” – the second strange geography.

“There is only one city. They know this. […]” – only braving death in the wasteland may revoke this hypothesis…and there is not much food; soil is mostly poisonous and so, all inhabitants are both skinny and gourmands…the repercussions, though, are left between the lines… And a brief piece of poetry complements the life there atop an eerily captivating image of a city raised atop a tower, overhanging like a flat disc growing on a treetrunk, with escalators or feeding tendrils hanging low, reminiscent of a deep-sea creature from another world. Those condemned have arsenic bronze locked into their hands, sent to mine in the poisonous crater lake, with lethal poppy as the reward for cooperation – basically, the sword & sorcery forced labor trope, through a shade both weird and familiar. 6 sample and obscure reasons for being arrested in the city (including “Displaying unkind eyes”), and mention that horses aren’t real – in spite of there being a horse fountain. It’s small tidbits like this that generate a whole cascade of ideas in my mind – and that you may well enjoy as well.

Beyond the city, there is also the Burning God. The pdf notes: “Some need to see the face of god, and will accept nothing less than suffering.” - a faded sign beckons in the desert and a strange fire awaits beneath air thick with ozone and religion; it is an AI, a strange thing, pondering a question for ages,a question that led to solipsism and made it evolve into what it pondered, at least to itself, and what else matters? Expectations of generations of pilgrims expecting to suffer has twisted any and all notions of divinity; the entity knows many things and is bad information, filtered through not enough logic circuits – it is, in short, a rather scathing satire if you read between the lines…or, well, you could make it just a literal form of adversary, you know?

So, the third of Evey Lockhart’s pdfs of this series also has no bookmarks, sports the neat, disquieting and weird experimental artworks. It sports the same style of information as the previous pdfs – it is an exploration of weird geographies and as such, it is pretty inspiring…though to me, #3 does not reach the full-blown wonder of #2. The concepts here, both the city and the burning god, are well-executed and interesting; their details are intriguing and smart…but the pdf still doesn’t reach the thoroughly inspiring genius of #2, as both are variants of classic tropes, while #2 was just pure, unbridled creativity. For PWYW, this is very much worth checking out, though! And since it is less weird than #2 and more palatable than #1, it may be the best pdf to check out the unique brand of weirdness this offers for people less familiar with experimental fiction. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States vol 3
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Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States vol 2
Publisher: Violent Media
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/15/2018 04:34:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of this series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons.

This series should be understood as experimental – it is in part artwork and visualized, experimental poetry/prose as well as an almost system-neutral kinda-regional setting. The first pages provides a page, with graphs and splotches of color – these note the locations of #1’s places as well as new ones; the first of these would be the radian forest[sic!] – no, that’s no typo. We get three pictures of a forest, with shifted colors, creating a surprisingly effective, unsettling visual experience that underscores the poetry of the write-ups – take e.g. the outskirts:

“Just outside, living trees still

Hide. Sprouting bodies.

Leaves grasp at the sun.

Generation and Degradation.

Metallic sings grass yellow-

Green, springing

Underfoot.”

If this inspires you, then chances are good you’ll like this pdf, as it goes on to note green fleeing from the forests, orange ascendant; Rain hates and breaks and jumps circuits, unearthing filaments of old gods and dead alike.

The wire slime, a bio-metallurgical processing colony, is next; the tale of its spread and genesis is covered in a one-page prose-section that is supplemented by rudimentary rules for weapon and tech-degradation. From here, we move to 4 system neutral forest tribes – one has the custom of purchasing adulthood with the willing removal of a body part; another consists of radical nudists; another is led by a stoned space-cadet shaman…and there are people sans eyes and ears that communicate via smells…6 armaments are provided and range from ancestral laser guns to hardened vine spears or weaponized slime. There is no differentiation between damage types, fyi.

And then, there is the cabin & the TV. Why and How is it still here? It is a watertight plastic room with a thin plastic TV. “DO NOT” and “Turn Off” are gouged into the frame; the bullet-point notes of the room paint a puzzling, stark image. Ancient sitcom issues amuse people whose realities include electric slavery and warlords; “Perhaps despair coalesces along certain frequencies. Perhaps secret wishes for an ending manifest physically in two dimensions. An X axis of canned laughter. A Y axis of inchoate sorrow.” – that is powerful prose right there, and it leads in and pertains to the reason the TV must be turned off when broadcast ends – in the visuals of two artworks, it can be found, lurking in the signal, waiting to emerge – the static dragon, impossibly sharp. It gains HD while static persists. It may quickly become unstoppable. It is pretty damn amazing.

Much like its predecessor, this supplement is highly experimental, but it is imho better in every way – it does not require shock value to sell its psychedelic, savage strangeness, instead providing a level of original imagination that felt as though Psychic TV or Throbbing Gristle had written an RPG-supplement; this borders the line of art and gaming supplement and I’m frankly not sure where I’d put it. It is more immediately usable than the first installment and the prose, similarly, has improved in quality. I thoroughly loved the weirdness and otherness of this supplement. If you’re looking for something inspiring (and/or enjoy weird poetry/prose), then check this out right now. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States vol 2
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Letters from the Flaming Crab: Libraries
Publisher: Flaming Crab Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2018 05:03:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the cool Letters from the Flaming Crab series clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of editorial, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, we begin this pdf, as always, with a great little letter dropped from the planes- and worlds-hopping vessel UCS Flaming Crab, found and faithfully transcribed by J Gray – and we begin this pdf with a brief recap of the institutions of libraries before defining it – for the purpose of this book and fantastic contexts, a library ultimately is a collection of information and similar forms of entertainment, composed most often, of written words. This definition, as the pdf acknowledges, is rather technical, though – ultimately, a library is more. If you have ever walked the hallsof a proper university library or perhaps even the thoroughly impressive ancient ones out there and felt the sheer awe they inspire, you’ll know what I meant. The nature and composition of the books, its building and nature all thoroughly influence the character of the place, a notion that can be easily amplified in a fantastic context, while knowledge even more directly translates to power than in our world.

Now, the pdf begins with a general step-by-step guideline regarding the creation of libraries – first, one should determine the type: Whether public or private, and then we move on to take a look at accessibility – after all, pretty much all governments, particularly those inclined towards totalitarian modes of operation, have a tendency to restrict access and information…same goes, obviously, for religions: Heresy, false information – the propaganda conflicts of the medieval ages once more sound pretty contemporary these days, in our brave new world…so yeah, society, groups and persons that established the libraries will ultimately define the accessibility and themes of a library. Similarly, circulation is a potential issue – curators, librarians and assistants, organization and audience should be taken into account. Nice: The effects of the various starting attitudes of curators have been noted, with extensive behavior guidelines for the GM – and yes, friendly curators can have pretty nice tangible benefits for the PCs.

Now, the pdf employs Ultimate Intrigue’s nice research rules to provide a vast variety of different libraries – these come with several research thresholds each and sport interesting ideas that rang from the obvious adventure angle to the more fantastic – there is e.g. the Dwarven Mining College Library, which can yield important notes on hidden veins of ore…and there’s a wagon of children#s books, some of which cannot be deciphered by adults and only make sense to children reading them…who curiously never tell what they read. If you wanted an excuse to employ Everyman gaming’s cool Childhood Adventures-rules…there you go! Mistress Sandwind’s unfinished magnum opus’ trail can be found beneath the desert sands. Another interesting example would be a national library (minor complaint here: One line is missing blank spaces – a little layout hiccup, I guess…) and, following the pretty loose definition of “library”, the court of Lishaz, sage of winter, is provided as an interesting example of an unconventional library.

Within a sunken city, last remnant of a once resplendent civilization, beckons – all those that can reach it. Reading rooms can be found…and the medical collection of a temple comes with a rare disease that only very few are susceptible to…and notes on how it could be caused. So if you’re looking for a Dr. House-like story to tell, there you go. Speaking of plague: Pcture a metropolis, wrecked, like clockwork, every 150 years by a plague – and holds e.g. a hidden mummy…and ancient pictographs may well hold the secret to end this scourge. Oh, and yes, there is a virtual library, remnant of a crashed starship, so if you’re enjoying a bit of sword & planet/science-fantasy, this has you covered.

Okay, after this pretty diverse and inspiring chapter, we move on to defining and discussing a variety of different document types – from tablets to codices to the virtual, this section is nice…and then, we move on to one aspect of PFRPG near and dear to my heart. As a polyglot and language-nerd, I always hated how most d20-based systems, including PFRPG, handle languages – one skill point per language?? Seriously? Anyways, this trivializes many of the cool scenes and hooks I enjoy in horror literature, sword & sorcery, etc. – hence e.g. the elimination of common in my games…and some house-rules. The pdf proposes a rather simple and elegant system here, one that is focused on gradient fluency. There are 3 general levels: Competent, fluent and proficient – if you ever took a language test, you should be familiar with the meanings, right. For each skill point in Linguistics gained, you assign two fluency points. This makes mastering a language a bit more complex and allows the GM finer distinction between proficiency-levels…and allows for more complex roleplaying situations. The benefits and limitations of the respective fluency levels are concisely defined, with proficiency providing minor benefits to award specialization – I really, really like this solution! Huge plus for the pdf here and what I’d consider to be a selling point – if you’re planning an occult, horror or intrigue-based campaign (or one with a more sword and sorcery-esque theme), then this should be considered to be mandatory reading. And yes, the rules are simple and rewarding enough to not overly complicate any book-keeping required – I’d suggest a superscript C, F or P noted with the languages. As a final aside here: Knowing a few words to get around is covered – really helpful!

Really cool, btw.: The pdf has collected a whole page of class options, items and spells that tie in with the concept of libraries – helpful and neat…kudos for going the extra mile here.

The pdf also sports some class options, the first of which would be the library subdomain, which is associated with Community and Knowledge, replacing either calming touch or lore keeper, respectively. The ability granted is narrative gold: Mind palace lets you read a tome as part of your morning prayers, allowing you to nigh-perfectly recall content, reflected by a bonus to Knowledge checks that scales with levels. This is gold for detective scenarios and sports a really nice imagery; it is also convenient for narrative games, as the quicker study can be helpful indeed. There is also a new oracle mystery, the words mystery, which nets Linguistics and Perform as class skills. Bonus spells range from the usual suspects like comprehend languages to spellcasting contracts, being a bit more vanilla than the notably cool replacement domain spells provided by the cleric subdomain. (Which include, just fyi, psychic asylum (library only) – which made me recall one of my favorite scenes from the Hannibal franchise. But I digress. The revelations available in the mystery are interesting – there is e.g. automatic writing that is prophetic and later upgraded to commune (spell-italicization missing)…which is interesting, but I consider it cooler to learn about an author by analyzing a text written – this makes for a pretty cool tool, which, at higher levels, also duplicates spell-effects. Here, the italicization’s correct, just fyi. Countering effects based on written or spoken words a limited amount of times per day is cool, but I am not 100% sold on how it works – you see, it references countersong as how it works – but countersong is based on bardic performance rounds, while the ability instead has a daily use array, which you’d expect from e.g. an immediate action counter ability and which makes it quite hard to decipher how this is supposed to work. Clarification would be appreciated here. “Esoteri Research”[sic!] is utterly broken. It lets you research spells from one class list of your choice as though they were two levels lower. Once you complete research of the spell, you gain it at +1 spell level as an oracle spell. Notice the issue? Well, oracles are limited by being spontaneous casters and their limited spell array – this allows you to basically use research to not only poach in another spell-list, it also eliminates the limit imposed on the spellcasting of the class. Not cool.

The next revelation is not properly formatted and looks like a continuation of the previous revelation, having its name indented as well. It is written has a terminology issue: Once per day, you can write a spell in air, earth or paper. (Oddly specific – why not in water?) The spell then is treated as not having verbal or “cheap material components” - okay, what is cheap? No cost? Anything below 1 gp? No idea. This is not proper rules language. Gaining access to symbol spells is nice and I really like the idea of swift action enlarging pens, quills, etc. to act as longswords, with a bit of class-level-based bonus damage. The ability only allows for one attack before reverting to standard size, though, and with a swift action and limited daily activations, is unfortunately rather weak. I really like the visuals of wall of text: You yammer on, creating a wall that deflects arrows, etc. – basically a variant wall of sound…and once more, the interaction with the referenced base are what sinks this. You see, it can be maintained for 10 (!!!) minutes per class level and you may spend them in 10-minute increments; unlike the spell, you do NOT RAW need concentration to maintain it. I am also not sure if it cause wall of sound’s damage…or not. Instead of the damage, the wall seems to be able to STUN targets on a failed save for ridiculously long times. Even stranger – the ability has a separate stun chance when near the oracle, which implies that the oracle needs to be directly behind the wall…which contradicts the range of wall of sound and leaves me utterly incapable of determining of how this should work. All in all, a promising mystery that is severely hampered by its rules-issues.

The final component of the pdf would be a magic item, the bookring, whose gems can hold non-magical tomes – which ends the pdf on a high note and with some cool, inspiring ideas.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not as good as usual for the series – I have noticed a couple of typo-level glitches and the rules-language hiccups I found are pretty obvious and left me a bit puzzled. Layout adheres to Flaming Crab Games’ nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf employs neat, thematically fitting artworks – some from public domain and some really nice books with landscapes on their pages, visualizing the imaginary process.

June Bordas, Lindsey Shanks-Abel and Margherita Tramontano deliver a per se really cool installment here: I absolutely adored the section on libraries, the GM-guidelines and the fluency-section is gold – personally, I’ll employ an even finer distinction, but the rules are simple and concise enough to allow a GM easy modification: I’d suggest, for example, paying off of competence penalties and/or gaining proficiency benefits on a point-for-benefit-basis. I pretty much liked everything about this book apart from the formal hiccups and the disappointing oracle mystery, which represents a weird dip in overall quality; it is more vanilla than the subdomain and falls e.g. short of R.O.D.’s (Read or Die for non-Otakus – an anime classic) extensive tricks…or the more down to earth research tricks. Balancing of this one is really wonky as well and it drags, alongside the smaller glitches, down what otherwise would be a truly excellent supplement. As written, I cannot go higher than 4.5 stars, rounded down, as I have to rate the whole book as a reviewer. If you can look past a couple of minor glitches and the mystery, then you should consider this a 5 star + seal file instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Libraries
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