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Cosmic Odyssey: Pirates of the Starstream
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/23/2018 06:53:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first of the Cosmic Odyssey sourcebooks for Starfinder clocks in at 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, we begin with a brief contextualization of the Jolly Rogers and the historical pirates and goes on to extrapolate some components that may differ in space – from tight-knit ports to specific practices – walking the plank would be rather lethal in space, with the airlock being the analogue. This, obviously, generates some deviations in the style that is ascribed to space pirates from the clichés we tend to associate with our terrestrial ones; it is important to remain cognizant of this fact, for it represents a thread that is woven throughout the book. This grounding in historical facts is something I personally enjoy very much – while I don’t expect it for space opera gameplay à la Starfinder, it is nice to see some foundation here. In an example, we actually get a reproduction of Captain Bartholomew Roberts (aka Black Bart)!

We have two different themes included here; the Brute nets +1 Str; the theme knowledge allows for the reduction of Medicine DCs to treat deadly wounds as well as for first aid. This also nets Intimidate as a class skill, or +1 to the skill if you already have it as a class skill. 6th level unlocks halved penalty for non-proficient weaponry (-2 instead of -4); 12th level provides hardhead, which is a bit weird: If you’re “reduced to 0, and make you unconscious”, you get a Fort save with the DC equal to damage taken. On a success, you remain conscious, with 1 HP remaining; this applies even if you have no Resolve Points left or don’t want to use them. On a nitpicky level, there’s a “HP” missing after the 0; on a rules-level, this is a bit weird, considering that staying in the fight via Resolve requires stabilizing. Also, how does this interact with nonlethal damage? Technically, that is not “0” per se. This ability would probably have been more elegant, if it modified the Resolve uses instead. As provided, it is rather rough around the edges. Anyways, 18th level lets you regain, up to twice per day, 1 point of Resolve for defeating an enemy whose CR is no more than 2 below your level. Not a huge fan here, considering the metagamey aspect of CR. On a rules-aesthetic level, personally, I’d have used SFRPG’s reaction-system here instead of free access. The theme is not broken, but also feels a bit raw.

The second theme here would be the rogue, who gets + 1 Cha and reduces the Diplomacy check to improve attitudes. Class skill-wise, it nets Athletics, with the usual +1 if you have it caveat. The 6th level ability nets you a +1 luck bonus to all untrained skill checks. 12th level can be a double-edged sword – Culture DC 10 to know your name, 20 to recognize you from appearance alone; on the plus-side, this also means that you have fans of sorts, which makes it easier to find helpful and friendly characters to aid you in your exploits. The 18th level ability is pretty much the same as for the brute, but you may also regain Resolve when achieving hard skill checks (20 + ½ character level). The hard cap prevents abuse, but yeah…would have preferred a wholly different ability there.

We get 3 new archetypes next: The boarder gains his alternate features at 2nd, 4th and 6th level, making it in that regard structurally analogue to the Starfinder Forerunner from the core book. The first ability nets you a +1 insight bonus to EAC and KAC when within 10 ft. of terrain that could grant you cover. 4th level nets a +2 insight bonus to weapon damage with blast weapons, but only versus targets within 10 ft. of you. This bonus increases by +1 for every 4 character levels attained. Furthermore, when aiming to not damage hulls, you can treat the hardness of the objects in your blast as +20 higher; basically, you won’t inadvertently destroy hulls. The final ability lets you always act in surprise rounds, on your initiative. If you “gain surprise” then you get +2 to atk and damage rolls. Okay…so does that mean that you only get this is all foes are surprised? Or do you get it against foes that are surprised, even if not all foes are? The interaction with the surprise mechanics are a bit rough here.

Gunners also gain alternate class features at 2nd, 4th and 6th level...or is that 2nd, 6th and 9th? The archetype contradicts itself there. The first attack with a ranged weapon in any combat (urgh, per combat ability…how have I not missed you) gains a +4 “equipment bonus” to atk and damage. Guess what bonus type does not exist in SFRPG? Bingo. By spending 1 Resolve Point, you can extend this bonus to subsequent rounds. And this makes it weird. So, a brief lull in combat nets you a free round of the bonus when hostilities resume. 6th level nets chain shot: When hitting a creature, it gains a save versus 10 +1/2 your level (class or character? I assume class here, analogue to the general definition) + your key ability modifier; on a failure, their speed is reduced to 0 for the round. Vessels must succeed Piloting checks instead to prevent their speed being reduced to 0; the pdf mentions that, at the GM’s discretion, these may continue moving, but sans directional control. I appreciate this caveat, but I would have loved to see that codified in precise rules instead. 9th level nets grapeshot; i.e. you can use non-blast weapons as blast weapons, but halve their range. Cop-out: Does not specify the interactions with ammunition, which e.g. Starfinder’s Fussilade does; it also can presents some RAW really wonky examples. RAW, this can be used with e.g. tactical crossbows or sniper weapons.

The third archetype would be the senior officer, who gains commanding presence, usable as a standard action 1 + ½ character level times per day, granting all allies within 30 feet +1 (untyped, should probably be morale, analogue to the archetype’s other abilities?) to Will-saves for the next round, which increases by +1 for every 6 levels beyond 6th. 9th level provides a similar boost for attacks versus a target in line of sight; slightly odd here: The ability is phrased in a way that makes it not 100% clear whether you have to attack the target as well (or need to have attacked it), though I assume that this is not the case. If you spend 1 Resolve point, you increase the bonus granted by +1, a further +1 every 5 levels after 9th. The wording here should probably use “increase” instead of “a further”, since morale bonuses usually don’t stack. While the functionality is there, the verbiage is a bit rough. In a weird decision, this has no daily cap. The 12th level ability lets you use a standard action to increase the speed of allies – it does not specify a range, how many allies can be affected, or a daily cap. Nasty typo: “By spending 1 Resolve Point they gain this speed increase for a number of levels equal to 1 + your key ability modifier.” Emphasis mine. Now, if that isn’t the best Resolve point ever spent! Kidding aside, this is problematic.

Next up, we get 6 new drone chassis types for the mechanic: Assassination, demolition, hacker, maintenance, infiltration and sentry drones are provided. As a whole, this section is solid, though I am pretty sure that the demolition drone has a glitch – I can’t deduce where the uncommonly high ACs come from (14 in both, Dex 10, mods don’t account for it); on the plus-side: Rules for laying mines! We also get a new mystic connection, the destroyer, which should fit, theme-wise, the demands of players looking for one that feels less…wholesome. They can channel scaling “electric” damage (should be electricity) via attacks versus an opponent’s EAC, with a range of 30 ft.. 3rd level allows you to undermine the hardness of objects by touching them (with object-size as a limiter, thankfully). The connection also yields a scaling bonus for allies in telepathic bond via Resolve. This ability also has no duration; defaulting to channel skill also doesn’t help, since the bonus applies to atk and damage. 9th level yields a touch attack that deals scaling untyped damage, and heals you for as much, with excess hit points gained as temporary HP that last a full hour. Yes, it costs one Resolve to use, but would you mind lending me that kitten? I need to refresh my shield of temporary HP before entering the fray. 12th level provides a somewhat confused ability: “Whenever you or an ally linked by your telepathic bond class feature scores a critical hit against a foe, you can spend 1 Resolve Point as a reaction to confuse that enemy. The foe must succeed at a Fortitude save or become exhausted for 1 round.“ Sooo…which is it? Confusion? Exhaustion? The ability also refers to the “sow doubt” ability in the following text. Guess what the connection doesn’t have? Bingo. 12th level nets tremor-based blindsense – which should be blindsense (vibration) in SFRPG’s formatting, not blindsense (tremors). The 18th level ability lets you call forth a tremors and a volcanic eruption via 1 Resolve. Here, it should be noted that the ability gets full action right – the pdf has several legacy “full-round action”-references.

The book also contains a new 4th level technomancer spell, nightcloak, which is per se damn cool – basically invisibility for ships. Somewhat odd: Ships of a larger size (Huge +) require multiple castings of the spell…so, when do the benefits run out? How exactly does that work?

Next up would be the new equipment section. Here, we get breaching charges and pistols, chemcutters, the classic cutlass (including several variants, including, but not limited to, molecular rift, buzzblade, and ripper). Two lack the damage-type shorthand in the table. Other than minor glitches, I enjoyed this section – and the same can be said for the starship equipment. Huge plus, as far as I’m concerned: Hyperspace beacons are provided with rules and beacon hijackers make all sorts of sense to me. Ship-damaging thruster boosters…nice. We also get a boarding shuttle and a Tiny gunship and there are rules for ramming other starships.Kudos!

The next section is GM-facing and deals with a couple of sample organizations, each of which comes with supplemental characters. This book predates the release of Alien Archive, so NPCs are built in accordance with PC-presentation and rules. No, I’m not going to penalize the pdf for that. Additionally, we get explanations of methods as well as a couple of adventure hooks for them The Crimson Corsairs get a CR 5 character, the CR 10 leader and stats for her vessel. The Crew of the Misty Maiden is next, and finally, there would be the Swiftsure Pirate Hunters – and much like in real life, the distinction of pirate/freebooter/legal authority may be a fleeting one.

The final section of the pdf presents 8-Piece Port, a pirate neutral zone composed of asteroids, held together by gigantic girders; each of the asteroids can be considered to be its own sub-settlement of sorts, featuring fluff-centric notes on NPCs of note, settlement stats as well as notes on industry and quite a few adventure hooks. We do get a nice full-color map, but no key-less player-friendly version of it.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting of this book show that it is one of the earliest releases for Starfinder – it does sport quite a few relics and instances where the conventions have not been perfectly implemented. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports quite a few nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Kim Frandsen’s book on space pirates has me rather torn. On the one hand, I like the leitmotif and aesthetics of the book – the way in which historical tactics are extrapolated and brought to the space age; I like how ramming is covered and the items also are rather nice. The GM-section is interesting and I can see the 8-Pieces Port become a regular haunt for quite a few PCs. That being said, this book also suffers from being an early release in that rules-language isn’t as precise as it should be. A few glitches in the details can be excused, but the number that can be found within does drag this down a notch. Whether you’d like this pdf imho wholly depends on whether you’re a GM or a player – the player-facing options are not that great, while the GM material is more interesting. In short, the book, as a whole, is a quintessential mixed bag. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cosmic Odyssey: Pirates of the Starstream
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vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 Easy Mode
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/20/2018 04:42:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This version of Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

First things first: This review was requested by one of my patreons. The Easy Mode version of Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 is basically the refined and updated version of Season 1, and as such still contains the original pdf in the downloads. I strongly suggest going with the proper Easy Mode Season 2 upgrade – the rules are significantly more precise.

Now, this pdf is everything you need to play the Vs. Stranger Stuff adventures released for season 1, and indeed, anything in that regard. However, at the same time, even a cursory glance at the page-count in comparison should make clear that the full version sports a LOT more, interesting options, including the other difficulty levels. Let it be known, though, that the supplement, while obviously a teaser of the full Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 experience, is NOT cripple-ware. This is fully functional on its own and the pdf is FREE, the print at-cost at a paltry $3.00, which means that this supplement is great to check out whether you like the basics of the system. As a humble aside from yours truly, I consider the other difficulties presented in the big book to be superior. The different difficulties are briefly explained herein, but this pdf focuses on the basics.

We thus begin with a summary of what’s required for play, which is basically just one or more decks of cards as well as players and paper/pencils. The pdf includes a list of possible inspirations.

Okay, as in Stranger Things, we play kids, who have two attributes: Brains and Muscles. Starting attribute dispersal can be 5 in both or 4 in one, 6 in the other. The numerical values determine how many cards you draw when facing a challenge. There also are Good and Bad Gimmicks. You pick two Good Gimmicks and one Bad Gimmick at character creation: These can include cool, older siblings, further modifications of the attributes, etc. – and on the bad side, we get e.g. broken homes, being a klutz, having overbearing helicopter parents, etc. Every character starts at 10 toughness, which are basically the hit points of the character, though Gimmicks may modify that.

Equipment is handled in a relatively rules-lite manner, potentially requiring that the kids get gear that kids usually wouldn’t have by creative means. Sans roleplaying, it takes a draw to get it successfully: Compare the value of the card to the EV of the item. EV stands for “Equipment Value”, just fyi. You may attempt to get as many such equipment pieces per session as your Brains value dictates. Paired items, like walky-talkies, increase the value by 2 if you want both; this does not apply for items sold in bulk like nails or M&Ms, obviously. Sample values of how hard it is to get items are provided for your convenience. There, done: You can start playing right now – and the pdf has the character-sheet right there.

The next section deals with gamemastery, first explaining the core mechanic: Like the equipment example, you basically draw cards and compare the value of the cards to the TV, target value of the challenge. Actions that are directly opposed are resolved via competetitive drawing, higher card wins. Teamwork uses the character with the highest attribute, +1 card per person helping. Yeah, teamwork is powerful!

Suits mean something: The red suits, hearts and diamonds, are good suits with generally favorable results; the black suits are generally negative, with spades being worse than clubs. This is relevant when e.g. using a simple draw, i.e. drawing a card to get a general notion what happens, and can be really neat to help the GM decide on how an action pans out.

Combat is measured in turns, with turn-length adjusted to suit the needs of the story; player to the GM’s left goes first, in order; after all players acted, the GM’s monsters, NPCs etc. may act. Movement is similarly handled in an abstract, narrative manner, assuming the kids to be able to move a “moderate” distance; anything beyond that may require a test on brains or muscles.

You can perform one attack per round, or one complex action. Small actions like flicking on a light switch, etc., are free. Melee attacks work by comparing Muscles with the target’s DV – Defense Value. Ranged attacks are executed against the higher of DV or RV – RV denotes, bingo, the “Range Value.” The target numbers parallel btw. those of other actions. Damage depends on the weapon used: Fists or improvised weapons cause 1 point of damage, advanced weaponry like power tools 3.

As long as a character has 6 or more Toughness, all is fine; below that, the pain begins hamper them. At 5 toughness, the kid suffers -1 to both attributes, for being in minor pain. Having only 2 Toughness increases this penalty to -2 and 0 Toughness means -3 and extreme pain; -1 toughness means being knocked out, -2 means death. Resting for an hour regains 1 Toughness, 4 hours let you regain 5 and a full night of sleep nets 10 Toughness. First aid and pain killers can help against pain, obviously. And that’s basically the whole combat section as presented herein.

Beyond that, we get stats for 4 different adults, a sample kid and 11 monsters, ranging from greys to werewolves etc….and this is pretty much where the booklet ends. If you want the PCs to have unique stuff (i.e. items)…well, the big book has sentient robot buddies, working x-ray-goggles or spells and supernatural powers like pyrokinesis, parasitic regeneration, etc. A sample NPC with powers, 13, is provided and the pdf continues to provide a list (not comprehensive, btw.!) of further goodies from the big book. Attacking objects, fear, fire and fireworks, hazards, endurance over time, an extended GM-chapter. Rules for games within games, lucky lighters, a nice chapter on world-building and a sample mini-setting all are in the big book.

…yeah, in case you haven’t noticed, I very much suggest you get the big book if this setting/system even remotely appeals to you.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard with nice b/w-artworks, though this version does fall short of the full-color splendor of the big book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lucus Palosaari’s expansion of Rick Hershey’s original season 1 pdf is something I applaud. Instead of taking season 1’s pdf down, we get a full-blown improvement in rules-integrity and precision, as well as a more than doubled page-count. Now, it is pretty evident that this version cannot, and doesn’t try to, replace the massive, proper Season 2 book. Instead, it should be considered to be a handy teaser for the vastly expanded Second Season book; a means for new groups to check out the game without any risk, courtesy of the pdf being offered for FREE. Now, in direct comparison, this obviously falls short of the big book; it can’t reach that level of depth and quality in these few pages. At the same time, this is a fully functional game, which is a pretty big plus as far as I’m concerned.

How to rate this, then? Here, things get tricky. You see, this pdf lacks a lot of what made me really, really love Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2’s full book. It remains a good offering, but unfortunately, I have read the full version before this one, so I can’t help but compare the two, and the big book is my favorite VsM-Engine game released by Fat Goblin Games so far. That being said, this is a perfect way of checking out whether the engine and type of game works for you and yours…and that’s how the pdf is intended. As a whole, I think this is worth checking out if you’re curious about the system. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and the fact that this is FREE.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 Easy Mode
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vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Lucky's Curse
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/14/2018 05:10:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This short module for the vs. Stranger Stuff-game clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page character sheets, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content. The pages are laid out in digest style (6’’ by 9’’/A5), allowing you to theoretically print up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper, if you’re conscious about your use of paper/ink/toner.

Now, this review is focused on taking a look at how well this module works within the context of season 2 of the vs. Stranger Stuff-game. The adventure has originally been released for the first season of the RPG, and as such should be retroactively be declared “easy mode.”

Anyway, what may not be immediately apparent for you would be that this is basically a holiday module of sorts – this is a module centered around St. Patrick’s Day, and as such, players that show up in all green get either Good Stuff Lucky or an extra use of the ability. Once per encounter, this lets you redraw cards. Okay, and here we have an excellent illustration of how the game matured; I don’t have the original first season of the game, but one glance of the rules for the Good Stuff should make progress evident: The rules-text in the adventure is a bit confusing – per encounter/per session are two very different things and it is not clear how the extra use interacts here. The ability also does not state how many cards may be redrawn.

Contrast this to vs. Stranger Stuff’s Season 2 rule-book, and we get a precise and concise definition of this ability. The difference is significant.

What I’m trying to say is this: If in doubt, use the rules from the second season.

All right, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! We join the PCs as they are in Lucky’s, a family-friendly restaurant with a small pub attached to it, owned by Brian MacNally. As the PCs are waiting to get seated, a small man dressed in green runs into the place, to the shout of “Leprechaun!”, which should get their attention. Anyways, the fellow proceeds to serve food and beverages and is, indeed, just a short man. The usual available pub games are represented as Muscles or Brain challenges, with the highest draw winning the round – a solid, if minimalist representation within the confines of the system.

As the PCs are enjoying themselves, they will notice the strangers – dressed in long, ragged coats down to their knees, with fur draped around their shoulders and leather boots. These guys may well start shouting and there is a chance for a minor altercation here. This is also a good place to (re-)introduce characters from other adventures; as a stand-alone, making one of the kid’s parents stand in for Brian may be another tweak to get the PCs involved.

If they’re smart, they’ll notice that the strangers are looking for something. Of course, things escalate, and the strangers drop their guise, as mist flows around them, eyes glow and Brian gets knocked out – the strangers are actually ghost pirates, looking for Brian’s heirloom, one of the coins of St. Patrick, which is responsible for the MacNally family’s good luck…but also what these fellows want. Their telekinesis is pretty potent and we get alternate stats for vs. Ghosts – in that system, they are division III, just so you know. Minor complaint: There’s an aesthetic formatting hiccup in the stats here.

…and that’s about it. The adventure does mention potential consequences for the strangers absconding with the coin or for the PCs defeating them…but ultimately, this is a WEIRD one. The module basically acts as a creature feature; there is no investigation going on and weirdness happens in plain sight of everyone, which may not gel well with all games. If you hearken closer to Stranger Things’ aesthetics, this may well be a bit overkill regarding exposure. The combat in a jam-packed tavern also is…abstract. Why don’t the NPCs help? How does this play out? Panic? The adventure does not manage to convey even the slightest bit of the chaos of a tavern brawl, let alone a supernatural brawl. The lack of a map for Lucky’s also makes the proceedings somewhat abstract, and not in a good way.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay; while I did not note truly serious issues, I did notice a few aesthetic issues. Layout adheres to a nice 1-column full-color standard. The full-color artwork is okay. The pdf does not sport any bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length.

Ben Dowell’s “Lucky’s Curse” is intended as a brief adventure for a rules-lite game, but even within this paradigm, it feels oddly minimalist, and not in a good way; the pdf can potentially provide full-blown exposure of the supernatural for a game, which is not what everyone will want to go for. It also is less of a module and more of an initial encounter: Basically, this module’s entirety is spent on what would be the first encounter in most modules. Instead, the first encounter is the last and ultimately, there’s nothing relevant going apart from that. Brevity is no excuse here either, as the author has shown in his other works that he is perfectly capable of telling a rewarding, short story in less words. This is not horrendous, mind you, but it fell seriously short of what I hoped to see within these pages, both on a narrative and structural level. My final verdict will clock in at 2 stars due to the fair price point.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Lucky's Curse
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DNH1 - The Lost Temple of Forgotten Evil Complete Set
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/07/2018 15:28:09

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.

This is a collection of four products - 5E and PF versions of the main adventure, an extra 5E sidequest, and an extra book of maps and illustrations. The Lost Temple of Forgotten Evil is a fairly flexible adventure, although it's important to note that this is NOT an introductory first-level adventure. Rather, it's largely meant to be played after characters have a few adventures under their belts (such as a few modules or starting adventure series).

The adventure itself consists of a series of encounters, most notably one involving an outrageously complicated door. This is one of the better door-based challenges I've seen, since a simple Disable Device check isn't even remotely good enough to overcome it.

While I like the adventure itself, there are a few hiccups I noticed. These are mostly design elements. For example, Page 19 of the 5E version gives us a couple of dense statblocks for foes. These are crushed a little too close together - a bit of spacing between the stats would make the whole section much easier to refer to with a quick glance. Similarly, on Page 37 of the PF version, we have a weapon described as a "Mace +2". That's not the correct formatting for Pathfinder, which uses an Enhancement Bonus -> Special Ability -> Special Metal -> Weapon Type format. (So you would have a +2 Unholy Mace, rather than an Unholy Mace +2. This helps to prevent confusion in statblocks.)

Overall, this is a solid adventure, probably good for at least 2-3 sessions depending on how long your group plays. As the first part in a longer series, it's likely best when purchased with the others , and I do like that you get a reasonable amount of content for the price. Given the occasional formatting hiccups, I feel like this product is, overall, about a 4.5/5. For the purpose of this platform - and given that they're relatively minor problems - I'm rounding up.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DNH1 - The Lost Temple of Forgotten Evil Complete Set
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vs. Dragons
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/05/2018 11:51:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game based on the VsM-engine clocks in at 66 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page character sheet, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 59 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so this system can be used as a gateway to roleplaying games; the rules-lite chassis of the VsM-Engine is well-positioned to act as a “first” RPG-system, also courtesy of the presentation: We first get a brief explanation of how RPGs work, a very short list of what you need to play (cards, this book, that’s it) and a brief list of Appendix N-like inspirations in both literature and movies. The artworks herein are classic b/w-pieces that capture a sense of old-school aesthetics rather well – it should be noted that the layout here is pretty impressive: How the artworks are integrated into the three-column landscape, tablet-friendly presentation is pretty neat.

Okay, if you’re familiar with other VsM-games, you probably won’t be surprised by the basic set-up: The game knows two attributes, namely Brains and Muscles. There are 3 basic configurations for attributes: Smart heroes have 5 brains and 3 muscles, strong heroes have 3 brains and 5 muscles and well-balanced heroes have 4 brains and muscles. This value determines the amount of cards you draw when the hero faces a challenge.

Unlike e.g. Vs. Stranger Things, this game also knows a total of 3 different classes: Fighters get to choose either ranged or melee weapons: When making an attack with the chosen weapon type, they draw an additional card. Magic-users get to cast magic – more on that later. Thieves get to draw an additional card when using Brains or Muscles to pick locks, pockets, moving silently, hiding, performing sleight of hand, contortions, tumbling, etc. Now, after deciding on the class, the player gets to pick a Good and a Bad Gimmick: These can include the raising of an attribute by one point, having connections to powerful NPCs, a danger sense, etc. on the good side, while on the bad side, we have addictions, allergies, being klutzy, etc. – so yeah, within the framework of the game, you could end up with an attribute ratio of 2 to 6, should you choose. A character has 10 Toughness – these are basically the hit points of the character. Good and Bad Gimmicks can modify this value to 8 and 12, respectively.

As far as starting equipment goes, you start play with an adventurer’s kit, but otherwise, the game isn’t really about gear, so if micro-managing the like annoys you, that’s a plus; on the other hand, if you enjoy the simulationalist aspects, then this will be less fun for you. In order to get an item beyond the standard, you consult the GM and may draw a card: If the card exceeds the EV (Equipment Value), you get it. You may only procure up to Brains items per session – basically, this is a minor crazy-prepared trope: You realize you had purchased the item. Getting matching items not usually sold in sets is covered as well. Failure to meet the EV means that you can’t secure the item in this game session…better improvise! The money system allows for another way to deal with this: When drawing for equipment, you can send the difference between the value of the drawn card and EV to purchase the item. The hero is assumed to be perfectly capable of using items, which means that there is no proficiency-system or the like to worry about.

Living amenities are codified. Clothing and armor is similarly codified: Armor reduces damage incurred: Light armor by 1, medium by 2 and heavy armor by 4. After a session, regardless of whether it was hit, etc., the armor needs to be repaired – which may or may not require the aid of a blacksmith. I am not 100% happy with the mechanics here: It is RAW possible to not be hit and still requires that the PC has the armor repaired. Similarly, armor breaking mid-dungeon-exploration for now reason is weird. Here, less would probably have been more: The GM already pretty much controls the variables here, so why not grant full control of when it requires repairs? Armor btw. reduces your movement.

Shields take hits in your stead: For each hit, make a simple draw (that is drawing one card): Hearts deflects the blow completely; Diamonds and clubs reduce damage by 1 for a small shield, 2 for a large shield. On a spade draw, the damage is reduced, but the shield is damaged…if it was a melee attack. Ranged attacks only damage the shield if the spade card was a face card. Damaged shields break on the next successful strike against it, or upon making the next attack with it. In short: Shields are pretty damn good. That is, as a whole, a plus – I really dislike how sucky shields are in most fantasy RPGs.

Weaponry is classified in 4 categories: Basic attacks inflict 1 damage, simple weapons 2, improved weapons 3 and advanced weapons 4 damage. A brief table classifies weapon types and is mostly concerned about the group, like “staffs”; Weapons may be 2-handed, have a chance to break, be concealable or have a reach, which may, however, also hamper their use in cramped conditions. Ranged weaponry is similarly codified. Ranged weapons with penetration reduce an armor’s damage reduction. Weapons like bastard swords that can be handled in one or two hands are covered as well. That out the way, a brief table that lists other equipment can also be found and then, we just have to determine the traits – basically, the fluff of the hero, the non-mechanical aspects.

An extensive appendix lets you btw. determine components by chance, should you so choose: The appendix lets you determine place of birth and childhood environment. The latter btw. assumes a couple of less nice environments – after all, well-adjusted folks usually don’t become heroes, right? Thus, we get really detailed 1-page tables for the respective environments: Runaway, bastard and orphan are covered…oh, and there is the “worse” table…which, you know…is worse. After these, we get to determine an adolescence event, a family history, the background of the caretaker, the misfortune that has beset the caretaker, the status of siblings and how they relate to you. You also get to determine a curse you may be suffering from, draw twice on the friends and enemies table and your relationship status can similarly be determined by the luck of the draw. In short: All details you probably require to create a unique hero. This section is helpful, and, of course, you can ignore components of it…or everything.

All in all, character creation is quick, simple and painless.

Conflict resolution is similarly simple: You draw your Brains or Muscles value of cards and compare it to the TV (Target Value) of the task at hand; as long as one card can beat the TV. Opposed challenges are just that: Compare draws, higher wins. Teamwork is potent – the character with the highest attribute draws, plus one card per assisting character. Simple. Characters can always draw at least one card, unless a task is deemed impossible by the GM or unless the reduction is due to Pain.

As in other VsM-games, suits have general associations: The red suites are generally positive, the black suites generally negative. Hearts are better than diamonds, spades are worse than clubs.

Okay, so how does combat work? Initiative is based on player seating, starting left to the GM. Combats are measured in turns, whose length are determined by the GM on a fluid basis. Movement is either handled via abstract categories OR allow you to track the movement: 1 square per Muscles-value movement. Brains may also be used to e.g. determine the correct spot to walk to, etc. – basically, this is pretty. In order to hit a target, the PC has to exceed the target’s DV – Defense Value. That works pretty much like a TV. Ranged attacks are compared to the RV – Range Value. A target uses the higher of the two values chosen from DV and RV.

As long as a character has 6+ toughness, he is fine; at toughness 5, the character is in minor pain, which translates to -1 to both attributes. 2 is the threshold for moderate pain, equal to -2 to both attributes. 0 toughness means extreme pain, i.e. -3 to the two attributes. Dropping below 0 toughness knocks the character out; -2 equals death. The threshold values for monsters are quick and easy to determine. Resting an hour regains 1 toughness; full 8 hours of sleep net you 10 toughness. Resting for 10 minutes reduces the current pain level by one step. Quick aid has a TV of 10, and drawing a spade means you used up all healing supplies. There is also an optional rule for fantasy logic and instantaneous healing, should you prefer the like.

The book also covers rules for attacking objects and structures, fire, and general hazards. There are no hard rules for determining falling damage, but e.g. water as a hazard is covered. A GM can also rely on a variety of monsters, readily statted for you: We get undead apparitions, boggles (frog folk), cockatrices, a general stat for cosmic horrors, stats for crossroads demons, warmonger demons or demon lords. Weird eyelings, the eponymous dragons, faeries, giants, goblins – basically, we get a selection of the classics of fantasy.

Now, magic. How does magic work? Well, there are basically holy symbols (talismans of true faith), spellbooks, grimoires – you get the idea for these basic items. Unbreakable shields/armor, penetrating weapons – we have a couple of basic magic modifications regarding items. Magic wands and staves can hold magic and act as basically magical batteries, but can potentially explode if overcharged.

Okay, so how does spellcasting work? The character must spend a turn and channel the power of the location; the GM draws a card, which represents the value available to the hero; the hero only knows this value if the GM draws a heart-suite card. 2- 8 mean “little power was gathered”, while 9+ means that a decent amount could be gathered – and this is usually what the PC knows. Once the pool is depleted, the character can attempt to draw power again, but this halves the values. Magic of a location replenishes after 24 hours. When a hero attempts to cast a spell, he must expend spell points, even if the target value is not met. If the hero doesn’t have enough power, it automatically fails. This system makes magic feel pretty chaotic and unreliable. Magic is categorized in 4 types: Folk Magic is assigned to Hearts, Divine Magic to Diamonds, Witchcraft to Clubs and Black magic to Spade. Healing via e.g. black magic is possible, but may take a less savory form – you get the idea. Sample TVs are provided for the GM, with e.g. wish-granting requiring King, resurrections and gateways assigned to Jack, etc. A smattering of sample spells are included for the GM’s convenience, including some ideas for e.g. damage spells etc. Unsurprisingly, Brains determines the number of cards drawn for spellcasting.

The next chapter provides basic advice for GMs – the structuring of adventures, possible rewards (and how to gain both Bad and Good Gimmicks. We also get a couple of brief summaries of a couple of settlements (each about 2 – 3 short sentences long) and 6 sample adventure locations that might act as hooks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to a really nice 3-column standard (11’’ by 8.5’’) and is pretty impressive: The use of b/w-artworks and public domain art to generate a concise, old-school aesthetics is pretty neat. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, but only with bookmarks for the chapter-headers. Two bookmarks seem to be superfluous and point towards somewhat weird places, but this is an aesthetic complaint.

Rick Hershey, with additional content by Lucus Palosaari, has created an interesting modification of the VsM-engine, one that is based on extensive modifications of the rather impressive Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2. The modifications are smooth and interesting and switching games is pretty simple; if you know how to run Vs. Stranger Stuff, you’ll know how to run this. The game is interesting and play smoothly; it is easy to grasp and, potentially, run. That being said, I kinda found myself wishing there was more in the class and magic section: While detailed enough to not qualify as fully freeform, I personally prefer particularly the magic component to be more concisely defined. That being said, since even the most potent magics can theoretically be accomplished from the get-go, this may not necessarily be feasible. Still, the magic items and classes introduced here represent perhaps the one lost chance of the system. You see, while the games based on the VsM-engine allow for quick and smooth one-shot scenarios or shorter campaigns, the weakness of the system pertains to longer campaigns; there is simply not that much going on regarding character progression and advancement. Both magic and classes could have easily added, perhaps as optional components, means of advancing the characters in a concise manner; they can act as such as presented here, but ultimately, we could have gone one step further here, truly evolving the game.

In short: This is a well-made fantasy game based on cards; it is particularly suitable for those looking for an easy way to introduce players to RPGs or for quick, rules-lite gaming. It is not as detailed as Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 in its supplemental material, but still, the system does that aspect rather well. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Dragons
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vs. Dragons Adventures: Magic’s Demand
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/05/2018 11:49:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first adventure for Vs. Dragons clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 9 1/3 pages of content. It should be noted that, much like the main-book for the system, the layout is a 3-column-standard in kinda-landscape, with 8.5’’ by 11’’ as the size; this means that there is quite a lot of text per page.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! About a month ago, strange things began to happen in the quiet village of Hazelmoure, beginning with a three-beaked chicken and escalating to iridescent clouds, etc. The strange happening have the townsfolk concerned, seeking shelter in the temple by day, the tavern by night. The tavern is operated by the elf Eldwind (full stats provided) and may act as a start of the adventure – though just finding weird occurrences will do the trick as well: A full page of strange occurrences, governed by simple draw, can be used to establish a sense of weird magic. Drawing a Spade is suggested as a means of scene progression, though personally, I’d suggest only employing this after a threshold of a certain number of such occurrences. The effects include spontaneous out-of-season blizzards, reverse gravity, or the whole town being reduced to 1 toughness AND extreme pain – ouch! (Minor complaint: “is reduce” should probably read “is reduced.” – unfortunately not the only such glitch; we e.g. have missing “as” and similar minor hiccups accumulate throughout the pdf.)

Now, the village is obviously the focus of a strange font of magic and the pdf provides rules for this, allowing for a fluctuating amount of magic. The rules here are nice, though I was a bit puzzled by the chance of taking points of pain when tapping into the font – RAW, pain is not tracked in points in Vs. Dragons, but in steps. Just as the PCs are investigating the strange phenomena, a “hero” comes into town: Dracom pretty much immediately ends the weird phenomena, stealing the PC’s thunder, big time. He is, unsurprisingly, hailed as the savior of Hazelmoure, immediately instated into power, outlawing magic and non-authorized weapons. Yes, the PCs will not be happy, but hey, they may be hired as village guards.

Dracom then proceeds to call for taxes and the PCs will have their hands full, as a random creature table suddenly sports an influx of strange and dangerous new creatures the PCs will have to handle. Things will become personal at the very latest when Dracom sends villagers to collect the vanquished monsters and, worse for most players, the loot! The PCs, at one point, will have to confront Dracom – who is actually a magic eater dragon in disguise – and the PCs should take care, for collateral damage is very real, considering the power of the dragon. The pdf provides suggestions for Good of Bad outcomes of the adventure.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not bad, but sport a couple of unnecessary glitches, some of which influence the rules-integrity of the chaotic magic rules in minor ways. As mentioned before, the 3-column layout is elegant and the pdf sports thematically-fitting b/w-public domain-artworks. The pdf comes with bookmarks.

Kiel Howell, with additional content by Lucus Palosaari, weaves an interesting, brief yarn here: The module can easily be expanded to the desired length: Due to all important aspects being pretty modular (occurrences/combats), this can work equally well in the context of a convention slot or for a longer game at the table. The strange occurrences in the village are nice, though the Ace-effect can be pretty lethal; similarly, the monsters are not easy – there is a definite chance of death here. The adventure is fun and delivers, considering its limited page-count. All in all, this is a pretty nice scenario. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Dragons Adventures: Magic’s Demand
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vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Summer C.A.M.P.
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/02/2018 04:01:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for vs. Stranger Stuff clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, it should be noted that this module was originally released for season 1 of Vs. Stranger Stuff; I will look at it within the context of season 2’s significantly expanded and refined rules, which means that you should consider this to be retroactively designated as an easy mode adventure. It should be noted that it’s very easy to integrate recurring characters from other Vs. Stranger Stuff modules within this adventure as NPCs – they accompany the PCs at their task and could, depending on how you wish to run this, meet unfortunate fates…or, for a more family-friendly interpretation, just add to the scare factor.

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, local philanthropist Travis Hart has purchased a picturesque location and the PCs have scored a sweet deal: School’s out and they can earn some serious bucks for fixing up Camp Hope! Yeah, well, sure, that place saw a couple of grisly murders in the 60s, but that’s in the past, right? I mean, what could go wrong?

Well, for one, school bully Chad Helms is also working the site, potentially making the PC’s life miserable. Chad is picking on Jessica, one of the recurring class mate characters, and the PCs may well want to intervene. This would be a good place to note that we get stats for Travis, Chad and Jessica, with Chad getting the pretty potent headlock ability. It should be noted that this Good Gimmick has been SIGNIFICANTLY improved in vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 as far as rules-language is concerned; I strongly suggest using the rules of the new edition. (Something that btw. holds true for, well, pretty much any such rules-component; Season 2 is a vastly superior game.)

Anyways, before the PCs can knock out Chad, they’ll see strange lights in the distance, which the bully will use to skulk away. Now personally, I am not a big fan of this type of railroading; it should be up to the PCs or at least, offer a chance, to let him get a proper comeuppance. But that may be me.

Travis, in a nice play against the conventions, has seen the lights as well and suggests scouring the campgrounds, which is, coincidentally a good way to split the party and make some PCs share the company of Jessica and Chad. Nice: The mini-investigation yields results based on the suite of the card drawn: At the entrance, dime-sized scorch-marks and a destroyed entry gate loom; bright lights and a faint siren make the water treatment plant easy to spot and the bathhouses contain a family of raccoons. If the PCs investigate Chad, they’ll find a stash of nudey mags…which may well change dynamics here.

Smart PCs attempting to sneak around will be found by Travis, unerringly…and some might say, creepily. Over the next couple of days, the weird lights will reappear; electronics are found dismantled and tools go missing; if the players don’t put it all together, an Ace Mental (use Brains in Season 2) challenge can yield the solution, with every day decreasing the required target.

Beyond the obviously hilarious speculation your players may engage in, the module provides a variety of entertaining false leads: Ghosts from previous campers! Devil worshipers! Merpeople in the lake! Chad is a psychopath! Travis is the original serial killer! Te creepy counselor is an undead maniac! Rabid, mutant raccoons run the fields! All of these have in common that they are more detailed in the book…and that they’re wrong.

Ultimately, the PCs will find the truth…a dog-sized spider-shaped robot! Badly damaged, trying to rebuild itself. The thing is, surprisingly, non-hostile and seems to be hiding from another robot, which seeks to destroy it. It can barely communicate with broken voice module and charades, making it an interesting NPC to interact with. And yes, the module mentions the reactions of NPCs to being shown this secret camper. Suffice to say, the PCs will probably want to keep it hidden from Travis and Chad…and after a few days of hijinx (come on, we all have seen enough secret friend movies for inspiration…) of trying to keep the robot hidden, the hunter will appear – basically the evil version of the PC’s new robot friend. While this potent machine can’t kill humans, it can hurt them…and its directive is to destroy the friendly DSR (damaged spider robot) – something the PCs should definitely want to avoid!

If they best the brutal hunter, they may well wave their new DSR-friend good-bye, as it scampers off into the woods just before the inevitable military clean-up crew in hazmat suits arrives to make the debris vanish. The PCs are in no danger, but the presence of these folks is still concerning. In the end, the PCs may have a ton of money from the job…but whether DSR lives or is destroyed ultimately decides whether they’ll leave this module with a new Bad or Good Stuff –seeing your robot friend being killed by a robot can be traumatic, after all. If DSR lives, they’ll have an ally for life, though!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with nice artworks in color. The pdf has no maps of camp hope, which is a slight comfort detriment. The pdf also sports no bookmarks, which is another minor comfort detriment.

Ben Dowell, with additional content by Lucus Palosaari, delivers in this book – pretty big time, I might add. If you’re like me and always had a fascination with see SPOILER-section, if you recall all those classic movies, you’ll smile more often than not while running this. The ally the PCs can gain here is nice and the module is, as a whole, a warm-hearted and nice adventure with a bit of tension, a bit of investigation, detailed false leads…you get the idea. While the module could be a bit meatier regarding the false leads and investigation itself, while I would have loved to see a couple of fully fleshed out scenes pertaining the kids trying to cover for the new friend, this most assuredly is a worthwhile offering that can work for both adults and kids equally well. While use with season 2 requires a couple of minor modifications, this remains a very much worthwhile adventure to check out. Considering the low and fair price-point, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Summer C.A.M.P.
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Publisher's Choice - Joshua Gullion: Fantasy Hero
by Bryan H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2018 10:15:06

A free character to use in your games, the artwork provided is high qualiyt and very clean, ready to use with no modification.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Joshua Gullion: Fantasy Hero
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Publisher's Choice - Wyatt Ferris #Play4Wyatt
by Bryan H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2018 09:24:31

Excellent art with a tragic backstory, the files are high quality, high resolution, and very clean. These images are ready to be used as character art in any of your games, as is.

Play4Wyatt #WyattNPC

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Wyatt Ferris #Play4Wyatt
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Publisher's Choice - Basic Fantasy Figures (B&W Skeletons)
by Bryan H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2018 09:18:15

Two high quality, high resolution skeletons to use in your games. The images are great, clean and ready to use.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Basic Fantasy Figures (B&W Skeletons)
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Publisher's Choice - Original Game Master
by Bryan H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2018 09:17:10

The image itself is high quality, with very eye catching contrast. Gary would be proud, and any reference to the D&D cartoon is awesome.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Original Game Master
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vs. Dragons Adventures: Magic’s Demand
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/21/2018 13:51:42

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.

This is a 13-page, black-and-white product. It is NOT a standalone release - as an adventure, you'll need the (quite affordable) vs. Dragons ruleset to go with it. Each section of the adventure is about two pages long (hey, it's vs. M - fast and easy is the goal here), featuring the weird things happening in the village of Hazelmoure. Each section consists of a few scenes (specific conversations/events for the players to interact with), culminating in the hopefully-epic last battle. Three different endings are given, based on how successful the heroes were.

This is a solid adventure for game night in its own right, as well as a good sample if you prefer to make your own adventures but aren't sure how to build them in this system. Either way, it's a worthy companion for vs. Dragons.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Dragons Adventures: Magic’s Demand
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vs. Dragons
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/21/2018 13:43:39

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.

By this point, Fat Goblin Games is getting pretty darn good with the vs. M Engine. As with the other 'vs. X' releases, you don't need anything else to actually play the game. Character creation is simple and only involves a few choices from a limited number of options, though this version has a bit more stuff in the way of equipment and valuables than some of the other choices.

After character creation, we get into the specifics of the system, including the core mechanic of drawing cards to overcome challenges, taking damage, and so on. This release also comes with quite a few monsters to throw at players - it's not a full-on bestiary, but there are enough foes for at least two or three games, mostly featuring iconic fantasy creatures like goblins, dragons, and an assortment of demons.

There are also a number of magical items, which are less about giving "bonuses" to numbers and more about providing options that weren't previously available.

All of this, of course, is just in service to the main point: putting on your shiny armor and going to give some mighty lizards what-for. vs. Dragons gives an example of good gaming structure on Page 49, which supports the quick-and-easy style of the system. Keep in mind that this is NOT a game intended for two years of solid adventure with the same system - it's a short, fun game to help pass the time at parties, when a group has time to spare, or as an intermission between other things.

Past this, quite a few sample locations are given, with enough detail to spark some creativity. It doesn't include a pre-made adventure (though you can get one of those from Fat Goblin Games, too) - but it doesn't really need it, either. This product is easy for Gamemasters of all skill levels to use.

I did notice a few places with awkward grammar and word choice, but nothing too significant for a product of this length. Overall, it's a solid release. It's not something every game group will like, but if you're in the mood for a fast and easy fantasy system, vs. Dragons is definitely worth considering.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Dragons
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Alien Evolution: Cosmic Race Guidebook
by Edward K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/09/2018 21:35:28

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Alien Evolution: Cosmic Race Guide Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday! Product- Alien Evolution: Cosmic Race Guide System-Starfinder Producer- Fat Goblin Games Price- $3.95 [here]( http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/223749/Alien-Evolution-Cosmic-Race-Guidebook?affiliate_id=658618) TL; DR-Jack Kirby does Starfinder! 96%

Basics-Tired of just the core races already? Need some more classic 70’s ancient aliens artwork? Then I’ve got a book for you! The Cosmic Race Guide has an impressive amount of new species to plop into any Starfinder game.

Mechanics or Crunch-Starfinder, when it launched, didn’t have a lot of races. None of what was there was bad, but it was a limited picking. This book opens up the floodgates. Nothing here is all that crazy. The races do follow a pretty predictable formula, but its not a bad formula as everything is balanced. I would have liked a few racial feats for each race. But, there are over 10 new races here, so It’s a great place to look for an impressive assortment of new races for any space game. 4.75/5

Theme or Fluff- Here is where the book shines. Every page of this book feels like Jack Kirby wrote it as the art is completely New Gods or crazy space Thor 3 on every page. Everything feels right. You get a full color art picture of each race and its homeworld. The art mixed with the flavor of the races just belongs. Starfinder is already a mix of magic, machine, and the future, so adding the proper amount of crazy Kirby makes me extremely happy. 5/5

Execution- I am really pleased with this book. First and foremost, it's a hyperlinked PDF. Next, the art is great. I would have liked more, but it's enough to break up any monotony. The layout isn’t cluttered. My one grip is the price. It’s a tad high, but if you want a ton of new races, this is the book you need. It’s a well put together book that's fun to thumb through till you find your favorite race and dig in. 4.5/5

Summary-I really like this product. I read this book the week after seeing Thor 3 in theaters, and it feels like an honest extension of the movie. You get Kirby, you get aliens, and you get your magic. Starfinder feels like the 70’s comic vibe will fit better than any serious game play as you have the elements of more space opera than space drama built right in, and this book takes that banner and runs hard with that idea. I wouldn’t consider this the most serious book. This isn’t Lord of the Rings, but it is an amazing romp in the galaxy showing you all the crazy kids at the cantina while giving you the rules to play each of them in turn. Get this book, crank your Flash Gordon soundtrack, and find your next favorite character to play in the galaxy. 96%



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Alien Evolution: Cosmic Race Guidebook
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8-Bit Adventures - The Legend of Heroes
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/05/2018 03:55:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the 8-Bit Adventures-series clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so, unless you haven’t noticed, this is basically a Legend of Zelda toolkit for Pathfinder, with Nintendo IP filed off. As such, I think I should comment on my own history with Zelda: I liked the games, but I wouldn’t consider myself to necessarily be a fan – I have played them all up until Twilight Princess, with Majora’s Mask, unsurprisingly, being my favorite. They are good games, but don’t scratch the story-itch I look for in games beyond excellent gameplay.

So, if you are a rabid Zelda-fan, well, then this will probably already be in your shopping cart at this point, right? Anyways, the pdf begins with customization options for the kingdom of Hyrule, erh, pardon, Highland, which btw. comes with a nice full-color map, which, however, sports no scale. Alas, no key-less version for handout purposes has been included either. But I digress. We first begin with basically a critter-by-critter reskinning/modification process. Grippers are upgraded to Large size and based on chokers, with the modifications suggested noted; Robed Wiz (CR 9) is based on a more limited clockwork mage. The rocktopus is based on the Tome of Horror’s mudman. The CR 4 bladed trap (comes with creation notes) represents a new creature, and the section also features the CR 8 burning skull, the CR 11 cactus worm, the CR 1 Treenut and, of course at CR 16 Cursed Warrior Droch-lann, the Gannon stand-in, who is realized as an orc cursed warrior magus 18. I noticed minor hiccups, but nothing serious – the section is usable as provided.

That would, btw., be a new archetype herein who gets diminished spellcasting and may sacrifice a prepared spell as a swift action to create a shadowy armor. Instead of 5th level’s bonus feat, the archetype gains 60 ft. darkvision or increases an existing darkvision to 120 ft. – solid, if unremarkable.

Okay, so far regarding the bestiary-side of things. We move on to 8 new feats: Bomb shot lets you expend a bomb as part of jumping to add its damage to your Acrobatics-check – which results, obviously, in hugely inflated Acrobatics-results. I would not allow this anywhere near my game usually, but in the context of this supplement, it makes sense. Minor point of critique: While the feat is fully functional, its verbiage is a bit clumsy. Shaped Charge lets you, as a full-round action, expend a use of a bomb a ranged touch attack against a door, lock, wall, etc., ignoring hardness – the attack is always successful against unattended objects and the bomb’s splash damage is negated. There also would be the Luminous Metal feat, which lets you expend 30 gp to make metal objects you craft cast light as though they were candles – no, that is NOT a reference to the spell. Minor complaint: Why not note the range of the light produced? Looking it up is somewhat inconvenient. Improved Luminous Metal lets you upgrade that to 60 gp cost and torch-equivalent light. Would I spend feats on these usually? Heck no. In the context of this supplement? Why not. Shield Ally lets you block ranged attacks with your shield – when using a full attack, you can forego one attack, making an attack roll equal to the foregone attack. If you win the swingy comparison of attack rolls, you deflect the incoming projectile. Shielding allies is possible at -4 to atk, and you may not deflect boulders and must be aware of the attack. My loathing for atk-comparison mechanics is well known at this point; suffice to say, it is a decent representation of the Zelda-game-mechanics.

Reflect Shot builds on Shield Focus and Shield Ally and lets you reflect an incoming ranged attack as an AoO against any creature whose ranged attack you successfully block, provided it is within range. Okay, what constitutes range here? I assume the range of the incoming attack, analogue to the games and taking e.g. Shot on the Run etc. into account…but it would have been nice to see that stated. Reflect Ray does the same for rays, with the same minor range-snafu. Shield Rider is a concession to the game aesthetics and may well be a drawback – when riding with your shield, you lose the shield bonus to AC, but movement rate increases by 10 feet when riding downhill, but only when not wearing medium or heavy load…which is closer to a trait than a feat in power-level. The lack of choice for the character is also puzzling – RAW, the feat locks you into this behavior.

The pdf also sports three new spells: Retriever enchants a weapon to steal with its next attack (strangely using Sleight of Hand instead of the steal maneuver, which is a bit wonky); freezing ray is a variant of scorching ray which adds paralysis at 7th level…which is WEIRD, for the new ability is not based on caster level here, deviating from PFRPG design tenets. Magnetism is a pretty complex one with various appliances, and is based roughly on telekinesis, which is unfortunately reflected in the rules-integrity, e.g. specifying violent thrust spellcasting attributes for wizard and sorcerer, but not for the other classes eligible to use the spell. Not bad per se, mind you, but in such instances, you can see that a bit more polish would have been neat.

The pdf also sports new equipment: The diseased goblin poo stick simple weapon and the spring spear exotic weapon, which is a very potent weapon that is flexible in a way usually only magic items provide – it can be used with and without reach and may be thrown – in the context of Zelda, I’d give it a pass. We get 5 pieces of magical equipment: The leaf mask is a plant shape I spell in a can, usable 1/day. The miniscule cap works 3/day as reduce person. Soup stones provide nourishment, while saga stones reincarnate the possessor for a paltry 600 gp, being basically a kind of extra life. Trapfinder torches can be used once and net a bonus on Perception to spot traps and hidden doors, but at the same time, they do not denote how long they last. One could default to the acute senses comparison, but yeah…a bit rough. Aquatic armor (+1) nets swim speed; lava armor nets fire resistance 10 and allows the wearer to execute short-range free action touch attack fire blasts as retribution – it is also somewhat low on the price-scale for that. Dazzling weapons (+1) autodazzle light sensitive creatures or those made of shadow or shadow conjurations.

Now, that would be the rules-section – this pdf, however, also doubles as a campaign kit, providing angles to draw the PCs to Hyru…eh, Highland, as well as a fluff-only write-up of the cast of characters. We get a fully spelled-out prophecy of the legendary hero as well – which is pretty neat, for it taps into the suggestions that this could be run as a 1-on-1-scenario. While the suggestions are basic, their inclusion is very much appreciated. The role of the Triforce (here called Tetrahedron Quadriad) as a McGuffin is explained (and is used for an interesting if simple, optional puzzle that can be extremely helpful) and the first quest focuses on saving steeds – the structure of the encounters and their basics are noted in the tradition of Campaign Kits; from there, we move on to the shrines – Lake Highland, the Skull Dungeon and the Mountain of Fire, for the final showdown at Castle Highland. Suggested creatures are noted and APLs for each chapter suggested. More advanced rules, if any, are hyperlinked. We also get a few DCs and the skeleton of the sequence is all ready to be fleshed out by the GM.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, is really tight – no complaints there. On a rules-language level, the pdf sports a few rough patches here and there, but retains its functionality. Layout adheres to a happy and colorful 2-column full-color standard and the full-color artworks provided are loving bows to the franchise. Cartography of the land is nice, though I wished we got a key-less version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ben Dowell’s bow before the Zelda franchise does what it sets out to do – it translates the somewhat wonky concepts of the Zelda games to PFRPG. It provides a toolkit for playing Zelda in PFRPG. Mission accomplished. Now, if you’re no rabid Zelda fan, then this will have significantly less appeal for you: There are a couple of rough patches in the rules-integrity, and while they don’t sink the pdf, they are enough to disqualify the material for my regular PFRPG games. They are also, system-immanently, as they’re translating very basic concepts, not world-shaking. I am also a bit puzzled by this pdf starting off with monsters, moving to player material, and then once more going for the GM-content in the campaign kit-section – starting off with a player section, then moving to the GM-section would have made much more sense.

On the other hand, this pdf’s demographics are the fans of Zelda – and if you count yourself among them, you will quite probably sport a broad, nostalgic smile while reading this. Similarly, this may well be a good way to bring younger kids into the roleplaying fold and teach the game o them: While the GM should have some experience under his/her belt, the whole scenario is pretty child-friendly and thus suited for even young kids, provided you guide them regarding mechanics.

How to rate this, then? Okay, to be honest, this did nothing for me – I am simply not the audience of this book. I am neither prone to nostalgia, nor a fan of Zelda per se. For me, the rough patches weigh heavy on this supplement and if you feel similarly, then you should probably skip this. I’d be a sucky reviewer if I’d rate the pdf according to these observations, though – I have to take into account that many of the things I consider jarring are directly based in trying to adhere to the franchise as faithfully as possible. While there are still a couple of instances where some rule-component is a bit wobbly, and while I wished e.g. the Gannon-archetype was more interesting, the book does a solid job at what it sets out to do. Not a superb one, but one that will probably warrant fans of Zelda getting this. You should be aware that videogame aesthetics trump those of Pathfinder here, and I strongly discourage using the content herein in regular games, but for what it is, it works – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
8-Bit Adventures - The Legend of Heroes
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