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Vathak Terrors: Cured of Ursatur
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/15/2018 07:17:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little bestiary clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this pdf with a brief introduction of the context of Ina’Oth and the deadly Plague of Shadows that ravages these lands…and the results of the methods to combat the plagues that sweep Ursatur.

The children of vinari healer Anna Schafer still haunt the places, constituting the first critter within, Anna’s Forgotten, a CR 13 undead. Born from the desperate attempts to find a cure from experimentation on children, the canonization of the good Dr as a Saint of the One True God has not helped to render the gas/miasma-themed and mist-shrouded undead rest easier in their graves. Chilling.

At CR 5, the second creature within would be the extergeist. While the plague of shadows was hard to stop, some folks tried to combat it with cleanliness. And as someone who used to be very OCD in that regard, let it be known that cleanliness can harm you…so yeah, this makes this ghosts extra chilling for me: They are those that perished, in spite of their cleaning neurosis, and they still fear disease…their touch capable of unraveling, of scrubbing away the tissue that makes up the living…and their pronounced fear of contamination beyond death making for a great Achilles’ hell. Big kudos!

The final critter makes use of one rules-innovation from the superb Gamemaster’s Guide to Ina’Oth (seriously, one of the best regional sourcebooks I know!), namely multi-stage diseases, one of which is presented here to accompany the creature. You don’t need that book to make use of the creature, but the Plague Cymoth, equal parts plague and creature, makes for a chilling finale…oh, and we actually get two feats for those that learn to…utilize their horrid parasites! Nice! (Btw.: One of them nets you a second bite in your bite, Alien-style…)

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. All 3 creatures get their own full-color artworks as well – impressive for a mere $1.50 asking price!

Landon Winkler delivers big time with these three creatures – they are all interesting and chilling in some way, and they have strong concepts and even manage to provide some mechanically interesting tricks. Honestly, you can’t ask for much more from such a humble, inexpensive pdf! This is absolutely worth getting if you even remotely like dark fantasy/horror and/or the Vathak setting! This gets 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vathak Terrors: Cured of Ursatur
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Rogues of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/15/2018 07:15:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the player-facing „...of Porphyra“-series clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 30 pages of content – and yes, regular-sized pages!

This book is intended with both the classic and unchained rogue in mind, using brown text to denote content devised for the unchained rogue. The pdf begins by acknowledging the issues the rogue class has, and the ones that the unchained rogue class has. The author does offer some introductory advice for the player, and then begins to present basically fixes for the rogue and unchained rogue class, the first of which would be alternate key abilities, which allow the rogue to choose one of two key ability modifiers to govern their skills, thus reducing the inevitable multi-attribute-dependecy of the class. As an interesting idea, the pdf suggests modified the unchained rogue’s edge to grant virtual skill points in the edge’d skills, which don’t escalate numbers, but instead are taken into account as far as skill unlocks are concerned. I do like this notion. Superior retraining starting at end level and rogue talent replacement make sense. Sneak Attack has an alternative here as well, eliminating precision damage and instead choosing one of the base damage types of the attack for the bonus damage. I assume that this bonus damage still does not multiply, but clarification would have been nice. Interaction with defenses is properly codified, though.

The pdf does suggest a houserule I have been using for years: More skill points for everyone. +2 are suggested; and take it from me, the +2 skills per level will make your roleplaying experience beyond combat much cooler. Speaking of which: This also can be said about the plethora of skill uses codified within the pages of this book – for example, there is a means of analyzing traps, a means of using Disable Device to use demolitions to destroy objects instead of pure Strength, fire starting and extinguishing, making hurdles. Interesting would also be that the pdf champions of only rolling the best Perception check of the observers to counter Stealth. This greatly speeds up the game and is one rule I have been using myself, though I do myself use a variant, where concerted search efforts do accumulate benefits. The write-up does take into account the cases in which it’s important to know who’s observing. Speaking of Stealth: A compounded Stealth modifier table is pretty helpful, and as an optional rule, the unaware condition is suggested as a possible accelerator for faster playing.

There also is a cool section here for avoiding combats: Group and Marathon Stealth can both quicken the process in a nice manner. The pdf also sports no less than 9 cantrips/low-level spells (taking occult classes etc. into account) – these include a weak ray to push objects, conjuring forth ground mist, create a blind spot or tools. One of the spells is there to purge evidence and there is a lower level version of a short-range dimension door. Not the biggest fan of the latter, but that’s a matter of aesthetics. There are 7 new feats that allow for using alternate key ability modifiers, a follow-up for Spring Attack/Shot on the Run, and there is one interesting feats that lets you respond to a charge with an immediate action to retreat. Tower shield use via Pavises is also an interesting one. There also is one feat that lets you add Dex-mod to crossbow/firearm damage – and no, it doesn’t stack with other sources of Dex to damage or Str to damage – kudos and two thumbs up. There also is a Quick Sheathe feat.

The next section is one of the reasons you will want to seriously consider getting this supplement; it’s an example of honest design-work: The rogue talent section has a list of 1st party sources of rogue talents that are suitable for unchained rogues! The pdf goes further, though: It lists talents that should have their daily limits removed, advanced talents that are now available as regular talents and vigilante talents that should be available for rogues. This list is super-handy and keeps the class more relevant. Big kudos! A similar approach was btw. taken for advanced talents, and yes, if you have come to the same conclusions as I did with the progress of the game, then these are very much super-appreciated. The pdf also contains a ton of different rogue talents that offer further options that can become pretty ridiculously potent: Stealth Exploit, for example, lets you maintain Stealth after breaking it until the end of the round, allowing you to reestablish it. I’m super-torn on this one – on one hand, it makes infiltrations for specialists more reliable; on the other hand, a well-prepared group can use this to super-deadly effects and potentially cheese enemies really bad. That is not necessarily an issue of the talent, but rather one of the engine, but yeah. Still, as a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this section, and depending on the system mastery levels of your game, this could well be a godsend of a section.

The pdf also contains no less than 10 different archetypes. The first of these would be the arcane adventurer, which is a hybrid of magus and rogue, though here, the sneak spell ability, which is intended to be the centerpiece of what makes this one unique, doesn’t properly work – it fails to designate how it actually works regarding spellcasting and “An arcane adventurer can use sneak spell on an outflanked target even if her spell is not a melee attack.” is just broken. The unchained rogue Brutal loses finesse training and gains a modified proficiency list and Combat Stamina. Solid tweak. Covins are basically mesmerist-versions of the hybrid-y magus/rogue chassis – and it, unfortunately, suffers from the same crucial issue. Everyday heroes get a vast skill list and a limited proficiency list. In a unique change of the engine, the everyday hero gets a scaling confidence pool that can be used to rerolls and skirmishing surges as well as special attacks, so called confident strikes – this pool is btw. easier to refill than even grit or panache, and the pdf does provide pretty extensive guidelines for replenishment. Instead of trapfinding, the everyday hero’s station, and confidence improves later. All in all, this is a well-made engine tweak with a distinct feeling.

Leeches gain good Fort-saves as well as Stalwart at higher levels; the archetype also gets a quite extensive array of unique talents that enhance further the already hastened mundane medicine that the archetype can apply. Using folk remedies to offset negative magical conditions etc. and using either super-quick surgery (or longer ones) for significant Con-damage regaining make this one interesting, particularly for games that make magical healing harder to come by. Mountebanks get a couple of investigator-y tricks and limited spellcasting, focusing on force effects etc. The saint of sinners is an interesting, complex fellow with a bit inquisitor thrown in. The archetype does gain a channel variant that deals damage to living and undead, and while it does note that constructs aren’t affected, the ability states that it’s a blend between positive and negative energy. This is super-problematic, as resistance and immunity interaction of the blended energy is not clear in the slightest, and many beings resistant to one component are also vulnerable to the other. Sneak channel, as a synergy ability, does actually work. The archetype also gains special abilities dubbed hoodoo, and makes for a potent, and interesting. The sapper is an interesting specialist/breach/pavise-user and is pretty neat. Solos are an interesting engine tweak – they sneak attack adjacent foes, but only if they’re not adjacent to any rogue ally. The final archetype is the most complex one – and it is this type of guy many guilds will want: Specialists: Instead of trap sense etc., you get to choose a rogue specialization, with changing later potentially possible.

The pdf comes with the lavishly-illustrated and rather dark crypt mother CR 6 monster, penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr. Really dark bonus critter!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the pdf is, for the most part, remarkably precise, top-tier even. It’s just a precious few instances where the integrity is compromised. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with purple and brown highlights, and the pdf does feature a couple of nice full-color artworks I haven’t seen before! The pdf comes with EXTENSIVE bookmarks for everything – feats, spells, talents…big kudos in the comfort department.

Carl Cramér’s Rogues of Porphyra is a surprisingly compelling grab bag for everyone that wants to see the rogue upped, power-wise, to the levels we’re seeing right now in PF’s lifecycle. The variant rules allow capable groups to cherry-pick aspects and implement them, and many of these are actually really inspiring, obviously tested and fun. It’s interesting to note that, even as late in the system’s lifecycle as this is, it still does offer novel approaches and some meaningful engine-tweaks. With the exception of a precious few blunders, this represents an excellent book. That being said, these few blunders, alas, do compromise the rules-integrity of a few aspects within, and as such, I can’t rate this as highly as I’d like to. Considering the amount of interesting options inside, though, I still do consider this to be a pdf bordering on very good. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rogues of Porphyra
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Faces of Vathak: Survivors
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/15/2018 07:12:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of NPCs clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages, so let’s take a look!

The NPC statblocks within are, ultimately, NPC-Codex style stats for general themes, with the first page providing an overview of the NPCs by CR. It should be noted, however, that these stats are not exactly standard critters, providing a relatively complex array in some cases. They also come with a brief flavor description each, and the artworks featured are clever, often using public domain art that has been twisted in certain ways – I adore this, as it provides a sense of strange realism that suits the setting’s aesthetics really well. Take, for example, the cannibalistic cleric, former clergy driven to unspeakable acts. They are statted as a CR 6 ghoul brawler/ex-cleric.

At CR 3, we have a dhampir arcanist, at CR 2 bhriota scarred rider – and this fellow, alas, has a few minor snafus in the statblock. CMB, for example, is off. Also at CR 2, we get a Romni unbreakable fighter/fortune-teller multiclass is correct once more, though. There also is a grizzled veteran at CR 1, and the soldier 2 is indeed a nice low-level opponent. The half-life heretic is interesting, in that we here have a hauntling occultist 4 – love this combo; a vindari infiltrator investigator at CR 3 is neat…and then, we have a really cool candidate for a low level boos – the CR 4 patchwork butcher, who comes with a grotesque assistant fully statted – he’d be a wretched reanimator 5.

A vengeful remnant bhriota warpriest at CR 4 and a CR 2 romni hunter, including companion stats, closes the collection.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, with only a few minor hiccups. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard, and as noted before, the full-color artworks are inspired and not something you’d expect in a pdf that is so inexpensive. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Matt Roth and Rick Hershey deliver a fun, evocative collection of NPC stats that make good use of Vathak’s unique tools – and to this day, the Vathak setting is perhaps one of the most criminally underrated settings out there. The NPCs are surprisingly cool, in spite of the intended, general appeal. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Faces of Vathak: Survivors
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Secret Societies of Vathak: The People of Ash
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/15/2018 07:08:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement depicting one of Vathak’s secret organizations clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The huantlings of Vathak that believe that they have been granted their strange state of existence by virtue of fire hold the grimoires The Litany of Ashes in particularly high regards, searching for purpose in the book as well as the fragmented memories of their fire-stained past. Those that follow this creed of fire and ash are known as the People of Ash, and as such, the organization itself mirrors the diverse social realities of Vathak, with conflict, in spite of the lax unifying rules of the informal society, being scarce.

The pdf then proceeds to depict the three locations that are most known as gathering places for the People of Ash, depicting the locations in vivid, captivating prose. Following this presentation, three leaders of the society, Grandmother Bellace, Sarkara and The Foreman are depicted in flowery, well-crafted prose – no full stats are provided for these, but we do get write-ups that do grease the engines of the GM’s imagination. These NPC write-ups are indeed intriguing, and we do get 3 further fluff-only write-ups of further members that add further complications and angles to the material presented within.

The next section familiarizes us with the tenets and truths behind the beliefs of this society, which focuses often upon the realization of the hauntling condition, and a focus on the tempering of the body/mind, as ostensibly, only the strongest souls can make the transition, which adds an elite-thinking angle to the organization. The initiation rites of the society are presented, and as far as benefits beyond roleplaying are concerned, 5 feats can be found: Tempered Soul allows you to throw off mind-affecting effects for untyped damage that may not be cheesed; Fire’s Tempering builds on that in an interesting manner; Grace of Fire’s Fury is a torch-fighter’s feat and Graceful Brand lets you use fire to end bleed effects, building on it. Rekindle Soul can make fire have restorative effects while your hp is below 0 – and yes, it has a limit to prevent abuse. Nice one! The pdf concludes with 3 well-written adventure hooks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports really nice full color artworks – impressive for the low price point asked! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity – kudos for going the extra mile!

Landon Winkler can craft compelling prose – The People of Ash are a cool secret society and sport some compelling, exciting angles to pursue. The feats are gold for grittier campaigns and retain their meaningful effects. That being said, I did wish we got some stats for the cool leaders of the society. That being said, at a paltry $1.50, this is definitely worth getting. A really nice supplement, well worthy of a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Secret Societies of Vathak: The People of Ash
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Odditional materials
Publisher: Lost Pages
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/15/2018 07:07:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of supplemental materials and hacks for Into the Odd comes as a 39-page pdf, 1 page of which is devoted to the editorial; the rest is content, as the cover and wrap-around cover are presented as .jpgs. The pages, as most of the time for OSR-type supplements, are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), though printing multiple pages on a single sheet of paper is not recommended here: The pages have pretty wide borders for map-excerpts, commentary, supplemental information or the like – or some white space. The exception here would be the final hack within, which is really making use of its allotted space, cramming a TON of information onto the page.

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

The first of these hack, “Odd Dungeons”s could be described as a blend of Into the Odd with more traditional OSR-games, such as B/X; Eric Nieudan provides a surprisingly concise and well-thought out tweak that basically replaces arcana with traditional spells, which may be coaxed into new shapes akin to how you can use Willpower to modify arcana effects. Otherwise, each spell may be cast once, which makes this iteration pretty open regarding synergy with Mageblade Zero, Adventure Fantasy Game, or any kind of longform spell you may happen to enjoy. Of course, the inclusion of spells does mean that levels matter more, healing spells and how they interact with Hit Points and Strength damage need to be accounted for – and the supplement does all of that. An alternate background table to account for the different premises is included, and sidebars quickly note the benefits of non-human races – these are kept mostly narrative. A d20-table for replacement PCs/latecomers and a d6 table to learn about what happened to your belongings while out there complements this one. The hack also includes a one-page, rather nice faction generator, where you determine origin, status, means and goals and also get a table for peculiarities. All in all, an interesting hack for the slightly more experienced crowd. Still, enjoyable – but there also is “Maze Rats”…see below.

The second hack, penned by Sean Smith, would be “Cyber:London:Odd:Hack”; in fact, this one is actually two variants of sorts; the first of these would be the default mode, dubbed “Slick Thames”, where you choose a faction (Goths, punks, hoods, corps); the attributes have been reskinned, and Hit Points now are called Nerve; the background table is a bit brief this time around; it’d have been nice to get one for each faction, but that may be me. The hack comes with 12 tactical augments, basically the cybertech equivalent of arcana, minus the coaxing. 12 cosmetic augments are provided, and there are 6 adventure hooks depicting missions; the table here erroneously noted “d12” instead of “d6” as the die to roll. The second playing mode would be the police, whose attributes, oddly, get different names, in spite of otherwise sharing quite a few rules components with the previous one. Low HP may yield psychic powers, low attributes special abilities. A few sample items and notes on advancement for the police are provided, and we get a bit refereeing advice, as well as 4 sample criminals. There is a truth to the cliché that Germans love their cyberpunk – I certainly do as a long-time Shadowrun player. That being said, a lot of cyberpunk’s draw comes from the world, and while I appreciate the Judge Dredd police playstyle, I really found myself wishing that this had more space to develop its ideas. There are quite a few tweaks to the engine that are interesting, while renaming attributes, in comparison, just takes up real estate. I’d enjoy a proper, fully-fleshed out version of this hack. As provided, it leaves something to be desired regarding the fulfillment of its tantalizing ideas and is probably a reskin that most referees could execute themselves.

The, at least to me, most impressive of the hack within, in scope, ambition and execution, would be Ben Milton’s “Maze Rats”; the game is basically a more traditional fantasy tweak of the rules of Into the Odd, supported by TABLES GALORE. I mean it. You immediately see the start of this hack, as suddenly, the pages are CRAMMED full of information, with names, personalities, differentiated weapons, appearance and adventuring gear generators, etc. I really love this hack. It codifies short rests, has a precise initiative, a simple XP-system and 11 classes that are just one sentence and still offer meaningful ability differentiation. The magic system is inspired for a rules lite game: Magic is grouped in 5 circles; these designate damage caused, range, etc. in a precise and helpful manner; oh, and you build spells via 3 100-entry-strong tables; One denotes [effects], one [elements], one [form] – this is absolutely GLORIOUS. It’s a kind of freeform that allows for serious creative freedom, while still providing a solid rules-chassis that makes sure spellcasting does not become competitive BSing. Creatures, items and afflictions and even weird potion effects get their own, massive entries. I ADORE this one. “Maze Rats” cleans up a couple of the issues of “Into the Odd” and does so with panache aplomb. This is a prime example of how damn good a hack can be, and I’d honestly consider this hack to be required reading for Into the Odd referees. Mechanically, this is easily the strongest part of this book and warrants getting it on its own!

Now, this constitutes the hacks that are included within – beyond these, however, we have a couple of “odds and ends,” if you will: Brian Wille presents 4 new arcana for our edification, which include a magnetic, projectile-deflecting chapeau (heck yeah!), a massive plasma gun, a mechanized arachnid (stats included) and a device to animate the dead as a fighting force. Once more, stats are included. Kamil Węgrzynowicz also has a section of such oddities, presenting two genuinely creepy, fully statted monsters: The pretty nasty owlpeople and screaming pyrmaids of pulsating flesh, as well as an ancient sludge that can transform those it touches – I loved these critters! The article also mentions an area of Bastion that phased out of the world, only to randomly reappear…and there is this potentially addictive building. Oh, and oath-enhancing stones? Pretty nasty. Now, I’m not trying to be a dick here, but the editor’s note that claims that not tampering with the text too much was done to retain the author’s voice feels like a bad excuse. I absolutely adore Kamil’s contributions here, but a few editing tweaks versus plural errors and the like would not have compromised the integrity of the awesome concepts and prose, particularly in the adventure.

Adventure? Yep, this booklet also contains two adventures/explorable locations, with Kamil Węgrzynowicz’s “In Search Of Samson Aubrey” being the first of these, and it really gets the subtle tone of the industrial-revolution-plus-weird-themes of “into the Odd” and represents a nice little adventure, though, as noted, editing would have made it potentially even great. The second adventure, penned by Eric Nieudan, would be the “Nightlight Circus”, which pits the PCs against a new gang operating a gambling den, one that has a distinct Joker-esque style, though they do seem to be remarkably benign… This one’s another winner. And no, I’m not going into the details here – the pdf is PWYW, after all, so you can read those yourself. Both come with maps, but sans player-friendly versions of the maps.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are one of the weakest parts of this book; a more unified direction would have made sense. Layout adheres either to a one-column or two-column (Maze Rats) standard and is pretty much no-frills b/w. Cartography is b/w and okay. Annoyingly, the electronic version has no bookmarks. The softcover PoD is really inexpensive, though, so getting it may be a smart move if you enjoy the content. I have the PoD and found it easier to navigate than the pdf.

Ben Milton, Kamil Węgrzynowicz, Eric Nieudan, Brian Wille and Sean Smith have created a fun book of bits and pieces that can really enrich your Into the Odd game – mechanically, the Maze Rats hack is super-interesting and inspiring, and the arcana ideas and Kamil’s monsters in particular made me smile. The adventures are a nice plus as well. That being said, don’t expect Lost Pages’ usual level of polish here; this is a bonus booklet of sorts, and while offering it for PWYW certainly makes it worth getting, I do think that, with a bit more attention to detail, this could have been truly great. As written, I consider the totality of this book to be worth a verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Odditional materials
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Into the Odd
Publisher: Lost Pages
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/14/2018 06:08:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This roleplaying game/sourcebook clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

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

All right, I’ve already referenced this little RPG in quite a few of my reviews of rules lite systems, so it’s high time I covered this one!

Now, the game’s chassis is remarkably simple in its presentation, though the game does indeed work best for roleplaying game veterans. The extremely condensed presentation makes explanation and grasping the basics simple, but total novices may need some guidance. While the game is counted among the OSR-game systems, it significantly deviates from the traditional rules chassis.

Into the Odd knows three attributes: Strength, Dexterity and Willpower. You roll 3d6 for each. Then you roll d6. These final d6 are your starting Hit Points.

The other rules are similarly basic: In order to succeed a save, you roll with a d20 equal to or under your attribute. 1 always succeeds, 20 is always a failure. Combat is divided into Turns. The head of the group makes a Dex save to determine who goes first. This is one of the few instances where the rules are aggravating in their brevity. More precision on how initiative works would have been nice. On the PC’s turn, they can move and perform one action – attacks are an action, and here the game really differentiates itself from other games. You see, when you attack, you ALWAYS HIT. Same goes for enemies. This makes combat fast, but also really, really deadly. Damage depends on the weapon you wield, and two factors: Cover or other problems reduce damage to d4, while epic, dangerous stunts, attacks from behind, etc. increase damage to d12 – these damage de/increases are known as “impaired” and “enhanced”, respectively. Armor reduces damage incurred, but not by much. The system is very offense-heavy.

If a character takes damage, they lose that many Hit Points; once they have no Hit Points left, they instead reduce their Strength by the excess amount. Once you take damage to Strength, you also need to make a Strength save or take critical damage. If you take critical damage, you have 1 hour, during which an ally needs to tend to you – barring that, you die. Additionally, you can’t take anymore actions until you’ve completed a short rest, which is defined as a “a few minutes” – no precise amount is given, and a short rest recovers all hit Points lost. Full Rests take a whole week and also restores damage incurred to all ability scores.

Okay, but what if you rolled really badly on the ability scores and hit points? Well, that’s one of the cooler ideas of the game: The background package. You consult a table and look at your highest Ability Score and your Hit Points: If your highest ability score’s a whopping 18 and you managed to roll 6 Hit Points…you’ll start the game with a mace, a pigeon…and disfigured. If your highest ability score is 3-9 and you only have 1 Hit Point, you get a sword, a pistol, modern armor and the ability to sense nearby unearthly beings. What does that mean? What’s “nearby”?

Well, this is at the very latest where you’ll fall on one side of the spectrum or another. This game very much focuses on one aspect of the ideology associated with the OSR, and that would be “rulings, not rules.” While the book later tells you that the referees task is to maintain consistency throughout campaigns, the matter of fact remains that quite a few of these components could have used some more detailed commentaries, at least some rudimentary guideline. In the example above, stating that the character goes first when encountering such targets sans rolling would not have taken up much real estate. Now, this is my personal opinion, but I have seen more than oen really rules-lite game that is CRISP and PRECISE in its rules, and this book, for the most part, fits into this category. This makes such instances even more glaring, at least for me as a person. But I’ll swallow this for now and revert to my reviewer stance.

Characters advance after completed expeditions – the game, as a default, knows basically 5 levels. On a survived expedition, you gain d6 hit points and roll d20 for each ability score. If you roll higher than the score, you increase it by 1. Kudos: There are quick and dirty rules for running businesses, organizations and the like; these fit on a single page.

The background packages also ties in with equipment: Coinage is pennies (p), shillings (s) and guilder (g); 100 pennies make a shilling, 100 shillings make a guilder. The equipment comes with sample prices, with aforementioned super-powers one exception of unpriced components. Similarly, the “penalties” for good rolls are not really priced. You may end up as mute, for example. This isn’t that bad (unless it annoys you while roleplaying), as there is no spellcasting in the traditional sense. Instead, PCs that rolled badly can get a so-called “Arcanum.”

Arcana are the main source of magic here – they basically are magic/super-science items that everyone covets, and chances are, you’ll have a few of them in your starting group. Arcana are grouped in three categories: 20 regular arcana are provided and allow you to seal doors, windows, etc. fold space between flat surfaces, speak with other beings, blind targets, etc. The ideas here are great, and same holds true for greater and legendary arcana, though these can only be gotten by adventuring. A page is devoted to sample ideas for them as well, and the GM-section does provide a few more ideas for arcana. It is a bit puzzling to me that the GM-section arcana differentiates between one-use/consumables and weapons, but does not employ the same clarification for the arcana presented. I adore the concepts here, though I don’t fully grasp why particularly unlucky characters can’t have more potent arcana. The background table, as cool as it is, does not always feel even it its reward-ratios.

If you want an example on how opaque an Arcanum can be, let me quote the Pressure Needle’s, a greater arcanum’s, entire text: “If the target takes critical damage today, they explode in a bloody mess.” Okay, so is this a weapon? Does it require that you see the target? Just know it? How often can it be used? If you don’t care about ANY of these questions, then you’ll absolutely adore the rules presented here. If you do, however, then this will prove to e somewhat frustrating for you. Needlessly so, I might add – establishing one set of brief global rules for arcana use could have preempted a lot of the confusion these may cause. And it’s not like the book doesn’t have the space. And, even if you prefer the purely narrative ruling component – the book does already have that! By using Willpower, you can coax arcana to do things that are not their usual function! (As an aside: I really love this wide-open means of using arcana in creative ways, and we even get an example; I’m not against the like – but it’d be better and cooler if the base functions, you know, where precise…)

The referee section is similarly quick, painless and to the point: We get some general advice on how to describe the game; that, if luck’s called for, you roll a d6, with a high result favoring players. We get simple, global rules for monsters, a couple of actually pretty cool sample creatures and a page of hazards. Creatures and hazards tie in what, to me, makes the main selling point of this game, namely the setting constantly implied through the rules and Arcanum-based operations: That would be the “Odd World”, where Bastion, the Bas-Lag-ish hub of mankind serves as the massive heart of civilization in a dangerous world.

14 pages of this book are devoted to the Oddpendium, basically a massive array of generators found in the back, which partially is intended to help you make Bastion come alive. It allows for quick name generation. Beyond that, the generators provide occupations and capabilities, manners exhibited and connections, things that may have befallen the NPCs, and more. Generators to establish the feeling of streets, whether there are means to access the honeycomb-like underground and sample businesses can be found. Oh, and there is a table that features “Insane Council Decisions”, including a public response chart. I really smiled when reading that “War with all other cities” is deemed just as insane as “outlawing same-sex marriage.” The Oddpendium also features two pages of tables for creature inspirations and two that let you determine what’s in the darkness beyond. This is btw. a good place to note that “darkvision”, while mentioned, isn’t codified at all in the book, so yeah – you’re probably getting a good picture of whether this is for you or not. From a layout point of view, the Oddpendium, while really helpful, does feel like page-bloat: Its tables only cover about 2/3rds of the page, leaving a lot of white space in an already slim booklet. Space that could have been filled with more entries per table. I strongly suggest implementing the citycrawl-tricks from Vornheim when running Bastion – the tables alone will not suffice to make it come alive, as information is a bit sparse. While I did enjoy the 3 pages of playing examples, I honestly would have preferred the space used otherwise.

The final 9 pages of this booklet I need to talk about would present basically an introductory adventure. These pages are actually placed before the Oddpendium in the booklet (makes sense, since you’ll be using the generators more often) and include a brief settlement write-up, as well as a mini-hexcrawl and a dungeon – oddly, the dungeon is depicted before the mini hexcrawl that leads to it. There are no player-friendly versions of the maps includes for VTT-play or the like. However, random encounter tables very much are included in the module, and the wilderness section even gets a weather table. Nice!

The following paragraphs will contain SPOILERS, as I’ll discuss briefly the adventure included in the book. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! So yeah, this adventure is an exercise in extremely concise writing, as you can see in the wilderness of the Fallen Marsh:

“House (sinking into marsh, cleared out, broken crockery, furniture smashed and burned); Woodshed (sinking into marsh, tools, dead horse).” This is minimalist, yes, but it manages to actually evoke atmosphere, with critters barely taking up more room than that and coming with unique tricks. Balck coral’s cold and extinguishes flame; anemones attempt to create drones, bunkers hide critters that can instantly kill you with critical damage in a manner befitting of horror games… This is inspired. Same goes for the dungeon, which is an exploration of an Iron Coral that has recently grown. It includes new arcana, cool critters and hazards and makes, combined with the wilderness, for one of the best introductory modules I’ve read in quite a while. Big kudos, for this really left me craving for more in this weird world!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are either nigh perfect or barely good, depending on how you look at it; on a formal level, there is nothing to complain about, but whether or not you’ll enjoy the rules depends wholly on whether you can tolerate the unnecessary amount of rulings you’ll need to make. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard. The artworks in b/w throughout deserve special mention – they are weird, inspiring and neat indeed; the pdf has a full-color illustration on the inside of the front cover, which, alas, is just b/w in the PoD booklet. Big downside for the pdf: The electronic version has NO BOOKMARKS. In this day and age, this is a HUGE bummer and comfort detriment, particularly for a core book. I strongly suggest getting print here; for the electronic version, detract a whole star from my final verdict.

Reading the above and really analyzing this book made me more critical of Chris McDowall’s “Into the Odd” than I was going into this review. You see, the game succeeds at many of its tasks in admirable ways; it presents a fast-paced, deadly and fun game that is PERFECT for convention games, long train rides and similar occasions. It’s easy to grasp, fast to learn and precise in its presentation regarding its core functionality. Ultimately, the book, though, tries to have its cake and eat it, too. On the one hand, it’s really rules-lite and easy to grasp, but on the other hand, it offers a lot of exceptions and small tidbits that require some GM-experience and a continuously building amount of rulings that need to be kept consistent, when a single paragraph of super-basic global rules, when a single explanatory line, would have sufficed to exterminate this vagueness and made things more comfortable for the referee. This is NOT a question of rules lite vs. rules heavy, mind you – it’s just a matter of precision in the details, and this is where the system struggles. The precision only extends to the big picture, when it’s obvious that this pretty thin booklet could have easily fitted the required rules inside. Cut down on the blank space, on the needlessly extensive playing example…just to name two options. I am harping on this to the extent I am, because Into the Odd is so damn close to being a 5 star + seal of approval masterpiece, only to struggle in these unnecessary instances.

That being said, I still very much found myself liking this book, mainly due to the amazing and compelling implied setting that made me really wish there had been more space devoted to it, that there’d have been more detail for Bastion etc. This is truly atmospheric and the setting and rules generate this weird union that keeps this book compelling and a good reading experience.

So, how to rate this? Well, I won’t lie, there are few systems that have made me grit my teeth to this extent; Into the Odd is frankly genius in its simplicity when it does things right; and this extends to the rules, their presentation and the setting. However, it suddenly becomes inconsistent in its details, and this is, in a book of this quality, just frustrating to witness. Without adding much in the way of complexity, with but a few paragraphs, this could have been something truly special and my favorite rules lite game out there. As presented, it is a game that you’ll love if you don’t mind the inconsistencies in the details and requirements for quite a lot of rulings; for those who want precision, I can only tentatively recommend this, though the implicit setting and the module do make this worth checking out. My final verdict, much to my chagrin, can thus not exceed 4 stars. I sincerely hope that there’ll be a second version some day – the engine and setting deserve as much, deserve this added notch that will make them phenomenal.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Odd
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Starfarer's Codex: Toonimancy
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/14/2018 06:05:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Starfarer’s Codex-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, the introduction specifies that technomancers can access magic tied t more than physical technology, mentioning search engines (digimancy), dubthurgy and spamorcery. Damn, now I really want a spamorcery-specialist! Anyways, younger technomancers (and those nerdy/young at heart) enjoy toonimancy, drawing upon concepts popularized by cartoons. This write up also mentions the Tooninomicon. It often comes in physical versions and contains this warning, in dozens of languages: “Warning! You are not B. Bunny!” Oh yeah? Yeah!

Anyways, we get a brief list that codifies spells by levels, just before we get the spells themselves. Anvil has a Medium range and comes in 6 versions – one for each spell level, and it targets a single creature or object, dropping an…anvil on them. Or, you know, pianos, safes, etc. Comparing the respective damage values with Starfinder’s spells, I have no complaints here. Ban hammer also comes in a version for level 1 – 6, and generates a massive, two-handed hammer with “BAN” written on it. It is massive, unwieldy, and critical hit effects as well as special weapon properties make sense. You btw. attack with caster level + key ability score. You may choose to end the ban hammer upon hitting a target – if you do, the target must save or be forced to move away from you. I’d love to have that IRL sometimes…

Boomspittle is a 5th level spell that may only be cast as a reaction while being an the area of a multiple-squares-targeting weapon attack that fails to hit you, or against which you successfully save. You inhale the weapon effect, and may then blow forth a harmless puff of smoke, or exhale the weapon’s blast! Heck yeah!! Control argument is a 1st level spell and makes the target disagree with everything you say. This made me smile so widely… The 3rd level spell coyote curse makes it impossible for the target to use technological or hybrid weapons, vehicles or equipment, including armor upgrades, but nor armor, without taking an extra move action to fix an annoying difficulty, a bizarre slip. I love this spell. I’m spo going to use its effects as a really brutal high-level terrain hazard!

Finger in the Muzzle is a 1st level spell that may only be cast as a reaction while adjacent to a target firing a ranged weapon. You put the finger in the muzzle. The target saves, and on a failure, for some backfire shenanigans. Neat! Flat foot is 2nd level and smashes a foe taking bludgeoning damage comically flat, making them…flat-footed. That is so funny on a meta-level, I actually laughed. Passpaint is a 4th level spell that lets you paint a gate in the time-honored tradition. Really neat. Shave-and-a-hair-cut forces targets to make a Will save or loudly proclaim “two bits” as a result of your knocks and take a move action or guarded step towards you – interesting 1st level spell. Theme music lets you hear your own theme music, inaudible to anyone else. This penalizes Perception…but it makes you automatically aware of danger – the music changes! It also can allow you to get a hunch of a given situation.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no hiccups on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports fitting, cartoon-y artworks. The pdf does come with basic bookmarks, in spite of the brevity.

Owen K.C. Stephens’ toonimancy is amazing. The spells are genuinely funny, immaculately balanced and befitting of the quality we expect from Strafinder’s Lead. This is an all-killer, no filler collection of inspiring spells with even the fluff providing some damn cool ideas. I really found myself wishing for more, and indeed, in Starfinder, this works perfectly regarding aesthetics. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Starfarer's Codex: Toonimancy
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Star Log Deluxe: Starfarer Grafts
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/14/2018 06:02:43

An Endzeitgeist.com

This extra-long installment of the Star Log-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 8.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, this one is something completely different. Everyman Gaming and Rogue Genius Games have been at the vanguard of Starfinder content from the get-go; the massive Starfarer’s Companion book would be one such example. Now, here’s the thing – quite a lot of the releases of the companies managed to predate the Alien Archive, which means that NPC/Monster-creation couldn’t be taken into account.

Well, this book remedies that for quite a wide variety of different sources. To be more precise: We get the creature subtype grafts for the Starfarer’s Companion races, as well as for the Skinwalkers, gnolls, ganzi and msvokas introduced in the Star Log.EM-series. The traits are concisely codified and leave nothing to be desired, with level-dependent feat effects etc. accounted for.

The pdf also does feature class grafts, and this section does include the legacy classes pioneered in the Starfarer’s Companion and the stand-alone Witch Legacy class. I am not particularly fond of these legacy classes, but plenty of folks are; plus, balance concerns are less important for the creation of potent adversaries, so yeah. The presentation of these class grafts is concise and precise; Skill, ability score modifiers, required array – all precisely presented. Per class, we do get more than 10 ability-by-Cr-entries in respective tables; how many do depend on the class. Some get 14 entries, some just 11. Perhaps that’s just me being greedy or, well, kinda OCD, but getting those for all CRs would have been nice, if only for completion’s sake. Nice: Regarding gear, e.g. paladins and rangers get separate entries for melee or ranged focus, though oddly, formatting isn’t consistent here. For the ranger, the headers are italicized for the gear sub-focuses, while, for the paladin, they’re bolded. That is just a cosmetic hiccup, though.

A neat plus, at least for me, was the inclusion of the Zoomer-class pioneered by Everyman Gaming in the array. The Aeoncarnate base class is similarly included, but I do not own this particular class, so unfortunately, I can’t comment on the virtue of its implementation.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good; apart from cosmetic, minor snafus, I encountered no issues. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard of the series and the pdf does have a nice artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, which usually isn’t a problem for files of this size, but considering the reference-character of this pdf, it is a bit of a pity. I’d advise you to print out the file and add it to your Alien Archive.

This is one of the pdfs that just screams “I have been a mindnumbing labor to make” to me, and I’m glad that Alexander Augunas sat down and did all the work that assembling these must have been. And don’t get me wrong: The like IS work. Take it from my own design experience. Heck, even reviewing this took MUCH longer than the brevity of this review would make you believe. Flip open all those pdfs, check…you get the idea. In short: This is an incredibly handy little pdf if you’re looking for the graft-information for all these aforementioned books supported within. It is definitely worth getting, particularly if you’re like me and this type of work sends you into a GM-ing-procrastination spiral. So yeah, this is USEFUL. That’s its focus, and it delivers. 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log Deluxe: Starfarer Grafts
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Starfarer's Codex: Legacy Gunslinger
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2018 04:47:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Starfarer’s Codex-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, the first thing you’ll notice regarding these class options, is that gunslinging herein is not limited to the options of a new class; instead, there is a variety of ways to get the respective gunslinging tricks you want. Operatives may choose the gunslinger specialization, which has Intimidate and Perception as associated skills and allows for the use of Perception to make trick attacks. As a specialization exploit, you can choose any gunslinger ability of 9th level or lower. At 11th level, you may choose one gunslinger ability of 18th level or lower. You may select a possessively named ability, even if you have already selected abilities from other possessives. This is obviously a nomenclature issue, since the term is not clarified later. Instead, this should refer to method abilities.

A soldier gunslinger can select the gunslinging fighting style as either primary or secondary fighting style (not both), granting you a gunslinging ability at 1st,5th, 9th, 13th and 17th level. Abilities of your character level or your soldier level +1, whichever is better. There also is a gunslinger archetype: This requires proficiency in small arms, longarms or sniper rifles. At 2nd, 4th, 6th, 9th, 12th and 18th level, you may choose to gain gunslinging abilities. There also is a Gunslinger combat feat, which lets you choose one gunslinging ability of your character level or less; it may be taken multiple times.

Now, we’ve been mentioning these gunslinging abilities a lot, so let’s take a look at them! These abilities are organized by level and belong to specific methods – basically ability trees/families. The limitations imposed on characters regarding their choices is a neat idea – but it would have been even neater with an actual list/table listing the methods available. As written, you have to extrapolate the methods available from the respective ability-write-ups, which is an unnecessary comfort detriment.

The abilities per se are pretty interesting and do some creative things, even when referring to Pathfinder abilities that tended to elicit tired yawns in the original: When a ranged attack would theoretically miss you, you can choose to take it to stagger a few steps (10 ft.) around dramatically, taking minimum damage. The ability may be used more often than once, but doing so requires Resolve Point expenditure to do so sans resting. I also really liked the ability to set up basically turrets and similar traps – the rules here are tight, though, in a potentially confusing decision, the ability does not specify whether it uses Engineering or Mysticism to disable the traps placed. I assume Engineering, since it makes more sense, but theoretically, magical weaponry and the like would make sense with Mysticism as well. Some guidelines there would have been very much appreciated.

Better harrying fire, heavy armor proficiency, scaling grenade tricks. I am not 100% happy with the ability that nets fortification from the get-go: It does cost Resolve and a reaction to use, but considering the price of force fields that provide an unreliable means of negating critical hits, this does seem like a bit overkill for a 1st level ability. That being said, gunslinger’s dodge is actually fun here: It lets you move and nets an AC-bonus against the triggering attack, so yeah, it can actually matter. Nice one! There also is an interesting one that lets you create experimental weaponry that could inject e.g. vials or even spell ampoules at range, though at the cost of increased reloading durations – all of these special tricks do have their drawbacks to avoid breaking the item’s power. Like it. Pistolero, on the other hand, pretty much is a bit creepy for me: It allows you to execute a full attack as a standard action when wielding only small arms, and while it does have limitations imposed and an anti-abuse caveat, I am not sold on it: While the solarian’s solar acceleration zenith revelation has additional tricks added, it’s significantly higher level than 1st, and Starfinder’s increased ranged combat focus does make the movement more valuable. More nasty: Full actions do prevent swift action use, and this ability allows the gunslinger to avoid this limitation. It’s not necessarily broken, but for future-proofing, I’d definitely further elaborate upon the limitations this should have; as written, it only prevents full action or standard action-based attack options, and it’s probably just a matter of time before swift action-based tricks enter the fray.

Making a last reaction shot before being knocked unconscious, however, is a nice one. Determining randomly which target to shoot can net you a bonus, and there is a nice support ability as well. At range dirty trick (with trick attack synergy, if available!) and unlocking the soldier’s grenade expert at 3rd level, would be two examples for well-placed abilities regarding their power. Making precisely-aimed penetrating shots is also an angle I very much enjoyed, and quicker reloading for signature weapons is neat as well. Knockdown when hitting targets twice, with one of the hits being critical, is similarly a fun one. Rendering foes flat-footed that are subject to harrying fire or covering fire makes for a nice 6th level ability. Targeting shots and similar classics have been translated to Starfinder in often creative ways. I also liked the staggering warning shot. It should be noted that, starting 9th level, we no longer get a metric ton of new abilities for all methods – only 3 per level-range are provided, with only Gun Tank and Ace Shooter having high-level exclusives unlocked at 12th level for the taking. All in all, while I do consider some of the abilities potentially problematic and pretty strong, I found myself liking this section very much.

The next section is pretty damn cool: Dare feats. Dare feats are unique in that they are inactive most of the time. As long as you have Resolve, the Dare feats are inactive: They only kick in once your Resolve runs out! As soon as you regain Resolve, the Dare once more becomes inactive. Anyone can take these, and they are interesting in that they could have easily been broken. Making smart use of Starfinder’s significant enemy concept, the regaining of Resolve via the specific conditions provided by the feats is not cheesable. Big kudos – I think this concept could carry even more!

The final section provides the gunslinger base class: Dexterity is the key-ability modifier, 7 + Con Stamina, 6 HP, 5 + Int skills per level, proficiency with basic melee weapons, grenades, small arms, longarms, sniper weapons. You gain Weapon Specialization for all weapons this class gets proficiency with. The class has full BAB-progression and goo Ref- and Will-saves. 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter nets a bonus feat, and the class starts with 2 gunslinger abilities and gains more at most levels – except those that net bonus feats of the grit ability increases. Grit is gained at 7th level and is 1 point that acts as a Resolve Point that may only be used to stay in the fight or to power gunslinging abilities. It does NOT qualify for having Resolve left – nice catch! The first time per day you kill or critically hit a significant enemy, you regain 1 Grit. 11th level and every 4 levels thereafter increase grit by +1. The class table is wrong here: 15th level should read “Grit+3”, 19th “Grit+4.” 7th level provides a decreased penalty with ranged full attacks; 13th level the three attack full attack and the capstone makes the gunslinger count as always having 1 Resolve left for gunslinging abilities. One gunslinging ability costing Resolve also does not cost Resolve anymore.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, though not perfect: the class table glitch is nasty, and there are a couple of instances where the otherwise precise rules-language could be a tiny bit more specific. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports quite a few really neat full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Owen K.C. Stephens flexes his design-muscles here, big time – while it may not have sounded like this in my review above, but this, from a design-perspective, an amazing pdf to read: Starfinder is a complex game, and writing rules-syntax for it is potentially harder than for Pathfinder. After all, accounting for general archetypes and critical effects, etc. adds to the things you have to bear in mind. Now, that being said, this is SUPER-impressive, as befitting of the Starfinder design-lead!

I tried really hard to poke some holes into this book, but frankly, I couldn’t come up with much: Apart from typo-level glitches, a few instances noted above, and the table glitch, my main concerns here lie in the future-proofing of a scant few abilities. That in mind, I am left with a few minor hiccups and said concerns, which leave me at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo. That being said, this is mechanically intriguing in multiple ways and manages to even make abilities that were bland in PFRPG matter in their new iterations. For this, the pdf does get my seal of approval. My favorite SFRPG-book by Rogue Genius Games so far, and a worthy addition to the game!!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Starfarer's Codex: Legacy Gunslinger
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Star Log.EM-022: Magic Hacks
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2018 04:45:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As before, we have a nice little flavorful contextualization of the subject matter in the Xa-Osoro system, noting the influence of the “Cult of .//ALL”, which I considered to be rather inspiring.

The pdf sports 3 different 2nd level hacks; Arcing Charge lets you expend an unused spell slot as a move action to charge a weapon, transforming its damage to inflict electricity damage. Nice catch: The weapons, if targeting KAC, still do so. If it does not have the arc critical effect, it gains this one for the duration; otherwise, the arc-range is expanded by 5 ft. per spell level of the spell slot expended. The hack’s duration lasts for 1 minute per level of the spell slot expended. Burning and Chilling charge are the energy type swapped fire and cold damage equivalents of this one, with burn and stagger critical effects instead, respectively. Already pre-existing such properties instead have their DCs improved for these. While the DC-increase thus possible can be pretty massive, the limited nature and cost here can be considered to be suitable.

There also are 3 5th level magic hacks: Animate File lets you expend a spell slot as a full action to search for recently-deleted files. You make a Computers check to hack, and on a success, identify all recently deleted files, with the spell slot level determining how far in the past you can reach. After this, you may spend any number of Resolve Points. You restore 2 such files per level of the spell slot expended, and gain an untyped bonus to Fortitude saves for an hour equal to the number of Resolve Points spent. The Fort-boost feels weird to me and doesn’t really make sense for me, but your mileage may vary.

The philosopher’s flash drive can be created during a 10-minute rest o regain Stamina while spending Resolve. To do so, you must sacrifice an unused spell slot. Thereafter, you can choose a transmutation spell of a level equal to the sacrificed spell’s one or lesser. That spell is then uploaded to the drive and may be used by any creature with the datajack augmentation as a swift action. Upon doing so, the spell immediately targets the creature, as though you had cast the spell. The hack takes customizing the drive into account, and notes the DC to hack these locked drives. Spells stored persist, but prevent that you regain the spell stored, preventing you from cheesing the ability. Upon regaining daily spell slots, you can choose to have all such drives cease functioning. Using a flash drive consumes it. Problematic here: RAW, this allows for the sharing of Target: Personal spells, which is something I’d eye with care. A caveat that limits spells stored would make sense here to future proof this.

Thirdly, encyclopedic cache lets you, when regaining spells and Resolve, spend 1 Resolve to select a spell on the class spell list of any level you can cast, but don’t know. You may then cast the spell instead of one you know. Problematic here: The hack does not note a condition for the reversal of the spell, which means you can slowly swap out your total spell load out. This should have a limitation.

The pdf also features two 8th level hacks: When determining the spells active in the cache capacitor, you may choose to it to ping magic instead of putting a spell in it – if you have the new Ping Magic hack, that is. If you do, you automatically detect magic (italicization missing) at the start of your turn sans action. The interval depends on the level where you take the hack – once per minute, per 5 rounds, or per round. You gain information as though you concentrated on every object in the 20 ft. ping burst. This is a cool idea, but the constant detect can be supremely annoying for the GM. The Summoned State Drive hack, finally, interacts in an analogue manner with the cache capacitor. You get to choose one creature per spell level you can cast summon monster that you could have chosen as summonable, but didn’t. This allows for better summoning flexibility. Once more, I think that a bit limiting would be nice here.

The pdf also offers the Adaptable Spell Hack feat. This nets you 3 magic hacks you don’t have, but whose prerequisites you meet and whose minimum level is equal to half your technomancer level or less. Once per day as a move action, you can get one of these for a minute. When gaining a level, you may switch out a hack, and the feat may be taken multiple times, granting an additional daily use for every time you take it. Note that you still can’t generate hack-chains thus, courtesy of the precise verbiage. Potent and restricted, but viable. Like it.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, some minor caveats added would probably make sense. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a nice artwork, but sans bookmarks. The pdf doesn’t need them at this length.

Sasha Hall delivers an interesting, creative and precise pdf. Now, I am a bit weary regarding future-proofing of a few of the options herein, as the flexibility offered can be construed to be rather potent and will exponentially increase with the system maturing. Thus, a couple of limiting caveats would imho make sense. Still, as a whole, I consider this to be a well-crafted supplement. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of the platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-022: Magic Hacks
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20 Things #26: Townsfolk & Villagers (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2018 04:44:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the #20 Things-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, this one is slightly more straightforward than most installments of the series, focusing exclusively, as the title promises, on folks you can meet in smaller settlements – we get one page devoted to one type of person, which makes sense from an organization paradigm and makes sure you find what you’re looking for quickly and without much hassle. As always in this series, suggested alignments are noted in brackets alongside general age categories, races and classes, if any. The latter employ old-school nomenclature for classes, speaking of thieves and magic-users.

The first of these groups would be the destitute – beggars and vagabonds: Here, we can find the desperate, crippled former soldiers, servants of wealthy families out for revenge after having been thrown out and more. The motivations of these folk make sense and are sufficiently versatile. Oddly, the bookmark to the second cadre of folks does not jump to the correct page: Instead of arriving on the soldiers and guards page, we end up on the beggar/vagabond-page. The page of the guards and soldiers paints a diverse picture, including those that have fallen on hard times, a towering femal blacksmith-turned-fighter and even an incognito spy.

Among the merchants and tradespersons, we have dog-persons, a trader who wants to please folks and as a result, is easy to haggle down and a striking psychopath sans morals. A truly charitable, good person is also part of the roster here. 10 peasants and serfs include those that always find themselves in the midst of drama, old folks with a penchant for friendly rambling and a good-hearted lady that sometimes goes out to collect medicinal herbs – in spite of that not being exactly safe… This one also links to the previous page.

The second aspect of this pdf would be a general array of 20 encounter hooks that allows you to establish NPCs having bad days, being fascinated by the PCs, recovering from an injury, etc. – I really liked this section, though I did find myself wishing it was a bit longer.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to an elegant, minimalist 2-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports a couple of really nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though two bookmarks are not perfectly working, and the pdf comes in two different versions, one of which is optimized for screen-use, and one is optimized for printing it out.

Creighton Broadhurst’s NPC-dressing file provides some really neat window-dressing for the often overlooked NPCs that are populating our fantasy towns, and as such, this is a helpful, fun little pdf. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like e.g. a designated pdf just for traders, one just for serfs etc. would have added to the value here. We get a good jack-of-all-trades file with this pdf, but the dressing here could have gone a bit further into the depths. Compared to the excellence that this series has established, this one struck me as slightly less impressive, and as such, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down – very much worth getting, but not as mind-blowing as his best dressing-files.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #26: Townsfolk & Villagers (System Neutral Edition)
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Creator Reply:
Glad you liked this one, End, but sorry it didn't totally hit the spot for you this time! In any event, as always, thanks for taking the time to write the review.
Legendary Gunslingers
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/12/2018 05:18:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the player-centric/class redesign books clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content – as always for Legendary Games, these pages are packed with materials, so rest assured that there’s a LOT of content within!

Now, I’ve been pretty vocal about the copious issues that the gunslinger class has, so let’s start with the big selling point of this pdf – the Legendary Gunslinger base class. Now, in an interesting aside, the pdf already shows a level of care absent from many comparable files: The class table does come with a short note that allows groups that do not operate under the assumption of firearms targeting touch AC to make full use of it. It’s a small thing, but it’s the kind of “going the extra mile”-mentality I really appreciate.

Now, let’s take a look at the chassis: Legendary Gunslingers are proficient with simple and martial weapons as well as with all firearms and light armor, get d8 HD, and thank the 7 heavens, they actually get SKILLS. 6 + Int mod per level. And yes, these include Swashbuckling staples like Acrobatics, Bluff, Swim, Stealth, etc. The chassis of the class is also interesting in that it implements a change I have always been pretty vocal about: The gunslinger does NOT need full BAB; targeting touch AC for the most part makes math wonky at high levels for full BAB characters. Thus, the legendary gunslinger gets ¾ BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Ref-saves.

The legendary gunslinger gets a blunderbuss, musket or pistol at first level and this weapon may only be sold for scrap; other creatures treat it as broken. We also get Gunsmithing, however, ammo etc. may be crafted for 1% of the base price. This means that legendary gunslingers no longer break the bank of really gritty low level groups. Also at first level, the legendary gunslinger gets to add Dex-mod to firearm damage, though this bonus damage caps at class level until 5th level. (this ability is called “gun training”, fyi.) Additionally, misfire values are reduced by 1 to a minimum of 0, and broken firearms only increase misfire values by 2, not by 4. Grit is still governed by Wisdom modifier (minimum 1). A really big plus here would be that the legendary gunslinger’s grit-recharge mechanics allow for the regaining of grit via successful saving throws. And before you ask: YES, this is utterly and remarkable cheesing-proof. No chance to abuse it whatsoever. Big kudos!

At 2nd level, we get +1/2 class level to Perception, and choose two Int or Cha-based skills and use Wisdom instead as governing attribute. With the skill-array, this makes gunslinger faces very much possible. Nice! Also at second level, we get a significant alteration as far as design paradigms are concerned: We get the first so-called gun mastery, with every 3 levels thereafter granting another one. Yes, this means what you think it means: The class, finally, actually has meaningful player-agenda and build-diversification built straight into its chassis. Some deeds have been transformed into gun mastery and now require a conscious decision to get – like Charging Shot, or Counter Shot. As an aside: The latter now actually is balanced by the alterations of the gunslinging chassis in a more meaningful and exciting manner. The placement of these masteries as far as minimum levels are concerned btw. makes sense. A particular joy, at least for me, would have been to see that improved and expanded targeting add to the targeting deed. And yes, you can get renown! The gun masteries presented are extensive, interesting and yielded no issues in my tests.

3rd level yields uncanny dodge, and 13th level improved uncanny dodge…while also providing the deed mechanic! So yes, legendary gunslingers still retain basic deed functionality; it’s still very hard to make a truly sucky character with the engine proposed, and the choices that are still automatically granted thus make sense. 7th, 11th, 15th and 19th level unlock new deeds in this linear progression. 4th level nets nimble (improving it by +1 every 4 levels thereafter) and combat grit: This nets you a temporary grit point whenever you roll initiative. This does have a cooldown and can’t be cheesed, while making sure that you always have at least something to do. 5th level lets you spend 1 grit as a swift action for +1 to atk and damage for 1 minute, with the bonus increasing by +1 at 10th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 6th level nets the skill unlock of a Dex or Wisdom based skill (including ones where the gunslinger may have substituted Wisdom for Cha or Int), and 6th level allows for a grit-based reroll of Dex-or Wis-based skill checks. This improves at 17th level. 7th level nets evasion, 16th improved evasion. True grit is the capstone. We also get two alternate favored class options for all races: +1/6 gun mastery or +1/5 combat grit.

The pdf includes no less than 15 different archetypes for this class, so let’s take a look at what we get, shall we? The alchemical hotshot loses deeds, but does get alchemy at minus 1 extract per level and is Int-based; the massive key feature here would be that the archetype learns metallurgy, which has two benefits per entry: One is the special type of bullet, and one allows for a firearm made from the material. Lead, for example, can temporarily lower SR, while copper bullets can prevent targets from attacking the alchemical hotshot. And yes, you get to go Golden Gun at higher levels; heck, you even get a platinum gun!! The archetype pays for this flexibility by losing some of the spontaneous tricks – it is Int-based, so requiring a bit more deliberate planning is perfectly in line with the concept here. Damn cool. The anthem gunner is basically a bard lite/legendary gunslinger hybrid that is Charisma-based and as such, has a lot of its class features tweaked accordingly. The black flag bandit is locked into pistols and represents a pistol + blade/siege weapon specialist. They can make siege weapons require smaller crews, which, in some campaigns, can be super cool.

The bullet wizard once more would be an Intelligence-based archetype, using the starting weapon as a bonded object and gaining a magus’ spellbook. The archetype makes delivering spells via bullets work (this is pretty hard) and may, at higher levels, expend spellslots to fire energy blasts from the weapon. This made me smile, for it does resemble to a degree the concept I implemented in my own etherslinger class, though obviously with a different base spellcasting engine. Nice job!! Don’t like firearms in your game? Take a look at the crossbow killer archetype. Big kudos: This fellow does come with a bit of advice regarding multi-archetyping it. The Demolition soldier is locked into a pistol and gets scaling bombs. Nice. The faded stranger is the faceless guy that folks may forget about after meeting them, the subtle infiltrator – I liked this one, though I did wish it had a silencer-style ability baked into its rules. The firearm striker is an unarmed/gun-fu-ish specialist that blends unarmed strikes and firearms. This is traditionally either really bad or really broken – this is neither, though it probably would have made for a viable class hack. The option to follow firearm shots with unarmed strikes, including movement, is interesting.

The living turret gets a culverin and may enter a special stance as a move action, improving defenses and counting as supported. Interesting: This does offer some tanking capabilities. Cool engine tweak! The muzzle roarer is one of the big archetypes: Born under a really bad sign, these guys may neither be good, nor lawful, and they must serve an evil patron deity or entity akin to demon lords, horsemen of the apocalypse or Great Old Ones. They have slightly less skill points per level, but do get an oracle curse, with additional spells codified as limited use SPs instead. With a Rovagug-y theme, they can shatter inanimate objects. They also may choose ninja tricks and rogue talents instead of gun masteries – and yes, grit is employed instead of ki, where applicable. Their firearms become particularly loud, making noticing them easier, and they may use grit to duplicate magical sonic based effects. Finally, the archetype gets a couple of nice, or rather, unpleasant evil deeds.

The pale slinger replaces nimble with an aura of misfortune, from which she may exempt allies, and hexes and hex/shot synergy are neat. I also enjoyed the unique benefit that prevents rerolls in the auras of higher level pale slingers. Rather cool one! Rumslingers only recover grit by drinking alcohol, replaces nimble with a synergy trick for Fort-bonuses to resist poison by imbibing alchemical fire. 2 unique deeds and a really evocative capstone complement this interesting engine tweak. Sky riders replace the resolve ability sequence and slinger’s quirk with a bird animal companion. The archetype also gets wild empathy and upgrades for monstrous mounts later. Solemn travelers may not be true neutral and instead get an alignment-themed cavalier mount, with later detect-SPs added. Judgments and an aura that penalizes fear-saves and negates fear immunity complement this one. Finally, there would be the technological shootist as the final archetype – you guessed it: This fellow would be the Tech Guide engine tweak for the Legendary Gunslinger. Nice one!

The feats within the book number 6 – Deed Specialization nets +2 DC for a deed’s save DC. Extra Gun Mastery nets, bingo, a gun mastery. For Demon-Haunted Drifter, you need an eidolon and may instantly call forth the eidolon or lesser evolution surge it via grit, which is cool. Kudos: Notes for use are provided for gamers with less system mastery. Guns Out of the Grave takes up almost a whole page and is a feat that is only available for the undead. The feat nets you rejuvenation while you have at least 1 grit, and the feat nets special abilities depending on the HD of the user of the feat. Obviously intended for NPCs, this makes for a truly fearsome feat for the undead, allowing the undead to call their weapons back. I’d obviously strongly advise against making this one available for PCs in all but the most potent (or apocalyptic) of campaigns. Whiskey-Soaked Drifter is once more a HUGE feat, one that makes the character basically an alcoholic, but allows for temporary grit gains via drinking alcohol. Minor nitpick: There is a reference to “grit” that should refer to “drunken grit” instead, making the second paragraph here slightly confusing. This feat is one I really like in theme, though the execution will not be for all groups. Since this reliably delimits grit, it requires some mature handling by player and GM alike. The Winter-Hearted Drifter feat is one that makes you an arctic specialist/one associated with entities of cold/etc., providing synergy with the Winter Shade of the Umbral Wood feat. While high-concept, these long-form feats do need a bit more careful consideration than the rest of the pdf.

There also is a page of nice firearm modifications – 8 to be precise. And yes, thank all 7 heavens, a silencer’s included. Gunslingers can now, you know, not insta-break any infiltration scenario. Huge kudos. The pdf also includes two magic items, the farsight duster that enhances range-increments and the lore bullet, which, while kept on the person of someone with deeds for 24 hours, nets the gun mastery inscribed within. There is a hard limit on how many of these you may carry. The pdf ends with a cool NPC, Theresa Diaz. She and her lover were enslaved by Nigredo, a neurokineticist and brother of Theresa’s lover, who had a …weird way of showing affection. Theresa now is looking for Hannah, lost somewhere out there. Nice way of tying stories together. And yes, we get a proper boon for this CR 7 lady.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on a rules-language level; on a formal level, the pdf is similarly precise, though I did notice a couple of installments of bolding missing. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series, with artworks being a blend of old and new full-color pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

N. Jolly, Jason Nelson, Clinton J. Boomer, Robert Brookes and Alex Augunas know what they’re doing. Siobhan Bjorknas, Blake Morton, Hal Kennette and Jason Nelson in development did definitely polish this to a shine.

So…ähem…you know, the longform feats…I’d have preferred them in a Legendary Villains installment. Öhm. Yeah. Those firearm mods? More would have been cool. Öhm. Yeah.

Who am I kidding?? This is the masterclass gunslinger that I always wanted. Meaningful differentiation, sensible design decisions that are grounded on a deep understanding of rules and obvious playtesting, high-concept options and an all around better playing experience? HECK YES. This is what the gunslinger always was supposed to be. It’s a rewarding, evocative, fun class that does pretty much everything resoundingly right, with the minor manabar-y combat grit making for a bold and cool engine-change. Add to that the skills, the expert ways to prevent abuse, and we have a masterpiece of a class redesign. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Oh, and since I only got around to reviewing this right now, this is definitely a candidate for this year’s top ten. A must-own offering for any group including gunslinging – get it and never look back.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Gunslingers
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Everyman Minis: Unchained Kangaroos: Dire Edition
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/12/2018 05:15:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman Mini actually clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, while nominally, this pdf does reference the Everyman Minis: Unchained Kangaroos and Yroometji, you don’t require either to make use of the majority of this pdf.

We begin this pdf with a new animal, the Procoptodon megafauna, whose critical kicks can cause Constitution damage and bleed. And yes, they are really effective for CR 3. Minor complaint: The senses-line notes “Perception +#”, which should be “Perception +7”; cosmetic, since the skills do note the proper value. The pdf also includes Mirro, a CR 11 yroometji five-strike slugger brawler, which means one of my favorite brawler archetypes does get an iconic – big plus there! Really cool: He also gets a fully statted intelligent item, Xyvinar, which is pretty cool. Better yet, though, would be the really cool, extensive background story we get for this character. Now, don’t get me wrong: I like rank-and-file statblocks, but folks like this fellow do deserve stories, and for me as a GM, such stories are often what decides whether I’ll implement a character in my game or not. So yeah, big kudos for making this fellow more than just a series of stats!

But neither of these will be the reason you’ll truly want to get this pdf, at least if you’re like me. 150 ft.; 75 ft. tail. CR 27. The earth shakes, courtesy of tremor-causing steps and seismic command; it’s impossibly agile for something this big. It can easily spot you. It has the fighting skills, prerequisite-wise, of a frickin’ level 20 fighter. It’s basically Godzilla crossed with a kaiju kangaroo, with an inexplicable fondness for yroometji! It’s amazing! Minor complaint here: The natural attacks, inexplicably, don’t seem to apply any ability score modifiers to their damage values. Unless I’m missing something, these modifiers should be applied. It’s easy enough to do so, but that still is a bit of a comfort detriment. (And yes, we do get a cool full-color artwork for the kaiju!)

The final component of this pdf would be the level 9 occult ritual Writhing Flesh in Father’s Form. This is a transmutation (polymorph) ritual that requires a massive 9 hours to complete, and it is amazing – you basically take something from a creature and then attempt to transform the target: The process is described in detail and made me shiver with anticipation: From the bath of mercury to the polymorphic hammer, this really tickled my fancy. Here’s a thing: The duration is contingent on failed saves of the subject, and failures in the ritual add a variety of destabilizations, ensuring that PCs won’t want to do this all the time – still, this basically allows you to temporarily go Kaiju…and perhaps have a PC locked in shape, which can provide the impetus for new adventures to revert the change… Truly versatile and inspiring!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good of a formal level. On a rules-language level, the minor guffaws in the statblocks, while cosmetic, do detract slightly from the pdf’s appeal. Layout adheres to the artwork-bordered two-column full-color standard of the series and the artworks featured are cool. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ unchained dire kangaroos are frickin’ cool! The sample NPC with his story, the kaiju and ritual – they all combine into basically one big, amazing adventure hook I really enjoyed. It is only due to the minor formal glitches that I can’t rate this higher than 4.5 stars, rounded down. If the like doesn’t faze you, get this asap!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Unchained Kangaroos: Dire Edition
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Venommancer
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/12/2018 05:13:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, the venommancer is a hybrid of alchemist and kineticist and gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons plus bola, boomerang, flask thrower, needle glove, scorpion whip, shuriken, scythe, throwing syringe, wrist launcher and whip as well as light armor, but not with shields. They get ¾ BAB-progression, begin play with poison use and have good Fort- and Ref-saves.

In case you were wondering: Both throwing syringe and needle glove are new exotic weapons with the inject special property. These weapons may be filled with a liquid as a 1.minute process, as a standard action for characters with poison use. Other weapons can get this one for +50% costs. Both are pretty expensive (15 gp and 35 gp), so plan this when spending the 3d6 x 10 starting wealth.

The venommancer begins play with the special blend class feature, which translates to 3 + Intelligence (not properly capitalized) modifier doses of a fast acting poison that may not be hoarded. This poison is an injury poison with a 1 round onset, dealing 1d4 untyped damage for the venommancer’s Intelligence modifier rounds. A successful Fortitude saving throw versus DC 10 + ½ class level + Intelligence modifier negates the poison/flushes it out. The venommancer adds his level to Craft (alchemy) or Knowledge (nature), Heal and Survival to checks pertaining diseases or poisons. They can also use a standard action to identify a poison affecting a creature in reach. Finally, 1st level nets the toxins ability: the venommancer has cultivated 3 + Constitution modifier (once more, Constitution is not properly formatted…) diseases: As a standard action, the venommancer may exude a 5 ft.-radius cloud within 30 ft. of his current location. Targets in the cloud get a Con-governed Fort-save ( 10 + ½ class level + Constitution modifier, once more, attribute not properly formatted…) to negate. The cloud can be dissipated as a full-round action, and fire damage similarly can dissipate it. Unless thus dissipated, the cloud lasts class level rounds. The toxin has an onset of 1 day and causes 2 Dexterity damage per day, lasting until the target affected succeeds a save. The cloud has AC 10 and automatically fails saves.

At 2nd level, the venommancer gets the first virulence, with every even level thereafter, excluding the capstone, another virulence chosen. Virulences can be applied to toxins and special blends, but only 1 per such toxin/blend. Saving throw DCs are 10 + ½ class level + Intelligence modifier. There is a bit of a didactic improvement to be made here regarding nomenclature: It would have been easier for toxins to be referred directly, for special blends to be referenced directly. While the fluff text designates toxins as diseases, and special blends as poisons, the virulences apply their benefits generally…and accelerate disease becomes problematic. As a full-round action that provokes AoOs and may target a single being within 30 ft. – this target takes one day worth of disease effects…okay, so what about diseases with a quick progression? Full effects? Is there a save? I assume no, since the poison virulence does not the save DC, but I’m not sure. This problem extends to and is exacerbated in the accelerate poison virulence, which applies a poison’s remaining damage to a creature, with but a single save. This purges the poison, but can be a dragonslayer save or suck nonetheless. The issue regarding nomenclature also extends to some of the virulences – Adaptability makes the toxins apply to aberrations and undead. This is odd, since RAW, aberrations can be affected by poisons. Does this mean that toxins usually can’t affect aberrations? Why?? Substituting a toxin’s effect with that of diseases is interesting, and class level -4 bombs is also available, though this one lacks the minimum level prerequisite. RAW, it doesn’t work at 2nd or 4th level. The flawed rules-language also extends to a few very basic operations: Clumsiness blend, for example, makes the special blend deal 1 point of Dexterity damage instead of hit point damage. “You may take this virulence 1 additional time for every 4 venommancer levels you have. The damage stacks.” You’d usually use something like “every time you do, you increase the…” here instead. Anyway, there is a virulence talent that lets you fire a ranged touch attack as a standard action against a target affected by special blend or toxin, dealing 1d6 + half your Constitution modifier untyped damage. This blast may be enhanced by features that enhance the kinetic blast class feature. This is basically all the kineticist that’s in the class, and I don’t have to explain why this does not work, right?

Save or suck unconsciousness can also be found, and formatting is bad: Beyond the attributes I mentioned, there are instances of lower case skills, non-standard save DC-sequences, and ability that attempts splash damage and, while nominally functional, doesn’t seem to get how verbiage or splash damage usually work…you get the idea.

3rd level yields alchemical bonds: 1 + Con-modifier points are in this pool, and another one is gained for every 3 class levels. Once more, the verbiage here is needlessly convoluted and confusing. Expending one of these points renders the venommancer sickened. (Conditions are not italicized in PFRPG.) This condition lasts for a number of rounds equal to the points missing from the pool. These include immediate onset, purging diseases from targets (which also replenish limited use class features), suspend symptoms, etc. Forced onset has no range, and the ability fails to specify when the points replenish, if they do, and the class erroneously refers to the alchemical bond points as psychic. Unless otherwise noted, these are a standard action. Increase with Power lasts 1 round and does not specify otherwise. sigh The 5th level lets the venommancer poison a weapon as a swift action, and starting at 7th level, the class can poison weapons of allies within 30 ft.. Odd: RAW, neither line of sight, nor line of effect are required. Spread the plague does not note the level it’s gained, requiring that you default to the table – it’s 7th level, fyi. The venommancer may touch an ally and give the ally a dose of Toxin – I assume this expends a use. The ally, when hit, releases the toxin, and all within 5 ft. must save, with the DC reduced by 2. Why only allies? 9th level cuts the onset of poisons and diseases in half, and targets suffer the effects twice per round instead of once. Okay…when precisely during the round? No idea.

10th level nets poison immunity, 11th level at-will neutralize poison and remove disease and 13th level provides the option to poison a weapon when picking it up, or to inflict a poison via grappling. At ¾ BAB and sans enhancers, you will not be doing the latter. Class features are still not capitalized n PFRPG – I don’t get how you can still get that wrong. Anyhow, 15th level allows for the swift action expenditure of an alchemical bond point to force a reroll. 17th level nets a 10 ft. aura that inflicts 1d6 level? Why?) – this damage is recovered when a target leaves the aura and a target succeeding is immune against it. The aura may be suspended as a standard action for 1-minute increments. Wut? Okay, you’ll never want to sleep next to those guys.

19th level is interesting, making the venommancer no longer detect as a living creature, but makes her still perceivably via detect disease/poison. The capstone lets her use a use of special blend + toxins to create a 40-feet cylinder centered on the venommancer. This storm of venom causes 1d8 points of ability score damage (minimum 1) on a chosen ability score on a failed Ref-save, and increases its radius by 10 ft. each round. “Creatures that flee the cloud…” only take 1d4 until there are cleansed via spells, immersion in water, etc. See, this capstone, while not perfect, is actually kinda badass!

The pdf includes 8 new feats: +2 special blend uses, increase Toxin save DC by 1, increasing range or radius of the cloud…the like. There also is a feat that lets you poison weapons while drawing them, which is kinda odd regarding the action economy boosts of the class. It also requires a Sleight of Hand check – failing the check makes drawing and poisoning the weapon standard action, which renders this feat an all out bad idea. Spray the Wound has a good idea: When an ally damages a living enemy with a slashing or piercing weapon, you may use an AoO to throw poison in the wound. Thing is: The feat is geared towards directly throwing poison, and the class doesn’t get Throw Anything. Why can’t you use drawn throwing syringes with it? sigh Stinging Swarms is a teamwork feat that requires that you and your ally wield poisoned rapiers. Guess what’s not on the proficiency list of the class? Bingo. Frickin’ rapiers. The feat is also, beyond being super-circumstantial, wide open to abuse: As a full-round action, you make one attack. If you hit, allies may make an attack as an immediate action. “These attacks deal 1d6 points of damage to the enemy…” Damage type? That’s not how PFRPG works…and the enemy then gets a separate save versus each poison. That’s standard in PFRPG. However, failing even one save affects the target with the effects of ALL poisons. This is broken, doesn’t work, is super-circumstantial and a total mess. Don’t get me started on the attempt of a coordinated salvo of projectiles.

The pdf also includes an archetype for the venommancer, the psilocybinist, who replaces the toxin class feature with an inability to become addicted to drugs. The skill boosts granted by toxicologist are modified by more efficient drug creation and associated skill boosts. The alchemical bond is replaced with the option to bond with a d rug for 24 hours. Then, we get the psyching the dose ability: “When a psilocybinist takes a drug she is psychically bound to; she may choose which effects to be subject to. When a psilocybinist chooses not to take part in a specific effect of a drug, the psilocybinist may not choose to activate that effect later in the drug’s duration. In addition, she may ignore any penalties while using the bonded drug.”[sic!] This is the most wordy and confusing way ever to say “The psilocybinist may choose to ignore any penalties, negative conditions or ability score damage or drain caused by effects of the bonded drug.” At 7th level, penalties incurred by bonded drugs become alchemical bonuses instead.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are bad – neither on a formal level, nor on a rules-language level are they up to the standards of the 3pps of PFRPG. The class is barely functional as written, and then only with copious amounts of handwaving and GM interpretation. Layout adheres to 2 –column full-color standard and the pdf sports some nice full-color artworks. The pdf sports rudimentary bookmarks, which is nice. However, you can’t copy text from the pdf. This makes using the class supremely inconvenient and requires that you copy the abilities by hand to your character sheet. Big comfort detriment there.

Jarret Sigler’s venommancer is a cool idea – Scarecrow the class? Heck yes, neato!

However.

I don’t see anything kineticist-y within, apart from one ability that sucks and is only relevant for multiclass characters, so if you’re looking for kineticist-style tricks, look elsewhere. I like the idea of the class, and frustratingly, it gets the ideas almost right in many cases, but then falls flat on its face. Worse, even if you do manage to somehow use the class, it ends up being really weak, courtesy of a lack of means to bypass immunities. The class also shows copious amounts of instances that depict obvious ignorance of how PFRPG’s more complex rules-interactions work. In short, this feels like a class that was well-meant, but that fails pretty hard; like an Alpha, if you will. Personally, I wouldn’t touch it as written with a ten-foot-pole, but as a reviewer, I can at least applaud the notions that grant this one a distinct identity. As such, my final verdict will be 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Venommancer
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Everyman Minis: Front Liner's Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/11/2018 06:48:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

On the introductory page, we are introduced to a couple of new quinggong powers, noting class features for which they may be exchanged, as well as tight presentation by level. 5 such ki powers are included here with restrictions, if any, and ki cost noted duly.

The pdf contains a total of 5 different new feats: Hunker Down requires heavy armor proficiency and allows you to spend a move action to gain an insight bonus equal to ½ armor check penalty to CMD to resist bull rush, drag, etc., which is retained until you move. Nice. Line Breaker builds on reposition, and allows you to switch places with a repositioned foe. This surprisingly manages to get the complex AoO-scenario here right. Neato! The final three feats are a new Style-feat chain, with the base feat Spiny Urchin Style building on Two-Weapon Defense, enhancing that option. Cool: Does come with double weapon and light weapon training synergy. Spiny Urchin Sting builds on this: When an adjacent enemy attacks you and misses, you may AoO the target as an immediate action- Spiny Urchin Bristle builds on this retributive attack lets you strike back with BOTH hands! And yes, this gets the rules-operation right. Nice one!

There are two archetypes within: The divine protector paladin replaces smite evil with righteous shield, which makes shields actually matter: As a swift action, you may add + Charisma modifier to your shield bonus and add the holy weapon property. The damage does scale in a unique way, and the ability lasts for 1 minute and may be used 3 + Charisma modifier times per day. 1st level, as you could glean from this, nets Improved Shield Bash as a bonus feat, replacing detect evil. Additionally, Charisma may be used as a substitute for TWFing prerequisites. 3rd level unlocks guardian’s auras: As a swift action, they may cause 1d6 damage to all within 10 ft. that attacked allies. 14th level lets the paladin spend lay on hands uses to channel in the brief radius…or in full radius, if more uses are spent. This modifies aura of courage and resolve, eliminating the immunities, and replaces aura of faith. At 5th level, we get avenging shield, providing Far Shot as a bonus feat. Why? The archetype can throw the shield as a non-improvised thrown weapon, and if imbued, it also returns! This btw. manages to clarify that it does indeed allow for full attacks – kudos! This replaces divine bond. Finally, 11th level’s aura of vengeance is replaced with the option to create basically a magical fortification that enhances AC and Ref-saves. And yes, it moves with you. I LOVE this archetype. It’s hands down one of the coolest paladin archetypes I’ve seen in a while!!

The second archetype would be the advance guard ranger, who modifies favored enemy, gaining +1 to AC and saves (bonuses properly codified!) versus the favored enemies; similarly, the animal companion gained applies the bonuses instead of the atk and damage bonuses, making for a defensively-minded character. 3rd level nets armor training, reducing armor check penalty by 1 (minimum 0) and increasing maximum Dexterity bonus values, with every 5 levels thereafter improving this further. Additionally, medium armor no longer hampers movement speed and 7th level allows for full movement in heavy armor. This replaces favored terrain. 12th level replaces camouflage with Heavy Armor Proficiency, or a substitute combat feat. Evasion and improved evasion may now be used in heavy armor! Hide in plain sight, finally, is replaced by DR 5/- versus favored enemies while wearing medium or heavy armor. Nice one! The archetype is complemented by a new ranger combat style – these are often tougher to design than they look, and the Protector style and the feat choices here make for a cool defensive ranger.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re top-notch. I noticed no glitches on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s artwork-bordered two-column full-color standard and the artwork featured is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Matt Morris had a tough task here: Pathfinder is notoriously offense-heavy, and making viable and, more importantly, FUN defensive options, is a tough task indeed. Well, this humble pdf succeeds with flying colors. While I like the defensive ranger well enough, the paladin archetype is AMAZING. It oozes style, is powerful without being broken, and it will make your enemies really fear your shield, while your allies will celebrate your protective aegis! This archetype is pure gold and rocks really hard. The feats and other components also all have something going for them, making this pretty much an all killer, no filler pdf. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. If you’re looking for some fun paladin and ranger tricks, look now further!!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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