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Warrior Prestige Archetype: The Holy Vindicator
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/01/2015 05:33:45
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf of the Warrior Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction (explaining the base concept of the series), 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



What are Prestige Archetypes? Well, I reviewed the whole first series, so here's the tl;dr-version: They are prestige classes blended with one (or more) base-class(es) to result in a new, 20-level-class - much like you had modified the base class with an archetype. Get it? Yeah, not a hard concept to grasp, is it? Now personally, I use Prestige Classes with an emphasis on the PRESTIGE-component, archetypes more like a career path, but this differs wildly from how PrCs are handled in most cases. Hence, e.g. the PA: Assassin from the first subscription was pretty much a godsend for my party. But can this one stand up to or surpass its first series?



So, this time around, we take a look at the base-class-version of the Holy Vindicator. This guy receives d12, full BAB-progression, good fort- and will-saves, 2+Int skills per level, full armor and weapon proficiency (except tower shields) and has an aura akin to a cleric. They receive limited, prepared divine spells drawn from the cleric's spell-list of up to 4th level. These spells can be spontaneously converted into healing spells. Rather uncommon, the spells are governed by Cha, not Wis. At first level, the holy vindicator receives channel energy, which improves by 1 die every odd level thereafter. This also is governed by Cha, but the holy vindicator also receives channel smite as a 1st level bonus feat. It should be noted that healing spells employed by 6th level or higher vindicators are automatically empowered, but conversely, mass cures do not apply to other creatures when including the vindicator. At 16th level, the spells are maximized instead. Oddly, both have no proper inverse benefit for inflict/negative energy-using evil, unholy vindicators, though other abilities take the like into account.



Vindicator's shield is gained at 2nd level and unfortunately retains the wonky wording of the PrC's ability - why not simply state in unambiguous terms that the bonus is lost upon being subject to a successful attack? This would have gotten rid of the horrible mess of the original ability,



At 4th level, the vindicator receives stigmata, with action economy-scaling every 4 levels thereafter - start and end are first handled as a standard action, later as a free action at 16th level. For 1/4 class level bleed, the vindicator receives the same as a numerical bonus to either attack rolls, weapon damage, AC, CL or saving throws. The ability is actually more solid in its wording than the original PrC's. Well done!



At 6th level, the class receives an ability that is too strong for the level - it allows a vindicator to heal or harm the living or undead, regardless of whether she channels positive or negative energy. Do you know how hard clerics usually have to struggle to get this level of flexibility? Yeah. Ouch. The 18th level ability does show that there's something odd here: " At 18th level, when the holy vindicator channels energy, she can choose to heal or harm all types of creatures, regardless of what type of energy she channels. This is in addition to her previous options." Does that mean choosing for each creature separately? the ability doesn't say and if not, it does nothing the 6th level ability doesn't already do. A rephrase would be in order here. Versatile channel is btw. gained at 12th level.



Conversely, adding immediate action doom to criticals/as retribution for crits feels comparatively tame, as does the 14th level death knell and the capstone bestow curse. Here, we once again have the alignment-issue in my book - these spell-like hi/retribution tricks feel pretty much nasty to me, so a more good-feeling option would have been appreciated. Adding bonus damage, sickened and bleed to channel smites while bleeding from the stigmata is damn cool, as is adding said power to their channels.



The class comes with FCOs for the core-races and the Polkan-race as well as with the traditional level 1, 5, 10 and 15-sample NPC-builds, once again with a solid narrative backing them up. The sample NPCs use d10 instead of d12 as HD, though. The math of upgrading the HP properly isn’t hard, but still, a minor glitch.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no bad glitches apart from the HD-guffaw. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and sans art apart from the cover.



Carl Cramér's Holy Vindicator is surprisingly good - really, I enjoyed this take on what amounts to an alternate paladin-ish class with a tighter focus on channel energy. The stigmata are cool and the tie-in with the blood-themed abilities has been well-conserved. That being said, I would have loved for a tighter ability-integration/more stigmata-synergy. The full channel progression and high HD feel like a bit much, though not to the point where it would be unbalancing. I would have wished for tighter wording regarding the good/evil-dichotomy and a more varied array of options here - some way to render the rather unfocused PrC more organic. This is by no means a bad installment of the series, but it is also one that could have easily went for the full 5 stars + seal, were it just a tad more brave in its modifications of the base-PrC. As provided, I will settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Warrior Prestige Archetype: The Holy Vindicator
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Advanced Races 13: Werelions (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2015 07:05:21
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Races-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!



This installment kicks off with a short, general look at the race of werelions and does sport a short box of their role within the Midgard campaign setting, though you should be aware that the level of detail provided is far below what one has seen in similar installments of the series - which is somewhat a pity, since lion prides as a social union and their adaption to humanoid cultures would have made for an interesting playing ground, which the pdf only touches upon.



Rules-wise, natural werelions receive +2 Wis, -2 Cha. In shifted form, they utilize the stats that are higher - base or animal. In hybrid and animal shapes, they also receive +2 to Str and Con. Werelions are humanoids with the shapechanger subtype. They are medium and receive a 40 ft. base movement speed. Per default, they are not infectious and they receive a penalty to all social interactions when dealing with other lycanthropes. They can change shape as a move action, with equipment melding into animal, but not into hybrid form. For balance's sake, only lesser lions are available for low level shapechanges - more on that later. In hybrid form, they receive a 1d6 bite attack and two 1d3 claw attacks - both fail to specify whether they are considered primary or secondary attacks. And yes, *I* am aware how such interaction is usually handled, but I maintain that the pdf should still list that for convenience's sake. They also receive low-light vision.



Now the scaling of this rather strong race can be handled via two methods. First of which would be a kind of racial paragon class - any time after 5th level, they can gain a level in their racial class as a favored class, receiving +1 BAB, +2 Fort-saves, skill points equal to the character's favored class 1d8 HP. The level also nets them the option to shapechange into full-blown lion form, +5 natural armor in lion shape, animal empathy with lions, DR 10/silver. They also can choose alternate favored class options for +1/2 increased AC or +1 DR/silver instead of their favored class bonus - both VERY powerful when compared to other FCOs.

The racial paragon-level, when compared to similar creature builds, feels pretty strong - especially since the base creature already is very strong. It also is exceedingly, terribly clunky. It's essentially a single prestige paragon level, crammed into a character's regular progression without rhyme or reason or a proper presentation - don't get me wrong - it *is* functional. But from a design aesthetic perspective, there are A LOT ways to handle this more organically without introducing a make-believe mechanic that does not exist in regular PFRPG. This feels like a work-in-progress list of stuff the race ought to be able to do, crammed into a thoroughly inorganic way right into the heart of the class/race-progression - and that's before the confusing, non-standard presentation comes into play. Urgh.



There is also the option to render a werelion as an infected lycanthrope via a CR +0 template that nets +10 ft. enhancement, shapechange (akin to the non-upgraded natural werelion's, though it does require constitution checks) and the same attribute upgrades when changed. In a different take, the race receives a penalty to all die rolls on failed attempts to change. On nights of a full moon, the checks to assume human form become much harder, whereas those to change into animal/hybrid form receive a significant bonus. They also suffer from the curse of the hunting moon - 3 nights a month, they uncontrollably change (which somewhat contradicts the above assertions of implied control) they need to hunt down...something. Oddly, the ability references a reduction of penalties... which probably refer to the significant problems the race faces when living through full moon nights without kills, but a slightly crisper pointer towards that would have helped. Akin to natural werelions, at 6th level they can receive a similar upgrade to their power-level, increasing their template's worth to CR+1 - which may be nice, but DOESN'T HELP PLAYING THEM.



Okay, let's get this out of the way - this is 3.X design-philosophy in anything but name. The races are STRONG already - adding the respective paragon-levels, we receive what amounts to an ECL jammed in at higher levels to create a semblance of balance that is simply not there. Even when compared to the exceedingly strong lamia, the werelions remain too strong in my book. Worse, they don't necessarily excel at what they set out to do - the penalties for failing to hunt ANYTHING are laughably lax and nigh impossible NOT to fulfill for just about any character - yes, this includes warriors et al. Unfortunately, this also renders the very notion of lycanthropy being a curse, of becoming a monster, essentially ad absurdum. This whole racial presentation is utterly baffling to me - it violates just about every way in which racial presentation is usually handled and does so without introducing a mechanical consistency/balance that would warrant it.



Werelions also get age, height and weight table and aforementioned lesser lion statblock is provided herein as well - which somewhat conflicts with the templated approach. As for rules-options, sorcerors may choose the new lion-blooded bloodline, including natural spell and the option to wildshape into scaling leonine form. The sorcerors may also spontaneously convert transmutation spells into a temporary bonus to atk and damage that do not multiply on crits - I just don't get why it is SP. It think it should be Su or Ex since it explicitly states that it can't be dispelled anyways. And becoming a huge lion as a capstone is pretty cool, but also not a reason to take the bloodline - for most sorcs, the melee focus will be a very, very bad idea.

Generally, a conceptually pretty nice, though not by any means perfect bloodline that had me flash back to one of my favorite Solomon Kane comics. Inquisitors may elect to become Ndau, or hunting lions. When these inquisitors slay a prey and consume part of the body (which they can either do slowly or rushed), the inquisitor receives a bonus depending on the organ consumed. The prey needs to be sentient and yes, the ability is kitten-proof! The higher the level, the more parallel benefits can be maintained - a total of 9 benefits are provided and yes, rushed and ongoing benefits are totally different - nice! (And it better be, since it replaces, spells, domains and judgments...) Ndau also receive woodland stride, quarry and a capstone that further enhances their tricks. Know what? I really, really like this archetype - it fits rather neatly with the concept and its bonuses make sense. That being said, the lack of spells also means that the class damn well could have used an additional power-gain - it is flavorful, yes...but it could use a power upgrade.



On the favored class options line, we receive one for barbarians, bards, druids, rangers, rogues, sorcerors, oracles (3 mystery-specific ones!), witch, battle scion, shaman and spell-less ranger. I really liked these, in spite of the formatting being obviously non-standard - special FCOs for archetypes/class features are a neat idea that ought to be explored further. Kudos for that, in spite of the presentation botch.



A total of 8 new racial feats allows you to improve your lion forms sans taking the racial level, gain (DM approval-based) infectious lycanthropy or faster transformation. Making your lycanthropy harder to remove will also be on the must-have list for quite a few characters. That being said, the AoE-demoralization roar and the +10 ft. when withdrawing/running/charging-feat can be considered a tad bit too strong in my book. I absolutely LOATHE the feat that lets you detect shapechangers per Perception - not due to mechanical issues, but rather due to the fixed DC that does not account for Disguise. Yes, it can be thwarted by certain spells, but still - why not take disguise into account? Seems only fair, doesn't it? As far as overly specific detects go, still not a bad one, in spite of my personal antipathy towards the concept.



A total of 5 different traits (all specifying their proper trait-type!) can be found herein - and are universally just oozing fluff. Two spells would be next: Predator's Gaze nets you a gaze attack that renders a target flat-footed AND cannot move from their current square. Rather powerful, but also extremely interesting - but it suffers from confused mechanic - the spell has a duration of 1 round +1 round/level. It can be activated as a swift action, whereupon the target of the gaze has to save - got that. The target can't move from the square and is flatfooted on a failed save for one round, got that. But how long does the "no movement"-part last? Also one round? For the full spell's duration? Is the gaze discharged upon use? Can multiple creatures be rendered unmoving by the same spell? Depending on the answers to these questions, the spell may be either strong or utterly overpowered.



The second spell would be Hunter's Discerning Sight, which allows you to determine alignment components, falsehoods etc. - essentially a combo-detect spell. Okay, I guess. The pdf also sports 2 new magic items - one that enhances claws and one that allows the wielder to activate rings, wands, potions, staves and wondrous items melded into your form - which is very powerful, though thankfully the pdf mentions that the items still provoke AoOs etc. - but can they still be disarmed? Stolen? If not, then this needs fixing... If a character owns both items, the former allows claws to utilize the enhancements of weapons.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally pretty good - there are almost no formal, true glitches; rather than that, we receive a couple of non-standard formatting instances that may catch you slightly off guard and make the content more difficult to grasp than it ought to be. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful two-column full color standard and the pdf does sport downright gorgeous full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Ben McFarland and Brian Suskind are obviously talented designers and Ben in particular was the reason I did not cringe at the thought of reviewing this pdf - he has proven time and again his ability to handle complex concepts. Ben, my man, I'm sorry. I love your other designs, I really do. But what has happened here?

This pdf feels very much like a half-baked work-in-progress book. The solutions for the scaling of the race, while well-intentioned, just don't work within the frame of the Pathfinder-rules. The callback to what amounts to templated ECL-races directly contradicts how races are handled in EVERY other publication.

Now don't get me wrong - while too powerful to fit into every campaign, the werelions generally can be considered a powerful race that can enrich a given campaign - of that I have no doubt. However, there are a couple of instances in the base racial traits, wherein the power of the werelions could have easily been scaled in easier and more versatile ways - specifically, in the upgrades for the natural and infected werelions. First, racial paragon levels would have benefited from coming with a proper table - as a kind of racial paragon PrC...or alternatively, as something that spans multiple levels...or as feats. (Eric Morton's Animal Races-series uses racial feats pretty well to grant otherwise powerful abilities with a concise scaling mechanism...) The amount of benefits gained is more than significant and stretching them over more levels, feats, fcos...whatever... would have made for a slightly smoother experience in my book.



Yes, that can be chalked down, at least halfway, to a matter of design-aesthetics. The new content provided beyond the imho broken base racial presentations ranges from downright brilliant/innovative (class ability-/Archetype-specific FCOs? Cool idea!) to problematic (spells...) and the minor formatting issues would be another strike against the pdf.

And then, there would also be the missed chance with the relative lack of fluff - information on individual takes on classes, relationships with other races etc. The like can't be found herein, rendering this pdf more crunch-centric than previous ARs. This constitutes a missed opportunity in my book, especially knowing how good Ben McFarland is at crafting awesome cultures/fluff and considering the tabula rasa nature of werelions, who have not yet been covered by similar publications.

Some of you might not care about the wonky level-insert. About the relative lack of fluff. About the exceeding power-level of the race. For you, this may be a 3 stars-file. But as a reviewer, I can't let this pdf stand at that point - for people emphasizing fluff, for those looking for elegant fluff that seamlessly works, for those shaking their heads at the thought of the crammed-in racial level... this pdf simply does NOT deliver what it easily could. For you, this is a 2-star-file. My final verdict will clock in in-between, at 2.5 stars, rounded up by a teeny, tiny margin to 3, but only since a capable DM can properly make what is in here work smoothly.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 13: Werelions (Pathfinder RPG)
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The Onmyoji - A Japanese Occult Diviner [PFRPG]
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/28/2015 05:53:39
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This new base-class clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So what is the Onmyōji? Mechanically, we receive a 20-level base-class with 1/2 BAB-progression, good will-saves, d6, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, kukri, double chicken saber, tonfa, monk's spade and naginata as well as proficiency with shields. When wearing armor or shields the onmyōji is not proficient with, petitions increase their cost by +1 and talismans are reduced to 1/2 duration. Onmyōji begin play with a spirit pool equal to cha-mod, which grows to 12+cha-mod (+2 every 3 levels). They also start with 2 prayers known and scale that up to 11. At 2nd level, they have the first petition and scale that up by +1 every even level thereafter. It should also be noted that an onmyōji receives access to two cantrips/orisons that cna be changed as a new sequence of abilities added via the most recent update.



An onmyōji begins play with a shikigami, a kami bound to the onmyōji's service in an origami paper vessel. If said shikigami dies, it can be replaced after 1 week for 200 gp per onmyōji level in an 8-hour ceremony. Shikigami are tiny constructs with d10 HD (and 1/2 HD-progression), a fixed Str of 6, 10 Int, Wis and Cha and a Dex-score that begins at 14 and sclaes up to 15 at 7th level and 16 at 15th level. The shikigami has 1/2 BAB-progression and no good save. It begins play with 2 skills (and has its own skill-list of class skills) and begins play with a feat, receiving another one at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Sounds fragile? Well, while within 20 feet of the onmyōji that is its master, it receives the master's Wisdom modifier as hardness. Additionally, while within this range, it grants the onmyōji bonuses as if a familiar. Its origami-form determines its natural attacks. It may also place talismans the master knows while within this range, drawing on the onmyōji's resource, but using the shikigami's HD rather than the class level to determine talisman duration. A shikigami can communicate with the master onmyōji and it has a spirit pool equal to its HD, but may only use these points to influence talismans it has placed itself. This short-range benefits increase by +5 ft at 2nd level further for every HD the shikigami has. At 5th level, the shikigami receives improved evasion. At 9th and 15th level, the shikigami receives more bonus hit points, counting as a larger-sized construct - which btw. are provided in a handy table. It should also be noted that the shikigami may now participate in the added cantrip/orison ability.



Now I mentioned the spirit pool - this can be utilized in a variety of ways: The onmyōji can extend the reach by 5 ft. per onmyōji level for the purposes of placing talismans for 1 round or extend the duration of an active talisman within 60 ft. by 5 rounds. He may extend the duration of ALL such talismans at 13th level. At 5th level, the onmyōji may increase the hardness of all active talismans within 60 ft. by wis-mod for 1 round and at 7th level, an o-fuda talisman's radius within 60 ft. may be expanded by 5 ft (2 o-fuda talismans at 14th level). 11th level onmyōji may pay 2 spirit points for a +10 ft. radius-extension. (2 at 16th level)

All of these can be activated as swift actions. As an immediate action, the onmyōji of 11th level or higher may temporarily increase a talisman's HP by wis-mod times 3. At 17th level, a spirit pool point can be used to make the next talisman not count against the daily allotment and 20th level onmyōji may treat o-fuda talismans as onamori talismans for the purpose of its prayer. Sounds confusing? Well wait a second and read on, it's actually pretty simple and concisely presented in the pdf.



First, let me explain those talismans: Talismans are small tokens usually made of paper, cloth or wood, decorated with glyphs. An onmyōji begins play with 2 prayers and learns an additional one at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter. When placing a talisman, an onmyōji can choose a prayer that is compatible with the talisman-type and the onmyōji has to have a wis-score of at least 10 +1/2 the minimum level of the prayer's level requirement. Talismans do not allow for saving throws and have a limited hardness equal to wis-mod, hp equal to class levels times 3. Destroying a talisman ends its effects; otherwise, it lasts for 3 rounds, +1 round for each class level. An onmyōji may deploy class level + wis-mod talismans per day. There are two types of talisman, first of which would be o-fuda. These generate their warding effects in a 10 ft.-radius upon being placed and canot be moved while placed, only destroyed. The second type would be the onamori - these are attached to creatures the onmyōji threatens, either voluntarily or via a touch attack. These only affect the creature to which they are attached. Failing to hit does NOT expend talisman-uses - nice!



Onmyōji of 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter also learn a petition to the spirits. These are governed by Charisma, with a 10 +1/2 min level minimum requirement in the ability score analogue to the Wis-based talismans. Petitions have a DC of 10 + 1/2 class level + cha-mod.



The class comes with favored class options for the core-races, aasimar, drow, hobgoblins, kobolds, orcs, puddlings and tieflings - and they are interesting, actually - e.g. adding bleed damage to onamori is pretty interesting and fitting for half-orcs/orcs... Now, we also receive a significant array of onmyōji-feats - increased spirit pool-size, more petitions, reduced costs of a petition, gaining temporary spirit points when executing an ability chosen from the spirit pool's options. Granting shikigami a bonus feat, granting shikigami the option to wear an item in the neck slot or increasing attributes of your shikigami/sharing an petition with your paper pet or increasing the size of a shikigami's spirit pool/sharing the master's level for onamori when close by...interesting. It should also be noted that the most recent update has introduced multiple limited-use spell-like ability-granting feats to add to the fray. Some of these new feats also are assigned as prerequisites for new petitions and the gifting of tricks, but more on petitions later.



Speaking of interesting - I love the idea of friendship-feats. These special feats are aligned with the 7 lucky gods of Japanese mythology, significantly increasing the potency of the petition aligned with said god. However, an onmyōji may only have ONE friendship-feat at a given time...so choose wisely your allies among the gods! Really like the fluff of these feats. Petitions essentially constitute the spells of the class, all coming with required levels (instead of petition-levels) and drawing from the same spirit pool resource. Conjuring force-damage dealing phantom legions, petitioning the scarecrow god Kuebiko for a divination - but one that only extends half an hour. Shields of temporary hit points, or a status-like effect based on heavenly bureaucrats - the petitions themselves are not only mechanically interesting, they also evoke a ridiculously awesome imagery and often come with quite an awesome narrative potential. Daikoku-ten, for example, may create mundane goods for you, but they do vanish upon executing the petition the next time... Raising the dead can also be achieved by petitioning Fukorokuju. Or perhaps you want to conjure forth a kami of the morning dew, which may explode upon the target receiving damage to douse the unfortunate in healing spray?



These petitions stand out due to two facts - for one, they provide Interjection games' interesting knack for cool mechanics and nifty combo-potential. however, more so than in almost all IG-releases, these petitions also BREATHE the awesomeness of the extensive Japanese mythology and supplement the great rules with an imagery that is ridiculously evocative and steeped in lore. Everyone even remotely into Japanese mythology will have a field day here, grinning from ear to ear. Ever wanted to fly on ethereal cherry blossoms? Yeah. You read these and can immediately picture them - even in the cases where the mechanics are interesting, but not too special, it is the imagery that makes the petition awesome. For less romantic imagery, what about emitting a dread shriek of the dishonored and perished souls or unleashing Raijin's thunderclap on foes? On the mechanical side, the most interesting petition herein essentially takes all the 1/day spell-like abilities granted and turns them into a pool, for more flexibility - nice!



Talismans should also not be neglected in my enumeration of options herein - they also come with minimum level restrictions and most prayers (but not all) can be used on either o-fuda or onamori. The onamori's can be considered single-target effects, while the o-fuda, if used wisely, can make the onmyōji's area-buffing absolutely unique and rewarding, allowing you to finally lure foes into your cleverly laid-out o-fuda traps. Guiding attacks, increasing the potency of the elements, increasing the healing of allies - all pretty cool and sporting mechanics that deviate enough from spellcasting to maintain the unique flavor of the class - what about e.g. granting allies the option to spit weaponized energy-based saliva? Temporary negating age-based penalties for the image of the venerable monk standing up and kicking badass butt? Yeah, I love these.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' printer-friendly 2-column standard and the pdf comes with a solid array of bookmarks. Artwork is a blend of traditional illustrations from mythology and even photographs for a surprisingly concise presentation that original artwork probably couldn't have surpassed.



I've read and analyzed *A LOT* of Interjection Games classes - and whenever I think I've seen all the tricks Bradley Crouch can come up, his creativity bubbles forth like a hot spring, creating something I did not expect. The onmyōji combines being a unique pet-class with a unique, yet easy to grasp spellcasting system and excellent enabler-capabilities for a class that is utterly, completely inspired. Not only is the crunch creative and unique, the class also breathes a rich mythology that adds the fluff-icing on the crunchy, perfect bacon of this class. I *adore* the onmyōji - it may be one of the best classes Bradley's done so far and I sincerely hope we'll see future expansions (the class has SO MUCH untapped potential beyond its glorious incarnation herein!) for the onmyōji. It is utterly unique and a must-buy addition to each campaign even remotely wildering in Japanese or Eastern mythology. This is one of the best 3pp-classes currently out there and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval and is a candidate for my Top ten of 2014.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Onmyoji - A Japanese Occult Diviner [PFRPG]
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The Genius Guide to Bravery Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2015 05:57:18
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Genius Guide clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Bravery effing sucks. It's a good idea, but in a class as relatively straightforward and boring as the fighter, it simply doesn't do its job well. Hence, a LOT of archetypes trade it in, rendering the maintenance of the class feature a subpar option in many cases. Enter this pdf - all the feats herein do require this neglected class feature - but can they make bravery actually relevant? Okay, let's take a look at Battlefield Commander - this one allows you, as a swift action, to share bravery with all allies in range of your voice for 3+ 1/2 class level rounds, adding one bravery feat to the things shared One can also see author Michael Sayre's design for Dreamscarred Press in that the feat can be used 1/bravery feat, using a scaling mechanism similar to one that can be found in psionics.



Now no, not all of these feats boil down to tactician-ish options - fighters who have undaunted assault can smash foes to the ground, causing bleed damage and rendering the terrain difficult for the target to stand up from - damn cool imagery! What does undaunted assault do? Well, it allows you to take a penalty to AC equal to your bravery bonus and gain the same to melee attacks, also counting as having an Int of 13 and as Power Attack for prereq-purposes. Now this feat, quite unabashedly, wilders in expertse/power attack-terrain and usually, I'd be crying foul right now. However, the tie-in with class features makes for an interesting array of build-options, especially for low point-buy, gritty campaigns I *really* like. So yeah, powerful, but also damn cool and provides a slight edge re feat-economy for fighters.



Adding minor damage to bull rush/overruns while using undaunted assault (or an analogue bonus for grapples or for drag/repositions or dirty tricks) also makes for interesting choices - especially since e.g. max size-movable and similar small variables render the feats distinct beyond being just clones of one another - nice to see that the author went the extra mile! The feats also allow you to reduce the duration of fear-effects, enhance defenses versus disarms, power feints with bravery...pretty varied. What about adding bravery to item saves and hardness while you wear them? Adding bravery to demoralize effect-DCs as well? Adding bravery to skills can help the fighter excel in non-combat situations and then, there is eldritch parry.



When you or an adjacent creature is targeted by an instantaneous spell, spell-like ability or supernatural ability, you may, as an immediate action identify the ability (via Spellcraft/Knowledge) against 10+Cl or 10+HD (latter for supernatural abilities) - you cancel this out on a successful roll. The ability may be used once per day, +1 per bravery feat. Powerful, yes...but I really like it for fighters and being staggered for one round thereafter is a great pay-off! For once, they *CAN* do something against that caster/dragon's breath/petrifying gaze. Using this ability for spell sunder-like tricks via a follow-up feat also should be considered nice! Counting as a fighter at -4 levels for the purpose of bravery...not a fan of that one, since it once again takes away from these unique options. EDIT: I probably should have mentioned that this option is pretty much for bravery-less fighters only, but still - it allows for a transparency I personally, in this instance, didn't like.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' printer-friendly 2-column full-color standard with solid full-color artworks, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and hyperlinked for your convenience.



When I reviewed Michael Sayre's Vizier, I became excited about the Akashic Mysteries-line. But is he a one-trick pony? Well, if the review was no indicator so far:

*ehem*

Bravery no longer sucks!! I can't believe it! In fact, this pdf ranks among the best "Let's make the fighter not suck so much"-books I've ever read. Each feat has some awesomeness going for it and sports concise, well-phrased rules-language, marrying that with awesome, evocative concepts. One good book is an incident, 2 are a trend. I adore this book, with my only gripe remaining that I don't have more such feats at my finger-tips. So, when do we get book II? Seriously, I ADORE this little, humble pdf - while powerful, the feats ooze flair and went over REALLY well even in a 15-point-buy Conan-esque playtest sans PC-casters. In fact, while working great in standard fantasy, these feats work just as well in low/non-magic/gritty settings and campaigns, allowing for some of the truly iconic tricks versus the supernatural one always wanted fighters to sport. This book is NOT about damage-escalation, it's about making martials more interesting by expansion in breadth, allowing for much more options and cool ways to excel and be relevant, even when not in combat.

This book is so good, I found myself often contemplating how Path of War would have ended up with Michael at the lead-design. These options are powerful, yet superbly balanced and have excited me beyond ANY feat-book I've read in the last couple of MONTHS. Yes, this inspired, this cool - final verdict: Must-have recommendation, 5 stars + seal of approval...and, because it is a VERY elegant system AND survived not only the regular, but also the extremely specific playtest scenarios superbly and made my players ask for more, I'll also nominate it as a candidate for my Top ten of 2014. Fighters need to get this.

Endzeitgest out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Bravery Feats
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101 Swamp Spells (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2015 05:47:43
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Rite Publishing's classic 101-series clocks in at a massive 44 ages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 39 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Unlike most spells, these are tied to the very environment - a rules-decision I like. After all, fiction brims with monsters and casters drawing strength from their domain (and yes, that happens to be one of the rules-concepts I pretty much love in D&D 5th edition), so seeing spells like this added makes for a good thing in my book. The pdf sports the swamp patron-spell list and spell-lists for ALL casting classes. So, essentially - these spells are potent, but when executed in a swamp (a term defined e.g. by virtue of ranger's favored terrain et al., rendering the concept not alien to PFRPG's rules and thus safe from my nitpickery), their potency increases beyond the otherwise existing combo-potential.



Okay, I can babble on for all eternity, but you're interested in what I actually mean by that, aren't you? well, let's take a look at Acid and Poison, an 8th level spell that lets you target an object or point in space - said object thereafter becomes the origin of an emanation that transforms environmental liquids into acid that also poisons targets. Now if you're familiar with making spells, this will render ALL alarm-bells a-ringin': First, we have a complex area of effect, since it does provide the option for movement of the emanation origin. Well, the wording covers that. Secondly, the save-sequence versus acid/poison is less linear than one would expect. Once again, the pdf manages to handle that. Thirdly, the spell relies on environmental liquids - a term that is open to wide interpretation...until the concise, well-written definition gets rid of all ambiguity. Additional swamp effect? Ruin and affect magical and attended liquids on a successful caster-level check. And there I was looking forward to tearing the spell apart...



Kidding aside, this is pretty impressive, since it takes just about all variables of a spell and does something unique and interesting with them, elevating this spell far above the default "yet another damage-spells" crops. This spell also renders one sample of the aforementioned terrain-based enhancements these spells receive. Other spells utilize a slight escalation of the potency of their effects, while others are indeed, completely dependent on the terrain - flying through foggy air saturated with high degrees of ambient moisture only works for as far as there's enough of that around - upon leaving such a swampy area, it's literally all downhill for the airswim spell - love btw. the imagery the name alone evokes. This, however, is NOT where this pdf is content to stop - Kin of the Moor deserves, nay, needs to acknowledged for its interesting mechanics. A ritual in anything but name, it requires the recipients to provide hair as a fetish for a specific bonding to a vast area. Now the most intriguing part of this base spell would be that the text actually renders a highly complex mechanic for area of effect extension possible, allowing for the slow, but gradual extension of one's domain. All creatures thus bound not only see a significant increase in potency (and yes, this increases proper wording that manages to capture numerical escalation beyond the bonds of usual level-caps) while in their chosen terrain, they also can be returned from the dead much easier.This is NOT where the spell's appeal ends, though.

Let me confess something. I'm pretty much bored with many types of vanilla spellcasting. I've simply read too many default deal xyz/conjure forth bla-spells to be impressed by them anymore. I shrug, move on and hope for some glimmer of the new. Now, aforementioned spell serves as the basis for other spells, allowing you to teleport established kin to your side via another spell. This may sound pretty bland, but one look at the level and the entwined mechanic unveils this as a) actually pretty innovative and b) interesting also regarding the inherent logic of conflict-resolution in a magical world. I am dead serious when I'm saying that a couple of brief reflections made me come up with pretty interesting stalemate situations and adventure-seeds. And these days, not too many spells or themes evoke that from me.



Speaking of interesting synergy and terrain control - if you read a spell-title like chill fog, you pretty much expect a bland numerical damage, perhaps some obscuring mist/fog cloud-duplicate, but, at least I, did NOT expect the supercooled fog to quickly escalate its damage potential, potentially even duplicating full-blown the effects of encase in ice. More straight-forward, yes, but even if you refrain from utilizing this spell in its regular way, the base mechanics can make one glorious hazard - just think about it: The PCs open portal X, crash cooling tube of super-golem Y and suddenly, they have to flee the dungeon from the spreading, deadly cold - and taking too long to clear the doors and debris will see them slowly freeze, the escalation providing ample hints at the unpleasant fate to come. Yes, I may like this a bit - why? Because it COULD be bland. It could be boring. It could be reductive and simple. It's nothing of these, instead electing to be evocative, uncommon and inspiring.



Now the terrain-control spells via control fog and e.g. control bog remain in no way behind these interesting options in the rather versatile and interesting benefits they put at the behest of their casters. Yes, not all spells reach this level of coolness (pardon the pun) - summoning nightmares 8and later, cauchemars) would be thematically fitting, but also pretty bland. However, what about the protection from swamps-spell? It sounds like everything I HATE about environmental spells - I mean, what good is a cool locale if the PCs can easily negate all effects? Well, this one instead makes hiding in swamps easier as well as providing bonuses versus poisons and diseases. Bonuses, not immunities, mind you. While a humble spell, it once again could have run afoul of quite a few bad design-choices and instead opted for a story-enabler: It doesn't negate the threats of swamps, it tips the scales in the PC's favor. And it's better hiding component can be used by a good Dm to send an experienced group into swamps beyond their capacity. "Yeah, you only have to save the townsfolk from the swamp's inbred cannibal - be sure to not run into the black dragon while crossing his terrain..."



Hey, remember those nifty shock lizards? Those cute buggers with the arcing electricity that got TPK-level nasty in groups? Well, what about spells that make you and your allies shockingly good team-members, providing essentially a teamwork-spell? Yeah, neat! There would also be a spell that is very powerful called Spirit Naga Soul. This allows the caster to cast cleric spells of 3rd level or lower at the cost of a reduction of 6th level spells...and very exotic material components. Now this spell could be considered very powerful and indeed, thankfully, the pdf acknowledges this. So what it does to balance this is the requirement for nasty and costly material components. Is this spell for every group? No. But instead of leaving the DM in the dark about its potency, it instead finds a way to balance this and thus puts control firmly in DM hands. What about a spell that lodges a stirge-proboscis in the target, draining blood and potentially attracting living stirges in swamps...Yeah, these spells take quite a lot work off the hands of a DM seeking to portray a concise environments - where usually, one would have to remember the like or create synergy-effects on the fly, these spells increase the immersion by helping the DM with generating the illusion of a concise terrain and spell/world-interaction. Yes, the spells may at times be variants of already existing options - but they are NOT boring. They are not bland. They are superior, more concise and creative iterations. They are, essentially, closer to my own ideal of how magic ought to be.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a greenish variant of Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard. Artwork ranges from mind-boggling original to thematically-fitting stock-art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.



I did not expect to like this book one bit. It has ALL the strikes going against it. Yet another spell-book? Yawn. First time author? Urgh. Terrain-centric spell-book? Noes. I mean, think about 3.X terrain-books - cool hazards, cool effects, challenging ideas - and a bunch of classes and spells to negate all of that coolness. Not fun. Plus, I've read more than 4K spells for Pathfinder alone. On the plus-side, the book had Rite Publishing (with a nigh unparalleled track-record of decidedly non-boring, original and most of the time, superb pdfs) as a publisher. And I happen to be aware that author David Paul has academic teaching experience. Why is that good? Because academic writing (or software coding) isn't that different from writing good crunch - you have a very specific set of rules-language, a syntax and semantics you have to work with, while at the same time being required to create new and innovative results without violating said parameters. And if the parameters hit their borders, expand them in a way that fits as seamlessly as possible within the frame of the presentation of the established rules-set.



I haven't seen such a good spellbook from a novice-designer in ages. I am not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that I consider the spells herein innovative and inspiring. I am also not exaggerating when I'm saying that I was rather impressed by the willingness to tackle difficult concepts and putting them into a tight, fitting rules-language without compromising the vision behind these spells. This pdf was inspiring to read to an extent I very, very rarely encounter with spell-themed books. Better yet, this pdf's crunch is not only inspiring, it displays the required mastery of craftsmanship to back up the artfully depicted effects of these astonishing spells.



To my complete surprise, this pdf's pages blew too fast by while I was reading the pages and actually left me craving more such supplements for other terrain types. David, if you're reading this, please keep writing. I really want to see where you can take your designs -we need more pdf like this that make spells interesting again. Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Swamp Spells (PFRPG)
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Age of Electrotech
Publisher: Radiance House
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/17/2015 04:36:39
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This book clocks in at 100 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 94 (!!!) pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So what is this book? Well, it can be thought of as a huge campaign-template akin to LPJr Design's Obsidian Apocalypse - the age of electrotech has dawned and now, super-science and magic exist side by side, with electricity-based gadgets and the like influencing how everything is run. A fitting analogy would be a kind of Tesla-Punk - how to integrate this (e.g. just one country - à la Golarion's Numeria or Ravenloft's Lamordia) to the full world - all depending on the DM's whim.



The book kicks off with the Technician base class, which receives d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor, simple weapons and shields, 3/4 BAB-progression, good ref-and will-saves and a so-called maximum tinker-level scaling from 1st up to 6th. The class also receives 1 battery point, scaling up to 105 at 20th level...but what does all of that mean?



Well, first of all, obviously, technicians receive Electrotech Proficiency as a bonus feat as first level and they also receive + class level to Craft (electrotech)-checks analogue to alchemist et al. High intelligence increases the battery points the class has and battery points recharge after 8 hours. They are essentially the technician's resource, which powers his gadgets, tinkers and similar devices. hooking up a device to the battery pack requires 1 minute. Technicians may construct so-called gadgets - these can be used by paying their base cost, upgraded by allocating additional battery points. At 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the technician can craft progressively better upgrades from +1 battery point cost to +5 at 13th level. Gadgets take up one of the item-slots - chest, hands, head or feet and equipping/removing them requires 10 rounds, with the option to hasten it at the chance of rendering the gadget broken. Effect generated by gadgets are extraordinary effects, but unlike most such abilities, they are subject to SR and can potentially be counterspelled/dispelled - we have full system-transparency here.



Tinkers on the other hand are devices that can be wielded like wands to duplicate effects, functioning pretty much like spellcasting. Unlike spells, though, a tinker may be charged with battery points to increase the daily amount the tinker can be used. The formula for their creation are marked in a tinker manual, somewhat akin to a spellbook. Now beyond this exceedingly flexible base system, the class ALSO sports so-called innovations - gained at 2nd level, +1 every 2 levels thereafter, these constitute the talents of the class and allow for even more options - for example combining multiple gadgets into one, on-the-fly reassignment of battery points etc. Better driving-skills (more on that later), weaponized tinkers, better weakness analysis of foes - this is very much a scientist-class - but the technician does NOT stop there - at 1st level, the class also decides on a trade (though, again, this can be modified by innovations!) - trades work somewhat akin to oracle mysteries or bloodlines in that they provide a trade skill as class skill, a bonus-feat selection and a linear progression of special abilities gained at 1st, 3rd, 9th and 15th level. Sounds like a bloodline, not a mystery? Yeah, but I also evoked mysteries due to one fact - each trade add certain, exclusive innovations to the array the technician can choose from. The trade provide for a focus on crafting, firearms (including grit), junker's jury-rigging, vehicle/driver-specialization, soldier, tinker, trap and symbiont specialization - more on that later. And yes, were I to go into details regarding these options, this review would bloat beyond belief. More than one page of favored class options can be found herein. It admittedly took some time to properly analyze this complex class...and know what? It WORKS. Superbly so. One note - if you're using Interjection Games' Tinker or Gadgeteer-classes, I'd suggest renaming the technician's tinkers and gadgets. ;)



The technician's flexibility does NOT end here, though - beyond the absolutely astounding flexibility provided by the base class, we also receive archetypes for the class - beyond providing more than superb crunch, these guys cover quite literally everything cool I would have wanted from technician archetypes - Cyborg? Check. Electromedics (who needs clerics?) - check. Pact Magic-crossover occult esotechnicians? Check. Grenadiers? Check. Holotechnicians? Check. Necrotechnicians creating techno-undead? Friggin' yeah and check! Transmogriphiers that specialize in transmuting and mutagens? Check! At this point, picture me drooling wide-eyed and grinning at the screen.



Now a complete subsystem of items and a class should render it no surprise that the pdf also sports quite a significant array of different feats. These include metatech feats (guess what these do...) and the usual improvements for additional uses of limited daily use-abilities etc.



At this point, the 32-page mark, we enter the electrotech gear chapter - yes. I'm not kidding. So, the weapons. The table covers a whole page. And yes, modifications like double barrels can be added to e.g. nucleonic rifles, while sawridge shields and splinterhail grenades as well as stock prods breathe the spirit of scifi, super-tech, tesla-punk...however you want to call it, the chapter is glorious. Beyond these implements of death, several defensive items and household items can be found herein as well - chamber lamps, air stabilizers, heaters, iconographs, phonographs - it may seem like nothing special, but without these, the book would be missing vital pieces that really help get into the mood of the material Specialized tool and skill kits also elp portraying a society that has moved beyond the traditional confines of medieval society.



And then, there would be madnesses. These truly go off the deep-end and constitute technical wonders beyond what is readily available in a default society - what about e.g. a pod that can modify your age, pigmentation and even gender or race? Stasis pods? Helms that can be used to stimulate or hamper a character's performance? Hypnotist's helmets? Color-coded mind-influence? The equivalent of an atomic bomb? A machine to purge foreign subjects from a target? Pleasure-hazes creating orbs, with truly nefarious extensions? A chair that allows you to extend the reach of your magic to miles? Röntgen booths? Machines for forced alignment changes? Yes, these essentially artifact-level wonders run the gamut of traditional scifi and weird fiction, making me constantly envisioning my favorites of the classics - I am not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that EACH of these items can change a campaign, nay can even power a whole campaign. They're this iconic, this interesting.



Of course, classic science-fiction is, more often than not, also defined by the fantastic vehicles sported within - especially Jules Verne has become pretty much the default association just about anyone would have in that regard. And yes - from flying saucers to hover-vehicles to jetcrafts and tanks - vehicles upon vehicles, all ready for your perusal...oh so AWESOME!



Now I mentioned gadgets - these do not simply pop up, as one could have expected - instead, concise and easy to grasp rules for research and crafting them can be found within these pages alongside comprehensive tables of gadgets - from ant-inspired better carrying/less armor issues (and even wielding oversized weapons) to blasters, jetpack-like vastly improved jumps, the gadgets are surprisingly versatile - and, more often than not, do something utterly, completely UNIQUE. The gadgets alone would be cool - but combine their neat basic premises with aforementioned, rather interesting special tricks AND the 5-step upgrade system for maximum customization options and we have a system that ends up as not only flexible, but downright brilliant. And yes, we get grappling hooks, bionic commando style, scanners, magnifiers...even personal translators! Beyond these, there are symbionts - and,a s an old Venom fanboy, I was pretty much looking forward to them, their concise rules and implementation. And yes, these symbionts are rather interesting - though surprisingly, and somewhat disappointingly mundane though they turned out to be. What do I mean by this? Well, first of all, there is nothing wrong with the symbionts - there rules are concise, their benefits unique and they make for a very cool way to reward players even in campaigns that sport no electrotech - just explain it via aberrant stuff etc. and you#re good to go. That being said, they are pretty much one note-augmentations - no detrimental effects, no symbiont-highjacks - nothing. Again, this does not make them bad and their acquisition, recovery and death-rules are concise, but especially when compared to the rest of the book, they feel very static and ironically, inorganic when compared to the vast panorama of options provided by gadgets et al. One deserves special mention, though - the animan symbiont can transform normal humans into an animal-like race called mutamorphs, one of two new races.



The base mutamorph race receives +2 Con, -2 Cha, count as both mutamorphs and humans, receive -4 to all cha-based check and get low-light-vision. Additionally, they may select one of 8 basic sets, which align them with e.g. bears, wolves etc. and influence thus their movement rate, a further +2 bonus to an attribute etc. Here, the rules-language could be a) slightly more precise and b) balancing is off. Natural weapons fails to specify whether they're primary or secondary and bite attacks, for example do not adhere to the standard damage for medium creatures. Additionally, we have unassisted personal flight at 1st level for e.g. Bat mutamorphs, which can be a problem in quite a few campaigns. The second new race, the raccoon-folk Nashi receive +2 Con, -2 Int, are small, slow, receive +1 to diplomacy and Knowledge, low-light vision, +2 to Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering), Appraise, Perception and Spellcraft as well as early firearm proficiency. Okay race. Both races receive full arrays of favored class options. Nashi can also select a bunch of alternate racial traits, some of which are pretty strong and replace bland +2 bonuses to skills - which renders them pretty much a no-brainer. Not a particular fan of this decision.



Character traits, new skill uses for old (and new skills) etc. also make an appearance

After the rather sobering racial write-ups, we're back to form - with technician background generators akin to those found in Ultimate Campaign as well as *drum-roll* KIMGDOM-BUILDING SUPPOORT! Electroplants, hydroworks, MONORAIL TRACKS (!!!), radiation sickness, airfields, broadcasting towers - even in completely unrelated settings, the content provided here is gold. Better yet, new rooms and buildings for my beloved downtime system are also provided for - including airfields, factories etc. - and there it is again, the manic, stupid grin that was on my face for most of the time while I was reading this book.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed next to no glitches - quite a feat for a book of this size. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read, printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf has copious amounts of awesome, original pieces of b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.



Radiance House does not publish books often, but when they do, they tend to rank in the upper echelon - indeed, so far, I have yet to be truly disappointed by a given book. Dario Nardi and Alexander Augunas did not break this trend. Instead, they deliver something special: I expected this to be a PFRPG-book of the Electrotech-world detailed in other supplements - instead, I received a thoroughly concise campaign-overlay. With the content herein, you can easily introduce electrotech in any doses you deem appropriate into your campaign - from full-blown all-out scifi to fantasy with fallen spacecrafts to anything in-between. Whether you're playing Rhûne or Pure Steam, Iron Gods or any other even remotely steampunky/science-fiction-style setting, this delivers. In fact, if you're aiming for a magic-less system sans deities etc., this answers the healing question. From hardcore scifi to teslapunk, in small doses or in buckets - the Age of Electrotech is an absolute must-own publication. The technician is one of the coolest classes currently available and its massive customization options are downright beautiful to behold. After some tinkering, I am proud to say that I could not flaws with this exceedingly versatile class - which is quite a feat. Indeed, this is quite probably the best gadgeteering class currently out there - and one for which I really hope I'll see more material. Making a technician is simply an immensely rewarding experience and the playtesting does show - even more impressive then, that a class of this complexity is so utterly easy to grasp. Kudos indeed!



My criticism towards the symbionts should be considered nagging at a high level, and thus, we only remain with the racial write-ups not being on par with the otherwise exceedingly high quality of this book. But that also pales before the VAST array of utterly inspiring options contained within these pages - from the Ultimate Campaign-support to the vehicles, this book is a joy and one I definitely will get in print as soon as my finances permit it.



Before I gush even more and start to sound like a complete fanboy - the Age of Electrotech should be considered a must-have addition to any game that likes to introduce a bit of the uncommon into their fantasy - the content's rules alone, heck, the class alone maybe worth the asking price. Add to that the fact that you can easily reskin the fluff to treat this as magic, steam or whatever, and we have a massive book of glorious crunch, with inspiring fluff sprinkled in that can easily be summed up with the words "must have". My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and I nominate this as a candidate for my top ten of 2014 - this book deserves your attention and delivers excellence for its price.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Age of Electrotech
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Alternate Dungeons: Mystic Ruins
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/17/2015 04:35:14
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' Alternate Dungeon-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!



So this time around, Alexander Augunas guides us through the process of making strange Mystic Ruins an alternate dungeon-area - but what exactly does that entail? Well, first of all, we receive what amounts to incremental degrees of 5 (anti-) magic levels -from dead to wild magic to ruins that enhance certain types of magic, these modifications instantly change the dynamics of your dungeon-ruins - pretty cool! But beyond magic levels, we also receive effects that see locomotive modifications become unstable, hypnotic sounds and yes, grasping vines.



The general suggested features provided, including dizzying haze, multi-level design that allows for the scouting (and potentially skipping) between vertically aligned levels and mutagenic properties (in the form of a simple penalty, but you can always make that one more complex) -these make for interesting and unique modification-suggestions.



So far, so good - what about sacking the place? Well, from living steel t power cmponents and alchemical and arcane reagents, we receive a bunch of cool, thematically-fitting loot suggestions, some even with nice in-game bonuses.



Dressing of the ruins is also provided for, with considerations of different sample functions and the harvesting of dressings-section features some nice scaling suggestions of the modifications provided. The pdf does include a massive table with 37 entries (plus toll twice/thrice) - and once again, the table is pretty damn glorious: What about having everything in the ruins slowly shrink? A nice coat of nasty mold or slime? Nascent magical auras? Or the fact that unattended woo immediately bursts into flames? A couple of the entries here are downright inspired and should suffice to create a ruin that has its function and history develop organically from its dressing outwards - and if this table does not suffice, just add wilderness/dungeon dressing and you're good to go!



The next page would be devoted to suggested monsters to encounter within the ruins and while useful for novice DMs, so far in every installment of the series this chapter has tended to bore me, the selection this time around is more interesting and diverse, so kudos! Speaking of kudos - I love what follows next - from mundane collapses and hazards to magical ones and even planar thinning with chaotic surges from limbo/maelstrom, this chapter really is nice and a great cheat sheet to make exploration more memorable.



Speaking of prior issues of the series - whereas so far the adventure hooks were functional, but not particularly inspired, we may not receive less, only 2, but the two that we get actually are pretty awesome -from leaks in the planar fabric to goblinifying devices, the hooks are inspired and cool - two thumbs up!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, but not as flawless as I've come to expect from Raging Swan Press. Layout adheres to RSP's elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks as well as fully bookmarked. Additionally, you receive two versions, one optimized for screen-use, one optimized for the printer.



Alexander Augunas' latest Alternate Dungeon-installment is inspired in all the right places. When I read "Mystic Ruins", I was expecting a generic train-ride of blandness and "been there, done that"- tricks. Well, I am happy to report that even experienced DMs can find quite a bunch of cool stuff herein! Best of all, while generic enough for newbie DMs to use, this still manages to maintain the balance between generic and specific, generating its very own identity. A fun, cool little pdf that should definitely help keep boredom away. Surprisingly fun and very inexpensive, this pdf is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Dungeons: Mystic Ruins
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Urban Dressing: Slum Town
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/14/2015 09:28:45
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of what I'd tentatively call the "new" Urban Dressing-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Ah, the seedy underbelly of a town, the slums...where the reader is definitely glad that the 100 entries of sights and sounds can't be transported via smell-o-vision: Cesspools, shady characters and examples of misery paint a vivid picture for DMs to utilize in their games...but of course, one should probably hire a guide from the 50 sample businesses when entering the slums...unless one wants to try one's luck with the charlatans...or is down on one's luck and in need of a moneylender.



Drug pits, sweat shops - in these squalid surroundings, it should come as no surprise that the 50 sample NPCs include a couple of individuals you definitely don't want to meet...though net dancers with hearts of gold can be found amidst the dark and less than savory individuals. If this rich panorama of misery and people down on their luck is not enough, 20 adventure hooks, from escorting noble daughters slumming (perhaps to meet with a paramour from the lower class?) to tracking down escaped slaves provides fodder for any enterprising DM to develop into a cool, compelling story.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' 2-column b/w-standard and the artwork is thematically fitting b/w-stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use.



I can't emphasize enough how much this series has prospered under Josh Vogt's guidance - whereas the first "season" of Urban Dressing was hit and miss, this evocative pdf provides more than a bit of great flavor - it is captivating, compelling, immersive. It breathes the grand flavor of dark fantasy novels and the muddy streets, the labyrinthine alleys and crannies seem to jump from these pages, rendering this installment, even among the more recent UDs, as a stand-out, brilliant example, one I will, without any hesitation or doubt, award 5 stars + seal of approval -if your PCs like the seedier parts of town, this is a must-have supplement!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Slum Town
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Warrior Prestige Archetype: The Frenzied Liberator
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/14/2015 09:26:12
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf of the Warrior Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction (explaining the base concept of the series), 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



What are Prestige Archetypes? Well, I reviewed the whole first series, so here's the tl;dr-version: They are prestige classes blended with one (or more) base-class(es) to result in a new, 20-level-class - much like you had modified the base class with an archetype. Get it? Yeah, not a hard concept to grasp, is it? Now personally, I use Prestige Classes with an emphasis on the PRESTIGE-component, archetypes more like a career path, but this differs wildly from how PrCs are handled in most cases. Hence, e.g. the PA: Assassin from the first subscription was pretty much a godsend for my party. But can this one stand up to or surpass its first series?



So, if the title wasn't ample clue, the frenzied liberator would be a combo of the barbarian and the liberator PrC. As such, the class receives full BAB-progression, d12, good fort-saves, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armor and shields.



At first level, the class receives fast movement and rage (the latter scaling up to greater, tireless mighty rage at 11th, 17th and 20th level, respectively) and 2nd level delivers uncanny dodge, 5th improved uncanny dodge.3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the class receives Trap Sense (getting progressively better, of course.) Starting at 4th level, these bonuses are also applied to saves vs. poisons, tying both abilities together in a neat way - like it more than the base PrC's solution of fixed numbers. At 6th level, this PA's version of lockbreaker instead applies the trap sense bonus on Str-checks to break down thing, on attacks versus objects and on Escape Artist-checks to escape bonds etc. - once again, a much smoother solution than the PrC (and thankfully, more efficient).

Speaking of "like it more" - at 2nd level, the class receives "To the Rescue" - when raging, all allies within 30 ft. receive a +4 morale bonus on Escape Artist-checks and to saves versus fear effects - much cooler and more organic than the PrC's clunky version of said ability. At 7th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the frenzied liberator receives DR, at 8th level a bonus feat...and at 10th level, the silent sunder ability - make no more noise while breaking chains, whether by sundering or strength-checks. Two thumbs up!



At 12th level, these guys may ignore *A LOT* of hardness and 14th level frenzied liberators receive +4 to will-saves to resist enchantment spells. Steely Resolve's wording is actually more precise than in the PrC. At 16th level, darkvision-extension may be a bit late to the party, but the 18th level ability to break objects as swift actions ROCKS. Picture me going full blown Arnie: "AI VIL BREIK EFRYZING YOU OUWN!" Like it! As a capstone, casting freedom of movement 1/day at full CL may not be too impressive - but being subject to it without it being dispellable/there being any option to counter it - permanently...well, that's nice!



The pdf sports FCOs for the core races as well as for the avoodim, though here, a couple of glitches have crept in - the FCO for half-elves speak of low-light conditions when the usual terminology refers to "dim light" etc. and the ones for elves lacks the "ft." behind the one - yeah, nitpicks and in both cases, you know what was meant, but still. Also: While humans can reduce fatigue after rage, that becomes useless with tireless rage. Here, a high-level alternative/trade-in would have been nice.



The pdf closes with the traditional NPC-builds for 1st, 5th, 10th and 15th level, but this time around, we also receive a nice, aptly-written background-story for the NPC - nice, as it renders teh character more than numbers!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches beyond the level of the FCO-nitpicks. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and sans art apart from the cover.



I expected to not like this pdf. I absolutely LOATHE the Liberator-PrC. I think it's a classic example of boring, bad design that tarnishes a cool idea. The concept is great, the PrC...not so much. Enter Carl Cramér's take on the trope and know what - seeing how much I dislike the framework, I have to admit to liking what he has done with the less than stellar pieces he worked with. The tying of abilities together renders the class smoother in execution and the unique, new abilities can be considered pretty much fun enablers that render the base concept underlying the assumptions of the PrC more valid. The Frenzied Liberator resounds with the trope of the freedom-loving barbarian and should be considered superior in style and execution when compared to the sum of the parts used to build it. That being said, I would have loved stealth-enhancing, perhaps scaling methods of silent liberation sooner. Still, as written a solid installment in the series and well worth a recommendation as a good 4 star-file.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Warrior Prestige Archetype: The Frenzied Liberator
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ZEITGEIST #7: Schism (PATHFINDER RPG)
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/13/2015 06:32:52
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 7th installment of the groundbreaking Zeitgeist AP clocks in at 95 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, for a massive 90 pages - so can this module stand up to the ridiculous high quality of its predecessors?



In order to find that out, this review will need to delve deep into SPOILER-territory - potential players should definitely jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Still here? All right! The defense mechanisms and structure of the conspiracy the PCs face is nigh impenetrable - but thankfully, the stalwart constables of the RHC may finally have a chance to go deep undercover - the call for help in the last module needs to be followed up. Alexander Grappa, himself responsible for the creation of the mind of the titanic golem featured in module #5, is trapped in the mind of an obscurati thankfully unaware of his presence - in order to gain a proper man on the inside, the PCs will need to catch the conspirator and make sure that the blind passenger soul can take control of the body it now shares.



But the PCs don't know that yet - instead, the module begins with the PCs reaching a conclave of the obscurati, braving the security and being welcomed by the mastermind Nicodemus - how they got to this place, well, that will be explained (and played!) after this rather exciting teaser of the things to come! (And yes, from body-switching to complications and alternate ways into the module, this one has quite a bit of potential trouble-shooting available for your perusal...)



Now the way to this exciting scenery is NOT linear either - managing fey (and possibly engaging in a battle of wits with them - the sub-chapter's header is epic rap battle of history...) and tracking down aforementioned possessed individual turns out to be a rather complex endeavor - with smart use of magic at the hands of both PCs and adversaries being expected at this point. If the Pcs don't run afoul of the opposition trying to stop them, they'll sooner or later have to plan their assault on Leon's train in the lavishly mapped Mirsk plain station -including maps of the train's cabins, by the way.



Now the issue is, if the PCs manage to defeat their opposition and secure Leon alive, they won't be closer to having their exclusive ticket to the Ob's grand event - to achieve that, it's a trip to the frozen peaks concealing the spires of Knütpara, right into the domain of the dread frost giants. Infiltrating this place, wherein the dread frost giant lich may offer a way to switch souls...for a price, namely freedom from his icy prison. The switch completed, PCs will realize that facing off against an organization like the OB has its benefits - the lich's brittle body collapses upon being released - so far for his plans for world domination, which fail rather pitifully.



The switch complete (including the PC's bodies), the PCs now have a perfect inside man and may begin the infiltration of the Obscurati's conclave - and realize that a friend of theirs is possessed by the very top man of the conspiracy! And from there on, this module becomes an espionage fans wet dream - the PCs are in deep, at the very heart of the hostile conspiracy, faced with the council of ghosts, prison planes, planar switches, smart uses of the iconic magical lanterns...and more intrigue than they'll ever want. Then, the bodies start dropping. An important monk/paladin called Vitus Sigismund has been captured...and the conflicting ideologies within the conspiracy wrestle for control.



Now if you're a DM, this might seem horribly complicated - it isn't. In fact, the PC's host bodies have their own hand-outs ready, with rules-information for gestalting-special abilities. Better yet, the diverse factions in the obscurati also have their ideologies summed up in handy handouts. And believe you me, the summit will become rather nasty even without the attempts at assassination - whether or not the PCs blow their cover, the mastermind of the obscurati will have a chance to interact with the PCs and sooner or later, there will be a vote...and there will be blood, as the advocates of a potentially tyrannical philosophy are culled from the ranks in a surprising display of brutality.



If the PCs survive the chaos, exploding duplicants, deceptions upon deceptions and the ensuing evacuation, including a furious, chaotic finale, the future of the very world and its cosmology will be set on a path - a path that was at least co-determined by the PCs...and honestly, they may even consider the arguments of the obscurati valid...



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to EN Publishing's beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the artworks provided are nice. The full color cartography is glorious and the pdf is layered, allowing for customization to make the pdf printer-friendly. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Ryan Nock's Schism is yet another installment in this epic that deserves nothing but the utmost praise - from subdued humor to brilliant adversaries and truly iconic locations - and a sense of gravitas one rarely, if ever, sees in any given module, much less one in the middle of an ongoing campaign. The Zeitgeist AP is a thinking man's campaign, ridiculously detailed and smart, focused on cinematic, smart roleplaying and a distinct focus on brains over brawn. That being said, much like in previous installments, there is ample action to be found herein - and yes, my summary above was at the very best sketchy - there is infinitely more going on in the module, with ample choices for the PCs to make. One would assume that the AP would run out of steam, but quite the contrary seems to be the case - instead of slowly grinding to a halt from the continuous climaxes, the modules instead just switch gears to change to a different highlight - even the calm and serene moments, much like in great movies or books, can carry a ridiculous amount of gravitas, of potential. Schism is one extremely unique module, one that makes full use of Zeitgeist's diverse, unique concepts, brilliant seeds and copious, unique NPCs - this is a module where masks fall and intentions are revealed, a brilliant masterpiece that can stand among the best in this glorious series...and yes, that means something! My final verdict will thus, unsurprisingly, clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval for the longest unbroken string of such high recommendations any product line ever has achieved. If the masterminds don't botch big time, the Zeitgeist AP may indeed become THE roleplaying monument of this generation.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST #7: Schism (PATHFINDER RPG)
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Animal Races: Clan of the Bat
Publisher: Eric Morton Presents
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/13/2015 06:30:58
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Animal Races-series clock in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Much like prior installments to this series, we herein receive rules for PCs belonging to one of the tightly and concisely-presented animal clans, with bat therians this time being the focus of attention. Bat clan therians may choose either to be small or medium, but both receive +2 Dex, -2 Str. Bat therians are humanoids with the dhampir subtype, low-light vision, +1 natural armor (upgrades to +2 at 10th level), a bite attack at one dice-step below what would be usual for creatures of the size. members of clan bat are healed by negative energy and damaged by positive energy. If a member of clan bat has nothing in both hands and doesn't wear medium(heavy armor, the creature also receives an unassisted flight-speed of 30 feet with poor maneuverability. This can become an issue with some groups, since unassisted flight is usually limited to a higher level. It should be noted that the fly-rules specify that a creature can only fly when not carrying medium or more encumbrance, so that constitutes another limitation, which, alongside the negative energy affinity, somewhat offsets this powerful boon.



Members of Clan Bat may select one of 3 racial heritages - regular bats receive +2 to Cha and may select the racial heritage feat as a rogue talent. Jiang-Shi receive +2 to Wis and may select the racial heritage feat instead of a monk bonus feat. Finally, Nosferatu receive +2 to Cha and may select the feat instead of an oracle revelation and use the Curse of the Vampire feat as if it were an oracle curse.



Aforementioned racial heritage feat allows you to gain claw attacks, a climb speed, faster flight and a damage-upgrade to the bite. If you have all of these, you may also learn 40 ft. blindsense, inflict +1d6 bleed damage with claws and improved maneuverability. All in all, the racial heritage bonus feat feels too strong this time around - the default design assumption being that one begins with gliding wings and upgrades them towards flight at higher levels. Fly speed, climb speed, blindsense - all not per se too strong, but in the combination and relative ease with which they can be obtained, this one feel a bit over the top. And yes, I am aware that the minimum level required to get these scales up, still, this one feels a tad bit too good for my tastes...

The Curse of the Vampire feat can also grant progressive benefits, though it provides no means of selection - it constitutes essentially a list of progressive immunities, from emotion-based effects to death effects. While this is paid for by not being able to receive morale bonuses, this feat in particular constitutes a mayor design-blunder in my book - the amount of immunities gained is significant and can be gained very fast. Edit: In a previous iteration of this pdf, the feat could be used as an oracle-curse, which was ridiculous. At least this component has been nerfed. Still, too strong - at level 6, these guys can have immunity to fear- and emotion-based effects, morale, the exhausted and the fatigued condition, sleep effects, nonlethal damage, paralysis and the stunned condition. If your game is condition-light, that may not show as much, but in quite a few games I know, this is ridiculously strong.



Now the fluff of this installment is pretty glorious and the deity write-up of Camazotz is neat as well and a total of 6 heraldic crests as replacements for traits can be found, once again for bonus feats at the cost of will-save penalties. One is particularly interesting, granting Imp Ini, but at the same time this one prevents the stacking of trait-bonuses to initiative.



The pdf also introduces the so-called nectar of life, a certain type of honey of a now eradicated plant that doubles as vampire-repellant and as potion of cure light wounds. There are also different kinds of batfolk - escapees from the lands of the vampires, disowned by their clans and purged of the darkness by consumption of aforementioned nectar of life. These are known as batfolk.

Batfolk therians may choose either to be small or medium, but both receive +2 Dex, -2 Str. Bat therians are humanoids with the ratfolk (that should probably be BaTfolk...) subtype, low-light vision, +1 natural armor (upgrades to +2 at 10th level), scent and positive energy affinity, meaning that they can't be raised as undead. If a batfolk has nothing in both hands and doesn't wear medium(heavy armor, the creature also receives an unassisted flight-speed of 30 feet with poor maneuverability. This can become an issue with some groups, since unassisted flight is usually limited to a higher level. It should be noted that the fly-rules specify that a creature can only fly when not carrying medium or more encumbrance, so that constitutes another limitation, which, alongside the negative energy affinity, somewhat offsets this powerful boon. They also may select one of two racial heritages - regular batfolk receive +2 Cha and may take heritage feats instead of paladin mercies, whereas Flying foxes receive +2 to Cha and may select the racial heritage feats instead of rogue talents. The heritage they receive is more conservative - it only allows for a selection of claws, climb-speed and fast flight, with nimble flight as a kind of capstone.





The final pages of this installment are devoted to the portrayal of vampires and the CR +0/+1 lesser vampiric creatures, which once again can be considered a pretty awesome bonus chapter.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, there is not much to complain about here. Layout adheres to a very crisp and concise two-column b/w-standard with cool heraldic crests and stock art mixed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Eric Morton's bat clan ranks among my favorites in the series, even more so with the added, non-vampiric batfolk, but it is also perhaps the one installment in the series that I consider not particularly well-balanced - from the exceedingly strong vampire-progression via feats to the unassisted flight and senses, the bats, especially the members of the clan, feel like they got too good a deal. They are not broken, mind you -in high powered games, they work pretty well. But lower powered games may consider them problematic - and the same holds true for games where the DM is not prepared to deal with level 1 flight and climb speed. This does not render this pdf bad, but it makes it less refined that its brethren. Oh, and the curse-synergy needs to die a fiery death. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 due to this pdf not deserving a mediocre rating and due to the non-vampiric batfolk providing a slightly less powerful alternative (though one that also sports 1st level unassisted flight...).

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Animal Races: Clan of the Bat
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Warrior Prestige Archetype: The Celestial Knight
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/13/2015 06:29:56
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf of the Warrior Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction (explaining the base concept of the series), 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



What are Prestige Archetypes? Well, I reviewed the whole first series, so here's the tl;dr-version: They are prestige classes blended with one (or more) base-class(es) to result in a new, 20-level-class - much like you had modified the base class with an archetype. Get it? Yeah, not a hard concept to grasp, is it? Now personally, I use Prestige Classes with an emphasis on the PRESTIGE-component, archetypes more like a career path, but this differs wildly from how PrCs are handled in most cases. Hence, e.g. the PA: Assassin from the first subscription was pretty much a godsend for my party. But can this one stand up to or surpass its first series?



The Celestial Knight is based on the PrC of the same name with parent classes cavalier and ranger. The class receives full BAB-progression, good fort-saves , d10, 4+Int skills per level and the class must be within one step of the patron deity. The Celestial Knight receives full armor and weapon proficiency (light, medium, heavy armor + shields and simple and martial weapons). 1st level celestial knights receive favored enemy as well as tactician. 2nd level celestial knights may choose from a list of defensively-themed bonus feats and learn an additional feat every 4 levels thereafter. 2nd level celestial knights may also add half their favored enemy bonus to saves versus spells and effects of the favored enemy. 3rd level celestial knights receive +1/3 class level as bonus to AC and CMD versus undead and at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, we're in for a bonus teamwork-feat. At 7th level, these guys treat AoOs versus undead and against spellcasters when casting necromancy/evil-spells not as counting against the limit per round. Powerful, but specific enough.



9th level celestial knights becomes even more adept at thwarting necromancy/death-spells andundead spellcasters expecially will be afraid of these guys - against them, the knights receive Disruptive and Spellbreaker. Yeah. Ouch. AT 13th level, these guys may dispel aforementioned spell effects as part of their melee attacks, with a caster level equal to total character level - interesting choice not to go for class level here, but in this case, I'm okay with it. 17th level celestial knights may force concentration rerolls and as a capstone, they may 1/day as a swift action for 1 minute go into super-form, receiving a blinding shield, a cloak of resistance+5 (in addition to other properties!) and turning the sword wielded as if subject to the holy sword spell. Interesting super-form capstone.



Alternate celestial knights may instead focus on aberrations, fey, outsiders etc., coming with their own associated spell schools. The pdf comes with solid FCOs for the core-races and the dhosari and we end the pdf with a sample NPC build for levels 1, 5, 10 and 15



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and sans art apart from the cover.



Carl Cramér's Celestial Knight doesn't have an easy heritage - I don't particularly like anti-x-classes when they're too geared towards stamping out a specific type of foe. That being said, mechanically, the celestial knight prestige archetype does a pretty good job at representing the hunter of necromancers/undead casters and tackling a lich or the like with one of these guys will be at least slightly less frightening. The defensive focus and teamwork/spell-sabotage combination of options renders the celestial knight a pretty solid anti-caster class, though definitely one that would have benefited from either a way to improve saves or for quicker movement - after all, what use is an anti-caster brute that can't catch up to the caster? Now I am aware that this would have went beyond the design-intent of this installment, but I still feel it would have benefited the class. As written, this is a solid entry in the series and well worth a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the solid craftsmanship and the relatively good conversion of an utterly bland base PrC. Kudos!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Warrior Prestige Archetype: The Celestial Knight
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Path of Dragons
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/12/2015 06:02:51
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the Mythic Paths-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 3 pages how-to-use/introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!



So, know what sucks in my book? The relative vulnerability of dragons to certain builds. Yeah, in my home-game, I fixed that via templates etc., but the matter of fact remains that in mythic rules, this is further enhanced. Enter this pdf.



Beyond a number of suggested abilities from the Mythic Adventures base book to help design challenging draconic adversaries, we receive new abilities - a lot of them.



Take bloodied breath - this one allows a dragon to breathe as an immediate action after being critically hit when below 50% HP via mythic power, even if cooldown would prevent that - not a fan of the bloodied concept in the first place, but know what? In this instance, I can live with it. Metabreath modifications to make breath-cones into lines also is nice. More interesting, though: The option to use mythic power to not only extend the range of their breath, but also change the shape of the breath weapon. What about ball-shaped, splashing breath (including no saves for direct hits)?



Fast healing after some damage incurred, splitting breath weapons into two different areas and classics like clinging breath weapons can be found herein. What about automatic snatches with tails? Significantly increased damage when smashing down to hapless saps, combining charging with breath weapons for truly devastating assaults...pretty awesome. Now remember my first premise? Well, draconic fortitude allows the dragons to partially ignore a lot of the annoying cheap shots against them - and this ability alone should very much be a must-have for proper draconic bosses.



Adding stench, a kind of omni-evasion (for all saves versus magical/spell-like/supernatural attacks) that also doubles as minor healing, flinging foes, blinding scales, less susceptibility versus mind-influencing tricks or polymorphs...glorious. Adding repositions to Stand Still, resistance towards negative energy (and death effects), stealing mythic power, better defenses versus touch attacks, better spell sundering (send that barbarian home crying...), strafing breaths, dual claw attacks...this is BEAUTIFUL. Seriously, this takes all the cheesy cheap shots and negates them, bringing back the wonder and fear to our beloved apex predators.



This, however, is NOT where the pdf stops - instead, we are introduced to so-scaled Draconic Paths - these can be used as an alternative or addition to mythic powers granted by tiers etc. (come on, they're dragons - go for "in addition!"), including a short discussion on whether or not to upgrade the CR. A total of 7 such paths are provided - from the archmage to the tyrant to the watcher and miser, they delve deeply into archetypal behavior of our favorite draconic adversaries; From the sybillant's masterful manipulations and shape-changing, their mesmerizing gazes and riddle-suffused talking habits to true masters of the skies that can tear through any opposition in the heavens to hulking brutes of titans that are truly the all-destroying melee adversaries one would expect, these paths SIGNIFICANTLY enhance dragons further.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Th pdf does sport some glorious full-color artwork, though fans of Legendary Games may be familiar with all pieces from previous supplements.



All right, let's not mince words here: Jason Nelson is an extremely prolific writer and the average level of quality of his writing is very high, impressively so. But even taking that into account, once in a while, he produces a pdf that simply excels, that goes above and beyond, that puts its metaphorical finger at a certain pulse in the rules.

This pdf is one such example. It oozes heart's blood and passion - it analyzes the things that made dragons less fearsome and allows for valid counter strategies. It goes above and beyond what one can see in several similar draconic toolkits and produces rock-solid crunch that belongs to a very special type: Know those instances, when sometimes, just reading a rule sets your imagination ablaze, makes you go "Heck yeah, THAT'S how it ought to have been in the first place!"? Well, this pdf is just such a file.

While not all abilities breathe this level of awesomeness, the matter of fact remains that the dragon-enhancers herein are simply glorious. To a point where I'd argue for their inclusion even in non-mythic builds. We *ALL* want dragons to face off alone versus groups of PCs without them mopping the floor with our beloved royal reptiles, don't we? We want this level of awe, the fear, the sense of accomplishment that should accompany every draconic encounter. This book brings that back. Now as a warning - player-supplements à la Dracomancer/In the Company of Dragons should not be used in conjunction with these abilities - what is herein is defiantly powerful. It elevates the most iconic monster back to the peak of the food chain. I'd honestly recommend this pdf to any DM looking for abilities that bring the challenge back to their dragons. I love this pdf - it is utterly and totally glorious and oozes passion, while providing more than solid rules-design.



My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars +seal of approval, given without any hesitation. This is a superb example and an excellent reminder of the excellence Jason Nelson is capable of. This is a total must buy pdf.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of Dragons
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GM's Miscellany: Random Wilderness Encounters
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/12/2015 06:00:40
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive compilation clocks in at no less than 141 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page of advertisement, 1 page editorial,1 page ToC, 1 page advice on how to read statblocks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with no less than 134 (!!!!) pages of content, so let's take a look!



Now, first of all, I have to commend the fact that this massive compilation actually sports short author bios for all contributing authors - generating awareness and reputations for authors is pretty important in my book. Beyond the ToC listing ELs and XP-values, we receive a massive 3-page table of statblocks by CR, which range from none (for e.g. familiars) to CR 10, including the pages on which they can be found. A list of encounters by CR also helps the DM.



Now if you haven't noticed it - this is MUCH longer than the two Random Wilderness Encounters-pdfs - it also includes the 2 random woodland encounters-pdfs, random marsh and hill encounter AND a vast array of he encounters Creighton Broadhurst makes for Rite Publishing's free monthly e-zine, collecting a vast array of content in one handy tome.



Now I have written reviews for all of them, often going into detail regarding the respective encounters. Thus, in order to avoid undue redundancy, I won't go through them AGAIN and instead answer a question you might have - Is this worth the asking price?



To answer this question, I'll have to go on a slight tangent. As much as skipping them is helpful to keep the story moving, it is my firm believe nonetheless that quite a few modern modules suffer from an absence of properly detailed random encounters. No, I'm not talking about the old Final Fantasy-style grinding marathons (nobody liked these!), but rather those that could provide more local color, that did not necessarily stand out from regular encounters. A random encounter can go a VERY long way in increasing the immersion of players into a given world - when handled properly, they can convey a much more believable illusion that the world does not simply exist for the PCs, that they are just a small part in a world. A giant spider feasting on an orc may be more than just a throwaway combat - it may serve as an omen, as foreshadowing and it may be an adventure hook in itself. When handled properly, even the most random of encounters can vastly enhance the cohesion of a campaign and deliver most unexpected attachments and ways for the PCs to interact with their world.



The encounters collected herein, while often sporting combat, do extend to other approaches, also including salvage operations, diplomacy and the like, providing a nice array of diversions. Better yet, the organization of the respective encounters actually constitutes a significant improvement over the constituent pdfs, with a chapter on desert-themed encounters (formerly mostly Wilderness Encounters II) and the random mountain encounters can and should also be explicitly mentioned.



Beyond that, though, the encounters excel in one particular area - in how ridiculously easy they can be used. Does the encounter sport aerial combat? You'll see a short summary of relevant rules. Bandits blocking the path with a fallen tree? The tree will have DCs assigned to climb it...and so on. The attention to detail, more often than not, can simply be considered awesome and makes it quite literally possible for the DM to just open the book and run the encounters on the fly sans preparations.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, as often with Raging Swan Press, is top-notch - I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's two-column b/w-standard, with thematically-fitting b/w-art. The pdf comes with excessive, nested bookmarks and the pdf does additionally come in two versions, with one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer. I can't comment on the quality of the print-version since I do not own it.



Designers Jesper Andersen, Richard D. Bennett, Mikael Berg, Creighton Broadhurst, Denver Edwards Jr., Jeff Erwin, Fabian Fehrs, James F.D. Graham, Mark Hoover, Kiel Howell, Ben Kent, Jacob W. Michaels, Jens Demandt Mouritsen, Julian Neale, David Posener, Brian J. Ratcliff, Jacob Trier, Christopher Wasko, Nick Wasko and Daron Woodson can be proud - this massive book contains awesome encounter upon awesome encounter. Now yes, seeing how many writers were involved here, one can easily see that not all encounters will cater to all tastes, but the matter of fact remains - this book contains a huge load of awesome and even inspired encounters that will greatly enrich any campaign they are introduced to.



Now for my part, I can't tell you whether this compilation will be worth it for you if you already own the component pdfs - while I usually print out all pdfs and thus have the paper ready, former print editions by Raging Swan Press have shown me that their excellent organization can actually make you use them more and easier than the component files. My prognosis is that this also holds true for this book. The collection of the Pathways-encounters can be considered the cherry on top of this extremely convenient book. If you don't have the constituent pdfs, this is very much a must-buy 5 stars + seal of approval file. If you do, though, the decision mainly boils down to convenience as a factor. All of that out of the way, this pdf somewhat suffers from having a horribly difficult legacy, seeing how RSP's "Caves & Caverns" essentially set a new standard for underworld encounters in both style and substance. Hence, as far as my general verdict is concerned, I will settle on a final verdict of 5 stars - this is an excellent book with a superb bang-for-buck ratio, just short of true brilliance.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Random Wilderness Encounters
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Wondrous Items 3: Magic Mirrors
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/11/2015 04:47:22
An Endzeitgeist.com review

his installment of the Wondrous Items-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!



"Mirror, Mirror" - not only are those two words an utterly iconic component of Snow White, they also are the title of two of my favorite power metal songs (Halloween and Blind Guardian, for those so inclined...). Beyond this utterly useless factoid, I was always stumped by the relative lack of magical mirrors among the magical items for any d20-based supplement. A brief glance at real world mythology renders this oversight even more stupefying. Enter this supplement by Kobold Press - but will we get items worthy in concept and execution of the iconic premise?



Well, first of all, the issues of portability and magical solutions for this issue of logistics as well as claiming ownership for a given mirror are covered in concise rules. After that, we immediately receive the rules for the respective mirrors - and a short glance at the item's weight-lines does show that one ought to take them seriously - not all mirrors are small, hand-held devices and weight-lines of 70 lbs., for example, demand creative solutions if the PCs want to benefit from the mirrors.



Alas, a look at this line also shows that the very first mirror already has a typo - alas, not the only one herein - a weight of "5 3 lbs."[sic!] for a handheld mirror seems excessive and makes me believe that the 5 constitutes a typo, not the blank space. But what does it do? Well, here, I am grinning again - you throw it into a designated square and determine the height at which the mirror is supposed to float. Henceforth, the mirror is treated as your line of effect, effectively ricocheting your missiles towards enemies that have cover. A similar mirror also exists for rays, magic missiles and line-shaped spells, btw. Generally, I am not sure whether this mirror is supposed to also negate total concealment of magically granted cover or not, constituting a minor nitpick against it, but seeing how it generally sports well-written rules-mechanics for such a complex rules-interaction, I am willing to consider this in dubio pro reo and assume that it ignores all types of cover and not total cover etc. and chalk it up to magic.



A looks-enhancing mirror with a charm effect is pretty basic, but there are also less conventional mirrors to be found herein - take a mirror that can store diseases, poisons and curses to be negated at a later time - but also the option to unleash said affliction son unwitting people looking right into the mirror. Generating a flank-enhancing hazy duplicate of the owner also can be considered an interesting idea/effect. A mirror that can be used to empower rays or create a somewhat mutagen-y distorted image of the creature peering into it, granting physical bonuses at the cost of temporary penalties. What about a mirror that can create a ghast-doppelgänger of a creature that had the unfortunate honor of being reflected in its surface? Yeah, pretty much narrative gold there. Paired mirrors that can be sued to create temporal stasis when placed opposite each other should also be commended - the effects of mirror-contractions have always fascinated me, so yeah - interesting imagery and quite some interesting narrative potential, also due to the trap/trick-component inherent in the unique behavior of the mirrors.



Among the most powerful of mirrors, journeying into an alternate reality is a classic, almost artifact-level item that not only supports a MASSIVE amount of interesting plot-lines, it also can be used for great effect to negate an almost-TPK...or even a TPK in progress. A mirror that records identities and allows you to assume them is also damn impressive as far as cool plotlines go.



On the more offensive side - what about a mirror that can be struck against a solid object, unleashing multiple silvery blades which can be animated? Or a mirror that can store sunlight, to later act as a way to combat the creatures of the night? Retrying failed int/wis-based checks at the potential cost of one's sanity should also be considered as a smart, flavorful choice. Memory storing, eavesdropping...being turned into a hideous gargoyle, being targeted by a terrible jealousy - the mirrors herein carry, much like mythic Narcissus, their risk for those not careful. That being said, emitting shadowy duplicates or instant-changes of clothes make surprising sense and can easily provide some neat hooks.



Catching rays, mirror images, mirrors acting as relays, mirrors that can store summoned creatures in stasis and soul-storing - a significant array of nice tricks is available here. The final page also has nice lists of the mirrors by price.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not perfect - there are some minor glitches to be found herein. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.



Mike Welham's magical mirrors are surprisingly complex items that dare to tackle highly complex rules-interactions and iconic narrative tropes. Now not all of the former rules-tricks work perfectly or completely smooth, but unlike quite a few pdfs attempting this level of complexity, the book manages to render all items operable. Sometimes with a couple of rough edges around the corner-cases, granted, but that is, at least in my book, offset by the significant array of mirrors that are NARRATIVE GOLD. From the potential campaign-savers to exceedingly smart traps that reward brains over brawn, it is with the wholly unique benefits that this pdf shines. Where things get full-blown odd and far out, this installment starts becoming utterly fun. The best of magic items can spawn ideas for whole adventures or campaigns and this pdf does sport numerous of these iconic examples of their craft - enough to counteract the minor blemishes the pdf has. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wondrous Items 3: Magic Mirrors
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