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Wondrous Items 1: Armor Made from Monster Hides
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/04/2014 12:28:17
Most of us have spent an entire combat wondering if our weapons will ever penetrate a monster's natural armour... but how many of us have thought about using that armour for ourselves after that monster lies dead on the floor?

This product not only poses the suggestion, it also offers practical advice as to how to go about it and a wealth of ready-made samples. To collect the materials, use the Survival skill (which includes useful tricks like how to field dress game - this can be re-purposed to skinning a creature with the care needed to keep the hide intact) and then use the Craft skill to fashion the armour you want. There's even a note on how to work out what it's worth, if you decide to sell. Or want to know the value if you are counting collected hides as part of the party treasure and need to divide it up equally.

The example armours all give the DCs to harvest and make the armour (and you're shown how to work these out for other creatures), as well as any special properties your new armour might have as well as the regular protection element. These are generally based on the natural abilities of the monster that formerly owned the hide, and can be quite inventive.

The adventure potentials are immense. Not only will you eye up every monster in a different light, you may even decide to go hunting for just the right creature based on what you can make from it, or the party may be hired by a less-adventurous craftsmen in need of particular items to fill an order.

Neat idea, and plenty of potential for this to be more than merely 'more loot' for the party!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wondrous Items 1: Armor Made from Monster Hides
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KOBOLD Guide to Board Game Design
by Jason P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/29/2013 22:21:22
This book lies.

You will note the five star rating for a good reason. The book claims to be about "Board Game Design" when in reallity it is so much more. It's about all games, from board to card to RPG. It discusses the core reasons for design and the main structures behind them. This doesn't focus on individual mechanics, but rather on the more fundamental, structural things.

If you want to design any game, this is a godsend. As a roleplaying game designer, it blew me away. Grab your copy.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Board Game Design
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KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 1
by Jason P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/29/2013 22:09:07
An oldie but a goodie; this has a a focus on game design within a traditional D&D context, and does it with style. If you are looking for gems like you might have once found in Dragon Magazine, check this out!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 1
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Advanced Races 3: Gearforged (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/20/2013 03:13:20
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment in the Advanced Races-series is 26 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Now the story of Gearforged has been told by multiple supplements and could be pieced together from various Midgard-themed sources, but herein we have the story well-compiled and much like the spread content, this pdf offers also fluff-wise the easiest way of getting the whole story of the creation of the Gearforged - from Stross-tyranny to the Free City of Zobeck's revolution to how Rava (a mask of Ariadne) and her church have guided and shaped Gearforged society, while also going into details on Gearforged psychology and iconic concepts like memory gears, soul gems and everwound springs as well as Rava's write-up. Also rather awesome would be the schematic insights into the anatomy of Gearforged, marvelously illustrated in gorgeous full color by Mark Smylie.



Of course, this pdf offers a significant array of traits - a total of 12 different racial traits are provided for your perusal: From a 1/day discharge of 1d4 fire/electricity or sonic damage à la burning hands to confusing foes by linking via touch with their minds, these traits...are actually fun! I mean it! They're not too strong, but confer significant bonuses and make for thematically fitting, intriguing additions to characters that may well make the difference between triumph or doom. Only rarely do I see traits I enjoy as much as these, so kudos! Especially since 5 racial subtypes with assigned traits add also a sense of narrative gravitas to the selection of these traits - I wish more supplements tied story/setting-information that concisely together. And of course, the cool incantation/ritual to turn into a Gearforged is depicted herein as well in all its glory.



But what do Gearforged characters get crunch-wise? Well, they are medium, get +2 to an ability score of their choice, +1 natural armor, suffer no penalty from wearing medium armor, get low-light and darkvision and also the Gearforged traits - these include +4 to saves versus mind-influencing effects, immunity to nonlethal damage, disease, death effects, necromancy effects, poison and sleep as well as exhaustion and fatigue. Furthermore, they automatically stabilize at 0 Hp or less and are not subject to massive damage death. Even upon complete destruction of the base bdy, as long as the memory gears and soul stone are intact, the Gearforged can be recreated. They also don't need to eat, sleep or breathe and may work properly under water for str-score hours - any longer than that immobilizes them unless they have been repaired. Gearforged incur a -2 penalty on swim-checks.

Gearforged cannot heal damage naturally, and even magic only cures the minimum amount of damage. The psionic repair power (nice to see the inclusion!) works normally, though. Gearforged require 4 hours of daily maintenance by themselves - failing to get this period of uninterrupted rest results in cumulative penalties of - 2 to atk, skill-checks, ability-checks and saves and after character level periods sans maintenance, the Gearforged become immobile, requiring outside help to reactivate. They also get +2 to intimidate and Craft (clockworks). All in all, an interesting race - the vast array of immunities is somewhat offset by the impeded healing capabilities of the class - though the question of type remains: While I assume from the fact that they get their own subtype that the Gearforged count as humanoids for the purpose of spells and the like, not as constructs, it would have been nice to have that spelled out properly. Now we also get an array of archetypes, first of which would be the Clockwork Warrior for the Fighter-class: Learning to utilize gears to supplement his/her/its attacks, developing natural claw-attacks and similar tricks in lieu of armor/weapon training. is nice, though we have a formatting glitch here, with one ability's name not properly in bold. The Faithforged are created paladins, who do not get spells, instead focusing on lay on hands (also on gearforged!) and the option to infuse attacks with elemental bonus damage dependant on level instead of mercies and divine grace. As soon as the Faithforged learn to channel they're rather hard to pin down, for their symbol is their own very being. The high-level abilities are also quite unique - kudos for an uncommon, interesting archetype here. The Heavy Gauntlet Witch gets a permanent adamantine gauntlet enhancement to their physical form, enhancing their physical forms with DRs and even fortification. Furthermore, their pain clasp overrides construct immunity and even, in one check, grapple and make paralyzed foes prone and get a reach. An ok archetype, I guess, though it annoys me a bit that it does not specify which abilities the respective powers replace/change - yes, it's a variation of the gauntlet witch archetype from KQ's issue #23, but still - the information should have been in this pdf.



Next up would be the Lawmaster inquisitor - unable to cast [chaotic]-spells, these inquisitors are specialists of intimidation and they make for superb guards, being able to make relatively easy DC 20-perception checks to discern the invisible, ethereal and later even discern the true form of polymorphed creatures and objects. At high level, regeneration and marks of justice as well as a type of imprisonment are added to their arsenal. rather neat! Barbarian gearforged seem like a contradiction in adjecto, but the Quiet Explorer gets a changed rage-quality as well as the ability to retaliate at higher levels, punishing opponents with AoOs. Summoners of the Gearforged race may opt for the path of Salvager - their summoning spells may be restricted, but do add the new scrap beast mini-template to their summons, making them vulnerable to electricity in favor of +2 AC. Also rather interesting, the archetype gets a flying metal sphere weak to electricity (no offsetting the weakness via evolutions!) that can learn to turn into a swarm-form which may later learn to split, throw swarmed foes and as a capstone disarm and destroy items to have the swarm heal itself.



The final new archetype would be the Tinker Alchemist - faster maintenance (only 2 hours, later none at all), exclusive mutagens for Gearforged, bombs automatically enhanced by the breath weapon discovery and may choose energy to be resistant against and even be healed by said energy make up this archetype's arsenal. Among the new items, we get a claw whip, a polish to dazzle foes and a gear buggy vehicle as well as an amulet that may grow spider-like bludgeoning appendages, anti-construct bombs, a kind of battery (to heal and offset maintenance) and finally, bells to interact with destroyed Gearforged.



We also get 16 new feats herein - improved armor, better underwater adaption, counting as both former race and Gearforged, better skill at dismantling constructs, DR/fire, having an integrated masterwork item usable only for you, more beautiful appearance, less penalties for failing to get maintenance, reflexively magnetically disarming foes 3/day, self-repair and even making a limb autonomous 1/day, the feats per se are rather neat - especially the autonomous limb has quite some potential! Speaking of potential, the 5 spells have some cool ideas, but unfortunately, also flaws - take the first spell. It includes this sentence "While encased, use your touch AC for all AC checks." I have no idea what AC-checks are supposed to be. Also: usually, touch AC is worse than regular AC, so why is this an improvement? Per se the spell offers temporary hit points, which is nice, but I still don't get how this one is supposed to work. Dazzling (and int-damaging) foes via bursts at 4th spell level may be nice, but also a bit weak. You can also transform your metal frame into bone, take on inevitable-like aspects or charge your unarmed strikes with electricity damage.





This does include options for non-Gearforged characters as well, though:

Oracles may now opt for the Clockwork and Industry Oracle-mysteries (both of which are AWESOME, the latter allowing you, if you choose to, to wilder in gunslinging!) and the sorceror may now opt for the mechanical sorceror bloodline and we also get information on the Craft (Clockwork)-skill, Disable Device when interacting with clockwork devices and Knowledge (Architecture and Engineering) as well as Use Magic Device. on another note, if you require some inspiration to expand the Craft (Clockwork)-skill, Storm Bunny Studios has a nice supplement out there that could be well used to supplement this pdf. Finally, we get 3 non-Gearforged clockwork-related traits.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect - I noticed minor glitches here and there as well as some minor rules ambiguities. Layout adheres to Midgrad's drop-dead gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the artworks are ridiculously beautiful for this price - James Keegan, Chris McFann and Mark Smylie all did splendid jobs here. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



The Gearforged have a hard standing with me - I've read MANY construct-races, with varying degrees of being constructy/human-like and just as many solutions for the obvious problems the immunities bring. Now fluff-wise, the Gearforged are my favorite construct-race, but crunch-wise...not so much. I'm not really sold on their balance. Where e.g. Darakhul, who get a similar amount of immunities/benefits have to contend with multiple drawbacks that balance out their powers, Gearforged only get penalties like the maintenance-requirement that can be mitigated and even bought off with significantly less feat-investment than the Darakhul. Furthermore, their immunities are rather significant and the absence of an age, height and WEIGHT-table is unfortunate - I can already see the discussions on whether the gearforged crashes through those ice sheets, branches etc. in my head....



That being said, the options contained herein more often hit the spot than miss it - Designers Wolfgang Baur, Morgan Boehringer, Chris Harris, Adam Roy, Jason Sonia and the mastermind of this pdf Thomas Benton have crafted some rather ingenious pieces of content that should, even for other construct-races, allow for significant amounts of scavenging. Idea-wise, this is definitely a rich, if not perfect offering, a bit on the stronger side balance-wise and with minor glitches here and there, but still a well-worth purchase. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at a solid 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 3: Gearforged (Pathfinder RPG)
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Midgard Campaign Setting
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/14/2013 19:18:39
I'm currently using this setting for my 13th Age campaign, and it's been a great fit for my group. It has a good balance between defining enough, so that I know, in a general way, what each portion of the world is "all about," but doesn't define so much that I can't insert my own details. It has a great take on the pantheon, which is unique to Midgard. Personally, I like some of the more unusual races that play a larger role in Midgard: kobolds, ravenfolk, gearforged, and minotaurs. The world is large enough that it features areas that are influenced by the culture and myths of Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Arabia, the Italian Renaissance, and even a bit of post-apocalyptic goodness. The world is sufficiently dark, where you know heroes are needed, but not so dark that it's overly Gothic or gritty.

The source books for Midgard are also great additions to my game, and are worth mentioning. There are supplements for several major areas as well as some of the races I mentioned above. And the adventures that I've played through have all been a blast.

I recommend that you check it out!

Originally posted at: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?348246-Midgard-C-
ampaign-Setting-Impressions&p=6219353&viewfull=1#post6219353

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
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Midgard: Player's Guide to the Rothenian Plains
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/12/2013 04:17:23
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The latest installment of Player's Guides for the Midgard campaign setting is 31 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 27 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



As has become the tradition with the series, we kick off this installment with a short fluffy introduction on the Rothenian Plane and after that, we get the racial qualities of Centaurs - Centaurs get +2 Str, Wis and Con, - 2 Wis, are large, have a movement-rate of 40 ft., darkvision 60 ft., get Run as a bonus feat and are treated as having mounted combat for purposes of feat-prerequisites, get +2 to ride (???) and attacks while charging as well as Heal Heal and Craft (Bows) and as quadrupeds, they get +4 to CMD versus Trip, but also -4 to stealth. Centaurs may also choose from 6 alternate racial traits - from eating anything to faster speed, poison use or increased encumbrance (I assume in addition to the already impressive quadruped encumbrance-bonus), centaurs may also replaced their skilled trait with alternate skill-bonuses while in the Rothenian Plane. If you're going for playing centaurs, I guess they kind of work, though I do consider them rather strong stat-wise - one particular issue centaurs will face would be the climb-issue and similar problems whenever feet would be required and their bulk a hindrance. So honestly...a sample DC-table/advice for this particular race would have been rather justified, especially since per design, they seem to imply that this is a balancing factor.... or the designer just didn't balance them with the core-races: Since they don't use undersized weapons like lamias, the large weaponry alone is quite a bonus...



The second race herein would be the Huginn, the Ravenfolk of Midgard, who get +2 Dex and Wis, - 2 Con, low-light vision, +2 to Stealth and Perception, +4 to linguistics, automatic proficiency with short swords, greatswords and longswords as well as a bite attack at 1d3. They may also choose from a total of 4 alternate racial traits, all of which are nice and balanced, including Wotan-blessed milky-white eyes that impede ranged combat, but mean they are closer to the flow of destiny, allowing them to 1/day add +1 to an attack or check.



The Human ethnicity of the Kariv is also depicted - Kariv replace the default human traits with one or more of 5 different traits, many of which add 1/2 class level to a respective skill: Rather powerful and definitely something, as the header suggests, that should be subject to DM approval. The Khazzaki Nomads may also choose from alternate traits that emphasize their alliance with elves and centaurs or their opposition to dread Baba Yaga or the Lord of Demon Mountain. Finally, Elves may belong to the ethnicity of Windrunenr elves, choosing from a total of 4 racial traits. We also get 26 new traits, all of which are neat, but also nothing too particularly exciting - plus, I noticed a minor glitch, a lack of italicization of a spell herein. Oh yes, all of the races lack age, height & weight-tables, which would have been particularly interesting for Centaurs & Huginn.



Among the 6 new feats, 4 are archery-themed, pinning crited foes or allowing you to incur penalties to add bleed and dex-damage and at level 20, even death (thankfully all with saves) to your shots. The other two feats allow you to unseat multiple foes - all in all, an awesome little feat-section that offers some cool options. Two thumbs up for that category!



Hereafter, we are introduced to Rothenian Archetypes - starting off with the Centaur Cloud-render, who becomes subsequently more immune to detrimental conditions and rather powerful high level abilities in the final spectrum, including increased Str- and Con-bonuses and +2 enhanced threat-ranges and auto-confirms as a capstone. All this mostly in exchange for trap sense, uncanny dodge and indomitable will. Solid if not particularly exciting archetype, though one ability has its name not properly bolded. The Second Centaur-archetype would be the Earth Mother (a druid archetype), who gains detect poison and know direction at will in exchange for woodland stride as well as speak with-spells as abilities etc. - okay druid-archetype, but kind of lacks a true selling point for me. The Holy Spear would then be a centaur paladin - these paladins don't get spells, but instead more lay on hands and mercies and they also get a groom instead of a mount - essentially a human (or elven, or gnomish...though gnomish squires are rather...problematic in Midgard...) squire. At high levels, they may create circles of protection and dimensional lock adversaries. Now this one is rather cool! Speaking of cool - we also get the Sky-Father for the centaurs, an archetype for Marc Radle's much-lauded spontaneous casting shaman-class: This one being particularly resilient and a foe of unnatural supernatural beings (i.e. not necessarily fey). oh yes, and they can MAKE SWORDS OF LIGHTNING. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a worthy archetype!



Khazzaki Husars are a subset of fighters that specialize on fighting while in the saddle and under the stars of the Rothenian plains - utterly bland and boring in contrast to e.g. the Shrive. What's that? The hermaphroditic Shrive oracles of the Kariv may discern lies by partaking in one's blood and they also may discern the hidden or let targets swear blood oaths - mechanically not too intriguing, but the stellar fluff makes this archetype awesome.



Sorcerors of the Huginn may now opt to choose the new Stormraven bloodline, which allows them to store spells in their weapons and sacrifice illusion spells to increase their disguises. We also get 10 new hexes, many of which cripple quite profoundly those coming too near to the rothenian witch - powerful, yes, but also very distinct. 2 major hexes and 6 grand hexes are also included in the pdf - the latter including storms of vengeance and even clone-like doppelgänger.



We also get the new lightning and sky subdomains, 3 divine spells and 5 new arcane spells -one of which calls the legendary Black Gnash, a particularly famous nessian warhound... 8 new magical items, 4 types of magical weapons as well as 5 mundane weapon types and 8 pieces of gear and equipment are ready to be bought via your PC's hard-earned gold. The pdf closes with the stats for 4 different mounts that include fey hounds and spirit horses, but strangely lack the stats to be used as animal companions - particularly weird in a Player's Guide.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - I noticed no truly outstanding glitches, but there are some minor ones interspersed throughout the pdf. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' glorious 2-column full-color standard and the pdf's artwork ranges from fitting stock to awesome original full-color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Author Adam W. Roy has talent, as he's shown in some installment5s of the series, but this particular one is not his best take - there is nothing particularly broken herein, but there indeed is quite a bunch of filler material that simply could have used a tad more unique options - some archetype are simply not that compelling, the traits don't live up to their name or could (in the Kariv's case) be considered rather strong. The Shrive's exceedingly awesome concept also asks for a better array of exclusive tools. What's imho the worst, though, is that the pdf is extremely focused on centaurs - the other races & ethnicities are more or less glanced at. Which would not be that bad, would not all races herein lack age, height and weight tables AND would the pdf not fail to address the problems adventuring centaurs will inevitably face - whether by ladders or simple tunnel-size. Some magical items or abilities to deal with that or advice for players and DMs would have been very much justified in this particular case.



All in all, the Midgard Player's Guide to the Rothenian Plains left me neither blown away, nor disillusioned - it remains a solid selection of crunch with some neat Midgard fluff strewn in, but also falls short of making for a truly excellent Player's Guide since it fails to modify the formula of the series to the unique challenges the material herein poses - not only via the Centaurs, but also via the human ethnicities: Where are the Status-rating-modifications for example? Crab-Divination? Perhaps exiled Kariv divining via the dread spiders? A tad more balance between the racial material would have gone a long way here. My final verdict, taking these into account as well as e.g. the age, height, weight etc. absence, minor glitches etc. will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard: Player's Guide to the Rothenian Plains
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Advanced Races 6: Kobolds (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/06/2013 15:05:41
What do you think when someone says 'Kobold'? Do you reach automatically for your sword? This book may not change your mind, but it will give you greater insight into what those scaly little fellows are all about.

Or even inspire you to play one, if your GM permits...

Or if you ARE a GM, it should help you bring them to life, for at least as long as it takes the party to get their slaying faces on.

Kobolds are portrayed as desperate survivors, ones who cannot even rely on those who hatched out of the same clutch of eggs, never mind the same species. This has bred into them innate cunning and wariness. Here you can read all about the life of a kobold from its hatching to old age (if it lives that long), their religious beliefs, and their place in Midgard (if you use that setting).

There's a section on kobolds as player-characters, which includes a very complex kobold name-generating table (well, roll percentage dice four times). For kobolds not only have given names they also have descriptive nicknames or sobriquets that they acquire based on appearance or behaviour. Interestingly, they do not seem to go in for family names. Perhaps it is just that they do not have much sense of family! In game mechanical terms, the sobriquet can suggest a trait; and there's a list of kobold-specific traits associated with some of the more common sobriquets as well as other more general racial traits that may be used if preferred.

Next comes an extensive list of kobold feats. Some are restricted to kobolds, but others are open to anyone who meets the prerequisites... although actually learning them could prove interesting if you need to find a kobold teacher! Several are based on kobold talents at fighting dirty and apparently the little beasts are good at using their claws to climb. Several kobold archetypes are provided including an archanomechanist and a clockwork alchemist - smart kobolds can come up with some really interesting ideas, it seems. But there are several combat-oriented archetypes as well, possibly fitting the common perception of the small, ferocious, cowardly creature many adventurers hold.

New spells, kobold equipment and a fascinating discourse about the traps that they manufacture follow; and finally there are some magic items.

All in all, a fascinating glimpse at the secret life of the kobold. Your first thought may still be to clobber one as soon as you see it, but you'll know a bit more about them after reading this!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 6: Kobolds (Pathfinder RPG)
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New Paths 7: Expanded White Necromancer (Pathfinder RPG)
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/24/2013 19:35:17
Influenced by the necromancer class in Diablo 2, I've had a player who has longed to play a heroic necromancer for a couple of years, now. The White Necromancer by Kobold Press allows him to do exactly that. He's quite pleased with his huginn necromancer. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in playing a very different twist on necromancers than the typical D&D/Pathfinder villains.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 7: Expanded White Necromancer (Pathfinder RPG)
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KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 3: Tools & Techniques
by Brian F. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/22/2013 11:40:01
The kobolds are back with another amazing collection of twelve thought-provoking and informative essays from some of the best designers and writers creating roleplaying game material today. The essays cover everything from the simple question of “What is Design?” and work through contentious topics of creativity, craft, and how to recover when things don’t go well. Anyone who’s tried to write professionally understands the power of the blank page, rejection, and the unforgiving and untapped potential of any great idea you can’t quite find the words to express, but it’s a rare treat to get advice from some of the stars of the roleplaying game industry to address those problems. It’s nice to know the kobolds care.

As someone who aspires to be a game designer and writer, I find that rules are hard for me and settings are relatively easy. So as I perused the pages of the guide, I found myself trolling for tips and tricks to simplify my rules process and make finishing projects more of a reality than a wish. With that in mind, I will avoid talking about each essay in depth and instead focus on a couple that I found particularly helpful.

Wolfgang Baur has worked on some of my favorite gaming projects over the years, from the original Planescape line at TSR to adventures for Alternity, Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder, and a whole lot of D&D. He’s edited the Kobold Quarterly, Dragon, and Dungeon magazines and is the publisher and founder of Open Design – a collaborative game design company. Oh, and in his spare time he publishes the Kobold Guide to Game Design series.

Baur’s essay “What is Design?” tries to define a term that doesn’t lend itself well to a definition unless you have context on your side. In this context, he defines it as “its own discipline, but it always borrows and builds on other modes of creative work.” What does that mean in terms of roleplaying games (RPGs)? It means there has to be a balance between rules and setting. When they are out of balance, you can end up with a less than fun experience for your gamemaster (GM) and his or her players, which may cost you fans or customers. Rules must be focused on the setting and the setting must keep the rules in mind at all times. It’s a balance I know I’ve not yet achieved in my own games.

The other essays build on Baur’s beginning, covering the similarities between designing RPGs for the computer and for the tabletop; the basics of combat systems; the power of a good design, hook and dastardly plot; and the fun and heartbreak inherent in collaboration and any creative enterprise. Each essay is lovingly crafted by a master in RPGs today who knows what they’re talking about.

The other essay that really got my attention was “Basic Combat Systems for Tabletop Games” by Colin McComb. As I said earlier, system design is my Achilles’ heel. McComb manages to explain, in a Q&A-type of format, what you need to know about attack systems, who attacks and when, how things like area of effect attacks affect a group of targets, how to measure the consequences of combat through permanent or temporary damage, and so on. He then lays out a sample system using his own rules (minus stringent playtesting) to show how the questions can help you come up with a working system. The practical aspect of the article provides a ton of hints and help to avoid the common problems that plague beginning system designers (like myself).

Colin McComb was involved in 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, but helped create one of my favorite settings for that edition – Planescape – and even helped with two of my favorite computer games of all time – Planescape: Torment and Fallout 2.

Rob Heinsoo has been involved with the 4th Edition of D&D and seems to have written half the sourcebooks that have been published so far. He’s the force behind the D&D Miniatures game and its first nine expansion sets. And if that’s not enough, he’s worked at Daedalus Entertainment, Chaosium, and A-Sharp in the 1990s.

Ed Greenwood is simply a legend in the gaming industry. Not only is he the author behind the Elminster Series, including Elminster: The Making of a Mage and Elminster’s Daughter, but he’s written hundreds of articles about gaming and continues to GM his own campaign. Where does he find the time when he’s typically writing three novels at a time?

And Monte Cook… What can I say about Monte? When 3rd Edition D&D and the d20 system came out, he was one of the three principle designers behind the efforts. And since then, with his own design studio Malhavoc Press, he’s managed to create several award-winning products such as Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved, Ptolus, and the Books of Eldrich Might. In my opinion, he has one of the most unique voices among the game designers of today.

If you’re a GM, a game designer, or a RPG player interested in getting into the design side of how to create your own games – you can’t find a better introduction than The Kobold Guide to Game Design – Volume III: Tools & Techniques. These 96 pages will provide infinite food for thought and hopefully save you some pain and suffering along the way. I certainly have a lot to think about now…

As a final note, I think that kobold on the inside cover is up to something… don’t you?

Article first published as here on Blogcritics.org: http://blogcritics.org/rpg-book-review-the-kobold-guide/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 3: Tools & Techniques
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Sunken Empires
by Brian F. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/22/2013 11:38:22
Ever since college when I actually started having the extra money to do so, I’ve been drawn to game stores and hunting for unique supplements. Adventures, gazettes, simple collections of maps – each has its own attraction for me. As such, I have ended up with a wide variety of books, pamphlets, and PDFs that each holds a particular fascination.

Open Design’s recent release of Sunken Empires: Treasures and Terrors of the Deep encompasses the perfect storm of history, art, and implementation that makes a supplement not only a useful tool for gamemasters to terrorize their players from time to time but a great read as well. From the forward by David “Zeb” Cook to the chapters on dealing with the deep and its denizens held my attention to the very end, which is a rarity in any supplement.

Beginning with Cook’s introduction – “A History of the Aboleth” – I felt I was being let into a tomb of previously unknown horrors. I honestly can’t recall if I’d heard of the Aboleth as a creature prior to reading Sunken Empires, but now I know it has a place in the occasional nightmare realms players may find born of my own freakishly random firing neurons. The story of how the creature came about provided crucial clues to crafting hooks and monsters without filling in absolutely all the details – leaving the rest to the players encountering such vile critters.

And Brandon Hodge takes things from there, weaving a storyteller’s spell upon the reader and introducing them to the aspects of Atlantis, Lemuria, and Mu from tales both ancient (Plato’s tales of at Atlantis) and relatively recent (H.P. Lovecraft adapting Mu into the Cthulhu mythos). Hodge then takes it a step further to create the lost city of Ankeshel and the modern cities of Upper and Lower Cassadega now exploring the submerged ruins and learning a few of Ankeshel’s mysteries.

After that, he provides all an enterprising GM would need to torture entertain his or her players with hints of powerful artifacts and spells from the distant past just waiting to be discovered by an enterprising band of adventurers. We have the half-merfolk Maerean peoples working both above and below the waters as well as new paths for other races and classes… I was particularly fascinated by the description of how Monks are entranced by undersea ruins – “drawn by the promise of lost knowledge and paths of enlightenment cultivated by ancient civilizations.” I’d not considered monks in that light before and yet I may start doing so…

Chapter 3 provides not only equipment for adventures daring to explore the sunken ruins, but by what they may find. The lure of lost technology provides not only interesting magic items, but the almost Steampunk-influenced weapons of a much more advanced race. And the weapons don’t disappoint… rifles that fire magically-created ice slivers, methods of crowd control, and even a magical/mechanical method of duplicating a Dispel Magic spell. Very creative items indeed.

Spellcasters aren’t forgotten either, with new spells provided for Bards, Clerics, Druids, Sorcerers, Wizards, and even Rangers. The Druid spells provide water-related magical effects such as Barnacle Armor, Wall of Water, and Calm the Waves. I was a bit disappointed by the small number of Ranger spells (there are only two) and wondered if as a GM I might consider creating additional powers for those adventurers used to prowling the underwater wilderness. Of course the Sorcerer/Wizard list was the most impressive, including more than 30 new spells for those classes.

The list of new magic items was definitely fun to peruse… Though I felt like I needed a much bigger bankroll to be wandering the aisles for many of the items costing 10,000 gold pieces or more. Even so, as a fighter who wouldn’t want a heavy steel shield shaped as a writhing squid that 3x a day could try to disarm your enemies!

If you plan on running any adventures in the split city of Cassadega, Chapter 5 is a must read. It provides much needed guidance on how to handle different levels of parties adventuring in or near the sunken ruins. Though that discussion is little more than a page, it provides answers to many of the problems parties may encounter if they are outmatched by the environment they find themselves in. Hodge goes so far as to provide random encounter tables for the coast and the underdeep that would scare the heck out of me as a player. Everything from plant life trying to kill you to a shoggoth waiting to devour you and your party as an hors d’oeuvre.

Lastly, Chapter 6 provides a description of the many critters you may encounter above or below the waves in these areas. Everything from a Bone Crab to a Wharfling Swarm (described as a huge number of hairless underwater raccoons with needle-like teeth) and aquatic variants of other creatures such as a Needlefish Swarm (a variant of Bat Swarm), a Slick (a Black Pudding variant), or a Giant Trilobite (variant of a Giant Centipede). And then of course there’s the Aboleth… I certainly wouldn’t want to encounter one in a dark, submerged alley.

Honestly, I was very impressed by Sunken Empires. It provides enough “crunch” for an enterprising GM to take it and merge it into his or her own game world quite easily. And if done right, a GM would have potentially years of gaming to explore all the dark corners of the Ankeshel ruins. I did find a few typos here and there, but nothing earth shattering that prevented my understanding of the content. And the artwork for the book was amazing from Malcolm McClinton (awesome cover art), Thomas Cole, Hodge himself, Pat Loboyko, and Hugo Solis.

If you’re looking for a new supplement and you think you want your players to get wet, scared, or both – I’d encourage you to check out Sunken Empires from Open Design and Brandon Hodge. Look for it at Paizo Publishing, RPGNow, and Kobold Quarterly!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here: http://blogcritics.org/rpg-book-review-sunken-empires-by/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sunken Empires
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Kobold Quarterly Magazine 13
by Brian F. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/22/2013 11:36:32
The good people at Kobold Quarterly are at it again, producing another fine issue of their roleplaying games (RPG) magazine. However, I have to warn you – perhaps this issue should have come in a paper wrapper because of the cover. The cover art features a scene right out of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a forest clearing teeming with fae-looking folk, satyrs, unicorns, and other critters all getting ready to party. Now, there are some carefully placed shadows, hair, and arms, but it’s tough to ignore that a good number attending the revelry are stark naked.

Before anyone gets up in arms, I’m not a prude. But my concern would be for those game stores who carry KQ on their shelves and the pre-teen and teenage gamers who shop there. If we want our industry to be taken seriously, it’s tough if one of our best magazines (who have taken over for the once great Dragon and Dungeon publications from TSR/Wizards of the Coast/Paizo Publishing) is presenting Boris Vallejo-style pictures without properly warning folks first.

Yes, this issue does deal with sex and romance in RPGs, but you could warn a fella first. It’s funny, because I don’t typically object to magazine covers. Many of the KQ covers have been suggestive, but not objectionable. I guess it’s the pure… nakedness… that bugged me here.

That said, the articles inside this issue are the typical top-rate variety that you expect from KQ. And alongside the articles about sex and romance, there are articles about gnomish flying machines, magic weapons, and some darker material about creatures like the Shoggoth and using Lovecraftian Gods in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Again, the mix of content is amazing and thought provoking as always.

Who knew the ecology and psychology of Shoggoths was a topic that needed exploration? These are vile creatures from H.P. Lovecraft‘s Cthulhu Mythos who can now be injected into your own RPG campaigns to add some additional “ick” factor if you need it. “Ecology of the Shoggoth” by Phillip Larwood describes shoggoths as an intelligent ooze that consume living tissue or material and add it to their bulk. But just because they’re intelligent doesn’t mean you can have a conversation with one if you see it sliming down the street. These grotesque creatures embody chaos itself and leave a path of destruction and insanity in their wake. Larwood introduces the concept of cults to these strange creatures who actually feed and worship them… not the kind of folks you want to take home to eat meet your mother.

And if that wasn’t enough to scare your players, Aeryn Rudel describes the properties of some of the Cthulhu elder god and some of the qualities of their worshippers in his article “Lovecraftian Gods”. These gods cover everything from chaos to true evil and I wouldn’t want to run into them in a dark alley. No goody-two-shoes gods here. I do wonder a bit at the game balance qualities of some of the powers the faithful get from these divinities. Things like the Veil of ‘Umr at-Tawil would drive me nuts as a GM or a player for example (a blue silk veil that gives the ability to see all possible actions an enemy may take and then interrupt them), but it’s nice to have additional options.

As a game designer contemplating a Steampunk setting, David Mallon’s article for Pathfinder – “The Arquebusier” – was intriguing. Introducing a class proficient with early firearms such as the Musket and Blunderbuss would certainly add numerous options to a game world. And some of the new feats included, such as Double Tap and Bulletcrafting make this class much more well rounded – giving such a character the ability to not only create such weapons and ammunition, but have proficiency in using them in combat.

By far my favorite article in the issue was Monte Cook‘s “The Thrill of the Unknown” – which cuts to the heart of game setting design, which is one of my favorite things to do. Cook suggests that instead of illuminating all the corners of every dark place in the world, the element of the unknown needs to remain ever present. As he says – “Remember… that the power of the truly unknown is that, because it is entirely undefined, we can never grow accustomed to it.” When you know what’s coming, you can prepare for it. And that’s fine most of the time, but leave a bit of mystery where you and your players can explore it together.

If you’re looking for inspiration as a player or a GM, look no further than an issue of Kobold Quarterly, past or present. Every time I crack open a copy I learn something new or find a new way to look at things… Be sure to pick up your copy of Kobold Quarterly, Spring 2010, Issue 13 at a gaming store near you or online at KoboldQuarterly.com. Even with the questionable cover of this issue, you’re bound to find something fascinating!

This review originally appeared: http://www.gameknightreviews.com/2010/04/magazine-review-kob-
old-quarterly-spring-2010-issue-13/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kobold Quarterly Magazine 13
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Advanced Races 2: Darakhul Ghouls (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/22/2013 04:18:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second in Kobold Press' series of racial pdfs is 19 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So what are Darakhul? well, they are a race that has haunted my twisted imagination ever since I had the good fortune of being able to read the closed Open Design "Empire of Ghouls" - essentially, Darakhul are intelligent ghouls that inhabit a subterranean, militaristic empire that constantly requires fuel in the form of flesh. Taking the idea of social predators up to 11, their empire can essentially be envisioned as a kind of blend of twisted theology, Roman discipline and undying hunger. Add a well-greased war machinery, complex social structures and we have an empire of foes that is frightening on more than one level.



And now, you can play these nasties. Darakhul get +2 Cha, no con-score (using like undead instead cha) are either medium or small (with small benefits balanced out by a reduced movement rate of 20 ft. versus the 30 ft. of medium Darakhul), darkvision 60 ft., burrow speed 10 ft., a bite attack 8which unfortunately does not specify whether it acts as a secondary natural attack or a primary one), darkvision 60 ft. and count as undead. Undead PCs are a nightmare to balance and usually, my knee-jerk reflex would be to start complaining right now...but being permanently annihilated at 0 HP, -4 to ability and skill-checks in day light (-2 in the spell's area) sans save and lethal starvation when not consuming sufficient amounts of meat actually do a good job of making the race more fragile and balanced...so yeah, no gripes.



After this basic crunch, we are introduced to the Darakhul and how they interact with the world, advice on how to avoid the Drizz't-syndrome (or at least make it cool) and cover the problem of proper disguises - for Darakhul on the surface (or anywhere, really), may easily end up rather dead by lynchmob when not developing a proper strategy to conceal their nature. Worse, since positive energy harms them, Darakhul may suffer rather unpleasant side-effects from even well-meaning clerics.



A total of 12 different traits for Darakhul are provided to further customize your character: From having grown up in the empire's capital to being able to select traits from the former race prior to ghoulification up to the option to choose lantern beetles (with full stats) as companions/familiars or determine a certain stock from which you were initiated into Darakhul ranks, the traits are balanced and neat.



We also get a selection of 14 new feats that allow for the expansion of darkvision, healing by corpse-consumption, improved tracking of wounded creatures, gaining claw attacks, increase burrow speed and gain DR 5/magic, which upgrades to DR 10/magic - powerful, yes, but since the Darakhul is particularly vulnerable and fragile at low levels, a life-saver to prevent your PC from reaching that nasty 0...Partially adapting to sunlight, cha-mod/day using paralytic saliva (for 1 round +1 per point of cha-mod) and via two feats, one of which is rather high-level, Darakhul can even end their hunger. The problem of rage not working as intended for undead can also be countered via the undead rage-feat, which instead adds the bonus to cha and finally, there is a feat that allows you to consume hearts to power your metamagic - the latter, suffice to say, is a rather evil option.



There also are 3 archetypes herein - the Quicksilver Alchemist who uses mutagens to enhance cha at the cost of wis (and said damage can only be healed by massive meat-consumption) and also learns to create undead and use the inflict-spells, but pays for this in weaker bombs. At 10th level, the archetype may choose the new "Death which dreams"-discovery, which nets him/her 10 negative hp before destruction and a buffer of 5 cha-points of attribute damage before true death - essentially making the character more like a mortal and less fragile in that regard. then again, at 10th level, these scarce few hp are not that much. the Imperial Hunter is perhaps the best slaver/catch 'em alive (and perhaps eat them)-archetype I've seen so far - iconic and cool and nothing to complain about! Finally, we get a focused wizard's school with the Necrophage school. Associated with (surprise) necromancy, these wizards may bolster their power via flesh, gain undead familiars and consume the flesh to gain the benefits of speak with the dead, even if the target is still alive.



Of course, we also get new magic items - 8, to be precise - from books netting bonuses on checks regarding the ghouls, a new type of bone armor (and magic version of it), helms that net you razor maw, ghoul saliva-paste-poison, paralytic poison-net-stones and ghoulish travel rations as well as morningstars optimized for tunnel fighting and close combat/grappling at the expense of working worse when attacking mounted or from higher ground. Beyond these, we also get 5 new spells - cannibalizing lesser undead, inciting forced confessions from targets, improve your flesh with DR that is negated by exposure to daylight or gain deadly, increased bite attacks. Oh, and there is a cantrip that allows you to conjure forth maggots to clean the flesh from bones of the truly deceased. Beyond that, we also get a new incantation - "Call the Reaper's Pack". Superbly fluffy, this cool ritual allows you to call forth one or more lich hounds, which btw. constitute the new CR 5 undead hunting dog: With frightening howls and deadly capabilities to finish off prone creatures with massive damage as swift actions, these undead hounds will drive the fear of the pack into your players!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. layout adheres to Kobold press' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and also with several neat pieces of beautiful artwork.



Ben McFarland actually manages to deliver a take on the undead PC-race that is both flavorful and powerful without breaking the game. Playing an undead is a challenge and not for the faint of heart, but with this supplement, I wager it can be a fun endeavor for all involved. Even with very minor ambiguities here and there, the intent of the rules is always clear, though the absence of age, height and weight-tables is a bit unpleasant - I realize that height can be taken from the parent race and age is practically immortal, but weight would be interesting... This second installment of the advanced races-series is fun to read, oozes flair and makes this a thoroughly nice offering at a more than fair price-point. Any supplement that actually can make me contemplate allowing an undead PC in a game is well-crafted indeed- especially since I expected to at least dislike or be ambivalent about this pdf. Great quality in crunch and fluff, compelling writing, neat production values - well worth a final verdict of 5 stars!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 2: Darakhul Ghouls (Pathfinder RPG)
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Trapsmith (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/06/2013 02:51:31
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This book by Kobold Press is 70 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 65 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?



So this is it – the long overdue “big” book of traps for PFRPG – big in quotation marks, btw., because I consider the total page-count not that massive for the topic of traps, especially since it’s a topic not covered by that many supplements. After a short introduction, we are introduced to a taxonomy of traps, including a flow-chart. Now if you think that’s superfluous, I’d still recommend checking it out. Why? Because trap-placement requires careful deliberation. I can see your unbelieving scowls right now – but think about it: How many times when you’ve designed complexes have your players questioned the exact benefit of a trap at a given place? Traps are more than hp-depleters, they should make sense within the context of a given structure’s defense and whether it’s active or passive, boon, bane, ward or alarm – the right tool for the right place should literally be the maxim. Carelessly dumped traps can incredibly fast suck the believability out of any given complex and annihilate suspension of disbelief faster than Batman failing to solve a Scooby-doo mystery. The same can go for inordinate scaling of traps – hence the importance of the concisely-worded scaling advice that directly follows this.



Now if you’re a DM with some experience under your belt, you may be directly or indirectly aware of some points mentioned here, but providing a short introduction for trap-using PCs (hello Rangers and e.g. Drop Dead Studios’ Vauntgaurd or Purple Duck Games’ Runecasters…) should definitely help with both immersion and your player’s capability – especially since from a crossbow barricade to alchemical bombardment and alarms a couple of sample traps are provided, including information on how to scale them via various upgrades. These scant few pages should be considered required reading for trap-using PCs.



And then we’re off to the traps. Traps, traps and then…even more traps. First of all, let me mention that, yes, we get relatively “simple” traps like caltrops being dropped from the ceiling and the like – these may be neat. Where the pdf trumps, though, would be with its depiction of the more complex traps – take for example a forceful hand bull-rushing you into a collapsing wall (after taking crushing damage, of course!) and squeezing you to a pulpy mess. Several of the traps herein feature expertly-drawn schematics that make envisioning how these complex traps work actually very easy – at times even with a step-by-step run-down of how they work. Not only does this make picturing the traps much easier, the pencil-drawings actually are glorious renditions that instantly evoke a sense of old-schoolish nostalgia while still fitting seamlessly within the gorgeous full-color layout -quite a feat, I might add! On the content-side, escalating dangers and further modifications allow for the traps to be reused as variants and also for customization of skill-checks by level, further increasing the value of this pdf.



Now don’t expect all classic traps here – while there is nothing on the sadism-level of the infamous grimtooth-traps herein, a pivoting trapdoor that also features walls of fire in the pit and an orb that drains lifeforce and confers the advanced creature template to foes are just two examples of the nefarious traps herein and from deadly spores to black aether some hazards/special substances also add their value to the overall collection. Now it should also be noted that not all of the traps deserve praise – there is some filler here and there as well: Song of discord? That’s it? No cool harmonica/similar physical representation? Come on! A table with a button to slice guests to ribbons? Rather trite. Essentially, as neat as many of these traps are, chances are that with some DM-experience you’ll recognize quite a few of them or at least won’t be that blown away by some of them. Now don’t get me wrong – in 3.X the amount of traps herein would have been more than adequate, but since in PFRPG Raging Swan Press has provided multiple-rounds-spanning traps galore (which can be disabled/survived via other means than disable device/saving/not being hit) and since e.g. T.H. Gulliver delivered #30 Traps for Tombs and since similar offerings are out there, these traps, while very good, still feel like they don’t 100% stand up to them... and I'd be complaining about that endlessly.



BUT that’s not where the book stops (which is incidentally also the reason you read my complaining not in the conclusion) – instead, we first get advice on layering multiple traps. DMs, read this section, memorize it and properly apply it – even relatively conservative components like “Spikes” and “Pits” can easily be shaped into a varied and interesting cornucopia of pain when properly combined – if you need a case-study, jus recall the devious pit traps in the by now classic first installment of “Shackled City” …



Where the book starts to SHINE, blindingly so, would be with the next chapter – themed trap areas (we’re at page 35 by now – just to give you an idea of how concise the writing here is…). We get 3 exceedingly complex traps – and HERE we have the multiple round-by-round benefits I was missing before, the skill-DCs to jump on e.g. a swinging pendulum, the options to use various skills to claim necessary pieces of information to best the traps – in short traps that can’t be boiled down to save or suck and which are rather challenge the whole party in unique and intriguing ways. My only regret is that I would have loved to see more of them – glorious indeed!



Starting on page 39, we delve into the exploits of one Gavin the Trapsmith, whom regulars of the KQ-blog will recall undoubtedly. In this chapter, the informative and surprisingly well-written crunch of traps is prefaced by nice prose that makes this chapter a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. The traps per se are nothing to smirk at either and contain some rather… let’s say interesting choices. Take a net filled with cheese. Yes. Cheese. If you spring the net, you ignite flammable oil which promptly melts the cheese, burns the rope and douses you in scalding, smelly cheese – a disgusting fate to be sure – and a hilarious one. On the more devious side – what about a combined smokescreen that also colors a foe blue and then chains him/her/it to a barrel and ejects said barrel into the waves to drown while being harder to spot? This is devious thinking. Nasty. Insidious. I like it! In fact, this whole chapter drips with ideas I consider not only smart, but which actually had me grin my most malicious DM-grin.



Speaking of DM-grin – the next chapter is all about trick locks – 10 to be precise, to frustrate cocky rogues with both special constructions and locks – and no, not going into details here – rogue players will have to determine their properties the hard way…



From page 53 to 56 we are introduced to system-neutral items and tricks – and honestly, after all these glorious chapters and ideas, this whole chapter feels out of place. So there are boots that let you hover over the floor and become ethereal. Nice. No costs, no durations, no caster level, just a general idea on how common they are. Wut? Why? Seriously? Statting them in any system from 0e to PFRPG is almost insultingly easy – and yes, I can see how that’s the point – they don’t “require” hard stats. Any DM worth his/her salt could make them. But honestly – why should we when this book is supposed to be for PFRPG, if we pay money for it? The whole book so far is PFRPG. Why chicken out here? Why not provide proper pricing/item-stats? It just feels lazy to me or like some kind of alibi to incite users of other rules-sets to get this -which is simply unnecessary: The traps herein live mostly from their ideas and should be easily converted into other rules-sets, rendering this whole chapter even more moot. Now if the ideas per se were glorious, I’d let slip what I’d consider trying to wiggle around item statblocks/crafting-rules, but they honestly aren’t that high-concept or intriguing. Thankfully, this thoroughly disappointing chapter is not long – still, it left a bitter taste in my mouth.



Next up would be a module for 6th level characters, the “Whispers of Wyrmwood”- thus, from here on reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.



Still here? All right, this module is essentially a short dungeon crawl that has the players try to infiltrate the warrens of an abyssal kobold called Kwipek – one that seeks to change the entire kobold-race via the arc of ascension and transform his brethren into higher beings – like his own twisted self. His complex is studded, as befitting of kobolds, studded with traps and with information and statblocks provided, the respective kobolds not only can benefit from DMs being guided to portray a coordinated, intelligent defense, but also from the nice builds themselves. The complex comes with a b/w-map, but unfortunately no player-friendly version has been provided as per the writing of this review. Story-wise, there’s not that much going on, but that’s okay – it’s still a fun little trap-heavy crawl.



The pdf concludes with an appendix listing traps by CR (1 – 35, btw!) and one listing traps in alphabetical order – great to see since appendices are of tantamount importance for the usability of books like this.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any crucial glitches or issues. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ beautiful two-column full-color standard and the artwork, apart from the full color cover-artwork, are superb B/W-pencil-drawings by James Keegan. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Urks. Sometimes being a reviewer is just plain hard. Author Maurice de Mare has crafted a supplement that is not only useful, but also should be considered one of the supplements that is guaranteed to see use upon purchase – quite a bit of it, actually. And oh boy, did some chapters of this book excite the heck out of me – grinning from ear to ear is not something a lot of books manage. On the other hand, the overall quality of the book just fluctuates wildly, more so than in most supplements I’ve read. From imaginative, cool traps to filler to awesome rooms and fluffy, enjoyable, devious traps to utterly useless, relatively uninspired system-neutral bits that are only present due to either an unwillingness to do the crunch-work or to rope in users of other systems and a rather conservative module that feels a bit unnecessary, this supplement took me from the highest peaks to the lowest dales and back up.

So let’s break it up. The module is not bad, but it’s also nothing particularly special. I don’t object to its inclusion, it’s a nice romp, but I feel that more traps would have filled the space better. I’m also the last one to object to system-neutral content – the amount of excellent ratings I handed out to system-neutral supplements or fluff-only-pdfs should make that clear. What I object to is that this chapter feels like a foreign, alien object in this book – there is no reason for it to be in here. Its ideas are not that special either and the absence of fluff makes these 3 pages feel like wasted space.



Yes. 3 pages. I want to emphasize that. I’m only complaining this vehemently about these 3 pages. The vast majority of this book features excellent pieces of advice and above all…TRAPS! Devious, glorious, insidious traps. And yes, some of them may be considered filler. The vast majority, though, are actually ingenious, cool traps. Veterans may see some old acquaintances here and there, but even I got some new tricks out of the “simple” traps in this book. Now that the complex ones are simply stellar should have become readily apparent from my earlier gushing, so let’s end this, shall we?



I’m writing these final lines 3 weeks after having finished my second draft of the review. I’ve read this book 4 times by now and still, settling on a final verdict is hard. For novice and less-experienced DMs, this is a veritable treasure-trove, a cornucopia of death and should be considered a more than neat offering well worth the investment. For expert-level pro-DMs with years upon years (and trapbooks!) under their belt, this pdf should still have something to offer – which is a feat in and of itself. The excellent contents herein balance out the less inspired slip-ups that have crept in. Still, I can’t help but feel that a tighter focus, i.e. minus adventure and the inexplicably uninspired system-neutral chapter, plus more traps, would have helped the book, as would have e.g. some new ranger traps or a collated chapter on “common” trap-modifications – different coatings for spikes, different slings, the like – something more trap-centric, perhaps more tools for trapsmithing PCs? Perhaps a chapter of truly sadistic ones?

Now don’t get me wrong – these traps herein are delightfully insidious, nasty and will have your PCs CURSE their adversaries/complexes. But the book also delivers less than author Maurice de Mare’s talent (judging from the other content) could deliver. This book is close to being the definite resource on traps, it is evident that it could have been THE book for traps/trapsmithing - a mark it misses due to its focus being slightly askew. It’s a good book on traps, one mostly suffused with excellence that stumbles here and there…and one that shows that a potential sequel could be THE one. Now don’t take this as a negative criticism, but rather see it as a testament to how well this book performs in its more glorious entries – this IS a good buy, in fact, one I’d recommend to make a sequel/more trap-books of this quality more likely.

In the end, I have decided on settling for a final verdict of 4.5 stars rounded down to 4 that essentially consists of 5-star+seal-worthy components and less than stellar blemishes as well as a significant amount of well-crafted, good ideas – resulting in the appropriate, fair rating for a good book that is quite close to being stellar.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trapsmith (Pathfinder RPG)
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Midgard Adventures 4: Mayhem Beneath Demon Mountain (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/30/2013 03:49:42
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 13 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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



All right, still here? The PCs are hired by the wine merchant Korsav for a risky gambit - take his caravan to Demon Mountain's foot and spoil the wine of one of his competitors, Ulfer, who happens to be one of the decadent children of the legendary Master of the Demon Mountain. Upon their arrival at Demon Mountain, the PCs have to surrender their weapons and make the spoiling of Ulfer's wine a reality - during the 5-day-lasting festivities. Worse, PCs might notice that a couple of gnomes hide their weapons (these fellows are sworn to the lower planes in Midgard, after all!) and if they prattle, they immediately have a fight on their hands.



In the courtyard during the massive festivities, the PCs may witness a number of weird happenings - from corpses crashing from the tower, swarms of flies that suddenly dissipate to immediate cold snaps and silences, the PCs should be completely creeped out by the proximity of such epic power suffusing everything. The festivities per se also offer an array of weird tents - surviving the kiss of a vargouille as a wager, witnessing a crowd killing a gnome when they realize he has sown the elven faces on his "authentic" elven dancers, juggling limbs - a lot of rather weird and partially horrific things to do. Further complicating the matter, the aforementioned gnomes might try to assassinate the PCs if not having been taken care of.



And somewhere in the chaos, the PCs must find a kobold called Vyoda - and sooner than later, the PCs will try to infiltrate the outer donjon, where they may prevent a rape and save a poor kitchen maid from her drunken assailants and fight with multiple possible improvised weapons. Said maid may also point them towards the quartermaster who holds their equipment - a minotaur that can be bribed - if handled well. They may also expose a priest who worships a sinister god while collecting clues about Vyoda's preferences to find him in the chaos outside. Upon finding the kobold, the PCs still have to navigate the lightless tunnels beneath the kitchen, where giant rotgrubs, a haunt, an otyugh zombie and a schir demon who wants to kill Vyoda still remains - for the kobold's family's fate, as can be attested by the clues gathered, was rather grim.



Upon spoiling the wine, the PCs can witness Ulfer being humiliated and rest on their laurels - though if they boast, they may have made a powerful enemy.



The module closes with 4 pregens.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good - though I noticed a couple of minor glitches, none really impeded my ability to run this module. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full color standard and the artworks are neat. The b/w-maps are awesome, though I would have loved a map of the chaotic festival grounds. The maps unfortunately come sans player-friendly versions, which is a minor detriment. The module comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Author Chris Lozaga has managed to do something hard - confront PCs with an iconic, overwhelming, epic location without having to result to hard killer-encounters, instead creating a deadly tapestry of weirdness that should make for a truly unique experience. I did not expect to like this module and its deceptive brevity also points toward an experience unbefitting of the Demon Mountain - when it isn't. When it actually does the hard thing and manages to capture this epic location in all its weird glory, while leaving the true horrors of the mountain and its master up for appropriately high-level future sojourns when the PCs reach the apex of their powers. All in all a more than enjoyable module that only misses the highest honors due to the editing glitches and since I would have liked printer-friendly maps/a map of the festival grounds, thus resulting in a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Adventures 4: Mayhem Beneath Demon Mountain (Pathfinder RPG)
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New Paths 7: Expanded White Necromancer (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/21/2013 05:54:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The latest installment of Kobold Press' New Paths-series is 17 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So...this is it. Ever since its initial inception in Kobold Quarterly, the White Necromancer by Marc Radle has been met with laurels and I admit to having waited for it for quite some time. That being said, in the meanwhile, Zombie Sky Press' Sacred Necromancer has delivered a solid, if not always perfectly balanced take on the class as well - so can the White Necromancer stand its ground or has it become redundant? Let's see!



After a short bit of aptly-written IC-narrative, we delve into the meat of the class: White Necromancers get d6, must be non-evil (d'uh!), get 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons (no armors and shields - arcane spell failure), 1/2 BAB-progression and good will-saves as well as full spellcasting of up to 9th level. Spellcasting is handled via cha and thus also spontaneous.



White Necromancers get Eschew Materials at first level and are surprisingly not restricted from casting evil necromancy spells, but the respective spells use two slots when being cast - interesting balancing there! They also add wis-mod to all Knowledge-checks pertaining death and the undead, burial rites etc. and get +1/2 class level to heal skill checks. As a signature ability at 1st level, they also get the option to Rebuke Death as a standard action, which translates to healing living creatures by touching them for 1d4+1 per two class levels 3+Cha-mod times per day. Yes - ladies and gentlemen: An arcane healer that is effective without stealing the divine caster's thunder. Nice...at least at low levels. At higher levels, a more rapid scaling of healing would very much be in order.



At 3rd level, the class may also Turn Undead 1+cha-mod times per day and is treated as having channel energy, but ONLY for the purpose of turning the undead. Adding on further channeling feats is also mentioned. Now starting at 4th level, the class actually gets its signature ability - White Necromancy.



Undead creation-spells cast by the White Necromancer no longer count as evil and the resulting undead are free-willed, if intelligent, and of the same alignment as the White Necromancer - and as a crucial difference to regular undead: They are not slaves. To make them perform a task (even mindless ones), requires a diplomacy-check on behalf of the White Necromancer - and while I can hear some groans, I do think that's valid - interrupting someone's eternal rest should be no laughing matter and require some finesse. As you may have gleaned from the cha-focus and now diplomacy - white necromancers actually make for pretty good party leaders as written.



At 5th level, the class gets perhaps one of its most iconic abilities with Life Bond (Su): As a standard action, the White Necromancer may create a bond between him/her and one living creature within 90 ft. Each round at the White Necromancer's turn, each bonded creature (of which the White Necromancer may have up to class level active at once) is healed by 5 Hp if they've been damaged for more than 5 hp below their maximum hp, while the white necromancer siphons his/her life into them. Now this ability seems weaker on paper than in play - the tactical options it offers are significant and beyond that, the ability mirrors well the duality between life and death as well as lending itself to great potential for heroic sacrifice: We've all been there, the villain is almost vanquished, but it becomes readily apparent that she/he/it will take on PC down with it - with a solemn smile, the white necromancer can now make the conscious decision to give his/her life to give the PCs just that edge to survive. And this potential for drama, ladies and gentlemen, is awesome! This theme is btw. further enforced at 7th level, when the white necromancer may sacrifice up to 10+con-score+class level hp and transfer them via touch to an ally.



Speaking with the dead and blindsight that sees only the living and the undead also tie well with the concept of a spiritual person aware of the balance between life and death. At 11th level, damage-dealing skeletal arms erupting from the ground make for a more macabre form of attack and at higher levels, turning incorporeal and warding against death effects further enforce the theme of the class, with the capstone making the white necromancer hard to kill indeed and offering a lesser power word: kill - as a supernatural ability.



Now the class gets its own spell-list that takes the released Paizo-books so far into account and features a couple of, you guessed it, new spells; 6 to be precise. Bone shards (and its greater version) would be offensive spells that deal bleed damage beyond the piercing damage, whereas bone swarm allows you to conjure forth bones and direct them to move towards foes and pummel them into submission. Chains of Bones allow you to initiate ranged combat maneuvers (grapple, disarm, trip) and dance of the dead temporarily animates corpses to attack foes, but at a temporary cost to your life force. Finally, you now may erect Walls of Bones. It should be noted that all spells are NOT class-exclusives, but also available for other arcane classes.



We also get two new feats: Necrotic Spell allows you to make undead count as humanoids for the purpose of a spell at +1 level (and you have to think only for a split second to get the vast implications of this for once useful Metamagic Feat!) and the second metamagic feat, Siphon Spell, allow you to use lesser spell-levels to power high level spells, allowing for more control over your spells and adding quite an edge regarding versatility to those casting via it. Nice! Two out of two metamagic feats herein actually have a reason to exist - that's more than I can say about the vast majority of their brethren!



Now next up would be two new archetypes, first of which would be the Necrotic Healer, who not only gets increased healing capabilities, but may also, much like Forest Guardian Press' excellent Direlock class, take negative conditions from others to suffer from them. Unlike teh Direlock, though, the Necrotic Healer needs to suffer a certain base amount of rounds from them and may not redistribute them to foes. However, since the ability does not specify otherwise, White Necromancers may, in theory, even take permanent conditions upon themselves - not sure whether I'm comfortable with the repercussions there, but complaining here is a nitpick at best. At 9th level, the Necrotic Healer may a limited amount of times per day reflexively take the wounds of allies incurred by spell or blade upon him/herself, making for a more powerful option for the heroic angle.



Now Grave-Bound, the second archetype herein, nets the character an undead companion: These undead companions cannot be turned or controlled by others, are intelligent and there are some lavishly detailed choices here: Mummy, Skeleton, Zombie, Shadow, Ghost and even Vampire are potential options for your undead companion, all with their own advancement tracks. Furthermore, Grave-bound get a kind of minor semi-apotheosis into undead. One gripe: The Zombie-companion feels a bit weak and has an error in its 20th level advancement, where its 2d8 slam-attacks mysteriously regress to 1d12.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches that would have hampered my ability to understand this pdf. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' rather nice two-column full-color standard and the original piece of cover art is duplicated on a gorgeous one-page spread. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Death is as important as life - and I'm not waxing philosophical here. Look up simulations of mortal versus immortal populations and you'll realize why - the presence of death drives one to excel, to cherish life - turns out immortal ennui actually has a scientific basis. But I'm rambling - the white necromancer as a scion of the balance between life and death works exceedingly well as a class and actually does not compete with Zombie Sky Press' "Sacred Necromancer" - instead, we get a shepherd of souls, an advocate of the dead that. The White Necromancers fills its niche and fills it well - though I do have one complaint - I wish more had been done with the hp-redistribution factor, which imho makes for the most interesting part of the class, but oh well - guess you can't have everything.



When all is said and done, the White Necromancer succeeds at the task set for the class and should make for an interesting addition to your game, one that only misses the full 5 stars only by a margin, since personally, I would have enjoyed a tad bit more unique tools for the class. Still, an excellent offering worth of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 stars, omitting my seal of approval only due to the impression that the undead companions of the Grave-Bound could use some tweaking, the minor glitches and me longing for a tad bit more to be done with the condition/hp-distributing options.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 7: Expanded White Necromancer (Pathfinder RPG)
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