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Adventure Avenue: Fallen Dawn
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2017 15:36:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised version

This module clocks in at 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, 3/4 of a page blank, leaving us with 42 1/4th pages of content, though it should be noted that the pdf is formatted for A5 (6'' by 9'') size, which means, that if your sight's good enough, you can fit up to 4 pages of text on one sheet of paper.

Fallen Dawn is a location-based exploration adventure for 5th level characters, taking place in the Lotus Blossom Steppes of Porphyra, to be more precise, on the Lung Plateau. These steppes (fully mapped in full color, just fyi!) are the home of many struggling clan of powerful nomads, awaiting a Khan to unite them into a coherent force, but that won't happen, at least for now, for the dread half-rakshasa Khan Tiikeri is keeping things pretty deliberately as they are. However, sealed away after the NewGod wars, there are tools to be found within the steppes - tools that may change all of that...

...and this is about as far as I can go without diving deep into SPOILER-territory. Potentialy players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs left? Great! So, the adventure features several different hooks that can be used to point the PCs towards the adventure locale, as the default origin would be the sleepy village called "The Nest", which has recently seen some business...impeded...by a traveling scholar of Paletius, deity of knowledge, looking for a lost and sacred site on the plateau. Well, turns out that this scholar is actually an agent of the eventual Katek, seeking to dissuade potentially dangerous individuals by tales of boring details...though, PCs being PCs, that will obviously backfire quite spectacularly.

Further observation via clockwork spies and said being may tip off the PCs regarding strange machinations afoot - and on the halfway point between the nest and the tower of the setting sun, a bhorloth, a gigantic, green-furred bison-like thing and its mounted archer master may try to dissuade the PCs further. Personally, I would have liked the journey to be slightly more detailed, but oh well.

What the pdf lacks in details regarding the journey, it makes up for in the approaches to the tower, for no less than three angles (East, West and North) are covered in the pdf, all with their own read-aloud text - kudos! The forlorn tower's broken top, leaning against the plateau's stone for a support lost ages ago, certainly makes for an evocative visual impression.

The exploration of this tower, once a sanctuary and repository of forbidden knowledge, can make for a compelling narrative and provides the brunt of the module's content - you see, the tower has by no means been thoroughly explored and Paletius being a benevolent deity, it can actually yield some interesting pieces of loot for the PCs. It also features two distinct, well-blended themes: On one hand, we have the sense of antiquity of the place, evoked rather well with prose etc. - on the other hand, we have the current, organized inhabitants of the tower, the expedition of the eventual Katek, who seeks to unearth the knowledge herein to challenge Khan Tiikeri. His intentions were once pure and arguably still are - but in his quest for truth, the eventual has begun a slide down the alignment scale - should he prevail with his less than scrupulous allies, he could become a truly fearsome iron-handed tyrant. This knowledge is not necessarily dumped on the PCs per se, but e.g. reactivated constructs and the choice of creatures (which include shiko-me, unique variant clockwork creatures, advanced shadow drakes and komori-ninjas in a cool selection of less common critters) and their notes can actually have the PCs unearth this knowledge - in short, a nice example of how indirect, less obtrusive storytelling can be used.

Now beyond those aspects, the exploration also manages to depict the leitmotifs of Paletius' iconography well - and PCs may well find out that the knowledge locked in the so far undisturbed sanctum was deemed forbidden. In fact, they may actually succeed where Katek failed and open the sanctum - but only if the GM desires, for the puzzle/riddle-based mechanism to open the gates to this vault hinge, even if you know how to use them, on an aspect that is completely under the GM's control - which is pretty nice. The artifact Katek is looking for is btw. depicted (and "just" a 35K ring), but it's still nice to a) have such a well-wrought puzzle in the pdf and b) retain full GM-control over the treasure and how this aspect pans out.

Speaking of panning out: The pdf provides full stats for all foes faced (though e.g. the Students of Order lack their cleric level noted in an aesthetic glitch) and also includes notes on further adventuring possibilities - from redeeming Katek to uncovering the secrets of Paletius. It should also be mentioned that the book contains a nice break-down of XP and treasure by locale, which is really helpful, allows for easy XP and WBL-tweaking and should be industry standard, as far as I'm concerned.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights and the pdf features some nice pieces of full-color artwork of foes faced within. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is in color for the region, b/w for the adventure locale, and pretty nice indeed. The tower itself has sideviews for Western/Eastern approach, respectively, which is a nice touch. BIG PLUS: Purple Duck Games added a player-friendly map to the deal!!

Matt Roth's "Fallen Dawn" is a well-crafted location-based module; it breathes a sense of the exotic and antiquity, making ample use of its unique backdrop - surprisingly while still maintaining the means to be dropped in most environments with relative ease - you just need a chaotic tyrant somewhere and that's it. The most impressive aspects of the module, to me, did lie in the smart choices regarding adversaries faced and the sense of authenticity this managed to evoke. It's a tenuous, hard task to evoke such a sense of cohesion, especially in a dungeon that features two different leitmotifs (abandoned/inhabited). Furthermore, the challenges and foes faced throughout the module allow a capable GM to tell the story of the antagonist in an unobtrusive manner, which is another plus. Finally, I'm a BIG fan of the puzzle to open the sealed chambers - it makes sense, perfectly mirrors the iconography of the deity, retains GM-control AND it feels MAGICAL in a sense of the word that's usually only found in old-school modules. It also doesn't make the antagonist look like an idiot for not having breached it, which is just the final nice thing to comment upon here.

Now, the module is not perfect - the lead-in feels a bit rudimentary and so does the journey - it is pretty evident that both only act as an extended preamble for the main meat of the module, when they could have used a bit more meat on their bones. The espionage angle in the beginning also could have yielded a bit more consequences regarding payoff, but I'm nitpicking here. That being said, once you reach tower, the adventure locale, the module becomes an excellent example of a nice, unpretentious, but thematically very concise dungeon: With fitting traps and foes, nice NPCs and well-executed indirect storytelling. Now, Purple Duck Games actually added a player-friendly map - which catapults this to the echelon of a true steal: You get a great module for a fair price! Well worth 5 stars!!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Avenue: Fallen Dawn
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101 Plains Spells (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2017 12:07:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at a massive 65 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with an impressive 59 pages of content, so let's take a look!

There are few environments with such a bad rep as plains - compared to trackless deserts, swamps or mountains, there are next to no good modules or supplements for them out there. In fact, it took Frog God Games' phenomenal "Fields of Blood" to make them really stand out and finally get their due.

The pdf provides spell-lists for all pre-Occult Adventures spellcasting classes, organized by class first, then by level and then alphabetically.

Oh, one more thing: This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at teh request of my patreons.

All right, so far these terrain-specific spell-books by David J. Paul have been characterized by pure excellence, but can this pdf retain this impressive streak? Let's see!

Taking a look at the spell-selection provided herein, we begin with a feasible and interesting variant of disease-curing magic: Alleviate Animal Affliction mitigates the disease suffered by animals, which makes sense in an environment of vast plains, where a broken leg of one's horse may well spell doom for the weary traveler. This is particularly relevant, considering the effects of spells like sore horse or the ability to summon giant drone ants as mounts - come on, that is damn cool!

Once again, the pdf provides a selection of spells that is directly entwined with the terrain: For example, while ankheg's awareness is a pretty straight attribute-buff when considered neutrally, those that cast the spell in a plains terrain also gain senses even further extended. In a great and fun interaction with the material component, an ankheg's leg, we also gain additional abilities within the hunting grounds (qualified, area-wise, btw.!) of the ankheg used in the casting of the spell. This is a simple operation and frankly, one that more magic should sort: It rewards players for engaging with the world, nets a GM an easy way to motivate PCs and also explains potentially nasty advantages of spellcasters in their home-turf.

This design-paradigm is btw. one that thankfully graces the spells contained herein rather often. These interactions that modify the spellcasting engine per se are not limited to the interaction with the terrain or creatures, though - if one takes a look at the Assured Diviner spell, for example, one can see that characters with the knowledge domain, lore mystery or the lore spirit double the duration of the spell. While the base spell is not one I'd consider mind-blowing, it is this thematic connection that rewards character choices that makes this remarkable, at least to me. I am a big proponent of diversification among characters and the more player choices matter, the better - spells often are rather static and linear pieces of crunch and this pdf taking some of that linearity and tweaking it makes sense in all the right ways.

This also extends to the summoning spells contained herein, with e.g. the atomie gang that you can call forth being an interesting example - while GMs may need to exert a bit of caution regarding these group summon spells, it is interesting to note that chaotic clerics with the arcane subdomain may select the aforementioned spell as a substitute domain spell. Also intriguing: Fey bloodline sorcerors and witches with specific hexes generate the maximum number of creatures summoned, tying the base spell mechanics to player choice here as well.

What made me go "AWWW!" when reading it would be Bevy of Bumblebees - I love bumblebees. They're fat, clumsy and the cutest insects you could fathom. (As an aside - research bumblebees and aerodynamics -the folklore that they can't fly is inaccurate...) While uncontrolled, the giant insects can be held at bay with smoke, allowing for interesting combinations of spells and effects for the savvy players. If there was one prevalent leitmotif to the magic herein, it would most certainly be "choice" - in particular, choice that hinges upon magic feeling less static - it makes sense that those, whose character choices represent the spell thematics can enjoy additional benefits.

Similarly, the terrain-centric and localized benefits make use of the old adage of magic working by appropriating a part for the whole, a maxim most popularly represented in e.g. voodoo dolls. But these do actually, to a degree, entwine. If you takes a look at black art of the bouda, you'll notice the requirement of a bouda's fetish as a focus, which represents an obvious adventuring angle. The spell does allow for a variety of choices themed around the creature - and the abilities directly interact with the choices of abilities tapped in: The more you utilize the powers, the more the total duration of the spell is reduced. This is rewarding from a game-design perspective, as it emphasizes resource-management once again.

What about growing metallic wings, Archangel-style, including the option to fire them? Oh, and you can actually ruffle them in bright conditions, creating a blinding effect. While we're at the topic of spells that should put a smile on the faces of superhero fans - burn on through hearkens to speedster-like acceleration - including overruns with trails of fire. There would also be an interesting cleave herd spell, which can make for a rather intriguing narrative device, allowing you to cause fear among great numbers of animals and magical beasts - either to hunt stragglers or bypass areas that would otherwise be beyond the PC's abilities to traverse.

Beyond the narrative and design-aesthetic components, we should also mention that tactics are an important component for a lot of spells: Divine doe's grace allows the cast to immediate action move, potentially negating attacks (and yes, the spell-level assigned is appropriate for the power this offers). Better yet, the spell's wording manages to make the complex concept work - and emphasizes a concept I very much enjoy. As you may have noticed in a couple of my statements, my own game tends to feature a lot of terrain hazards, shifting frontlines and dynamic arenas. I absolutely loathe it when an epic duel boils down to two characters just trading full attacks for rounds on end. It's boring and non-cinematic to me. However, PFRPG, as a system, rewards exactly this type of melee and every help we can get to render combat more fluctuating, more versatile. The downside of this ambition is, obviously, that it requires some serious consideration on part of the GM and players to make combat this interesting. This pdf does offer quite a few interesting spells that help in this way.

Speaking of tactical options: Remember the tunnels popularized in StarCraft etc. - what about a pathway that modifies spells and allows you to channel spells through the established conduit...and you may reassign its endpoint! So yes, there are some specific spells within this pdf that can radically change the dynamics of combat or make a specific combat unique. Speaking of such scenes that will be kept in mind: Well, there are spells, much like in previous examples of these pdfs, that represent serious ritual-like benefits and generate epic environments - eclipse the sun. The effects of this very powerful spell should be rather evident, right?

Feed from friends, a life-leeching spell, is an excellent example for a spell that manages to depict the vampiric leeching concept in a way that precludes use of kittens or similar cute critters - by virtue of the rules-language focusing on actual hp transference and allies as viable targets - thus, kittens could only yield pitiful amounts of hit points. Big kudos! I tried poking holes in this one and did not succeed. Generating slashing fields of grass is cool - but it is not as cool as Fire Bleeder - this spell launches missiles that cause piercing and bleeding damage - and temporarily adds the fire bleeder Su to the creature hit, which aerosolizes and ignites the blood seeping from bleeding wounds. Alas, as thoroughly amazing as this spell is, I am pretty confident that this ability should not be permanent - the duration reads "instantaneous, see text", which makes me believe that this ability should probably be lost after a certain duration has elapsed.

It should be noted that, in particular these volatile fire spells herein, have additional effect for the pyromaniac goblin race, emphasizing racial spellcasting traditions. Another interesting one would be giant flea leap - which requires the consumption of a potentially sickening drop of blood, but which also allows for VAST jumps when successfully used...oh, and in a feat of internal consistency, the spell actually is easier for alchemists to use. There would also be a variant of mage's magnificent mansion that generates a run-down, gremlin-haunted abode, a Thinner-curse that renders a target incapable of sustaining nutrients, spells that help hunting down the users of the arcane arts...and a spell, which allows you to join the swarm, allowing you to potentially evade a horrid fate AND making for an evocative getaway-strategy. Speaking of swarms - conjuring forth a butterfly swarm (fully statted) at 1st level, a harmless swarm, should provide some interesting options for the adherents of Desna etc.

Relatively accurate long-range forecasts (the coldest winter is coming...), mesmerizing foes via waves of grain or similar plants make for an interesting array of visuals and narrative possibilities - one exemplified as well by the plains clan spell, which generates a kind of mystic union between the participants - and it actually generates a true reason for PCs to strive to become part of a clan; it is a viable benefit provided for belonging. I love this type of design. It also ties in with a low-level spell/cantrip that allows for the easy identification of clan companions.

If you've been waiting for the flashy, devastating high-level spell in this discussion so far, fret not: Prairie Lightning Storm will indeed result in a highly flexible and devastating environment that will even push high-level PCs to their limits. Transmute Gnome to Goblin is an evil polymorph effect that may have significant repercussions on lore. As a minor complaint - variant volume fireball obviously is a more controlled, powerful iteration of the classic spell and as such, it is pretty obvious that it inflicts fire damage, RAW, the spell does not "damage" - sans the type. This is me nitpicking for nitpicking's sake, but I figured it'd be worth mentioning, since the pdf's flaws are so few I honestly need to strain this much to find anything worthwhile to complain about.

What about a spell that adds poisonous tentacles to a given shield, which may be severed by attackers failing to hit you, spraying them with poison? In an environment where horrid blazes can eliminate whole communities, withstand the fire comes at a horrible cost...but also allows you to weather even death by fire, tying into the purification and rebirth effects...and explaining why NPC xyz survived the encounter with the red dragon, why the mystic could live through the cataclysmic inferno. I adore this spell and its serious drawbacks do mean that constant maintenance is not something PCs will want to do.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on both a formal and a rules-level. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. Artwork-wise, we'd get quite a bunch of cool full color pieces.

David J. Paul's series of spells blows me away. If I were to choose a single series of spellbooks to the exclusion of all others for my PFRPG-games, it would be this one. Why? Because the magic is precisely-structured; it taps into evocative concepts, features thoroughly glorious concepts, feels magical and sports rules-innovations. The emphasis on player-choice is glorious, the support for GMs and the roleplaying component of the whole game is extremely rewarding. A lot of the spells featured within this book practically demand being used - their visuals are amazing and more than one can generate a glorious adventure, or at least, scene/encounter. Spellcasting, magic, as featured herein, does feel magical: As a tradition, its shamanistic components, its arcane components - all FIT. All feel real to an extent; all transcend just providing numbers - they are magic in a sense that is often lost on more rules-intense games. Just take a look at the page-count - these are not spells that just palette-swap components and the vast majority of them do something unique and creative in some manner.

In short: This is a phenomenal, inspiring pdf and should be part of the library of any group that looks for well-crafted magic. Very highly recommended as a superb spell-book. My final verdict, in spite of my nitpicks, will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. And this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017.

Check out this gem!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Plains Spells (PFRPG)
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Artifacts & Artifice: Abhorrent Naginata
Publisher: Infinium Game Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2017 12:06:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content. It should be noted that 5 of these pages are used to highlight the mission statements of Infinium Game Studios and the peculiarities of the massive adventure books and supplements the studio creates.

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

All right, so the first thing you'll note would be that the weapon itself, the abhorrent naginata, is depicted in a quadded version - that is, the weapon comes in basically 4 different iterations - ranging from +1 to +4. The lavishly-illustrated weapon (amazing full-color artwork there) sports rings of color, and each is tied to a specific race - RAW, the GM retains control of whether the PCs automatically get to know which band corresponds to which race - which is relevant due to the dynamic bane special weapon quality the naginata offers. As a formal complaint: This special weapon ability is bolded/not-bolded here, when special weapon qualities usually are italicized in PFRPG.

As a swift action, such weapons may change their bane type. The general special weapon quality is depicted in two iterations - as a +2 and as a +3 equivalent. From the abhorrent naginata, I could extrapolate that the lesser version is supposed to grant a +2 bonus to attack and +1d6 damage versus the target, whereas the greater version provides a bonus of +3 to atk and +2d6 damage - the lesser quality has been applied to the two less costly weapons, whereas the greater version has been applied to the two more pricey, high-level iterations of the weapon.

I'm saying "extrapolate" here, since dynamic bane as a generalized effect, in its explanation reads "dynamic bane weapons inflict an additional 2d6 points of damage if wielded [...] they also receive an additional enhancement bonus of +2." - for the greater version, however, that should be +3, which may generate some confusion there, as there is just one explanation in the box summing up the effect, even though the box lists the two variants. Cool: The pdf does note the weapon's notoriety and potential quirks of ownership, which makes me expect more in that regard from the final book. A nice bit would be the table that allows for the random determination of preset enemies.

Another issue I have with the item would be that, in particularly the naginata's higher iterations are underpriced - while the pdf notes that this is by design, it really, really annoys me. The naginata is priced at 36K in its third (+3 enhancement bonus), 54K in its 4th (+4 enhancement bonus) iteration - to this, we'd add the +3 equivalent of the very powerful greater dynamic bane, which would place the weapon at 72 K for the +6 equivalent 3rd version and 98K, respectively, for the fourth incarnation. I'm generally good with specific weapons being less costly than general ones, but in one case LITERALLY half the price of the crafted item...is brutal. Particularly considering how dynamic bane makes having a regular bane weapon generally a dumb and obsolete proposition. Personally, I'd have placed the lesser version with its flexible, untyped damage boost at +3. UNLESS, and that would be an easy way to limit this item and bring it in line with the pricing suggested, it actually had a cap of how many different modes it has - if e.g. the second iteration had 3, the 3rd 5, etc., I'd consider the pricing well-done depending on the modes it has...but since RAW, we have free and unlimited selection of types, I think it could use a higher price.

Really cool and developed would be the lore-aspect: In a quadded rumor table, a whole page is devoted to unearthing rumors and information about this weapon and its origins. This attention to detail and commitment to placing the weapon in a proper context extends to class-based hooks and general hooks that may be employed to integrate the item within the context of the game - a brief, fully-depicted quest, included a quadded rogue statblock of a wielder of the weapon has been included. Now this wielder is rather squishy at the higher levels, but considering the assassin-y angle and serious damage output the NPC can pull off, I can see the idea behind the NPC.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally good on a formal level and, for the most part, on a rules-level as well. They need to extrapolate the lesser/greater distinction is a nasty glitch, though. Layout adheres to Infinium Game Studios' two-column full-color standard with color-coded blocks, etc. The pdf comes with a backgroundless, second version that is more printer-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks -kudos! The artwork of the weapon is really cool.

J. Evans Payne's abhorrent naginata is a cool and promising magic item: In particularly the commitment to detail, lore and instant usability with a pre-made mini-quest should make this a feasible addition to the game. That being said, we do have a couple of hiccups in the mechanics that detract a bit from this item - both pricing and formatting could be tighter as far as I'm concerned - while I applaud the hyperlinks of e.g. the bane quality, seeing it bolded just rubs me the wrong way, big time - there is a reason we have formatting conventions in PFRPG and this is particularly baffling since the pdf gets it right most of the time.

That being said, I am a total prick here - I am, after all, complaining about a WIP-teaser for a massive compendium of magic weapons - and the teaser is FREE, ladies and gentlemen. FREE is hard to beat and while I disagree vehemently regarding the pricing, there is still time to play with the balance-screws there. The contextualization within the world that the item presentation format showcased here most certainly has serious potential and the lore aspect's emphasis is similarly a significant strength that makes me interested to see the final book. In the end, taking the FREE-bonus into account, my final verdict for this FREE teaser will be 3.5 stars, rounded up - worth checking out and you have literally nothing to lose...and as a nice benefit, after this review, you'll be well-equipped to deal with the one aspect where the rules may have you stumble for a second.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Artifacts & Artifice: Abhorrent Naginata
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20 Things #11: Dark Caverns (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2017 12:02:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, we begin this pdf with 10 different types of atypical caverns - these include massive stalactites generating the sound of rain atop pools, cracks from which unwholesome odors rise or rubble-covered collapses for an overall very evocative start, but there is more: A total of 10 uncommon encounters can be found as well: With e.g. the daemon Blight's Kiss, whose lair contains a thinning of the veil to the Abyss, where rotting souls spew forth in a vile, brown sludge...and the PCs may notice a purple worm ambushing them with a DC 25...wait a second! Yep, there are some remnants here, as this table represents the fluff-only version of the phenomenal encounters from Raging Swan Press' by now classic "Caves & Caverns"-supplement - which is btw. one of the best books the company released, even considering the impressive quality of RSP's canon! Still, avoidable glitch there.

Next up would be a collection of 10 legendary caves, which include Saldonator, the wandering cave, the legendary Deephold of the ylanic puzzle stone - and yes, these are truly inspiring and easily my favorite part of this pdf. A couple of the entries actually inspired me to use them ASAP! 12 natural hazards/terrain features, from crumbling escarpments to thick mud, can also be found within this pdf, providing several considerations to ponder regarding the precise make-up of your caves.

The 20 Pieces of Cavern Dressing & 10 notable cavern features table has been taken from "GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume I" and reproduced here - but is has also been stripped of the rules-relevant material in the original version, which means that those of you who want it system-neutral, get just that! The 20 Things to find in a purple worm's stomach table has similarly been reproduced here and stripped of errant crunch - kudos, in particular regarding the partial rewrites shown here!

The final page provides once again completely new content - 20 things to find in a subterranean river makes for a cool little table: From very low ceilings to precariously-balanced stepping stones and mineral-based discolorations, we get a rather cool collection of entries here.

Conclusion:

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

Creighton Broadhurst, David Posener and Alex Riggs know how to write great dressing, that's for sure. That being said, whether and how much of the material herein you'll consider useful is ultimately dependent on whether you already have the phenomenal "Caves & Caverns" and the similarly great "GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume I" - if you do own these two already, you'll have some duplicated content. Which would be less irksome, if all aspects had been purged of rules. While MOST have been properly converted, I nonetheless found the DC-reference in the encounters a bit annoying. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars - round up if you want system-neutral or don't have aforementioned books, round down otherwise. My official verdict will round up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #11: Dark Caverns (System Neutral Edition)
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Horrific Curses
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/19/2017 04:21:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first of the AP plug-ins for the Strange Aeons AP (which works perfectly for pretty much any darker campaign) clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this supplement with new archetypes, the first of which would be the accursed witch. These witches are locked into death, insanity, moon, plague, spirits or vengeance as patrons. Starting at 1st level, they gain an oracle's curse, based on level and, nice, the archetype comes with multiclassing options regarding the curse, Starting off at 4th level, the accursed witch may basically, hex-like, inflict her curse on targets - the recipient does not gain the benefits unlocked later and, since this slightly exceeds a regular hex in potency, we have an Int-governed daily limit as well as the hex-save-caveat. Instead of 8th level's hex, the witch may choose increased durations of curse spells, higher CLs, higher ranges (listing the progression of ranges and specific, non-scaling ranges - big kudos!). All in all flavorful.

Next up would be the hex hunter, who replaces Heal with Knowledge (arcana) as a class skill and loses proficiency with wither medium armors or shields. These guys cast Int-based arcane spells taken from witch and ranger spell lists and replaces animal companion with a witch's familiar. Animal Focus is delayed until 8th level, with the second unlocked at 16th level. Nature training is replaced with the ability to apply, as a swift action, the effects of evil eye in melee, usable 3 + Int-mod times per day. Instead of hunter tactics, we gain the beast of ill omen hex, with the teamwork feat being replaced by attacks of the cursed strike mentioned before being extended as per cackle on a critical hit. This becomes more relevant at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, as new hexes to be added to the strikes are unlocked, replacing the respective teamwork feats. At 7th level and every 6 levels thereafter, we add new curse-spells to the spell list, replacing bonus tricks and. 10th level provides the option to gain a hex from a list of 4, which may be determined anew each day, replacing animal companions.

After this nice archetype, we are introduced to the jinx sorceror bloodline, with Perception as a class skills and a fitting array of spells as bonus spells. Similarly, the bonus feat selection is nice. The bloodline arcana increases the DC of compulsions, curses and pain spells, with the DC to dispel or remove such effects increased by 2. Bloodline powers-wise, we begin with an orcale curse, with 3rd level yielding an aura of despair. 9th level yields the misfortune hex and 15th level allows you to place glyphs of warding with select triggering conditions to targets. 20th level yields immortality - you no longer age, are immune to death effects, etc.

From here, we move on to the new spells, which make use of the dying spell concept, allowing casters to take a final potshot - while they can be cast in less dire consequences, such cases are rare, considering the extremely high concentration required. As such, these spells will usually be cast upon being incapacitated or slain and a special, but costly ceremony, can render them viable even in scenarios, where action economy is an issue, guaranteeing that you'll get your deadly vengeance. Spell-wise, we can find, e.g. Avenge Me!, compelling creatures to seek vengeance for you. Call the Avenger similarly combines sending and demand to destroy your killer and sending off dying words to allies similarly makes sense, representing properly a fixture in fantasy literature. Providing a dying scrying for a final witness or entombing yourself in ice also make for intriguing, flavorful options....and yes, there is a funeral pyre...

Now, this book is called has "curses" in its title for a reason and we receive a diverse assortment of different curses - the base-rules here follow the first curse-based supplement released by Legendary Games and the representations of the respective curses contain cannibalism compulsions, shrouding a target in palpable, demoralizing gloom or shrinking the target continuously, until it has become basically nonexistent (see Atom or Ant-Man for more on that concept...and there is a variant, which ties shrinking to magic use...). Rendering the flesh of a target unstable or instilling an unquenchable gnawing hunger are interesting tricks...but there are some curses you may want to seek out: Fatal Strength, for example, can yield benefits to the PC, but also burns away the years they have. Instilling a horrid hatred in foes, suppressing any form of empathy or cursing a target with insomnia.

Have I mentioned the option to create a kinslayer curse, a curse whose effects are determined by the phase of the moon or the curse that makes your eyes turn black and makes you susceptible to bright eyes? More complex and potent yet would be the 6 different mythic curses included, including knitting the victim's mouth's flesh together, making targets feel the pain inflicted on others, transforming digits into thumbs, regressive aging or having prepared or known spells inscribed visibly o the skin make for fascinating curses...and the latter one also comes with a version that makes you bleed for casting the spells inscribed in your flesh. Come to think of it, these two curses alone could work as a basic spellcasting tradition capable of carrying a whole campaign...I think I'll have to design the like at one point...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf uses nice full-color and b/w-artworks, though fans of LG will recognize most from previous publications. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jason Nelson, Alex Riggs and Jen Page deliver a cool, fun collection of curse-themed options in this pdf. Particularly the spell-inscription curses are gold and I'd be seriously surprised if there was no campaign by a fan of dark fantasy or horror out there that employs these for a custom magic system/tweak - as mentioned, these may very well be worth the asking price for you on their own. The dying spells and archetypes are fun, with the hunter in particular being interesting. The curses are also rather nice, though, as a whole, they felt a bit less horrific than I expected from the pdf, with many focusing on concepts that strike me as more fantastic than horrific, but that may just be me.

As a whole, this is a good supplement with excellent craftsmanship, but at the same time, it feels like it doesn't completely realize its full potential. In short, this is a good supplement, bordering on the very good, but I can't really bring myself to round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Horrific Curses
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Divergent Paths: Fools Errand
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2017 04:21:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for Dreamscarred Press' Path of War system clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement and 1 page SRD (though this page also contains the available services of the new martial tradition contained herein), leaving us with slightly more than 17 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Since this requires Path of War and Path of War Expanded to use, I assume that you're familiar with the terminology of the system herein. Furthermore, it should be noted that I will rate this as an expansion for the Path of War system and its significantly increased power-level and not as something divorced from it - this review assumes that you're familiar and okay with the boost of PC power it creates.

So, this pdf depicts the new discipline Fool's Errand - so named because of the haughty words uttered by a mage - to shove it down that mage's throat would be the goal that ultimately led to the creation of this discipline. Something that should strike a chord with path of War's fans, as it encapsulates pretty much the raison d'être for the whole series. Anyways, Fool's Errand's associated skill is Climb and it plays well with a lot of combos, for all weapons are treated as associated weapons for the discipline. This easy accessibility is also mirrored in how it can be gained: Any class may trade one of its disciplines in to gain Fool's Errand and its Climb skill instead.

Quite a few of Fool's Errand's maneuvers make unarmed strikes - these are made at the highest BAB, may deal lethal or nonlethal damage (cool!) and do not provoke AoEs. They add the full Strength modifier to damage and initiators may execute them even when their hands are full or if they attacked with their hands already. These are treated as unarmed strikes for all intents and purposes and if a character is prohibited from making such strikes, they may still initiate a maneuver. However, other weapons may not be substituted for the unarmed strikes granted by Fool's Errand maneuvers - with the exception of gauntlets, obviously. It should also be noted that, while this makes Fool's Errand strikes operate as though they were Improved Unarmed Strikes, the discipline does not actually specify granting it, which serves as a multiclassing/prerequisite hurdle. All in all, a solid array of clearly defined limiting conditions.

Next up, we're introduced to a new condition imposed by many of the maneuvers herein, the "locked" condition. Only creatures within melee reach may be locked. Locking a creature does not provoke AoOs and while it is treated as a melee attack for purposes of miss chances, line sight etc., it is not a melee attack per se. It ends any Stealth you may have and a creature affected must succed a Reflex save versus 10 + 1/2 your highest initiator level + your Strength modifier or highest initiation modifier, whichever is highest, or become locked. Locking is considered to be a Fool's Errand maneuver for the purposes of DC-increasing abilities and a discipline weapon's bonus is considered to be already included in the save DC. In the case you are allowed to substitute another ability score modifier for melee attacks or CMB, you may use that one instead of Strength for the purpose of determining the save DC.

A creature that has been locked may not voluntarily move from their current space without escaping the lock and airborne creatures locked do not fall. Freedom of movement and slip the bonds (both not properly italicized) prevent being locked. A lock may be ended as a free action and ends if a creature is no longer in reach. The initiator of the locked condition may move freely while locking a target and may drag creatures by moving at 1/2 speed, in relation to your position. Creatures thus dragged need to have a viable place - you can't drag them into or through solid objects, but you can drag them into dangerous terrain. The locked creature's movement, however, does not provoke AoOs and neither does the initiator's movement provoke AoOs from the locked creature. Creatures dragged into harmful locales may attempt a new save to escape the lock - on a success, they fall prone. Similarly, a locked creature may attempt a save on its turn as a move action/whenever it tries to move - that means 5-foot steps are potentially possible, but also expended on a failure - in either case, on a failure, the attempt is treated as having moved, preventing further 5-foot-steps for the target.

As a peculiarity, the Reflex save of the creature may alternatively employ their Strength modifier. Creatures that do not attempt to move may try to break free of a lock as a free action instead at the end of their turn. It should be noted that, unlike the last-second-save for being dragged into hazardous terrain, a regular saving throw to end the condition does not render the target prone. Finally, if the initiator becomes helpless, all creatures locked are released. In short: "Locked" is like a more swingy version of the drag maneuver that ignores creatures sizes - in fact, considering the sucky Ref-saves, but decent Strength-scores of many gigantic creatures, it does not immediately become a dragon slayer, while still retaining a chance for success.

All righty, those basics of the discipline out of the way, let's move forward and take a look at the maneuvers the Fool's Errand grants, shall we? The most basic strike, iron grip, would allow for an attack and lock attempt in combination; regarding stances, we have the Improved Unarmed Strike (or greater variety if you have it already) as well as substituting Climb for Acrobatics in the stance Lesson I: Balance. Lesson II: Control nets you the option to penalize locked foes and the counter lock step allows you to counter the attack of an incoming attack by a locked foe via a Climb check. One-Two Punch duplicates the two attacks for -2 to atk flurry as a standard action and there is a Climb check based option to throw targets up to 10 feet. The second level options include a boost for movement as a swift action within the threatened squares of a target and another boost, death at ten paces, nets your next melee attack, which must be single target, a range of 30 feet - while I personally think that this should still be treated as a ranged attack (it makes no sense to me that this does not apply the rules for firing into melee), I get the design decision. Lead and Follow is an AoO-lock attempt, initiated as an immediate action counter. Hurricane kick would be the kick that nets you temporary Fly - you know the iconic visual of the kicking, freeze-framed martial artist flying towards the foe? Yeah, that one.

At 2nd level, we also have a strike that combos weapon and unarmed strikes and ignores all hardness and DR - I have never been a fan of these, but there's precedence in Path of War and if you're using this system, DR and hardness don't matter much anyway, so yeah. At 3rd level, we have a combo of lock and entangling and Lesson III: Suppression represents a powerful stance: The first attack you execute each round is resolved as though the target is flat-footed and it also nets you a 1/round free action lock attempt. Countering melee attacks with Climb-based Disarms and the option to catch the enemy weapon can also be found here. Windmill Waltz Flurry nets you a weapon and two unarmed attacks with AoO-less 5-foot steps in between and full movement after resolving the attack, though this does provoke AoOs. 4th level yields the intriguing make them humble counter - which can be initiated to negate freedom of movement and similar effects, with the check based on ranks of Climb. Cool! Speaking of which - Night Falls is a strike that pins and silences those hit with its lock, helping infiltrators and providing versatility beyond numerical escalation.

The sincerest form of flattery is a potentially rather potent option that nets you a readied non-stance maneuver when used, though one that caps at what you could conceivably initiate. An upgrade to the throwing angle can also be found at level 4. The flurry angle is further upgraded at level 5 with a new strike. Cool: The stance Lesson IV: The Ladder lets you jump in sequence to the air, with Climb ranks acting as a non-cheesable limit. There also would be a counter that nets you a competing attack roll versus all incoming attacks for that round, negating them potentially. W whirlwind lock strike is also included for this level. At 6th level, we have a combo attack that locks a foe, drags it along and then follows up with a standard action attack or a strike. Lesson V: Expression is a stance that nets your unarmed attacks a range of 10 ft. with 5 range increments and also allows you to perform cone-based attacks - which are btw. explained in a helpful sidebox regarding their placement. Nice catch there. No Escape counters a foe's successful escape from your lock, either following up on it or flat-out negating it. We also get yet another flurry-style upgrade and one option to air-juggle foes with the boost To the Skies.

Throwing creatures by using Climb to surpass their CMD and combo-ing that with disarm/picking up weapons would be one of the level 7 option, whereas the boost Lightning Strikes Twice can be added after your attack - it then repeats last round's damage, haled, including any adverse conditions or the like, but with saves potentially applying. No, there's no save to resist this boost. Utter commitment nets a 30-foot cone and a bonus damage equal to 7 times initiator level, half that for those affected by the cone. The 8th level maneuvers provide the final upgrade for the flurry tree and the final stance, which nets a free lock attempt each round, another stance of 7th level or lower, AoO locks and better dragging/hostile creature movement negation. The level also provides the culmination of the throwing moves with sky-shattering throw, which allows for meteoric throws. The level 9 capstone can duplicate any 8th level or lower maneuver of a discipline you know one maneuver or stance for or a 7th level or lower maneuver or stance from a discipline you know no maneuver or stance from.

The pdf also contains archetypes, the first of which would be the contender brawler, who begins play with 3 maneuvers readied and known, 1 stance and increases that to 15 known, 7 readied and 5 stances. The archetype gets a maximum of level 6 maneuvers. His initiation modifier is Wisdom. He may choose Fool's Errand and two other disciplines of his choice. Readying maneuvers takes practice in the form of 10 minutes of exercise. Expended maneuvers are regained by using the ambush class feature or expending a standard action. The archetype loses knockout, awesome blow and 4 combat feats. Ambush lets the contender regain a maneuver whenever he successfully attacks or locks a foe denied his Dex-bonus. This may be done 1/round, plus an additional time per round at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. The brawler may use martial flexibility to temporarily learn a new maneuver instead of a combat feat, exchanging it for a readied maneuver, but is limited in choice to disciplines he knows at least one maneuver of. Instead of brawler's flurry, the archetype gains point of concentration, which nets the option to lock adjacent foes hit with melee attacks 1/round, increasing that by +1/round at 8th and 15th level. The brawler may forego his movement to instead move all creatures he has locked for the distance they could have been moved via him dragging them. Maneuver training may be applied, bonus-wise, to lock-save DCs.

The second archetype herein would be the Night Terror vigilante, who, discipline-wise, gets Eternal Guardian, Fool's Errand, Tempest Gale and Veiled Moon, using Charisma as initiation modifier. The night terror features the same maneuver progression as the contender and has the same readying mechanic. However, recovering maneuvers works differently: As a full-round action, he makes A Stealth skill check while being observed to hide and move up to his speed. This recovers initiation modifier, minimum 2, maneuvers. Movement thus taken is not reduced by dragging locked creatures, and neither does the night terror take a Stealth penalty. Alternatively, we have the standard action for one maneuver default. Night terrors are locked into the stalker specialization and they increase hidden strike's potency to 1d8, increasing that by a further +1d8 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. This bonus damage may be foregone in favor of a lock attempt, with a bonus to the DC equal to hidden strike damage dice. Such an attempt is still treated as a successful use of hidden strike for ability interaction purposes.

First level night terrors become proficient with improvised weapons and treat them as unarmed strikes for the purpose of amulet of mighty fists interaction (item not properly italicized). Starting at 8th level, the night terror may use such pieces of environment to perform attacks sans wielding them and 15th level increases the option to make attacks with unattended objects to 30 feet, treating these as thrown weapons, but sans the shooting into melee penalties. He still needs, thankfully, line of effect to object and target. The night terror may select Combat Skill, Fist of the Avenger, Heavy Training, Unkillable and Nothing Can Stop Me avenger talents and may choose Discipline Focus, Stalker Arts or learn to perform potentially unnoticed attacks, access to Mithral Current, the option to lock targets and pin them to the wall, silent takedowns or pinning foes to walls....Yeah, you probably noticed it, right?? This is basically Batman, the archetype, done via Path of War's rules!

The pdf also contains 5 new feats, three of which would be devoted to the Fool's Errand Style: The base Style feat lets you substitute entangled or sickened for your attack against a locked target, while Fool's Errand Scholar provides wildcard feats, taking limited resource feats into account. Nice. The third one, Fool's Errand Sensei provide the options to temporarily buff your AC or kip up via the expenditure of readied boosts or counters, respectively. Quicksilver Grip represents a discipline crossover feat for Fool's Errand and Mithral Current, providing the option to sheathe the weapon when hitting foes and adding the option to threaten locked foes with sheathed weapons and the option to draw as part of AoOs. SU Mithral Current maneuvers also becomes EX. Vortex Rush would then be the Elemental Flux & Fool's Errand crossover feat, which lets you and targets you force to move leave a trail of elemental energy that that causes initiation modifier energy damage of the associated energy of the element, but only once per creature and action and each trail is considered part of the one trail. Still, pretty cool!

The pdf closes with a brief write-up of the eponymous fellowship of fools, sticking it to magicians and psionics alike with martial potency.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on a rules-level, with the formal level sporting a few minor formatting hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. Artwork is nice and full-color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Forrest Heck knows her math and rules-language. I have yet to read any pdf she created that was anything short of thoroughly impressive in these regards and this is no different. Fool's Errand's "locked" condition is something I'd expect to be set up for failure: Introducing new conditions is a bad idea in 99.9999% of cases. The interaction with spells etc. makes sense, though avoiding the whole CMD-mechanic (and thus means for other classes to avoid it) can be seen as problematic. The Str-to-Reflex mechanics do somewhat alleviate that, though not completely, as they necessitate a on the fly calculation not there in other contexts. Similarly, class features and the like that fortify against forced movement do nothing against being locked and dragged around. Where you like that or not remains a matter of taste.

On the plus-side, Fool's Errand ties in exceedingly well with the play-style and aesthetics of non-stop action Path of War employs and, in fact, to me is one of the coolest disciplines that came out of the system. It's no secret that I have a plethora of points wherein I completely disagree with the design decisions, power level and ramifications of the system, but that does not mean that I condemn it. Quite the contrary. While I wholeheartedly wished that the system was balanced with more conservative, non-Path of War options, I most certainly appreciate the design of the ideas and playstyle the respective options and disciplines generate. I am mentioning this in spite of the blowback this probably will once again create, mainly due to one thing:

No matter how you stand on the divisive system, from a design point of view, Fool's Errand is one magnificent beast and has a remarkable engine and flow.

The discipline may not look like it on paper, but actually playing it generates a flow of movement and assaults, quick sequences of stabs topped off by brutal blows, maneuverability and an overall aesthetic that makes me grin from ear to ear, as it manages to simulate perfectly the wire-fu WuXia movies I so love. To me, this is what Broken Blade should have been. It is elegant finesse and power, dragging foes through tree-tops while trading blows, and is surprisingly non-reliant on vanilla damage escalation.

Now yes, all of my usual complaints regarding the base system are there - obviously. This expansion requires embracing Path of War's playstyle, still is utterly incompatible with gritty fantasy and will not convert anyone. If you hated Path of War so far, this will not change that - it can't, being an expansion. If you like Path of War, however, you will absolutely adore this discipline. It plays well with others, has a ton of combo potential and diverse tricks, provides much needed versatility (breadth of options rather than depth) and represents one of my favorites in the whole system.

The neat archetypes are just icing on the cake and yes, I'm totally redesigning the Batman archetype for my grittier games. In short: This is an excellent addition to the Path of War-options. The craftsmanship is excellent and manages to make a concept work that could have been clunky and highly problematic in a lesser designer's hands. As always, we also receive an impressive high-concept touch of artistry herein, rendering the overall pdf a must-own for every fan of Path of War. Since I really adore the flow of the discipline, my verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of the few formatting hiccups - for Path of War-fans, this is a no-brainer must-have addition to the game.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Divergent Paths: Fools Errand
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One on One #002: The Rats of Verdant Reach
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2017 04:18:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. This is a One-on-One mini-dungeon - intended for use by one GM and one player. As such, it obviously has different requirements that other modules

Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

This can be played as a continuation of "Six Feet Under" or on its own - in either case, the PC is hired by Sheriff Dawson Beam, the lawkeeper of the eponymous nearby town, to investigate a gang of local thugs -probably after the lawkeeper has reacted to the night watchman calling for him after the PC's ordeal in the previous module. Good news: The watchmen returns the adventurer's starting gear - which was supposed to pay for the grave plot. Investigating at the sheriff's behalf the nastier sections of town, the PC may play the mini-game Assassin's Breach (if you have it) and deal with some nasty thugs - some extortionists who may actually recognize the PC...and a weird, red-haired half-elf woman may actually help the PC...but why? To be continued...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf.

Justin Andrew Mason's second one-on-one adventure is slightly less problematic for a wide diversity of PC-classes - caster can now also apply, though they obviously will be pretty fragile: Martials and skill-users are still recommended. That being said, on the DC-side regarding investigation and Stealth, this could offer a bit more meat as well - RAW, this is a pretty linear local exploration that boils down to a couple of combats and no alternate means of conflict resolution. I don't expect much there, mind you...but at least a bit would be nice.

In the end, this is a solid, if not perfect module - how much fun you'll have depends, again, on the class chosen, though slightly less so than in the first one. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
One on One #002: The Rats of Verdant Reach
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One on One #001: Six Feet Under
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2017 04:17:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 2 pages and is a mini-dungeon. This means we get 2 pages content, including a solid map and all item/monster-stats hyperlinked and thus, absent from the pdf, with only deviations from the statblocks being noted for the GM.

Since this product line's goal is providing short diversions, side-quest dungeons etc., I will not expect mind-shattering revelations, massive plots or particularly smart or detailed depictions, instead tackling the line for what it is. This is a One-on-One mini-dungeon - intended for use by one GM and one player. As such, it obviously has different requirements that other modules

Got that? Great!

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

...

..

.

Still here?

All right!

The PC should have a small, sentimental heirloom.

The PC awakes in utter silence, as an amazing read-aloud text catapults the PC straight into the proceedings: All is silent...and it looks like a goblin was just interrupted while robbing a grave. The PC's grave, for the poor gal/guy has been buried alive - no gear near either and the last several months are just...gone from memory. The adventurer will have different issues, though, for the goblin sets the robbed grave ablaze while fleeing - so it's climbing out of the grave first! After that, the PC will have to deal with the goblins - probably with a shovel, no less, and the nearby mausoleum contains more of the creatures...and they want the PC's loot! In case the PC is overtaxed (very likely for less martial or unlucky characters), a night watchman can provide support - but in the end, the PC will be left with a lot of questions...to be continued...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Cartography is full color and surprisingly good for such an inexpensive pdf.

Justin Andrew Mason's first one-on-one mini-dungeon is certainly not bad - it is a damn awesome way to kick off a campaign and can easily be used in regular contexts for either a whole group or the first character in the game...but at the same time, it does suffer from trying to be universal: Spellcasters may well burn alive before they escape their grave. Similarly, wizards sans spellbooks, clerics sans holy symbols, etc., may well be pretty screwed. This works well for skill/martial characters that do not rely on tools...and should imho specify the like. Such characters can have an amazing time here. The others...not so much. And unfortunately, as much as I love this otherwise, as a reviewer, I have to take that into account. This drags down what would otherwise be an amazing offering - For item-dependent classes, this can be as bad as 2 stars, for the right classes a 5 star+ seal experience, though. I have to take that range into account for my official final verdict and thus, I can't rate this higher than 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
One on One #001: Six Feet Under
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What's Your Sign?
Publisher: Knight Owl Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2017 04:16:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This'll be a quick one. Why? This pdf covers 2 pages and it is FREE - one page contains the cover, the other the content.

What we get here would be a d4-drop-table with 12 fantasy signs: Each sign has 4 entries that you can just roll or choose from. These basically represent fluffy characteristics which may or may not influence the game - while e.g. 1 in 6 chances and similar notes are in concordance with OSR gameplay, there is no reason this cannot be applied to other, more complex systems as a little flavor guideline.

The signs covered would be Lemurs (which can yield, to list some examples, a keen sense of smell, lie-recognition, excellent calligraphy skills or fear of the dark), Feather, Sphinx, Cyclops, Quartz, Narwhal, Lyrebird, Fox, Will-o'-the-wisp, sloth, sage or quokka - the abilities include being able to charm low HD creatures, being very attractive, having some hypnotic quality...you get the idea.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks or artwork apart from the cover, but needs none at this length.

Ahimsa Kerp's little pdf here is worth downloading - reading it will take you 2 minutes, tops, and even if you don't use it as written, it may well spark some nice ideas. It could have used a bit more elaboration and not all signs are equal in power, but as a whole, I like this...and it's FREE. It's hard to argue with that! Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. As a free file, this is well worth checking out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
What's Your Sign?
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Steampunk Adventurers (5E)
Publisher: Tribality Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/17/2017 05:24:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page inspirational reading list, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf with a new background, the fortune teller, who gains proficiency in Insight and Deception as well as one type of fortune teller's tools. They also get one language of choice and the aforementioned tools, set of a traveler's clothes, a costume and a 15 gp-pouch. The fortune teller can decide or roll a specialty from a list of 10 - face reading, astrology - a charlatan's paradise. Fortune tellers can earn money almost everywhere and those that have their fortune read usually want to believe you, which nets you advantage on the Insight or Deception check made to BS them. The fortune teller employs, fittingly, the charlatan background's table. There also would be a variant guild artisan, the apothecary, whose skill proficiencies include Investigation and Medicine, with Herbalism kit and apothecary's tool as tool proficiency. Starting equipment-wise, we get a herbalism kit, merchant's scales, traveler's clothes, a diploma/certificate and 15 gp. They may either choose the standard guild artisan features or a new one, "The Right Medicine.", which decrease the recuperation periods of poisons and diseases and grant advantage on the Con-save for those that receive the proper treatment.

Next up would be an arsenal of different weapons and armor: interesting: An assassin's outfit conveys advantage on Stealth checks, while scrap plates and higher impose disadvantage. And yes, the assassin outfit, beyond cultural stigma, also is balanced by the non-existent AC-improvement. Regarding weaponry, we have batons/truncheons, brass knuckles, canes...and chainsaws, which may smash foes prone on a failed contested Dex-check. We also have chain whips which threaten a critical hit on a 19 and 20 (pretty potent), swords and pistols hidden in canes, boomerangs, gunblades and gun axes, blunderbusses (which can fire 15.-ft. cones at short range) and lightning damage causing alternate pieces of ammunition.

Beyond these deadly tools of the trade, we do get adventuring gear, from goggles and hats (and, as a goth, I can attest to the Steampunk-crowd's obsession with these...) to lighters and ink cartridges. Proper supplies for investigators and apothecaries as well as herbalists complement an overall potent and well-crafted item-section.

The pdf also contains 3 feats: Firearms Expert nets firearm proficiency and prevents disadvantage when firing firearms in close combat and bonus action attacks with firearms when attacking with a one-handed melee weapon. Nimble increases Dex by 1, to the cap of 20 as well as +1 AC when wearing light or no armor. Thirdly, Tinkerer increases Int by 1 to the cap of 20, proficiency with artisan's tools (tinker's tools) and allows you to create Tiny clockworks that temporarily work unless you maintain them -up to three may be active at a given time. The devices may be clockwork toys, fire starters or music boxes.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to Tribality's unique, photo-style standard in full-color, with the picture of the clockwork bird on the last page being my favorite. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment. The pdf does come with a second version for mobile devices that is significantly smaller in size.

Shawn Ellsworth's steampunk adventures represent a nice basic toolkit to add a sprinkling of steampunkish goodness to your game. The new items are concisely presented and, while potent, should not unhinge a game. Now, there obviously is a LOT, LOT more that I'd consider mandatory regarding steampunk rules; gadgets, magic, class options, etc. - but this pdf costs 2 lousy bucks and provides some great, fun basics. While this left me wanting more, it provides a surprising amount of content and covers a lot of the standards. As such, this is well worth getting as a starting point, though GMs obviously should not expect to get a complete steampunk toolkit/setting. If you engage this pdf as intended, it delivers some fun options and is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Steampunk Adventurers (5E)
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20 Things #10: Creepy Graveyard (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/17/2017 05:21:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this supplement with an emphasis of the "creepy" aspect promised in the title - namely, we receive a total of 8 different, system-neutral haunts - consider these to be slightly supernatural window-dressing. When e.g. the holy symbol on a local woman's grave splits right in the middle and worms pour forth, you know that you've found an intriguing place...and her crisis of faith prior to death...perhaps there is more to it. Et voilà - instant hook, as it should be!

The pdf continues with 10 different mourners that have distinct personalities: From a mischievous, orphaned boy to angry half-orcs, whose undirected anger towards a disease may easily spill over to those that interrupt has mourning to a half-elf maiden who had to watch her human mother perish to the ravages of time, these NPCs indeed feel evocative, interesting and unique.

The table of 10 things to find in an open grave from "GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume I" has been reproduced here as well, as has the table of 20 things to see in a graveyard, so you may experience some slight overlap. On the plus-side, both tables are pretty well-crafted. We do also get a total of 20 gravestone inscriptions and 20 rumors: These include, among other things, the strange occurrence of every night seeing a new gravestone split clean in half; there is a noble building, with undue haste, an opulent mausoleum...but why? And where did that unmarked mass-grave recently unearthed by a localized tremor come from? If you need to add a feeling of the weird, 4 strange sensations can add a personal touch here - from the feeling of being watched to a notion of vertigo...

10 atmospheric, strange sounds, from treebark clacking together to scraps of a conversation, can add further atmosphere to the proceedings. And finally, there would be no less than 20 uncommon mausoleums for your perusal: These can include ostensible ghosts (illusions that have become unreliable), mausoleums erected for pets or ones that glimmer in the moonlight...due to a sufficient amount of ectoplasmic slime seeping forth from it! Yeah, I'm just as sure as you are that nothing strange is bound to happen there...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use - kudos for going the extra mile there! It should be noted that a nice b/W-artwork of a mausoleum takes up one of the pages of content.

Creighton Broadhurst, Jacob W. Michaels, Alex Riggs and David N. Ross deliver an atmospheric, diverse and fun dressing file here: If you need some material to make your dilapidated, eerie graveyard stand out more, then look no further! This is an inexpensive, fun little dressing booklet and well-worth getting. I would have loved to see a general consideration section here (Oddly shaped gravestones? Repercussions of different burial traditions?) but that's just me nitpicking - this is well worth 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #10: Creepy Graveyard (System Neutral Edition)
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Zif of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/17/2017 05:18:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck Games' "...of Porphyra"-series clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial,2 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 37 pages of content, though it should be noted that these are formatted for A5 (about 6'' by 9'') paper and as such, you can fit about 4 of them on one sheet of A4 or letterpack paper, so let's take a look!

The Zif-race was originally introduced by Alluria Publishing in their Remarkable Races-series, but in this book, we do get a significant expansion of the material as well as modifications that make the material herein work differently...so what are the Zif?

In short, they're playable slug-people that gain +2 Int and Wis, -2 Str (making them a bit lopsided). Zif are Small aberrations with a speed of 20 ft. Zif have no feet and as such, don't have a slot there, but they receive a second belt slot to make up for that. As a standard action, a zif may retreat in its shell, gaining DR 5/-, but while in it, the Zif may explicitly not make any other action. Upon maturing, Zif are assigned a caste in Porphyra, which translates to a constant SP: One may choose detect magic, detect poison, detect secret doors or detect undead. The sucker foot of the Zif nets them a +4 racial bonus to Climb, -4 to Acrobatics made to jump and +4 to CMD to resist trip and bull rush. Finally, a zif is born with Knowledge - they gain one such skill and an additional skill rank each level, which must be applied to said skill. As a whole, a potent race and I'm not the biggest fan of the constant SPs, but craftsmanship-wise, I have nothing to complain.

Now, let's look at the alternate racial traits included in this pdf: Here, we have racial proficiency with all bows and zif weapons, replacing the inborn knowledge. The zif know the flail-snails as the Flavalum and some of them replace their protective shell with elements of their brethren - such zif have a 30% chance that a targeted spell aimed at them fails and a 10% chance that a spell is sent back to the sender. However, they also suffer a 30% spell failure chance for both arcane and divine magic, which stacks with armor penalties, if any. Instead of the shell-caste's inherent magic, some zif gain +2 to AC versus humans and to grapple checks made against humans. Zif not born to their society gain +1 to Bluff, Sense Motive and Knowledge (local) instead of their inborn knowledge. Some zif get +2 to concentration to cast arcane spells defensively and a bonus language - however, the racial trait this replaces is not included in the write-up. Instead of the caste-SP, some zif have a 1/day psychic leech and caste-less zif with better skills (+2 to Appraise and Perception) can also be played. Also interesting: Some zif may move through natural difficult terrain at their normal speed while within 30 ft. of water, though magic difficult terrain affects them normally - this also replaces the inborn knowledge.

The pdf also provides a selection of race traits, which include gaining a kazif armor made from your parents, gaining Perception as a class skill due to modified antennae, better ranged attacks versus foes far away (as a nitpick - should be a trait bonus) and some weird ones as well: Like 1/day regaining a use of a school or domain power upon making a save versus a spell or SP. Control over a class skill (losing an old one for a new one) and we have a nice idea, a trait that reduces one flanker's attack bonus to +1. As has become the expected norm for Purple Duck Games' racial supplements, we receive a surprising array of favored class options - we not only get core classes + gunslinger and magus, we also cover the occult classes and a whole bunch of classes from Purple Duck Games' oeuvre - from the illuminati to the infinyte and the brujo. Kudos for going the extra mile!

Now, while the zif's writing clearly depicts them as somewhat quirky and yes, funny even, they also have the potential to be really, really creepy, as their racial deity...well. Is Yig. And yes, the great old one is depicted as a deity in the appendix, including two religion traits - though one does not specify the bonus type. Yig, as understood by the zif, is the epitome of bravery and cunning in battle and the zif believe that the ghosts of Great Old Ones he consumed will return one day in an apocalypse called Void-War - the warpriests that call themselves Disciples of Yig thus study from the get-go to be ready - this archetype is locked into the War and Void domains, but instead of the War blessings, a disciple if Yig may use the Tactics domain ability instead, drawing from the pool of uses of blessings. Very potent: When you and your allies roll initiative, an ally within 30 feet may roll twice and take the better result. Instead of focus weapon, these folks get a pre-emption pool that contains class level + Wisdom modifier points - these may be spent as a free action to increase initiative modifier before rolling, which can all but guarantee being first in at least one combat - it would have been more elegant and less prone to nova-ing and 5-minute adventure days if that ability had a scaling cap per roll that improved with the levels.

Instead of the 3rd level bonus feats, these guys learn the battle-shell burble-narble: they may chant a hymn to grant all allies within 30 ft. +1 to atk and saves against fear, which may be increased by 1 by foregoing the bonus feats gained at 6th level and every 3rd level thereafter. This bonus is maintained until the warpriest fails a save or takes any action other than move. Oddly, this is a SP and the bonus granted is untyped.

The shellrune wizard, member of the darble-caste, has a caveat to prevent summoner multiclass abuse - they gain Handle Animal and Fly as class skills. Instead of Scribe Scroll, they use their shell as a spell book and learn 3 spells upon a level-up, which eliminates the biggest Achilles Heel of the class. They also are locked into a vermin familiar, but at +1 level. Instead of 5th level's bonus feat, they may 1/day cast a spell on their book-shell sans expending a spell-slot, though it must be from the divination, enchantment or conjuration schools. I assume that learning spells and inscribing them on the shell still takes gold etc. - or is the archetype limited to the spells gained by level-ups? That would explain the power of some options here, but it should be spelled out more clearly.

The shellsinger bard is only proficient with simple weapons: Competent trademaster replaces inspire courage and nets an ally within 30 feet +2 to a skill check while the performance persists, increasing that bonus every 4 levels beyond 1st by +1, modifying inspire competence. As a nitpick, the ability-text reference's "zif's performance" instead of "competent tradesmaster." These guys also gain class level as a bonus to Appraise and Sense Motive and replace countersong with an array of analysis-themed spells. 7th level yields Leadership. At 8th level, breaking free of fascination takes a -4 penalty to the save and requires a save even in the presence of obvious threats, replacing dirge of doom. 20th level and 20th level yields a magnificent mansion instead of deadly performance.

Stoneshell fighters gain proficiency with zif guu-slings and zifbats and, cool, classify these properly in weapon groups. They may also take Goo-Crafter and Master of Guu as though they were combat feats. Goo-Crafter lets you secrete guu, zif construction-mucus, and assemble it into the shape of mundane weapons and a limited array of weapons. Issues here: The feat lacks a note to prevent the creation of specific keys. Additionally, you cannot secrete "more than 1/2 your Constitution in guu per day" - so, how much guu does a given creation take? Is that based on weight? No idea. Master of Guu thankfully specifies that further- yes, it's pounds and this feat nets you quicker guu-secretion and the option to make masterwork items via guu...and unlocks more. Still, the original feat should have specified that...it's bad when you have to look at a follow-up feat to get how the base feat is supposed to work.

Anyway, back to the archetype: At 3rd level, these guys replace armor training and bravery with shell-fu and, while flavorful, the ability is a mess from a rules-language perspective. It mentions identifying via a crimson headband - so does the archetype lose the headband slot? Also, I kid you not, that's directly taken from rules-language: "Shell-fu has five circles of skill, achieved like so: 3rd level DR 1/- vs. ranged attacks, one attack per turn; 7th level DR 1/adamantine vs. 1 melee attack per turn;..." So, do we get to choose? Is this passive or predicated upon activation? Does it stack with the zif's shell? Beyond inconsistency even in the wording of the ability, it is basically non-operational.

The pdf also features racial feats: Clone Army modifies the Leadership's cohort: Instead of gaining one, 2 levels below your own, you get 2 (!!), but at 3 levels below your own. OUCH. Both must have the same class and ability scores, sure...but ouch. Dreams of the Old Ones is a really, really strong feat for divine casters - you get free scavenging from the wizard spell list. Sure, it has to be 1 level below your highest spell level and failure to make a DC 20 Will-save nets you Wis-damage upon casting and fails casting the spell, but considering the potency of the wizard spell list, that still is strong. Bonuses to atk and skills when dealing with concisely defined eldritch creatures can be found, but Mobile Shell would be more interesting, allowing you to enter the shell as a move action and allowing you to make 5-fot-steps while in the shell. Another feat increases the potency of spells dealing hit point and ability damage and moving the drained points to another target - while the rules-language makes me twitch, it's functional. Partial Withdrawal into the shell can be found and an antennae-based teamwork feat allows for telepathic communication - how to determine the maximum range of the communication, though, is a total mess: 10 feet per character level sounds easy enough, but e.g. 4 2nd level zif could communicate within 80 feet - so, what's the limit? At what range are zif included in the calculation? No idea.

The equipment section contains stats for guu-bolts, aforementioned shell-armors made from deceased zif, poolaboodts (the main sea-vessels of the zif) and aforementioned weapons. Beyond these, we get new magic items - e.g. a cursed rod of wonder that may cause insanity. Goolabalum can be used to alter probability of d% and d20 rolls, but not attacks, saves or skill/ability checks, as an immediate action. Cool! Rod of guu helps with Guu Crafting and may fire guu at short range - the damage it inflicts is not properly codified and a hit imposes a -2 penalty to Dex. At +2, parasitic weapons (only available for melee weapons, thankfully) steal 2 points from a random ability score of the target and confer them to the wielder, lasting 1d8 minutes. While kittenable, it's not a good strategy, so this gets a pass. Prismatic shell-polish is a potent defensive item and generally works, but the rules-language, while understandable, makes me twitch: "Thus, if a being under the effect of prismatic shell polish is hit with a sword, the attacker must make a DC 20 Reflex save to take 1/2 damage (1-4) or have no effect (5-7)." This is further exacerbated by the item having a d6-column with 8 entries that affects the attacker. If the user is affected by a magical attack, he instead gains a similarly random buff for a short duration. I can use this item as presented, but its rules are depicted in the most convoluted way I could imagine. Which is jarring, when one compares that to the precision that e.g. new spells like create goo - which even prevents burying foes under them. Similarly, while parasitic ray is potent and steals ability scores, it...kinda works rather well. I can see myself using this. Moving rapidly along porphyrite borders. At 3rd level, a limited, but potent maze-like variant is a bit under-leveled for my tastes and there even is a spell to summon deep ones.

Now, I already mentioned the zif caste system - and the pdf goes on to classify the extensive array of classes covered in the FCOs in the caste-system - which is an amazing "one step beyond" piece of flavor, as far as I'm concerned. The sample character we get would Gungablug, hermaphroditic zif warpriest (disciple of yig) 6 and the pdf also sports a full stat-block and brief primer on Barbledrum, the Curved City of the Shell.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good - I noticed no serious accumulation of typos. The rules-language, on the other hand, is ODD - you see, it oscillates between being meticulous and precise and being...well, bad. You've seen some quoted material in the review. It's often functional, but it does make my brain hurt a bit. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games' 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. It should be noted that the pdf offers neat full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with extensive bookmarks.

Perry Fehr is an amazing author - he has the elusive artistry-component of design, the aspect you can't learn, down to a T. At the same time, his craftsmanship is not always up to the level of his vision. The zif, as presented here, are evocative, playful and fun and could be played for laughs just as well as you could make them really, really creepy.

I really, really like the zif as depicted herein, in spite of the hiccups that are present. At the same time, I think that both shell and guu, both utterly amazing concepts, could have been emphasized further in the design-choices made. It is also baffling to me, how one book can range from utmost precision to wonky, convoluted and imprecise wordings in some cases. Conceptually, this is at least a 4 or 5 star-file; if, however, you expect precision in the rules-components, you'll be infuriated by some, though by far not all, components herein.

I am honestly torn here - I do believe that a good rules-developer and a bit of additional polish could have made this full-blown amazing, but if I go by what is here, I can't rate this as highly as I'd very much want to. While it hurts my soul, as I like the pdf very much, I can't go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down, on this one. If you're looking for flavor and can shrug off the rules-hiccups, then get this - I am positive that you'll enjoy what you find herein!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Zif of Porphyra
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20 Things #9: Bustling Marketplace (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/16/2017 05:45:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Okay, we begin with something I really appreciate - namely a contextualization, location-wise, of a marketplace - there is a reason for them being at one point or another, after all, and the pdf starts by providing 5 different suggestions - from dock and bridge to churches and ruins and the underground. While it may sound obvious, such a context adds quite a bit of depth to the proceedings, so big kudos there! It's also interesting to see how the explicit consideration here can already spark some ideas.

Next up would be 10 merchants with a personality - as befitting of the system-neutral line, we don't get statblocks or the like and instead focus on the respective merchants' personalities: From extremely vain and self-conscious haberdashers to alchemists skeptical of magic-over-dependence, these are actually winners with intriguing and memorable personalities.

Need some hooks? This pdf has got you covered: 20 deals too good to be true are just that: Too good to be true! From angry wizards looking for spell books to items acting as a beacon to the friends, galleons with press-ganged slaves - there is a catch in these and the respective issues are intriguing and diverse, ranging from the mundane to the magical.

We move on to 20 interesting stalls - and they truly deserve the "interesting" moniker - when, for example, a fat dwarf with a melted sugar and apple juices-dripping beard is carrying a ton of rotten caramel apples, when elven kids sell beaded talismans or when tall, impossibly gaunt humans sell "fresh" "animal organs", a prospective GM has his work cut out. Once again, we oscillate between the wondrous and mundane, between the potentially dark and whimsical. Big kudos!

If all of that does not yet suffice to kick the group into adventuring mode, it's quite possible that 20 rumors will do just that: Some of them pertain where to find rumor-mongers, while others speak about pickpockets, comment on certain people being charlatans, etc....or where to get magical tattoos from a savant halfling of the art. The direct follow-up would be yet another 20-entry-strong list of things you can see while exploring such a market-place: From bards hawking wares to wealthy women strolling past with their retinue, there are quite a few intriguing events - basically, you can just spring these upon your players and watch them interpret things...chances are, you'll have a hook on your hands!

We end this pdf with more notes to bear in mind when making a marketplace that feels alive - and a list of 20 general types of goods (with ample subtypes!) of things that may be for sale...and 10 brief characteristics for respective stalls to flesh them out on the fly.

Conclusion:

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

Creighton Broadhurst, Jeff Gomez and Alex Riggs deliver a humble, amazing pdf here: The hooks are well-crafted and flavorful, the respective NPCs evocative and the additional considerations go one step beyond, making this pdf a truly inspired little piece of dressing, guaranteed to enrich any game. 5 stars + seal of approval for this very impressive and well-made supplement.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #9: Bustling Marketplace (System Neutral Edition)
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Death Race: Fury Road
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/16/2017 05:41:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 page of editorial, leaving us with 11.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? Well, it's an unrepentant love-letter to the eponymous Mad Max-movie: The planet's Chog-dath Major, wrecked by mega-corporations, then taken over by the wizard collective - and this blend of the fantastic and scifi pretty much means that this is, indeed, intended to be used in conjunction with either the Crimson Dragon Slayer or Alpha Blue games - as long as the game sports the VSD6-engine, you'll be good to go.

There are 12 reasons to participate in a death race and the pdf does come with simple rules for betting on a death race: Betting on the correct winner nets 3 x the waged amount, 1st or 2nd place nets you twice the amount and betting correctly on someone scoring either 1st, 2nd or 3rd place nets you half the amount wagered. 12 alternate wagers are included, with 6 sample wagered goods range from gold to magic items.

So, how does the death race work? A player is picked to go first, he rolls a d%, then it's the next player's turn, etc. - races range from 3 such rolls to 7 in length. Weird, from a didactic point of view: Traps and ambushes are depicted before the race base mechanics: Picking up a weapon on the round nets +1 on a d4 table. Every time one is attacked by an opponent with a weapon, there's a 2 in 6 chance it may be taken from them. An ambush has a 1 in 4 chance of killing the ambusher. A success (4) equals a success and requires a saving throw - if you don't use your game's default chart, you may roll on one at the back of the pdf: d4, 1 = death, 2 = out and at 0 health, 3 = lose half health (and further rolls of 3 force you to reroll for either 1 or 2 and 4 = escaping unscathed. A 5 on the ambush table ( 4 + weapon's bonus +1) nets a no-save instant-kill.

Yeah, death races are, surprise, deadly. S, how are winners determined? You roll a d20 at the end of the race. The result is the place the character scores. So skill or the like...has absolutely nothing to do with placement. Which is patently unrewarding. More feasible and fun would be the scoring system: Surviving encounters, having sex while racing (remember, Alpha Blue tie-in...but if you do, you have disadvantage on the placement d20-roll), killing foes - all net points, while being knocked unconscious or destroying the planet net penalties. This may be combined with the placement system, but frankly, I wished it had been expanded further and/or replaced the lame d20-roll.

What's not lame at all, though, would be the massive d100-table with, bingo, 100 entries long - it makes up the vast majority of the pdf and contains a wide variety of effects/things that happen: a rolled 1 here means that you're vaporized, no save. You may also happen upon a Sam & Max Hit the Road reference and be captured by hillbillies, encounter buzzsaw vehicles...or you have unfortunately partaken in an energy-drink that nets you fast-acting ebola...and only a 1 in 4 chance of surviving it. 1 in 4 chances of not inadvertently ending in the Forbidden Zone, finding a Walther PPK...but there also are beneficial rolls: Having one's favorite Heavy Metal song hit radio lets you ignore the next unfavorable roll (hey, happens rarely enough, right, my fellow metalheads?) and by driving through the right cloud, you may gain a mutation. You may be frozen solid by a Crimson Dragon, abducted by aliens...A LOT of the effects rolled here boil down to hilarious and very likely demises...so if you're attached to your PC, newsflash, you probably shouldn't have participated in a race that has "DEATH" in the name.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and sports reddish veins. The pdf has amazing b/w-interior artwork to accompany the nice cover piece. The pdf comes in two-versions, with the second being more printer-friendly. The pdf comes with detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Andrew "Zakero" Moore and Venger As'Nas Satanis provide a cool little pdf, but you need to know what you're getting into: This is, from a player-perspective, not the best simulator of a complex race - it is ridiculously lethal (even for Venger's games, and that says something!) and the placement mechanics are really, really unrewarding. At the same time, if you're looking for a hilariously over-the-top fun way of seeing your characters (or NPCs) perish in entertaining ways, then this delivers in SPADES. There is fun to be had here, for sure, and the table for race-events brims with creativity. I just wished the race's actual mechanics would be on par with the creative events...and that there'd be more that influences the rolls. As written, a lot of the events really screw over the character (You've retroactively drunk lethal crap xyz...) and force unlikely survival rolls without much chances of influencing anything. This is cool for one-shots and quick-play/convention-gaming, but groups playing a prolonged campaign in VSD6-systems may want to look at this carefully before going for it.

That being said, this is FREE. It was written as a bonus for the Trinity of Awesome+1 book (where you can also find it in print as a fourth chapter) - and as such, it makes for a nice bonus. Not for every group, but if you're looking for a Fury Road that's truly and ludicrously over-the-top, then this delivers. Just replace those dumb, player-demoralizing placement rules. My final verdict, taking into account that this is FREE, will be 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Death Race: Fury Road
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Cultures of Celmae: Orcs
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/16/2017 05:38:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Cultures of Celmae-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The early history of Celmae's orcs is shrouded in history, as they were bred from the desire for conquest of the deity Rullux - their fecundity bestowed upon them as a present by the Black Goat Shub-Niggurath, they went to war against the giants, though other origin stories place them as twisted children from the woods - in this origin story, the orcs created pyramidal structures and suffered the inevitable collapse that grand empires falling to decadence ultimately go through - at least, this would explain the evocative prose depicting the ancient lost orc temples, monuments to times long past.

As the cataclysmic Shattering wrecked Celmae, the orcs engaged in a horrid war with the newcomer elves, one that was waged for over a 100 years before the orcs had to concede defeat and retreat to the sea in 112 after the Shattering - and on the waves, the orcs stole ships, built up their armada and adapted...while those remaining in Brynndell took to the caves, often falling prey to the horrid realities of slavery they had once imposed upon the pink-skinned humans. The two deities with most influence on the orc people, Rellux and Shub-Niggurath, receive their respective full deity write-ups - as a minor complaint, shubby gets two favored weapons, which can provide minor hiccups in the favored weapon ability-based interaction. That being said, the write-ups per se are nice.

The pdf also provides a kind of "nation" - the Red Tens of Nasph - on the edge of the Shadowlands Desert, once enslaved by the Necrophites, a vast organized (as far as you can call orcs organized) force exists - the Bloody Army, and one forward camp of this vast host has been provided for your convenience. The pdf also provides the full stats of Koruv Nasph, the favored of Rullux, has his eye on expansion - but he may be up for a rude surprise when he tries to take the lands of the hobgoblins. The stats for this NPC have been provided - he clocks in at CR 13 and is a spelleater bloodrager 13. The statblock has some minor issues, but is better than most I have seen from Wayward Rogues Publishing.

Now, racial trait-wise, the orcs of Celmae generally are the standard orcs, but have the Dayrunner racial trait built into their standard. The pdf also sports an alternative version of the race, the ashen orc, who gets +4 Str, -2 Int, Wis and Cha, +2 to saves versus diseases and mind-influencing effects, ferocity, orc weapon familiarity, darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity and negative energy affinity. Furthermore, they take no penalties from energy drain (he may still die) and after 24 hours, these are automatically removed. While just as lopsided as the regular orcs, that's a design decision that was not made by Wayward Rogues Publishing and hence, I won't penalize the pdf for it. The ashen orcs, while strong in undead-heavy campaigns, make sense as tied to the Ashen King and generally can be considered to be a flavorful alternative - if you allow regular orcs, these only represent a minor and situational power-increase, so no complaints on my end.

The pdf also contains 4 new archetypes, the first being the Blood-Wielder bloodrager. Instead of bloodline powers, these guys get Blood Weapon at 1st level: The orc can damage himself for 1 point of bleed damage - if already bleeding, he does not need to activate the ability thus. Unfortunately, the pdf does not specify what kind of action this self-inflicted damage is. Once bleeding, as a swift action, the blood-wielder can form blood into 10 pieces of ammunition, 5 light throwing weapons, 2 light one-handed weapons or one two-handed weapon. Oddly, RAW, regular one-handed weapons can't be created. The blood-wielder can only create weapons he is proficient with and the weapons shatter when disarmed, dropped or sundered, but are considered masterwork quality. As a nitpick, this needs to specify the material the weapons are supposed to be for proper sunder interaction. At 3th level and every 4 levels thereafter, these blood weapons gain a "magical +1 bonus" - I get what this tries to do, but unfortunately, the wording, while understandable, is not precise enough. Instead of 2nd level's uncanny dodge, the bloodrager no longer has to charge in a straight line while charging - only the final two squares must be in a straight line.

However, the additional sentence "and the bloodrager must take the most direct path to the target" is weird - if he has to take the most direct path, he can't charge in fancy movement either, avoiding hazardous terrain etc., which severely limits the use of this ability - considering how lame blood weapon-benefits are, that's disappointing. At 3rd level, the archetype gains an untyped +1 bonus to saves (should be typed) for each point of bleed damage he takes a round and at 7th level, also DR. Problem: That bonus should have a hard cap to avoid seriously broken bonus-cheesing. This replaces blood sanctuary and alters damage reduction. Instead of improved uncanny dodge, the blood wielder may cast spells with somatic components while having a weapon in his hands or being grappled - sans making a concentration check. Which is pretty insane. Why not provide a massive bonus instead?

The Scar-Speaker skald loses armor and shield proficiency and versatile performance, but gains +2 natural armor that increases by 1 every 3 "character levels attained" - that should be class levels. They get +1/2 class level on Knowledge (History) and Intimidate checks instead of bardic knowledge. Raging Song is modified to behave slightly differently - to gain its benefits, you have to be able to see the scar-speaker beginning the scar-story. Starting it is a standard action, maintaining it a free action. RAW, 7th level and 13th level can make problems: They change activation to move and swift, respectively, and don't include the caveat of choice. Also at 7th level, the skald may 1/scar-story let all affected allies reroll a saving throw. The archetype loses lore master and gains Intimidating Prowess (feat not properly capitalized) at first level instead of Scribe Scroll.

The skull-splitter barbarian gains immediately the benefits of rage upon being reduced to 0 HP until brought above 0 hp. Additionally, he may expend a round of rage to remain standing when he'd be killed - which is cool. However, how does that interact with save-or-die abilities while raging thus? Immune? No idea. This needs clarification. It replaces uncanny dodge, btw. Instead of 2nd level's rage power, these guys may use Dexterity instead of Strength to meet the prerequisites of feats based on TWF...which makes no sense! It should be the other way round! How that could get past cursory inspection, I have not the slightest clue! Also: Attributes are capitalized. TWF-based feats may also be chosen as rage powers. At 3rd level, the archetype can deal 1 point of damage to the weapon to deal +2 points of damage to the target. This increases at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Urgh, really? A) Action? To how many attacks does the bonus damage apply? Also "may deal damage to his weapon to deal 2 additional points of damage to his target" is NOT rules-language. How does that work with ranged weapons? Not starting with the issue that this ability shows a basic ignorance of how DAMAGING OBJECTS IN PFRPG WORKS. Hardness, anyone? URGH. 5th level yields head hunter - the option to make a fetish from a fallen foe that occupies a belt, body, chest or shoulder slot. "A single skull fetish may house two one-handed weapons or a single two-handed weapon." So is it a sheathe?? The archetype gains Improved Critical (not properly capitalized) when wielding a weapon sheathed in the fetish. Drawing them from the fetish is a free action, but deals 1 point of damage to the fetish, which has 10 hit points and hardness 0. So the author did know what hardness is, I guess. This replaces improved uncanny dodge. I kinda like the last ability, in spite of its issues.

The final archetype is the war-shaman, who is locked into the battle spirit at 1st level, but the archetype does gain +2 natural armor. He does lose spirit animal, though. Instead of spirit magic, the archetype chooses one weapon: She gains proficiency with it and uses her total HD instead of BAB for CMD while wielding the chosen weapon. At 4th level, wandering spirit is exchanged for the option to, as a standard action, choose a combat feat for which she meets the BAB-prerequisites (but may ignore others), gaining the "special benefits" of that feat for one round per class level. I...get what this tries to do - the wording is sunk by "Special", which is a loaded term for feats that pertains to additional considerations and would, RAW, render the ability useless. 12th level provides 2 combat feats and increases duration to 1 minute per class level; 20th level nets 3 feats for a whole day. Sooo...how often can the ability be used? For, if it does not have daily uses, the final ability may actually mean a significant decrease in flexibility, which would be weird for a capstone. Starting at 6th level, as a standard action, the shaman can grant herself and an ally within 30 ft. the teamwork feat for 1 round per class level. Only the shaman must meet the prerequisites. 14th level lets the character share the feat with all allies within 30 ft. This replaces wandering hex. While not perfect, by far the best archetype herein.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, weirdly, are mixed, but in a different way than usual: The formal component is not perfect, with quite a few its/it's-typo level glitches. Rules-language shows the different skill-levels and lack of a controlling dev/editor, oscillating between pretty good...and not so much. Layout adheres to Wayward Rogues Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf offers some nice artworks, though some of them I've seen before. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment. Additionally, copy-pasting of text is disabled, which is just plain annoying when trying to parse text for a character in actual play.

Michael Reynolds, Jarrett Sigler and Robert Gresham's take on the orcs of Celmae is frustrating for me. The prose is good, though not the best in the series. The inclusion of a high-level NPC (though it's not perfect) and a settlement are big plusses for the GM. The alternate race of ashen orcs is a solid addition within the racial design paradigm of the base orc race. So why is it frustrating for me? I actually love the concepts of all 4 archetypes in this books - the visuals are damn cool and the ideas for the respective engines all are high-concept and amazing. But the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Apart from the shaman (who is not perfect either), the other archetypes range from "barely functional with GM-calls" to "not even close."

As before, I will rate this as the culture-sourcebook it is, not as a pure crunch-book: If you're looking for crunch, avoid this, unless you have the time and nerves to fix the mess of the archetypes. If you're looking for dressing, information on the orcs in Celmae, however, you may actually get something out of this inexpensive pdf. It is due to the low price and the cultural information I am going to round up from my final verdict of 2.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cultures of Celmae: Orcs
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