DriveThruRPG.com
Browse Categories











Back
Other comments left by this customer:
Everyman Minis: Superior Alchemical Items
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/18/2018 10:22:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Alchemical items, much to my chagrin, are relegated in usefulness mostly to low levels – at least in PF1. This is one aspect I very much prefer in Pathfinder Playtest, but that’s another can of worms. The pdf remarks that an item that would be fair for 5th level might very much be utterly OP at 1st – as such, the pdf handles the issue by introducing proficiency. This value denotes the minimum number of skill ranks needed to use the item reliably, and which skills these ranks must be invested in. Basically, it makes skills also act as a kind of unlock mechanism for items. Not having the proper skill ranks nets a 75% chance of misuse, +5% for every rank that you fall short. This may seem brutal, but ultimately, it makes using stuff beyond your ken what it should be: An act of desperation.

This basic system provided, we are introduced to full-sized and portable masterwork alchemist labs. These labs can refine two uses of an alchemical item into 1 use of a refined one, which increases save DCs and damage as well as bonuses, if any. Basically, this is a one-item scaling engine, externalized to an item. I love it. Considering the focus of the pdf, it should not come as a surprise that the items herein tend to clock in at the higher power-levels: Spectral drops net you the ability to see the invisible and ethereal, and automatically alerts you of scrying sensors and bestows darkvision. Minor complaint: A Bonus to noticing sensors would have been more elegant here. On the offense side, we get the ability to create aqua regia at 9th level, a deadly acid that nets 12d6 damage, 4d6 splash in a 20 ft. radius, and targets directly hit begin to corrode – an acid-based variant of catching fire. I love it. Endothermic spikes are throwable cold-based weapons that come in two variants, combining damage with difficult terrain. Once more, neat!

Also available in two variants, death remedy is a potent draught that heals significant amounts, and that may actually revive the recently deceased in a breath of life-y way. Multi-consciousness tea is genius, in that it allows you to remain aware while sleeping. Spirit of exaltation lets you grant a target short-term flight and a variant of fire shield. Universal cerator is one for creative PCs, allowing you to reduce hardness and compromise object and creatures.

The pdf also contains a variety of different alchemical discoveries: Alchemical salvage lets you scavenge items from large quantities of the items (e.g. an antitoxin’s vial, the residue of an alchemist’s fire’s impact site) and recreate items. Extract injection lets you infuse extracts into melee or ranged weapons – and yes, save structure etc. are noted. Material transmutation represents one of the key concepts of real world alchemy, and allows you to transmute one type of nonmagical material into another. This only creates raw materials, but in the hands of the right player, this can be a phenomenal asset, particularly if your game’s like mine and you enjoy Achilles’ heel designs for bosses, research etc. Greater transmutation and true transmutation build on this one, allowing alchemists to finally cover a core concept we commonly associate with alchemy.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules language level. Layout adheres to the latest 2-column full-color standard with a white background that the series uses, and the artwork is really neat. The pdf has no bookmark, but needs none at this length.

David N. Ross’ superior alchemical items are a godsend as far as I’m concerned. Transmutation as a concept should have been part of the core alchemy array, and the use of masterwork labs to make alchemical items scale is genius – in fact, with better healing and AoE damage, I can actually picture running a game with a primary focus on alchemy to represent the majority of supernatural abilities. If you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll know that this is something I absolutely adore. My only complaint here would be that, frankly, I’d have wanted a massive expansion booklet of alchemy rules like this. This pdf takes the lump of iron that alchemical items become after the first few levels and turns them into gold, and unlike real world alchemy, no manure of any kind is involved/included in this pdf. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Superior Alchemical Items
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

The Genius Guide to the Opportunist
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/18/2018 10:20:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The opportunist is a hybrid class of barbarian and rogue, which, chassis-wise, gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency in simple and martial weapons, an exotic weapon, as well as light armor and light shields, full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves. At first level, the class gets the key feature opportunistic attack, which, at this level, is +1d4 damage with AoOs and while flanking, and increases by +1d4 at every 2 opportunist levels thereafter. This bonus damage is not multiplied on critical hits, and the damage may be nonlethal in conjunction with attacks that inflict nonlethal damage. As a final caveat, the opportunist must be able to see the target well enough (as a nitpick: perceive would have probably been better). The class feature counts as sneak attack for the purpose of abilities, prerequisites and class features based on sneak attack. Secondly, the class gets overload at 1st level.

Overload is basically the rage-equivalent here, and while the number of rounds per day (4+ Con-mod, +2 per class level beyond first) is based on Constitution, the benefits are not: +4 to Strength or Dexterity, or the opportunist can get +2 to both Strength and Dexterity. While in this state, the opportunist can’t use spells or perform a task that is in excess of 5 rounds (half a minute) duration, and takes a -4 penalty to Will saves. After overload state is exited, the class suffers from fatigue for twice the number of rounds spent in overload state. 11th level reduces the penalty to Will-saves to -2, and increases the bonuses to +6 or +4, respectively. 17th level eliminates fatigue, and the capstone, no surprise there, increases the bonuses to +8 or +6.

2nd level nets reflexive combatant, which provides Combat Reflexes and an additional AoO per round for every 5 class levels attained. 3rd level nets trap sense, 4th uncanny dodge, and 8th level nets improved uncanny dodge. At 5th level, we get feinting opportunity, which allows for the use of a move action to use Bluff to feint in combat. Alternatively, the opportunist may forego the first attack in a round (note that this does NOT limit the ability to full attacks!) to feint, and targets successfully fainted take opportunistic strike’s damage until the opponent’s next turn. Not tying this to the opportunist, but to the enemy, is actually pretty smart, as it means that you have to play tactical. Delaying actions may be a smart move. At 10th level, the class may use this feature as a swift action, which theoretically means that you can feint twice in a round, as the ability has no 1/round limit.

At 14th level, the opportunist gains Vital Strike, or the subsequent feats in that tree, if they already have the previous one. After using Vital Strike in a given round, the benefits of the feat may be applied to the next Intelligence modifier AoOs executed before the start of the next round. At 16th level, the critical multiplier of weapons is increased by 1 when executing AoOs – and thankfully, this does cap at x4. The second capstone beyond the final overload upgrade would be master opportunist, which lets the opportunist declare up to Intelligence modifier attacks per round as AoO, which do not count against the limit of AoOs per round. The class feature also negates the benefits granted of the Mobility feat versus opportunist AoOs.

Unsurprisingly, the opportunist class does come with its array of class talents to customize the experience. The class gets the first of these at 2nd level, adding another every 2 levels thereafter. The class may also take rogue talents and rage powers, with the latter instead using overload as the rage-substitution. As far as the class-specific ones are concerned, we can find, among others, +10 ft. base speed while overloading, or the option to draw a hidden weapon as a move action, making targets that failed to perceive it eligible for opportunistic attacks. Kudos: This can’t be cheesed due to a hex-like caveat. There is also a talent that allows the opportunist to execute an AoO when failing a combat maneuver chosen from a list, but only while in overload. There is an option to count attacks executed in the surprise round as AoOs when overloading, immunity to poison and disease and the means to ignore them in overload (thankfully locked behind 6th level and a prerequisite talent that nets +4 to saves versus the like in overload), increased reach, and the means to share a lesser version of overload with allies.

At 10th level, we have advanced talents, and here a plethora of skill unlocks is covered. Interesting would be the option to provoke a number of AoOs equal to Intelligence -mod; creatures that fall for this and take the AoOs themselves then provoke AoOs from the opportunist. I assume that the opportunist’s AoOs are resolved after those of the creatures duped into attacking, but the verbiage could be slightly clearer regarding sequence here. Adding damage to combat maneuvers, thankfully with a 1/round cap, can also be found.

The pdf does contain multiple archetypes for the class: The bareknuckle master gains Improved Unarmed Strike and associated damage increases, and Int-based style monk bonus to AC and CMD (which replaces the talents gained at 6th levels and every 6 levels thereafter), substitutes trap sense with fast movement, and 4th level’s talent with the magic/cold iron/etc.-progression for unarmed strikes. At 5th level, the archetype always has a running start when trying to jump and adds class level to Acrobatics checks.

The exoticist gains proficiency in simple weapons and an exotic weapon, and deals more damage with opportunistic attack, increasing damage die size to d8, but only in conjunction with exotic weapons. For other weapons, they reduce the die-size to d3. Instead of the talents gained at 2nd, 4th, 8th and 12th level, these guys get Weapon Focus (2nd), Weapon Specialization (4th), Greater Weapon Focus (8th) and Greater Weapon Specialization (12th). The trap sense ability is replaced with a +1 bonus to atk and damage that increases every 3 levels thereafter. This bonus is also added to combat maneuvers executed with exotic weapons, and the bonus is also added to CMD versus disarm and sunder of the exotic weapon.

The mentalist archetype gets a variant of overload, namely overdrive, which instead enhances the Intelligence and Wisdom ability scores, while penalizing Fort-saves. An unfortunate oversight would be that this does not scale – the greater/tireless/mighty abilities granted thus now point into the empty void, as the ability does not explicitly state that this is treated as overload instead. Instead of trap sense, we get opportune inspiration, which nets class level + Intelligence modifier points, which may be used as a free action to add a bonus to the skill checks from a fixed list, with the bonus equal to the number of opportunistic attack dice. The archetype may, however, take the skill unlock talents as regular talents starting 4th level, replacing uncanny dodge. This one is a bit messy.

Finally, there would be the practitioner, who is only proficient with simple weapons, armor and shields and gains produce flame and shadow weapon as at-will SPs. Using class level as caster levels. At 3rd level, the archetype may, as a standard action, to enter a state of readiness that allows them to make AoOs with SPs versus targets within 5 ft. times CL. This replaces trap sense, and the practitioner’s holding etc. is noted properly. I do have an issue here, namely that the SP-AoO-ability should definitely only apply to SPs granted by this archetype. With multiclassing, you can really do some super-nasty tricks without this caveat, so yeah…this can be rather broken. Starting at 4th level, we get a progression of spell-like abilities of up to 4th spell level, replacing the talents gained at 4th, 8th, 12th and 16th level, and drawing said SPs from a custom list. At 6th level, we get the impromptu opportunistic attack, which 1/day lets you declare a ranged (30 ft.) or melee attack to be an opportunistic attack. The target loses Dex-bonus versus the attack, and critical hit immunity does fortify against this. 10th level and every 4 levels thereafter provide an additional daily use, replacing the talents gained at all these levels.

The pdf contains 5 different feats: Elemental Practitioner is an exclusive for the practitioner archetype, and lets you choose one of the 3 core energy types that is not fire, and substitutes the chosen energy type for the effects of produce flame. Extra Opportunist Talent does what it says on the tin; Focused Opportunistic Attack lets you forego regular attacks to increase the die size of opportunistic attack until the start of your next turn by one step. Overload Impulses replaces the penalty to Will-saves with half as much penalty to AC, Ref-saves and Dexterity-based skill checks. Overload System reassigns the penalty to Will-saves to Fortitude instead.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the pdf is also exceedingly precise for the most part – apart from the two snafus among the archetypes, the pdf is otherwise very precise. Layout adheres to Rogue genius Games’s two-column full-color standard, and the artworks chosen are stock pieces I’ve seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Myler’s opportunist is a surprisingly interesting class – while it is not particularly “sexy”, in that it doesn’t have much in the way of truly unique abilities that make it visually stand out from other martials, its focus on devastating AoOs in an interesting angle, particularly when multiclass’d with mobility enhancers or when gestalted. This is a class that plays more distinctly than it reads, but it’s also a class that doesn’t really have much in the way of a distinct identity. That being said, I consider the base class per se to be interesting, probably at around 3.5 to 4 stars. However, unfortunately, the archetypes are less interesting/refined, and two of them have red flags regarding their functionality, which does drag down the final verdict. All in all, this is a solid class that could have used a tad bit more unique tricks and more interesting customization options. It’s not bad, but neither is it particularly exciting. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to the Opportunist
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Advanced Adventures #14: The Verdant Vault of Malakum
Publisher: Expeditious Retreat Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/18/2018 10:18:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Advanced Adventures-series clocks in at only 9 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, ½ a page of SRD, leaving us with 6.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look.

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

As always, this Advanced Adventures-module uses the OSRIC rule-set, but can be theoretically converted easily to other rule-sets. The adventure is designated as suitable for levels 8 – 10 and works best with a well-rounded party and…Pffff BUAHAHAHA … …I can’t do that. I just can’t. The Verdant Vault of Malakum’s brevity is a plus. No, I am not going to dignify this with a SPOILER-warning. Damn. I just did that, didn't I? No one should attempt to play this. From the get-go, we realize what we have actually bought here: The vault is 3 miles away from the settlement…and then, the module continues to talk about how slowly the PCs can get through the jungle, noting that they can only cover 4 miles per day. … Notice something? We get a list of random encounter monsters (nothing interesting here), and that’s not all. In the jungle, turning undead is penalized. Why? Because the jungle is EEEVUHLL. … The entrance to the vault of the erstwhile despot Malakum is a stone head, flanked by basaltic columns. These are ropers concealed by illusions and surprise 5 times in 6. Means to detect? Nope. This dickishness is just a taste of the things to come. In the vault, we have -6 to turning undead. And every 3rd and 7th of the 60 steps down into the dungeon is trapped. Tedious, even for super-methodical groups? Yes. Not telegraphed? Yes. Boring and bad design? Heck yes. If the PCs stumble into them, the slide will dump them in a pool of slimes that all hit automatically. Oh joy. That’s harmless as far as this module is concerned.

Know these “great” modules that do NOT account for PC capability, instead neutering them or forcing them to basically guess what the author wants them to do? You know, the author’s extended middle finger à la “EFF your rules, you will do this as I intended or die horribly?” Yeah, well, we have the like herein. A lot of it. There is a room that is basically an elemental maelstrom: There are quasi-Egyptian hieroglyphs here (included as visual representations) that represent the 4 elements, and that the PCs must hit to cancel the respective elemental pain. (Magic-users will not survive here.) Oh, and how this trap works is utterly obtuse in its wording. I had to read it 3 times. The few monsters herein don’t really have a strong leitmotif. Babau, a shambling mound and yellow musk zombies. No creeper. There is one interesting hazard/creature synergy, a venus man-trap that combines violet fungus rot and deadly bites – but the formatting is weird here. Why isn’t this listed like a creature? You know, like the fungi? And no, they can’t avoid damage or properly bypass this or any other one, even if the players get/guess how a trap or hazard works.

This is something to bear in mind: The Verdant Vault of Malakum is a thoroughly linear dungeon. There is no way to bypass any room within. Remember that.

So, the boss, Malakum, is a greater mummy, the rooms wizard lock and slam shut all the time...blablabla. Nothing you wouldn’t expect from the author at this point. If you expected a plant-dungeon: Nope. There are a few plant monsters, but the dungeon per se does not have any semblance of a proper leitmotif or cultural identity. Oh, and there is this nice trap in the beginning. Where (black) tentacles spawn from the walls. If 4 hit you (save vs. spell, fyi), they tear you apart. Death. No save. Because that totally is how being hit with multiple tentacles works in any (A)D&D-related game I know. Each PC is targeted by 4 of them. Per round.

Ah, and there is an obtuse relief-based puzzle and the utterly baffling “Path of Stars.” This room has a black floor, 30 ft. below. Motes of light dance on it. Touching the floor…is instant death, no save. If you really strain, you can hear the author’s ethereal whispers of “EFFF You.” That’s how this whole room reads like. And yes, for funsies, if you touch the white motes of stars, you…die; if you touch the black void, you….BINGO, also die, no save. Sounds legit.

You know, because it’s a piece of the night sky, transplanted here. No, this is not telegraphed in any way. Just getting started. The PCs can activate platforms that levitate down, which flip over in a 1-second rhythm. One side is safe (oddly, the white one…you know, white like the motes that kill you, no save, when touching the equivalent on floor below), while the other evaporates you if you fail a -4 save vs. spell. Of COURSE, you can’t teleport or fly here. That’d be actually…you know…use of resources. Not even CLEVER use of resources, mind you, but damn cookie-cutter adventuring…but using that would contradict the author’s utterly baffling and random fiat, so this module raises a middle finger to your players. Play like dumb drones and walk into the unavoidable traps. You know, like you’re in a bad computer game.

Thought that this isn’t so bad? Okay, do you know how you cross it? Dexterity check at -3 to jump ON AND to jump OFF. Depending on how you read the crappy, imprecise wording, you either arrive at 9 (!!) or 18 (!!!) consecutive Dexterity checks at a “-3 penalty”. Okay…isn’t that supposed to be a +3 penalty? You know, because of roll under as a default? Never mind that OSRIC’s rules explicitly state that such things should not necessarily require skill-like checks… I swear to any deity, imagined or real, that may or may not exist, that I am NOT making this stuff up. That’s actually what’s in this module. An excerpt. Of the mercifully short adventure. Told you that this being so short was a good thing. And before you ask: No, you can’t turn off the whole thing. Just sending the thief across won’t save the other characters.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting on a formal level are good. On a rules-language level, this is a mess. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no interior artwork apart from the glyphs. The map is functional and b/w, and no player-friendly (MUAHAHA – the only way these words will ever find their way into a review of this adventure) map has been provided.

Alphonso Warden’s “The Verdant Vault of Malakum” is an unmitigated mess. I try, very hard, to see the positive in all supplements I review. Heck, I derived some sense of fun from his messy, but somewhat inspired “Lost Pyramid of Imhotep” meatgrinder. I do try.

The nicest thing I can say about this one, though, is that reading it didn’t waste much of my time, as it’s shorter and slightly less boring than the atrocious “Prison of Meneptah.”

This adventure has not seen any contact with realities at the table, with actual players. It feels like a product of a frustrated author, who has read, but never actually played the game AND who has no idea how game design, math, rules language, etc. work. There is NOTHING to salvage here.

How crappy is this? Even if you guess the author’s fiat correctly and somehow manage to correctly determine the arbitrary limitations imposed on PC capabilities, even if you basically hand out the module’s text and have your PCs run through it, they’ll STILL DIE, unless they are ridiculously lucky.

You can check. The math, thankfully, is not that hard to check for OSR-games. It is painfully obvious that no one even bothered trying to check the basics here.

This module’s “challenge” is just about dumb luck.

There is no skill on the side of either the PCs or the player’s side involved.

This feels like the spiteful AND phoned-in response of someone who read “Tomb of Horrors” or Grimtooth supplements and thought “Well, this is dumb – skill can actually avoid some of these ridiculously lethal death traps! Oh, I know, I can replace that with requiring dumb luck! Ha! That will most assuredly make gamers happy! ‘Cause, you know, that’s what makes roleplaying so cool, right?”

This is worse than a permadeath videogame with sucky RNG.

I can’t imagine that ANY group out there finished this adventure without copious amounts of GM handwaving, redesigns and/or vast death tolls. This is a horrible, sloppy mess.

I am genuinely sorry for the paper that I used to print this adventure’s few pages. And I printed the pages on both sides. That makes 5 sheets of paper wasted on this module. As I close this review, I am deleting this adventure. It’s not worth the space on my hard drive. I try to end on a positive side. Thanks to the adventure’s brevity, only 5 sheets of paper were wasted. And these will now go where they belong. In the trash bin, hopefully to be recycled into something more meaningful than this. Like tissues. Final verdict: 1 star.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #14: The Verdant Vault of Malakum
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Languard Locations: Fishshambles (SNE)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/17/2018 06:50:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Languard Locations-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover. It should also be noted that some nice author bio sections are provided – kudos for including these! The net content remaining would be 6 pages, so let’s take a look!

And you thought the shambles were bad. North of Cheap street, right next to the water front of Languard, there sprawls the reeking, tangled labyrinth known as fishshambles. A rickety network of jetties and tottering, desolate warehouses are used for purposes that are often, if not mostly, illicit and dangerous. While a relatively small section of Languard, as the excerpt from Tommi Salama’s map shows, the place is rife with danger and adventure, and 9 new locations are provided to add local color and hooks to this section of the city.

As in the previous installments, we have the respective key NPCs associated with locations within noted with alignment as well as suggested race/class combo and an inkling of the power they ought to have, but said NPC notes do not contain stats or the like. References to classes have been adjusted to reflect old-school terms – thiefs, magic-users and the like. So if you’re one of my readers who doesn’t want those new-fangled class names, this won’t annoy you. Each of the locations sports one or more different hooks for potential adventuring. Run aground slightly outside what is considered to be city proper, the Castoff’s Sanctuary sports folk with the haunted Gloamhold Look, watched over by father Uklo – this is the Castoff’s Sanctuary, and a selectively mute paladin and an ancient half-orc preacher tend to those traumatized and perhaps, broken. It s here that favors may earn even utterly coinless PCs some respite. Moss-covered and obscured by seaweed and shellfish, a wrinkled old mage with a penchant for the underwater world is peddling healing, narcotics and the like. (If you use B/X or Labyrinth Lord as your preferred gaming system, you may want to check out Necrotic Gnome Production’s Wizardzine #1 – I got a vibe from this fellow that would make the spells from said supplement a natural fit…but I digress.) Did I mention coral zombies?

A barren, broken chapel, now known as Kingsfall, was once prophesized to be the birthplace of a messianic figure – but now, it is foreboding, twisted even. It is a testament of a promise unfulfilled, of a world unraveling. And I love it to bits. Of course, many folks frequent the fishshambles to vanish, at least for a bit – for such folks, Molley’s Bearded Lady is perfect: An inn specially designed to be rickety and chock-full with escape routes, this place just begs for a chase, conspiratory meetings, and more. And when no one is selling to you, you may want to contemplate checking out Aalto Ruusu’s dilapidated laboratory, commonly known as Ruuse’s rathole. Provided you can stomach the…sound…coming from the cellar. Beggars can’t be choosers, I guess…

Sea’s Bounty is always bustling – it’s here that you can eat the cheapest meals in all on Languard – for a cp, information, favors…whatever you’re peddling. It is testament to the city’s state that it’s always booming. And yep, the food is called “Grey” – you probably don’t want to know the ingredients. A dingy taproom in a basement houses the neighborhood’s most famous fighting establishment: the 5 cuts. Five cuts – no more, no less, is one of the rules, which are explicitly stated. Yes, you can die here – but you could, you know, also make enough to get back on your feet… The most NPC-heavy of these locations would be the Arches Bazaar, set under a large building’s support beams – no lss than 8 different peddlers of wares and services are covered here.

If you’re in the mood for dark and dingy, but don’t want to compromise regarding food quality and grog, then you’ll want to check out Sandu’s grog and grub, a place that unrepentantly pretty much asks to become your adventuring group’s new favorite stomping ground. Sandu is lavishly illustrated, and hails from an exotic land – as such, his cooking is utterly unique, spicy and neat. Of course, foreigners in a city like Languard, ultimately will at one point or another be pretty grateful to have adventurers among their acquaintances…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious issues on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks. The excerpt from Tommi Salama’s map is neat, and as before, the City Backdrop does contain the player-friendly version of the full map. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one for screen use, and one intended to be printed.

Beth Breitmaier, Dave Breitmaier, Rachel Cruz, Steve Hood, John Large, Stewart Moyer, Tyler Omichinski, Rob Smith – quite a few new names among this list of authors, but surprisingly, the locations presented within nonetheless manage to evoke a unified aesthetic that situates the fishshambles firmly as part of Languard, while managing to provide a distinct identity. In short, this is a great little dressing file. While poverty is certainly a leitmotif, the pdf manages to paint a picture that is not simply a series of hopeless causes – while this place is poor, it’s not necessarily depressing. That is perhaps what struck me most about this. In contrast to the shambles, this feels a bit more cosmopolitan, as befitting of the dockside. A bit rowdy, a bit dangerous, but a place of life, where darkness and light are sharply contrasted, and perhaps just one alley away. A highly recommended addition to Languard, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Languard Locations: Fishshambles (SNE)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Languard Locations: Fishshambles
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/17/2018 06:49:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Languard Locations-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover. It should also be noted that some nice author bio sections are provided – kudos for including these! The net content remaining would be 6 pages, so let’s take a look!

And you thought the shambles were bad. North of Cheap street, right next to the water front of Languard, there sprawls the reeking, tangled labyrinth known as fishshambles. A rickety network of jetties and tottering, desolate warehouses are used for purposes that are often, if not mostly, illicit and dangerous. While a relatively small section of Languard, as the excerpt from Tommi Salama’s map shows, the place is rife with danger and adventure, and 9 new locations are provided to add local color and hooks to this section of the city.

As in the previous installments, we have the respective key NPCs associated with locations within noted with alignment as well as suggested race/class combo and an inkling of the power they ought to have, but said NPC notes do not contain stats or the like. Each of the locations sports one or more different hooks for potential adventuring. Run aground slightly outside what is considered to be city proper, the Castoff’s Sanctuary sports folk with the haunted Gloamhold Look, watched over by father Uklo – this is the Castoff’s Sanctuary, and a selectively mute paladin and an ancient half-orc preacher tend to those traumatized and perhaps, broken. It s here that favors may earn even utterly coinless PCs some respite. Moss-covered and obscured by seaweed and shellfish, a wrinkled old mage with a penchant for the underwater world is peddling healing, narcotics and the like. (If you are up for a bit of conversion, you may want to check out Necrotic Gnome Production’s Wizardzine #1 – I got a vibe from this fellow that would make the spells from said supplement a natural fit…but I digress.) Did I mention coral zombies?

A barren, broken chapel, now known as Kingsfall, was once prophesized to be the birthplace of a messianic figure – but now, it is foreboding, twisted even. It is a testament of a promise unfulfilled, of a world unraveling. And I love it to bits. Of course, many folks frequent the fishshambles to vanish, at least for a bit – for such folks, Molley’s Bearded Lady is perfect: An inn specially designed to be rickety and chock-full with escape routes, this place just begs for a chase, conspiratory meetings, and more. And when no one is selling to you, you may want to contemplate checking out Aalto Ruusu’s dilapidated laboratory, commonly known as Ruuse’s rathole. Provided you can stomach the…sound…coming from the cellar. Beggars can’t be choosers, I guess…

Sea’s Bounty is always bustling – it’s here that you can eat the cheapest meals in all on Languard – for a cp, information, favors…whatever you’re peddling. It is testament to the city’s state that it’s always booming. And yep, the food is called “Grey” – you probably don’t want to know the ingredients. A dingy taproom in a basement houses the neighborhood’s most famous fighting establishment: the 5 cuts. Five cuts – no more, no less, is one of the rules, which are explicitly stated. Yes, you can die here – but you could, you know, also make enough to get back on your feet… The most NPC-heavy of these locations would be the Arches Bazaar, set under a large building’s support beams – no lss than 8 different peddlers of wares and services are covered here.

If you’re in the mood for dark and dingy, but don’t want to compromise regarding food quality and grog, then you’ll want to check out Sandu’s grog and grub, a place that unrepentantly pretty much asks to become your adventuring group’s new favorite stomping ground. Sandu is lavishly illustrated, and hails from an exotic land – as such, his cooking is utterly unique, spicy and neat. Of course, foreigners in a city like Languard, ultimately will at one point or another be pretty grateful to have adventurers among their acquaintances…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious issues on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks. The excerpt from Tommi Salama’s map is neat, and as before, the City Backdrop does contain the player-friendly version of the full map. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one for screen use, and one intended to be printed.

Beth Breitmaier, Dave Breitmaier, Rachel Cruz, Steve Hood, John Large, Stewart Moyer, Tyler Omichinski, Rob Smith – quite a few new names among this list of authors, but surprisingly, the locations presented within nonetheless manage to evoke a unified aesthetic that situates the fishshambles firmly as part of Languard, while managing to provide a distinct identity. In short, this is a great little dressing file. While poverty is certainly a leitmotif, the pdf manages to paint a picture that is not simply a series of hopeless causes – while this place is poor, it’s not necessarily depressing. That is perhaps what struck me most about this. In contrast to the shambles, this feels a bit more cosmopolitan, as befitting of the dockside. A bit rowdy, a bit dangerous, but a place of life, where darkness and light are sharply contrasted, and perhaps just one alley away. A highly recommended addition to Languard, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Languard Locations: Fishshambles
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Languard Locations: Fishshambles (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/17/2018 06:46:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Languard Locations-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover. It should also be noted that some nice author bio sections are provided – kudos for including these! The net content remaining would be 6 pages, so let’s take a look!

And you thought the shambles were bad. North of Cheap street, right next to the water front of Languard, there sprawls the reeking, tangled labyrinth known as fishshambles. A rickety network of jetties and tottering, desolate warehouses are used for purposes that are often, if not mostly, illicit and dangerous. While a relatively small section of Languard, as the excerpt from Tommi Salama’s map shows, the place is rife with danger and adventure, and 9 new locations are provided to add local color and hooks to this section of the city.

As in the previous installments, we have the respective key NPCs associated with locations within noted with alignment as well as suggested race/class combo and an inkling of the power they ought to have, but said NPC notes do not contain stats or the like. In 5e, they refer to the default NPC statblocks, wherever applicable. Each of the locations sports one or more different hooks for potential adventuring. Run aground slightly outside what is considered to be city proper, the Castoff’s Sanctuary sports folk with the haunted Gloamhold Look, watched over by father Uklo – this is the Castoff’s Sanctuary, and a selectively mute paladin and an ancient half-orc preacher tend to those traumatized and perhaps, broken. It s here that favors may earn even utterly coinless PCs some respite. Moss-covered and obscured by seaweed and shellfish, a wrinkled old mage with a penchant for the underwater world is peddling healing, narcotics and the like. (If you are up for a bit of conversion, you may want to check out Necrotic Gnome Production’s Wizardzine #1 – I got a vibe from this fellow that would make the spells from said supplement a natural fit…but I digress.) Did I mention coral zombies?

A barren, broken chapel, now known as Kingsfall, was once prophesized to be the birthplace of a messianic figure – but now, it is foreboding, twisted even. It is a testament of a promise unfulfilled, of a world unraveling. And I love it to bits. Of course, many folks frequent the fishshambles to vanish, at least for a bit – for such folks, Molley’s Bearded Lady is perfect: An inn specially designed to be rickety and chock-full with escape routes, this place just begs for a chase, conspiratory meetings, and more. And when no one is selling to you, you may want to contemplate checking out Aalto Ruusu’s dilapidated laboratory, commonly known as Ruuse’s rathole. Provided you can stomach the…sound…coming from the cellar. Beggars can’t be choosers, I guess…

Sea’s Bounty is always bustling – it’s here that you can eat the cheapest meals in all on Languard – for a cp, information, favors…whatever you’re peddling. It is testament to the city’s state that it’s always booming. And yep, the food is called “Grey” – you probably don’t want to know the ingredients. A dingy taproom in a basement houses the neighborhood’s most famous fighting establishment: the 5 cuts. Five cuts – no more, no less, is one of the rules, which are explicitly stated. Yes, you can die here – but you could, you know, also make enough to get back on your feet… The most NPC-heavy of these locations would be the Arches Bazaar, set under a large building’s support beams – no lss than 8 different peddlers of wares and services are covered here.

If you’re in the mood for dark and dingy, but don’t want to compromise regarding food quality and grog, then you’ll want to check out Sandu’s grog and grub, a place that unrepentantly pretty much asks to become your adventuring group’s new favorite stomping ground. Sandu is lavishly illustrated, and hails from an exotic land – as such, his cooking is utterly unique, spicy and neat. Of course, foreigners in a city like Languard, ultimately will at one point or another be pretty grateful to have adventurers among their acquaintances…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious issues on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks. The excerpt from Tommi Salama’s map is neat, and as before, the City Backdrop does contain the player-friendly version of the full map. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one for screen use, and one intended to be printed.

Beth Breitmaier, Dave Breitmaier, Rachel Cruz, Steve Hood, John Large, Stewart Moyer, Tyler Omichinski, Rob Smith – quite a few new names among this list of authors, but surprisingly, the locations presented within nonetheless manage to evoke a unified aesthetic that situates the fishshambles firmly as part of Languard, while managing to provide a distinct identity. In short, this is a great little dressing file. While poverty is certainly a leitmotif, the pdf manages to paint a picture that is not simply a series of hopeless causes – while this place is poor, it’s not necessarily depressing. That is perhaps what struck me most about this. In contrast to the shambles, this feels a bit more cosmopolitan, as befitting of the dockside. A bit rowdy, a bit dangerous, but a place of life, where darkness and light are sharply contrasted, and perhaps just one alley away. A highly recommended addition to Languard, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Languard Locations: Fishshambles (5e)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Everyman Minis: Mystery of Music
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/17/2018 06:44:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

On the introductory page, we get a new spell, hymn of peace, which clocks in at level 6 for bard, 7 for cleric/oracle. This is basically a 40 ft. burst cantered on you that prevents targets from taking hostile actions unless they succeed a Will save. The mystery (which is erroneously referred to as “symphony” mystery in the introductory paragraph nets Bluff, Knowledge (history) and Perform as class skills. The bonus spells granted range from solid note to disrupt silence, magnifying chime et al, includes the new spell, and culminates, of course, in wail of the banshee.

Now, let us take a look at the revelations featured, shall we? We have, for example, enthralling performance, which provides a variety of spells added to the spell list, with the HD-caps of the spells granted adjusted based on Perform ranks. This is a nice way to scale here. As a nitpick: Two spell references have not been italicized properly. Harmonic concordance lets you enhance allied spellcasting with a short array of metamagic feats – basically, a teamwork casting ability, one that is limited in rounds and locked behind an appropriate minimum level. Inspiration of the muses provides a variant of the investigator’s inspiration that can be applied to Cha, Dex or Int-based ability and skill checks. Thankfully, it does not unlock inspiration-based abilities and can’t be used as a prerequisite. Instrument master lets you use class level in conjunction with magical instruments. Sound mastery lets you amplify or dampen sounds – your rogue friends will thank you for it.

Reverberation enhances sonic-based oracle spells with Widen Spell, or modify the area to a cone. Complaint here: the cone-modification should allow for a save if the base spell that targeted one or more objects or creatures did not, as the modification can bypass touch requirements. Skull-splitting screech is a single-target sonic attack that can daze a nearby target. Sonic body duplicates sonic form. Unwitting choir can force targets to lose part of their actions as they sing along with your merry tune, while allies joining in are buffed as per heroism. Vocal mimicry does what it says on the tin. Finally, the final revelation nets free application of a variety of metamagic feats to sonic spells.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good – apart from one potential rules-snafu and a cosmetic missed italicization, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to the latest 2-column full-color standard of the series, including a white background, making it pretty printer-friendly. The pdf has a nice full-color artwork, but no bookmarks. At this length, it needs none of the latter, mind you.

Joshua Hennington delivers an enjoyable, neat oracle mystery. While there are a few minor formal snafus here, as a whole, this mystery does some pretty unique things, has a well-chosen array of abilities and, in an interesting manner, actually does not cardboard-copy bardic tricks. Instead of grafting classic into the chassis, we get some distinct tricks. So yeah, all in all, this represents a fun mystery. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Mystery of Music
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Guide
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/17/2018 06:42:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This program book clocks in at a massive 100 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page autograph page, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 96 pages, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at your convenience.

On the inside of the front cover, we’ll get the Gen Con luck chart, which has been modified for this year – overlaps are there, but yeah. Since Gen Con 2014’s over, this probably won’t be a factor to decide whether you get this.

Now, the first major section of the booklet is an “Age of Cthulhu” scenario, “Transatlantic Terror”, penned by Jon Hook. It should be noted that the “Age of Cthulhu”-series is primarily set apart from more mainstream Call of Cthulhu scenarios by the emphasis on pulp over horror. While there is usually something creepy going on in these scenarios, the modules are not per se horrific and feature themes à la dinosaurs, serpent-people and the like. This may not be fair per se, but honestly, I could never get behind the series and the pulp-theme it tries to convey. While I adore pulp themes, I never felt that CoC’s rules are particularly conductive to the themes of the genre. If you’re looking for something horrific, you won’t necessarily get it in this adventure. Otherwise, you may well enjoy the scenario and how it puts you in the guises of young dilettantes. Pregens and stats are provided. As a whole, I couldn’t really get behind this adventure. We do get a properly mapped luxus liner and per se, the angle is interesting, but a moderately capable keeper and logically-played adversaries would mitigate the chances for success altogether. That being said, if you’re looking for a solid CoC-oneshot with a pulp angle, this may well work for you. It did nothing for me.

After this adventure, we get 3 pages of the humorous “Dear Archmage Abby” help column before getting the DCC worlds tour section, highlighting the tour with brief notes and photos galore. 9.5 pages are devoted to this. Some modules when ordered on Goodman games’ store did come with a collection of different bonus encounters o postcards. Obscure by design, we do get three of these collected here: One for “intrigue at the Court of Chaos”, one for “The One Who Watches From Below” as well as one for “Bride of the Black Manse.” I own all three adventures, and the reviews of them are forthcoming. These bonus encounters span a total of 1.5 pages and represent a nice way for completionists to get these obscure components. The latter one, which does have an artwork for hand of glory creation, is particularly neat.

After this, we have “The Emerald Enchanter Strikes Back” – the bonus scenario/epilogue/sequel to “The Emerald Enchanter,” which has since then been included as the bonus scenario in the second printing of the module. I have covered this cool adventure in my discussion of the Emerald Enchanter-review.

A page of mailing label designs are next, and 7 pages explain the process of DCC cover design – which may or may not be interesting for you. Really cool: The classic “The Dungeon Alphabet” gets a unique entry here: “O is also for Omen,” penned by Michael Curtis. This is followed by a 4-entry selection of previews from the “Monster Alphabet.”

After a one-page ad for Maximum Xcrawl (seriously underrated!), we get “Too Tough to Die” – this short story spans 9 pages and is a pretty nice reading experience.

After this, we get a 1-page ad for Metamorphosis Alpha (if you don’t know what MA is and consider yourself to be an expert RPG-aficionado, look it up, seriously!), before none other than James M. Ward provides “Coming of Age”, an introductory scenario for the game. Full disclosure: I lack both the playing, playtesting and GMing experience in the system to properly judge the intricacies of the mechanics of the adventure. My experiences with this one are solely theoretical. This being said, the scenario is…actually really, really cool. It depicts the PCs going on the Destiny Walk, a coming of age rite, wherein the PCs venture into the maze of Thorn Valley. The mutant plant creatures and hazards, as well as the humanoids make this look a true blast to play, and frankly, the delightfully wacko creature ideas may make it worth checking out this book on their own. This is easily the strongest component of this supplement.

After this cool adventure, we take a look at some “upcoming for DCC” sneak-peaks and further previews. Following this, we get d40 questions for the Goodman crew, which can provide some interesting notes for fans, before the final piece of mechanically-relevant content within would be the Vandroid, designed by Joseph Goodman as a homage for the comic book series by Dark Horse.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good to good throughout the supplement. There are a few minor things to complain about, but nothing serious. Layout adheres either to a one-column, two-column or three-column standard, depending on the section covered, mirroring the preferred presentation of the respective game. Artworks are b/w and amazing, as is the cartography. Speaking of which: No player-friendly, unlabeled maps are provided for the respective scenarios. The supplement included bookmarks for each of the specific sections. I can’t comment on the merits or lack thereof of the physical copy – I only own the pdf.

Whether you enjoy this program guide or not anno 2018, is highly contingent of what you hope to get from it. If you’re a diehard DCC-completionist, you may appreciate the inclusion of the obscure postcard encounters (1.5 pages); the previously rather important Emerald Enchanter-sequel has since then been included in the 2nd printing of the module, depriving this book of its main selling point for DCC-fans. While personally, I REALLY disliked the whole Age of Cthulhu product line, if you’re enjoying it, you certainly also will enjoy the tone of the Age of Cthulhu scenario featured herein.

Personally, I consider the main draws here to be the Dungeon Alphabet entry – and, much to my surprise, an adventure for a system I have played a grand total of twice in my life. James M. Ward’s “Coming of Age” is a great adventure in every sense of the word, and with the advent of MCC, fans of should check this out. The adventure is so cool that it almost warrants the asking price for the pdf. As a whole, this program guide is aimed primarily at folks enjoying Gen Con, obviously, and in specific, Goodman Games fans. While I count myself among the latter, I couldn’t help but feel like this would be of limited use for most judges/GMs. If either the Age of Cthulhu scenario or a good old-school scifi/post apocalypse-style adventure sound like fun to you, then this is worth checking out. Folks solely interested in DCC need not get this one. How to rate this? Well, here things become tough for me. As a whole, I can see this work…or bomb horribly. All in all, this is, almost by design, a mixed bag, wherein not everything will appeal to everyone. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Guide
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2018 08:43:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

All righty, first things first: This review is based on the 2nd printing that features a bonus scenario. I will analyze that as well. The adventure is intended for 2nd level characters, and the presence of spellcasters is recommended, as there are some scenes where items may be activated via spell checks. If you happen to have no spellcasters, DCC’s rules still allow for spell checks for non-casters, but yeah – I’d recommend, as pretty much always, a well-rounded group. This adventure can be rather deadly, and certainly counts as one of the modules that not everybody will survive – particularly since the focus here is pretty classic: There are several rather tough encounters that can’t be skipped, so your group should definitely have some combat skills – more so than in “Doom of the Savage Kings” and “People of the Pit”, we have a more pronounced emphasis on combat. If you happen to love the modules, but not the rules, you should know that the module doesn’t utilize many of the more intricate and unique components of DCC, which makes conversion pretty simple.

Speaking of which: The inside of the front cover features a STUNNING full-page b/w-artwork of the location of the final showdown of the main module, which is AWESOME. Seriously, this one picture sets the stage perfectly.

As always, the module does provide well-written read-aloud text to help you navigate and run the adventure. The main module does not require more prep work than usual for a dungeon; however, the bonus adventure is pretty free-form and either requires some experience in that regard or improvisation skills. The adventure does come with the encounter table listing the adversaries encountered.

Now, and this may just be me, but since it’s what I experienced, here goes: Look at this cover. It may just be me; it may just be an odd peculiarity of my brain and the myriad connotations accumulated over my life. But…I honestly expected some serious Oz-references here. You know, due to the whole green/emerald-aspect. This is not really the case. This is not a happy-go-lucky adventure, nor a dark twist on Oz-themes. Instead, it is a crawl into the fortress of a seriously demented wizard. I’m obviously not penalizing the module for that, but I figured that it would be useful to some to state this clearly.

All right, as always, this’ll be the place where I pronounce a big SPOILER WARNING. I’m going to thoroughly spoil the adventure below, so potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only judges around? Great! Villagers have been disappearing, and the brooding citadel of the emerald enchanter seems like a good place to investigate – the mad mage seems to have once more emerged from his studies…and indeed, upon arriving at the citadel, there will be no doubt as to the grisly fate of those taken: The emerald guard constructs (emerald eidolons) seem to come in two variations: One that represents genuine constructs, while the other such guards are the result of living beings dumped into the sorcerous vats of the enchanter. The latter revert to their erstwhile shape upon being slain, and indeed, the first such man encountered will provide a clue for a latter part of the adventure with his dying breath. He stated that Thesdipedes knows the word, and this clue will allow the PCs to later save the transmogrified humans…provided they know how to ask the mummy that is a part of the Emerald Enchanter’s consultorium. Alongside a brain in a jar and a talking skull. The PCs can’t cast speak with dead? Luckily, there is a scroll that would allow any spellcaster to cast it, though that requires lip service to a patron, which could have interesting long-term ramifications and further adventure options. The reversal of the process btw. is based on a low DC spell check and a blood sacrifice of 1 point of spellburn. Nice to see that smart PCs can be heroic and do something “better” than murder-hoboing everything.

But I digress. The first room of the actual citadel holds massive mosaics that form into a tile golem, which makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, if potentially very lethal combat: The entity can replenish its powers by drawing upon the environment, create beasts from tiles, etc. The mechanics here are amazing, and the options available to the golem are cool and consistent in their application. The golem’s tile absorption may actually reveal a hidden door, for example. Many modules would handwave this; this one provides mechanics. If I had one complaint here, it’d be that there is no real reward for being smart: The golem has Act 1d20 and gets a free tile draw (to blast, heal, create tile critters) in addition to 50 hit points. It basically represents a potent bottleneck right at the start of the module, and could be overwhelming to less experienced groups. If you have AoE-damage, this is the time to whip it out and destroy as many tiled sections as you can. Without AoE, though, you should get ready for a war of attrition that the PCs may well lose.

If you haven’t noticed it by now – this module is pretty damn dark, and while it does feature things that may seem goofy or gonzo, they’re not goofy, and even the gonzo components don’t feel funny. There is, for example, a hallway of blackened rock, with spirits of the slain trapped in the wall. These are hard to kill, attempting to hit them may result in broken weaponry, and they represent an important notice: Bypassing these is much easier than besting them, and indeed, this module is not necessarily intended to be cleared. Or, well, if you try, get ready to have the difficulty increase…

The eponymous Emerald Enchanter is a good example of a BBEG that has a presence before the final encounter: With emeralds acting as teleport foci and flying skulls tracking the PC’s every move, the evil wizard feels like a constant, threatening presence, and e.g. the lack of means to simply bypass many obstacles like the golem make sense from the perspective of this evil mastermind. These flying skulls btw. also represent a nasty trick: For a lot of the dungeon, these respawning surveillance mechanisms are pretty much a creepy paranoia-inducing dressing in creature form…until they’re not. There are instances where these skulls become capable of blasting the PCs with rays!

PCs doing their homework can also find the source of power of the emerald enchanter’s transmogrification vats, a captured moon-devil that clever PCs can free to gain a boon. An enterprising judge certainly should take this as a long-term angle to connect this section to adventures of the moon etc. in the future. Said entity is contained in a sublevel of the dungeon that is pretty much skippable – level 2 and 3 are both pretty brief and, together, constitute roughly the equivalent of a dungeon level that is slightly shorter than level 1 of the citadel. Minor complaint: The story notes that this thing is responsible for the transmogrification vats, but while releasing it does come with a potent reward, this has no direct impact of the finale, when it, logic-wise, probably should.

It should come as no surprise that, ultimately, the dungeon contains plenty of odd and weird guardians and magic tools – trapped protoplasmic demons, odd laboratories, ruby cats and topaz serpents – there is a clear leitmotif at work here, and a clear method to the enchanter’s madness.

It should also be noted that we do get a buff suite for said enchanter – and aforementioned demon? Well, freeing him does reward the PCs by making progress smoother. The showdown, which, as mentioned before, is lavishly-illustrated in a one-page, massive handout, features the emerald enchanter and his creatures – and a massive, factory-style mechanism that acts as a timer of sorts. Dawdling PCs will witness transformations of innocents. …but on the other hand, smart players will have a means to reverse the process by now, which can make the emerald enchanter trying to goad the PCs into rash actions less effective. Interesting choice!

This was where the main module used to stop. In this iteration of the adventure, though, the sequel “The Emerald Enchanter Strikes Back” (yes, with title printed in Star Wars font…) delivers the full-blown, unrepentant gonzo I expected from the module. This module was, to my knowledge, originally released as part of Goodman Games’ Gencon program booklet in 2014. Where the main adventure was an exploration through a mad scientist-style gonzo wizard, with some seriously dark tones, this bonus adventure penned by Jobe Bittman delivers the gonzo. It also radically deviates from the main module in structure, as it’s basically a hexcrawl. The overland map provided is separated in multiple zones, and from random encounters to a couple of keyed locations, this aspect is pretty free-form: Basically, the map is separated into two distinct zones. You see, the emerald enchanter the PCs have just slain? That was a simulacrum. Now, a gigantic robot…ähem…golem, with classic glass-bubble head and radiant emerald power-core in the middle is wrecking the landscape, and the module is about the PCs exploring the region and attempting to pin down the emerald enchanter’s engine of destruction. This is pretty amazing and a premise that could have covered much more than a brief epilogue.

I can’t say enough good things about this bonus adventure, but at the same time, it has one weakness that is somewhat grating. While the PCs theoretically can destroy the titan, it’s not the intended course of action. Instead, the PCs are expected to get inside the titan and make their way up. Wait…sounds familiar? Yeah, this premise was already used in the second of Goodman Games’ classic 3.X Wicked Fantasy adventures. That being said, the exploration of the emerald titan’s interior is much briefer and less complex, and emphasizes some goofy things. The colossus is not water tight, for example, so PCs in the feet may see the titan attempt to drown them by holding a foot under water. The colossus also will squeeze beehives inside, try to poke at players with treestumps, poking inside it – you get the idea. This very much embraces the ridiculous nature of the set-up. Sounds amazing, and frankly, it is. On the down-side, we get no descriptive text for the interior regions of the emerald titan, and indeed, scale and movement within the titan are not really covered, requiring pretty much that the judge wings these aspects. This feels doubly odd, since the aforementioned actions of the titan all get proper mechanical representations. The glass dome at the top houses the emerald enchanter, who proceeds to initiate evacuation protocols – 10 seconds, then the glass dome will detach and fly…wherever the judge desires. Nice way to segue into a new adventure!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect. I noticed a couple of typo-level glitches. Layout adheres to the 2-column b/w-standard of these adventures, meaning that we get quite a lot of content per page. The artworks in b/w are amazing, and the handout of the final showdown is particularly glorious. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I can’t comment on the merits of the print version, since I do not own it. The cartography is, as always, awesome and beautiful – but there are no unlabeled versions of the maps, which means that VTT-appeal is slightly decreased…and that the players won’t get to see them. This is particularly grating regarding the bonus scenario’s hexmap. There is no justification for not at least getting a proper player-friendly version for the overland section. The bookmarks are pretty basic –no individual rooms are marked.

Joseph Goodman’s “The Emerald Enchanter” is an adventure that truly feels distinct in tone. The notion of a dark fantasy module that makes things that should by all accounts feel gonzo, actually managing to make them…disquieting? Horrific? Is quite a feat. There is no question as to the Emerald Enchanter’s vileness and insanity once the PCs get into this. Jobe Bittman’s bonus adventure adds a seriously fun over-the-top climax to the proceedings and represents a great change of pace. This adventure has a lot to offer, and I love its total commitment to its dark fantasy vibe and how it makes things that should be goofy disquieting. At the same time, it did not connect as well with me as the previous adventures in the main DCC-line. Perhaps it’s small inconsistencies like the one in the bonus adventure, or the fact that I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that the Emerald Enchanter’s presence throughout the module, his active counter-measures and the like, could have been more pronounced. The constant PC surveillance ultimately doesn’t amount to much, and feels like a bit of a lost chance. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Star Log Deluxe: Armored Solarian Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2018 08:40:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This extended Star Log clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so this pdf introduces a new item type that should have been in the core book. Know how the solarian weapon is kinda more interesting than the armor? Well, this pdf allows you to customize solarian armor akin to what you do with weapons, via solarian armor crystals. These are hybrid items that can be placed in the solar mote as a standard action. While thus equipped, the crystal provides the AC bonus and attunement benefit when the mote is in solar armor mode. It can’t be interacted with in that form, other than via abilities specifically targeting the mote. Note, that item level=class level +2 is the maximum a solarian can use, and they don’t allow solarians that can’t manifest an armor to do so. (Minor nitpick: there is a “higher” missing in the sentence, but the rules are not compromised by this glitch.) If a solarian has level 5+, inserting such a crystal nets a +1 insight bonus to AC. Below 4th level, the solarian needs to choose between the attunement benefits granted by the crystal and the AC normally provided.

A total of 12 such crystals are provided, and they include a lot of really helpful tricks: We get energy resistance, a heat sink like effect that lets you inflict scaling cold damage, a shield that can prevent limited amounts of damage, short-range standard action dimension door, mirror image with a cooldown…and there is a crystal that doesn’t replace energy resistances, instead allowing you to switch between fire and cold, including short increases when being subjected to the energy. Help versus afflictions and traps is also included. A handy table lists crystal prices by level… …and just that. And here is the one HUGE issue with this otherwise inspired section: Neither the table, nor the crystals themselves note an item level. While an experienced GM may be able to approximate item levels, this does not change the fact that, RAW, this otherwise amazing section is inoperable as presented.

The second part of the pdf deals with new stellar revelations. 5 new 2nd level revelations are provided. The 2 photon revelations are Celestial Guardian, which nets you wisp ally-like effect whenever you gain photon attunement, and these may be fired when fully attuned. Electromagnetic Lash nets a bonus to damage that can’t be applied to solar weapons, and when fully attuned, you may spend 1 Resolve Point as a reaction after hitting in melee to make a technological item, cybertech augmentation, etc. cease working for a couple of rounds. Good catch: This can’t disrupt items that would end off killing the target. Critical effects may be added to this. Very unfortunate regarding the name: Gravity Barrier. This graviton revelation nets Barricade, made from graviton particles, and thus is not reliant on environment. When fully attuned, you can make a tougher barrier. I per se like it – but why, for f**’s sake, does it have the same name as the Zenith revelation released in Star Log.EM: Solarian Zenith Revelations?? sigh*

Gravity Field lets you move opponents that attempt to move through the threatened area on a failed save. Those were 4 – the 5th is an unattuned stellar revelation, which may be used in either mode and do not count towards determining whether you’ve taken a disproportionate amount of revelations for either. This shield nets you replenishing temporary hit points. Interesting: here, the pdf gets the mode-descriptor right. In a puzzling editing glitch that should have been caught, the pdf tends to refer to the “proton” mode, which does not exist – it’s “photon”.

At 6th level, the unattuned revelation for that range further builds on aforementioned shield, providing different benefits while attuned to photon or graviton mode. For Photon mode, we get photon barrier, which lets you use aforementioned Gravity Barrier in photon mode as well. The one from this book. Not the zenith revelation. The barrier in photon mode does not generate difficult terrain, and instead may be moved around. Retributive Flare makes a creature that hits you in melee take electricity and fire damage equal to your Charisma modifier. I assume that this refers to “E & F” as damage type, but it could be read as dealing Charisma modifier electricity damage AND Charisma modifier fire damage. Minor clarification would be helpful.

When fully attuned, you can use the reaction to being hit to scorch foes with more damage, which scales at higher levels. For graviton mode, we get Rebuke Kinesis, which nets you 1 kinetic point for every 5 points of kinetic damage (the physical damage types) you take, with the pool having a maximum size of your solarian level. This is calculated before DR and hardness are applied. You can unleash this energy as concussive blasts, and you can spend all energy as a standard action, dealing 1d4 force damage to all enemies within 10 ft. per kinetic point spent. For every 5 points spent, this also pushes opponents away, provoking AoOs from other creatures, but not the solarian. Really botched Ref-saves can also render the target prone.

Finally, there are two stellar revelations for 10th level+: For graviton mode, we get Gravity Implosion, which builds on Gravity Surge, and allows you to sunder items, reducing energy resistance and DR when fully attuned. Cool! For photon mode, we get Vengeful Corona, which builds on Corona and provides synergy between armor and Corona. Additionally, when photon-attuned, melee or ranged attacks can cause the attacker to suffer the burning condition (1d6 F); fully attuned solarians add their Cha-mod to this damage, but when doing so, become unattuned. Note that this RAW does neither have an activation action, nor limit of uses per round. While the damage is sufficiently low to make this balanced, I am still a bit weary of it.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re top-notch on a formal level. The same, alas, can’t be said about the rules-language level – the lack of item levels for the armor crystals compromises the whole section, and glitches like “proton” instead of “photon” mode speak of a product that was, alas, slightly rushed. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series with a white background, and the full-color artwork is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

I wanted to love Alexander Augunas’ armored solarian options. They are something the class really needs, allowing for defense and some soft crowd control. Indeed, in spite of the flaws herein, I found myself really enjoying quite a lot of the options within – the armor crystals are a concept that needs to be expanded. However, as a reviewer, I cannot ignore that about half of the book requires GMs to assign item levels to work. As such, my final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, and though the pdf doesn’t deserve rounding down…if you can live with its flaws, it’s an inspired little book, one that is easy to fix with a bit of work and price-comparisons. Hence, my final verdict will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log Deluxe: Armored Solarian Options
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Aberrant Codex: Aberrant Allies
Publisher: Cobalt Sages Creations
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/13/2018 12:02:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The freshman offering of Cobalt Sages Creations clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

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

We begin this supplement with a brief categorization of types of aberration – not in the mechanical context, mind you, but in the context of what constitutes a classification as “aberration” – alien biology, reality-warping and artificially (or oddly- created) creatures are identified as leitmotifs present here.

Now, aberrations are much-beloved as antagonists for obvious reasons, but this book is thoroughly devoted to aberrations as allies, a venue only rarely explored beyond the realms of evil or insane PCs, and as such, represents an interesting deviation from the expectations and preconceptions inherent in the type.

The most obvious forms of aberrations as companions would, of course, be animal companions and familiars – and a quick glance at the aberration type should yield the fact that these creatures usually are intelligent, and that they have darkvision. Other than that, the type itself does not necessarily provide any game-breaking components to be weary of. However, intelligent companions do change the game in a rather distinct way. The pdf, cleverly, I might add, notes that just because an aberration could theoretically wield a dagger, does not mean that it is actually biologically capable of doing so. Similarly, intelligence also means that a creature can choose to not learn a feat, wear armor, etc. The pdf discusses the ramifications of this level of intelligence in a commendable manner:

Aberrant companions with Intelligence greater than 2 receive +3 tricks per point of Intelligence above 2, but thankfully still require training. Sentient companions can generally, as noted, execute more complex tasks, and they learn to understand a language, but not speak it. Recommendations for armor and feats, and for Use Magic Item as a trick, which allows for the activation of one specific magic item, provided anatomy and activation allow for it, are discussed. Familiars are an easier choice, and have the Improved Familiar feat (not properly capitalized) as a prerequisite. Speaking of which – the feat is obviously reproduced here, noting the prerequisite levels for the respective aberrations.

Speaking of which: Aberrant Animal Companions end up as balanced, thanks to the Aberrant Animal Companion feat introduced within, which serves as a feat tax, while also noting minimum level requirements for the respective aberrations. The feat also nets you unnatural aura, which, particularly at low levels, can be both boon and bane. As a whole, the decision to take an aberrant companion ultimately means that you get a more unique and versatile companion that is, particularly in the ROLEplaying context, rather cool. Beyond these basic gate-way feats, there is a new feat type introduced within this pdf – (Deep Bonding) feats. These feats are associated with specific aberrant companions, and as such, I will discuss them alongside the respective companion creatures. One note regarding the deep bonding feats: When the companion falls, you replace one deep bonding feat with Broken Bond, which nets you +1 to Will saves, +2 to Sense Motive versus creatures of the same type as the companion or familiar, and +2 on Charisma checks made versus creatures of the same type as your familiar/companion…and you count as that creature type for the purpose of prerequisites and effects. This can be rather interesting, as it is NOT limited to aberrations, and basically overrides RAW your creature type, which does allow a degree of fortification versus humanoids-targeting spells, but also potentially can be a bane due to specialized effects. This can have pretty serious implications, but it also can represent a nice roleplaying angle – thus, while I do advise caution regarding the intricate interaction options this can unlock, I also consider it to be rather rewarding.

Now, as for the creatures: We get a total of 8 of these critters, plus two variations of sorts. In an impressive manner I did not expect to see in this pdf, we actually do get really impressive full-color artworks for all critters featured herein – and no, I haven’t seen them before! Aesthetically, this is pretty damn impressive. The first of these would also be the highest CR creature featured within – the Argoschwere – a floating mollusk that looks a bit like a beetle with tentacles dangling from it. If your German is up to snuff, you might have guessed the leitmotif here: the creature’s “Schwere” (=heaviness) translates to some control over gravity: In a cool twist, their strikes can force foes to levitate, which can make for an interesting debuff. For a more straightforward attack option, reversal of gravity for the target is possible, and the third option allows for a perfect fly speed. Beyond these gravity-based tricks, the argoschwere is a lightning rod – they are healed by electricity damage, and, in fact, gain an additional move action for 1 minute after being hit by electricity…but they also do not gain any saves versus electricity effects, which is a cool Achilles’ heel to exploit...for the monster.

Here, the pdf is clever: The fully and properly presented companion stats extract the abilities that would be OP, namely the gravity reversal and the lightning-based healing cheese. Even the flight speed, considering its perfect maneuverability, is properly balanced in the advancement provided. And they do retain the abilities that made them unique, namely the forced levitation – so yeah, these fellows will be pretty good controllers. The decision to omit the electricity healing, but also the no-save caveat means that the companions ultimately are player-friendly, more fun to play, and fun. They also get a couple of notes on how their shells may be treated their behavior in the wild, etc.

The deep bonding feats associated with the Argoschwere would be Gravity Assist, which allows the argoschwere to use the master as a kind of point of gravity for pounce-like charges with increased speed – and a massive penalty to AC. The feat, in spite of its complexity, is actually crafted in a rather impressive manner. There are a few typos here, though: “You suffers[sic!]..”, “the you gain” etc. These do not compromise rules-integrity, but proved slightly irritating. The second feat for the argoschwere represents the resurfacing of a concept from the end of the 3.X days of old, namely the (Tactical) feat, which provides a series of situational, but interesting tricks. In the context of this pdf, we have the ability to float trinkets in the air (scaling maximum weight and duration), the option to enhance withdraws slightly and to reverse the gravity on small objects.

Fauchmaws, at CR 4, ostensibly originate from the dream realms, and are predators of dreamers that can breathe 30 ft- cones of mist. (Minor complaint: Gust of wind reference not italicized in the ability’s verbiage), and these guys can dimension door within a vast range, but only step out of the mist. It’s also self-only, so no riding cheeses. Cool: We get an in-character prose excerpt adding a bit of color to the critter, and the fog breath instead functions as a radius centered on the fauchmaw at low levels; similarly, range for the mist-jump is limited appropriately until the 7th level advancement: You get the signature abilities from the get-go, but their full utility is expanded later – love this design paradigm. Coincidentally, you can explain this rather neatly by explaining advancement bestowing more control. Like it! The deep bonding feats are pretty cool as well: Bloody Mist adds 1d4 bleed damage to the mist, (only 1/round damage), and magical healing has a harder time stopping the bleeding. Minor complaint: To differentiate the low-level mistbreath and the 7th level+ breath version, the latter is called fog breath by the creature entry. Alas, the feat only references mistbreath, which means that it RAW would cease functioning at 7th level. This is obviously not intended and should not yield issues at the table, but it bears mentioning. Mistsight does pretty much what it says on the tin, and is much more useful when you have a Fauchmaw companion…

Next up would be the CR ½ Ferrovore: A Fine rust monster-like critter that can attach to targets stealthily, thanks to numbing agents, and slowly drains the blood of those it latches on to. They can also “filter” impurities from liquefied metals and make, obviously, for familiar choices. They come with a CR 3 ferrovore nymph swarm as a bonus critter of sorts – this one, though, is a more straightforward bleed-inflicting swarm. Casters with a ferrovore familiar and the Acid Armor deep bonding feat can, up to 2/day as an immediate action when casting an acid spell or taking 5+ acid damage, generate a sheet of alchemical metal that nets +2 to AC, stacks with itself, and lasts 4 hours. Really cool representation of the ferrovore’s unique metabolism! The Mercury-Fed deep bonding feat is taken by the familiar, and allows the critter to purify food and drink (spell reference not italicized), and the antennae can help willing or helpless creatures stave off diseases. (This feat may be swapped with a familiar’s existing feats.) Another winner here!

The CR ¼ Inkblood is another familiar-candidate, which clocks in at CR ¼. Artificially-created, these Tiny fellows can, as a full-round action, assimilate 2 pages of writing or images, reproducing the content of the folded membranes of the critter. Magical writing is automatically consumed (excluding items and illusory script et al.), but, to nitpick, the spell-references here are once more not concisely italicized. The inkblood can also fire quills (of course – kudos for the pun!) once per round. As for visuals: Think of something between a centipede or necrophidius, save that the ribs/legs are stretched out, holding membranes – my association was that it looks like a moth/ray/snake hybrid. This creature also comes with a CR 5 version, the Large, ancient inkblood, who can flash confusing pulses and constrict targets. The potential adventuring potential of these creatures and their narrative impact can be vast, and it is great to see that the pdf acknowledges this and notes some ideas for combining spell pages to create/collect spells. As a personal advice for GMs: if you have a slightly more potent or oddball spell, these creatures make for a great reason why not every caster has said spell – it just, you know, kinda came together! As far as deep bonding is concerned, we have the option to take Aberrant Symbol, which is a familiar feat that lets the inkblood fascinate adjacent targets. Page Eater enhances your Linguistics and language-dependent spells by eating pages. Love the visuals here!

The Perdentate Sarcoid clocks in at CR 5, and is something for all players that love to creep out NPCs: An undifferentiated mass of raw flesh studded with teeth on pseudopods, these guys made me flash back to Dalvehr-Nahr. Indeed, the signature ability of this fellow makes integration of that piece of obscure in-game lore easy: When they strike a foe, they absorb teeth, which is represented by Constitution damage that caps at 5. Creatures suffering from teeth extraction has a harder time enunciating the precise syllables required for verbal spellcasting, and the creatures can combine this ability with coup de graces for visuals that are nightmare fodder. The companion stats scale the critter in two steps, providing 4th and 7th level advancement notes, and also provide scaling for this ability. Reactive Denticles as a deep bonding feat may require a bit of clarification: It states: “Whenever you take damage, you can make an attack of opportunity against the source of the damage if it’s within reach.“ This could be read as either applying on all attacks (delimiting AoOs per round) or to mean that the the perdentate sarcoid can use the AoO (or array thereof via e.g. Combat Reflexes, if available) when attacked – it depends on how you read the sentence, and where you put your emphasis. I think the latter reading is intended here. Tooth Eater lets you swallow up to 4 specially prepared teeth, which correlate to types and subtypes, which net you a bonus to Knowledge checks. More interesting: Bones of that creature type/subtype glow, which opens venues for interesting investigations – and yes, the pdf properly codifies the rules of said glow.

Ruin drakes look like Medium drakes, sporting crystalline growths They are not actually dragons, though – instead, they are basically a dragon’s remains, a husk, controlled by the pox aberrantia (which are properly codified) – think of these as an intelligent, non-suicidal form of cordyceps – and as such, they are infectious, carrying this lethal parasite! The companion advancement is more linear here. With Aggressive Parasites, companions with Con 13+ can exhibit this as a short-range aura that inflicts damage. The master, on the other hand, may opt to become a Pox Aberrantia Carrier, which makes you immune against it and allows you to lace the parasites into your natural attack. Minor complaint: Unarmed strikes should probably also qualify as means to deliver the disease. Parasite-spreading mystic monks, perhaps with an agenda to purge dragonkind from the face of the planet? Come on, that’s cool!

The skyscourge, at CR 6, represents a flying arachnid with membranous wings…and tentacles. These tentacles can grasp targets and lift the grappled sods…and combine that with Flyby trickery. Oh, and not just one tentacle, mind you – all of them. If the critter maintains a grapple, its feasting causes Dex damage! The base companion advancement does not get these unique tricks, instead providing just the standard grab. The deep bonding feats provided are Assist Grapple, which lets the master assist by expending an AoO. Deranged Feeding nets the skyscourge frightful presence when feeding.

At CR 1, the diminutive sonophage, at CR 1, eats sound. It dampens sound in an area around it (and the master is immune to this ability). In melee, these winged, mottled blots can cause sonic damage and mute targets temporarily on a failed save. They also are healed by sonic damage (again, at the cost of not getting saves). This critter is easily one of the most outré and cool ones within this book. Delayed Auditory Feedback can affect a target within 90 feet and hamper their ability to cast verbal spells; The deep-bonding feat for the master also doubles as a metamagic feat: Muting Spells use a spell slot two levels higher and, bingo, mute targets affected by the spell. The verbiage gets AoE interaction etc. done right. There is a second artwork beyond the creature artwork –a classic piece, with them inserted – it made me smile. It’s a use of stock art that is creative and shows this extra commitment to making the book more fun, also on a visual level.

Finally, there would be the Springroot: At CR 5: It looks a bit puya-plant like, utterly alien, and moves by compressing. Its needles have eye-like organs that it can reveal to grappled targets that flood the victim with alien sensations and impulses, stunning them. These critters can fire their needles sans AoOs…and their needles carry a poison that generates pleasant visions that do not impede the functionality of the target…but that do render the Springroot invisible to the affected creature! I can so see this as the core-aspect of a truly disturbing utopian cult… The companion stats provide a solid progression here. The deep bonding feats allow the master to be part of the poison-induced phantasm (spell reference not italicized), and Twin Gaze lets you coordinate your gaze with that of the springroot, enhancing the psychedelic stunning effect.

Conclusion: Editing is generally very good on a rules-language level. On a formal level, there are a few typos that could have been caught. Formatting did not see the same attention to detail as the rest of the pdf: There are plenty of instances where spells have not been properly italicized. Layout is impressive: A nice and painless pastel-blue, supported by plenty of original full-color artworks make the interior of the book more impressive than the cover. This looks very professional and aesthetically-pleasing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though oddly, the Ferrovore and all subsequent critters are nestled in the fauchmaw bookmarks, which is itself nestled in the Argoschwere bookmark. They’re here, though, and that counts!

Jeff “The Green” Collins, Hal Kenette, Jennifer R. Povey, Maria Smolina and Amber Underwood deliver an impressive freshman offering for the company. And I don’t say that lightly. Not a single one of the creatures within this book is boring or mediocre – there is something cool about all of them, and they all attempt to do something conceptually and mechanics-wise interesting. That deserves to be applauded!

Moreover, a sense of fantastic plausibility suffuses these pages – in a way, all of these creatures make sense, feel like they belong, like they’re not simply a collection of stats. As you could glean from the review-text above, pretty much all of them kickstarted my imagination in some form or another. They have implications, they have niches that make you actually want to implement them. Even on the basis of just the merit of the monsters, this book should be applauded.

My ventures into the OSR-circles and into DCC; Legendary Games’ mythic monsters – they showed me something: Namely, that creatures, to be captivating, to be engaging, should be more than their stats. The critters within this book achieve just that.

This is even more important due to the fact that they are intended as player-options. Sure, it’s nice to have a couple of weirdo-creatures that don’t all want to kill off the PCs, but here, the emphasis placed on giving players some truly distinct, unique and fantastic companions is amazing. Playing the master of a fauchmaw will be more rewarding for experienced players than choosing a standard animal. And, in a sneaky manner, the unique quirks and kinks of the creatures will make them matter more – both mechanically, and within the stories you tell. This has both mechanical and narrative impact. Inkbloods could jumpstart whole campaign ideas and present a means to make magic feel more magical; Argoschwere are just delightful in their sheer weirdness, and pox aberrantia is basically an adventure hook/campaign seed waiting to happen…and a great reason for hostile dragons to go into full-blown Dalek-style “EXTERMINATE!”-mode! The critters are potent and the feat tax alleviates that; the deep bonding feats are a cool idea and deserve further expansion.

Now, granted, there are a few instances herein where minor aspects of the rules could be a bit more precise…and the number of formatting snafus, particularly among spell-references, is utterly avoidable. But know what? Reading and reviewing this book was significantly more engaging and compelling, dare I say, inspiring, than I ever expected or dared to hope it’d be. I’d rather take this supplement with its few formal flaws over a book of bland, clinical and soulless stats any day of the week. This oozes passion. It shows that the authors, all of them, genuinely cared about their contributions. You can feel it, see it in the small design-tweaks, in the instances where they could have said “that’ll do” – and didn’t.

The aberrant codex may not be perfect, but it’s an inspiring reading experience, with creatures that manage to encapsulate high-concept designs that you very rarely see in concise rules.

In short, this is one amazing little supplement. Were it not for the editing and formatting snafus, this’d be a clear 5 stars + seal of approval supplement. Considering their presence, I have to detract a star from my final verdict. However, freshman offerings always get a little bonus, and this is one such file. As such, the final verdict will be 4.5 stars, which will be rounded up due to in dubio pro reo. Oh, and since I really adored all of the creatures herein due to one facet or another, this also gets my seal of approval. If you’re bored by standard companions or just want some weird critters, this delivers in spades.

If this level of quality and cool designs is what we can expect from the Cobalt Sages, keep your eyes peeled for more!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Aberrant Codex: Aberrant Allies
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

The Genius Guide to Vampire Magic
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/13/2018 11:58:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little supplement clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This supplement begins with 9 different magic items for vampires: Biteless bite is a glass bottle that contains liquid distilled from vampire blood, which nets a +4 bonus to Dex and Str, darkvision, and blood drain, but also a vampires susceptibility to holy symbols, which may hold the characters at bay, and they are dazzled and sickened by direct sunlight. However, after 24 hours, blood thirst kicks in, requiring a save – the DC increases by +2 for every 24 hours thereafter, and on a failure, the character goes berserk. Having fed, the character becomes a vampire under the control of the vampire that made this elixir. Slaying the creator dispels the effect. Claws of the lycanthrope are gloves that net claw attacks (differentiating between Small and Medium size), and they are properly codified regarding natural attack type – kudos. The wearer gets Multiattack and living humanoids donning them risk becoming temporarily werebats under the control of the creator. The wearer may end up with these acting as cursed items.

Cloaks of the daywalker do pretty much what you’d expect, and the greater variant can turn itself invisible, which can be a pretty cool option to bluff vampire hunters. False smile occupies the face slot and grants the vampire massive boosts to Disguise themselves as undead…and the item can block detect undead. Life leech is basically a leech that can hold blood and keep it fresh. Progenitor tracker is a bowl that lets you track the general distance of a progenitor. Thrall charm lets you 1/day as a standard action dominate a creature already under the control of another vampire. Cool: addle-minded template notes. Unholy aegis protects against holy water, and provides basically an evasion-like effect versus spells and abilities that deal damage sourced from the divine, like holy smite, provided these do allow for a save for half damage. Confusingly, this damage is lumped in with channel energy, which makes it hard to properly determine where the effect should apply and where it shouldn’t.

The pdf also includes a new artifact, the Remains of the First, a relic of either a bloodline’s source or otherwise epic, ancient vampire. This eliminates all vampire weaknesses while worn or swallowed. The DR is upgraded to DR 10/- and stakes can’t kill the vampire. Finally, there is a new occult ritual, the level 6 canopic relocation, which represents the vampire removing their heart and placing it in a jar, providing immunity to being staked.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the artworks within are stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Lee’s items for vampires are an interesting little supplement. The items per se cover the classic tricks and tropes and should be enjoyable for GMs and players alike – particularly if e.g. potentially combined with rite Publishing’s “In the Company of Vampires” and similar supplements. All in all, an enjoyable offering. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Vampire Magic
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Advanced Skill Guide
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/12/2018 10:04:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 151 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 4 pages of handy index, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 140 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.

…who am I kidding, I’d have moved this one up in my queue, even if it hadn’t been for that request.

Why? Because this is the book that translates easily my favorite PFRPG-crunch book EVER to SFRPG. I am, of course, talking about the winner of my Top Ten of 2017, the “Skill Challenge Handbook”.

You know, the book that, like no other before or since, should have been part of the core rules.

Yeah, if you’re like me, you probably have started smiling just a bit right then and there.

However, and this must be made abundantly clear by even a cursory glance at the page-count, this is obviously not all there is to it. We do not have a simple translation of a book to another system here – oh no. This book begins with a chapter on Leadership. Yep, you guessed it. This also is the Starfinder-equivalent of Ultimate Charisma, yet another masterpiece of a book.

But, once more, there is more to it, so let’s take a look at the nit and grit, shall we? After a brief piece of introductory prose, we begin with a glossary of terms: In case you’re not familiar with the terms “cohort” and “follower”, the pdf clearly and concisely defines them. Same goes for the basic mechanics: A Leadership check is a d20 roll, to which total level and Charisma modifier are added, and Leadership checks are treated as either Diplomacy or Intimidate, depending on the style of leadership employed. Leadership modifiers are determined by the GM, and are the result of your playstyle.

There also would be the Leadership score, which is the sum of character level + Charisma modifier, + a bonus to indicate fame. Further modifiers can apply, and concise tables provide sample check DCs by difficulty, as well as a selection of suggested modifiers. If you need a representation of a group effort, there would be PLS – Party Leadership Score, which is calculated and explained in similar and easy to comprehend terms.

Things become a bit more detailed when we take a look at cohort creation – here, the book deviates strongly from previous iteration, in that it employs (gainfully, I might add), the Alien Archive’s NPC-creation guidelines with minor tweaks to allow for an overall very smooth and painless creature creation. Different methods of cohort creation, from promotion to recruitment (including costs to hire) are presented and the book does present different degrees of simulation depth for cohort progression: If you, for example, don’t have the inclination of tracking cohort XP in the traditional sense, you can check out the option presented for one-roll adventuring abstraction, which does not bog down the game. (Of course, you could play cohort-only sidetrek adventures as well…) If that is still too intrusive, you can resort to the autoleveling guidelines, and if that sounds like a hassle – rest assured that tips for players and GMs alike are included to make the process of adding cohorts to the game simple and smooth.

Followers, then, are more akin to redshirts with names and personalities – once your players have a massive space ship with a huge crew, you may well want to have example followers – and indeed, the pdf provides; once more, in an organic manner: The concept of good and master skills is used in abbreviated form for the different roles these fellows may have, once more allowing for a super smooth integration that distinctly can be identified as a Starfinder-centric solution.

The book goes further. In the next chapter, we take a gander at reputation. Fame is a representation of how well you’re liked and known within an organization or region. On the flipside, there would be infamy, of course. These two are collectively known as reputation. “Deeds” would be the term assigned for things you are famous or infamous for, and as a whole, the rules use Starfinder’s “significant threat” rule and transpose it to organizations – in short, reputation only matters and should come into play with significant organizations. I am not kidding when I am, time and again, emphasizing how Starfinder-centric these concepts have been realigned: The reputation section, for example, takes theme-choices into account.

While reputation, as a whole, is a more narrative system, it is not one that leaves the GM or player hanging or in doubt regarding precise implementation. Instead, we receive detailed and precise guidance pertaining reputation shifts, sample fame rewards for certain thresholds…and favor. Favor goes hand in hand with fame and represents basically your ability to call in favors, a kind of social currency. Both favor purchases and deeds, just fyi, have been supplemented with handy tables that provide amply guidelines to run the system or smoothly expand upon it.

But perhaps you and your group are less interested in empire-building and the grand game, and rather would develop the way in which the PCs interact with NPCs and one another? Fret not, for if you’ve been dissatisfied with “I roll once and change the attitude” type of scenarios, if you enjoy the more personal takes and exploration of bonds, whether they be among rivals and enemies, families or lovers, then you’ll very much enjoy the next chapter, for here we take a look at relationships. For simplicity’s sake, they are grouped in 4 rough categories: Animosity, familial, peer and friendship. All of these are tightly defined. The relationships themselves may be roughly categorized in the healthy and dysfunctional departments, somewhat akin to the dichotomy used for the reputation system, and while this is a bit of a simplification, there is a difference here: The system tracks not an objective value of good/evil, but rather the intensity of the relationship! This is VERY cool and a smart choice. It eliminates the “love”-threshold. You know, “reach this many points to get love.” Instead, each character will have different preferences, reactions and the like, and relationships are dynamic. You can actually switch from a familial relationship to animosity to friendship, for example. And yes, you can fake relationships. You can, of course, roleplay all of this, but in case your group tends to favor quicker resolutions, they are provided once more. And yes, they have been designed to allow for quick and painless resolutions. They will not slow down your game – unless you and your group choose to explore them.

The next section also can tie in with that – it pertains alternate and secret identities, and it is one chapter that I wish had been slightly more Starfinderized: The default assumption here would be that a series of Disguise checks is sufficient to establish a secret identity, which, while quick and painless, struck me as a bit…easy, at least in the long run. For brief covert identities and the like, sure, but for long-term identity change, some notes on the use of Computers to delete electronic trails and the like would have made sense to me. (But then again, I’ll return to that aspect down below – and why I don’t consider it to be an issue here.) the subchapter does talk about different means of compromising your identity, and how secret identities and shifts can influence reputation and relationships. And guess what: Having your cover blown is not a pleasant experience. Juggling multiple secret identities is btw. also noted.

Now, the pounding heart of this book, obviously, would be the skill challenges. If you’re familiar with the “Skill Challenges Handbook”, you’ll notice some overlap here and will be already familiar with the central concept.

Basically, a skill challenge represents an encounter-situation that can range from a group dealing with a super-computer’s complex self-defense system,a s it’s steering the vessel into a black hole, in the mainframe to a game of chess. Skill Challenges may be undertaken between teams (representing contests), and can span different increments of time: From long trips across the surface of a blasted planet under a dead sun, to a high-speed chase, the engine can cover pretty much anything. Running a skill challenge may seem daunting at first, but once you’ve read the rules, turns out to be exceedingly simple: You determine awareness first, so yeah, there can be a surprise round. Then, you determine initiative order and proceed to run it akin to a combat, save that it is not a combat, but a collective task.

“Winning” a skill challenge is referred to as “clearing” it, and, depending on the skill challenge, you have several methods: Some skill challenges may require an accumulation. Drawing that moon rover from the ditch, for example? Accumulation. When working against an opposing team, points can be used. Movement-related ones track squares, and for straight win/lose situations with a less pronounced focus on grades of success, “successes” are the tracked method makes most sense. It should be noted that there are actions noted for PCs to in-game interact with the respective skill challenge – obscuring trails, for example, is relevant when embarking on a skill challenge that is based on squares as clearance method.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. How do you beat an accumulation skill challenge? Well, let's say your researching who the replicant-serial killer is, all right? You research, and roll a relevant skill, as determined by the GM. You have a success, and then take a look at the progress rating. For example, 22. Since you succeeded at the task, you accumulate value of by 1d4 + the ability score modifier associated with that check. Once you’ve beaten the progress, you’ve cleared the skill challenge. Being particularly good grants you bonuses, and may move you up in the dice-chain. Class skill? You roll one die size larger. High enough insight bonus? Ditto. To keep things interesting, these skill challenges generally have thresholds noted, where things happen, complications can occur, etc. Let’s say you’ve repaired a part of the mainframe of a desolate space station as you cleared threshold value 8 – electricity is suddenly restored…and the cargo doors open as part of the booting system, freeing whatever was locked inside…

This is perhaps one of the most potent and remarkable aspects of this system – while it can work on pretty much any timeframe, it similarly can slot in seamlessly with combat...and back out of it. What Do I mean by that? Well, you can easily slot skill challenge into skill challenge, Matroishka- or Inception-style.

Let’s say the planet the PCs are currently on is blowing up, and they are escaping the interstellar tyrants that have their homebase on the planet. The PCs embark on a grand skill challenge tracking abstract squares, as they hustle across the planet towards the dilapidated orbital elevators: Atop those, there is a ring of space stations surrounding the planet. (Yes, unrepentant Gundam fanboy here…) As they arrive at the elevators, the planet starts breaking apart…but the damn bullet train is old and needs to be fixed and maintained. Unfortunately, an alien species feeds on the thing, eating it while the PCs try to get it to start – enter a contest. As they finally get the thing running, the kill-squad sent from the tyrants has infiltrated the train – as the PCs make a desperate race for the top, trying to accumulate enough resources, combat breaks out….and even if they succeed, they’ll still need to get out of the system…

That is but one example of interwoven skill challenges, and once you get how these work, space’s the limit. Scratch that, not even that! To infinity and beyond! (Sorry, will punch myself later for that one…) The system may look daunting at first, but one glance at a statblock for such a challenge should tell you a lot about it…and once you understand it, you’ll realize how elegantly this one skill challenge statblock codifies a complex series of circumstances. In use, the system is so smooth, you basically don’t even need to make a statblock. You can run this spontaneously. The precision of all the definitions for increments, time pressure etc. are ultimately there to adhere to the conventions of the game, but in person, I can explain this whole system in under a minute. Heck, I actually implemented it without telling anyone, and it works. A quick-thinking GM can assign PC actions to the general actions within the respective skill challenge.

Basically, what the rules here do, is to allow you to structure how you think about the mechanic presentation of the challenges within. No GM really needs stated that some skill challenges can only allow for a certain amount of failures. Still, the rules are presented within, in order to allow you to write a quick and concise challenge. Similarly, backlash by hazards, traps and attacks, demerits (losing progress) – all there. Beyond thresholds, there also are obstacles – exemplified with the sample task of steering a vessel through an asteroid field. Chases would, obviously, be another example, and one that gets its own coverage – in detail.

If you need further means to modify these skill challenges and want an even tighter array of subrules, you’ll have a whole chapter of special qualities to modify them with: Obstacles, and, as noted, opposition, are covered. When you’re bodyguards for the ambassador’s daughter, whose word may save the galaxy, if you can only convince her… then you’ll want to take a look at the section on influence challenges. If you’re familiar with the way in which Ultimate Intrigue etc. structured social situations and cross that with skill challenges, then you’ll have an idea of how the system works: We basically get a “social” variant of a statblock that focuses more on personality and background, noting biases and strengths as well as weaknesses.

If you instead plan to talk in front of the board of directors of an interstellar megacorp, then you’ll want to check out the section on verbal duels. From allegory to mockery, this is indeed the first of these subsystems/skill challenges that I’d categorize as a mini-game of sorts. Knowledge of associated strategies and how they interact is important…but know what? It actually puts an end to the endless discussions that go nowhere, and it can make social interaction exciting for tables that usually prefer the tactical aspects of combat over storytelling.

For all of these, samples are provided, though, and let me make that abundantly clear: This is not a plug-and-play book of ready encounters. Instead, this teaches you how to use the system and make it your own. Extra design advice, a table of suggested sample DCs by difficulty rating and CR, suggested accumulation, square and success values by CR – ultimately, this is a ginormous guide that aims to teach you an easy system that can make literally everything, from treks across blasted desert planets to researching galactic archives, potentially exciting and interesting. It’s a system that inserts player agenda into what usually amounts to boring, singular pass/fail die-rolls and cutscenes, instead emphasizing the collective experience.

Okay, but we’re still not done. There is another massive chapter – and it’s called combat maneuvers. This chapter introduces an alternative means of resolving, bingo, combat maneuvers. Design-wise, the alternate maneuver system mirrors the way in which Starfinder treats AC: The Maneuver Defense (MD) value is subdivided into PMD (Physical Maneuver Defense) and MMD (Mental Maneuver Defense). The values are calculated as follows: 10 + ½ BAB + Strength modifier (PMD) or Charisma modifier (MMD). All combat maneuvers, and the feint and demoralize skill uses, as well as the Antagonize feat, target these now. Yes. Non-feat taxed antagonize is back. Honestly, it was one aspect of SFRPG that puzzled me as much as in PFRPG. Why lock insulting an enemy, arguably something pretty much anyone can do, behind a feat, while feinting, something I IRL would suck at, is available via skills? But I digress. Maneuvers are listed alphabetically, and are listed with action to activate, skills that can be used, and effects. Descriptors, if any, are noted as well. You basically check the skill against the respective MD. Crushing foes, scaling them…simple. Less simple would be the act of determining these values fro critters. Thankfully, a massive table lists suggested values by CR and array. (As an aside: The array is called spellcaster, not mystic…) Don’t like that? There is a means to use the system in conjunction with the standard KAC +8 solution.

What’s the effect of implementing it? Well, PCs are more likely to succeed at combat maneuvers…but so are enemies. If you are dissatisfied with how hard combat maneuvers are to execute in Starfinder, then this will yield approximately a 25% increase in chance to execute them, which can, particularly in more melee-centric situations, make them game more versatile and nuanced. The new “humiliated” condition is also introduced herein – and, in case you were wondering, there is a whole, massive array of feats that allow you to further customize your characters to make maximum use of this new system. In a rather embarrassing slip-up, the feats refer to the Improved Combat Maneuver feat – which has been rebranded as Improved Maneuver to avoid confusion with the Starfinder core feat. Unfortunately, the references of the feat in the section’s prerequisite lines have not been adjusted that way. It’s a cosmetic glitch, but still a pretty nasty one. Particularly since the Improved Maneuver feat’s special line even erroneously references itself as Improved Combat Maneuver… Also in this section would be the Unlock Skill feat.

Which ties in with…the Skill Unlocks. These can be gained by feats, themes or awarded freely, depending on your preferred playstyle, and include several that interact with other components of the book. At Fame 20, you can, for example, be Aloof without taking a penalty to Leadership score. With Blood Kin, you have a better rapport with your relatives, with Accomplished Climber, you gain a climb speed. Tehre are more unlocks here than I can conceivably cover without ruining the functionality of this review – suffice to say, a handy table organizes them by area of interest – looking for reputation unlocks? All collected in one section. If this notion was not indicator enough: One of the interesting and impressive components of this book would be the fact that all of these can be combined. The pdf does, for example, provide guidance and notes that skill unlocks can make for great relationship rewards…

Of course, considering the new combat options, we also receive a couple of new tricks for character classes: 4 new envoy improvisations, and an expertise talent, as well as tricks, for mechanics, soldiers and operatives may be found. The pdf then closes with 4 solid themes: Contender, scion, fixer and vigilante, before providing a handy glossary. Slightly hilarious: The vigilante gets the “Duel Identity” class feature. No, he is not particularly adept at dueling. That’s a typo.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a rules-language level, as a whole, are very good. However, on a formal level, the pdf does suffer a bit and is not 100% up to level we usually get to see from Everyman Gaming. Particularly in the few instances where a typo can make a rule slightly harder to understand, I couldn’t help but cringe slightly. Don’t get me wrong; this is still a tightly-presented book. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard of the Star Log.EM-series, adapted to the big book, and the pdf sports a ton of Jacob Blackmon artworks, many of which are brand new and pretty massive. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. My physical copy hasn’t yet arrived as per the writing of this review.

Alexander Augunas and Matt Morris deliver what can be considered to be a crown jewel among SFRPG supplements; we get a book with a sheer impact and coolness, a mighty toolkit that usually only sees the light of day in this extent towards the end of a system’s lifecycle. Having this near the beginning of Starfinder’s lifecycle is amazing. Simple as that. It is no secret that I consider many of the concepts within this book, the whole notion of skill challenges, to be pretty much a stroke of sheer genius. Having them coupled with some of my favorite tricks, as inheritors of Ultimate Charisma’s legacy, puts just icing on the cake. I applaud the degree in which the systems herein have been modified to represents Starfinder’s peculiarities, and once more, I am left to say, clearly and explicitly, that the very concept herein should have found its way into the core rules.

Now, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have some potential complaints to field: The editing, as noted, could have been tighter. I also would have loved to see more space combat-y things and peculiarities – sure, you can easily simply adjust what’s here to the space context, and the skill challenges present actually do just that…but some exclusives would have been nice. But that is not a fair complaint to field. You see, at first glance, there are a lot of similarities between this and the original PFRPG files; if you own the original files, you will constantly feel the casual familiarity that you expected to find…but once you take a more in-depth look, you will get to see the work that went into this tome…and the achievement that codifying the skill challenges this way, ultimately is. Regardless of system. This book was branded as the tome that will bring skill challenges to SFRPG – and more.

And, editing snafus be damned, it succeeds admirably. At this point, this is the most rewarding toolkit for SFRPG I am aware of. It will literally enhance any game it’s used in, and a GM who understands how this operates gets some of the mightiest narrative tools for a d20-game you can fathom on their hands. The concept itself may no longer be novel in all but its implementation into the system, but it doesn’t have to be. What you see on the cover, the exciting teamwork challenge? That can be yours.

Skill challenges have enriched my games like no other crunch supplement. If you play Starfinder and are not yet familiar with the notion, or if you don’t want to do the math and all those little tweaks…well then gets this ASAP! It is a mind-blowing experience. Now, if I were to rate this solely on its formal properties and disregard the content and its vast impact, I’d frankly have to rate this down to 4.5 stars, rounded down, due to the editing glitches. However, even if I were to divorce skill challenges from all the other components, which elegantly entwine, yet remain optional, they’d suffice to make the editing snafus as but trivial.

To state this in an abundantly clear manner: This book can radically improve pretty much every aspect of your game, of your GMing, of your playing experience. You don’t have to read everything. You don’t have to implement what you don’t want to – you can just cherry-pick what’s right for your and your group. Once you’ve understood this, you can implement its components on the fly, you can tell exciting stories that you couldn’t before. In short: This is, formal snafus or none, still a milestone and a masterpiece. I consider this to be perhaps the most important Starfinder supplement currently released by a 3pp. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. This also gets my EZG Essentials-tag for Starfinder. And had its predecessor not won last year’s Top Ten, and thus disqualified this one from being a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018, you could find it there as well. This is, by all accounts, a must-own supplement for Starfinder.

…now, can we have a sequel book with more skill challenges, tricks and tweaks?

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Skill Guide
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

The Haunted Dive
Publisher: Gamer Printshop
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/07/2018 14:58:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 91 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 85 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so first thing you should know, is that this module uses the rules from the Starship, Stations and Salvage Guide. It has a ton of supplemental rules included, but does not reproduce these. It is possible to run the adventure without owning said book, just to make that clear.

The module spends a lot of pages on rules, so let’s take a look at them first:

The supplement comes with 3 new expansion bays, which do focus on a leitmotif of the adventure (see SPOILER-section below) and includes stats for luxury escape pods. This also ties in with the new ship defenses. There is a computer augmentation that clocks in at level 10, which allows the user to add Intelligence bonus to other functions in the ship, which can be pretty excessive. There is a nice, new ship hazard. The pdf also includes equipment rules for back packs that allow for battery combination, which is per se cool – and yes, it may be rigged to detonate. There also is an odd one: Emergency Survival Boosters ”Adds an additional tier of level to any clothing or armor that its[sic!] attached to…” – and no, I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. There is a gauntlet that does not properly denote the damage type it causes, and the generators noted also suffer a bit from wonky verbiage.

There is a cybernetics section that does not properly denote the system into which they’re implanted. There is a lens that grants you infrared vision…which does not exist in SFRPG. One glance at the core manual will show you that infrared sensors translate to darkvision in SFRPG. Low light vision does NOT have a range. There is a section on using VR in conjunction with the Computer rules, but it doesn’t properly codify all of them as per subset of computer features. The new armors are solid, and there are some armor upgrades included.

The pdf contains two variant classes – a VR-based version of the mechanic, and a mystic variant.

…there is no nice way to put it, so here goes: They deviate in a TON of ways from proper presentation and rules-language standards. It begins by the tables being internally inconsistent (one class lists full save names, one abbreviates Fortitude to Fort, but doesn’t abbreviate the others; saves are listed first before the BAB, for maximum confusion…particularly in the second class, which also hasn’t properly aligned columns…) and goes on from there. Even when an ability like bypass provides a clear example to follow, the classes somehow get that wrong and put it in an awkward way. Stamina and Hit Point correlation are dissolved in one instance, which may be a typo. There is so much wrong with these, I frankly don’t know where to start. To give you an excerpt from one of the mystic spells: “This counts as a DR5 vs force and kinetic attacks. This replaces the Major version of Force Shield.“ This is not how DR works. The spells don’t list spell levels in their descriptions spell (you need to default to the list for that!), and this weird “replaces” makes no sense – the old spells are not lost! These classes are trainwrecks and don’t contribute anything of significance to the pdf.

The pdf contains VR-Rules, which list the following: “A Diver begins with a Virtual Hit Point

equal to his base HP. When this reaches 0 they are automatically removed…” Okay, does this include Stamina? If not, why? If it goes directly to HP, there is a whole array of questions left. You have a virtual AC (VAC) of “10 plus their intelligence per level.” No, I am not making that up. If you want to use these rules, you better do some serious fixing first, for RAW, they simply are not operational.

The pdf also includes a new race (see Spoilers) – that is more min maxy than SFRPG races should be, with +4 to an attribute, -4 to another. The race has a fly speed, but doesn’t denote maneuverability or type of fly speed, and labors under the misconception that there is a blanket energy resistance as a rules term. There is not. These glitches tend to also find their way into the bestiary. The presentation of statblocks is not unified, and the critters presented are off in pretty much every conceivable way. Effects that should be noted as critical aren’t, type is off, damage values are pitiful. Damage types are not noted correctly. Skills are off. Plusses are missing. Formatting is wrong. A CR 20 critter is noted as 6000 XP. Statblocks are oddly aligned in some instances. To give you an idea:

“Init +3 Senses Low-Light Vision as per

normal vision Perception 12

HP 72 EAC 20 KAC 15 Fort 6 Ref

11 Will 8

Offensive/Defensive Abilities

Universal Expression, Quick Inspiring

Boost, Focus, Heads Up, Desperate

Defense, Expert Attack

Speed 30ft“

The bestiary section is a bit better...but the NPC section and the new race and related statblocks? Oh boy. Also: There are plenty of lines that read “Will Immune” That is not correct. The section has some guidelines regarding VR creatures and haunts, which is per se cool, but is also contingent on the VR-rules. Which are not operational. And I haven’t even touched upon the fact that formatting is wrong and inconsistent. Skills are not properly capitalized, rules-language is off, things that shouldn’t be capitalized, are…the list goes on.

Okay, that was not what I was hoping for.

Let’s see how the adventure section holds up, shall we? It should be noted that the module does contain proper and player-friendly maps of the vessel, as well as a long section of introductory prose and notable questions that PCs may ask – as far as that aspect is concerned, the adventure presents a neat level of guidance for the GM. The following contains SPOILERS. Potential player should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

Okay, only GMs around? Great!

So, as the introduction noted, the inspiration for this adventure was “Ghost Ship” – and while I’d argue that the movie is not an efficient horror movie, I do concur with the statement that the Final Destination-ish mass death scene was indeed well-executed. It also does something interesting, in that it features two distinct tags for descriptions: “Before” and “After”, which means you could conceivably play the adventure as things are happening, or as explorers that happen upon the vessel after the disaster. Another option would be to play its “Before” state with one-shot characters. So yeah, the set-up reminded me of one of my favorite OSR-adventures (review forthcoming), so that’s a good thing.

The Vestige Voyage, the ship, is properly statted and lists its amenities and the like in a concise manner. A brief table allows for random encounters/creepy things happening. The story, alas, is not presented as clearly. Basically, a technomancer has found a new type of creature, quantum fey. (These also would be the new race mentioned earlier.) That idea is amazing. Alas, the synopsis refers to two different characters as “The technomancer”, which can be confusing. Plot-wise, a queen of the quantum fey was imprisoned and driven mad; when freed, she lashed out, and the dying good technomancer uploaded her mind – now struggling with the mad queen for supremacy, she triumphs, but is cursed with undeath. This happens as a gala is held, much akin to aforementioned movie.

Yep, you’ve probably pieced it together by now: Basically, the module uses holograms and VR to account for haunt-like effects, creatures, etc. The adventure itself is presented in a classic way, in that the pdf describes the locations of the “Vestige Voyage.” There is an overview section for the exploration, presented for the GM. Self-destruction of the vessel is a distinct possibility, just fyi. The information-presentation is rough, though. It helps that “Before” and “After” are bolded in the text, but the other pieces of information need to be puzzled together, and enemies are noted in the text sans highlight or stats. The constant issues in rules-language and presentation further hurt this: “Any Engineering 30 and computer check 30 will override the bridge lockouts.” Even casual familiarity with Starfinder ought to tell you that this is not how the like is worded and formatted.

…and, honestly, it sinks the module. Not on its own, mind you…but in conjunction with the rules that are supposed to provide a unique angle, the rules that don’t work? Yeah. It does.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are bad on a formal and rules language level. There are copious amounts of typos, and worse, there are a TON of issues in pretty much every aspect of the rules language. Layout adheres to a solid two-column full-color standard, and the maps presented for the vessel are nice and full-color. They are, hands down, the strongest component of this adventure. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This module was shocking for me. Edward Moyer’s rules language tended to sport some inconsistencies and issues here and there, but this module is a whole new level. Basic things that have been staples since the inception of 3.0, things that I haven’t seen done wrong in a while, are simply not functional. The rules for the VR-gimmick, on which much of the module hinges, simply don’t work.

Gosh, this was frustrating. When reviewing adventures, I tend to focus on the story, on how it plays. I am a bit less picky than when I’m reviewing books intended to primarily serve as crunch resources. Up to a point. Here, the editing (or lack thereof) actually sinks the entire module. The rules are nowhere near operational. As a developer, I’d send this back to the author and tell them to read up on the rules and how they’re formatted, rewrite the entirety, and then get back to me. I looked at the rules, and even casual observation provided so many issues that I frankly didn’t know where to start when complaining about them.

And, you know, usually, I’d try to see this as something like “Okay, rules are bad, but if you look at just the adventure section…” – but that doesn’t work here. This tries to be a highly technical adventure, with a ton of entwined rules, a whole system for VR with its own intricacies – perhaps because the base adventure section is neither creepy, nor particularly original. Some concepts are really cool, but they are mired in the execution, like dinosaurs, conserved in a tar pit. The main issue, though, is that this simply doesn’t work. The adventure is utterly reliant on these new rules, and when they fail to work, so does, by extension, the adventure.

I so wanted to like this. I adore scifi horror. But unlike “Rogue ‘s Run”, you have no chance of ignoring the broken aspects here. There are no two ways around this – this does not work. And this is so frustrating, because the adventure does have a great angle, a great twist on a classic trope. It has creative ideas, but the execution of said ideas is, at best, in a pre-alpha stage. There is potential here, and had this been presented in a tight manner, it could have scored as high as 5 stars + seal of approval. If you invest a LOT of time, you can make this an interesting and creative module, but expect more than a few hours.

But what we get here, alas, comes nowhere close to that. My final verdict can’t exceed 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Haunted Dive
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Remedial Tinkering: Artificial Intelligence
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/05/2018 08:57:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the Tinker class clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

First things first – the expansion does not necessarily require any other tinker expansion to work, and for a reason: It is, in a way, the expansion that focuses most on providing lower level tools, though the content does remain very much relevant at higher levels. As such, the only expansion that has a bit of overlap here would be Happy Little Automatons, which is fyi a really nice one.

This notwithstanding, the pdf does properly explain the different invention subtypes introduced so far in a concise manner. It also presents a couple of rulings that are very much relevant to the content within: BP values assigned represent the blueprints, and as such, once deployed, BP limits are no longer relevant. This is relevant due to one of the new innovations within, Brain Surgeon, which allows you to add a variety of inventions to the automaton INSTEAD of giving a directive upon deploying it.

While we’re on the subject of new innovations: Limited Autonomy lets 3/day an automaton activate an invention of up to half invention level the tinker can learn without being given the directive to do so. The automaton may only target itself or the target of a directive it is given. This allows for some interesting low-level combo-play. Logic Study lets you choose a 1st level invention that requires a directed action to activate. Said invention no longer requires a directive to activate, but when thus activated sans directive, it may, as before, only target the automaton or the target of the directive. These do help make the very tight action economy allow for easier comboing, particularly at lower levels.

Secondly, the pdf does state explicitly that multiple directives can be executed in a given round. One of the new inventions within, big red button, does tie into this ruling. The invention costs 2 BP and the automaton gets 3 fat, red buttons, which it may be directed to push as an immediate action. Each button may be pressed once per day, and they all have an interesting angle: +4 shield bonus to AC, minor self-healing (plus temporary hit points) and a weak shield that inflicts fire and electricity damage on those attacking it can be found. As you’ve seen, the immediate action activation is pretty novel and an explicit deviation from the standard. I like it.

As far as first level inventions are concerned, we can also find the amplification array, which is pretty cool: It fires a burst of motes that per se do not harm the target, but which enhance the next source of acid, fire or electricity damage taken before the start of the next turn. You can, undoubtedly, see the first combo forming already by now. Amplified amplification builds on that and is the 3rd level upgraded version. Minor complaint: There seems to be an error here, as the invention states that it improves the previous invention’s damage output by +2d4. The base damage increase bestowed was +2d4, though, which would result in +4d4, not +5d4, as stated. The second upgrade for the abase invention (doesn’t require the amplified amplification invention) here is flexible amplification and adds force and sonic. And yes, omission of cold is intentional. Thirdly, there would be another upgrade for the base invention that allows for a swift action activation.

Bandwagon simulator is super useful 2nd level invention, and lets an automaton use a move action to make friendly, idle automatons attack the same target. Buddy system scripting is another helpful one: If commanded to defend/support an idle automaton, doing so will cause the idle automaton to reciprocate. Why I oughta…subroutine is useful AND potentially hilarious, as the automaton taking damage is given an attack directive versus the source. “What is it doing?” “Evaporating those iron thistles…” Vending machine is another gem, as it bestows the arms invention to all automatons within 30 ft. (See, and that is why I explained the rulings above…)

There also is a massive invention tree that is founded on Heat vent, which allows the automatons to act as soft terrain control dealing minor fire damage to creatures adjacent to them, contingent on the movement of the automaton. Heat vent turbines adds minor electricity damage here; lingering heat vent lights targets on fire, and empower heat vent increases the maximum damage dealt by the base invention.

Slow and steady substructure is a 4th level (Design) invention that makes the automaton only take orders from the master of the alpha, and it may not execute directed actions granted by effects other than being issued directly by said targets. However, in exchange, all limited per day activation inventions slotted on such an automaton can be used +1/day. Also at 4th level, there would be the Hello World subroutine, which may be activated as a directed swift action, and it may only b activated as part of deploying the automaton. The invention grants basically advantage on all d20 rolls made by the automaton – until either one fails or until 1 minute passes. (The ability does state explicitly that it’s not smart to use this with long-term automatons, which is helpful for less experienced players.) The highest level and most costly invention within would be the invention logic tree, which clocks in at 3 BP and as a 5th level invention. This one lets you choose a directed action activated invention, which then no longer requires…you get it. It’s basically the built-in version of the innovation.

Now, in the beginning, I noted an invention that ties in with the combo-tastic Happy Little Automatons-pdf. That would be paint prism, a 2 BP level 1 invention that may be activated as a directed swift action. At the beginning of the automatons next turn, it selects an applied paint invention and starts shedding light of that color. All friendly automatons and the tinker, provided, he has the chromatic study innovation, within 3o ft. gain the benefits of the paint invention until the start of their next turn. This effect persists even if the automaton loses the paint invention (as you can combo with paints…and indeed, it does reward paint cycling! You see, the effect persists and changes the color if the automaton has paint changed next round. The effect only ends when the automaton would repeat a color! Really cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language, as expected. Layout adheres to the 2-column b/w-standard of the small Interjection Games-pdfs, and the pdf uses stock art and has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Of all the tinker expansions Bradley Crouch has written, this may well be one of the most crucial and rewarding ones. The inventions and innovations within allow for cool combos galore and add very much super helpful options here…to the point where I’d honestly contemplate potentially granting a few of these as hard-baked abilities in games where the power-level tends to gravitate to the higher end of the spectrum. Apart from the one die-pool size inconsistency, there are no complaints for me to field against this humble and exceedingly cool expansion. Considering the sheer utility and low price point, my final verdict will still clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Must-own purchase for fans of the tinker!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Remedial Tinkering: Artificial Intelligence
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Displaying 1 to 15 (of 4016 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
Back
0 items
 Gift Certificates