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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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ZEITGEIST: The Gears of Revolution - Act One: The Investigation Begins (Pathfinder)
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2014 05:09:18
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The massive collection of the first Act of the Zeitgeist AP clocks in at 559 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 6 pages of ToC, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 549 pages of content.



So let's...wait. Let me get this straight - this is the compiled version of the first 5 Zeitgeist-adventures PLUS Crypta Hereticarum, Player's Guide and Campaign Guide; It also includes (with 2 hick-ups) cleaned up nomenclature regarding elves/eladrin high/wood elves that resulted from conversion. All of these components are simply glorious - 5 stars + seal of approval badassery in its truest form. I've also reviewed all of the modules, so if you require details, please check those out.



The book also contains "Seas of Zeitgeist", which provides the quick and dirty (imho VERY BAD) naval combat rules of "Admiral o' the High Seas" for the AP -and constitutes the one component of the AP I don't love o death. In design philosophy quite remote from Pathfinder, it pales before Paizo's naval combat rules and especially before Frog God Games' superb "Fire as She Bears", which I will use to provide proper naval combat rules for this AP. Beyond these, item-cards, a metric ton of maps, hand-outs and supplemental information help running this beast.



Conclusion:

Wait, what? Well, production-wise, this killer tome is a layered pdf that can be made printer-friendly, the maps can be made player-friendly if they aren't already. The writing by Ryan Nock, Matthew J. Hanson, Jacob Driscoll and Thurston Hillman is superb. The book comes extensively bookmarked for your convenience.

I will cut this review far shorter than the page-count would suggest since I've already covered the constituent pdfs. This is the most ambitious AP you can buy and also the most intelligent - with a focus on a complex weave of narratives, deceptions and espionage, it cannot be compared to any other AP in scope and focus and is ambitious to an unprecedented level. The story is so compelling, diverse and challenging, it is bound to become a legend, far surpassing even War of the Burning Sky and similar epics with its daunting focus on smarts and roleplaying over killing everything that moves. The sheer amount of glorious mini-games and decisions make Deus Ex run to the corner and cry itself to sleep and apart from the subpar naval rules, there is NOTHING on can truly complain about - and honestly, these are easily replaced.

Now if you are a new DM, first master something less demanding - Zeitgeist is intended for experienced dungeon masters and the amount of plots, characters, etc. you have to juggle is significant. However, this also makes the AP exceedingly cool, challenging and SMART. This is a thinking man's AP, one that dares to assume that its audience is intelligent and capable -and I *love* it for that. In fact, the *only* reason I'm not running this AP RIGHT NOW is that I'm waiting for it to finish. This may very well be one of the best APs ever written, depending on your taste, possibly the best.

It is to my eternal regret that I cannot comment on the premium hardback edition in color - my meager funds do not allow me to get this book as per the writing of this review. That being said, this is still a milestone for storytelling in a d20-based system, the first AP to reach the narrative complexity and depth usually reserved for legendary CoC/ToC/etc.-campaigns. If am of the firm belief that this tome belongs into a DM's arsenal and that running this, will one day be a kind of rite of passage. If you thought the "War of the Burning Sky" was good - it has NOTHING on Zeitgeist. My final verdict will come as no surprise, seeing how the first 5 installments were the first ever AP to succeed at such an unbroken string of superb ratings from yours truly; it will clock in at 5 stars, seal of approval, nomination as a candidate for my top ten of 2014 and a shed tear of longing for the physical book. If you can, get this NOW!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST: The Gears of Revolution - Act One: The Investigation Begins (Pathfinder)
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ZEITGEIST #5: Cauldron-Born (PATHFINDER RPG)
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2014 05:07:21
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The latest installment of EN Publishing's Zeitgeist-AP clocks in at 95 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 90 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



It's been too long since I took a look at one of the Zeitgeist-modules, but before I do, here the obligatory warning - this review contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

No, really. Jump to the conclusion.

...

Only DMs left? Good.

This adventure is the conclusion of the first act of the epic ZEITGEIST-saga, and as such, provides guidance of running it stand-alone (or the first campaign-act alone - just eliminate the conspiracy elements and there you go!) - which renders it longer than one would have expected. The constables of the RHC will have A LOT on their hands, so better hope they have honed their investigative skills.



A peace-summit is looming between the nation of Risur and Danor, finally bringing peace to the strained relations between the nations - including, btw., a list of the points of contention. In one sentence - there are a lot of elements invested in seeing the summit fail. Beyond a turf-war, a mad fey and radical eschatologists all have their own plots, which means that the constables will have to wrap up no less than THREE threads: In order to cope with this, magical long-range communication and the B-team are provided - the latter being only 4th level characters the players may play...and, of course, as always, characters may very well die.



And yes, on their way to meet the king, the PCs immediately are subject to a well-planned, rather deadly assassination attempt, including carriages, which should make clear the stakes are high - crimelord Lorcan Kell (backed by the two-letter-abbreviated conspirators) wishes to take them out. The king himself briefs them with the severity of the situation (as well as dropping some hints of ravenloftesque ties of rulers to their realm and citizens...) and tells them about the conspirators having some means of access to the Bleak Gate - something the PCs should better unearth as soon as possible.



Now the B-team will be busy with escorting the minotaur-ambassador Brakken - hopefulyl without attacking his dire-bear companion. Meanwhile, the PCs may see an old acquiantance from module #1 show up at the royal palace- the high elf Asrabey Varal asks, veiled, for assistance in hunting down aforementioned rogue fey. The B-team, escorting both the minotaur and the dwarven eye of Drakr at the summit will right NOW have their hands full -a deadly ballet of death is unleashed upon the city by a cadre of deadly dwarven eschatologists - perfectly timed bombs, sniper nests - the B-team will have its hands more than full trying to save what's there to save! Alexander Grappa, the golem-maker, has his mind currently inside the head of a demolished bronze golem and may just be the additional piece of information the constables need regarding the Bleak gate - though a clever geas prevents him from divulging crucial information. Now as an additional mini-game, the PCs will have to generate and train a task force of people to take down Kell et al, which also provides various means for complications - essentially, they have to order a shadow war against Kell and his associates - in a damn fun, cool mini-game. Better - if the PCs have good relationships with the Cipiano, they may utilize Morgan Cipiano's resources against Kell...for a price that will influence further adventures. Speaking of which - if the B-team can ensure that their outgunned fight in a night-club is successful, they can influence this mini-game as well - and actually get Kell's lawyer!



Espionage and counter-espionage very much determine how well the final crackdown on Kell goes -if moles are not exposed, the PCs may find themselves at a significant disadvantage. Now the investigation into the renegade fey with Asrabey turns out to be rather interesting - the haughty elf still vastly outclasses the constables and thus, combats tend to have certain things for him to do - and yes, the fey-opposition of the Unseen Court is rather deadly. While the main group dukes it out with powerful spellcasters, the B-team will have "fun" calming superstitious folk and hopefully prevent multiple lynchings due to the fear of a curse. Capturing and interrogating a gremlin may see the PCs finally in a position where they can confront the fey-lord Ekossigan - in the process of a ritual sacrifice, clearly mad and mumbling about dread things hidden...but more on that later.



If the PCs have made friends with Kvarti in a previous encounter, the dwarf's divergent take on eschatologist philosophy may provide a simple means for them to gain information - Kvarti is unhappy about the radical plan of mass-bombing the sub-railway system and wants to help prevent the unleashing of dangerous beasts bound for the harbor and a hostage situation planned by a particularly cold eschatologist - hopefully also diffusing the deadly bomb in a nail-biting finale.



The massive banquet scene that is to follow the happenings will be just as nail-biting and tense - there is a lot at stake and after the rather exquisitely detailed scene - which unmasks a particular NPC as a telepath and also provides the PCs with a means of maintaining an element of surprise over the obscurati in Cauldron Hill - depending on the means the PCs chose during the module, the finale's assault on the Obscurati base will happen under vastly different constellations. Beyond infiltration, the utterly EPIC boss-fights that reward making allies and smart choices here deserve special mention.



But this is not the end - the titan of adamantine is unleashed upon the city, and while, for now, without direction, it needs to be dealt with - the king assembles a makeshift fleet (plus allies PCs may have made!) and tries to lure the titan to sea, while the king executes a powerful ritual aboard the vessel to banish the titan. The PCs will have to hold off the deadly, nigh-indestructible creature while dealing with the deadly witchoil horrors generating from the titan, for one of the most epic climaxes I've seen in any module.



Pages upon pages of handouts and GM-guidance to running this beast are provided as well.



Conclusion:



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to EN Publishing's 2-column full-color standard with plenty of glorious, original pieces of art. The pdf comes layered to the extent where you can make it easily player-friendly. Cartography is glorious as well.



Thurston Hillman has done it. The fifth zeitgeist-module manages to live up to the utterly INSANE standard the first 4 modules set, all of which manages to score 5 stars + seal of approval, rendering this AP the only one among those I've reviewed that managed to maintain this level of quality. The ONLY reason I'm not playing this AP right now is that I'm waiting for it to finish - I never start APs that are not yet done. That being said, this module is glorious and the first ACT of this AP has more going on, more memorable moments, than many full APs I've read. Superb in writing and ambition, this killer module is simply brilliant and utterly captivating - my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST #5: Cauldron-Born (PATHFINDER RPG)
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The Antipodist - Radiant Shadowsage
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2014 05:04:59
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This base-class clocks in at 28 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



The antipodist base class receives d6,1/2 BAB-progression, no good saves and a locus-progression of level 1 to level 4 and 2+Int skills per level. Antipodists are proficient with simple weapons, but not any armor or shields - no here's an interesting cincher - they double the point costs of their loci when wearing armor they're not proficient in, but are otherwise not hindered by them - meaning that you're only a feat away from armored casting with these guys - sans penaltes.



The Antipodist receives two pools - a radiance pool equal to class level + wis-mod and a shadow pool equal to class level + int mod. These replenish after 8 hours of consecutive rest. If you're familiar with Interjection Games classes, you'll notice a similarity with the edgewalker here - and thankfully, multiclass-information is provided. Now an antipodist's career is called "Journey through Light and Shadow" for a good reason - the antipodist learns so-called loci, which range from passive extraordinary abilities to supernatural and spell-like tricks. Loci are broken into two subtypes - light and dark and within these subtypes, there are different philosophies further providing variance/sub-subtypes if you will. Now antipodists surprisingly have no caster level per se, but for interaction purposes, they treat their class level as caster level. Additionally, though some of the antipodist's loci are treated as spell-like abilities, they do NOT count as spells for e.g. PrC etc. purposes. Catching this one and covering it properly is rather impressive. For the purpose of concentration, a locus is treated as locus level + 1/4 antipodist class level, rounded down. It should be noted that supernatural and extraordinary loci cannot be identified via spellcraft. In order to activate a locus, the antipodist requires a key attribute (wis or int) of 10 + 2x level of the locus and save DCs, if required, are 10 + 1/2 class level + key attribute modifier.



An antipodist begins the game with 3 loci and she receives +1 locus every class level. However, within each philosophy, an antipodist can never know more loci of a higher level than of a lower one - in order to e.g. learn a second locus of the 3rd level of a philosophy, the antipodist needs to know at least 2 loci of the second level of the philosophy - essentially a pyramid rule. The antipodist may replace a locus with a new one at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, but must maintain the level of the retrained locus - but NOT the philosophy, allowing you to "cheat" the pyramid rule to some extent. Like the edgewalker, some loci require the use of the antipodist's shadow and thus, only one of them can be in effect for a certain time.



Got that? Well, that's not all - unlike the edgewalker, the antipodist can have different philosophical leaning - radiance, shadow or twilight. Twilight maintains the duality between light and darkness, whereas light and shadow, whereas the specialists in either light or darkness may not be able to utilize the other's tricks, but instead receive a slightly (+2) increased pool and, more importantly, may choose to ignore aforementioned pyramid rule to compensate their decreased versatility - anyways, all choices further modify what an antipodist receives bonus-wise - which is nice. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the philosophical leaning also provides further bonuses - increased pool size and minor bonus to one of the three saves. It should also be noted, that extensive advice for the DM and player to handle the transition of philosophies are provided - and that both light and dark are not tied to an alignment - playing CE radiance specialists or LG shadow specialisits is very much possible. Now interesting in this seeming dichotomy would be the "drawn from experience" ability gained at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, choosing a philosphy and increasing its potency - the trick here being that the very progression of the class can be used to mirror the moral development of the character and the preferences chosen. The extensive advice for philosophy-changing goes above and beyond, providing detailed guidance for the turnfrom one leaning to another, both in the crunch AND in the fluff departments.

At 2nd, 7th and every 6 levels thereafter, the antipodist may also choose one 1st level locus to become "well-travelled", reducing the cost of said locus to 0, but at the cost of treating a level-dependent effect as half the actual antipodist level, with the exception of DCs and saving throws. At 11th level, the antipodist may 1/day cause a 3rd level or lower locus to be spontaneously treated as well-travelled, +1/day for every 3 levels. Finally, at 20th level, three different capstones loom, depending on the philosophy chosen - these include turning one 4th level dark locus into a light-locus (and vice versa) or a third pool, the twilight pool, which can exclusively be used to pay for loci of the twilight philosophy.



The class also comes with favored class options for the core-races plus drow, aasimar, tiefling, kobold, orc, hobgoblin, puddling (with the one for elves referring to edgewalker instead of antipodist) and 3 feats for the class: Increased pool-sizes (including variance between twilight and the extreme leanings), making a 1st level locus well-travelled and +1 first level locus are possible here - solid, especially since the latter feat becomes rather important for pyramid rule-planning.



Now a total of 4 philosophies for radiance and shadow are provided and additionally, there is the twilight philosophy, which counts as either. Got that? All right, so I'll give you a brief run-down of the philosophies (If I mention every locus, the review would bloat...): Anima allows you to animate your shadow to execute close range reposition maneuvers, have your shadow record a locus (and execute it at your command) or stretch and peek around corners or even invade a target, potentially slaying it via fear. Other tricks of anima allow you to animate other's shadows, commanding them to help or hinder target creatures and passive bonuses to AC when not utilizing your shadow actively can also be found herein



The Beacon philosophy can help you cancel out ongoing fear-effects. on yourself and allies and perfect, short-burst flight alongside buff/debuff-effects, fast healing and healing (the latter with a 2 round delay-mechanism - interesting!) as well as beneficial mood lighting. Reflexive damage + dazzle when targets of a locus are hit by attacks and eliminating diseases and poisons also make for interesting choices. Now the coruscation locus is more combat-centric - duplicating color spray, unleashing deadly blasts of atomizing light and blinding light make for interesting choices. On a design paradigm level interesting, one locus allows you to regain limited radiance points of spent loci when reducing foes below 0 hp, meaning that the ability can't be cheesed or kitten'd via well-travelled loci - nice way of preventing abuse there. Dazzling and blinding of foes are often accompanying effects of this, and the negation of concealment as well as causing "catching fire" (akin to alchemist's fire) with coruscation loci can mean a nasty drain on an enemy's action economy. Interesting.

The illumination locus allows you to e.g. charge and increase the damage-output of the next damage-dealing locus you cast, net yourself darkvision, infuse texts with appropriate bonuses to skills or even "store" a d20 roll and later substitute it. The Manipulator philosophy has some truly unique options as well - take for example the possibility of subverting and hijacking summoning spells - damn cool! Subverting enemy morale also makes for a cool idea - as does intensifying conditions - making the relatively useless dazzle-condition blinded instead, upping entangled to staggered - really cool, especially since the save varies on the condition intensified! Also rather unique - clouding the minds of foes, causing them to treat all targets as if subject to concealment. Ignoring the immunity of mind-affecting effects at the cost of shadow points also makes for a cool idea, somewhat analogue to DSP's dread class. Also rather nasty - one high-level locus that is the equivalent of mass-haste for allies and mass-slow for adversaries. Causing the shaken-condition via images of "spiders, mothers-in-law" and similar horrific images made me chuckle and manipulating weapon-hands is interesting - a word of warning, though - if a target's HD exceed those of the antipodist, they may instead receive a buff! Now while this may look like an strange design decision, it also opens an uncommon way of using the class - cohorts and similar followers may actually end up as buff-specialists for their masters, with minor manipulation thrown in the mix. Interesting!



Now the Obscurity philosophy, of course, is the go-to toolbox of stealth-focused tricks - from turning into smoke and instantly moving 5 ft. per class level (to e.g. escape from the guts of a huge creature that has swallowed you whole), entangling globs of greasy darkness, dual short-term reflexive shaken/blindness - so far, so good. What about beginning an insurrection of shadows, resulting in a target receiving additional weapon damage when hit by a target for the first time in a given round? This philosophy has also perhaps one of the most powerful passive abilities of the whole class - once per day, your shadow dies instead of you when first reduced by something that required an attack roll reduces you below 0 hp. (Of course, the shadow regenerates, rendering this a neat type of life-insurance, though your shadow's absence may severely limit some of your options...) Shadow evasion and granting a weak sneak attack can be considered rather cool options as well, rendering this philosophy probably one of the go-to choices for thieves and those versed in the lore of the underworld - tag-teaming with your shadow to ignore the movement-penalty of difficult terrain does make for cool imagery.



The Refraction philosophy allows for 1st level invisibility via bend light, with the added caveat that taken items (up to 10 ft. sticking away from your body) also become invisible. Now while the mechanics of parabolic dishes may not be particularly elegant (not a fan of opposed rolls in PFRPG), it works mathematically here - d20+BAB+Wis-mod+deflection bonus to AC (e.g. granted from the hovering parabolic dish) against incoming rays - if you win, you can catch and return the ray to its sender, destroying the dish. Generally, this one can be thought as the most defense-focused of the philosophies, with quite an array of e.g. AC-bonus netting and even mirror image-like loci. An abuse-safe retribution-spear can also be found among the loci here. The Umbral Embrace philosophy is probably the most sinister of the respective philosophies - a lot of the loci impose negative levels and e.g. darkness rising even further penalizes saves against the ability depending on the amount of negative levels accumulated. One of the more iconic loci would e.g. allow you to conjure forth the literal sandman to put your foes to sleep and another generates an anti-duplicate of the target that crashes into it for massive damage.

The Twilight philosophy is rather peculiar in its general versatility, allowing you to increase the potency of loci when alternating between light and dark loci. Increasing the point cost of loci in order to have them apply to additional targets also makes for versatile options and adding swift action dimension doors to the casting of 4th level loci also offers some unique tactical tricks. A sneaking, auto-flanking weapon of shadow, a bolt that can be modified as belonging to any type of philosophy - the twilight philosophy is probably the most versatile and diverse of the philosophies.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' two-column b/w-standard with fitting stock art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience - with actual, nested bookmarks, rendering navigation easier than in many IG-pdfs.



The Antipodist was a surprisingly tough pdf to properly take apart - and this is mostly due to the pyramid rule and the slight modifications one may apply to its progression via retraining. Now shadow magic, as introduced back in the 3.X days of old, was a high-concept idea, flawed in its execution, and the antipodist provides a distinct array of tools that are significantly better balanced. While generally defense-friendly due to the option to go armored caster, the bad saves and otherwise subpar base stats of the class maintain and enforce one basic concept - the antipodist is what I'd call a trick-class. That means both that it is somewhat tricky in that you should carefully consider your advancement through it, but also that it lets you pull off interesting tricks beyond the capability of other classes. Much like the (scarce) good parts of shadow magic of days gone by, the antipodist offers some very unique options, cool imagery and goes beyond the original, tight focus, by adding in the concept of duality and specialization.



More interesting, though, would be the option to radically change philosophies mid-game and essentially reboot the character and choices made throughout the PC's career. This flexibility is in my book the most impressive component of the class alongside the cool twilight tricks. Now if I were to complain about one component of this pdf, it probably would be the antipodist's so far limited (though by no means TOO limited) selection of foci when compared to full casters, but then again, there's always the chance there'll be expansions for this guy down the line. The pyramid rule and whole theme of the class, blending mechanics with the proverbial metaphysical journey also proves to be gold for roleplaying - in the hands of a capable player, these guys can really, really shine, tying the acquisition of powers on level ups to key moments in the campaign.



The handling of one or two pools remains a relatively simple affair, so apart from planning for cool combos (especially with twilight-antipodists), the class is relatively simple to wrap your head around when compared to other IG-releases. So how to rate this latest piece by Bradley Crouch then? Well, to cut a long ramble short in its tracks - this is the shadowcaster class I always wanted.

Its odd options more often than not go a step beyond what can be done with spells and quite a few loci have this cool "see what I did there"-flair. Add to that the cool condition dispersal/identification-options and we have a winner, though one that imho misses one damn cool option - as written, edgewalkers and antipodists, while thematically similar, have no overlap apart from their pools. Some sort of synergy between waypoints and loci would have been damn cool and made the whole system much more modular (and rewarded those who have both books) - perhaps something to consider for a future expansion? After all, the system per se is similar and the other way round, using loci as waypoints, would have been interesting as well. Now yes, this probably would have been a nightmare to balance, but still - if it's not done some day, I'll probably do it myself to render the shadow magic as intangible and unpredictable as possible. Now consider this a the spoiled whining of one jaded reviewer, though - this class is still a damn fun option and quite simply the shadow magic we always wanted. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Antipodist - Radiant Shadowsage
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Genius Adventures: Spring of Disorder
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/05/2014 03:53:53
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 24 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?

The village of Feiknstafir (fully mapped and statted with a player-friendly map!), sheltered and peaceful, has seen the last of its serene days - odd things are afloat, as the PCs will almost immediately realize when the wolves attack the village and the local horses. There is something weird going on, and the PCs better investigate the string of unusual circumstances. While some of the townsfolk blame the animals of the forest for the antics and grief that has befallen them, it quickly becomes apparent that the PCs will have to venture into the woods to unearth the truth - also, since diligent investigation may point them towards the horse of the first man to go missing, one Varsk. meanwhile, things may slowly be pilfered from the PC's purses, with one particularly cunning thief doing his best to relieve them of their tools - including counter-measures to bypass e.g. alarm-spells etc. We all know players HATE being stolen from, so that's a nice way to get them invested from the get-go, though by far not the only one. And even if the PCs catch the thief - who could be angry at the cute raccoon?



While exploring the forest, this module will do its utmost to annoy the players - squads of animals will seek to create a thoroughly unpleasant experience for them by stealing whatever they can get their paws on. Thus, when the PCs finally find some goblins, they'll be happy to fight - only to have the goblins surrender and guide them towards their tree village. This particular goblin tribe is usually at home in the high branches of the trees, and, as the chief explains, currently they are losing quite a few goblins - with bodies nowhere to be found. The surprisingly reasonable chief offers a magical weapon to the PCs for their investigation and threatens repercussions versus the forest's wood elf enclaves.



Following the information gleaned from the goblins, the PCs can find caches of the wood elves, deserted and featuring encoded messages, from which they can pierce together that the elves have lost people as well and blame the goblins and the villagers of Feiknstafir - seems like the PCs are sitting on a powder-keg here, ready to erupt! Extremely cool - if you're like me and your players like a challenge for their mind instead of simple dice-rolling, the series of messages can also be deciphered manually in a simple, nice puzzle I won't spoil here. Kudos!



The scrawl leads the PCs to the gnomish settlement of Smaparmar (again, fully mapped!) - subterranean...and utterly overrun by unpleasant creatures. Uncanny valley territory indeed - no corpses, but traces of combat abound...including the fact that someone or something has cleaned up after whatever has eliminated the gnomish folk. Worse, upon leaving the complex, the animals attack in full force, potentially even kidnapping one of the PCs! (And yes, the array of animals are deadly - with multiple class levels, they can be deemed an almost functioning adventurer group!)





The finale of the module has the PCs find Kreller's spring (again, fully mapped), where all the dead have been carried, and fight the true mastermind behind the animal uprising, a certain horse, which, alongside its brethren, has been awakened by the malevolent ghost of an adherer drowned by an adventurer in said spring. Whether the PCs just attempt to destroy the ghost and all opposition or reform the now intelligent animals for truly unique cohorts at higher levels, there is plenty of adventuring potential here.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' 2-column full-color standard with nice full-color artworks and solid cartography supplementing it. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Mike Myler's "Spring of Disorder" is an uncommon module in that it oscillates between funny and utterly creepy, between suspense-building and minor frustrations, all ultimately leading towards a satisfying conclusion. Add to that the wholly unique opposition and the obvious (subdued) nods towards one particular Orwellian book and we have a great module here - with combat, investigation, social encounters, wilderness, easy puzzles and smart foes, there is nothing could complain about in here - my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Genius Adventures: Spring of Disorder
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Underworld Races: Hoyrall
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/05/2014 03:48:24
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 Hoyrall? Apart from an interesting name (if you're Scandinavian or familiar with the languages, you'll get what I mean), they are a race of parasitic creatures from the stars, brought here and held in check by otherworldly entities whose struggle goes far beyond what has been gleaned from other Underworld Races-pdfs - the extended origin myth of them is AWESOME, full of grand ideas and the stuff of myths - fluff-wise, a glorious beginning.



The insectoid creatures had their hive-mind kind-of sundered and today, individualism exists - and hence, the potential for PCs. Rules-wise, these guys receive +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Str and -4 Cha, count as humanoids and aberrations, are small, have a land speed of 30 ft and a climb speed of 20 ft, 60 ft darkvision, get scent to sense creatures below 25% HP or carrion, are light-blind, get +1 natural armor, stonecunning, +2 to saves versus mind-influencing effects and two rather iconic tricks - number one would be the option to use their own blood con-mod times per day to deal 1d2 dex-damage for 6 rounds, 1 save to cure, scaling DC- cool. More important, if you've seen the cover - these guys have 4 arms. How do the authors balance that to prevent them being utterly broken chainsaws of shredders? All hands but one are off-hands and for every hand beyond the first used, they incur -3 to AC, CMB, CMD and ref-saves until the beginning of their next round. Yes, this adds a whole slew of power attack/expertise-like math to playing these guys. And no, they may only can one spell at a time - no dual-casting, thankfully. This makes the Hoyrall overall very effective fighters, but it also is balanced via light blindness, str-penalty etc. and in my game, they did not unbalance things - for this was one of the races that required a playtest to properly judge.



The array of FCOs is universally solid and we also receive the Siktauryi Specialist archetype for Gunslingers - but what are those Siktauryi? They are essentially stingray-like guns that fire globs of acid, which is made from POISONS. You feed these things POISONS to make acid. Awesome. Especially since more potent toxins increase the damage of the globs of acid. As living creatures, they can be healed (!!!). Another cool piece would be mated carapaced organic growths that allow for long-range communication - think living walkie-talkies. Yeah, awesome! But back to the specialist: Bred to work with siktauryi, these Hoyrall cannot benefit from poisonous blood, but they can directly feed the siktauryi via their modified hands and later, increase their "reloading" speed. I'm sorry. This reviewer Is just grinning from ear to ear right now - little, 4-armed insectoid psychos with living guns? THIS is what I review for. Weird, awesome and oh so cool!



A total of 6 racial feats allow for less penalties when using multiple arms, better feinting or carrion sense, increased blood toxicity, bonus damage when feeding one's siktauryi with one's own toxic blood and covert communication via antennae - iconic, interesting feats - nothing too strong, nothing too weak. And yes, if you want to burn 6 feats, you can get rid of all the penalties for multiple arms...you'll be a mean little shredding chainsaw of a hoyrall...but you'll be 6 feats poorer.



3 unique items allow people to utilize hoyrall antennae communication, draw forth infinite daggers (which dissipate again) or receive a hoyrall phantom limb that is, indeed, a ghost of a limb - it acts as a +1 ghost touch longsword! Cool idea!



Finally, we receive 6 new spells, three of which are devoted to emulating degrees of a hive-mind, while one nets you a fascinating carapace, one allows you to spit poison and one nest you a prismatic gaze attack - the last spell may be a bit strong for the levels associated with it, depending on your campaign's power-level.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches, though a couple of 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.



YES! *THIS* would be Mike Myler at his very best - the rules are solid and make multi-arm characters work. The fluff is GLORIOUS and inspired. The items are winners. The archetype is brilliant. The spells are cool. This is the Underworld Races-series at peak performance, with new, cool fluff, awesome crunch and, in spite of the very powerful benefits, a balanced race. This pdf had me grin from ear to ear and while it is not long, I guarantee that this is one of the coolest races you'll have seen in a while. The Hoyrall are so unique, so distinct, I *had* to introduce them into my campaign. Forget the Thri-Kreen, these guys are so much cooler! (Also: They are not broken.) While not all rules herein are perfectly streamlined with established PFRPG-canon, the reasons for deviating are unanimously due to maintaining balance, while allowing you to play and do things no other race can do.



This is AAW Games at its best, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Hoyrall
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Enhanced Racial Guide: Bhriota
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/04/2014 10:16:30
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive racial guide for the Bhriota clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with an impressive 36 pages of content, so let's take a look!



The Bhriota are a human ethnicity and as such, I feel I should mention one fact - I'm a huge fan of human "races" - chalk it up to my extensive reading of Sword & Sorcery literature, but I'd rather have different stats for different ethnicities than x pseudo-humanoid races with almost human cultures and outlooks. It's a matter of taste and thus, I am rather in favor of the base concept of the Bhriota. Now of course, one may suppose that such rules may not necessarily be perfectly politically correct, but then again, the same argument could be applied to all humanoid races, so I'm going to ignore this discussion for the matter of this review - as long as the fluff is great and the crunch lines up, I'm happy.



Now the semi-nomadic Bhriota are a people essentially sundered - chosen to be custodians of a seal holding the old ones in check, the majority of their race has succumbed inevitably to the seeping unearthly corruption imposed upon them by the dread things from beyond. Rules-wise, Bhriota receive +2 Str and Con, -2 Cha, +2 to intimidate, a bonus feat, weapon familiarity with axes and Bhriota weapons. Generally, the race is cool, but the dual statboost to physical attributes gear them slightly too strongly towards melee-roles for my tastes.



Extensive information on takes of the respective classes, outlooks on religion etc. are all provided and we also receive favored class options for all core and APG-classes - these generally are well-balanced. No issues here! As has become the tradition, Bhriota may choose from an array of alternate racial traits, which include exchanging the intimidate bonus for stealth or increased resistance against diseases and similar conditions, better CMD (or saves)for weapon familiarity. Once again, no complaints here.



We also receive 4 racial archetypes - the insane assailant can enter a reactive rage that also doubles as a confusion-effect on him in favor of better DR and scaling, powerful damage boosts. Over all, an archetype high in concept, if a bit on the weak side for my tastes. The Savage Huntsman ranger is a specialist of traps, being able to add negative conditions to their effects. Additionally, these guys may temporarily decrease their favored enemy bonus to attack a suiting creature and apply negative conditions upon targets - a damn cool mechanic: Finally, something interesting to be done with boring favored enemies! Over all, a cool one!. The esoteric binder summoners receive diminished eidolons in favor of expanded spell-lists and have his eidolon deliver touch spells. Thankfully with a caveat that prevents stacking of held charges. Spell-like abilities and an aura that cancels out morale bonuses and penalties make for an interesting archetype as well. Finally, there would be the Bhriota Witch Doctor - who uses con instead of int as governing attribute - highly uncommon! Patron-access is limited, though, and in order to learn hexes, these guys need to live through permanent disfigurements, which will see them ostracized in most civilized societies - the mark of agony clearly denounces them as adherents to unsavory practices and rites. In lieu of a familiar, these fellows receive a fetish mask to act as their channel to their patrons, which they later can enchant. Additionally, 1st and 10th level hex are fixed via the 2 new hexes: Rending hex duplicates a 1/creature/24-hours inflict light wounds, while another forces open wounds healed and deals damage + bleed - which can only be stopped by regular heal-skills, not magic. The first hex may be a bit much - every day, infinite inflict light wounds, provided you meet enough different targets feels a bit much, especially in combination with the con-based casting - con being the most useful stat for casters anyway and the lack of MAD of the witch class making this more grievous. While the implied social stigmata of this archetype, when properly evoked by the DM, may offset these balance concerns, unfettering this archetype from its fluff and the peculiarities of the setting may see this not work anymore. So, while not downright broken, one option that requires deliberation.



Next up are 10 new racial feats - Bloodlust being the first, allowing you to add base will-save (NOT the modified one) to atk and damage against uninjured foes. Wait...come again? While the bonus thankfully is not the modified will-save, the damage+atk bonus's scaling surpasses similar feats almost immediately and increases the mook-mowing capacities of charges and vital strikes further. With the rather low prereqs, especially for multi-class builds a nasty glass-cannon enhancer that needs some nerfing. +1AoO with unarmed strike is neat, as is better charging versus inanimate, unattended targets. rerolling fear-saves, resistance to saves versus disease and poison - per se cool. Odd, though - the Grudge Bearer-feat, which allows you to retaliate against racial hatred foes with +1/2 last received damage on the next weapon damage roll. Apart from the obvious means of exploitation, the race does not receive hatred - so it can't take the feat. Attacking unattended objects whenever you miss makes sense and applying wis-mod, if negative, as a bonus to will-saves while raging makes thematic sense for insane characters. Penalizing perception and concentration while in the presence of a non-instantaneous spell's area of effect at +1 spell level would be interesting. Making full-damage attacks against swarms as a standard action (somewhat akin to vital strike) also is within the boundaries of what I consider valid.



We also receive quite an array of different traits - from minor bonuses to small pseudo-rages and birthmarks that denote the chosen of the Old Ones, these traits generally are well-crafted and supplied with nice fluff.



Next up would be Bhriota Rune Magic - using the rules via Rune Catser and providing full synergy with e.g. how they are handled in Northlands and similar publications, we receive an array of various runes - including a total of 6 feats to dive into runic magic, should you not be familiar with the concept. The runes per se are rather awesome and well-balanced, though minor exceptions can be found - the Na'arlosham Rune for example, allows you to do the following: "Invoked upon a spear, the rune invokes divine favor from the Old Ones upon the first character who throws it over the head of an enemy force (nine or more opponents) in the next nine hours." -so what are the benefits? Another rune that nets you a bonus of +20 to the next bull rush attempt executed may feel a bit excessive. Why not opt for a scaling benefit depending on HD? On the cool-side - we receive a drawing for each rune - nice!



The Bhriota Shaman-PrC receives 1/2 BAB-progression, 1/2 ref and will-progression, full spell-casting progression, up to +5d6 sneak attack progression,d6 and 4+Int skills per level. The class receives a curse board with which to curse adversaries and special dances, which allow for the casting of particular spells (depending on the school) as spell-like abilities a limited amount of times per day. Alas, the class seems to have undergone some revision - the PrC's table sports various abilities like ranged legerdemain that are not listed in the class' write-up - while I *know* what these do, I'm happy they *seem* to have been cut - this PrC is rather strong even without them. That being said, the PrC is still feeling like it's missing half its content. Fun fact - Herbal Remedies, gained at 3rd level, is also missing from the table. So yeah, massive update glitch.



We also receive an array of cool, generally balanced and rather flavorful Bhriota-specific weaponry - sneak attack with specific darts reduces movement, special caltrops, a sacrificial kit - glorious pieces, even before the alchemical war draughts and war paints. A total of 4 different magical items, from aberration blood to insanely powerful, high-level bone rattles (almost 2K price!) and a cool two-bladed sword make for interesting options - the latter increases its enchantment by +1 upon scoring a crit, changing its bleed damage to cold damage for a limited time makes for an interesting mechanic. As a particularly nice service for guys like yours truly, we also receive a legendary weapon. These would be weapons that require specific wielder-characteristics and in turn, increase in potency with their wielder - the swords of legendary Vathak, Ataciber and Reratuv, scale in 10 steps over 20 levels and makes combatants truly fearsome indeed - a cool, almost artifact-level weapon-duo, though one I wished had some unique traits.



Now the next chapter would be among my favorite in this book - here, we receive tribal symbols and glyphs and complete write-ups of the corrupted, degenerate tribes. A total of 4 such tribal write-ups, full of great hooks, can be found herein and each write-up sports two exclusive alternate racial traits - no complaints there!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are better than in any Fat Goblin Games-pdf I've read in quite a while - very good, actually! Layout is beautiful in all the right ways - the 2-column full-color layout is easy to read, beautiful and still printer-friendly. The full color artworks, original pieces, are STUNNING. Seriously, these pieces are GORGEOUS and have their very own style and allure, rendering this pdf over all a true beauty to behold. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Rick Hershey always had potential as both designer and writer. The glitches lay in the detail and so, the presence of line developer John Bennett is felt indeed - this pdf is a joy to read. Its fluff is superb and of a high quality that makes reading this pdf inspiring. The quality of the crunch also has seen a significant step upwards - the majority of the content herein is rather cool and there indeed are some rather damn cool ideas in here. That being said, the few broken feats and glitched, unusable PrC somewhat neuter this pdf's otherwise stellar track-record. Were it for the fluff only, I'd rate this 5 stars +seal f approval, but with the glitches, I can't go any higher than a final rating of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. Still, consider me rather intrigued about Vathak - I now really want to see where the Fat Goblin Games crew takes the setting with this increased quality!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Enhanced Racial Guide: Bhriota
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