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Ancient Idols
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/19/2017 03:42:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, 2 pages of introduction leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, both fiction and real-world mythology are chock-full with the concept of idols – statues or physical representations of quasi-deities worshiped as false gods; whether it’s the golden calf or jade serpents found by hale Cimmerians in the depths of forbidding ruins. Considering their eminence in fiction etc., it is pretty surprising that PFRPG so far had no rules-representation of the concept of idols in game. This pdf seeks to change that.

So, how does it go about this task? Well, idols behave as something akin to quasi-deific crossover creatures that blend aspects of sentient magic items and creatures – they, for example, sport an ego-score that increases depending on the amount of people worshiping the idol in question. Similarly, other qualities are gained – senses, for example, improve, and so do the defensive capabilities of these items. Interesting: The ability to draw on power from worshipers is contingent on the idol in question actually managing to impose its ideology/alignment on the folks worshiping the idol – this provides a sensible means for the concept of the idol trying to maintain a hardliner approach to its doctrine.

Now, an interesting thing about idols would be that they can’t just be destroyed by bashing them to pieces – they are very much story-adversaries and have roleplaying thus hard-coded into their very fibers. Beyond the basic powers, idols can benefit from sacrifices, gaining additional benefits when magic items are willingly sacrificed to them – and of course, evil idols also draw sustenance from blood sacrifice, which is more abundant than magic items, obviously. This does explain the potentially bad reputation of idols in the context of the game, mirroring real-life stigmatization of idolatry via the dominant book-religions. All of these powers do come with limits – however, holy days may allow the idol to surpass the sacrificial limits. Holy days are typically 3 days a year, determined by the GM and are concisely defined. Now, the idol relying on the power of worshipers does have a downside – Idol entropy, which means that they may fall into dormancy.

Now, the idol engine presented herein provides a significant array of abilities, ranging from channel energy to animating stuff, to gaining the option to enthrall others. One ability is gained at an ego-score of 5, and for every 5 ego afterwards. At an ego-score of 10 and every 10 ego thereafter, the idol also gains an ability that is only available on holy days.

If all of that is not yet enough customization for you, there also would be the Idol Champion template – these beings would be the idol-powered champions of the idol in question, benefiting from the idol’s powers, but at the cost of servitude. Really cool: The pdf goes on to provide a really cool tool that I adored: Since idols are often created on/near ley lines, the pdf addresses one of the most annoying aspects of ley lines v- the need to plan them in advance. With an easy to grasp and quick to roll check, you can simply determine, based on terrain type, nearby sights etc., the presence of a ley line. This may just be a small tool, but I really, really liked it. Speaking of which: Idols are tied to the spirit world and as such, some of the idol abilities pertain to spirits – a category concisely and professionally defined by the pdf. Big plus there!

Okay, so we’ve seen the basic set-up…and now, we take a look at the process of idol creation, which is detailed in an impressive manner: Idol stats by ego-score, bonus hardness/hit points, save bonuses, ability-numbers, suggested CR – all collated in one handy table. One glimpse and you know the modifications. Similarly, idol sizes are assigned sizes – and the didactically-sound process of creation is admirably clear as well. The pdf goes so far as to comment on the use of mythic ranks to bypass the construct-size/CR-restrictions in a sensible manner that actually conforms to the rules – other publishers/authors would have shrugged and just assumed that the idols bypass this restriction. Going one step beyond to retain rules-integrity, even when they may not necessarily make sense…that’s a huge, huge plus, particularly as the system unlocks more freedom for the GM to customize the idol.

Don’t want to simply handcraft anything? We get the basic stats (sans the customizable components) of idols, organized by CR – a TON of them. Over 5 pages of these basic stats. Yeah, that is pretty damn amazing and, as a whole, this makes idols my favorite monster class in a long, long while.

The pdf does contain more than the rules for this evocative monster – namely class options, the first of which would be the Qahin shaman archetype. This is not a cookie-cutter archetype – it’s pretty much the antithesis of that: The Qahin modifies pretty much everything: Class skills, proficiencies (including a restriction against wearing metal armor) -pretty cool. However, where things become interesting is with idol worship. Instead of spirit animal, the qahin taps into the worship of his idol (replacement rules included) and 4th level provides wandering spirit as well as the requirement to create an idol associated to the spirit. The qahin also gains Mental Focus (1 + shaman level) and an implement school, and at first level, mental focus can be invested in the idol and used to activate focus powers. 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter yield an additional implement school. Unlike an occultist, shamans can use a single idol to act as the collective of implements. 3rd level and whenever he gains another implement, the qahin gains the base focus power of the implement. 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield an additional focus power. The save-DC, if present, is governed by Wisdom and class level etc. interaction is concisely defined. The archetype also gains +1 CL when using shaman spells of the implement school when wielding the idol. Even feat-access is covered. Slight, mostly cosmetic complaint: The ability is a bit harder to grasp regarding when it’s gained than it should be.

At 10th level, the archetype can create a ley line nexus attuned to an object (or an idol/animated object), which will allow beings to tap into the nexus – a pretty cool ability. Haven’t seen the like done before! The main meat of the archetype, however, would be the vast array of exclusive hexes, with 10th level unlocking nexus hexes, basically the major hexes of the archetype. The hexes are surprisingly diverse and intriguing and make the respective focus of the archetype change significantly: We have exorcisms, covens, the option to create an arcane bond amulet, save-bonuses versus hexes, possessions, etc., focus-based rerolls, added spells and Craft Construct, less reliance on being close to the idol, ley line surges, haunt-disruptions – all in all, a meaningful, fun selection. Among the 10th level plus hexes, we have the ability to store spells in the idol nexus, merge objects and willing creatures with the idol, travel along the ley lines, spontaneous metamagic-use…basically, these hexes unlock synergy benefits with the ley line nexus in a thoroughly intriguing manner.

Okay, so while the idol focus ability could be worded slightly better, the meaningful options and cool ideas render this my favorite shaman archetype so far. Why? Because it could conceivably carry whole campaigns: If you e.g. replace all clerics and druids with these fellows, you’ll have a glorious set-up for a grim world where qahin battle for supremacy, perhaps full-blown deific ascendance. Yeah, I do want to play that.

The pdf also sports a new PrC, the idolater, who must have discovered a site of power, be capable of casting divine or psychic spells and sport a couple of skill ranks in the Knowledge skills, with 5 ranks acting as the prerequisite threshold. The PrC gain 4 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, ½ Fort- and Will-saves, 9/10th spellcasting progression (either divine of psychic spells). The PrC nets the qahin’s idol focus, access to idol hexes…and there is a bit of an issue here: Idol worship and Idol worship’s text is identical, when it shouldn’t be. The PrC also nets spirit magic, which provides a limited number of spells to spontaneously cast. The class also gets basically the qahin’s taboos. 2nd level nets a CL and Spellcraft bonus is a chosen terrain. At 4th level, we treat weapons etc. as ghost touch (not properly italicized) and at 8th level, incorporeal creatures are fully affected by the idolater’s abilities. 5th level unlocks the improved level 10 nexus hexes and the ability to establish an idol nexus. The capstone provides a fey-apotheosis, including the assumption of incorporeal state for up to 10 rounds as a standard action.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, bordering on excellence. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of Legendary Games’ Mummy’s Mask-plug-ins. The pdf sports several really nice pieces of full-color artworks, though fans of Legendary Games will be familiar with most of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Legendary Games has a ridiculously high level of quality-control regarding their books. There are few publishers that manage to achieve such a level of quality time and again. However, once in a while, Legendary Games makes something else, something that comes completely out of left field and takes me by surprise – this book is one such case.

Until I started reading this book by Julian Neale and Jason nelson, I frankly didn’t realize how much I wanted to have it: The concept of idols is glorious, their execution excellent. Their creation is explained in a concise and easy to grasp manner. The book provides, in short, a monster class that can arguably carry whole campaign settings. Looking for a way to create a world sans deities? This pdf has you covered! The qahin is by far my favorite shaman archetype ever – it unlocks whole types of campaigns, particularly in games that prefer a grittier, more Sword & Sorcery-esque type of gameplay.

This pdf is also a great example of two designers blending their strengths: Julian Neale traditionally generates math-intense, hard to design supplements, but sometimes misses attaching a concept that immediately draws you in – he isn’t about flashy concepts, more about substance in depth. The influence of Jason Nelson here is similarly palpable, providing some boosts in that regard – and the result is GLORIOUS. In spite of the minor hiccups in the class options, this pdf blew me away: The idols are amazing and the class options, in spite of the (few) minor rough patches are similarly inspired.

Now here’s the thing: This humble pdf inspired me more than a ton of comparable books; to the point where it made me come up with a vast amount of ideas. For example, I will use it extensively in conversion: Idols are, for example, found in the great DCC-module “The Falcate Idol” – with this one, I have pretty much my work cut out for me. And yes, this campaign idea of competing qahin vying for supremacy…I actually want to run it. In short: This is one fantastic book. The minor blemishes are the only reason this doesn’t make my list for the Top Ten of 2017…but seriously, if the concept interests you even slightly, get this now! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ancient Idols
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20 Things #18: Troublesome Treasures (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/19/2017 03:41:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We all have been there: The point where the treasure to be found in a dungeon just becomes gems, coins etc. for convenience’s sake. One of the best things about RSP’s dressing files is that such aspects of the game, which generally hamper immersion, are reduced – and this is where this pdf comes in.

We begin with 10 difficult to sell treasures that include depictions of nasty Nosferatu-style vampires, bulky, but supple bundles containing high-quality torture equipment, a poisoner’s dagger and sealed boxes that may well contain magical remnants of creatures. Another aspect that often falls by the wayside would be that magic items often don’t feel unreliable, raw, magical – too scientific, sterile, if you will. 10 minor curses that may lurk in a magic item help here: Minor interference with healing magic, increasing obsession, susceptibility to bright light, a remnant werewolf’s taint…

Also a favorite of mine, since it can really test a group’s mettle and even create an adventure of its own: Bulky treasure. It can make for really hard decisions: Carry the treasure and accept the encumbrance? Or opt for quickness? What about carting all the loot back? Bulky treasures can be amazing and the 20 included here are diverse, ranging from steel cages to ball gowns or silver display bowls. Similarly fun, but for a different reason, would be the 20 fragile treasures included in the pdf – and here, we have truly amazing ideas: For example a laughably huge quill made from a roc’s feather with a silver tip. Purely ceremonial weaponry, glass chandeliers…really neat table here.

The final table once again taps into the aforementioned sense of the magical, sporting 20 minor drawbacks for items, which include inheriting gluttonous tendencies from the crafter, glowing in random lights, being bad for the user’s hair (a bane for dwarves!) or being imprinted depression/negativity – the pdf sports a neat variety here and as a whole, this section

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks are really nice. Additionally, the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use - kudos for going the extra mile there! The pdf sports several pieces of nice b/w-artworks.

Creighton Broadhurst’s treasure-dressing file is a definite highlight in the series, taking some of the most variable dressings you can ask for – from the mundane to the wondrous, this covers all bases and provides a surprising amount of cool material for such a small dressing file. Highly recommended! This receives 5 stars + my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #18: Troublesome Treasures (System Neutral Edition)
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Thank for your this review, Endzeitgeist. I'll treasure it! ;-)
1KWA-2: The Coin Purse's Strings
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/19/2017 03:39:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, this little system-neutral adventure-sketch clocks in at 3 pages 1 page front cover, 2 pages of content.

This being basically a system-neutral adventure outline in precious few words, I do not expect earth-shattering storylines here.

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

..

.

As the PCs travel to the bustling city of Reyston, the PCs encounter the local guard – the Untarnished, who are looking for shaven coins…and of course, they take in the PCs, with the shopkeepers caving before the guard’s pressure. Liam Cunningham, the captain of the guard, lets the PCs stew in their cells for a few days…before the PCs are sentenced and fined. He offers to let the PCs hunt down the real culprits to cleanse their name and repay their debt to society.

The PCs are given a rough map of the city (not included in the pdf). There are various trails to pursue: The sewers house cultists…and the thieves’ guild, who waste no time pointing their fingers at others, but deny being involved. The beggars can provide information, but are notoriously stingy. The local church, helmed by Archimandrite Claderus, seems to have been compromised – rumors abound that the holy man’s been seen with gaudy jewels and drunken… The lord-mayor Johann is equal parts scoundrel and businessman. The merchant guild seeks to increase its power in town…and rumors abound about shady newcomers.

Yep, this is less of one mini-adventure and more like a pretty nice frame-narrative to connect different, unrelated sidetrek – and it does that job rather well…particularly when the PCs realize who the culprit is, and why the coin-shaving operation was started in the first place…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to a relatively printer-friendly 2-column full-color standard with a mostly white background. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Brian Berg (with additional content by PJ Harn and James Lewis) delivers a cool storyline that can easily be used to connect various different scenarios: You won’t need to modify anything about the scenarios, as virtually every module sports coins. In short: This is a cool way to add a leitmotif, a context, a progression to a series of otherwise unrelated modules. As a stand-alone, the adventure is a bit sketch-like, but the classic plots employed in the respective hooks make synergy with other adventures really simple. Still, if you want to use this on its own, I’d rate this at 4 stars.

However, I really love this type of meta-plot and use the like a lot – as such, I can wholeheartedly recommend this humble, inexpensive pdf for that purpose. When used this way, this should be considered to be 5 stars. For my final verdict, I will settle on 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
1KWA-2: The Coin Purse's Strings
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Everyman Minis: Mysteries of Summer
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/18/2017 04:16:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This Everyman Mini begins, as they all do, with a nice, brief introduction page that also contains, this time around, a new spell, namely the wall of light – this represents a blinding curtain of light (closing eyes can negate the blindness, unless passing through), and the wall is particularly potent versus creatures from the plane of shadow. Nice visuals! (Yeah, groan-worthy reviewer-pun. I know.)

The main meat of the mini is taken up, surprise, by the summer mystery, which adds Knowledge (nature), Perception, Survival and Swim to the list of class skills. Bonus spell-wise, we have a strong fire-and light-theme, starting off with produce flame and moving with unbearable brightness, the new spell and sirocco to the higher level sun- spells and finally, to fiery body. Now, unsurprisingly, we get the flame mystery’s heat aura (sans wasting the wordcount) among the revelations.

The revelations include a blistering touch that may stagger foes temporarily if they fail their save. Gaining Flaming Spell and being able to use it a number of times sans increasing the casting time…some solid tricks. I particularly liked Heatstroke, which can add fatigue (non-stacking) to spells with fire or light descriptors for a limited duration. I also am partial to Midsummer’s Dream, which generates a fascination-inducing effect that makes the creatures behave as though in their favorite summer retreat – and they even are warmed as though the dream was real! There is an amazing expedition to the frigid ridges angle herein! Pretty cool: There is a revelation that draws sustenance from the sun’s rays, including, at higher levels, the option to rest quicker – and kudos here, it does not break the usual limitations of spell preparation. A solar body form that can damage nearby targets and at higher level blinds them also makes for a nice image.

Gaining some illusion bonus spells is damn cool, as is being a summer child that can stand the heat. Finally, you can afflict foes with nasty sunburns with your light spells (slightly weird: fire is exempt here, when the other abilities all affect fire and light). The final revelation nets you a DC-increase and the option to cast 3/day miracle, but only to duplicate fire or light spells.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column standard with a white background, making this relatively printer-friendly. The pdf sports a nice full-color artwork and has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Margherita Tramontano’s mysteries of summer are cool: The added effects, concisely-worded, make for a fun and tactical array of options and the revelations often are pretty creative. The dual focus of heat and light make sense and elevate this beyond being just another fire-specialist. That may just be me, but I had this vision of a lone oracle walking through the scorching, hot mesas with a smile on her face and a song on her lips. The revelations provide a variety of cool and meaningful options. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform since the mystery manages to present a rather well-rounded array of options.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Mysteries of Summer
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20 Things #17: Goblin Lair (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/18/2017 04:14:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All righty, we begin with 10 sample goblin personalities: From matron Ghalga Many-whelps to long-armed Fongoa Strangelsgood, these are pretty cool gobo-ideas – I know they made me want to generate stats for them, which is always a good sign regarding dressing.

After these, we take a look at 10 looting entries – goblin common room and goblin chieftain’s room each get 10 entries. The former can e.g. sport rickety pseudo-thrones, curtains of small bones…pretty cool. The commoner rooms can sport black cauldrons, barrels of spirits – all in all, both lists are cool. However, there are 10 more such entries for goblin guard rooms and 10 things that can be found outside a goblin lair.

The former may contain piles of firewood rigged to collapse, crude carpets, etc. – and, rather cool: There are some suggestions to add traps to the dressing pieces – big kudos. Outside of goblin lairs, tracks, trees with observation platforms – some of these dressing bits can actually make for cool complications to spontaneously insert into modules that are too easy on the PCs.

There also are 20 things to be found in a goblin’s pouch – including snacks from toasted scorpion on a stick to pickles in string. They also contain crude jewelry, teeth – weird stuff, appropriate for goblins. Sounds familiar? Well, that’s because this table uses entries from Dungeon Dressing: Goblin’s Pockets. Finally, we have a page featuring 10 basic descriptions, 10 combats and tactics and 10 sample treasures, allowing for an easy generator to create a vast diversity of goblins – including some hilarious peculiarities.

The final page of the pdf is devoted to goblin past times: 20 general activities and 10 minor encounter-set-ups complement the pdf. The general activities are solid, but not necessarily inspired – it’s more of a basic series of entries for spontaneous use at the table. Entries contain e.g. “loitering” or “arguing” – I wished this was a bit more evocative.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks are really nice. Additionally, the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use - kudos for going the extra mile there! The pdf sports several pieces of nice b/w-artworks.

Creighton Broadhurst, Eric Hindley and Alex Riggs deliver a solid dressing file here. The entries are diverse and cool, generally well-written and cover a broad spectrum of fun entries. At the same time, I couldn’t help myself and felt that the book didn’t exactly reach genius-levels. It’s well-made and worth getting, if not necessarily brilliant. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #17: Goblin Lair (System Neutral Edition)
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review, old chum. Much appreciated! Glad you liked Goblin Lairs.
Fighters of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/18/2017 04:13:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck Games‘ „..of Porphyra“-series clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 25 pages, though it should be noted that these are laid out for digest-size. When printing them out, you can fit up to 4 on a single page, providing your eyesight’s good enough.

Anyways, we begin, somewhat surprisingly, with global rules for fighters in the Porphyra setting: Fighters get 4 + Int skills per level (a houserule I also use) and only take a -2 penalty when wielding weapons sans proficiency. If a fighter’s Intelligence is less than 13,, it is treated as 13 for the purpose of combat feat prerequisites. They also halve the time to Craft armor, weapons and ammunition. Fighters can inflict lethal damage with unarmed strikes (but still suffer from AoOs). The one modification I have a problem with would be that two-handed weapons dealing slashing or piercing damage also deal bludgeoning damage when wielded by a fighter. This can make DR-interaction etc. pretty confusing and further devalues the two-handed bludgeoning damage. Also weird: They get a bonus skill point each level – I assume that’s intended to be in addition to the ones granted by the 4 + Int-modification, but it feels a bit clunky nonetheless.

Okay, so those global rules out of the way, let’s take a look at the archetypes herein! The first of these would be the anticavalier, who treats all two-handed weapons as though they had the trip special quality and they get +2 to Trip-attempts against quadrupedal creatures. 2nd level, they add the brace special weapon quality to two-handed weapons and +4 to CMD versus overrun. 5th level becomes a bit problematic, as they start treating two-handed weapons as reach weapons with -1 to atk, losing the penalty at 8th level. 6th level adds the deadly special property to such weapons. This replaces the bonus feats gained first, 2nd, 4th and 6th level.

The second archetype would be the giant killer, who replaces bravery with selective immunity against intimidation and fear caused by giants. 3rd level replaces armor mastery with (untyped) bonuses to Reflex saves and a dodge bonus to AC against a “larger creature’s area effects.” That’s problematic. Sure, the creature needs to be one size-category larger, but since you can play Small characters, what would be situational can pretty quickly become always-on – pretty sure that exploit for Small characters has not been intentional. Cool: Instead of making a secondary attack, the giant killer can move 5 ft. Okay, does that count as a 5-foot-step? I assume no, which means it provokes AoOs, which renders the ability less compelling. At 10th level, we have the capacity to overrun larger creatures, causing falling damage on successes – which is pretty cool, but the rules-language is a bit wonky, speaking of “giant humanoids” – does that mean the subtype? Or does it refer to a size category? No idea.

The immortal is an archetype specifically for the amazing Zendiqi ethnicity, one of my favorite cultures on Porphyra. The archetype is restricted to the planet-touched, genasi-races (i.e. those associated with the 4 elements) and zendiqi and these guys only get 2 + Int mod skills per level. They are proficient with light and medium armors, shields (excluding tower shields) and simple and martial weapons. The archetype begins play with a ramah, a special spear or longspear with a silver tip. At 6th level, this is upgraded to adamantine. The second item they get is the tiarah (a better name would have been nice), a sacred blinder that nets +1 to saves versus visual, auditory, sonic and language-dependant effects that increases to +2 at 11th level, but imposes -1 on Perception. This replaces the ability to make unarmed attacks lethal from the global rules. The archetype inflicts +1 energy damage with successful melee, ranged or unarmed attacks per 4 class levels, with the type depending on bayit or race. At 7th level, the archetype is locked into Leadership and can grant adjacent allies a +1 shield bonus that scales over the levels. Cool flavor, less than interesting benefits.

The janissary loses proficiency with heavy armors and shields in favor of firearms. He also treats scimitars as light weapons, falchions as a two-handed light weapons. Okayyy…that doesn’t work as written. Per definition, light weapons are used one-handedly and may be used in grapples. Two-hand wielding light weapons does not increase the Str-bonus to damage, so how does that interact with a falchion? No idea. Instead of bravery, the archetype gains a scaling bonus to saves vs. enchantments. Circular thrust’s ability-name has no5t been properly formatted and replaces armor training and mastery with a scaling atk-bonus while fighting defensively.

The Lone Wolf loses the armor training ability tree. When narrowly missed by an attack, the archetype inflicts minor damage on the target’s weapon (which is damn cool!) and takes unarmed/natural weapons into account. At 7th level, rolling natural 1s when facing these guys also nets this damage and an AoO. 11th level increases the damage mentioned and so does 15th and 19th level. At these higher levels, failed maneuvers can also trigger the ability, and a shield bonus or gaining the benefits while one-hand wielding a weapon complement this one. This archetype is the first herein I consider interesting - while I wish there had been done more with the engine, the idea is intriguing.

Pawns begin play with less starting wealth and only simple weapon/light armor proficiency. When gaining a bonus feat, they also gain a character trait, and are exempt from the limiting rule regarding multiple traits of the same category. 3rd level yields a scaling dodge bonus to AC 5th level nets a bonus to atk and damage equal to the difference between the character’s CR and that of the opponent faced – not a fan, since the ability’s pretty meta-gamey. 9th level lets him treat all simple weapons as a weapon group, which he may select.

The primeval loses heavy armor and martial weapon proficiency, but gains Improved Unarmed Strike. In a mind-boggling confusion, the archetype also gains slam or claw attacks (not codified) that sport a monk’s unarmed damage scaling. This shows a profound lack of understanding between unarmed strikes and natural attacks – they are NOT the same. 6th level yields an immediate action AoO-less combat maneuver when critting targets with a natural attack, which is upgraded to hitting at 10th level, provided both natural attacks hit. At 16th level, crits provide action-less maneuvers and one maneuver needs only one attack to hit.

Spellfighters add Knowledge (arcane), Spellcraft and UMD to the class skill list and lose proficiency with all armors and shields. They gain spontaneous spellcasting based on Charisma…of UP TO 9TH LEVEL, drawn from the sorcerer/wizard list. WTF. Or, as the pdf says: “Like wizards and sorcerers, spellfighters are 9 level spellcasters.”[sic!] – sure, they “only” get abjuration and EVOCATION spells, but really? The magus over there? He’s weeping in the corner, even before weapon group: touch spells wrecks the rest. The math of these already is wobbly; adding full BAB and it completely falls apart. Just NO.

The varonis gains simple and martial weapon proficiency, + one exotic weapon of choice as well as light armors, but no shields. They have a good idea: Adding damage to combat maneuvers. Alas, the rules-language of the base ability is a total MESS. “As a standard action, when making a successful combat maneuver check with which they also have an “Improved” feat, they may also add the weapon damage of the melee weapon they are wielding at the time of the combat maneuver.” As a standard action? Add “weapon damage”? I tried hard to puzzle out how this is supposed to work. I have not the slightest idea. I have a suspicion, but the rules-language is so messed up, I can only guess. While the ability tries to clarify bonus damage dice, it fails to account for magical special weapon abilities…Non-operational RAW. The archetype gains a scaling dodge bonus to AC, minor skill boosts, scaling atk and damage with AoOs and at 8th level, scaling DR...which also applies when making a Reflex save? WUT?

The elisud hybrid class is next. It needs to be LG, is a hybrid of paladin and fighter, has 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency in all armors and simple and martial weapons and shields, excluding tower shields. 1st, 2nd and every 4 levels thereafter yield a fighter bonus feat and treats class level as fighter levels for prerequisite purposes. The class gets full BAB-progression and good Fort-saves. They also treat Intimidate and Diplomacy as one skill, akin to the Middle Kingdom’s codionic knights – that was wonky back then and still is. How does that interact with skill boosts? Skill unlocks? 5th level nets Signature Skill: Sense Motive.

He also begins play with a morale bonus equal to ½ class level to Sense Motive. Okay, at first level, is that rounded down? They also get +2 to all saving throws – again, a morale bonus. And guess what: All morale bonuses of the class stack with each other. At 3rd level, they gain, bingo, a morale bonus to saves versus fear and diseases equal to ½ class level. At this level, they also get ½ class level + Cha-mod morale points, which may be expended as a swift action for a +2 morale bonus to ANY d20-roll, not only for the elusid, but also for an ally. Fun fact: Since they stack with each other, multiple elusids can do really ridiculous things…5th level yields +1/2 class level to saves versus illusion spells and spell-like abilities. I assume that to only pertain to illusion SPs. 8th level does that for charms, 11th for “chaotic spells and SPs”, 13th for “necromantic”…URGH. 17th level for evil and compulsions…The issues are so apparent. Beyond failures to properly clarify the effects, these abilities only yield boring numerical escalations.

5th level yields weapon training. 7th level allows the character to impose a minor scaling penalty on a threatened foe as an immediate action. 19th level yields DR 5/- while wearing armor or using a shield and the capstone prevents being unarmed when wielding an “instrument of justice” – whatever that’s supposed to be in the context of the class. It also renders immune versus alignment changes and being forced to violate them. Whoop-die-doo? This is the worst hybrid class I’ve read by PDG. It is BORING, has no identity of its own, is surprisingly wobbly for how basic it is…No. Just no.

The pdf also mentions the idea of feat slicing – i.e. halving the benefits of a feat, but gaining two instead. I don’t even have to explain why that’s a bad idea, considering the very basic notion of prerequisites etc….right?

Okay, so, next up would be new mundane pieces of equipment – like the Folly Kit – which allows you to heal 1 hit point as a full-round action, holding up to 100 hit points worth of healing. 300 gp., but still…Why isn’t this properly tied to Heal and Healer’s kits? There is a helm that grants a headbutt attack and lacks a damage type and treats it as a bite, which can be all sorts of weird. On the plus-side: Flammable clubs? Cool idea! Is it its own weapon or is it treated as a club? There is some coolness here, though: The concept of hybrid weapons with additional modifications is pretty cool, if explored only in a rudimentary manner– still, I’d like to see a book based on that idea at one point, though one that should get some very careful looks regarding balance.

The pdf closes with a section of magic weapon qualities and items. Here, we have gems like this: “An opportunist weapon allows the wielder an immediate attack on its opponent if that opponent rolled a natural 1 on any of its previously attempted attacks upon the wielder.[…] The wielder can make as many opportunistic attacks as there are natural 1’s rolled against him, but only 1 response attack per attacker.” I THINK I know what this tries to do, but the rules-language has some serious issues. Curving weapons further marginalize shields. Almost funny: The brand of balance, a blade that generates a constant antimagic field around its wearer. It’s a magic weapon. Yeah. It doesn’t work RAW. The spell reads: “Likewise, it prevents the functioning of any magic items or spells within its confines.” Pricing also is a bit weird in the section. And while there are other magic items here, I’ll cut this short right now.

The pdf comes with a bonus file, the Blindbraun monster by David N. Ross – CR 2, undead dwarves with a horrid wail and a blinding gaze. Easily the best part of the whole deal!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are pretty good. On a rules-language level, there is something left to be desired here, with quite a few wording issues that influence rules-integrity. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games’ 1-column standard with some nice full-color pieces, though fans of PDG may be familiar with some of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

After the fantastic “Witches of Porphyra” (get it!), the previous installment, and after reading Aaron Hollingworth’s amazing Vessel hybrid class, I went into this file with a smile on my face, expecting to find some cool material herein. The global rules sounded promising, providing some nice tidbits to modify.

I don’t know what happened. I really don’t. The archetypes are lackluster at best, focusing on bland modifications and when they don’t, they do not properly capitalize on their ideas. I consider not a single one of them to be compelling; there are some gleams of interesting ideas here, but they are few and far in-between. The hybrid class one ups that – it is insulting. As in 1-star- or-1.5-star-bad, with the only analogues being the early Wayward Rogues Publishing offerings – their later material is better, if still problematic. The hybrid herein lacks any agenda, identity or care – it is lackluster filler of the worst sort, a class that manages to be less compelling than both of its parents.

Unfortunately, the rest of the supplemental content doesn’t really improve that much – while the unmitigated low point of this book is the hybrid, the other material isn’t close to dragging this up to levels where I’d consider it possible to recommend this. I try hard to see the positive in even flawed designs, but this pdf’s content, for the most part, looks like the author simply had no interest in writing a fighter-book, cobbled something together and went on. The fighter needs good options. Interesting abilities. And there are some herein…but the execution of these is lackluster as well.

I am, as a whole, a fan of the class-centric installments in this series – there are some amazing gems to be found. This is not such a file. In fact, I’d strongly suggest skipping this one. My final verdict will be 1.5 stars, saved to being rounded up by the bonus-pdf. Purple Duck Games deserves being supported: They give a chance to new talent and often deliver some really amazing books – the installments on samurais, witches etc. are awesome – get them instead. Heck, if you want to support the author, get his cool Vessel class instead. But steer clear of this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Fighters of Porphyra
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20 Things #16: Necromancer's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2017 04:08:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Okay, we begin this dressing file with a definite winner: 8 blasphemous tomes of forbidden lore, ranging from the Libermorbus to the Sable Flame, these are evocative and really capture the reader’s attention – oh, and as a further bonus, we get 6 cool and disturbing bookmarks suitable for evil masters of magic.

Beyond these, we move on to horrible sounds and sensations – 10 of both are provided and they are really cool: From sudden out-of-body experiences to feeling watched or a miasma of vile mists…really neat. From the distant clanking of bones to sounds from previously cleared rooms, these are similarly neat.

While we’re at the subject of blasphemous things: What about spell components? 20 are provided and range from jumbled bones of mass murderers to shriveled, desiccated hearts, gems to enhance undead-animating spells, horribly disfigured rats…Really cool!

Next up would be 20 things to be found in a necromancer’s sanctum and 6 pickled and preserved things – these, however, have been previously released in 20 Things: Wizard’s Tower and the associated compilation.

The final tables sport 10 basic descriptions, 10 battle tactics and 10 pieces of treasure, which allow for the quick combination of a variety of undead: One page devoted to skeletons and zombies each is provided, allowing for a vast variety of combinations to enhance the descriptions of the undead legions.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks are really nice – I particularly liked the component pouch. Additionally, the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use - kudos for going the extra mile there! The pdf sports several pieces of nice b/w-artworks.

Creighton Broadhurst and Jeff Gomez provide one amazing, excellent dressing file here – the respective tables are inspired, the dressing is diverse and e.g. the books can inspire whole stories. The dressing herein also makes for a great supplement for pretty much any horror context you can imagine, so yeah -this is useful beyond the confines of its theme. That being said, I would have wished for an new table instead of a reprint regarding the sanctum, though I understand its presence here. Even taking this into account, the pdf is really good, though – hence, the final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #16: Necromancer's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
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Hooray! Thank you for the review, End. Glad you enjoyed the book!
1KWA1: The Dark Hunters
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2017 04:06:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, this little system-neutral adventure-sketch clocks in at 3 pages 1 page front cover, 2 pages of content.

All righty, this being basically a system-neutral adventure outline in precious few words, I do not expect earth-shattering storylines here. Structure-wise, the module provides general guideline for the GM to adapt the module and suggests, in percents of the default value, a suggested reward. Helpful: A paragraph on bringing it all together and 6 different questions for GM-consideration help plan this little sidetrek. (As an aside: The pdf does confuse “affect” with “effect” here…)

On the plus-side, we do get 6 random effects, which are basically dressing or cosmetic events and 6 random, magical effects noted.

All righty, onwards to the SPOILERS. Potential players should skip ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

Only GMs around? Great! So, 4 years ago, Captain talis was exiled from the city of Florin. Disgruntled, he started training a cadre of half-orcs and proceeded to terrorize the land, until he and all but two half-orcs were slain. The survivors, Gog and Magog, did flee into an underground warren, triggering the wrath of an ancient spirit. The small town of Quay sits atop these burial chambers.

The PCs must explore Northhaven Warren, where they must pass shelf-beds with skeletons as they wade through the mud,a s they approach the breached mausoleum…which is literally mined with defensive spells – first triggering warning-shots and then getting progressively worse. The inhabitant also animate and it becomes pretty clear pretty soon that the glyphs were left to keep something in, something the possibly horribly mutilated half-orcs set free…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, if not perfect. Layout adheres to a relatively printer-friendly 2-column full-color standard with a mostly white background. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jim Pinto knows how to create atmosphere. In spite of the brevity and system-immanently sketch-like nature of the module, the set-up is pretty nice, the complex flavorful. While I really would have appreciated a map (since I suck at these), I get why the module doesn’t have one. Still, there are modules out there that offer just that. Anyways, the pdf does provide some cool flavor for an atmospheric sidetrek at a low and fair price-point. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
1KWA1: The Dark Hunters
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How Do I Fly
Publisher: Straight Path Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2017 04:04:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the series that explains the more problematic concepts of PFRPG clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content. The printer-friendly version comes with a different layout and manages to cram the relevant information on 4 pages.

All right, flight. So, one of the strengths of PFRPG’s rules, at least in my opinion, would be that the rules are organized in a very clever and sensible manner, at least compared to many other games. I never realized how good the organization actually was until I started designing for other systems as well and noticed how obscure the organization of certain rule-books is.

Anyways, if there is one aspect where PFRPG’s rules really suck and are incredibly annoying and opaque, then that would be frickin’ flight. The pdf first explains, very newbie-friendly, that e.g. the Fly skill doesn’t let you fly and just measures your competence. It also introduces the importance of size and maneuverability.

This out of the way, there is the issue of 3D space – hence the height of a 3D-5-foot-square is defined as 7.5 feet. After this, we take a look at the basic differences and advantages of flight over landbound movement. EDIT: Here, I was originally being a know-it-all prick; the pdf has since clarified a potentially confusing statement, which made me delete this section. The pdf has been corrected.

Anyhow, next we take a look at the uses of Fly that do NOT require a skill-check, then list those options that do require one. After this, we take a look at special considerations for magical flight and winged flight – the basics, mind you. A handy table sums up the modifiers for flying in bad weather (and explains the concepts of checked and blown away), and finally, the pdf sums up common uses of flight in combat.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though I noticed a few typos. Layout adheres to a two-column, full-color landscape-standard for the tablet-optimized screen-use version. The version for the printer sports a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf have no interior art, but need none. EDIT: The revised versions now sport proper bookmarks - KUDOS!

I love flying combat. In fact, I only recently had an utterly overpowered omnimental hunt my alchemist and his oracle cohort piloting a vril-powered gyrocopter through a city in the throes of all out magical warfare. I love 3D-combat and the cool tricks it lets you do…however, the organization of flight in PFRPG is less than ideal…and this pdf provides a relatively handy primer on personal flight. It only covers personal flight, but hey – it’s PWYW and for a novice, this little files is certainly helpful, if not exhaustive.

That being said, if you want a truly breathtaking book on assisted flight, do check out the legendary Companions of the Firmament – it is a must-have for all campaigns using flying mounts.

Öh…forgot the rating, right? Michael McCarthy’s file is certainly helpful for players new to the concept of flight. I consider it worth downloading and leaving a tip for. It’s helpful, PWYW, and the complaints have been taken care of - hence, the revised version is updated to 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
How Do I Fly
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How Do I Grapple
Publisher: Straight Path Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2017 04:03:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This humble pdf clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Wait – that was the screen-use version. The printer-version manages to jam all required information on 3 pages, sparing you some ink/toner – kudos!

Okay, so in 3.X and PFRPG alike, there is not a single mechanic among the base maneuvers that is as complex as grappling. It is not exactly the most popular part of the rules and most players aren’t that savvy when it comes to standard grappling, much less grappling that accounts for the variety of feat- and ability-based tricks.

Well, wanted a cleanly explained pdf that sums up grappling? This is what you wanted. It begins with grappling 101 and explains the basics – namely how to start a grapple. EDIT: The revised version now has a more precise and more newcomer-friendly wording. Kudos!

After that, the pdf first sums up the grappled condition, then the pinned condition. Helpful: Bullet point lists of what you can and can’t do. The pdf then lists what you can do while in control of the grapple. Then what you can do while not in control.

The pdf also lists the bonuses players may forget, which is pretty helpful. Big kudos - the original iteration forgot some of the bonus types that are added to CMD - this iteration now correctly lists them.

The pdf also sports a brief summary of dogpiles, a brief summary of monster-abilities related to grappling. Finally, we have a summary of being swallowed and a short note on grapple and the damage causing burn ability (not the kineticist-resource).

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are improved in the revised version. Layout adheres to a two-column, full-color landscape-standard for the tablet-optimized screen-use version. The version for the printer sports a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdfs have no interior art, but need none. EDIT: The author has revised the files. They now have bookmarks. Kudos!

Michael McCarthy provides a solid pdf here that can be particularly helpful for newer players. Personally, I never quite understood why people consider grapple confusing, but then again, I am weird. That being said, I do understand why grappling confuses a lot of people.

Hence, I was pretty stoked to see this humble pdf – and it’s PWYW to boot, which is a big PLUS, as far as I’m concerned. Even cooler: After I brought a couple of minor hiccups to the author#s attention, he immediately fixed them. Impressive support, particularly for a PWYW-supplement!

Having revised the pdf and streamlined it, the revised version is now worth 5 stars for newer players and those interesting in a clear ad easy to follow explanation of grappling.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
How Do I Grapple
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Villain Codex III: Enemies for Epic Heroes
Publisher: Outland Entertainment
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/16/2017 04:55:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Villain Codices clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All righty, so the respective villains all come with full stats,a brief history, a suggested plot (or more) and some goals the villain may have. The respective foes span a CR from 15 to 20. Each NPC gets a cool b/w-artwork.

All right, the first foe herein would be a former dwarven war-hero – Daegrim Siegebreaker, consumed by his hatred of orcs, the CR 15 foehammer fighter is looking for an artifact to eradicate everything with even a drop of orcish blood – the Greenbloodstone…and he may not share his genocidal intent with adventurers he hires to retrieve the artifact.

Also at CR 15, the pdf depicts The Final Star – an advanced lantern archon amnesiac psychic 12. The creature awoke with shattered memories of the end of all existence and a list of 1000 names– and is convinced that it has been sent back in time to stop the end of existence itself…sending out minions to strike the names from the list. This guy is amazing. It not only reminds me of my first published work (I did a similar angle, though inverted, in Coliseum Morpheuon), it also reminded me of one o my favorite Ayreon lines: “Send back visions of war and decay/paradigms of fear in a world of dismay/shape the present, alter the past/create a new future, one that will last/we can save this ill-fated race, who are lost in the ocean of space/find a way to prevent their decline/guide them back on the river of time.” So yes, beyond being a cool idea, this fellow resonates with me on a personal level. Huge kudos!

At CR 16, Kalina Marsh is a half-elven bard 9/master spy 8 – she is basically all about controlling the narrative, a propagandist and demagogue with a star-like reputation and serious combat capabilities to boot. Oh, and she may well start a war if you’re not careful…Surprisingly tough for her professions! Well done!

Ye Mi Goshi, at CR 16, is the yeti survivor of a planar congruence with the elemental plane of fire – witnessing the horrors and wonders of flame, the yeti has become infused with power – he is a potent pyrokineticist, obsessed with flame. Creative, cool and fun – kudos for the delightfully strange yeti!

Fyrek of the Bones clocks in at an impressive CR 17 – she is a Halfling iconoclast inquisitor, obsessed with death, bones…he’s pale. She’s also basically a fun riff on being a goth: She is obsessed with becoming a vampire and serves the undead as a willing champion/killer/executioner. She is ruthless, deadly and seeks to destroy the holy relics and champions that prevent “her” people from spreading across the land. Fyrek is a deadly adversary – and I generally enjoyed her as well – creepy Halfling is something not done too well that often.

Okay, now things become AMAZING. Know the old saying of “power behind the throne” – well, think what’d happen if that was wrong. Big time. CR 17’s second foe would be Throne. The throne. Who controls a whole nation. Throne is a mimic first, a mesmerist second and 100% amazing. I can’t believe I haven’t pulled this guy before. Two big thumbs up!! One of my favorite villains herein!

The villain depicted on the cover is up next – Adonia Grivas, a vampire unchained rogue: Once a master thief, the CR 18 lady is currently the king’s favored concubine, extending the power of her reach in the government’s highest circles.

At the same CR, there is Astralis, an advanced human skinshaper urushiol druid – she travels the world preaching peace and complacency – sounds nice, right? Well, unfortunately for all involved, she is the chosen of the mi-go, reconstructed from the ground up to be a superior lifeform and herald to their plan, preparing the world for harvesting…

The CR 19 vigilante Valene Azurian gets a really long and detailed story – the vigilante has had some sociopathic notions from the get-go, her royal parents sending her off to be raised by her grandmother only ended in enhancing her hatred for the monarchy – and so she presents a dazzling dilettante’s smile, while using her Halfling alter ego/identity to commit crimes that are aimed at changing the very notion of rulership.

Uldin the Gray also receives some advanced story etc. – the CR 19 half-orc bloodrager/dragon disciple. Uldin is actually the raging spirit of a vanquished dragon, reborn into the body of a half-orc. The dragon has since managed to infiltrate a group of dragon-slayers – he needs 33 body-parts from different dragons to regain his proper form…and woe to his “allies” and all that stand in the way of him reclaiming his dominion…

At CR 20, Thanadan was reared by a legendary general - who adopted the green dragon. The duo became legends…and while his rider was slain, the grief-stricken Thanadan is still a dragon…and a cavalier (cough AC 40…) and likes using lances…Ouch! Speaking of which: There would be one final foe herein.

Also at CR 20, we get Tyrin the Implacable. He is an awakened iron golem slayer (vanguard)…and he was forged in the battle god’s forges to rid the world of weakness – an implacable, huge force of destruction. Cities that face him and his host have 3 days – each day, the terms become worse, the price higher. Tyrin, in the meanwhile, sees himself as the savior of the mortal world, as he forges his empire in blood and steel…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious glitches on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a series of several pretty neat, original b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

My congratulations to the authors of this pdf: Kate Baker, Phoebe Harris, Scott Janke, Mikko Kallio, Matt Kimmel, Jeff Lee, Luis Loza, Jacob W. Michaels, Matt Morris, Stephen Stack and Mike Welham – these villains are a step forward, even when compared to the already rather cool first 2 Villain Codices.

Complex, deadly and evocative, there are a lot of truly creative foes in this book. The villains offer a ton of cool ideas for the GM and many of the potent villains could carry whole adventure arcs, perhaps even campaigns. Stories and motivations are diverse, and from the weird to the more mundane, the villain cadre as a whole is varied and interesting. In short: This is an excellent NPC-collection, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Villain Codex III: Enemies for Epic Heroes
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: A Christmas Carol
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/16/2017 04:52:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

..

.

All right, only Ghostmasters around? Great!

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

..

.

All right, only Ghostmasters around? Great!

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Talking Board
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Tales from the Laughing Dragon Inn
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/16/2017 04:49:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure-anthology clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us still with a rather impressive 50 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It should be noted that the eponymous tavern, the “Laughing Dragon Inn”, is depicted between front cover and editorial/ToC-page, with full map and brief room descriptions – the section can be used as a kind of hand-out, if you wish. The full-color map provided is nice, though it should be noted that no one-page or high-res jpg-version is included – if you just want to hand out the map, you’ll need to cut off the text. This holds true for all the maps contained herein. Whether or not you consider that a plus or not depends on your tastes. Unfortunately, there are no key-less player-friendly maps in the pdf.

It should be noted that the advertisement text is incorrect – these adventures are not for levels 1 – 10. Please consult my discussion of the adventures below for the proper level-ranges covered.

All right, got that? Well, we begin this book with a recap of the storied history of the Laughing Dragon Inn. GMs do get an extended history of the place, 6 sample events during night-time and 8 fluff-only write-ups of tavern staff, from barkeeper to owners to servers. Speaking of which: The picture of the servers is pretty much fanservice – personally, I’m not a big fan of the picture, as the exaggerated cleavage of the ladies felt like a bit too much…but then again, the pdf does something clever and actually makes that a plot-point of sorts….which is pretty ingenious and smart. Beyond that, the pdf does go into lavish detail regarding the inn’s menu: Food, drink and desert all get their own list of entries, with a general idea of prices provided as well. All in all, a solid way to start the compilation and establish an identity for the place within Brighton.

All right…and this is where we begin taking a look at the adventures. As such, I’d strongly advise potential players to jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Good!

The first module would be Kendra Leigh Speedling’s “Dust to Dust”, intended for level 4 PCs. The PCs attend the festival of St. Gran the Dust Warden, but the festivities don’t last too long – the PCs soon find that the wizard Viravar Harx has been murdered. The investigation of the body comes with multiple skill DCs to use. Mysterious: There don’t seem to be any tracks, just blood droplets here and there…and, big plus, the pdf does take some spells into account, though, alas, the spell references are not properly italicized – this, unfortunately, does happen more often throughout the module – the formatting could have been more precise here and there.

Anyway, the trail has not gone cold – and people seem to suspect Dervila, the sorceress, who would be the rival of the deceased wizard. The sorceress tries to Bluff the PCs away and is pretty good at it – but sooner or later, they will have to get inside of the house – in her workshop, the PCs will have a chance to duke it out with a junk golem and ultimately, will be able to track the sorceress to a hidden cave beneath her home – where cave scorpions and wights await – annoying formatting glitches in the stats, unfortunately included – while they can be used as written, there are e.g. plusses before CMD-values. Weird. On the plus-side: The artwork for Delvira is really neat – consumed by rage, the sorceress has become a penanggalen sorceress - a relatively brutal showdown. All in all a decent sidetrek with some cool monsters…though the BBEG didn’t exactly act that smart.

Rodney Sloan’s “The Demon’s Paw” is also for PCs of 4th level. Uness you believe the ToC – then it’s intended for 6th level PCs. It also takes place on a festival – the Wyre’s Winter Weave Festival. Dieter Hagen, who did not have an easy life, to say the least, has recently come into the possession of a demon’s paw…and this babau’s paw was unfortunately shown to less than scrupulous folks. Dieter is thus in attendance when a CR 7 fetchling dancer takes center stage with her haunting sandman abilities – this distraction is used by cultists to infiltrate the inn, capture Hagen and try to summon the demon – if that works out, stats are provided…and yes, the paw is a nice variant crawling claw. A nice artwork of a blood-spattered handout can also be found on one page – which not have that as a full-page hand-out in the appendix? Stopping the cultists, with or without having to deal with the demon, will end the sidetrek, though the reputation of the PCs may suffer from the involvement in the eerie proceedings, just while the cult of Shub-Niggurath starts plotting against them. Basic version of the monkey’s paw-theme – the weakest module herein, barely more than two encounters that PCs will probably hack through before realizing any aspect of the story.

“Under the Revenant’s Mask” by Thiago Rosa is up next, written for characters level 6 – 8. Strangely, this module doesn’t seem to sport a synopsis. Aurora, the daughter of Doctor Damile, is a talented singer that has fallen in love with Ceasar, a cook. Damile sought to impersonate Ceasar via disguise self (not italicized), but went overboard – his daughter died in a tried accident while running from him. Aurora has now returned as a revenant, hell-bent on revenge against an innocent and grief-stricken Ceasar, which Damiel sees as a chance – he had planned to resurrect his daughter via alchemical means…So that’s the set-up. Slightly strange: The first attack of zombies and revenant that kicks off the module does not get the usual encounter-formatting, happening exclusively in the flavor text. Anyways, Ceasar hires the PCs and they will sooner or later want to contact the local merfolk information broker (whose stats contain glitches). Maartin Bestor, the noble with a penchant for occultism, is not a kind man – but he may identify the zombies as alchemical creations. This will lead the PCs sooner or later (perhaps after the similarly basic depiction of the second night’s assault) to Damiel’s abode, where more undead roam – including Aurora, who gets a really cool artwork. Here’s the thing: Damiel is a potent alchemist – if the PCs haven’t figured out his possible involvement in the death of his daughter, the finale may well prove to be beyond them. That being said, there isn’t much in the way of proof other than speculation and roleplaying the dynamics here – which is a bit of a pity, for the visuals of the masked remnant are cool. This adventure suffers from its brevity and feels like an abbreviated form of a story that should have been more complex.

“Take me to the River” by Anthony Torretti is a sidetrek for 8th-level characters. The PCs are hired by a mining company’s prospector to investigate the disappearance of her assistant, convinced that Brighton’s folk are somehow involved. The PCs also encounter Artinus, an eccentric local druid and begin a brief local investigation here: Theis is structurally the best investigation in the book: We get read-aloud clues, several of them, guiding the PCs through the questioning process and the closer investigation of the man’s disappearance. The deductive reasoning to recreate the last whereabouts of the missing assistant is nice. The trail leads to the outhouse, which actually features a sewer system! In the mapped sewers, the PCs will have to face elder things and cultists…and rescue potentially the missing Lenam…who tells the PCs about the horrid, planned assault on the mining camp: In the water, pods (DCs to analyze the like provided) are bound to hatch, unleashing horrors upon the camp! The PCs have to get to the camp and deal with the Broodqueen of Shub-Niggurath (who comes with a GLORIOUS artwork) before the vile brood of elder things hatches. While not perfect, the sidetrek is structurally the strongest and presents a fun module.

The final adventure would be “A Comfortable Skin”, penned by Charlie Brooks, and intended for 10th level characters. Few entertainers are as popular as the gnomish pair Kavan and Lira Thresser and their adopted gnome son Barradan. Mywynn and Tannileigh seem to bit out of town, leaving Kavan in charge of the Laughing Dragon. He offers the PCs some serious money for the retrieval of stolen goods – and so the PCs set out to confront the Plundering Blades, relatively powerful, multiclassed bandits. Interrogation, however, yields that the bandits were hired to retrieve the stolen goods via nonlethal means by Teera Greyth, a seamstress. She is convinced that something’s not right at the Laughing Dragon…and close inspection of the intercepted shipment shows no less than 9 scrolls of gentle repose in a hidden compartment. At the Laughing Dragon, the PCs may well stumble into a deathtrap: The entertainer family has been taken over by intellect devourers…one of them even sporting assassin levels! And yes, both Mywynn and Tannileigh may be rescued…provided the PCs survive the brutal trio of aberrations… Solid, challenging, combat-centric sidetrek.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not exactly perfect – there are several formatting glitches, a couple of typos and if you’re picky about statblocks being correct…well, you’ll find hiccups there as well. Layout adheres to an actually beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports copious amounts of artworks – including some really amazing, high-quality pieces. Big kudos. The cartography is full-color and also sports some nice maps – though I wished we got one-page versions of them…or player-friendly ones. As provided, their lack represents a comfort detriment. Speaking of which: It is puzzling that an anthology of this length has no bookmarks whatsoever. Wile we’re at it: You can’t highlight or select text from the pdf, which is a further comfort detriment when creating your own notes.

Robert Gresham, Kendra Leigh Speedling, Rodney Sloan, Anthony Torretti, Charlie Brooks, Simon Munoz, Thiago Rosa and Jarrett Sigler have created a per se pretty solid anthology: While some of the modules suffer from their brevity a bit, as a whole, we have a couple of solid dark fantasy yarns here – nothing groundbreaking, but as a whole, I’d consider this compilation to be on the positive side. Considering the low asking price, the amount of content is pretty neat. I’d tentatively recommend this compilation in warmer terms if it was at least a bit convenient: The missing player-friendly maps, the lack of bookmarks, the glitches, which, while not crippling, do accumulate…they all conspire to drag this down. The adventures themselves are challenging and very lethal, as befitting the relatively dark fantasy-ish themes – and as a whole, I liked how this uses the Laughing Dragon Inn as a sort of story nexus and hub. The pdf, in short, does have something to offer if you’re not picky about formal hiccups – there is fun to be had here.

That being said, I can’t overlook the shortcomings the compilation does have. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars…but honestly, I can’t round up for this. If you’re looking for some brief, inexpensive dark fantasy sidetreks and don’t care too much about weaknesses in organization, editing and formatting, then this may be well worth checking out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tales from the Laughing Dragon Inn
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High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/13/2017 04:26:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module for Alpha Blue clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page Kort’thalis publishing glyph, ½ page editorial, leaving us with 15 ½ pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Wait, before we do: This is a review of a module for Alpha Blue, a game that is a kind of homage to 70s’/80s’ scifi-porn parodies. As such, sex and violence, particularly sex, are themes herein. A good litmus test is the cover: Does it offend you? If so, steer clear. If not, then proceed.

I do assume that you’re familiar with Alpha Blue in my review.

Before we take a closer look at the module itself, we are introduced to two new Alpha Blue classes – the first would be the Xenologist, who knows A LOT about alien xenology: 1/scene, he causes those attracted to him be drawn to his animal magnetism; those that believe themselves superior feel stupid and those that believe themselves brainy will realize the advantage of having him be a part of the crew. The range is 10’. Now, while functional, personally, I think it’d have been more elegant to codify this ability more precisely: One effect on a 4, 2 on a 5, 3 on a 6 and a bonus effect – a little table for success and failure. The second class herein would be the pickup artist: Basically, the SDM rolls a hidden d6 and on a 1 or 2, the prospective target is potentially available sans much fuss. No complaints here.

Beyond these two classes, we also get some rules for the benefits of sex: Special abilities with limited uses (like 1/hour, 2/combat, etc.), you gain a bonus use of that ability. You can trade sexual gratification for stealing the spotlight, allowing for the doubling of dice on a single action. You can forego getting off in favor of a reroll of a single dice pool reroll. I really like these. They add a bit of tactical depth to the game. Kudos!

It should be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to campaign worksheets for an Alpha Blue campaign, with influences, 23 quick questions to establish leitmotifs, etc. allowing for a pretty quick and dirty means to establish the base-lines. Beyond these, tables for 20 scifi names, 4 general dispositions, 6 reasons to be here and 10 sample outfits can be found, allowing for some quick and easy NPC-dressing for the characters herein. It should be noted that, structure-wise, we do not get a synopsis or the like – the SDM is strongly advised to read the entirety of the module before trying to run it.

Anyways, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

Only SDMs around? Great!The PCs are standing over the smoldering corpse of a foe…and then, some beeping can be heard. The communicator of the fallen enemy displays an alarm: Tomorrow, the galaxy’s largest Q’uay Q’uar tournament will be held on Zeta Minor…and the convention of Universal Pickup Artist Association also will take place there! If that’s not enough motivation yet, the pdf does provide no less than 6 custom angles for the SDM to employ. En route to Zeta Minor, the PCs will have a chance to avoid a cloud of strange matter that may result in bizarre occurrences….like being contacted by versions of themselves from an alternate reality, currently on the run from a dark star elf bounty hunter. (Oh, and “drow”? Bad racial slur…that ought to be funny) Oh, one more thing: The alternate versions of the PCs are really bad a-holes…

Anyways, once the PCs arrive on Zeta Minor, they’ll find Mistress Grenadine, former Satisfier of Alpha Blue – a brilliant and expensive dominatrix, hose attentions can yield palpable bonuses in-game – cool! The tournament director will btw. be none other than David “Space” Pumpkins and his dancing skeleton crew…oh, and he and his bodyguards get full stats and his unique wand sports several really potent effects. Cool!

Now, the module is obviously about participating in the q’uay q’uar game – and there are several means to do so: There are two different levels of abstractions for quick resolutions…but where the pdf goes the extra mile would be the first and most rewarding way to do so: You see, there is a bonus 1.5-page pdf here that explains the game, as well as a full-color, high-res jpg of the game table: “Q’uay” means “purple”, “Q’uar” means yellow – this is a two-player game. Purple goes first and both players start by placing their starship on a hex of the appropriate color. A player can move 1 hex per turn. When a player moves a spaceship on a hex with a symbol, the respective symbol’s effect kicks in. If both players’ starships are in the same hex, combat commences. This is resolved via competing d6s. Ties go to the aggressor.

There are two ways to win the game: Be the last man standing or ascending the symbol that’s the Star Throne: If you do, you roll 1d6: A 1 kills you, while 4+ wins the game. 2-3 means that political bickering requires a reroll next round. Wormhole hexes let you jump to another wormhole. There are also space stations, alien mercenaries and assassins – all contain the chances for bonuses and for penalties. The basic game is pretty simple…but more rewarding with the optional rules: 2d6s each round make the game chaotic: Preventing a color from ascending the throne, temporarily no wormholes…the mini-game is fun, the visual representation of the playing field is amazing and better yet, the game can be resolved quickly and thus doesn’t halt the game for too long. HUGE kudos for this fun mini-game! Even if you dislike Alpha Blue, this may well be worth getting for the mini-game.

However, beyond this mini-game, there is plenty of adventuring potential: Hessina Goldenfire, the vibroswordswoman and expert gambler, Jenna Rayne the space-slut who is seeking to settle down, Talador Gisholm the pickup artist (who gets stats, unlike Hessina, which was a bit weird)…the NPCs depicted are colorful and interesting. Crime lord Syresh Vos, a really powerful Bobba Fett style killer with several unique and fearsome, nay, legendary items, meanwhile wants to steal the prize money…and then there’d be Quai-Gon Jizz. A total douchebag, former knight in white satin…and the best player in the tournament…particularly because he cheats! The nasty zedi comes with full stats…and the PCs should better stop him and his nasty, drugging pipe.

Oh, and on the last day of the tournament, there’ll be a hologram…promising a fortune for the heads of the PCs. The instigator, btw., would be Fructis New Zaelyn, associate of Grabba the Butt and on the board of Purple Prizm’s directors…but he’ll probably get away. How that turns out? Well, that’s up for another adventure to determine!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups or issues. Layout adheres to the neat two-column full-color standard for Alpha Blue-modules. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version of the pdf. The pdf also is fully bookmarked for your convenience and the addition of the jpg for the game is great – two thumbs up.

Venger As’Nas Satanis’ latest Alpha Blue module is BY FAR the best he’s written for the whole product line. While one NPC that could have used stats didn’t get any (Hessina), this is a surprisingly crunchy, fun module. The set-up is creative and the different ways to resolve the game by playing the game or via the quicker, more abstract rolls are amazing, allowing the SDM to account for the peculiarities of the table, be they home-campaign or convention game. The NPCs are cool and the “further adventuring” angle is amazing as well – the finale this time around is not sudden or problematic. In short: This is a fun, creative, well-rounded module. I have only the slightest of complaints and they pale before the otherwise cool module.

As an aside: You can easily expand Q’uay Q’uar to work as a team-game: Take a sheet of hex paper, place glyphs and allow for multiple players per color. I suggest doubling the field-size for every pair of additional players, placing as many additional glyphs on the map (excluding star throne, which will remain in the center) as on the original field and…there you go. The game’s pretty simple and fun and if you do expand it to sport more players per color, I’d suggest providing dice-bonuses for ganging up on single vessels, etc.

…there I go, expanding a bonus mini-game. Anyways, back to the review: I considered this not only to be the most rewarding Alpha Blue module so far, it also is the best, craftsmanship-wise. It is pretty sandboxy, but sports concise rules and details. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this one – my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar
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