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Villain Codex IV: Monsters for Meddlesome Heroes
Publisher: Outland Entertainment
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/15/2017 06:24:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth installment of the Villain Codex-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Okay, so we’re changing the formula this time around: Each of the characters featured herein is a monster with unique additionata – class levels, archetypes, etc. Analogue to the regular Villain Codex monikers, this book covers the middle level range: CRs range from 3 to 14. Each of the monsters herein comes with its own b/w-artwork and entry-wise, we focus on stats, though thankfully not to the extent, where this would be a traditional NPC Codex: The respective characters gain depth via the inclusion of goals and plots, which also act as inspiration for the GM. The respective entries note tactics, morale, etc., a nice feature that makes use of the NPCs herein easier.

All right, general characteristics out of the way, we begin with Chudwix, at CR 3. Chudwix is a creature many PFRPG rightfully loathe – a pugwampi spiritualist (ectoplasmist) possessed by the spirit of an evil witch; his lash manifests as a spectral tooth and he bears the scars of a not always particularly amicable relationship. Kin of the Pumps gets a really badass artwork – the gourd leshy feyspeaker druid at CR 4, is a thief of food, seeking to animate scarecrows to end the blight upon the land that the civilized folks are to his mind.

Smoke is interesting – the advanced worg thug rogue (CR 5) was always smarter than others and he has done a rather good job at keeping both his kin and goblins in line…but he is growing old; already middle-aged, it’s only a matter of time before a powerful alpha challenges his position. As such, he has had craftsmen create gear for him…but whether that suffices, only time will tell… Really cool angle here!

Reyshu the Great, at CR 6, is a more straightforward monster/class pairing – we have a faerie dragon illusionist here, one whose artwork in particular struck my fancy – the chameleon/butterfly crossover is a cool take on the concept! He is a controller and sees himself as a benevolent guide for the stupid humans and their cruel tendencies…which can make him an uncommon, well-meaning adversary.

Radnii, at CR 7, is an aranea unchained rogue and frankly sports the most disquieting aranea picture I’ve seen so far. Really creepy. Cool: We get both Halfling AND hybrid stats as well! She is, just fyi, operating a business that has invigorated the whole area…and who cares about a few strangers that go missing…right? Gramblethorne is amazing: At CR 8, the unfettered eidolon bloodrager sports one of the most amazing artworks in the whole series; the entity’s oversized head and hands and disfigured proportions are positively creepy. This is enhanced by the nature of the eidolon: Made to act in social situations, the eidolon hated the indignity and is pretty bloodthirsty. Yeah…definitely one of my favorites herein!

Clovendell the Deathmare is a true villain: An unchained barbarian/ranger multiclass unicorn with the broken soul template, the once proud creature was broken by ogres; now covered in scars that weep, the mad unicorn wants to make others understand her suffering…and she has found a way to use the broken souls of giantkin to help her control massive humanoids… At CR 10, Khaalkthys of Jagged Teeth Cove , the blind sahuagin oracle has heard the voices of the Great Old Ones…and will do their bidding. Pretty classic combination here.

Now pure badass and win would be Rimefyr. At Cr 11, we have a really cool critter, namely a young remorhaz ranger 2/skald 5. A) Remorhazes are kickass critters. B) With intelligence, base stats included and the added tricks, this fellow becomes positively nasty. Bid kudos for this fellow!

Glenleven Linden (CR 12) is a druid (skinshaper) – while the subtlety component is pretty cool here she is yet another scarred treant killing off folks for burning down forests – you know, the motivation of more than 95% of treants adventurers face. Her methods are different, but I wished her story would be a bit more creative. Anyways, at CR 13, we move on to something more interesting: Azagog was bred as a living weapon – the awakened giant squid antipaladin is now raising idols to the Great Old Ones and considers himself their divine will. He is the most interesting take on the trope of the smart squid I’ve seen since Spires of Xin-Shalast.

Now, the final villain herein would be Tezcatlopala – a CR 14 couatl lich sorcerer, born out of despair when trying to save her subjects, has become to consider herself a god; the nomenclature does evoke Tezcatlipoca, which is a rather neat nod, though I wished the feathered snake also had some additional mythological resonance there – where is the smoking mirror? Anyhow, that is criticism on a high level.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, as I’ve come to expect from this series, is excellent on formal and rules-language levels. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the high density of neat b/w-artworks is a big plus – kudos to Ger Curti. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Kate Baker, Kim C. Frandsen, Nikolai Geier, Jeff Gomez, Joshua Hennington, Jennifer Jones, Mike Kimmel, James McTeague, Matt Roth, Loren Sieg, Jeffrey Swank and Robert Thomson have delivered a rather cool array of adversaries here. Mikko Kallio, Jacob W. Michaels and Mike Welham acted as devs, polishing the material, just fyi.

So yeah, these adversaries are very much worth getting. The material is diverse, fun and challenging; the builds are interesting and for the most part, I also enjoyed the respective fluffy components. My complaints should be taken within the context of impressive creatures contained herein and not as disheartening. As a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of adversaries, and while a few of them didn’t blow me away to the extent of the others, this still deserves a heartfelt recommendation. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Villain Codex IV: Monsters for Meddlesome Heroes
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The Genius Guide to Mythic Subpaths
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/15/2017 06:23:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Genius Guide clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page introduction, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, what are mythic subpaths? In short, they are a kind of deviation/modification of an existing mythic path, somewhat akin to e.g. subdomains, one that comes in roughly 3 distinctions: Archetypical subpaths are only available to characters that chose the listed mythic path or paths. Racial subpaths are tied to the race noted and universal subpaths are available for, bingo, everyone. Mythic subpaths thus do sport some sort of prerequisite to qualify for them.

Okay, got that? Humans can choose the dilettante subpath, but need to meet no less than 3 (!!) categories for mythic boons in the adventure that led to ascension. The mythic surge is lowere by one die step for them, but they may gain Dual Path, Extra Path and the extra mythic feast 1st tier universal path ability multiple times; at 5th and 10th level an additional time, which is pretty potent. Instead of gaining a mythic feat, you may choose one of 4 different abilities, which include a champion’s mythic weapon training, path dabbling (synergy with Dual Path included), ultimate versatility (with more uses at 4th tier) and being treated as a fighter for feat prerequisites of human feats. Not the biggest fan of having ultimate versatility’s 3rd tier prerequisite potentially circumvented by the combination of this flexibility ability.

Halflings may select to become fortune’s favored – provided they rolled three natural 20s in the adventure that led to their ascension. They also must have adaptive luck to choose the subpath…and they are problematic: You seem they may use adaptive luck as mythic power interchangeably. That is an instant, massive increase of the most potent resource in the game. Not getting near my table. While this replaces the 1st tier ability and while the non-mythic feat selection restriction is nasty, this still is not a subpath I’d allow.

Herald of the Gods is universal and requires the selection of a patron deity, 1st tier nets you a domain – the spells you get there are cast via mythic power expenditure. Additionally, you can, at 6th tier, cast commune and may even use mythic power to do so as a free action. This one replaces all mythic feats gained as base mythic abilities. At 1st tier, the mythic subpath nets the 6th tier (!!) archmage’s sanctum path ability sans servants and you don’t have a door: You may acess it via mythic power and take 3 creatures per tier with you. Now, what’s amazing is this: The area expands and ties in with the kingdom building rules – you get to properly develop your sanctum as a form of paradise for your faithful, with higher levels providing a permanent gate to it! The subpath is locked into divine scourge at 3rd tier and every 3 tiers thereafter.

The legendary ruler universal path ability is another one I really enjoy – the path is all about being the ruler of a kingdom, enhances leadership, etc. – no complaints regarding this one. The lord of rebirth would be a samsaran-exclusive and requires that you die during your moment of ascension. If you do, you basically become a Dr. Who variant – you immediately reincarnate upon being slain…but only for a total of 13 times. This replaces hard to kill. You also get the sanctum at 1st tier and may expend mythic power while inside it to scry…and akin to the Tardis, you may place the door, though teleport restrictions apply. The Dr. Who reference is btw. earned – much like the Doctor, you temporarily lose mythic abilities when reincarnating, though this restriction becomes less imposing at 9th tier. Very flavorful!

The peacekeeper is exclusive to champion, hierophant, guardian and marshal, and requires that you ended a blood feud, war, etc. prior to ascension. The subpath restricts the choices for Dual Path and allows you to use surges to render all damage caused with attacks benefiting from it to non-lethal damage. The subpath also comes with a potent sanctuary aura and the option to replace mythic feats or path abilities with boons that enhance the aura, the elimination of a save against it for targets that worship the same deity, numerical escalation to Charisma-based checks to resolve conflict etc. – I like this one, particularly since you can help your allies being peaceful and efficient as well. Kudos

The nine-tailed heir kitsune subpath is per se interesting, but suffers a bit from the age of this book; you see, this Genius Guide was penned some time ago and was only recently released; Alexander Augunas has since then grown tremendously as a designer and while this is not bad, the kitsune subpath in particular pales before the amazing kyubi paragon he has penned since.

Now, the final 4 pages of this pdf are not devoted to more subpaths, but instead provide mythic feats. There is a reason for that, at least to an extent – the human-centric luck feats, for example. When compared to Legendary Games’ solutions for these feats (e.g. when looking at Bestow Luck, released in mythic mini #70), you’ll notice that the options presented herein gravitate to a higher power-level than LG’s – this does not make them bad, mind you, but it should be noted that the feats presented herein, e.g. the mythic version of Dauntless Destiny, focus on some serious escalation of numbers – you’ll see + tier daily uses of limited use feats, tier added to rolls etc. here. This does not hold universally true, mind you – LG’s mythic rules support has the massive advantage of being able to draw on a vast resource of mythic feats, spells and path abilities, though for mythic core-centric gameplay, e.g. this pdf’s take on Critical Versatility may be the more down to earth one. LG’s solutions, in direct comparison, tend to favor mythic surges a bit more often than the ones featured herein.

Now, just to make that clear – I don’t begrudge this pdf the inclusion of these feats, not in the slightest; however, considering the redundancy aspect and LG’s MASSIVE array of books that support mythic gameplay, I’d remain with LG’s solutions here, if only to maintain overall consistency. Not a fault of the pdf, mind you…but ultimately, I wished the book provided more subpaths instead.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal and rules-language level are very good. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with solid color stock art and is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Now, I’ve said as much above – you can very much see the increase in design skills Alexander Augunas has acquired since penning this book. On the plus side, several of the subpaths herein are absolutely amazing and flavorful and should be considered to be fun. On the downside, we have, at times, needless escalation of numbers (which is already an issue in mythic gameplay) and a couple of high-tier options that are unlocked earlier; while this doesn’t HAVE to yield issues, it should receive some contemplation on part of the GM. Not all options herein are for every game and escalations in mythic power availability are a big no-go as far as I’m concerned, being one of the very few things mythic characters need to carefully manage.

That being said, there are some definite gems herein, which may warrant getting this book – as such, I consider this to be pretty much a mixed bag and thus rate it 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Mythic Subpaths
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Heroes of the Haunted Sea
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2017 06:06:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive installment of the big Porphyra-regional sourcebooks/player guides clocks in at 70 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 4 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 64 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

All right, we begin with a well-written piece of introductory prose that establishes the tone of the region (hint: not the most harmless region of Porphyra…) before we dive into the respective racial write-ups. We begin with the bilgerat, a ratfolk variant that gets +2 Dex and Int, -2 Wis; they are small ratfolk with a slow speed, carrion sense, darkvision 60 ft., Agile Maneuvers as a bonus feat, a 1d2 bite attack (minor complaint – you need to default to standard and look up the type), +2 to saves versus ingested poisons, disease or the nauseated and sickened conditions, +2 to Appraise and Perception to find hidden doors, constant speak with animals (rats and other rodents only), swarming and +1 to Stealth and do not lose Dex-mod when climbing or using Acrobatics to cross slippery surfaces. The race comes with a cool trait that provides whip-proficiency and lets bilgerat characters employ ropes as chains or whips. Cool.

Deep-spawn are envision as aboleth-blooded tieflings in the context of this region, which, rules-wise, translates to +2 Str and Cha, -2 Con. They are outsiders with Aboleth Heritage as a bonus feat, darkvision 60 ft., fiendish resistance, +2 to saves vs. illusions, a prehensile tail and they may envenom weapons etc. with toxic saliva/blood. Cool: The ability has a proper daily cap. Even cooler: We get a massive 50-entry strong table that lists cosmetic abnormalities that represent the deep-spawn’s tainted nature.

The 3rd player race would be the forlarren, who gain +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Str. They are fey with low-light vision, get +2 to Craft and Profession, DR/cold iron equal to half their character level, min 1, max 5, 2 claws worth 1d4 each (properly codified). Forlarren treat Stealth as class skill and, rather cool, the signature remorse upon killing a being has been translated properly.

Next up would be the half-medusa, who gets +2 Con and Cha, -2 Wis. They have darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Intimidate and Perception as well as +2 to AC versus flanking foes. They add +1 to the DC of all effects that cause the fascinated condition and 1/day, the half-medusa may force a target of such an effect to reroll and use the second result. They are treated as humans, medusa and monstrous humanoids…that is a bit weird, since human and monstrous humanoid usually are mutually exclusive. Just as an aside – the aforementioned races and those to follow all sport their own traits, most of which actually do something worthwhile, balanced and interesting…but we’re not yet done with races.

The halinae (half-nereids) gain +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Str, are native outsiders with a swim speed of 30 ft and the same speed on land. They are amphibious and may assume the shape of a single human. They get 120 ft. deepsight, treat their Cha for the purpose of the water-bloodline and sorcerer class abilities as +2, may cast nereid’s grace 1/day as a SP and 1/day activate a 30-foot fascination aura.

Humans of the region get improved racial traits to account for Porphyra’s slightly increased power-level, with Skill Focus at 1st,8th and 16th level, two favored classes and +1 skill rank as well as +2 to Diplomacy and Sense Motive in social situations. Maenads gain +2 Con and Wis, -2 Int, have Wild Talent, get +2 to Profession (sailor) and Swim as well as Survival at sea. They get +4 to CMD to resist bull rushes and trip attempts on ships as well as weapon familiarity with flails, heavy flails and pilums. They add +1 to the DC os saves vs. sonic effects. Maenads with Charisma of 13+ can cast energy ray 1/day, sonic only. Minor complaint: The power is not properly italicized.

Alluria’s Obitu race has been modified: They gain +2 Str and Dex (slightly lopsided), -2 Cha and are native outsiders with darkvision, resistance 5 vs. negative energy and no hp loss from negative levels. They get +2 to saves vs. death effects, energy drain, etc. They get +4 to saves vs. disease and poison and are immune to sleep effects. They don’t sleep, but incur -2 to Perception while resiting. Escape Artist and Acrobatics are class skills for them. The obitu are tied to a magical disease, the waters of vivification, which is a pretty cool angle here.

The orcam orca-folk can also be found – they get +2 Con and Cha, 30 ft. base speed and swim speed (minor redundancy/cut-copy-paste glitch here), low-light vision, cold resistance 2, hold breath, proficiency with spears, tridents and nets, +2 to Ride dolphins and whales and as a move action, they can emit an echolocation pulse, which may be negated by silence (not italicized), but only underwater. Satyrine gain +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Int, are fey with low-light vision and gain a primary headbutt attack for 1d6 that may daze targets on a failed save if inflicting 6+ damage; not a big fan of this mechanic; it become pretty much automatic almost immediately. They have stability, gain +1 to Bluff and Profession (sailor) and gain a 1/day standard action heightened charm person based on a spell level equal to ½ character level and with Charisma as governing attribute for the save DC.

Okay, so the races chapter, in spite of my absurdly high expectations regarding races, is, as a whole, very well presented; the power-level is pretty concise and with a few minor hiccups as exceptions, I enjoyed all write-ups presented. Down-side: None of the races presented here come with their age, height and weight tables.

So, here is the coolest component of the Haunted Seas. The Deity Nise has ensorcelled the islands and they thus move: 10 months a year (which are not clear!), the landlocked parts of the haunted seas move throughout Porphyra, allowing the region to collect a vast array of diverse resources! Oh, and having suddenly a massive region on your hands can make for a really cool change of local dynamics! The region comes with a great. Player-friendly full-color regional map and even a rhyming poem/shanty about these so-called Rides, which are a glorious way to render the whole region volatile. Unlike Vernathea’s Veil-region, the Haunted Sea is not encased in a massive storm as it moves, providing a completely different experience for the moving region. On the islands of the haunted sea, Kormus would be a den of vice; Port Calist’s splendor is governed by the potent guilds; Sthenno is the place for subterfuge, with broodmothers of the half-medusa and forlarren races reigning supreme. Finally, Xebic has been raised on the shell of a giant dragon turtle, with an air of somber melancholy over the loss of the critter’s loss. The settlements in the haunted sea come with a wide variety of cool settlement qualities and all of these aforementioned, unique settlements not only come with proper settlement statblocks, they also sport great vignettes that do a really nice job at capturing the flavor of the respective locales.

This is not where we stop, though: We also are introduced to a variety of other places of interest, some of which practically demand to be used: From the bloodstained cay to the flooded ghetto, there is some interesting adventuring potential to be found here. Yes, there are cannibal isles, just fyi.

Now, this would not be a Porphyran player’s guide without a massive array of player-centric options. Proper underwater bombing for alchemists (with optional increased splash radius for a reduced potency) can be found. The Blackpowder disciple base class gets an archetype with the blackpowder rover – basically a pirate-y flurrying monk/gun-user. Not too excited here. The Deck warden mariner archetype is a sea-specialist – favored vessel, storm sight, sure-footed; you get the idea. The fiendish stalker is a forlarren slayer that focuses on natural attack sneaks (using d8s for them, d4s for sneak attacks with weapons) and, a limited amount of times per day, they may substitute fire damage for sneak attack, courtesy of their connection to hell. Yeah, these fellows are evil. At higher levels, we get minor defensive auras, clinging hellfire sneaks, etc. per se flavorful, evil killer. Knight sister warpriests are devoted to the Stormmaiden and gain tactician and slight bonuses when healing…but pay for that with lost sacred weapon features at 4th level and higher. The Nereid sorcerer bloodline nets a poisonous touch, the ability to become transparent at higher levels and sea-based abilities – no complaints here.

The rime chemist alchemist is Wisdom-based and gains desiccation bombs, which are particularly potent versus oozes, plants etc., increasing the damage output there, but at the cost of lower damage versus other targets. The bombs can also sicken and their damage-type is concisely defined. The mutagen nets you the aquatic subtype including ½ base speed swim speed at the cost of poison use. The archetype may choose from a limited array of revelations from the waves mystery and higher levels provide SPs, upgrades, etc. – all with the water-theme. The archetype, as a whole, provides a viable exchange – no complaints. River Guide undine shamans are underwater trackers/striders and can provide water breathing via kisses and, at the highest levels, even grant freedom of movement (italicization missing). The savage bulwark skald has diminished spellcasting and qualifies easier for shield-based combat feats. The archetype is a defense specialist that gains some solid boosts to shield use. The serpent disciple half-medusa monk replaces stunning fist with bardic performance and gains both climb and swim speed – cool: They get to choose which movement rates to improve at higher levels. Instead of maneuver training, we get stern gaze. Quivering palm is replaced with a potentially petrifying strike that is particularly hard to resist if your speed’s been reduced to 0 ft.

The pdf does sport the Aboleth Exemplar 10-level PrC. Anyhow, the PrC gets ½ BAB-progression, ½ Fort – and Will-save progression, 7/10th spellcasting progression and 2 + Int-mod skills per level. The PrC nets no new proficiencies. If the character has the aboleth bloodline, levels in the PRC stack with sorcerer levels; if not, the PrC unlocks bloodline powers of said bloodline. Over the course of the PrC, characters gain a total of +4 Str, +2 Int and +4 Cha, with 1st, 4th and 7th level providing natural armor bonus +2 each. 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter yield a bloodline feat and 2nd level sports the ability to excrete slime that turns acidic at 6th level and further improves at 10th level. 3rd level yields a 30-ft.-cone acid-breath weapon, usable 1/day, with 7th and 10th level providing additional uses. 5th level yields tremorsense, 7th 1/day the ability to assume medium aboleth form, including mucus cloud, but only in this form. This form may be assumed a second time at 10th level, and the form is improved, becomes Large, etc. 9th level yields the tentacles bloodline power.

The Exalted Captain PrC would be a variant of the Battle Herald prestige class, customized for a seafaring focus – it is a solid variant, though you will need to consult the original battle herald – think of the presentation as basically an archetype for a prestige class. Beyond these, we get a bunch of new feats. Among these, you’ll find the aforementioned Aboleth Heritage feat, which includes 1/day poison spray, secondary tail attacks etc. – cool choices! There are also three Chosen of…-feats – these feats denote champions of specific deities and provide potent boons, which may only be invoked a fixed number of times per day to offset their power. Nice array. We can find Deep-Sea Adaptation for higher level characters, extended echolocation range, a Barroom Brawler follow-up feat that helps qualify for combat feats as well, an improvement for racial faerie fire SPs, further upgrades for tails, better throwing underwater, share your racial remorse for killing (and upgrade that component further…) and a Whirlwind Feint that gets interaction with the established feats right. All in all, a solid feat-chapter with some cool rules-hole-filling feats for specific flavors of characters.

Unless I have miscounted, we also get 25 new spells – these range from the self-explanatory anchor over the force-based boarding plank to calm waters and some interesting tricks: Like a spell to deflect ramming attacks of incoming ships! There is also a spell that temporarily discorporates a single sail, a spell to desalinate water, a mage’s lavish keelboat – you get the idea. The focus here is utility, but quite a few of the spells look deceptively simple, but can have really fun repercussions in naval combat and environments – though, as you could glean from a couple of the utility spells mentioned, there are a few of them that definitely fit to Porphyra’s high-magic aesthetics, but which I’d not introduce to grittier settings to maintain the difficulty of wilderness survival. Minor complaint: I get the balancing rationale of the spell, but I don’t think that, flavor-wise, scalding sea should inflict untyped damage. The untyped nature is balanced by spell level etc., but still. Feels wrong from an internal logic for me. Then again, that may just be me.

Now, for quite some time, the equipment chapters of these books have been favorites of mine, and this is no different: We get rules for air bladders and weight kits, belaying pins, life vests, lobster traps, swimfins…and materials: From crocodile to shark leather, you’ll have the rules for stylish leather…and kraken bane thorn weapons, armor from Kraken beak, whale bone or obsidian weaponry…there is a lot of cool materials here. Among the alchemical items, we find oil that can help to slightly calm the seas; we can find slippery eel slime, Cha-enhancing manatee tears, venoms…some really cool stuff.

Among the magic items, bone compasses point away from danger, while bone flags help being a sailor and enhance saves vs. fear, while also allowing for the use of fear 1/day as a standard action. Deckhand rings and the improved captain’s variant help skill challenged characters contribute; there is a cursed map that points towards danger (and diminished rewards) and 4 enchanted figureheads are included. The helm of a fabled triton kraken-slayer, a cloak that keeps the water-dwellers moist…some neat tricks here. Now, one of my favorite aspects of these books is definitely that they include MASSIVE, extremely convenient equipment lists: This not only is nice in the context of the book; the availability thus provided lends its own sense of identity to the region. Grouped by type in the respective sub-tables, this section is a great candidate for printing out and tucking into your GM-screen.

The pdf also provides a massive cadre of sample NPCs: We get a CR 7 knight sister, a CR 4 blackpowder rover, a CR 8 fiendish stalker, a mighty CR 16 sorcerer/aboleth exemplar,a CR 6 savage bulwark and a rime chemist at the same range; there is a deck warden at CR 5, a river guide at CR 2, a CR 13 tactician/sea singer/battle herald (Neat!) and a master of many styles/serpent disciple dual archetype at CR 11. Nice NPC codex section.

Finally, we get a nice bonus-pdf: This time around, we get a new monster, the CR 3 Botach, an incorporeal spirit somewhere between the lines of fey and undead, the entity comes with an aura of ill luck and its mere presence causes potentially horrific, dire catastrophes – dispose of it…fast! Neat one!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a rules-language level, are very good – I noticed no glaring issues in the presentation or functionality of the rules. On a formal level, I did notice e.g. a couple of missed italicizations, a superfluous “G”, an instance of a component that was bolded and should have been italicized…while not perfect, the book as a whole is presented in a solid manner. Layout adheres to a two-column standard that is pretty printer-friendly: b/w with Purple highlights. The book sports several nice, full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks and all.

Treyson Sanders, with additional writing by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr, delivers a massive tome here: Bang-for-buck-ratio-wise, this player’s guide delivers. The overall quality of the crunch is pretty high as well; while you won’t necessarily find mind-blowing modifications among the class options, they are better than most naval specialists, in that they sport some interesting flavor components. The rather well-balanced racial chapter was an impressive read; while not all are suitable for gritty gameplay, the races should not unbalance most regular fantasy games. The regional areas of interest noted ooze flavor, and so do several of the items, materials, etc.

In short, all in all, this is a well-rounded player’s guide. The region is wondrous, weird and has some massive conflict potential: And suddenly, the haunted sea if right at your door! Go! Yes, that can change the dynamics of a region in rather interesting ways; heck, you could potentially play a siege against one of the isles: Your paltry hovel of a homebase only has to withstand the assaults until the Haunted Sea goes elsewhere…

So yeah, there is a lot here I like. At the same time, I honestly found myself wishing we’d get less naval class options and more information on the respective islands and their unique cultures; a couple of the class options tie in well with the flavor presented there (and that’s a huge plus!), but a few of them imho are a bit less exciting. This notwithstanding, the pdf manages to keep the high standards set by these player’s guides – the series has consistently scored at the higher ranks of my rating scale and this is no different. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform. Very much worth checking out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heroes of the Haunted Sea
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The Terrible Revenge Of Simpering Malexineuss The Pretender
Publisher: Gamehole Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2017 06:03:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

..

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All right, only GMs around? Great! The town of Middlesmith was once renowned far and wide for its smithies, though nowadays, the crossroads tavern of this waystop constitutes perhaps the most remarkable place. This place for the weary traveler is run by the wizard Ironkainen, whose private abode can be found in the tavern’s extradimensional attic. More than one trespasser was found horribly mauled, ostensibly by the dread Gameleon, which guards the private place – as such, that particular place became known as the “Gamehole.” All could have been nice, but a particularly unpleasant wizard named Simpurarrynkh Ahsarexnu came to town – the arrogant fop wants to build his estate here and has, with as much charm as you’d expect, failed to win over anyone. Yep, that would be the simpering Malexineuss referenced in the title.

Now, villagers have begun becoming sick…not with cough…but with THE SICKENING! D’unh-D’unh-D’UNH He was last heard whispering threats and has vanished. Enter the PCs, who will find no monster in the gamehole, but rather adventure: They will get to pick from a couple of minor magical items – once the PCs have taken an item, they will sit at a table…and in a blinding flash of light, begin adventuring, as a meta-inception of sorts – the table manifests in the middle of a forest – time to explore!

In case you’ve been wondering – the tongue-in-cheek tone and flavor does show that this was probably written as a convention module for Gamehole Con, though the insider jokes are kept to a level where they don’t impede the atmosphere. Still, if the title did not provide ample clues for you, this is not a particularly mega-serious module.

The fully mapped (in color) forest comes with a couple of en route encounters with classical threats, but ultimately, the PCs will find the eponymous’ wizard’s abode: A little, pretty simple puzzle that is based on trial an error can be found – the PCs will need to activate plates in sequence, though ultimately, only one of the plates is relevant; that being said, failure may put the PCs in conflict with a rather deadly creature. Within the tower, the PCs may meet a deathdealer – a hemispherical rock, from which deadly, organic, eye-studded spikes jut forth below; a strange and fully depicted critter here. Speaking of deadly – yep, there is a room, where the ceiling is a gelatinous cube. A strange magical/monstrous effect can be found. The PCs may encounter one Tlaggar, deadly magic-user; minor note: The spell references throughout the module have not been italicized, which, depending on your OSR-system of choice, may be slightly jarring. The cellar hold a really deadly encounter and the way up to Malexineuss’ chambers is guarded by another lethal and uncommon monster.

The path up is btw. studded with magical notes proclaiming doom for the foes of Malexineuss…and frankly, while the wizard may be a hedonist, disgusting, a coward, toady and an all-around despicable being, he is NOT a pushover; his tactics, like those of Tlaggar before him, are provided in a rather interesting detail; should the PCs prevail in spite of his tactics and defenses, he’ll grovel and beg…and yes, he is responsible for the Sickening…and gloats, in the tradition of unlikable a-hole villains, on how it can be treated, thus ending the module.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard with nice original b/w-artworks inside. Cartography is excellent and in full-color, though no player-friendly, key-less versions are provided. The pdf does not sport bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment.

Ed Greenwood is a legend, and there is a reason for that. The module sports his trademarks; it is streamlined, well-written, and really challenging. Malexineuss is a villain the players will truly hate: Petty, vindictive and thoroughly disgusting. Now, the module’s convention-game/one-shot focus is pretty evident in the winking inside-jokes and the overall set-up. If you’re looking for a serious, epic storyline, then this may be not for you. If you’re looking for a fun, linear crawl that will challenge the PCs, then this should do it. Plus: How often can you get an Ed Greenwood adventure for PWYW? Exactly.

This is worth reading, and while I’d usually settle on a 4-star verdict, the PWYW-status adds +0.5 stars and I have an in dubio pro reo policy, which means that my official verdict will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Terrible Revenge Of Simpering Malexineuss The Pretender
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Wonderworker Hybrid Class
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2017 06:00:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This hybrid class clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was added to and moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of one of my patreons.

The wonderworker is a hybrid of two of the most powerful classes available, namely wizard and druid. Chassis-wise, it receives d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with club, dagger, sling and quarterstaff, but not any armor. Her somatic component sporting spells are subject to arcane spell failure chance when wielding shields or wearing armor. The class gets ½ BAB-progression as well as good Will-save progression.

The class begins with Craft Wondrous Item as a bonus feat at first level. Spellcasting-wise, the wonderworker draws spells from the sorcerer/wizard-list, adding the druid spell-list. Druid spells thus converted are treated as arcane spells. Spells need to be prepared ahead of time and the governing spellcasting attribute of the class would be Intelligence. Spells are not prepared in a spellbook, but instead are stored in the wonderworker’s imagination. They begin play with all 0-level wonderworker spells + 3 1st-level spells, +Int-modifier 1st level spells. Upon gaining a new level, the wonderworker gains 2 new spells known of a spell level the wonderworker has access to. The wonderworker caps at 4 slots per spell level and is a full caster, gaining spells of up to 9th level.

Tying into this would be the 1st level wonderful bond, which may take one of two forms: The first is a bonded item, which grants access to Air, Animal, Earth, Fire, Plant or Water as a cleric domain. “Wonderworkers also have access to a set of Animal and Terrain domains.” – no idea what that sentence is supposed to mean. For the determining of the cleric level for these, class level is used. Wonderwrokers choosing this option gain bonus spells from the domain via the domain spell slot. The object does not cost anything and is masterwork. As always, casting without such an item requires a hefty concentration check. At higher levels, material and magic item abilities/properties may be added. The second option available would be a bond with a magical animal companion – this companion is incompatible, thankfully, with eidolons, etc.

This companion’s growth begins at BAB +1 and increase this to BAB +14. Save-wise, we oddly begin with +3 for Fort and Ref-saves, but scale up to what amounts to a ½ progression. The companion starts with 2 skill ranks and increases that to 16. Up to 8 feats are gained. At 3rd level, the companion gains +2 natural armor, increasing yb a further +2 at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. In this interval, the companion also gains +1 Str/Dex bonus, culminating at +6 at 18th level. The companion gains 1 bonus trick and increases that to up to 7. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield ability score increases. The companion begins play with link and sports d10 HD, gaining up to 14 HD over the 20 levels of progression. The companion also gets SPs: At 1st level, a 0-level at-will SP; 3rd, 9th and 15th level yield an SP of choice from the wonderworker’s spell-list, usable 3/day, which may be of a spell level that can’t exceed ½ the companion’s HD. There’s a formatting glitch in the DC of these: “10 + ½ the creature’s hd + Con bonus” – spot the formatting deviation. Starting at 6th level, the natural attacks of the companion are treated as magic.

The beasts available would be: Ankheg, basilisk, bulette, chimera, cockatrice, girallon, griffon, kraken, manticore, owlbear, rust monster, sea serpent, stirge, unicorn and warg. Advancements are gained at either 4th or 7th level. The respective beasts have pretty different power-levels – a bit more careful balancing between the options would have been nice. It should also be noted that these options provide pretty potent assisted flight at 1st level – depending on the type of campaign you run, this can be problematic. Speaking of which: The wonderworker does, RAW, not get Handle Animal as a class skill, which is certainly weird, considering that the magical creature needs to use tricks. It should also be noted that these monsters don’t get their iconic tricks – you have a basilisk, but no petrifying gaze. You have a chimera, but no breath weapon. I get the balancing intention here, but yeah.

1st level, 2nd level and every even level thereafter yield one example of the signature ability of the class – a wonderwork. The first of these is a hybrid spell. The composite spells must be of the same school and the highest level of the constituent spells determines the spell level of the wonderwork. The longest casting time is inherited, as is the shortest range. You may, however, choose which target the wonderwork will inherit from the parent spells. The hybrid spell inherits the shortest duration. While the wording here is a bit wonky, wonderwork spells have a save t negate – you inherit one from the parent spells. If SR applies to one of the parent spells, the wonderwork is also susceptible to SR. A target hit by such a hybrid spell is subjected to the combined effects of both spells, though magical increases to ability scores do not stack. One sample combo-spell is provided (missing several italicizations and sporting heritage references to parent spells). Wonderwork hybrid spells may only be cast 1/day, but otherwise behaves like a spell.

The second form of wonderwork…seems to have been cut. That’s it. Weird.

The class comes with an archetype for the class, the meddlesome magician, who gains Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Sense Motive and Sleight of Hand as class skills. The archetype gains 6 bonus skill points at 1st, 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. When a target of a meddlesome mage’s spells is threatened by an ally, the target tales a -1 penalty to the save against the spell, which increases by -1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. Flanking by allies increases the penalty by a further -1. This replaces wonderful bond.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting aren’t perfect, but better than in most Wayward Rogues Publishing classes – the class is functional and works as depicted. Not perfectly, but yeah. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard with neat full-color artworks. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks. It is a bit unfortunate that you can’t highlight text or copy from the pdf – a comfort detriment.

Aaron Hollingsworth’s wonderworker is an interesting class: The class attempts to balance the superior spells with a weak chassis (the class does lack a crucial class skill) and a companion that is deliberately weaker than it could easily be.

Now, personally, I think that this class can be interesting, particularly for high-fantasy/high-powered campaigns that don’t mind the access to pretty good flight at low levels. At the same time, the wonderworker is a VERY strong option, in spite of the serious spells known restrictions. The hybrid spells are a WIDE OPEN concept that obviously, system-immanently, requires some GM oversight. That being said, the concept is presented in a relatively concise and succinct manner – probably as close to how you can depict the ambitious concept as possible. The magical beast companion tries to make up for the limitations on spells known, but to me, it seems like one hybrid spell class and one that focuses on going all out with the companion, would have probably been more rewarding.

That being said, I can see the class work well in some campaigns. If you’re running a higher powered high fantasy campaign, then this fellow may deliver if you’re willing to overlook some minor power-discrepancies between the companions and provide some GM guidance in hybrid spell creation. The editing glitches and inability to parse text from the pdf makes it more inconvenient to use than it should be. These are slight detriments and as such, we have, as a whole, a mixed bag here. A relatively solid, if slightly problematic class offering; slightly, but not significantly, on the positive side as far as mixed bags are concerned. Hence, I will rate this 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Wonderworker Hybrid Class
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Frigid Reflections
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/13/2017 04:19:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The finale of the „Beyond the Glittering Fane“ adventure arc clocks in at 73 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 ¾ pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with approximately 67 ¼ pages of content, quite a massive module!

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

..

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All right, still here? After their hard-earned triumph in the furious preceding module, the PCs are contacted by Knight-commander Erik Ullsteinnr, who shares a rather odd observation – some of the vanquished undead in the recent conflict seem to leave preternaturally cold shards of ice; his concern also has a personal dimension: An old friend of his, the dwarf Skimmr, may be succumbing to the stone touch; thus, the PCs set out towards the town of Utvikle, but en route, they are once again beset by potent foes, namely raiders that have succumbed to the dreaded rage fever! Pretty cool, btw.: Piloting the ship, the chance for the captain to die and information to relay during the journey have all been provided…and yes, sea serpent attack included. This continues one tradition I love about the whole adventure arc – instead of just glossing over transitions, the saga develops them properly, lets them breathe, and thus instills a sense of the vastness and wonder of Rhûne.

The town of Utvikle, lavishly mapped, is certainly pretty, and while the map does have some explanatory notes, none of them represent SPOILERS, making the map actually a feasible choice as a beautiful player-handout. Kudos there! Slightly irritating: The poor dwarf’s name is annoyingly inconsistent throughout the module: Skimmr, Skemmr, Skemmir – while that sort of vowel change is pretty common in Icelandic, I am proficient in the language and the shifts here are not predicated on the regular grammar. On the plus-side, a detailed rumor table and a magical shotgun (Semmr’s Breiða Brótja – roughly: broad/spreading broken-maker) as well as a fully mapped tavern can be found: Huge kudos: The layout and construction of the Wild Breeze tavern has, as a whole, sensible placement of fires and rooms. At this point, the PCs will also encounter the first counter-measure of their BBEG – when frigus zombies led by a juggernaut of blind fury assault, the PCs will have a lot on their plates…

In the aftermath of the attack, the PCs will be contacted by the vitkarr – Jägare (or Jågare – the nomenclature is once more inconsistent), an ice ælf, who seems to know more about the undead – however, during the talk, there is a good chance that the PCs will be attacked by Vorskoi, the glacies vampire – and there is a good chance he’ll kill Jägare…though even if he does, the arrival of a valkyrie may allow the PCs to change the ice ælf’s fate…

The undead horde under the command of the glacies vampire are making their path towards the pale tower…and while the PCs may well choose to follow them, they do have a chance to arrive sooner by cutting through the territory of a mighty giant…and return to the psychosis-inducing pale tower, which may well be a return for some PCs! And yes, the pale tower’s unique effects are included for your convenience. Per default, this section is cinematic as the PCs hack through frigus zombies…but if you have the “Into the Pale Tower”-module, this would be a great way t restock a fully depicted dungeon.

Anyways, as the PCs reach Vorskroi, his machinations bear fruit and the gate opens to swallow the PCs and undead alike, transporting them to Niflæheim, home of ice ælves and realm of all winter! (And yes, if the glacies vampire did fall to the PCs, you’re not in trouble – the pdf provides solutions for this bottleneck!)

“Pff, winter survival is a cakewalk at these levels.” Oh boy, you WILL suffer if you believe that! The winter hazards presented here are BRUTAL. As in: If PCs aren’t smart, they may well be killed all off by the brutal weather! So yeah, turns out that traveling to a world of perpetual, supernatural apocalyptic winter is a perilous endeavor! Big plus for capturing that! Now, sooner than later, PCs that do not fall prey to having ice crystals grow on them etc. will find the ice ælves and their settlement…but their reception will be. Well. Cold. In order to be accepted, the PCs must complete 3 tasks (though silver-tongued PCs that drank deeply from Mimir’s well may manage to require less tasks…) – hunting flesks, gathering striking stones ( which is perilous, as the PCs may need to deal with a whole table of icicles waiting to impale them as they mine…) and purging gardens from a rot grub infection all are certainly tasks befitting of heroes.

The grand success and accompanying feast is rudely interrupted by none other than Níðhöggroth, the quasi-deific super-monster of the realm; guess what? Yep, they should frickin’ run. Ultimately, the trail brings the PCs to the ruins of the gelid glacier, where legions of the frostbitten dead await, guarding the ruins of the vast temple of Isa! Within the confines of this majestic temple, a variety of different tasks loom – we once again get a gorgeous full-color map (wished we’d get a player-friendly version to cut up and use as a handout as well…) and the challenges are interesting and breathe flavor: Bells that can emit deadly pulses of sonic energy, flavorful rooms and well-presented, deadly hazards compliment a rewarding dungeon, which focuses on a rather grand plan: Encased in ice, there lies Drittsekk (literally dirt-bag, which elicited a lol from me), bastard of Mhamnoch and super-powerful glacies vampire of Gargantuan proportions; and he may well be set loose, if the PCs bumble. In fact, eliminating the quasi-divine giant-thing may be a good plan…provided they can deal with the already boss-worthy chief in charge of restoring Drittsekk first. The module does provide warnings here: These foes in sequence are EXTREMELY potent and may be just what the doctor ordered against really powerful PCs, so if you usually find your players yawn at the challenges presented by published modules. Start smiling. Oh, it gets better.

Why? Well, if your PCs are so insanely strong they managed to take them down…there is more coming. Níðhöggroth is approaching and interrupts the combat with Drittsekk, to begin picking off targets one by one – the dragon is potent (and THANKFULLY comes with a second, proper and mythic version for all of us who are not content with a regular, deadly iteration) and makes for the last piece in a delightfully challenging, very rewarding final encounter.

However, the PCs are still stranded in the realm off eternal ice…and the ice ælves are running out of options…and thus, the module concludes with an event that may well change the dynamics of Rhûne, as the PCs lead the exodus of ice ælves to Midgard, hopefully escaping the wrath of the nigh-unstoppable dragon…for now…and changing the lands of Rhûne thus!

We conclude this book with various magic items of ice ælves etc., faction missions for the power players of the setting and the frigus zombie and glacies vampire templates, which, as you may have noticed, are used copiously throughout the module.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are per se pretty good, though the consistency-hiccups, at least to me, are a bit galling and not typical for Rhûne supplements, which usually are pretty good in keeping ås and umlaut-studded äs apart. Most native speakers of English will probably not mind, but yeah. Layout adheres to an elegant 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a LOT of gorgeous full-color artworks, though fans of Rhûne will know quite a few of them already. Still, we’re talking about Paizo/WotC-level art here. This is a beautiful book, which particularly holds true regarding the maps. Now, if we also got player-friendly key-less versions for VTTs included in the deal, I’d be 100% happy, but oh well. Speaking of happiness: WE GET DETAILED, NESTED BOOKMARKS! Yes!

Jaye Sonia and Mike Myler joined forces here to write a satisfying conclusion to the “Beyond the Glittering Fane”-saga. That, in itself, is already a feat – you see, ALL adventures in the series so far, and in particular “Rune of Hope”, should be considered to be phenomenal adventures. They provide a wide array of different challenges, breathe the flavor of the setting and feel incredibly…unique. Fresh. Exciting. The first three modules (as the arc has two different first parts!) rank among my favorite underdog 3pp-sagas and frankly, constitute one of my favorite adventure-series all year. The lack of bookmarks, player-friendly maps and the couple of editing snafus did cost them my highest accolades, but it seems like Storm Bunny Studios’ crew is stepping their game up. The inclusion of proper bookmarks is a huge comfort plus in this module.

Now, if you enjoyed the former modules, this has the same level of depth and feels like a consistent continuation, though its focus is a bit clearer; the adventure provides ample variety, though not to the extent of Rune of Hope – instead, it focuses on telling a tale where the PCs get to truly influence Rhûne’s history and its focus thus has a purpose. Since the module does have a few formal hiccups, I will rate it 4.5 stars, but round up for the purpose of this platform. And yes, this deserves my seal of approval. As an aside: If you need some threats and hazards for a REALLY deadly icy wasteland…look no further than this book!

This is also a good chance to talk about the whole saga: It is DEFINITELY worth experiencing! The whole series ranks among the most diverse, multi-faceted adventure series I have seen in a while, and had me flashback in very positive ways to non-anthology-Open Design adventures: There is one consistent, strong story that provides a context for diverse, amazing adventuring. It is my ardent hope that we’ll get a chance to get this series in print, preferably with player-friendly maps and one final consistency editing pass, for the series, as a whole, is phenomenal and indeed, top ten-worthy. Plus, I really, really want the series in proper print.

Anyways, if you can see past the glitches that can be found in the series, then it will most definitely entertain you and yours! The quality of the penmanship throughout is excellent.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Frigid Reflections
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Everyman Minis: Spells of Childhood
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/13/2017 04:16:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

So, in case you’re wondering – while, as a whole, perfectly capable of being used on its own, this pdf ultimately should be seen as an expansion to Everyman gaming’s Childhood Adventures-book, which focuses on all the aspects of playing kid/adolescent PCs.

As the introduction noted, magic for kids and children may actually have a different focus than that of adults – the priorities and, indeed, way in which the world is perceived, is different. This does NOT, however, make them change their priorities – kids want adult magic and have smart concepts of what would be useful and what wouldn’t. Instead of thus thinking of children as different in their sensibilities, the focus of the spells herein is on the experience of childhood and its aspects – and what would have been fun to have in a world where we could grow up with magic powers.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that the first spell herein is the alter meal cantrip, which can change taste of food or drink, diminish or enhance flavors (since I’ve been a chilli-head since early childhood, I’d know what I’d prefer!) or fix flaws in food presentation; the spell does not repair poisoned or diseased food etc. (and wouldn’t help my IRL allergies), but still -reading it, I could see the magical prodigy casting it on all foods to make the pesky greens taste better.

For children, not yet equipped with a fully functional moral compass in many cases, authority is important, a fact that also translates to the pecking orders in social groups and when interacting with the adult world; as such, assume authority could come directly from a funny hijinxs movie – it allows the caster to impersonate a position of authority when interacting with targets. Radical appearance taps into the same vein of thinking, but instead focuses on making the character look particularly cool – which translates to a morale boost AND to potentially being accepted easier by a clique or organization, as you totally get them. (The starting attitude improves.)

Fingerpaint is a particularly rare cantrip, occluded in history…sorry, just kidding. The cantrip lets you secrete paint from the fingers, though the pdf, amusingly, uses the word “Secret” instead…hence my lame attempt at a joke. Gross globule is amazing – it’s basically a nauseating water-bomb! Come on, ladies and gents, I know that a couple of you also enjoyed gross-out battles with algae, dried worms, etc. To me, that spell felt most definitely like something a magical prodigy would research! Humiliating trick is a 2nd level spell that allows you to perform at-range combat maneuvers – cool here, from a mechanical perspective: Each use decreases the duration of the spell and no, grapple isn’t in the cards.

Finally, there would be…the magical tea party! This 3rd level spell conjures forth and animates all the things you’d require for a proper tea party (no, the animated objects can’t fight for you) and the spell fortifies you against diseases, sickened conditions, etc. and allows even for rerolls. The spell is tightly codified, flavorful…and frankly, I can see devoted servant characters, battle butlers/maids etc. cast this one as well. My first associations here were Alice and then a variety of anime inspired by Victorian aesthetics…so yeah, definitely not a kid-only spell!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are, as a whole, very good on formal and rules-language levels. Layout adheres to the relatively printer-friendly 2-column standard of the series and the artwork features is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ spells related to childhood and childhood whimsy are a well-crafted little collection; they make sense, cover all the classes (ACG + Occult support), are flavorful and make sense, not just within the context of kid-PCs. Heck, jester-type characters can have a field day with these as well and there are plenty of other, flavorful uses for this collection!

As a whole, I enjoyed this mini and thus will settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyman Minis: Spells of Childhood
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Caster Prestige Archetype: Souldrinker
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/13/2017 04:15:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final installment of the Caster Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

At this point, after I have covered 3 whole series of prestige archetype classes, I assume that you’re familiar with the concept and won’t bore you again with an explanation; instead, let us focus on the first thing you’ll note, namely a significant array of favored class options provided for the class, one that goes beyond the core and more uncommon races and also features several of Porphyra’s more exotic options. These generally add spells with limits based on race and also feature some enhancers for durations, racial feature uses, etc. Balance-wise, I noticed no broken components here. It should be noted that this is one of TWO such lists – the general list provided exists alongside a souldrinker specific FCO-list, which includes a couple of rather interesting, flavorful options: Dwarven souldrinkers are particularly capable when making items from souls, for example.

Class-chassis-wise, the souldrinker receives d6 HD and 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, ½ BAB-progression and good Will-saves – as you may have noticed, the default chassis employed in building this fellow was the wizard (yep, full spellcasting), but there are alternate versions included. Arcanist souldrinkers do not modify the default chassis; clerics and oracles get modified BAB, saves, HD and proficiencies and clerics are subject to alignment restrictions, but gain two domains. Oracles gain a mystery, a curse and a revelation, but no further revelations down the road. Psychics may use the class’s pool as phrenic pool substitute and gain phrenic amplifications at 3rd, 7th and 11th level, excluding major ones. Sacerdotes gain massive domain selections; sorcerers have a bloodline, but only its skill and spells. Witches have a familiar-progression built-in.

At 1st level, the souldrinker chooses one of the four horsemen (not, not the designers) as the patron and, like other evil prestige archetypes, the class begins play as damned, making resurrection a less likely prospect. The class starts play with a familiar that is stark black and white and Neutral Evil. 2nd level yields energy drain – the ability to bestow negative levels to gain temporary hit points, though only when used against helpless targets. At 7th level, the attack may be employed as a melee touch attack; 13th level makes the use as a ranged touch attack (30 ft. range) possible and 18th level increases the negative levels bestowed to 2. Minor complaint here: With a sufficient amount of harmless critters, you can maintain the benefits of this ability, conservative though they are, indefinitely. An anti-kitten-caveat would have been appreciated here.

At 2nd level, we also gain a soul pool – for each negative level bestowed, the soul drinker gains 1 soul pool point – and here, THANKFULLY, the use of kittens, rats etc. to gain infinite soul points is NOT possible. Kudos for preventing abuse there. Cool: Exceptional beings may qualify still, even if their souls RAW would not qualify. The maximum number of points you can hold is ½ class level + spellcasting ability modifier. These points may be used as substitutions for costly material components, to recover spell slots (expend spell level soul points) or pretty quickly replace slain familiars. At 3rd level, summon monster spells may be paid for by soul points: Problem: RAW, the ability does allow a low level soul drinker to use the ability to cast high-level summon monster spells – the ability lacks the caveat that the spell duplicated must be one that the souldrinker could cast. 4th level allows for the use of soul points to extend the duration of summons. Cool: they may be used when the spell has already been cast. Not so cool: I have no idea how this interacts with partially elapsed spells: If, e.g., after 3 rounds I choose to extend the duration, does it reset its duration as though the creature had been called anew, or do the increments carry over when the ability is used to increase the increments from rounds to minutes? I assume the latter, but RAW, the class doesn’t define this one enough.

6th level yields a cacodaemon familiar and 9th level provides item creation and staff recharge options for the soul pool. 14th level upgrades that to the option to use soul points as replacements for wand or staff charges and scrolls. The capstone yields a daemonic apotheosis.

Now, I already mentioned the patrons: They come with listed symbols, domains and favored weapons and govern three abilities: 8th level yields a lesser oblivion, which is a passive benefit, namely immunities associated with the respective horseman. At 12th level, the oblivion is gained: An SP that costs 1 soul point to activate…and that has an INSANE DC: 10 + class level + spellcasting ability modifier. I am not sure if this massive DC is intentional; usually, ½ class level is what you’d expect. The 16th level ability would be greater oblivion, which costs 3 soul points to activate and is an SP, once more with the massively potent DC formula. Death nets fast healing 10 for 10 rounds and war nets greater magic weapon with an expanded list.

The pdf also features a supplemental feat that allows the character to call NE daemons via summon monster.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not perfect on either formal or rules language level – I noticed a couple of commas missing (in a place where that caused confusion) and there are a few hiccups in the rules-language. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks.

Carl Cramér’s souldrinker is, flavor-wise, a nice take on the concept and rather inexpensive – at a very fair price, you get a solid, if not perfect little class. That being said, the hiccups that can be found did strike me as slightly odd, particularly when compared to the precision the Caster Prestige Archetypes-series has otherwise shown. As written, I unfortunately can’t go higher than 3 stars on this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Caster Prestige Archetype: Souldrinker
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Echelon Reference Series: Sorcerer/Wizard Spells Compiled (3pp+PRD)
Publisher: Echelon Game Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/11/2017 04:59:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

First things first: This review is based primarily on the version that takes 3pp-options as well as PRD-spells into account; for a link to the PRD-only version, see the bottom of my review on my homepage.

This COLOSSAL reference tome clocks in at 1176 pages. Let that sink in. 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page blank, 12 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a ridiculous 1159 pages of content. It should be noted that the pdf sports a 37 pages strong index; this index not only lists the spells alphabetically, it also sports hyperlinks, allowing you to jump directly to the spell in question – a comfort function I thoroughly enjoy.

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

Now, as always, you should be aware that this book is a reference tome – it compiles information. As such, I am not going to be judging the quality of the content collected; instead, I am focusing on presentation, formatting, convenience and the sheer functionality of this massive tome.

After a brief recap of the rules governing sorcerer, wizard and arcanist spellcasting, we begin with the respective spell-lists; Spells are presented first by spell level: You get all spells grouped by spell-level, starting at 0-level spells, moving up to 9th. Within each spell level’s, the spells are grouped by school, with schools presented in alphabetic sequence. Within each school, the respective spells are then presented in alphabetic sequence as well.

Since a book of this size sporting a unified listing of spells with their full spell text would make no sense whatsoever, the full versions of the spells are instead grouped by spell-level: First, we get all 0-level spells, then all 1st-level spells, etc. Within each section, the respective spells are once again organized alphabetically.

A huge plus here would be btw. how the book handles redundancy: If there is more than one spell of the respective spell’s name, both are listed, with short-hand pointers towards the source. This does allow you the freedom of choice, if in doubt.

A minor complaint here: As is unavoidable in such a colossal accumulation of data, there are bound to be minor hiccups; the fact that I did not notice A LOT of them speaks volumes of the diligent work ethic of Keith Davies; however, there is e.g. a reference in the BoLS-version of encrypt to a decrypt spell that I could not find; on the plus side, both of Rite Publishing’s takes on the encrypt/decrypt-concept can be found herein, so yeah.

On the plus-side, know how I noticed that? The hyperlink that pointed from the BoLS version of encrypt was missing. So yes, the spells, when interacting with others, are hyperlinked among each other! That is a huge comfort boost. It should be noted that hyperlinks have not been added in a sloppy manner; when a spell, for example, references a spell-group like summon monster, it is not hyperlinked, showing awareness of rules that an automated process would not be capable of replicating. Some spell texts include their own name more than once – in such a case, one can find, here and there, a bit of an inconsistency: Sometimes, the spell’s name is hyperlinked to itself and sometimes it isn’t; now, I don’t require that a spell references back to itself, but it is something I noticed. Still, this is only an aesthetic complaint and will not influence the final verdict since it does not impede the functionality of this reference tome.

Beyond the classic spells we come to expect, there are some true gems from the 3pp circuit within this book. Whip of spiders. Fusing of Bones. Just sayin’. Need an idea of what can be found? Well, we have material from Rite Publishing, Rogue Genius Games, e.g. cursed gift from Kobold Press’ Northlands book, a mass of Dreadfox Games-spells and much, much more.

It should btw. be noted that there is a content curation process involved in the selection – e.g. setting-specific spells or those that work different from comparable spells have not necessarily be included; so, while there is more than one spell that can e.g. decrease the hardness of an object, I do have a LOT more versions of the spell than the ones found herein, including versions taken from sources employed in the compilation of the book. In the couple of cases where I went through the hassle of checking such spell iterations against the ones that have made their way into this book, I ended up finding the choices made regarding inclusion of the spells to be sensible.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good; particularly considering the vastness of this colossal tome, the diligence that went into this tome and its streamlined organizational paradigm is impressive. Layout, as always for the Echelon Reference Series, is subservient to functionality – you won’t find swirly patterns or the like within; instead, the minimalistic graphical elements are just here to make the reading experience more streamlined. There is a certain elegance in that minimalism, though; having just read a couple of adventures that basically were word-docs crammed into pdfs, the difference is pretty evident – there is a methodology behind the presentation and one that does its job right. Now, the bookmarks a bit less detailed than what I would have liked to see – we only get bookmarks for the header of the respective spell-level presentation. That being said, bookmarks to each and every spell would have made no sense, particularly considering the presence of the copious amount of hyperlinks. In short: The pdf’s solution to the issue of organization is actually more efficient than a reliance on bookmarks would have been – so no complaints in that regard.

Know what I frickin’ LOATHE? Compiling spell books. I love spells, don’t get me wrong. Reading a good spell has, more than once, inspired me to write a whole adventure. That being said, particularly when it comes to random encounters and non-bosses, wizards are a ton of work for next to no pay-off; unless used as the BBEG, you compile a spellbook, only to have the wizard cast perhaps 2 – 3 spells before being cut down.

Honestly, this was as much a factor as personal preference in developing my own design aesthetics: In my games, spell books are often grimoires; named tomes that can drive you insane, jealously guarded by their keepers; random wizards often conveniently lose their spellbooks, rig them with self-destruct sequences or employ codes to encrypt them – thus I can see whether my players are intrigued enough to invest the time trying to decode the book. If they are interested, I bite the bullet, open, sans hyperbole, at least 30 pdfs and begin compiling. And yes, my roleplaying pdf folder is that big. In total it encompasses over 170 gb worth of pdfs, a significant part of which are for PFRPG.

The plus-side here is that my spellbooks often end up being rather unique and flavorful; the downside is that I frankly have a dearth of disposable grunt/mid-level wizard NPCs in my games; I end up using sorcerers much more often, since they’re not as big of a hassle.

This book is a perfect and rather convenient way to speed up the process. The content curation that was employed herein does make sure that there are not utterly balls to the wall insane spells, nothing too culturally/setting specialized and fancy within; instead, this book basically acts as the massive one-click-done tome to reference more common spells; for specialists, you’re bound to know where to look anyway. (“That weird crystal mage…yeah, gonna check the crystal magic book…”) This book, in short, has provided a significant boost to how quickly I can generate spellbooks and for that alone, this is worth its asking price.

Beyond that, it probably represents one of the best ways to start your own massive array of spells. If I was a wizard/sorcerer-player and had few or next to no books – well, this is probably the single largest, most exhaustive tome on the subject matter of spells for your class that you’ll be able to find. EVER.

Is this book perfect? No, but then again, no book of this size can hope to be; however, it is an extremely convenient and helpful tool for GMs and players alike. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Echelon Reference Series: Sorcerer/Wizard Spells Compiled (3pp+PRD)
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In the Company of Giants Revised (5E)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/11/2017 04:56:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the second revised version

The second revision of the 5e-conversion of „In the Company of Giants“ clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

Now one of the definite strengths of this series, should you not be familiar with it, lies in immersion - like most Rite Publishing books, the "In the Company of..."-series is defined by being simply pleasant to read, which is a pretty big deal for me. How does it achieve that? Well, know how some crunch-supplements read like telephone books? Rite books employ a cool strategy here - they are written from the point of view of actual characters. Thus, this pdf begins with Owain Northway, one of the sages of Questhaven, receiving a letter from a member of the Jotunnar race, who then proceeds to explain the basics of the race.

If Jotunnar does sound Norse-flavored, you wouldn't be wrong (their names sport the Icelandic suffixes of -son and -dottir, denoting "son of" and "daughter of"), but neither would you get the totality of the picture. Far beyond what other product lines offer in either 5e or PFRPG, we receive an in-depth look at culture and mindset of the race - which begins as Medium-sized and only slowly unlocks the true potential of their heritage. Philosophy-wise, the race similarly does take an unconventional stance - there are two dominant ways of thinking, with the first being called Vird.

Vird would be pretty much a philosophy steeped in Norse morale - i.e. cherishing the value of bravery, being forthcoming and true, but this does not extend to traditionally "good"-coded concepts like mercy. Courtesies and proper behavior still are very important and the elaboration of the concept is enticing and well-presented.

Osoem, then, would be the path of embracing what one could construe as the base giant desires - they are not necessarily evil, though their actions would be considered as such; instead, they very much behave as one would expect from the more unpleasant real world giant mythologies, rationalizing it as part of their nature. The scorpion on the turtle crossing the river comes to mind.

Racial trait-wise, the race increases Strength by 2 and they increase your choice of either Constitution or Wisdom by 1. On a basic level, Jotunnar become older than humans and favor a regimented society. At the start of the game, you are Medium and gain proficiency with Intimidation and Persuasion. You do count as one size category larger for the purpose of determining carrying capacity, pushing limits etc. and when you fail a Strength or Constitution saving throw,, you can reroll the save, but must keep the new result. You can use this feature only once per rest interval, requiring a short or long rest to use it again.

The main meat of this book. Crunch-wise, would be the jotun paragon class, which is exclusive to the jotunnar race and gains d10 HD, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, one artisan’s tool, Strength and Constitution saving throw and you get to choose proficiency in two skills, chosen from Athletics, History, Insight, Nature, Perception, Performance and Survival. Nice: Beyond quick build advice, we also get equipment choices and ability-score requirements for multiclassing purposes. While not wearing armor, the class has a natural armor of 10 + the greater of either Strength or Constitution modifier + Dexterity modifier and you may still use a shield in conjunction with this AC boost. The jotun paragon class also gains a slam attack that inflicts 1d4 + Strength modifier bludgeoning damage, which increases to 1d6 and 1d8 base damage at 6th and 11th level, respectively. RAW, it does not note that the jotun paragon is proficient in slams, but I assume so, analogue to other class features.

At 3rd level and 15th level, the jotun paragon gains a mighty cool ability – as an action, you can grow in size (so yeah, you still can adventure with your buddies), increasing your size at 3rd level to Large. Equipment changes size with you and your weight increases by a factor of 8. Items out of your possession regain their size after 1 minute. Now, 5e’s size-increase rules are brutal – in order to maintain balance, the usual rules for size increase are NOT applied for the jotun paragon class. Instead, weapon attacks deal an additional 1d4 damage, which increases to +1d6 or +1d8 at 5th and 11th level, respectively. You may resume Medium size as a bonus action. The upgrade at 15th level allows you to use a second action to grow to Huge size, for a further size and weight increase. Damage boost while Huge is +2d8…and before you ask: No, you can’t be affected by enlarge/reduce while thus grown. Big kudos for balancing this…and for explaining the interaction with e.g. a giant’s sword in a sidebar.

Starting at 5th level, we get rock throwing, which scales based on your slam attack; 7th level lets you swat rocks etc. out of the air as a reaction, protecting your puny allies. Also at 7th level, you gain temporary hit points equal to 10 + number of Hit Dice extended + Constitution modifier whenever you complete a short rest, but only when you actually spend Hit Dice, so no cheesing here. They btw. vanish after a long rest. While you have these temporary hit points, you ignore the effects of the frightened condition – note that you only ignore the effects – you’re still subject to it! Interesting ability!

At 9th level, you gain advantage on all saves that affect humanoids, but not giants. At 11th level, you may execute a crushing blow in melee, which inflicts of +2d12 damage and the target must succeed a Strength save or be knocked prone. The feature may be used twice before requiring a short or long rest to use again, +1 use at 14th and 17th level. 13th level nets perhaps the most hilariously epic ability of the class – at this level, you can take grappled creatures and use them to beat up their friends or throw them. Yes, you are proficient in using other folks as weapon. Yes, it’s cool, and yes, you can smash grappled foes against walls, floors, etc. At 15th level, you double your damage versus objects and structures. At 20th level, you increase your Strength by 4 points to a maximum of 24, gain +10 speed while Large and +20 speed while Huge. Ability score improvements are gained at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th and 19th level. Minor complaint: You have to deduce that and Extra Attack from the table, but that remains a cosmetic complaint.

Now, as far as player agenda goes, we get a Jotun Lineage, which is chosen at 2nd level and grants abilities at 2nd, 6th, 10th and 18th level. A total of 6 different lineages are provided: Cloud giant, fire giant, frost giant, hill giant, stone giant and storm giant – the classic ones, basically. The respective lineages are pretty flavorful – some abilities tie in with the mythological components associated with giants: Jotun paragons with a cloud giant lineage gain, for example, gain a kind of wildcard Charisma skill proficiency that may be changed upon finishing a long rest, representing their mercurial temper; at higher levels, these jotun paragons gain the ability to treat clouds etc. as solid and may even create duplicates from cloud matter. Fire giants can make nonmagical weapons temporarily magical and fiery, with the option to use Hit Dice as a resource to further enhance the weaponry. And yes, there is a hard cap on the number of weapons you can prepare thus…and having access to a forge increases the duration. When suffering normal fire damage, high level jotun paragons may draw some heat into their armors and at the highest levels, we have the ability to temporarily negate fore resistance or decrease immunity.

Jotun paragons with the frost giant lineage are not simply carbon copies of the fire lineage in cold; instead, they can fortify themselves against cold, gain Constitution-based limited spellcasting (representing runic lore). Really cool: At 10th level, grapples may inflict escalating negative conditions on failed saves, even including temporary petrification! Cool! Hill giants gain a necrotic bite and may regain Hit Dice by consuming flesh, but only once per long rest interval, and only as part of a short rest. Tapping into the cliché of the stupid, tricked giant, you can waltz towards foes if you succeed a save versus charms, illusions, etc., and you gain a thunder damage stomp that deals damage in a small cone and may push foes back on a failed save. Stone giants get a further AC bonus when not wearing armor, proficiencies and some adaptation to the deeps…which comes with a cool angle: Life aboveground feels less real, allowing you to use your reaction to declare one attack incurred in such environments as less real, halving its damage. Finally, the lineage of the storm giant nets you both resistance to thunder and lightning and some storm-themed, limited-use spells – the only lineage that I consider a bit less interesting than it could have been.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, both formal and rules-language has been kept pretty precise and well made. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s nostalgic, old 2-column b/w-standard with its rune-borders. Artworks are mostly stock and b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Rite Publishing must be congratulated here; The 2nd revision of the Steven D. Russell’s original playable giants, handled by Brandes Stoddard and developed by Dan Dillon, is finally what fans of 5e wanted. Another company perhaps would have moved on after the failed 1st revision, but Rite Publishing is devoted to making things right…and that’s exactly what happened here. You get the evocative size-increases and can still adventure with your buddies; you get the option to become Huge without wrecking balance…and better yet, the lineage abilities are evocative and cool, at least for the most part: I absolutely adore the somewhat fairy-tale-ish flavor that suffuses even brief descriptions of the crunch, how the respective lineages offer different, cool options…in short, I do consider this to be the conversion that the file deserves.

This is, in short, a great little pdf. While I was slightly underwhelmed by the storm giants, the 0ther 5 lineages are pure amazing and this pdf, in short, is very much worth getting. Flavorful, fun and well-made – the second revision gets well-deserved 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In the Company of Giants Revised (5E)
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Beyond Damage Dice: New Weapon Options for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/11/2017 04:55:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement for 5e clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Of all components of any iteration of D&D, weapons are ultimately the most underdeveloped component, at least regarding the impact they have on gameplay. From different ACs versus different types of attacks in 2nd edition, to DR in PFRPG/3.X to 5e’s resistance/immunity-system, there have been many takes on the aspects; 5e does a lot right in my book, with its rock-paper-scissors approach to damage resistance and immunities, an approach that mirrors my own games in many ways; for example, attacking werewolves with anything that’s not silver is tantamount to suicide in my games. Similarly, materials and weaponry peculiarities allow you to create a sensible myth: E.g. making an attack against a skeleton with a piercing weapon only cause minimum damage, prior to DR/resistance etc, or by making some evil entities immune to anything but jade weaponry suddenly emphasizes completely different components of the game.

Anyways, while damage types in 5e do a great job in diversifying the needs for different tools, the basic weapon engine is pretty simplistic by design; just because you’re using a certain tool doesn’t necessarily provide other tactical options. Now, as all of you know, I very much enjoy a variety of tactical tricks. This book endeavors to provide just that, depending on the respective weapon employed.

When one of the tricks herein require a save, the DC is based on 8 + proficiency bonus + your choice of either Strength or Dexterity modifier. When using a weapon maneuver, unless otherwise noted, the effects of the weapon maneuver wholly replace the usual benefits of an attack: When wielding a greatsword, you can make an arcing slash. While this only inflicts 1d6 + Strength modifier slashing damage, you may use your one attack roll to target two creatures within reach. That is pretty cool! Even cooler would be the Grinding Halt feature – as a reaction to being forced to make a Strength save to avoid being moved, you roll 2d6 and add the rolled number to the Strength saving throw. If the effect doesn’t allow for a save, you decrease the amount you’re moved by 5 ft.

This ability is a good example to explain what this pdf does as a whole: It adds tactical options to the game, based on weapon categories, often in rather cinematic ways; on the plus side, I can literally see pretty much every maneuver described herein; the material is rather well-presented. At the same point, by system-immanent necessity, this represents a bit of a complication – if you are happy with how weapons work in combat, with attacking every round with the basic options, then this may not be for you; similarly, if you are a hardcore simulationalist, you may need some modification: In the case of the aforementioned greatsword example, I’d require that the rolled number exceeds the damage threshold of the material employed when trying to prevent the forced movement, for example, with higher levels adding perhaps Strength modifier to the check. Both paradigms would perhaps not be 100% content with this pdf; the focus of these weapon based maneuvers and tricks is that of a middle ground, resulting in combat that feels like “normal” fantasy – dynamic, but not necessarily gritty. I’d call this basically an action-movie-esque approach.

Do not let that necessarily dissuade you, though: Take longswords: I really like the ability to short draw them an attack with the pommel, potentially rendering the target off-balance for your next, proper attack. (This trick can btw. be used with most 1-handed weapons.) That being said, I am NOT a fan of the parrying mechanics employed herein: They are based on competing attack rolls, which, by definition, yields swingy results and takes time AND gives the player an idea of the attack capabilities of his foe. They also are an all or nothing response: If you win, you cause the attack to miss. Furthermore, the weapon master martial archetype has ALREADY established an elegant parry mechanic for 5e. Why not build on that and instead use this swingy all-or-nothing method? Really, really dislike the parrying.

On the plus-side, dual wielding rapier and dagger as main gauche lets you add a fluctuating bonus to AC. Battleaxes are utterly OP: You can use them to score crushing blows: These blows reduce the armor class gained by wearing armor or natural armor by 1. Problem 1) The feature does not state how to regain/repair natural armor. Problem 2) Put a dragon in the midst of a ton of fighters wielding axes. The creature will very soon have no armor left. Not getting anywhere near my game. At the very least, there should be a quick magical way to heal this for natural armor. Oh, and while you can’t wreck magic armor unless you have a magic axe, a finer differentiation among natural armors and magical armors would have been appreciated. RAW, even an uncommon weapon could start chipping away artifact-level armor.

On the plus-side, the tripping attacks of polearms are analogue to established tripping maneuvers; I also like that the different types of polearms presented (halberds and glaives) gain different tricks…though we have once again the sucky parry mechanic here. On the plus-side, using a halberd to move creatures back is nice. Pikes let you go phalanx and repel charges, while the quarterstaff helps vaulting.

Clubs can be used to blackjack targets, stunning them for 1 round on a failed save. That’s…potentially an infinite stunlock. The flail’s chain garrote feature hasn’t been bolded properly and is particularly good when used against shields. Greatclubs allow you to potentially hurl targets, with crits dealing bonus damage and breaking…bit of a word of caution: The classic club-wielding ogre with +2d8 bonus damage on a crit can make for a pretty reliable PC-kill, more reliable than even on a regular crit. Morningstars can temporarily negate Dex-mod to AC on a failed save – here, we have a Wisdom (Medicine)-based means to negate the effects, but weirdly, no ideas how magic interacts with this. I am also ambivalent on ribshatter – it’s a stunning attack that is based on damage versus the target’s Hit Dice – two values that don’t scale analogue in 5e and, in fact don’t have that much in common. (As an explanation, the damage must exceed the target’s maximum Hit Dice. Yes, you could RAW stun creatures that…well, don’t have ribs, bones, etc.). War picks can completely ignore armor and deal normal weapon damage. Remind me, why would I attack any other way, ever?

Whips are neat, though; Frighten foes on failed saves, drop weapons at the feet. Daggers allow you to pin targets to environments and may easily be concealed. Javelins are weird. When making an attack against a target at EXACTLY the maximum range, you can deal damage and cause the target to be frightened. Oddly circumstantial in comparison. Using nets to blind foes or reduce flying speed similarly should be considered to be cool. Speaking of cool: Using crossbows to pulverize objects in shrapnel is pretty damn cool. On the downside, composite bow shots that reduce the enemy’s speed to 0 ft. in addition to regular damage is brutal.

It should be noted that neither spears (unless you count the javelin as such), nor chain-based weaponry or the like is in the pdf; while I did not expect to see the whole WuXia array here, I was a bit baffled by the omission of spears.

Beyond the normal weaponry, we also have 7 new Midgardian weapons (excluding aforementioned composite bow) – dwarven tijino poleaxes are excellent at unmounting targets, nordmansch greataxes have, once more, the sucky parry mechanics and can damage weapons – one hit and the weapon attacks at disadvantage. Once more, we have the repair/healing of natural weapons issue. An estoc, a poniard, fang blades, hooks and the scorpion stiletto sport flavorful, well-written summaries – and sport similar design as the weapons mentioned…both regarding plusses and downsides.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, apart from aesthetic hiccups like “Stiletto” instead of “Scorpion Stiletto”, I noticed nothing too grievous. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ really nice two-column full-color standard and interior artwork is solid b/w. The pdf has bookmarks for weapon categories.

I really wanted to like James Haeck’s “Beyond Damage Dice.” This book is pretty much what I wanted; sure, I’d prefer a massive, exhaustive tome…but making weapon types matter is an amazing idea and one well worth executing. In some instances, the pdf manages to reach highlight of brilliance that made me smile from ear to ear. On the downside, there are several cases where mechanics needlessly deviate from established standards in 5e, and the balancing of the weaponry is wonky in several cases. From the issue of regaining AC-reductions/weaponry to the different power-levels of the weapon features to the needlessly swingy parades, the pdf feels less refined than what I’m accustomed to see from the kobolds.

As a whole, I do hope that this concept is refined and expanded in the future – it is my ardent believe that the cool gems herein and the concept can carry much, much more. As a reviewer, I need to take the blemishes into account, though – and I can’t see myself using this in its entirety, not without serious streamlining. Hence, in spite of the glimmers of brilliance, this ultimately is a mixed bag. My final verdict will reflect this and clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Beyond Damage Dice: New Weapon Options for 5th Edition
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AL 8: Fire in the Mountain (DCC)
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2017 06:23:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for DCC clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, ½ a page editorial/patreon-thanks, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 33.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so first thing you should know: The pdf actually includes a new race, somewhat goat-like humanoids of fey origin that gain 1d8 hit points per level. They may use blackjack, blowgun, club, sling, spear and shortbow and staff sans penalty, but other weapons suffer from a -2 to attack rolls in addition to the -1d penalty. Attacks with hooves, claws etc. are not penalized. Urisk also balk at armor: Anything beyond a wooden shield nets a +1d increase in Fumble Dice and +2 to armor check penalty. Their horns inflict 1d6, their fists 1d5 and their hooves 1d4. Urisks may use an Action Die to make multiple attacks: Both horns, both fists or both hooves or any combination thereof, but the attacks are penalized at -1d. The urisk also may make three attacks, one of each type, but this comes at a -2 on the dice chain to hit. Pretty sure there should be a “d” after the 2.

When an urisk makes a successful attack with a natural weapon, he may add his Savage Die to damage rolls, or, in the case of a crit, to the critical hit table instead. Urisk get very slow access to a couple of spells, representing their skill in the old ways. The have movement 30’ and are not impeded by hilly or mountainous terrain, gain infravision 30’ and can eat anything – their rations only cost ¼th that of humans. They save against ingested poisons at +2d and versus fire with +1d. They also detract 1d3 damage from fire. Iron and steel exposure halves their healing rate. Action Die can be used for atk, skills and spells; Additional Action Dice only for movement. At 1st level, the urisk adds Luck modifier to one natural attack and one spell. The urisk come with a proper class table; atk mod scales up to +4; Savage Attack damage die increases from +1d3 to +1d8; crit die/table starts at 1d7/III and improves to 1d30/IV. Action Die increases from 1d20 to 1d20 + 1d20. Ref- and Will-save adhere to a ½ progression, with Fort scaling up to +4. They learn up to 10 spells, maximum spell level 2 (unlocked at 7th level). They also start with +4 Climb, scaling to +14 at 10th level. Level titles for lawful, neutral and chaotic urisk characters are provided from level 1 to 5.

This being an adventure review, from here on out, the SPOILERS reign! Potential players should jump to the conclusion!

..

.

All righty, only judges around? Great!

All right, so this is a funnel set if Purple Duck Games’ patchwork planet of Porphyra, wherein players players may play urisk mountain-dwellers or characters willing to help one. A nice introductory text introduces the conundrum: Billy Cloven-Foot, an urisk, has found a cave with some strangely modern looking bits…he tinkered with a door and opened it…and now, those spirits freed need to be laid to rest. The module presents some encounters for trekking up the mountains and information for PCs interrogating Billy. En route, the PCs may run afoul of faerie foo lights, fire bees…and reaching the dungeon, the PCs will find the remnants of charred bones and soon encounter multi-eyed, upright walking capering goat things that spontaneously combust upon being slain. In true DCC manner, PCs should be smart – there is a chance to bring a whole cave don on their heads (probably lethal).

The PCs exploring the complex will soon realize that this is a place sanctified to the elemental lord Krakaal, foe of the NewGod Obikaal (Porphyra’s core divine conflict is between the elemental lords and the interloper NewGods); the complex sports an ice spider, a hive of the aforementioned fire bees and their magical wax. Worse, there are the Impenitent, once imprisoned, now free – they are the masterminds behind transforming Billy’s goats into these THINGS…so defeating these beings and their leader, the abbot, may help the region…but there is another problem: Know what’s within this dungeon, beyond cool terrain features? An access point to HELL. There is a wheel. Turning it leads to another place, another time…so if the PCs turn it, they basically turn the world and time AROUND that point – they may well see themselves, the shape of things to come, creatures far beyond their power…and they will realize that, ultimately, to move the access point away, at least one PC will have to remain…or, you know, all of them go that route. They may inadvertently end up FAR away from their humble homes – questing to return is certainly something the judge should consider! (Oh, and the impenitent may have had a LONG time to cause all kinds of havoc…

Either way, the module certainly doe s neat job at being a cool, introductory funnel.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no undue accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games’ printer-friendly 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights. The module sports nice full-color artworks and comes with detailed, nested bookmarks. Cartography is b/w and solid. There is no player-friendly version of the map to cut up and hand out, which is a bit of a pity as far as I’m concerned.

Daniel J. Bishop’s “Fire in the Mountain” is a great offering; it makes me swallow my own words. You see, at one point, I pretty loudly proclaimed that Porphyra’s aesthetics would run contrary to the tenets of DCC. Well, I’m not above admitting mistakes; turns out that all it takes is the right approach/author. This module takes the weirdness of Porphyra and emphasizes it in an interesting manner – the adventure feels distinctly Porphyran, but at the same time less like high fantasy and more like a strange land, unlike our own. This works very much to the adventure’s advantage and the potentially weighty decision that the players have to make in one room is glorious. As an aside, this also makes for great convention-gaming: I can see this work really well in a con time-slot. While I would have liked a player map and while this is not my favorite DCC-book Daniel J. Bishop penned for the ducks, it is a neat addition to the array of amazing supplements PDG has released for DCC. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
AL 8: Fire in the Mountain (DCC)
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Legendary Beginnings: A Feast of Flavor
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2017 06:20:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 72 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction,2.5 pages of SRD, 2 pages of character-sheet, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page of back cover, leaving us with 59.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, first things first: The Legendary Beginnings-series focuses on adventures that are more family-friendly and suitable to both kids and adults that don’t want grim stuff/gore/dark material – the series focuses on exciting adventuring, but without the grimmer aspects. This adventure should run smoothly for kids ages 8+, though, depending on how sensitive the kids in question are, it may work for younger kids or, in the case of very sensitive kids, be appropriate for slightly older kids. Adults can have fun with this module as well, provided they do not mind the whimsical names and constant, food-based nomenclature of the environments in the region. There is dangerous wildlife to be found within – among others, aggressive geese. Some city-dwellers may scoff there or go “Oh no!” – if you do, you obviously haven’t grown up in the country. Geese are malicious birds. They are aggressive and their bites HURT. A lot. (Yep, I have been on the receiving end of them.) Just something to note when judging whether this module works for your kids.

The adventure is set in the world of Terrallien, the kingdom of Threll, to be more precise – that would be the same world assumed in the other Legendary Beginnings adventures and it remains open enough to allow the module to be inserted into pretty much any fantasy setting. The module is intended for 2nd level PCs and the PCs are assumed to be part of the Zekerian Order, which means they’ll have the “extra-life” zekerian amulets – basically free action heals and autoheals when reduced to 0 hp. These work only once per day, though! So yeah – they constitute a kind of “easy mode” particularly suitable for kids that are easily frustrated. More hardcore children or adults should probably not get these amulets as a safety net.

It should be noted that the adventure is presented in a sandboxy style – there is a hex-map of the environment, which is also reproduced in a player-friendly version. In themes, this can, to a degree, be seen as a continuation in themes of “Into the Feyweald” and builds to a degree on the experiences the players made there; while the product does offer handholding, it offers a bit less than adventures in the series that are designed to be “first GMing experiences.”

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

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! King Ambrose of Threll has heard of reports from unhappy residents in the aptly-named town of Bakewell Tart; thus, he has chosen to send elite trouble-solvers – the PCs. Bakewell tart comes btw. with a gorgeous isometric map, player-friendly version included, and folks there are annoyed. In the school building, massive meowing was heard at night, but felines in general seem to have gone missing without a trace. Layne at the pub is faced with an onion thief; Cain the carpenter needs willow root; the pass to the church is blocked by a mountain troll (ostensibly convinced to block the path by a nefarious being – the PCs can get potions to sneak past the troll and find the culprit in the chocolate mountains); kids at school complain about nasty goblins at the lake bothering folks; Bree can’t make maple syrup and the owner of the potion shop needs something from the old willow tree and mushrooms. These quests are also represented by handout cue-cards. Nice!

Nice: There are rumors to be found and a particular character can provide the solution for the conundrum of missing cats – but he speaks only in riddles! And yes, the riddles are once again represented as handouts.

Okay, so for all these quests, there is bound to be some wilderness exploration! The PCs will have a chance to pass a majestic maple forest (and encounter dangerous wildlife, which can be scavenged and sold in town) or play rock-skipping with goblins that are extremely sore losers…so losing may actually be in the PC’s interest! If they play their cards right, they may well get some cooked fish, which they may hand to a pseudodragon…who would help the PCs, for example with onions, but a gopher is vexing him. And here, the first array of cards comes into play: The module comes with absolutely MEGA-CUTE memory-style cards of flowers, leeks, onions etc with faces so cute, I almost had an overload. Nice mini-game there!!

Anyway, there is also a little dungeon, the cranberry caves – where Guy, the svirfneblin has lured the cats – not out of ill will. You see, the deep gnome really hates rats and the caves are swarming with them. He’s offering a deal to the PCs: He’ll return the cats, go free and reward the PCs for clearing out the rats…and there are some optional rooms that contain some additional challenges, for particularly brave PCs.

The toadstool ring that can be found also sports a kind brownie – collecting maple leaves for the fellow may well reward the PCs with a magical toadstool vest that grants DR 5 versus bludgeoning damage.

At the old willow tree, a young dire weasel may make for a potential ally – provided the PCs can catch the playful animal – this is where the optional Pursuit deck comes into play, just fyi. And yes, skill-check based resolutions are provided as well.

At a forking pathway, the PCs may find a slacking faun, who is currently munching berries – in order to get him to make good on his promise, the PCs will have to succeed at social skills…or employ the optional Social Battle deck and best the faun.

Once the PCs move towards the pass blocked by the mighty troll, they may be in for a surprise: The owner of the most run-down restaurant in town is actually a disguised forlarren in league with the mighty troll! While the troll will not hunt them, he may well unleash his mountain aurochs and his mountain lion – proper and potent foes!

Once the PCs have escaped the troll’s creatures (the troll doesn’t leave the canyon – he’s been ordered to stay put), they’ll have to confront the forlarren, who, at one point, surrenders and offers releasing the troll of his duty, thus unblocking the pass. This would also be pretty much the main-quest/most difficult one.

Just fyi: Pursuit deck covers two pages à 6 cards each; the social combat deck covers 13 cards (the last card being on another page) over 3 pages; and treasure and quest cards are also included, allowing you to hand out the cards to make sure that the players don’t forget one of the small quests.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups in either rules-language or formal criteria. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice pieces of original full-color artworks. The cartography in particular deserves praise: Full-color, with player-friendly versions, the respective maps are really, really neat. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks for the chapters, which constitutes a minor criticism I have with the pdf: Nested bookmarks would have helped here. In fact, organization may well be the one thing I don’t like about the book: We first gain all the adventure-locales (bar the final sequence), then the village. Since the village is pretty much the hub for the sandbox, it would have made sense to present it first, as the wilderness encounters refer to quests that are gained in the village. Since this series assumes that both players and GMs aren’t seasoned veterans, that most assuredly would have made matters easier for the GM. Furthermore, while the cards do a good job at keeping track of the quests, I would have enjoyed a cheat-sheet one-page table summing up the bullet points of the quest for the GM, perhaps as a screen-insert or something like that. Sure, you can use the quest-cards, but while they make great handouts, they are a bit less useful for keeping track of things at one glance.

Rachel Ventura’s “A Feast of Flavor” is a wholesome adventure that oozes whimsy; apart from aforementioned dangerous wildlife, the module rewards solving combat in non-violent ways for the most part, makes clear that brains trump brawns and offers a wide variety of options. That being said, the amount of cards employed can be considered to be a bit gimmicky; still, without them, the resolutions of a couple of the challenges lose a bit of their unique nature. The best use of the cards would certainly be the cool memory game – it made for a great change of pace. The Social battle deck also was rather helpful.

Now adults or veteran players may consider a couple of these quests a bit “beneath” them, depending on how they handle whimsy; I probably wouldn’t play this with kids in puberty that want to be “totally grown up”. That being said, as a whole, this makes for a nice, flavorful offering. That being said, the organization is a bit challenging for novice GMs and the lack of an encounter map or terrain features does hurt the final encounter’s tactical challenge a bit. Still, as a whole, I consider this to be a well-made adventure worth getting. Taking all into account, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Beginnings: A Feast of Flavor
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Dungeon of the Unknown
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2017 06:19:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This „adventure“ clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 34 pages of content, though these include the same map of the dungeon twice; once with a turquoise background and once with a white background (printer-friendlier) – as a whole, we get 32 pages of content that have been laid out for 6’’ by 9’’ (A5) – you can easily fit four pages on a given sheet of paper.

This review was made possible by one of my patreon, who gifted me this module and requested that I review it.

Okay, so first things first: This module depicts a dungeon on the Isle of The unknown, perhaps the environment I have been most ambivalent about in all my reviewer’s career. I assume in this review that you are familiar with my coverage of the Isle-sourcebook and its particular brand of weirdness.

This book, in many ways, represents a continuation of the Isle’s approach to design, for weal and woe: Discrepancies from standard rules for LotFP etc. are all present. The main draw of the supplement (for I am loathe to call it “adventure”) would be the chimeric creatures. There are 19 monsters within this pdf, all with the neat comic-style full-color artworks. The book evolves the formula of the presentation with scaling: Each of the creatures has multiple entries, gaining new and unique abilities at higher Hit Dice. The brand of weirdness is pretty much what you’ve come to expect from Isle of the Unknown – there is e.g. a creature that sports an orang-utan’s body with a dugong’s head and tail. Among the denizens of the dungeon, there are three entities that I’d consider to be important: Alchemist, Taxidermist (with animated animals) and Jester – these fellows are magic-users and as such, sports the evocative signature weirdness of Isle of the Unknown’s magic users. Like in the big book, there is no explanation provided for their abilities, no context, no names.

The book also spends a little bit more than 4 of its pages on a slime generator. In case you needed a generator to randomly determine that slimes can’t be hit by some damage types, but hurt by others. Since the results are random, there are no correlations between the appearance of the slime and its abilities. It’s all random. One could say that this “enhances the wondrous nature” of the slimes. To this sentiment, I’d reply: “They’re slimes.” mike drop Seriously, I don’t object to a slime generator, but it’s all random without a proper structure, takes up a lot of real estate…and the generator isn’t that great.

Speaking of wasted real estate: Did we REALLY need tin, brass, bronze and copper pieces as a replacement for the usual coinage? Seriously? The pdf tries to justify this step by quoting Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. I fail to see the relation. We’re on an island where a valley has literally a whole herd of sheep with golden fleeces. Yeah, totally down to earth, strapped for cash struggle for survival going on there…In case you’re wondering, yes that was sarcasm. I don’t object to such references. They should better be earned, though.

There are twelve numbered treasures to be found – there is exactly one among these treasures that I’d consider cool – it depicts a spell that transform you and your allies to moles on a trout for a time, allowing you to travel as non-sentient flecks. That is amazing! Yeah, that’s everything positive I can say about this section.

The adventure also sports 12 weird locales (one of which is tied in with Christian mythology, relevant if you’re not playing this in quasi-earth) and they represent the high point of the supplement – the fountain of platonic solids, with its diverse effects, for example, is amazing. Dumb talking doors got a chuckle out of me as well.

Then, there are the human factions. Before I talk too much, let me just show you the level of imaginative detail we get there:

“These Brigands are accomplished robbers and murderers. Their leader (the individual of highest level amongst them) is called the Brigand Lord. They wear leather armor and are armed with spears and daggers, and 25% have short bows.” That#s all there is to them. The rules-relevant component for the faction looks like this:

“If the average level of the PCs is 1st, then: 1d4+1 men

2nd: 2d6 men

3rd: 5d6 men

4th: 6d6 men“

…and so on. This one table is used for the 3 incredibly creative factions named Bandits, Brigands and Buccaneers. The fourth faction, the similarly-named Berserkers, gets a slightly different table. Are you as much in awe as I am right now? Can you feel the creativity, as you’re inspired by this gem of a table?

Anyways, the dungeon itself is a square. Two levels of cramped rooms, square-shaped. There are no descriptions, since you’re supposed to fill in e.g. the shorthand for the creatures, NPCs etc. to customize the dungeon. While it comes pre-filled, a ton remains empty. This makes it even more generic, potentially nonsensical. There is no player-friendly version of the maps. Also: Square dungeon, two levels. This is, hands down, the most boring, least inspiring and generic dungeon map I have seen in ages.

Notice something? Yeah, this is not a module; it’s a sketch you can kinda use. If you really want to.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to a 1-column full-color standard and the artworks of the critters are nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

If this had been the first book by Geoffrey McKinney I read, I would have never touched anything he wrote ever again. From the generators to the respective rooms, a ton of places are blank spaces; no descriptions, nothing; ultra-generic human factions…and a few sprinklings of wonder…of the same type that already became tiring in Isle. In fact, this book, instead of expanding the strangeness of the Isle and adapting it to a dungeon just uses the same sterile approach and jams it into an encramped space. It doesn’t work. At all.

If you, by some wondrous happenstance, have finished Isle and ended up wanting even more of the same type of weirdness, then the monsters herein and 3 magic-users scratch that itch. The weird locales are nice and can be scavenged. But the rest of this “module” is a train-wreck. It’s bare-bones, generic and bland in all other aspects and even the wondrous aspects just provide more of the same old tricks from the Isle-book. In the dungeon, we could have had so many amazing locations, ideas; Heck, pretty much all LotFP adventures or those by other OSR publishers sport some amazing, creative, flavorful rooms, challenges, traps. This book, in comparison, is a sketch of a generator – and even if rated as such, it’s not a particularly good one. Having read this multiple times, I can’t for the life of me, find ANY reason why I should work with this dungeon in the first place. A couple of dressings can be ripped out, but playing this as written? Oh boy. I wouldn’t want to GM or play this book as presented.

As many of you know, I collect RPG books and I am blessed to have a lot LotFP-books in print; this book is one of the few examples of a book where, even if I was offered the physical copy for a buck…I’d say no.

There is some minor value in the weird dressing and critters, but frankly, Isle offers the better bang for buck ratio for that type of weirdness and there are literally a gazillion better dressing books, both for classic dungeons and stranger ones. My final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars, and while personally, I consider this to be a 1-star-mess, as a reviewer, I have to take into account that some folks may enjoy even more creatures that adheres to the same aesthetics. Hence, my official review will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon of the Unknown
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Fantastic Heroes & Witchery
Publisher: DOM Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/07/2017 04:27:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive rule-set clocks in at 430 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page general hyperlinked ToC (kudos for the added comfort!),4 pages extra-detailed ToC (again, hyperlinked for your convenience!), 4 pages of general index (again with hyperlinks and at the front of the book for easy navigation!), 4 pages of spell index (you guessed it – with hyperlinks, at the front of the book, for comfortable navigation), 2 pages of SRD, 1 page character sheet, leaving us with a massive 412 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This book was provided by a patreon (not sure if the gentleman wanted to be identified) and requested as a prioritized review. My review is based on the pdf-version of this massive book, since I do not own the print version and therefore cannot comment on the merits of the print version.

Okay, so this is, in general, an OSR-type of game; it is suffused in the aesthetics of old school roleplaying. But this is not just a rehash. To contextualize this book: We do not have a system that tries to be too close to the original versions of the game; unlike Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry or, for example, OSRIC, this moves a bit further from the established base. At the same time, it does not assume a d6-style gamplay like AFG or VSD6 and, while more “modern” in several aspects, the game is not as radical a departure from the old framework as NGR. But how does Fantastic Heroes & Witchery fit into the OSR as a whole, how does it work?

Well, among the attributes, there are no surprises: 6 attributes, Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma. Human range is usually 3 – 18, with 19 being classified as superhuman. Modifiers range from -4 (at 1) to +4 (at 19) for the attributes and maximum spell level is similarly capped by attributes. Very high relevant spellcasting attributes can provide a very limited amount of bonus spell slots. The system assumes a superhuman attribute cap of 25, akin to older editions of the game.

The attribute modifiers similarly should not provide too much surprises: Strength mod is added to melee attack + damage and physical skill checks like running, swimming, etc. and is used in saves vs. physically impeding obstacles, for example. Dexterity modifier is added to ranged attack roll (not damage!), used for Stealth etc. and may be used in saves to avoid e.g. a dragon’s breath etc. – you get where this goes right? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll realize at this point that saves. Saves are denoted by a fixed value on the respective class table, and quite a few of the options herein further modify that. Still, as provided, there can be saves associated with any of the attributes, which means that, in this aspect, the closest analogue would probably be D&D 5e.

Races in the system are not necessarily treated as a class, but instead…well. As a race. As such, though, there is a balancing aspect applied to them – we have maximum levels for the non-human races to balance that aspect. A handy table collates these caps, just fyi. However, the races do have minimum attribute requirements AND maximums; when you’re a dwarf, your maximum Dexterity can’t exceed 17, for example. Now, I did write “necessarily” above, since there are actually racial classes for the non-human races; in these, they generally have unlimited advancement and this, ultimately, provides an out-game motivation to choose these. In-game, this makes the races more culturally relevant.

Important note: The race does determine the racial hit-die; this hit-die denotes the wound capacity; class-levels provide hit dice as well; these are vitality hit points. You will note at this point, that the system requires a distinction between character level and class level – and that, by virtue of the racial hit points, 1st level characters are not wet towels in a world of razors. Personally, I consider that to be a pretty elegant solution. Movement rates are denoted in both 1e/2e and 3e-style notation – default would be 12’’ (30 feet). Interesting among the racial write-ups: Instead of 3e and the follow up’s distinction between low-light and darkvision, we retain the classic infravision, but make distinctions in how exactly it works, from race to race. We do get the classic races, including half-elves and half-orcs. Humans are set apart by an experience bonus…but there is more. Beyond these usual suspects, we also add rules for tieflings – who are treated more as a template race here – there could, e.g. be Halfling-based tieflings and dark elves, to note one example that is depicted in full, would be considered to be a tiefling race.

Upon completing this section, you will immediately notice that this book, familiarity nonewithstanding, seems to be a bit…different. For after the traditional fantasy races, we get weird tales races – a whole chapter. This is not an afterthought, either – this section is pretty much the equivalent of another rule book’s whole racial chapter. Now, unsurprisingly, this section is deeply infused by Appendix N-aesthetics; we get rules for exotic humans (you could use the rules presented here to make Carcosan human species, for example); there are rules for Earthlings (humans from Earth, particularly suitable for planes-hopping and Sword &Planet, obviously), who actually gain some abilities that are WEIRD – what may be common here may well be uncanny in another world and we can’t fathom the effects alien worlds might have on us…so personally, I liked that. Tainted humans are those that have been tainted by radiation, exposure to the entities of the Cthulhu Mythos, etc.; there are rules for Planet of the Apes-style Primates; for Reptilian PCs (with subtribes based on chromatic dragon colors for the dragonborn fans), revenants (yep, playable undead, who offset their power with the need to consume life and vulnerabilities) and there even are winged folk. While I am not a big fan of low-level flight, the weight-based restrictions imposed on their flight and the other modifications do offset this significant advantage somewhat. Finally, witchlings are humans that devolved (or evolved) into another race via constant exposure to the occult and potent, black magic.

Okay, after this massive section, we get a couple of general backgrounds to choose from; Alignment is less important in FH&W; most people are assumed to be, basically neutral; the only other axis that is relevant is the old one – Law and Chaos. That being said, exemplars of these are probably rarer than in comparable games.

As you could glean from the existence of racial classes, there is bound to be a HEFTY chapter on classes; a handy table in the beginning groups classes by type/race and then lists them.

Classes provide a BtH – the Bonus-to-Hit, basically the attack bonus. BtH can be classified as full, ¾ or ¼ - generally, spellcasters will be REALLY sucky at hitting things; worse so than in even d20-based games. New vitality hit dice are gained each level, up to 9th; for the remainder of levels (as classes range in levels from 1 – 13), we get fixed bonus hit points. Classes do have requirements, feature the equivalent of proficiencies regarding weaponry and armor, and sport class features; classes may also provide bonuses to specifc saves – fighters, for example, get +2 to saving throws to Strength and Constitution saves. In general, you can assume each odd level to provide a class feature. In this way, the classes presented herein are indebted to new-school aesthetics – and, in my mind, they’re better off for it, as even fighters allow for a bit of customization and player agenda. Now, before the grognards out there start hissing and booing: The respective features, in general, remain well beyond the rules-complexity of e.g. 5e, let alone PFRPG. Speaking of which: The berserker and knight, to take two variants, would be the stand-ins for barbarian/paladin; Nice: knights per se are NOT per default paladins or antipaladins/blackguards; instead, there is a chance to gain this status in play, but it remains rare; considering that paladins were historically known as the 12 peers, foremost members of Charlemagne’s court defined by larger than life and mostly fictitious propaganda denoting the superiority of Christian martial arts over that of the Sarazens. I digress.

A big departure from traditional depictions of classes would be the lack of a divine caster – instead, we get an elegant little class that, to me, feels much more “divine” that the god-coated cleric ever did – the Friar. Armor up to chain-mail, d8 HD…and basically, the main draw of the class is the prayer mechanic: You roll dice, depending on your level, as a full-round action. This generates an effect: Countering magic, blessing allies, dispelling charms – you know “magic” stuff that is actually ascribed to the devout. However, each subsequent use of prayer actually adds to the chances of not getting the aid you prayed for. You begin with rolling 1d6 + Wisdom modifier and increase that to up to 3d12 base dice at 13th level; the second prayer only succeeds on a 2+; the third only on a 3+…and so on. This is dead simple, easy to grasp and flavorful. Oh, and at higher levels, they can ask for divine intervention. Seriously, seriously love this class. The mystic would be basically a monk class and is a subset of the friar; the templar would be the hand of god, the martial, blessed soldier. Assassins, bards and acrobats would be subsets of the thief.

Wizards would be the primary casters, gaining spells of up to 6th level, with warlocks and wise man/woman as subsets; before you’re asking: No, warlocks are not all-day blasters, but rather casters that dabble in forbidden magics, traitors to their kin by virtue of the knowledge they crave, if you will. You know. Closer to the actual meaning of the word. I digress. The base array of classes, as a whole, struck me as well-balanced. The rules-language is surprisingly precise and definitely takes a cue from the crisp and precise old-school books and the codification strategies employed by current systems.

Onwards to the racial classes! The clansdwarf would basically be the dwarven specialist fighter; the gothi the armored, dwarven spellcaster who can cast in combat while wielding a weapon; their spells are also not automatically ruined by being hit, making them pretty strong – they get a Constitution save. They are, however, restricted to white magic Elven eldritch archers can, bingo, enchant arrows and their fae-mages are gray magic specialists who may place spells in objects etc. The class comes with subsets – druid-y nature priests called forestalls that can exclusively nature spells and wardens, basically rangers with limited fighting prowess. I’ll give you three guesses what the specialty of gnomish Illusionists is; you’re correct, of course, though their spell-list is called “Delusion”, not illusion in a conscious departure focusing on effect rather than description. Tricksters are basically a hybrid of that class and the thief. Halflings can choose to be the lucky folk champion underdog fighter or the thief-y scout.

Now, there also are weird classes – if I had to codify these fellows in the terms of another rules-system, I’d call them occult classes, perhaps more fitting for early modern/Edwardian/Victorian gameplay; the necronimus, for example, can sense the spirits and gains a degree of awareness of them, though they are, perhaps surprisingly, white magic casters. Occultists would be the black magic side of the coin, defined by corruption and dark lore, but also uniquely suited to defeat fiends and demonic entities – basically the antihero trope.The psychic would be the equivalent of FH&W’s adaptation of the classic old-school psionics: We get the classics like mind blast, Id insinuation, etc., a point-based psi-engine, etc. – but also the attack and defense mode engine. I’m gonna earn some boos and hisses by saying that, but here goes. Old-school psionics suck. I always loved the idea of psionics to death, from the moment when I first read it. However, psionics only got good at 3.5 and onwards, courtesy of Dreamscarred Press and later, Paizo’s psychic spell engine as an alternative. The attack vs. defense mode system, while sensible on paper, never ever played well. It was always exceedingly clunky and frankly, I wished that this class had deviated further from it. Anyway, if this works for you: Cool, I don’t judge, more power to you. Playing with it, I consider it just as clunky as the old-school psionics.

The rifleman would be the gunslinger, the dashing space-opera hero with great aim, defensive rolls and tech-use; the savant is the Doc Brown-style mad tinker/inventor and is a class for the player who enjoys a bit more freeform: While concise guidelines for devices are provided, the engine presented is pretty open. The sky-lord would be the ace pilot, while the wild brute is basically the savage/Mowgli-type character.

Okay, so that would be the class roster; I already touched upon wound hit points and vitality hit points; this distinction is btw. only usually made for PCs - no need to track it with NPCs. Transition from saves of other systems, be that 3.X or old-school games, is btw. dead simple and further facilitated by the handy tables; transition from 5e is a cake-walk that probably doesn’t even require any brain-power; I’m confident I could manage it while horribly drunk. Petrification and polymorph, for example,a re translated to Strength; Death, paralysis and poison to Constitution; Charisma is used to resist spells that do not have a listed attribute noted in their description. Dead simple. Characters heal 1 + Con modifier hit-points per day, 3 + Con modifier for proper rest; characters are dying from -1 to -9 and -10 = death. For every wound hit point lost, characters suffer a cumulative -1 penalty to ALL DICE ROLLS. This means that, even if you have a high racial Hit Die, you won’t necessarily work well longer; it just means that you’ll be more likely to be able to limp away. Skill-checks work pretty much like in current games: d20 + bonuses vs. DC. An average task is DC 10, nearly impossible is DC 30. There are rules for opposed checks, characters may be aided – here, the emphasis on teamwork and assistance provides a nice bit of detail.

Now, let us take a look at the equipment: The system assumes a gold standard and provides both ascending and descending values for armor class notation. Default is, btw. AC 10. Armors impose a skill penalty and a spell failure chance. Exotic armor like dragon armor, samurai armor etc. is included. The weapon selection is massive, provides examples for further weapons, and base damage types are differentiated: Bludgeoning, slashing and piercing damage. A metric ton of kits, outfits etc. can also be found, and yes, there are rules for early firearms, should your game include them….and then, we get something I did not necessarily expect.

A whole chapter on science-fantasy equipment. Whether you’re looking for rules to play fish out of water/time anachronistic adventures, want to do some steampunky reskinning or go full-blown space opera, this chapter provides items from revolvers to laser guns, noting how technology differs from magic in its capabilities. And yes, from zeppelins to hover cars, this section is neat and shows that this type of gameplay is not just a fire and forget afterthought.

If required, a massive table collates item saving throws and substance hardness. Combat should provide no issues for veterans of the game: Initiative is rolled with a d6, adding casting duration or speed factor of the weapon to it; low scores go first. Surprise is btw determined by a d6 roll in scenarios where it’s not clear. The larger the creature, the higher the speed factor of natural attacks. Interesting: The further you walk, the higher the initiative segment, and receiving charges, for example, can decrease the initiative segment. If this sounds weird, it’s not: The roll determines when the action begins, the modification how long it takes. This sounds complicated on paper, but is dead simple in gameplay and can yield some surprisingly rewarding, tactical situations and also allows you to play really cinematic boss fights. Now, the combat system per se is similarly easy – I already covered how attacking works; actions are similarly simple: There are primary actions (basically like standard actions/5e actions), secondary actions (move actions/move/bonus actions) and free actions. The game assumes a critical hit/fumble engine and sports a couple of combat modifier, but not excessively many. Further emphasizing tactics, the game knows multiple defensive actions: Choosing to evade applies +4 to AC versus ONE attack; parrying nets you +2 to AC versus 3 attacks. Apart from fleeing in a panic, there is no real attack of opportunity system in place, but from strangulation to putting a blade against a target’s throat etc., the whole array of combat maneuvers is covered and pretty much available. TWF and unarmed fighting rules are pretty concise as well. Due to the simplicity of the system and the relatively easy math, even called shots tend to work as intended. Morale checks for creatures are also assumed to be part of the offering, just so you know.

Vehicle combat rules are included; turning/rebuking undead is based on creature HD and character level; psionic combat…okay, it’s not bad per se…but it’s indebted to the classic attack/defense mode paradigm. Next. We do also briefly mention duels of rhetoric, which was a nice touch. Exploration, overland movement by terrain, sea- and airborne travel (with trails, wind etc. influencing speed), becoming lost, chase rules (including chases in the wilderness and at sea, dungeons, etc.) supplemented with random hazards/obstacles.

Now, there is one component about the health/hit-point mechanic that I’m not too fond of: Not only do wound hit points influence the rolls of the character, they also decrease speed – which means that dwarves, with their low speed, can theoretically be still in fighting shape, but RAW unable to move. While easily remedied with a minimum value, this is still a surprising guffaw in the otherwise, as a whole rather impressively precise book. While we’re on the subject: I am rather happy that the Constitution-based percentile chance to not being able to be recovered from death makes a return – death should mean something and some of my most nail-bitingly intense moments were the rare resurrection rolls in my earlier games. But I digress.

Among the conditions known, we have the usual suspects like blindness/deafness, diseases, etc. – and 5 levels or drunkenness (YEAH!), 4 levels of fear (you guessed it: shaken, frightened, panicked, cowering)…but it should be noted that both starvation and losing limbs are their own things here. Ability loss persists while the condition that instills it does; ability damage heals at a rate of 1 per day; ability drain needs magical fixing. Energy drain, lycanthropy and petrification are as deadly as the old-school crowd wants them to be. Be afraid. Rules for high altitudes, suffocation, toxic air, smoke, corrosive atmosphere, extreme temperatures, deep snow, avalanches, instant freezing, falling (yes may go partially straight to your wound hit points…), rain, storms – you note it. The chapter on these environmental and terrain effects is massive, exhaustive and pretty much amazing.

Sample NPCs, hireling rules and an easy to grasp monster/NPC-notation – simple, handy, no complaints. Now, beyond the friars mentioned, we take a look at priests and gods – several takes on gods and how they may or may not exist, are provided before we get EVEN MORE class options, like the witch-hunter fighter, the crusader berserker. The preacher bard variant or the inquisitor thief sub-class. A MASSIVE array of deties and potential subjects of worship is provided, remaining setting-agnostic throughout – elemental water, fertility deity, fortune – you get the idea. Basically, you get the rules and then can apply the template provided to your setting of choice. A class for champions or law and chaos and one for the guardians of neutrality complements this section. While we’re at it: We do not stop there. We receive a massive, detailed discussion on the matter of the immortal soul, petitioners, as well as on the planar cosmology assumed (including discussions on positive/negative energy plane and plane of shadows!!) etc. - kudos for going the extra mile here!

Now, magic. As briefly touched upon before, FH&W does not per se assume an arcane/divine divide in magics; instead, magic is categorized in white, gray and black. I am not going to insult your intelligence by explaining these notions, so let’s talk about some of the other components that set the magic engine presented within apart: Beyond even more variant/sub-class options, we actually not only get rules and guidelines for spell-research, but also for incantations. In case you are not familiar with the concept: Think of these more as sword & socery-esque magic, as ritualized forms of magic that can have benefits ranging from a folk magic charm to the calling of a demon lord. The notion and concept has always been exceedingly dear to my heart, so big kudos for providing the like. It should also be noted that the creation of pentagrams and protection circles against entities is provided in its own brief sub-section, once more providing a level of detail and coverage that rather baffled me, in a good way. Speaking of which: The optional rules for severe sorcery put a smile on my face: Obsessions gained from study, true names and their power, inherent danger of preparing spells, ley lines, rules for ritual sacrifice – here, we have a massive selection of rules that can dramatically tweak how magic feels in your game. We get spell-lists by school…and then a MASSIVE grimoire of magic. Spells are listed alphabetically, with class level, casting time, save, target, range, duration, and SR, if applicable, noted in the beginning. I love this. You get the meat of the spell’s effects at one glance, sans having to skim through the whole spell’s text. Kudos for going the detailed route here. Oh, and guess what: Some spells are reversible. How many are there? 666. Yes, that’s A LOT. And there are some pretty cool ones: You know you want to cast zombie stooge ,or time mirror right?

Even after this HUGE chapter, we are NOT YET DONE. The appendices collate ability score in a table; you get age, height and weight tables, personality descriptors; a system to pledge allegiance to causes, nations, organizations, etc. to gain benefits; a system to track cultural origins and language and literacy (OH YES!!!) in THREE categories (primitive, default medieval, advanced (OH DOUBLE YES!!)! We get sample names by race and culture; an optional social origin system; alternatives to determine hit points; a quick and dirty one-page insanity-system; an appendix that collates all skills and provides sample DCs for them as well as conversion guidelines (YEAH!). Want further differentiation between fighters? Combat styles are provided; fencers can feint and deflect arrows, boxers can flurry…you get the idea. Want to adapt your favorite class? Conversion advice for 1E, 2E and 3.X classes is provided.

Oh, and guess what? MORE CLASSES. I am not kidding you. We get basically a Zorro-style adventurer; a druid-y animist; we get scary monks (all those creepy killer monk tropes rolled into a class), a pirate and a naval mage…and the thick brute. For when you want to play the rather dumb, but really strong character. Oh, and guess what – while the default system goes to level 13…there is an epic level appendix that expands that range to frickin’ level 25!

Now, if you want, you can also take a look at the saving throw appendix and take a look at the cool tweaks the system proposes for reactive and active saving throws: Foregoing your action to prepare for an incoming spell or effect would constitute, for example, such a case. This sounds complex, but in play, it is quite the opposite and rather self-explanatory. We close this massive tome with a list of spheres associated with particular domains, should you prefer spellcasting priests, and a critical hit table further expanded, with class specific effects.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting may be the one aspect that some people might grumble about. While the rules-language and formal language is generally precise, there are a couple of instances where it is evident that the author is not a native speaker; not through malapropisms, but via a couple of slightly rough verbiages. These instances are surprisingly few in number, though – I can literally rattle off a list of books with a lower rules-density, penned by native speakers, that did not fare as well as this tome. Layout is surprisingly gorgeous for such a tome: It is crisp, black and white and sports a LOT of nice graphical elements: Scrolls, original and stock art – all comes together rather nicely. The book is incredibly easy to navigate, courtesy of the indices, the hyperlinks and the massive array of nested bookmarks. My one criticism regarding the organization is that, personally, I would have preferred all classes and class options in one place; that is a personal preference, though – I get the decision to group them next to the respective optional rules.

Fantastic Heroes & Witchery is pretty much the “eierlegende Wollmichsau” among the OSR-systems. In case you’re not familiar with the term: It literally means “egglaying woolmilk(-giving)pig” and figuratively denotes a jack-of-all-trades. This book is perhaps the ultimate example of kitchen-sink modularity in OSR games…and beyond.

What do I mean by this? As many of you know, I really like BOTH super-complex games like Pathfinder, slightly simpler ones like 5e, old-school games AND really rules-lite games. Here’s the thing, though – ultimately, for longer games, you require two things to stave off boredom, or at least, I do. I need options and the capability to depict multiple types of gameplay. Sure, I love a good GUMSHOE investigation! I absolutely can get behind an amazing mega-dungeon hackfest! I adore really bleak purist horror! But know what I cherish about both the complex systems and the OSR-movement as a whole? Both provide a gazillion of ways to modify and tweak the game. Sure, I can play, e.g. LotFP as the designated quasi-historical weird fantasy game…and add some Stars Without Numbers etc. But this meshing, at one point, becomes a bit more complex than it needs to be. As “simple” as most old-school rules are, they quickly become less simple once you start getting into the heavy tweaking; that’s not bad for short games, but I prefer longer campaigns, and thus a sense of consistency in that department.

Dominique Crouzet's Fantastic Heroes & Witchery delivers just that for me. It’s a masterpiece. It’s like coming home. This game manages to walk the tightrope: You can play it as a rather simple, classic game on par with the big OSR-systems…or you can make use of the massive wealth of options presented. The combat, as depicted herein, is dynamic and incredibly fun and tactical – it rewards player brains and forethought. Moreover, it does not fall prey to them “I hit it with my sword”-syndrome, where the martial characters just stand around and bash on things. You can literally run a combat, where a gigantic Kaiju tries to squash the PCs as they hurry from cover to cover. I have rarely seen a system that is so simple, yet rewarding and complex, that lets you create such cinematic moments. The simple skill-engine nets a ton to do beyond killing things.

And better yet: Much like 3.X and PFRPG or 5e, the system sports an incredible flexibility: You can literally tie in almost anything into it with minimal fuss: Want to add in full-blown horror? No problem, the framework’s already here; expanding it is a cakewalk. Do you still have your favorite module from such a system lying around, the one you never got to run? Well, conversion is ridiculously simple. For 5e, you can basically do in on the fly as well. Want to include spacecraft rules? No problem. Heck, you could even translate a really complex combo-based martial artist class to this system, provided you have a bit of design skill. This system is not only compatible with regards to other OSR-games, it extends that compatibility to the new school systems and creates what may well be the absolute apex of system modularity I have seen so far, all without losing its own identity and touch. The magic-classification, the friar class, the way in which races are handled (which btw. also makes race –class conversion ridiculously simple), the excessive attention to detail provided for things like vehicles, travel, etc. – I have rarely seen a book that made me, time and again, smile so much. NGR, in comparison, is a glorious system as well, but conversion takes more effort, particularly when converting from newer systems.

The biggest achievement of Fantastic Heroes & Witchery, to me, however, would be that it manages to capture the nostalgia and simplicity of old-school gaming with the wealth of options (emphasis on optional!) of current games; all but the most number-crunching and min-maxing players will adore this book; it provides tactical and strategic depth without being mired in it. In case you haven’t noticed: This may not be as crisp as LotFP or S&W, but it is incredibly encompassing. I can pretty much take any book from my library of adventures, setting sourcebooks etc. and run it in FH&W without much fuss. Depending on your skill, you may even pull of such a transition on the fly. I deemed that to be an impossible feat. This book accomplished it.

And yes, I am SO going to get this in print.

If that has, by now, not become abundantly clear: I adore this book. It is a masterpiece in its encompassing nature, in its tendency to embrace what is good about a system, in how easily you can customize it.

If the idea of going old-school with simplified, quicker combat without losing the excitement provided by tactical combat even remotely appeals to you, if you look for a system that can easily handle PFRPG, 5e and OSR-conversions (heck, even 13th Age/4e, but that’ll be more work), then get this right now. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Oh, and while this was released in 2014, I make it a candidate for my Top Ten – after all, I only was pointed towards this masterpiece this year.

All right, only one thing left for me to do, and that is to thank the patreon that requested this book. I have rarely had so much fun with a book and FH&W is going to accompany me and influence my gaming sensibilities for a long time to come.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastic Heroes & Witchery
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