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Demoncall Pit
Publisher: Gaming Paper
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/18/2014 09:25:10
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/SRD, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let's take a look!



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



All right, still here? There we go! The Cellend family has been haunted by a prophecy most dread - according to the premonitions, one of their scions was destined to one day initiate a demonic apocalypse of "opening the worldwound"-level of catastrophe. Unlike many a stereotypical plot like this, though, the family took counter-measures -prohibiting careers as arcane casters, instead focusing on virtue, bringing forth paladins galore over the ages. Alas, as often, the true cause of the prohibition was lost to posterity and thus, Lady Astriel Cellend, born with a superb array of powers, seeks to undo the unjust restriction based on her family - guided by voices she does not understand, she has ventured into the family crypts to once and for all rid her family of the obsolete traditions. Unlike many a tradition/superstition, though, she is walking right into a trap, potentially fulfilling the prophecy and bringing unprecedented doom upon the world.



Via various hooks, the PCs can be on the very hunt of lady Astriel, entering the crypts - and once again, defying expectations, the family's former heads were not bumbling idiots, actually foreseeing something like this catastrophe looming, they have hidden clues throughout the dungeon to initiate a counter-ritual. These clues, present throughout the rooms, provide essentially a complex puzzle for the PCs to unravel as they explore the complex. Better yet, there are other things in favor of the PCs braving the catacombs tainted by the abyss. Remember that planescape maxim on the difference of effectiveness between devils and demons, where demons only reached a 13%? Yeah, these guys are chaotic and have a vast array of different liege-lords and thus, clever PCs might actually incite hostilities between the diverse abyssal threats, which include btw. fiendish grizzly bears, skitterdarks balbans (originally from FGG's Tome of Horrors, provided with full stats) and classics like babaus, cambions, shirrs etc. It should also be noted that aforementioned clues more often than not feature visual representations as plaques .



Iconic, rarely used creatures like an abyssal maw can be found herein and the final encounter is a BEAUTY - multiple waves of deadly demons surging forth, while the traumatized (but not beyond redemption) Lady Astriel assaults the PCs with her magic in a massive, epic final conclusion - but that is NOT the end. As long as Astriel's ritual is not undone, the demonic taint and danger remain - hence, the PCs will have to brave frighteningly powerful demons in a kind of second climax - and yes, the counter-ritual might very well be something your players fail to perform if they have not paid enough attention...



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Gaming Paper's printer-friendly two column b/w-standard and the cartography provided is nice. Here, something special should be mentioned - you can essentially have the whole massive map as battle-tiles and assemble it as your PCs go, provided you have the tiles (sold separately as the Mega Dungeon II-set) -neat! (Fret not if you don't have them, the module's map still is nice and can eb run easily.). The module has no artworks apart from some of the plaques encountered in the dungeon. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a significant comfort detriment.



John E. Ling Jr. delivers a surprisingly versatile module here - I expected "been there, done that"-territory and instead received a thoroughly compelling mid-level module that does something right many modules get wrong - it takes PC capabilities into account. Damaged mosaic? Mending. - Similar awareness of the system and its interactions in game show a thorough grasp of rules and play in practice. The exotic demons provided also help this module in its diversity and the smart story that does not presume that all NPCs are idiots also felt pretty well-crafted.



Now even if you utterly dislike puzzles, this module has you covered as well with advice and finally, the option for redemption and good characters to shine is great. The Demoncall Pit is a fun module and definitely ranks among the better high-level modules I've read for pathfinder - but one that definitely requires SMART players - if your PCs just bumble into this and try to brainlessly charge everything, they will not prevail against the demonic onslaught. Offering a smart array of clues/puzzle, challenging battles and generally, a carefully crafted dungeon makes up for the lack of bookmarks and artworks in my book.



The Demoncall Pit is a fun, old-school module with a dual epic conclusion and well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 in spite of the missing bookmarks and lack of artwork.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Demoncall Pit
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Mythic Magic: Ultimate Spells I
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/17/2014 05:20:25
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Mythic Magic-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page linked ToC (allowing you to jump immediately to the spell you're looking for!), 2 pages introduction, 2 pages of advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of pure content, so let's take a look!



So here we go - Mythic Magic, once again, thanks to Legendary Games' exceedingly successful kickstarter. But what does that mean? Well, as we all know, Paizo makes per se great rules-systems...but the support for them, due to a need to also cater to the core-audience, not always is enough for the discerning gamer - take Mythic Adventures. In it, mythic versions of spells were provided...but not for all spells. Legendary Games, back in the day, embarked on the monumental task of filling that gap, providing mythic versions of all the missing core spells and generating thus essentially an all but required book, core by any standard but name, for any mythic campaign.



Fast forward to this book - and here we receive the take on ALL the missing spells from paizo's Ultimate Combat. And if you recall that book's general innovation regarding spellcasting, you'll remember communal spells, which allow you to split durations between multiple targets. Now the mythic versions of those spells allow you to freely distribute the duration of communal spells - 1 round here, 3 there - no problem. The concise and easy to grasp rules-explanation at the beginning thus allows for a significantly increased flexibility and avoids the very first significant pitfall, while also providing generally valid guidelines to "mythify" your own homebrew communal spells with a nice table of minimum durations per target as determined by spell duration - really neat to not be required to deduce this from the presentation of individual spells - kudos! The feat required for this, including the option to share duration after the spell has been cast makes for damn cool roleplaying - after all, we all can remember one scene or another from literature, movies or games, where the magical/psionic defense of xyz gets stretched thinner and thinner by the amount of people protected.



After an alphabetical list of spells (with hyperlinks for those spells already covered in Mythic Adventures - NICE!) we hence delve into the spells - and immediately notice something: Flexibility. Absorb Toxicity, for example, is improved at 6th and 9th tier, receiving different options to power the spell with mythic power at the respective levels. Now if you expect a lame linear manner of crafting these spells, you'll be surprised - the means with which they have been upgraded are surprisingly diverse.



Let's stick with "A" for now - Adjuring Step receives an increased duration and makes you less prone to AoOs as long as you limit your movement to 5 ft. or less per action, while also providing at 4th tier augment that protects adjacent allies from AoO-provoking for 2 mythic power uses. Abundant Ammunition, on the other hand, extends its effects to a whole area and does not require the expenditure of mythic power to do so. Other spells are significantly modified - adoration receives a sanctuary-like effect built in and also has its bonus increased by mythic tier.
Generally, quite a few spells dramatically change the way they work and can be applied - mythic power that renders air bubbles helpful to other characters, for example - or what about adding a minor buff to a bestowed weapon proficiency? What about a 50% fortification and increased AC-bonus for bullet shields? Or perhaps you want a version of Brow Gasher that does not end when discharged? If Burst of Speed struck you as one-dimensional, +30 ft and the option to augment it to temporarily spring attack and/or even more speed should do the trick. Compel Hostility also deserves an explicit shout-out - adding a 5-ft step to the immediate action is rather cool - after all, its AoE is extended by that range... Speaking of target modification - why not dampen whole ammunition pouches?

Also pretty cool - the option to dismiss Debilitating Portent and have it immediately deal wis-damage. Beyond increased damage capacity of fiery shuriken, a debuff added for adjacent attacking creatures could well save your hide. Now not all of them are perfect - Find Quarry receives an increased AoE, but also allows you to ignore 10 ft. of difficult terrain sans slowing per round. Yes, this is in no way overpowered, but it does practically demand to be gamed into "this is my difficult terrain-ignore enhancer."



It should be noted, though, that hiccups like this generally remain the exception to the rule - and e.g. Hostile Juxtaposition's 5th tier augment for a second switch is tactical gold. What about having your Frost Fall expand each round to further adjacent 5-ft-squares for a kind of cold wildfire? I also am in love with Judgment Light, which features not only a free judgment (not counting against your limit) if cast for the first time, but which also has wildly diverging effects depending on the judgment chosen - damn modular, versatile and awesome! It should also be noted that the spells themselves and their relative power-level have obviously been considered thoroughly while designing these mythic versions, meaning that e.g. the rather powerful litany-spells do not receive a massive flexibility/power-update, just a moderate one as appropriate for mythic characters. I particularly liked the option to dictate one of the non-acting-normal-effects of Litany of Madness - can you see the madman directing the tune of the gibbering fools?



Now there is a reason why not all spells from Ultimate Combat are easily available in my game, with locate weakness being a particular pet-peeve of mine - when crunch replaces legwork and roleplaying, i tend to get annoyed, so it's perhaps due to this gripe that I can't warm to revealing all weaknesses of creatures within 30 ft. AND + tier to confirmation rolls, but that may very well be just me.



Another star would be the mythic Mutagenic Touch, which allows you to retain the effects of a shared mutagen, via mythic power - think "communal mutagen." Now if you can't see the disturbing storytelling potential, allow me to assist you - the augment allows you to add charm person or reckless infatuation to the effect - "Come, my blessed children of the fluid form, and embrace the bliss of my touch..." *shudder* AWESOME! I also consider the fact that Obsidian Flow does not immediately cool something in favor of the spells herein and violating a mythic peacebond is a) hard and b) helps those who'd clobber the offender to his/her senses. I also enjoy the effect that allows you to share the reloading expertise of reloading hands for a less abstract, more physical feel of the pooled reloading effects - as well as rewarding smart tactics à la "Shoot and move to me, my hands will reload for you..:" Both tactically AND fluff-wise more versatile, resinous skin not allows you to produce globs of tanglefoot-like slime or even exude it reflexively. More on the tactically interesting side would be the symbol of striking's increased range and reach and the option to further exchange duration for even more reach for much tighter and versatile battlefield control. Alas, the text does confuse it at one point with a symbol of death, though not in a way that would hamper the understanding of the context. Now with mythic rules providing quite a few tricks to receive percentile negating effects like fortification unerring weapon's option to diminish this immunity makes sense and +1/2 mythic tier to atk, damage, CMB and CMD make your wilderness soldiers more formidable even before extending the command actions for them to also include move actions.

Using mythic power to enchant wreaths of blades and even have them potentially gain special weapon qualities should ensure that you have the right tools for the job.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not as tight as I've come to expect from legendary Games - I noticed quite a few cut copy paste errors - like the aforementioned glitch with the symbol, communal ant haul referring to air walk and similar minor nuisances. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' two-column full-color standard full of great artworks, though fans of LG will know most from other publications. A layout nitpick - there are some minor bolding glitches here and there and the bracketed tier-denominator for augments for chain of perdition has slipped down a couple of lines. Regarding these, I also noticed a minor layout glitch - they start the letters of "3rd" etc. off as superscript and halfway through the book change that to non-superscript - again, not a serious glitch, but since some people are bound to be annoyed by it... The pdf comes fully bookmarked with an uncommon twist on bookmarks - they are upside down - i.e. the highest bookmarks refer to the last letters in the alphabet. While slightly confusing at first, I actually came to enjoy this, whether it's a glitch or intentional. Why? Because you open the pdf on page 1 and have an easy jump towards the end for a navigation that went fast and well. Slightly annoying, though, would be that e.g. the bookmark to Qualm is not in the right place in the alphabet. The pdf's excessive hyperlinks on the other hand constitute a massive comfort-bonus, especially since they seem to have been properly handcrafted, with no "will"-futures referring to will-saves and similar issues that tend to haunt automatically generated hyperlinks - kudos for going the extra mile.

Jason Nelson and Jonathan H. Keith have accomplished a task herein that I do *NOT* envy them - making this many mythic upgrades of spells is simply a task that requires true passion AND a more than solid work-ethic. Why? Because settling for simple "add + tier bonus"-solutions are pretty rare in this book, instead taking the peculiarities of the respective spells into account for unique, versatile and rewarding modifications that more often than not increase the options of the basic spell in interesting, compelling manners. The general level of aptitude herein is significant and the creativity beyond what I would have expected to find - which is particularly interesting when taking into account how Ultimate Combat's base spells tend to be eyed with some slight skepticism. This pdf should level the playing field more when using them with mythic rules. Now I am not going to judge the base spells per se (since this book is not responsible for them), but rather what has been done with the base spells and that is damn impressive. While a couple of small hiccups and tricks to cheese a tiny minority of the spells are here, that does remain the exception. In conjunction with the slightly more glitchy editing, though, I can't go higher than 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4, though, as much as I'd like to. That being said - if your mythic campaign uses Ultimate Combat's spells, this is a non-optional book and the varied, cool and unique options definitely can be considered well-crafted, with especially the general communal spellcasting framework being absolutely awesome.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Magic: Ultimate Spells I
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10 Dragon Magic Items (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/17/2014 05:16:29
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Rite Publishing's 10-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content - quite a bunch for the low price point



So magic items for dragons? Yep, beyond the obvious option to use them in conjunction with Rite Publishing's excellent "In the Company of Dragons" or Rogue Genius Games "Dracomancer", the items should be considered a treasure trove for DMs - take the barbules of missile nullification, which net a 75% miss chance versus non-ray ranged attacks...which is powerful, but the beauty here would be in the fluff - the barbules are adamantine spikes that are drilled into the scales of a dragon, emitting missile-hampering force pulses - awesome imagery!



An item that allows dragons to receive the compression ability (extremely useful for dungeoneering dragons - all but required, in fact!) would also be damn cool. The aforementioned Tanimin from ItC:D can enhance their abilities with a crown, receiving more draconic weaponry and modification of a breath weapon into fire-ball like blasts also makes for a long overdue, cool trick. A ring that helps protect against the dread apostates of the White Worm and their aberrations also can be considered a damn cool flavor tie-in.



Or what about smoke-emitting barbules? A howdah to carry humanoid allies into battle? The option to suppress energy effects that include the dragon among their targets, provided the dragon has the baleful glare draconic weaponry? What about greaves made explicitly to defend against pesky humanoids?



The pdf also includes a legacy item (a magic item that scales with levels if you perform certain rituals, the Elder's Pixane that denote the dragon as heir to one of the elder's seats among the lost isles - these bracers increase not only the prowess of the tanimin and nets additional uses of draconic weaponry and improve social skills, at higher levels, the pixane allow the dragon to pronounce a naming curse and even return the recently deceased to life!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to RiP's beautiful two-column standard and the 2 pieces of color artwork are awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Wendall Roy delivers a cool expansion for the tanimin, but not exclusively for them here - whether you are a DM looking for some awesome draconic magic items or a player looking for some improvements for the dragon PC or companion, this is the go-to place. If you're not using ItC:D, some items may be less useful to you, but at this price-point, this is still a steal - short concise, and blending neat crunch with glorious fluff, this is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Dragon Magic Items (PFRPG)
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Prestige Archetype: The Assassin
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2014 04:18:52
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, ~1/2 a page of editorial, leaving us with 5 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!



First question - what are prestige archetypes? Well, they are essentially a breakdown of a regular PrC into a full-blown 20-level spanning class - so no, these classes don't necessarily mean that you'll have a universal archetype (wouldn't have worked in this context, I think), instead providing a retooled playing experience so you don't have to work your way up to the PrC via classes you don't want to play. So that's definitely a pro-side. On the con-side, *personally*, I treat PrCs as very much tied to organizations etc., emphasizing the "prestige"-component as opposed to archetypes, which are more traditions in my game. I'm not the target audience of these books, but I will take a stab at them anyways.



The Assassin as crafted here must be non-good, receives a good ref-save and 3/4 BAB-progression, d8, proficiency with crossbows, blowguns, daggers, darts, rapiers, short bows, saps, short swords and shields and receive a massive 8+ Int skills per level. They also receive sneak attack, progressing up to +10d6. The assassin also receives the option to forgo 1d6 sneak damage to demoralize targets, more d6 increasing the chances the demoralize works on a 1d6 for +5-ratio. 4th level death attack is two levels below what the PrC receives, seeing it can only be taken after receiving 5 ranks in stealth. Not a fan of this decision.



Better options for hiding weapons, evasion and uncanny dodge - all solid. An awareness of slain targets returning to life is downright brilliant. True Death is unlocked at 8th level and quiet/swift death fit at 10th and 18th level. AQ new dual capstone of master strikes and soul bind manages what the PrC fails at - making resurrection HARD.



The class also provides advice on the option to trade in sneak attack for rogue talents to bring some flexibility back. The favored class options of the core-races are solid.



We also receive NPC-builds of level 1, 5, 10 and 15.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no truly significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Carl Cramér's take on the assassin can be summed up as a rogue on speed - and it honestly works rather well. Why? Well, for one, the rogue is, even with talented/glory-updates not a powerful class. The death attack, while extremely powerful, still requires a lot of set-up. The resurrection-sense is downright brilliant. the new capstones are actually worth the name. The massive skill-increase to 8 (in contrast to 4 of the PrC) may seem like too much, but for me, it works. From poison use to angel of death etc., all iconic tricks are here - and paid for by a decreased flexibility. Which I would complain about - but the note on alternatively allowing for rogue talent access constitutes this variety: If you think rogues are fine, maintain the linear nature of the assassin as a balance tool. If you think it needs an upgrade, go for the flexible version that can learn talents - glorious.



I love this Prestige Archetype and fans of assassins and rogues may very much want to check this out - it triumphs where the PrC fails, prevents low-level death attack-spamming abuse and provides a damn cool take on the assassin. Two thumbs up - 5 stars +seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Prestige Archetype: The Assassin
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Subterranean Enclave: Deephearth
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2014 04:16:54
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of Raging Swan Press' Subterranean Enclave-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Ask and thou shall receive. When I complained in my review of Mith'Varal that an underdark coastal town would have been awesome, I hadn't read this. Yeah. Tied it once again at the endless sea, this time around we receive an underdark coastal town - or rather it, was. Until recently, an earthquake has blocked access to the endless sea...and then, the disappearances began in the small community of svirfneblin...



The village itself sports a selection of rather delightful morsels - from a petrified, hollowed out mushroom (which houses the temple of the village) to the recently created land bridge, there are quite a few things to see - including a svirfneblin who has literally worked himself to death, trying to reopen the channel to the endless sea. And indeed, at closer scrutiny, the council of Three who is ruling the place seems to be a bit inconsiderate towards their populace, up to the point where one may assume that there is some other reason beyond obvious economic concerns for the dwarves-hating community to try to re-open access to the sea...

(And no, I'm not going to SPOIL whether there is, and if yes, who is the mastermind behind this village's plight, but I do consider it a well-executed take on a rather old trope.) We also receive full stats of one particular...inhabitant...of the place...in the loosest of terms and the interesting, peculiar lighting conditions - there is none. Darkvision suffices the gnomes, hence your PCs better bring light...then again, they'll be VERY easy to spot in the featureless dark...and who knows who or what may pick them off...)



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' two-column b/w--standard, with superb cartography in b/w. As always, you can download player-friendly maps on Raging Swan's homepage. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer, with both being fully bookmarked. Cartography, as always with Tommi Salama's work, is downright awesome.



Brian Wiborg Mønster's Deephearth should, by all means of its components, elicit at best a "been there, done that"-yawn apart from its geography. It doesn't. While I've seen the components before, their execution is more than solid and works rather well - the little tidbits coming together manage to make the settlement work better than it would have a right to do. Still, when compared to previous installments, it feels slightly less unique in its conflicts and context. Hence, I will settle for a final rating of 5 stars, omitting my seal of approval only by a margin.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Subterranean Enclave: Deephearth
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Broken Earth (PFRPG)
Publisher: Sneak Attack Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/13/2014 06:11:01
An Endzeitgeist.com review

First of all - what is Broken Earth? the easy answer would be that it is a post-nuclear campaign setting for Pathfinder, set in an Allotopia (an alternate reality of our own world for non-literature mayors) - this means that no magic is assumed to exist per se, though adding in rare magic would be no issue at all.



Now the book kicks off with a vast array of crunch - from new races (ape-men and synthetic humanoids) and then receive archetypes - a lot of them - from the chem-head alchemist to scrappers, we get a cool selection here - now one peculiarity I *LOVE* about Broken Earth would be its awareness - its awareness of what's out there. If you're like me and have this great sub-system from 3pp XYZ, you want to use it - only every supplement seems to add a new one instead, often less refined. well, not so this book - from nodding towards Kobold Press' Spell-less Ranger to Rogue Genius Games' Anachronistic Adventurers-series (and the superb research-rules therein!) to Dreamscarred Press' psionics, Broken Earth provides support for all of them and still manages to maintain functionality without access to them - everyone wins. Beyond that, a mechanic that balances character creation modularity with mutations and drawbacks makes for a cool way of handling racial restrictions and still maintain flexibility. The pdf also provides an array of equipment and vehicles, rules for radiation, overland hexploration and even sample communities and associated traits. We even receive a MASSIVE array of different supplemental options for the kingdom-building rules of Ultimate Campaign! Sounds familiar so far? Well, that's because the generally known components have been released before in the separate player's guide to broken earth, which I've also reviewed in much more detail - thus, if you're interested in the details of the crunch, please check out this review.



Now a general look at the page-count shows you that this pdf mostly of new content, but what exactly? Well, for one, the book is a campaign setting - but it's also something different. When you hear "campaign setting", you usually expect write-ups of different locations and nations, politics, history and the like - here, Broken Earth, while still providing that, sets its focus in a completely different way - and is better off for it. First of all, you'll notice an unusual amount of scrappers, NPCs etc. all ready to drop into your campaign. Secondly, you'll notice something different - think about Fallout, Wasteland and games like that - what's their draw? Scarcity, exploration, a sense of desolation and lack -and the constant fear and wonder what lies beyond the next hilltop or dune. While the crunch sports rules for fuel etc., while there are pieces of information, extensive ones, that is, on tech levels etc., the result could have ended up as something a kin to a fantasy world with a post-apocalyptic spray-paint. That is NOT the case.



From proper army statblocks to enclaves of high-tech hopes for a resettlement of earth, from mutants and supercomputers todrones, the narrative potential here is perfect - to the pitch. Whether you like your post-apocalypse gritty or over the op, this book supports all playstyles from Mad Max to Katmandi at Earth's End to The Last of Us - whatever your preferred flavor of end-times would be, a certain spirit of the end-times suffuses every single component of the writing, an endzeitgeist if you will.



Yeah. I'm gonna punch myself in the face later for writing that. (And no, I am not affiliated with this book in any way!) Essentially, the rest of the book is a DM's toolbox akin to one massive, huge survival wilderness module - or AP. This book essentially doubles as its very own, superb campaign outline-collection - player-driven exploration and a vast collection of iconic locales drive an overall experience that is, by virtue of its very presentation, radically different not only in its spray-paint, but also in the experience. Exceedingly detailed hooks that can be developed in less than a couple of hours into inspiring scenarios suffuse the pages of this tome. Whether you just want a depths-of-humanity's-depravity theme or rather have your PCs fight cyber-enhanced apes - this book has you covered and oscillation between themes and tropes can be handled exceedingly easily. From giant ants to telekinetic wolves to dragons (mutated, irradiated eagles with radioactive fire breath), everything you would ask from a basic post-apocalyptic bestiary is here.



As a mostly wilderness/survival-themed sandbox, random encounter tables are obviously non-optional, and they do come in excessive detail for each general locale. The NPC-Codex like array of generic stats, rare item tables, lists of psioncs used and even an index and an appendix of media for further inspiration are provided. (The latter deserves a ruffle though -each appendix like that ought to reference the grandfather of post-apocalypse movies, "A Boy and His Dog" - if you haven't seen that gem, it has aged pretty well!)



I could go on spoiling the details, the truth behind "Phoenix", what can be found in the monster lands, comment on the pseudo-neo-feudal kingdom of Geneva...but I won't.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - while there are some typos and glitches in here, the overall quality, especially for a "small" 3pp like Sneak Attack Press, is damn impressive. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column b/w-standard that manages to remain printer-friendly. The original pieces of b/w-artwork are awesome and the cartography (the main map also comes as a full-color pdf with the book!) can also stand up to this level. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience, with one bookmark out of order - no biggie, though. I can't comment on the quality of softcover/hardcover, since I do not own the print-version.



Matthew J. Hanson has written singlehandedly what usually takes a team of authors. Usually, that is cause for alarm or at least, deep scrutiny. So I went through the checklist in my head: Settlement statblocks? Check. Full-blown kingdom building support, with modified end-times appropriate new content galore? Check. MASSIVE 3pp-support, though always modular/optional? Check. Proper grasp of psionics? Check. I'd drop the f-bomb now, but I know that some filters don't like it. Just imagine me uttering it.



I honestly didn't expect to like this book - I, like so many others, have been waiting for Warlords of the Apocalypse for a LONG time. I have grown fond of RGG's anachronistic adventurer-classes and did not expect them to be supported here. I was firmly in the WotA-bandwagon. Well, they are and this massive tome manages to get post-apocalypse just RIGHT. In all its facets, in its peculiarities and different flavors. Could you introduce banned classes and elements? Yes. Could you annihilate anything super-natural/sci-fi for a full-blown extreme-gritty campaign? Yes, you could. Vehicles, survival radiation, rebuilding civilization and settlements - this book offers just about everything I could ask for. And even if you don't plan on playing in this Broken Earth, going full-blown steampunk, refluffing just about every rule herein to fit your tastes will still deliver a vast amount of content. Magical wastes, desolate planes - this book's massive array of content, even when used in unintended ways, makes for a glorious grab-bag.



Broken Earth is the benchmark that any future take on the post-apocalyptic will have to surpass -and have an exceedingly hard time doing so. Is every component perfectly finetuned? No, but seeing how much we get, how much of that just oozes the right spirit, like a possessed radiation sore, this book has slowly taken me over. Broken Earth is one exceedingly awesome tome, one that will have anyone even remotely into post-apocalyptic games grin with glee. Add to that the more than fair, very low price and we have a glorious tome indeed - well worth of 5 stars + seal of approval and a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2014.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Broken Earth (PFRPG)
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The Genius Guide to the Dracomancer
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/13/2014 06:04:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This genius guide clocks in at a massive 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/SRD, leaving us with 33 (!!!) pages of content - ridiculously much, but can it stand up quality-wise to RGG's usual standard?



After general introduction of what dracomancers are and how they work and interact with a given world, we are introduced to the class. Dracomancers receive 1/2 BAB-progression, all good saves (though the 20th level sports a glitch - fort-save should be +12, not drop-down to +6 from +11), d8 HD, 4+Int mod skills per level, spontaneous spellcasting via cha of arcane spells of up to 6th level, proficiency with simple weapons, light armor and shields. dracomancers draw their spells from the list of both magus and summoner and receive bonus spells depending on the draconic companion chosen, but more on the single most defining class feature later. The bonus spells take the form of a sorcerous bloodline, clerical domain/subdomain or druidic animal or terrain domain, but receives ONLY the spells, not the additional benefits like arcana et al. Got that?



Starting at 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter (i.e. 5th, 8th etc.), the dracomancer receives a draconic talents with which she can enhance herself - unless I have miscounted, a total of 18 such talents are provided and range from auras of elemental energy to receiving her draconic companion's form of movement, gaining natural attacks, sharing cha-mods for intimidation purposes, changing energy resistance or sacrificing prepared spells for draconic breath weapon-like effects (or wyvern poison in the case of wyverns) or receiving aforementioned arcana/domain abilities etc. Thankfully, the latter retains progression-standards and has a caveat that prevents gaining abilities before their intended level - nice catch!



Beyond these tricks, low-light vision, energy resistance, instant summoning of the companion a limited amount of times per day, scent and scaling form of the dragon up to a total of 4. This means that a 19th level dracomancer could assume form of the dragon III and I each once per day, or 4 times form of the dragon I or once form of the dragon II and twice FotD I on a given day...you get the idea. At 12th level, unassisted flight becomes possible (thankfully with maneuverability-ratings) and at high levels, blindsense/sight and energy immunity become available, to culminate finally in an apotheosis capstone that is essentially a version of form of the dragon III on steroids.



Now I've mentioned the draconic companion - and chances are, you read this review because you want to know about this dragon-pet-class. At 1st level, a given dracomancer has bonded with a dragon - and, in the time-honored tradition of many a fantasy novel, both life-forces are bonded, tying the dragon's power to the growth of the dracomancer. The logic-bug becomes immediately obvious - why bond with a feeble human? The reason is obvious - faster power-gain. While the bond between dragon and dracomancer neuters some of their abilities, it is also a fast and convenient way to gain power and increase in size, making it valid not only for self-sacrificing noble dragons, but also for power-hungry evil beasts. I *really* liked this rationale. It makes sense in-game and does not make dragons subject to Mcguffins or other dumb tricks that take away from their threat. Death of both dragon and dracomancer are covered - and yes, the interaction has the potential to spark storylines. (No, you may NOT resurrect my erstwhile master! *evil dragon chuckles as he takes off with your ally's corpse while screaming "FREE, MUAHAHA!!"*) Additionally, each dragon (or draco-form) has an associated bloodline, domain or subdomain, as mentioned above.



Draconic companions scale from 2 HD up to 16 (also mirrored by the BAB), receive 1/2-save-progression, up to 64 skills, 8 feats, natural armor bonus of 3/4-scaling, up to +7 str/con bonus, up to 6 int/cha-bonus and breath weapon scales up to x9 dice, x5 range...of what? Well breath weapons either have a line or cone as base-shape and each base companion stat that has one, does list it. It should be noted that this table lacks the plusses on BAB, saves, etc. - an obvious glitch that could have easily been caught. The respective attribute increases of the dragon are subject to the player's choice and draconic companions receive share spells, link, at higher levels evasion etc.



Now how is this balanced? Via the so-called focus. Dragons, even the most beneficent, are not used to fighting with puny little mammals. To avoid a dragon's intellect and dracomancer clashing, dracomancer must initiate a so-called focus -this can range from a standard action to a free action. Draconic Companions share the initiative of their dracomancer. Without an established focus, a dragon will only spend a single move action and appropriate, non-combat interfering free actions or guards unconscious dracomancers. To establish a focus, a dracomancer has to be within close range of the dragon and the action has to be taken EVERY round. This is the central balancing mechanism of the dracomancer and translates to a simple equation - the more powerful the draconic companion, the higher the action-tax. Note that e.g. the wyvern's 16th level advancement lowers this to one free action for 2 rounds. The pdf provides a vast array of sample draconic companions that range from dracolisks to void dragons, faerie dragons, drakes etc. - all with different starting stats and two advancement steps - one at 8th level and one at 16th level. A level 2 spell completely eliminates this option for 1/round per level, though, allowing for a kind-of-nova. Personally, I'm not a big fan of this spell, in spite of the dracomancer's very limited amount of spells known. Not necessarily from a balance point of view, but because it is a vital component of the playing experience of the class.



Now you're still probably somewhat skeptical about the spell-lists, so let me reiterate one fact - the summoner spells that only affect eidolons have a talent-tax imposed on them - to cast the eidolon-specific buffs on them, the dracomancer needs to spend one of the few talents - which can btw. NOT be increased via feats. It should be noted that Metallic and chromatic dragons are NOT covered in here - you have to get the Genius Guide to the Dragonrider for that.



Conclusion:
editing and formatting are still good, though not as refined as I'm used to by RGG. I guess at one point, this huge class got so work-intense that eyes just glazed over. Still, more glitches than I'm used to. Layout adheres to RGG's printer-friendly two-column standard and sports several nice pieces of stock art. the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



I'll be honest. I don't think dragons should be PC-companions. Perhaps it's due to me never liking Dragonlance and 3.X's late over-saturation with pseudo-draconians, half-dragons etc. - but I want my dragons as the "OMG, RUN!!!"-apex predators. I'm also pretty sick and tired of the numerous "I receive kind of draconic abilities 111eleven!!"-class features, racial traits etc. What I'm trying to convey is: I'm not the audience of this class. BUT, one of my readers asked and so I took to taking this thing apart, playtesting it - the whole shenanigans.



So consider me a skeptic. This did not improve with the spell-lists, though the limitations worked rather well there. Heck, even the breath weapon has a proper cap, preventing the spamming of it. I'm not 100% sold on the end of a particular implicit cap on unassisted flight, since dracomancer could spend a talent to borrow that from their dragon at 2nd level, when usually the cap is a bit higher. Assisted flight is possible sooner (see the legendary, must-own book "Companions of the Firmament" for a break-down of that AND various takes of flight/aerial combat you'll probably need when introducing this book) and, depending on your campaign, that might be a problem.



So, how did the dracomancer fare in playtest? Well, I'm not gonna lie - this is a strong class - even with its action-tax (which all but vanishes at higher levels), the draconic companion has the potential to steal the spotlight of quite a few classes, especially at the lowest levels - but that's an issue that holds true for similar pets of e.g. the summoner, the Kobold Press-shaman etc. and not something I'd punish the pdf for. So, how do I consider this class's balance over all? Hard to say - it is a powerful pet-class indeed and its impact on a campaign can be "just another class with some damn cool tools" or "utter game-breaker", very much depending on the style of your campaign. This class is not intended for subdued or low fantasy and definitely something you'd want to limit to a high fantasy game with an appropriate power-level. in such a game, though, it works surprisingly (or rather unsurprisingly - this was made by Owen K.C. Stephens, after all!) well. Can it be broken? Yes, though not in as many ways as an eidolon. Is it for every campaign? No. But does it potentially promote a fun playing experience? after trying it out, I can answer that with "yes."

Now while I won't use this class in any low level contexts or low fantasy, gritty games, the achievement of this pdf is not only its mechanics, but its actual justification for why any dragon would agree to the demeaning task of serving mammals. And the pdf keeps the dragon's alignment, potentially sparking hilarious conflicts between dracomancer and dragon (though the latter can't act against the dracomancer's wishes...) -so no, this does not break in-game logic, it does not make dragons wimps and, to be honest, in spite of myself, if I'm honest...I kind of like this pdf. It gave me ideas for organizations, orders etc. and some nice narrative tools. So even if you don't want players with dragons..what about NPCs? Hehehe...



But I'm rambling. The dracomancer is strong and if you're using a lot of spell-books, be sure to check these thoroughly before allowing them for the dracomancer. Synergy like that can't be held against the class either, though. To cut a long ramble short - even though I'm somewhat opposed to the very concept of this class, I have to admit to liking it. If the thought of a draconic companion conjures forth stars in your eyes, if your campaign is rather high powered fantasy - then get this, you'll love it. For you, this is quite probably a 5 star-file. Those of you preferring things to be more down to earth (ouch, I know, sucky wordplay here), this still has something to offer fluff-wise and re-balancing this class is rather easy - just increase the focus action by one step and suddenly, these guys are much less versatile. For you, even if you hate the very concept, this still can clock in at 3 stars. My final rating will be in-between, at 4 stars; Why not 4.5 - look at that superb bang-for-buck-ratio? Because there quite frankly are a tad bit more minor glitches than I like to see.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to the Dracomancer
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In The Company of Dragons (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/12/2014 06:35:05
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 36 pages of content, so let's take a look!



So...this pdf introduces playable dragons - how does it go on to maintain balance and a world's fluff? Well, by a number of rather unique, narrative stunts - first, the pdf maintains compatibility with your campaign setting's dragons by assigning a unique, separate, but distinct fluff to these dragons - called Tanimin, they live in the secluded place called "Lost Isle", isolated by planar boundaries from the realms of mortals. In this sheltered place, these beings called Tanimin, have prospered - but, as their origin myth specifies, there is a taint, a cancer growing at the heart of this place, its genesis crucial part of the extensive origin myth provided. There, in this taint, all draconic is twisted, turned into undragons (here, I had a UnLunDun-flashback while reading) - in here, wyrm truly are rendered into a worm, all perverted and lost. The whole myth and following discussion of the alignment, adventuring roles, etc., including age, height and weight-tables for various sizes, all is written in gorgeous, captivating in-character prose, rendering the pdf more enjoyable to read than comparable pdfs.



Now, it should be noted that chromatic/metallic distinctions are not *necessarily* color-coding Tanimin, though alignment-changes result in a molt that sees the creature hampered, only to emerge with a new coat of scales closer to their new alignment - can you see the gold dragon molt red? I can! Mechanically, Tanimin receive +2 Con and Cha, -2 Dex, are small, receive regular movement (1/2 when wielding items in their claws), can use manufactured weapons et al (at a -2 penalty), receive darkvision and low-light vision, are immune to sleep and paralysis, can glide, receive +1 atk and +2 AC versus dragons, +2 to identify dragons, a natural primary bite of 1d4, +1.5 str-mod, +2 natural AC, +2 perception and sense motive. When wearing armor, Tanimin increase ACP by 2 and suffer the same amount as a penalty to atk and are quadrupeds, receiving modified slots and increased carrying capacity. Alternatively, they can elect for +2 Str and Con, -2 Int, +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Wis and +2 Wis and Cha, -2 Dex. Among the alternate racial traits, better concentration, 1d3 secondary natural weapons (claws), giant killer-bonuses, manipulate objects sans penalty, get different bonuses, spiny hides or toxic blood.



The race also receives a couple of favored class options -barbarian, druid, fighter, magus, monk, paladin, ranger, soceror, taskshaper and war master are covered. Before I delve into the respective archetypes provided, let's not mince words so far - the tanimin are strong. The race does suffer a bit from feature-bloat, with minor racial abilities increasing the power of the race. I generally tend to consider such bonuses somewhat unnecessary. That being said, I'm not going to start my usual "this is too powerful for campaign xyz"-rant here. Why? Because we're talking DRAGONS. This book actually, by means of its very definition, is geared towards high-fantasy/power gaming and as such, it feels unnecessary and probably unfair to judge this race as being too strong low point-build campaigns on the gritty side. Got that? Awesome! On a cosmetic level, the slight feature-bloat and two alternate attribute-sets that gear the race towards caster/martials are not something I'm overly fond of. Still, generally, the race itself can be considered strong, but manageable.



Now the archetypes - first would be the draconic hero - an archetype that allows a tanimin of any class to grow at the cost of some class abilities usually gained - as a massive multiclass-covering archetype, the abilities replaced vary from class to class, once again including taskshaper and war master among the supported classes. Scaled Juggernauts are essentially tanimin fighters specializing in combat with their natural weapons, gaining rake and pounce at higher levels. Trueblood Sorcerors are locked into the draconic bloodline, but receive a scale-spell-component that replaces material components/divine foci and replace regular bloodline powers with a breath weapon. White Worm Apostates, oracles tainted as undragons, receive degrees of fortification and may disgorge a swarm of consuming, maggot-like worms and later, rise as a twisted phoenix from their corpse 1/day - a very powerful archetype that absolutely *requires* the immense social stigma associated with the white worm to be added to the campaign.



Now the racial paragon-class, which covers 20 levels, nets the tanimin full BAB-progression, 3 good saves,d12, 4+HD skills per level, no proficiencies apart from natural weapons. The tanimin also receives a draconic essence - each of which provides one type of scaling energy resistance, a color, a breath weapon type and a unique compulsion, which always remains hard for the dragon to refrain from doing - Which fits in thematically nice with the overall theme of draconic types - a total of 20 such essences can be found herein. Additionally, at 1st level, 7th, 13th and 19th level, the draconic exemplar can choose draconic weaponry - these can be used 1/2 class level + con-mod times per day. Rather interesting - if applicable, their save-DC is governed by either con or cha, depending on the ability. They include fascination-inducing gazes, bolstering oneself against assaults, receiving the breath weapon associated with the chosen essence, minor spellcasting, elemental aura, charging through allies, enemies etc. Additionally, at 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the exemplar receives a draconic defense, which is chosen from its own list - rerolls versus sonic/language-dependent spells, evasion while airborne, spell resistance (even reflective one!) - quite an array of iconic tricks here.

As if that wasn't enough, we receive a third list of special abilities - draconic gifts - chosen at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, they are also governed by con or cha, depending on the ability. These gifts usually require a specific draconic essence to pull off - without access to energy (acid) and a corresponding breath weapon, you can't make pools of acid, to give you an example. Adding an auto-trip on a failed save to the breath weapon would be possible, as if lacing the bite with the breath weapon's energy. Somewhat metamagic-y tricks based on using draconic weaponry's daily uses as a resource for bonus damage, growing an alignment detecting pearl that works with Tanimin exclusively, adding poison to the breath, mastery of the elements, shapechanging into a humanoid, better frightful presence while airborne or increased speed/expanded class skill lists - the choices are many and while some are limited and available only to specific alternate racial trait choices of the tanimin, the sheer amount is rather impressive, though you'll be expect to do some very careful reading here - quite a few combos are available only to specific builds and locking yourself out of a specific option might be something you wish to avoid.



Now you may have noticed that I've been mentioning flight and that the base race does not offer this. Well, here's where dracomorphosis comes into play - gained at 4th level, this one nets you increased reach with the bite, secondary wing attacks (or gore for Lung-dragons), AC and attribute bonuses and size increases - and flight. Dracomorphosis is gained every 4 levels thereafter, allowing the tanimin to grow to gargantuan size at 16th level - the race also reduces dex during the size-increases and receives tail sweeps, crushes etc. Which is damn cool, granted...but what happens if dex drops to 0? No, I'm not kidding - with a total reduction of -8 to dex, this is a real possibility. And yes, I am aware of how this sort of thing is usually handled with monster-advancement, but the point remains that this pdf ought to have tackled this particular issue. The capstone is, of course, the final great wyrm apotheosis.



Of course, we also receive quite an array of new feats - additional uses of draconic weaponry, additional draconic defenses and gifts, better crushing, breath weapon modification, turning claws into primary natural weapons and high-level appendage severing (and even vorpal!) natural attacks become part of the deal.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and with an array of different, neat full-color artworks of various styles.



Wendall Roy's Tanimin have a difficult standing with me - as perhaps the ultimate of high-powered races, at least concept-wise, playing dragons is honestly not something I'm the target demographic for. The issue is simple - make them balanced versus standard races and you have pseudo-dragons (pardon the pun) or make them as they should be and you have over-powered beasts. *Personally*, for me dragons are the apex-predators and anything that diminishes them is not something I tend to enjoy. The narrative frame provided herein would be a neat way to offset this particular issue - and one that I wholeheartedly applaud.



So are the tanimin deadly? YES. They are. While their most powerful draconic weaponry thankfully has a daily limitation imposed on them, the sheer array of natural weapons and powerful options available make them formidable foes. The almost universally applicable archetype for draconic growth is a great way of handling adventuring tanimin of all couleur. And I do really like the highly modular draconic racial paragon class - much more so than I deemed possible.



Are the tanimin perfect? No - they have a bit of "rules-fat" that could be trimmed so they work better for less high-powered campaigns, the same problem many races balanced with rough regards to the ARG have...but then again, they probably don't belong there in the first place. And yes, they are better balanced than *A LOT* of the ARG races. Two sets of alternate racial stats are geared towards martials/casters, respectively - and I'm not a big fan of that, preferring a more universal take (as per the default attribute-array) - but since that is easily disallowed/adjusted to your personal preference, again, at best a minor nitpick. Now as a DM's toolbox, this is one glorious book, an alternate, highly modular toolbox to make dragons work more as a force/nation, rather than individuals - also thanks to quick and dirty, by no means extensive, but at least existing, renown/reputation-rules.



Now as for the player-part - the tanimin are not a weak race and you should be aware of that as a DM. Not all campaigns will find them fitting in well; If magic items are e.g. pretty rare for you, these guys immediately lose one of their drawbacks, the decreased slot-array. That being said, if you don't play your cards right as a tanimin-PC, you can still pretty easily die - the tanimin's defenses, in spite of armor, SR, DR etc. are pretty weak and while they can wreak deadly havoc, they will also find themselves at the highest priority to kill of just about any foe - after all, who do you kill first? Easy, the friggin' dragon! Add to that the big form and thus, high chance of being a target of enemies/in the AoE of spells...you get the drift. Increased cost of armor and the resource-expenditure (either in items or abilities chosen) to maintain adventuring shape (shapechange to fit into tunnels, etc.) required for them also are rather ingenious, subtle balancing mechanisms. Now the oracle archetype definitely only belongs into DM-hands, but the rest of the options provided may be strong, but aren't broken per se.



In fact, in spite of my admitted trepidations against the very notion of playing dragons, I can't find it in me to bash these guys. While a couple of the abilities (crush, tail sweep, breath-tricks, etc.) are powerful and lend themselves to the full-blown knee-jerk reaction of screaming "This is OP", actually playing the beasts tells a different story - the larger dragons require room to properly act and that is simply not always there. The decreased slot-array for magic items also hampers them at high level play, offsetting some of the admittedly meat-grinding oomph their array of natural weapons may cause. When they *can* act a perfect round, the player *will* be grinning, though, as damage keeps piling up. So, how to rate this, then? That's a tough one. For DMs, I'll settle on a full-blown get-this-recommendation to up their draconic arsenal or simply to use the tanimin as a much cooler draconic race that mops the floor with draconians, half-dragons etc. - they have the better flair, fluff, etc. For players - IF you are playing a high-fantasy campaign and lean towards the higher end of the power-spectrum, go for this. For low-powered games...why are you reading a review on playing DRAGONS? Kidding aside, there are some minor rough patches here and there and with the significant array of unconventional tricks usually reserved for apex predators and monsters, especially inexperienced DMs should *very* carefully read this one, lest it prove too much for them. On the other hand, one may argue that the "KILL THE DRAGON!!!"-factor, social stigma etc. can help quite a bit streamlining this one further.



For me personally, the pdf clocks in at 4 stars due to aforementioned minor hick-ups and my own mentality towards when to play dragons as PCs (In short: Not in my campaign.); As a reviewer, I have to applaud the significant task and achievement that this pdf represents - streamlining the collective of dragonkind into an actually rather well-crafted race that should work perfectly in most campaigns that take up the theme of draconic PCs. As such, this would be a 4.5 stars file, due to the minor issues here and there, but one I grudgingly have to round up - the tanimin's flavor is too interesting, the options too varied and the racial paragon class ultimately, too cool to ignore or even call "only" good. DMs - to properly judge the impact of this class, don't just stare pale-faced at the potential calculated damage output of a full attack; Instead, make a PC, run the character to ye average module (NOT a simulated fight in a vacuum)- you'll see what I'd call intangible (i.e. non-math) balance factors - which for once, work in favor of this book.

Congratulations to Wendall Roy for pulling off this stunt - consider me definitely looking forward to the planned expansion!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Dragons (PFRPG)
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Prestige Archetype: The Dragon Disciple
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/12/2014 06:31:41
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, ~1/2 a page of editorial, leaving us with 6 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!



First question - what are prestige archetypes? Well, they are essentially a breakdown of a regular PrC into a full-blown 20-level spanning class - so no, these classes don't necessarily mean that you'll have a universal archetype (wouldn't have worked in this context, I think), instead providing a retooled playing experience so you don't have to work your way up to the PrC via classes you don't want to play. So that's definitely a pro-side. On the con-side, *personally*, I treat PrCs as very much tied to organizations etc., emphasizing the "prestige"-component as opposed to archetypes, which are more traditions in my game. I'm not the target audience of these books, but I will take a stab at them anyways.



All right, the Dragon Disciple receives 3/$ BAB-progression, good fort- and will-saves ,d10, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light armors (no arcane failure in light armor and spontaneous spellcasting governed by Cha of up to 6th level, with the spells drawn from the magus-list.



At 1st level, the dragon discipline receives 1d4-damage dealing primary natural claws (1d3 if small). These claws increase in potency over the levels, later counting as magic etc. and increasing base damage-dice size and even add elemental damage to the output, depending on the energy of the breath weapon. More on that later.



At 2nd level, the draconic disciple also receives a bite attack, again a primary natural weapon, but one with a unique option - on a full attack, a draconic disciple can forego a bite attack in favor of casting a spell with a casting time of 1 standard action or less. Interestingly, the dragon discipline may opt to choose to take a penalty to all attack rolls and receive the same amount as a bonus to concentration checks to cast said spell defensively. The class can either first cast the spell or attack, but cast the spell mid-attack. He still needs a free hand and when mixing attacks with manufactured weapons. Alas, a minor glitch has crept in here - the option to improve defensive casting while attacking requires a caveat to specifically mention that the penalty applies even if the attacks are executed before the casting of the spell.



At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the dragon disciple also receives a bonus spell from a fixed list - a tad bit more versatility to choose from would have been nice. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the disciple also receives an increasing natural armor bonus. Boosts to attributes (fixed) are gained at 5th, 8th, 14th and 20th level. Resistance to the breath weapon's energy type is gained at third level and scales up to 15 at 15th level in two steps. At 4th level, aforementioned breath weapon is gained; Its uses per day scaling up to 6/day at 19th level, thankfully coming with a cooldown that prevents going nova with the class level x 6 damage dealing breath, the shape of which btw. is determined by the type. At 6th level, a specialized spellstrike that only works with the bite attack is gained - here special kudos for preventing dual casting confusion via the bite's regular potential substitution! At 10th level blindsense is also pretty appropriate. High level draconic disciples can assume Form of the Dragon I at 13th level, increasing the potency of the form every 3 levels thereafter, analogue to the improved versions of the spell. Wings are gained at 15th level and the 20th level immunities gained are solid.



We also receive FCOs for the core races and a sample NPC in progressive builds of levels 1, 5, 10 and 15.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no truly significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Carl Cramér's Dragon Disciple is a surprisingly nice take on a PrC by now utterly outdated, rendering the transformation into a humanoid dragon-like figure into a concise, well-crafted whole. The spontaneous casting + magus-like tricks in the arsenal of this class render it an interesting evolution. The potential for blasting disciples is massive, though not as pronounced as if it had access to the wiz/sorc-list - essentially, this is a dragon-themed alternate magus and one that admirably well captures what the class is supposed to do: If a dragon disciple elects to let loose its arcane fury, you won't be wanting to stand on the receiving end. That being said, the restrictions imposed by the design maintain it as a kind of glass cannon and the significant loss of overall flexibility (no spell recall due to spontaneous casting, no knowledge pool, no arcanas) when compared to the magus makes for a valid trade-off for the draconic abilities gained. Over all, a well-crafted take on the concept with one minor wording that could have used some more refinement - still, a cool little pdf, well worth 4.5 stars - now one thing is slightly nasty: The increased spells per day and better on the spot versatility make the class a tad bit better at blasting, which may prove to be a bit much for low-powered gaming...hence I'll round down to 4 for this one, though remain with an explicit recommendation.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Prestige Archetype: The Dragon Disciple
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Underworld Races: Draaki
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/12/2014 06:26:49
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As with the other installments of the Underworld races-series, this one kicks off with a massive mythology of the subterranean races, a collective origin history that can be potentially transplanted from Aventyr into other settings, should one choose to do so. So what are the Draaki, wait don't tell me - "descendant from dragons-blabla", right? Wrong! Yeah, I was surprised as well.



Indeed, the now nameless race that was to turn into the Draaki once enslaved the primal dragons, now looking deceptively like their erstwhile slaves. If you want the whole story, though - then check out this pdf.



Onwards to the mechanical side of things - Draaki receive +2 to all physical attributes and -4 to wisdom, making them too geared towards martial endeavors for my tastes. They have the reptilian subtype (they are NOT dragons!), receive low-light vision and darkvision 90 ft, SR of 5+ character-level, light blindness and may change shape into a drow-likeness. They also receive +1 to atk and a +2 dodge bonus to AC and saves versus draconic spells and abilities. They also sport 5 subtypes. One has a slapping tail that deals 1d8+str-mod damage, but fails to specify whether it's a primary or secondary natural attack. One has gliding wings (which allows them to glide - d'uh - and never take falling damage) and 3 sport breath weapons - one cone of acid, one line of electricity and one a line of fire, all usable 1/day as a standard action for 1d6 points of damage, no scaling.



Over all, the Draaki's base racial characteristics feel a bit too much - two superb senses, SR AND the subtype-ability together feel a bit bloated. We also receive favored class options, which generally are solid, though the addition of force damage to alchemist bombs feels odd - so direct hit versus incorporeal targets is marginally effective? Yeah?



On the other side, rules for weaponry made from dragonbone and special sinew bowstrings for composite bows make for damn cool, if powerful materials. A total of 6 new racial feats are provided - gaining a fly-speed with your wings at 5th level would be damn nice, and energy resistance versus your breath weapon's energy is also an okay, flavorful way of enhancing racial fluff, while two feats that just net skill-bonuses fall firmly in the filler category. The feat that enhances the tail attack is just confusing - "You may use your tail to make one secondary natural attack per round in addition to attacks of opportunity." Come again?. So...can I use the tail to deliver AoOs now? Is it a secondary natural weapon or a primary weapon or both? Total confusion. Is the secondary attack at (I assume...) the usual penalty IN ADDITION to the secondary (or primary?) attack? No idea - those tails need clarification. As a kind of mini-capstone to the feat-tree, with 3 feats prerequs, we can get +4 to UMD AND +2 to ALL saves versus spells and spell-like abilities...ähem...this is cool, yes, but too strong for my tastes.



We also receive 3 new magic items - greaves that allow you to slow falls by bounding from wall to wall (damn cool!), a focus to improve their breath weapon and a periapt that permanently bestows a new spell on the draaki. Said spell is one of the 3 new ones and nets a secondary bite attack that deals bleed damage on a crit. Okay, I guess. Very interesting would be the spell that increases the effectiveness of the breath weapon used in conjunction with it - think of it as a teamwork breath weapon disguised as a spell. Finally, one spell bestows a draaki breath weapon or +1 use of it.



The final piece of crunch would be a 5-level racial paragon class, which renders these breath weapon-focused tricks viable in the first place: At full BAB, d10, 4+Int skills and up to +2 ref and fort, +3 will and +3 natural armor, the paragon class is solid - it allows the draaki to get more than one breath weapon, increase their damage dice, and even combine them in one action. Their increased spell resistance has not been properly bolded and they receive detect magic at will and 1/day dispel magic and as a capstone, they increase flight speed, breath weapon range and also receive DR 2/-.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though a couple of bolding glitches, typos and similar minor glitches can be found herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full-color standard with rocky borders and awesome graphic elements, making this a beautiful, if not very printer-friendly pdf. The plentiful original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



The Draaki have me torn - on the one hand, I consider the base race a tad bit too strong, a tad bit too geared towards the nomad/martial trope. On the other hand, the base breath weapon of non-racial paragon-draaki are pitifully weak, while the PrC makes them more powerful, without making them too strong. Indeed, when taking the feat-cost etc. into account, the racial paragon-class may even be a tad bit weak. The new items are cool, though the spells are a bit weak. The feats leave me torn as well.



So, are the Draaki boring? No, they're not - they are an interesting race and rank among the better of draconic-looking humanoids I've read. Their supplemental material ranges from great to slightly problematic. All in all, they are a nice race, but one that could have used a tad bit more streamlining. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Draaki
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HT 1 - The Perils of Cinder Claws (DCC)
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/10/2014 03:44:37
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 32 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1/2 page editorial, 1.5 pafes of SRD, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



This is officially my most delayed review EVER. It came out last year in December and I didn't get it done in time for holidays and after that...it just felt odd. So, with about one year delay, here's finally the review!



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



All right, still here?

In medias res - the characters find themselves in a feast hall of Christmas-themed decorations...and things immediately become ODD - silvery tinsel spiders, intelligent fruitcakes that never leave your system, dreaming of strange aeons - yeah, we're in for some nasty, far-out creative awesomeness here. Deadly snowmen and tiny reindeer that each have unique abilities (like Rudolph's red pustule nose that may blind you or Comet's fiery burst...), aggressive ginger-bread men and sugar plum faeries. Of course, they may find something interesting in their stockings - though whether naughty or nice depends on the alignment and luck of the character... Oh, and there are elves...the unpleasant type. And then, all warmth subsides, things become cold and the PCs will have to brave the dread ice-cold claws of cinder claws before hopefully escaping the desolate ice-cold clime.



That's the first module - the second herein, intended for 3rd level characters, also has the PCs drawn into the domain of cinder claws, here, the nexus of Yule - disturbing nutcrackers and rat-humanoids warring set the tone immediately, even before the unpleasant, swirling golden angels flittering among the branches of a massive tree. 6-armed, candy-cane wielding carnivores, deadly puddings, the bulwarg and skagaart (and friggin' GRENDEL!) - unpleasant! And if the PCs think that regular animals are nice...wrong. Even domestic animals like cows and sheep are deadly and carnivorous here, so they better beware! Finally, they may come to stand before the Cinder Claws, who offers to act as a patron for PCS...or have them face his wrath - whether by diplomacy or force (the latter being a rather lethal prospect), the module concludes with a memorable scene indeed.



We also receive a full-blown patron-taint/spellburn/spell-list. It should be noted that the module comes with nice, player-friendly maps and full color cartography.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to PDG's 2-column standard and is rather printer-friendly. Cartography is nice and the artworks provided are neat as well.



Daniel J. Bishop delivers by the buckets - this constitutes at the same time the most disturbing Christmas modules I've read before, all while managing to avoid delving into a gore-fest - instead, this collection of modules allows one to delve into a sense of utter weirdness, of oddness and some primal, twisted take on Christmas tropes without losing the very intent and spirit of the holidays - these modules are frightening, unsettling, yes, but they never turn unpleasant, managing to maintain a sense of wonder and high-spirited fun. I love these modules and if I can get a group together this Christmas, I'll run these. The modules are awesome enough to warrant you converting them to other systems, should you prefer a non-DCC-system - THAT good! Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
HT 1 - The Perils of Cinder Claws (DCC)
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Random Encounters: Wilderness II
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/10/2014 03:42:36
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC (with statblocks by CR), 1 page author bios (nice!), 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Now this is a collection of encounters that resulted from Raging Swan Press' open call for freelancers by various authors and come with +/- 1 EL scaling information. The encounters herein can easily be plugged into a given campaign, so from here on SPOILERS will show up. If you're a player, please jump to the conclusion.



The first encounter fits perfectly into the desolation of a desert with a minor dressing table, providing one nasty adversary for low levels PCs - a were-vulture ranger and his raptor companions. While only CR 4, be assured that this guy can be lethal - I once killed off 3(!!!) PCs with a harpy-sniper and that did not have the buff-suite and smart tactics of the ranger - a challenging encounter, especially nice for experienced groups and mostly remarkable for the damn fine NPC-build!



The next encounter has a cool idea at its base - what do the small elementals do? Well, they may gather in harmless schools, extinguishing flames and harassing PCs...and if you turn hostile, you may well have to face the enraged caretakers! I *really* like that concept and the escalating conditions in the encounter.



"Creeping Coins" is about the final resting place of a notorious thief, now a ghost, and his animated treasure hoard - generally nice, though also a lost chance - the encounter mentions a fascination with riddles, an illusory sphinx...but no riddle to actually ask. While RSP has enough riddle-pdfs, a sample would have been nice.



"Desert Rose" is interesting - the pdfs are crossing a wadi, a dry riverbed and the onset of rain has them flee towards a ravine (and yes, flashfloods are a thing in the desert) - alas, the influx of water also revives the dry shrubbery and reactivates the deadly assassin vines - neat, especially due to the helpful, damn cool round-by-round breakdown! Realistic, cool, two thumbs up!



"Lenate's Love" is a damn cool encounter as well - a fiendish gargoyle in love with an animated statue may be too much for the PCs to handle - unless they deduce a way to use the statue's programming to their advantage and have it help destroy the gargoyle. Tragic and still, fun and smart.



"Mojepe's Grove" can be a social or combat encounter, depending on your preference - a tribe of xenophobic, desert-dwelling halflings and their awakened cactus master. Diplomacy and combat - all possible, damn cool, two thumbs up!



"The Sting of Sun and Sand" has the PCs encounter a barbarian driven mad by sun and dehydration -they can kill the man or save him and find the remnants of his caravan - where a sandstorm and giant scorpions await...nice, if a bit conservative.



The final encounter, the "Vulture King" has the PCs face the remnants of a tengu-caravan turned ghasts/ghouls/etc., who, surprisingly, don't immediately attack those stumbling into their oasis, offering to accept sacrifices for water. Grim and strange, a cool encounter especially suited for shades of grey sword and sorcery, but I wished the encounter was more of a settlement, less of a fire and forget affair.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer. Both are fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the pdf sports multiple gorgeous b/w-artworks.



Mikael Berg, Fabian Fehrs, Mark Hoover, Kiel Howell, Jacob W. Michaels, Jens Demandt Mouritsen, Christopher Wasko, Nick Wasko, Daron Woodson - congratulations, gentlemen - there is not a single boring encounter herein. While not all blew me away, the vast majority of encounters herein have something utterly unique going for them. Idea-wise, this is definitely an inspired supplement and showcases well the talent of those involved. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5, with a special shout-out to Desert Rose, Lenate the Lovesick, Children of the Sky and Mojepe's Grove - I'll be sure to use these!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Random Encounters: Wilderness II
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Prestige Archetype: The Arcane Archer
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/10/2014 03:40:53
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, ~1/2 a page of editorial, leaving us with 7 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!



First question - what are prestige archetypes? Well, they are essentially a breakdown of a regular PrC into a full-blown 20-level spanning class - so no, these classes don't necessarily mean that you'll have a universal archetype (wouldn't have worked in this context, I think), instead providing a retooled playing experience so you don't have to work your way up to the PrC via classes you don't want to play. So that's definitely a pro-side. On the con-side, *personally*, I treat PrCs as very much tied to organizations etc., emphasizing the "prestige"-component as opposed to archetypes, which are more traditions in my game. I'm not the target audience of these books, but I will take a stab at them anyways.



Each of the classes has classes listed as "build classes", i.e. ones that influenced the design of the prestige archetype. As written, they do not act as alternate classes and do not lock you out of multiclassing, something to bear in mind regarding balance.



Now let's take a look at the arcane archer! The class receives 3/4 BAB-progression, d8, good fort- and ref-saves, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light armor (and suffers no spell failure chance in light armor and still suffers spell failure in light armor when casting arcane spells from other classes - nice catch!) and they learn to cast spells from the sorc/wiz-list, of up to 6th level. Arcane Archers cast prepared spells, governed by Int and thus need to maintain a spellbook.



At first level, they also receive an archery pool of 1/2 class level +Int-mod. This pool can be utilized, analogue to the magus, to provide temporary enchantments to the archer's bow as swift actions. The bonus (and conversely, the weapon qualities that can alternatively be applied to the ranged weapon) increases by +1 every 4 levels, up to a maximum of +5, with alignment imposing potential restrictions - no unholy enchantment for good archers, for example. What's odd here - since the class has a restriction that the thing needs at least +1 enhancement, meaning that the +2 equivalent enhancements can only be applied to already enchanted bows - kind of clunky.



At 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the archer may select a bonus feat from the archery style provided, with 6th and 10th level increasing the breadth of feats to choose from. Spell Archery is interesting - granted at first level, the arcane archer may, as a full round action, imposes a -2 penalty to all attacks and cast a spell with a casting duration of 1 standard action or less. Multiple attacks are covered here as well - either you attack first or cast the spell first - no attack/spell/attack-tricks. On the extremely nitpicky side, only failure of concentration regarding defensive casting is covered, though the ability should probably specify the potential for spells being wasted by any type of failed concentration-check. If one were to be nitpicky beyond even my standards, explicit note that the spells still provoke AoOs would have been nice, but that is a) inferred by conjecture of the defensive casting caveat and b) evident from the rules of spellcasting.



At 3rd level, the arcane archer receives ranged spellstrikes - and here, I expected an utter clusterf*** - and was positively surprised - the ability allows the arcane archer to deliver ranged touch attack spells alternatively via her bow as a ranged attack at her highest BAB - the interaction between spell and weapon damage are covered quite professionally. Now, again, on a nitpicky side, I would have liked the ability to specify that the -2 penalty when used in conjunction with spell archery still applies - or does it? If it doesn't this allows the class to get rid of it for ranged touch-based spells.



At 4th level, the class receives spell recall via the archery pool and at 7th level, the class may expend points from the pool to prepare up to int-mod spells as if they were in the archer's spellbook - here a scaling mechanism would have been appropriate - one point per spell level, for example. Otherwise, high level spells cost as much as low level spells.



Imbue Arrow allows the 8th level arcane archer to use bow-range for spells and thankfully cannot be combined with seeker or phase arrows. At 9th level and every 5 levels thereafter, an arcane archer may also reroll an atk or force a foe to reroll an attack that has hit the archer. At 11th level, seeker arrows ignore cover and concealment and cost a swift action and 1 point from the archery pool.



Improved spellr ecall is gained at 12th level and the armor-ignoring phase arrows make an appearance at 13th level, once again costing points from the archery pool in addition to being standard actions. The iconic hail of arrows is gained at 15th level and a countershot (with a limited range) makes for another nice high-level ability. Finally, at the highest level, the class receives slaying arrows and as a capstone, no longer needs to make concentration checks when threatened while using spell archery.



The class also receives favored class options for the core-races, with especially the gnome gaining more available enchantments for the pool being nice.



We also receive level 1, 5, 10 and 15 builds of a sample character including sample spellbooks (nice!) and also new feats: Counter-missile allows you to forgo an attack in the following round (and expend ammunition) to negate a ranged attack that would have hit you. While I like the caveat versus large missiles, the feat has a massive issue - it does not specify the attack lost - can one choose e.g. the third shot at -10? What if one uses Spell Archery with Ranged Spellstrikes? Manyshot? Regular Rapid Shot? I'm not 100% sure how precisely this one is supposed to work, though I love the imagery.



Deadly Calm negates the penalty associated with deadly aim when using composite bows for the first attack (ouch!) and extra archery pool increases the pool-size by +2.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no truly significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Author Carl Cramér has a tough sell for me personally here and I honestly expected this one to SUCK. Good news first - it doesn't! The author has managed to provide a take on the ranged caster/bowman based more on the magus and still providing the various iconic tricks of the arcane archer. The way enhance arrows has been changed is more in line with the magus' tricks, but there we have the one issue with this class - it's scaling of ability-gain is a bit off. Fifth-level alignment-based damage feels like a bit much when compared to the PrC. That being said, at least the enchantments cost a solid resource and the streamlining of abilities to use one resource can be considered a massive improvement over the base class. Now, the class does have some balance-issues: The arcane archer receives almost all of the magus' exceedingly powerful tools for versatility - spell recall, knowledge pool, etc. -which may seem appropriate, considering the similarity between the classes. HOWEVER, the ability to imbue arrows, exceedingly powerful, still has an issue carried over from the original ability of the PrC- the option to shoot AoE-spells on squares instead of foes for a ridiculously easy shot exploit the original class did not cover.



Another issue, quite frankly, is that the very powerful ability to imbue arrows, combined with a magus' flexibility, just makes for an exceedingly strong array of tricks, stronger even than the PrC. Is this a bad class? No, and it demonstrates the author's capacity to make more than solid crunch, but it also adds more flexibility to the concept than is necessarily balanced. Why? Take a look at regular damage-output of good archers. Then take a look at what magi can dish out. Combine that. Result? PAIN. Especially since wiz/sorc ranged touch attacks can come off as rather nasty - while spell level of up to 6th don't look that bad, the class can be made into a true monster. Is it broken? Not necessarily, but if your players are adept at optimizing, this class becomes too powerful and can blast its brethren out of the water.



It is mainly due to this fact that I can only rate this 3 stars, but consider me excited about the rest of the series!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Prestige Archetype: The Arcane Archer
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Ossuarite Druid Archetype
Publisher: Forest Guardian Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/09/2014 03:21:31
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This archetype clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



The ossuarite druid receives diminished spellcastng and has the usual alignment restrictions that apply to druids and their spellcasting canceled out -all the alignments are available. As you can imagine in the face of diminished spellcasting, the ossuarite does receive something rather unique - a skeletal animal companion. (Here a nitpick that won't influence the final rating -the companion receives the skeleton-template, not the skeletal template...) - and thankfully DR is postponed for the immunity-studded, intelligence and skill retaining cute skeletal animal until 5th level.



The ossuarite also receives 3+wis mod times detect undead instead of wild empathy. At 3rd level, the companion damages all foolish enough to attack it with unarmed or natural attacks with untyped damage - thankfully, this aura can be lowered and raised. In a damn cool twist, the ossuarite's wild shape allows the character to turn into a skeletal aspect of herself, which, while not truly undead, is susceptible to positive energy. Better yet, the skeletal aspect increases in power every even level - including claws, channel resistance, better attributes etc. and finally, as a capstone, we receive an undead apotheosis that allows her to also shapechange into skeletal animal forms!



A scaling array of specific immunities (e.g. to ghoul's paralysis), better saves versus energy drain etc. also helps the archetype.



We also receive two new feats - the Bonecaller-feat allows you to add the new graveborn template (CR +0/+1 (if creature has HD 5+) to creatures summoned via nature's ally-spells and the second feat allows you to improve channel resistance.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with copious full-color original pieces of artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version - kudos!



Morgan Boehringer's Forest Guardian Press offers top-notch production values in this supplement - the talented Mr. Boehringer plus Will McCardell and Jim Wettstein equals quality - the ossuarite is awesome in all the right ways - iconic, balanced, smart. And then there's the thing that I just *love* the idea of this book: Have cute, intelligent skeletal animals prancing around you? Yes, please! Perhaps it's just the macabre goth in me, perhaps it's me still not over the mortality of my childhood pets. But as a kid, I often fantasized how awesome skeletal animals would be. Not slobbering, mindless undead, but proper animals. This pdf allows me to indulge in that fantasy and I love it to death for it. My final verdict, in face of great crunch, awesome production values and the great concept, will be 5 stars + seal of approval. If the idea only marginally interests you, get this!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ossuarite Druid Archetype
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Subterranean Enclave: Mith'Varal
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/09/2014 03:18:20
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This second installment of Raging Swan Press' Subterranean Enclave-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Mith'Varal, literally meaning "mithril" and "mine" in Dwarven, was once a frontier's town nestled at the shore...wait, what? Yes, thankfully, this subterranean enclave becomes interesting almost immediately by virtue of its uncommon geography - founded underground on a mithril-rich peninsula, a river runs through it and it saw its heyday of prosperity. Alas, this time has waned, the fate of all mining towns - one fine day, the ore ran out. Mining continues to this day, but Mith'Varal's name has taken on an ironic shine and slowly, a sense of desperation creeps into those still here, still hoping for a reversal of fortunes.



Which also makes for a portion of the town's internal strife - most miners are still commanded to dig in Varal Tarak, whereas a group of hidden, seditious miners is exploring other mines, hoping to be lucky at one of those places. Then there also would be the guards of the place, the rather creepy "Faceless Guards" with their mithril masks, some of which may hide more than a greedy heart behind their featureless visors and their fully statted leader Gunar Hammerblow... And then there would be, one particularly nasty overseer of a dwarf and testament to the cliché that some dwarves are simply greedy, vile-tempered bastards... Events and whispers also mirror these themes of glory lost, repression and quasi-totalitarian work-camp like atmosphere -"of course our miners are free to go..:" Yeah, right. And what of the Thegn? Well, coincidentally, he has not been seen in public for years and neither has he given any public audiences...weird, right?



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' two-column b/w--standard, with superb cartography in b/w. As always, you can download player-friendly maps on Raging Swan's homepage. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer, with both being fully bookmarked.



Brian Wiborg Mønster delivers a different kind of dwarven settlement - one resounding of the old trope of dwarven greed, yes, but here said greed is turned towards their own people. The at first subtle theme of totalitarian control and military dictatorship starts resounding with the reader and takes an interesting turn once one realizes the difference in mindset that would have made for a boring rebel vs. oppression story and instead turns it somewhat on its head - the dwarves *want* to work, to mine. The issue is how to go along doing it! Once could, of course, read a criticism of corporate culture red tape and limitations imposed on employees into the sub-text of this enclave, but I'm not sure how many of my readers out there would appreciate me going on and on about the history of Marxist criticism, capitalist philosophy etc. - hence, I'll cut to the chase:



I loved this installment. My one gripe is purely cosmetic and pertains to the fact that the location on a peninsula would have made making this a subterranean coastal town possible - which would have been highly uncommon and a tad more iconic. Since this constitutes my only gripe with this pdf and is utterly dependant on my own tastes, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Subterranean Enclave: Mith'Varal
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