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Feats Reforged: Vol. II, The Advanced Feats
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/06/2014 02:54:42
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of TPK Games' books on redesigns of feats that scale with the level is 39 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 36 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



This time, we get the feats reforged-treatment for all feats in the APG. So how do they scale? Most feats get their first upgrade at 7th level, the second at 14th, but that can in no way be claimed for all of them - one upgrade at 17th level (for feats that require 10th level), 13th and 20th level-upgrades...see the reasoning? Essentially, the feats upgrade in increments of 7 levels after the earliest level you could take the feat, which seems like a prudent guideline. Additional Traits, for example, nets you +1 trait at the respective increments, though you have to choose it from a category you don't already have a trait in.



Usually, the feats have relatively straight progressions, like additional +1s, less penalty with Bloody Assault etc., but not all adhere to this formula - take the bodyguard feat - its first enhancement reduces the AC you have to hit to 8 (making it kind-of automatic sooner for non full BAB-classes like the monk) and the second upgrade increases AC granted to +3.



Special mention deserve usually rather useless feats à la cosmopolitan - their upgrade nets them a bonus to linguistics and later +1 language and even a 1/day reroll and makes them a much more valid, if not 100% optimal choice. Crossbow Mastery nets you an initiative bonus and an attack in the surprise round at -5 with crossbows, which also makes imho for some rather cool ideas regarding upgrades of a feat that in its base benefit is rather static. But, you know, I wouldn't be me if I found nothing to complain about now, wouldn't I? The good news here is - the following complaint is with the base feat, NOT exclusively with the reforged one - Deepsight has a prereq of Darkvision 60 ft. and extends it to 120 ft. - which is per se cool. However, there are beings with darkvision 90 ft. that, as written, can't take the feat. And yes, that's a blunder n Paizo's part, not on the side of TPK Games, who stayed true to the base feat, but I still would have loved to see the Plus added that fixed the prereqs. That being said, ultranitpicks like this one of course will not influence the final verdict.



Disruptive Spell is also interesting, using a particular rule that is near and dear to my heart - degrees of failure. The disruptive effect lasts longer if the target botches the save by 5 or more. Which is definitely a plus. A downside, on the other hand, would be that broken feats that have inherited their non-scaling issues, missing the chance to be fixed.. Take Dreadful Carnage. Whenever you reduce an enemy below 0 HP, you get an AoE-demoralize as a free action. Fails the bag of kitten tests - carry around bag of kittens = unlimited demoralize AoEs. All right, at level 11 perhaps not the best strategy, but still, probably not how the feat was intended in either incarnation.



The Extra-feats take an interesting approach - instead of tying the benefit-upgrades to fixed levels, they net you a second discovery, hex etc. 10 levels after taking the feat. Where I can potentially see issues with certain builds would be the fast drinker-feat - at 7th level, it reduces the action required to imbibe alcohol down to a free action, thus opening the swift action slot. While MOST builds won't benefit too strongly from this, some classes out there put quite a value on the swift action, so not 100% comfortable here. What's damn awesome would be Groundling - taking a relatively lame base premise, its upgrades allow you to talk to earth elementals and all creatures with the earth-subtype. Quite cool! Also nice - the additional effects of improved stonecunning that allow for the bonus to be added to perception-checks to determine surprise and even initiative while underground or surrounded by stone, making the feat in this iteration not suck. Kudos!



Now while most of the upgrades make sense, there also once in a while is an effect that just is broken - personally, I won't ever allow the light step upgrade at 7th level near my table - it extends the ignoring of difficult terrain to unnatural environments, which becomes problematic once one recalls the amount of effects, spells and items that can create unnatural difficult terrain. Not a big fan. What do like is that some of the teamwork feats herein, at their highest level, allow you to treat all adjacent allies as if they have this feat. Makes sense and works...and is probably closer to what Teamwork-feats set out to do than the regular iterations.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting...this time around are actually very good -almost excellent. The only minor glitches I stumbled over, were some missed italicizations, nothing grievous. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and also hyperlinked.



Brian Berg has taken the APG and turned the feats into scaling ones - and they work. Where issues present themselves, they are few and far between and often are based on Paizo botching that particular source-feat. Overall, I'm positively surprised to note that this installment of Feats Reforged works imho even better than the first, salvaging some feat-choices that in the original iteration were rather...let's say bad. That being said, one gripe with the series so far hasn't been remedied and that would be that feat-rich creatures and characters simply benefit more from these reforged feats, thus slightly altering the balance. While the resulting power-creep is marginal at best, some concise advice for DMs to handle it would have been much appreciated. Still, if you don't mind the rather conservative benefits added to the feats, this is a great buy. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Feats Reforged: Vol. II, The Advanced Feats
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Gossamer Worlds: Empyrea (Diceless)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/06/2014 02:49:49
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Infinite worlds lie on the Grand Stairs - here, we get Empyrea in the second installment of the Gossamer Worlds-series in a 9-page pdf, of which 1 page is the front cover, 1 page the editorial, leaving 7 pages - so what is this place all about?



If you're a comic-book-nerd, think New Genesis. If that doesn't ring any bells - think an idealistic, enlightened greco-roman-style planet of essentially superhumans - guided by a benevolent allfather who is only slowly coming to grips with the existence of the Grand Stair, the people of Empyrea essentially live in bliss and, via positive eugenics, can be indeed considered superb beings. If you're like me, this makes you shudder somewhat, though the ruler seems indeed to be a mostly benevolent influence. Overall, though, the otherwise very elysian society remains ignorant of the Grand Stairs...at least for now.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's purple-bordered two-column full-color standard and the thematically-fitting stock-art by Thomas Cole is great. The pdf comes with bookmarks, in spite of its brevity.



Matt Banach's in-character prose once again is glorious and Empyrea comes alive from the pages of this supplement - the writing is awesome and the world per se compelling and full of potential. That being said, the world as such feels slightly less unique than Brokeworld, has no per se unique characteristic regarding its influence on magic/characters. It makes for a great, compelling backdrop, but it feels a tad bit less original than Brokeworld. It makes for a great place to visit, but verdict-wise, this installment of gossamer worlds clocks in at 4 stars for me - a good supplement, but not 100% as unique as its predecessor.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gossamer Worlds: Empyrea (Diceless)
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Urban Dressing: Theatres
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/06/2014 02:46:14
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Urban Dressing-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!



This pdf kick off with a table of 55 entries for external theatre appearances - from humble stands of a puppet theatre to circular halls and strange doors engraved with words that prompt the reader to sing to have the door open, we get a surprising array of external appearances that run the gamut from humble to easily inserted to tantalizing - neat!



The second table, spanning 50 entries, depicts internal characteristics -which include illusions used for scenery, twisting galleries, blaring lights and weird occurrences, like apples bouncing down the stairs - quite a bit of interesting entries, though some feel more like "things that happen" than "characteristics/appearances of the theatre inside."



We also get a table of 20 complications, which include couples fighting and full-blown fires breaking out as well as a sample list of 20 names for respective plays. Beyond these, a table of 50 sights and sounds provides ample food for further complications - from children trying to sneak in sans paying to actors being fitted for their costumes to mages testing their illusions, quite a nice table to add color to the theatre...though perhaps not a table to roll spontaneously on, since the respective happenstances diverge wildly from mid-performance to backstage. Smaller, more thematically limited tables would have probably helped here in making the overall entries easier to use for the DM.



The final two-pages are devoted to fluff-only short write-ups of sample people to meet in the theatre - from stage magicians and actors to bards, they run a surprisingly versatile gamut and include even a doppelganger and a LIZARDFOLK ARISTROCRAT. Yes. Awesome. So far my favorite selection of such short NPC-write ups in any of the Urban Dressing-series' installments.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. The pdfs comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



The Urban Dressing-series has often a problem with trying to fit a rather complex environment into a couple of tables and this one, partially, also suffers from this - the internal characteristics table feels a bit unfocused, with some entries depicting what happens rather than what's there - which becomes especially relevant since the sights & sounds-table already covers that ground. Furthermore, the latter table could have benefitted from being split up -why? Because, as a DM, were you to try to make the theatre in question on the fly and supplement it with this table, you could potentially encounter some issues due to entry/back stage etc. being not clearly separated. When used beforehand, it is great and works well, but still - a comfort detriment there. The writing by Liz Smith is actually really, really good, with the sample NPCs rocking and the overall entries also being quite nice. Still, I can't help but feel that, as a spontaneous generator, it could have been improved further. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down by a slight margin to 3.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Theatres
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Obsidian Apocalypse (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/03/2014 03:59:19
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Obsidian Apocalypse is a massive 200-page book, 1 page front cover, 1 page donor-list, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of ToC,, leaving a massive 194 pages of content, so let's take a look!



What is Obsidian Apocalypse? Well, first of all, it's the heir of Obsidian Twilight - a campaign-setting that gloriously failed just about all my expectations. Still, LPJr Design improved so vastly that I joined, with a somewhat hopeful anticipation, the Kickstarter to make Obsidian Apocalypse, the sequel. Kind of. For, while there is a default setting kind of assumed, Obsidian Apocalypse now is less of a campaign setting, but rather an extremely versatile toolbox for to scavenge from. So after the first introduction to the cataclysmic world of Abaddon, we're introduced to the base-races - minus half-elves/half-orcs, for the world was not kind on these beings. Each of the core-races gets their own apocalyptic vista of what has happened to them - from the forlorn/mushroom-infected elves to the cannibalistic halflings, the takes on the races are disturbing and evocative at the same time. Beyond that, each of the races gets 3 alternate racial qualities - want to for example play shaven, mad dwarves, akin to Warhammer's Slayers? Yep. Damn cool.



Of course, we also get an array of new races. While I could go into the details regarding each race, I'll instead try to give you a short run-down. Another note before I start - the races herein you may remember from the previous installments, yes. They are nothing like their previous iterations - they actually by now are mostly rather well-balanced, on par with the stronger PC-races...without using their fluff. How is that accomplished? Well, where before, these races had a slew of special abilities, they retain these, but have to choose them as alternate racial traits. Take the Exalted, essentially the aasimar of the setting, the descendant of legendary half-burned angel Zebadiah, the last angel of Abaddon. Want a blade of deadly light? Angelic Wings? Well, you can now exchange these for the divine spell-like abilities of the race. Where before, they were stronger than even the aasimar, they now are a powerful, but balanced option. Another general improvement that hold true for all races, would be that they're less geared towards a specific class than before, often allowing for a more free assignment of ability score-modifiers. Where there are spawn of the upper planes, there also ought to be those of the lower, and yes, the Infernals are essentially the take on the Tieflings herein. Where in the previous iteration, they were a bit too strong for my tastes and while that kind of still is true by a margin (and this one's crunch sports a couple of minor typo-level/bolding glitches - more than in others), the new take on the infernal is vastly improved.



One of the more iconic races herein would be the Genesai - offspring of angels and demons, these unnatural beings once were somewhat of a Mary Sue-race; Now in this iteration, their powers have been more streamlined, their relative strength cut down to a level where they make for a more valid option. More importantly, their shattersoul blade, a blade made from the dichotomies of their very being, got a more varied mechanic that makes more sense - the scaling is also different from the one of the celestial. Now the Lykians, werewolf-like humanoids still are a tad bit too strong for my tastes: Claws, a diseased bite, +4 to Dex, increased miss chances in dim illumination etc. - even with a weakness to silver, this is a tad bit too much for my tastes. Another gripe - personally, I'm never a friend of +4 attribute modifiers like this one and the one of the harrowed, the spawn of the living and undead. Why am I not complaining about these semi-undead? Simple - they aren't healed by positive energy, but by negative energy, making them much more fragile in your avergae adventuring group. For a race geared towards melee with str+4, that's enough balancing for me - also due to not getting full-blown undead immunities.



It is here I'd like to mention that each of the races can expand their racial abilities via feats, in the case of harrowed allowing you to play any harrowed from the offspring of zombies to descendants of shadows and even liches. These feats often help drive home the uniqueness of these new races, by e.g. allowing you to expand the tricks of your genesai's shattersoul blades or truly be exalted: One feat allows you to sacrifice silver to temporarily stem the tide of the taint across the world and make an area fertile...for a time, as mentioned. Another interesting race would be the Osirions (not related to the Golarion-nation) - a black-skinned high-culture of beings with innate affinity towards necromantic arts - both beneficent and deadly. Not all feats are superb - there is for example one that hasn't been updated and might generate some confusion regarding the final race, the Khymer.



What are the Khymer? Essentially, they are people reduced to puddles of psionic, sentient, toxic blood that can take over corpses and remodel them to look like their lost forms. More importantly, they may burn out these husks (and their bodies) to fuel their psionic powers metapsionics-style. The rules for this race have been massively streamlined and the fact that the race now works better is great - especially since changing bodies can potentially be lethal and a lengthy procedure. The feat I mentioned before still assumes a more short-term duration for host-change than the new one, which takes several hours. Still, they are one of the most unique, iconic races out there and while the enhancements to their psionic abilities are imho too strong at low levels, the race per se is too cool for me to condemn - sometimes, even for me, coolness trumps all.



The feats I mentioned before deserve further mention -there for example are necromantic feats, which allow you to enact special necromantic treats - like forming the bones of a corpse or similar source into a superb armor for fragile spellcasters. Where in the predecessor, balancing was rather all over the place in these, the new takes on the feats even could have used a minor power boost here and there - none of the vast array of feats made me yell or get upset, many though made me grin and ponder why/how I'd use them - so all in all, a surprisingly well-crafted chapter - especially since I didn't really consider it necessary before. The same can be said in a much higher degree about the chapter on spells - with one exception (and that one's level 6 and requires foes to actually have blood circulation: Death by de-veining!), you'll no longer find any save-or-die spells. Indeed, instead, the magic chapter has been thoroughly cleaned up, the spells now often doing actually rather interesting things - what about e.g. a wall of spiders that becomes less efficient the more armor its victims wear? Spells that are hampered by wearing the right equipment? The option to create a duplicate, which if you or it dies, may well actually become you? Teleport-blocks? Anti-true-strikes? Yeah - if you're familiar with some - that's because the book updates quite a few spells from Monte Cook's by now legendary Book of Eldritch Might to PFRPG - and, just like the feats taken from the book, these are no lazy cut-copy-paste jobs, but rather true conversions and often, significant improvements.



But all of that crunch is not what this book is about - this book is about the end of the world. Or rather - the ends of the world - for each of the following chapters deals with one of the possible ends of the world.



And they mince no words. They don't turn tails. They are capital B bad news for all good. The first calamity to end the world depicted is engineered by no one other than the Morning Star, the Prince of Lies. No. Not Asmodeus, this knock-off. Lucifer. Yes. Lucifer. The Prince of Lies has destroyed his opposition, merged his former prison with the prime material and obtain the contract of creation - hence "Hell on Earth" really encapsulates well what has happened here. It should be noted that hence infernal taint comes with feat chains that net significant synergy benefits, allowing the characters to represent the taint and changed dichotomies. It should also be noted that each of the end-of-the-world-scenarios comes with multiple organizations (though no Prestige-mechanics) and fully depicted settlements as well as suggested campaign-outlines/DM-advice. Have I mentioned rules for apocalyptic, hellish weather like rains of frogs, tornados of flame and the like? What about the one ritual that keep the hellish hordes from crushing all resistance?



The next apocalypse would be the result of a meteorite, from which weird life spawned - an illness consuming organic and inorganic material, subjugating everything under its dread swarm-intelligence and potentially non-euclidian-seeming aesthetics. The shaper virus has changed the world by separating it into ever decreasing healthy lands with draconian anti-infection protocols, which proved to be the only way to stem the tide of infection, and the virus-controlled second half of the world, by now a nightmare of infected creatures. PC will have to struggle with the infection, draw strength from it and avoid succumbing to it - this apocalypse is by far the worst in my opinion: In a good way. I love the moral implications, the deadly abilities, the feats that let you draw upon the virus's strength at a price - this one is glorious indeed. Of course, we also get the contaminated-template here as well as an array of sample contaminated victims of the dread virus...



Want to go more conservative with your weird apocalypse - well, there's also a chapter detailing the apocalypse due to the return of the cthulhoid elder gods - and as such, the chapter of course requires sanity rules. What can I say - they're elegant, versatile without being CoC-level punishing, leave enough control for the DM and over all, are the best sanity rules for any d20-based game I've seen in quite a while - essentially characters get starting SAN, a can lose SAN, regain it via Heal and encountering the strange may result in gaining new insights into forbidden lore - yes, essentially, that's the d20-version of COC's SAN-system and it actually works rather well in play! And yes, it includes the Knowledge (Forbidden Lore)-skill (somewhat akin to cthulhu mythos in CoC), but also takes the options of restorative magic etc. into account. Beyond that, sheer proximity to these beasts changes planar properties in interesting ways - this chapter should also prove to be extremely interesting for Midgard-DMs looking to add some oomph to the wasted west. We also get two nice simple templates to modify creatures. Once again a great apocalypse with awesome supplemental material.



Of course, there also ought to be...yes! The zombie-apocalypse - with a new breed of zombie that decreases your movement automatically and by sheer proximity, easily pinning those immobilized and spreading undead destruction around the world - in this world, the war against the never-ending hordes of mindless dead, necromancer lords etc. all rule, making for a nice, traditional undead apocalypse supplemented by some neat ideas and crunch. On the supplemental side, traits, feats, spells and a table for vast hordes of undead and their CR are provided as well as a rather significant array of shambling sample zombies of various CRs



Now it should be noted that theoretically, you could combine all of these into a truly devastating super-apocalypse... but who would do that? *evil grin*



Now a setting like this can't work with petty CR 10+ villains - hence we also get the super-movers and shakers in all their glory -if you recall Calix Sabinus, the Vampire-Lich-God-king and his brethren, you'll know that this chapter provides some truly nasty adversaries - with legendary Mummy-king Asi Magnor getting a resplendent new artwork, just as the newcomer, Reikenjo, the first agent of the shaper virus. CR-wise, these legends range from CR 30 to CR 35 - and thankfully don't include Lucifer or Elder Gods, i.e. beings that should not be slain by mortal hands. One kind-of-gripe here - the equipment of these legends is rather puny compared to their level. DMs probably should add some items and yes, in my opinion also artifacts to make these unique threats a tad more challenging.



Of course, there also are less epic monsters herein, with each and every one of them coming with a downright glorious artwork - whether its old favorites like the boneshard golems or the necromantically-infused creature template or new critters like the slumber-inducing intelligent eye-consuming insects, the undead-hunting bird-like humanoids called Hargila, face-stealing fey, shadow-consuming undead or ooze-like outsiders that spread and sustain themselves on hatred - the creatures in this chapter are gloriously wicked and powerful -beasts to truly FRIGHTEN players, not just their characters, often with an array of interesting signature abilities. This chapter also includes a damn cool array of environmental hazards and weird diseases to spring upon your players.



The book concludes with campaign ideas and options to help a DM plan/organize such a campaign.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally very good - while some glitches have crept in (which happens in almost all big books), editor Joshua Yearsley generally has done a great job. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the artworks deserve special mentioning - this ranks among the most beautiful books I've seen in that department, with iconic piece upon iconic piece. While some you may know from older Obsidian Twilight-publications, the majority is actually new and drives home the superb art direction. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in full color, but is *relatively* printer-friendly when printed out in b/w. If you somehow can get your hands on the color exclusive version from the KS, DO SO. Seriously, I got both the full color and b/w print version and the former is just...beautiful. Even for LPJr Design standards - and that means something.



So...this was another review that took forever, mainly due to having to check back to the old material, comparing it etc. First of all - the balance-concerns I had with the races previously have *mostly* been alleviated, in favor of a much more streamlined experience. And while I'm not 100% sold on the balance of some of them, there always is the "rule of cool"-factor - take the Khymer: While the meta-psionic tricks of the race are VERY powerful and something to take into account as a DM, they are a race of sentient, body-invading BLOOD. The main gripe I have here is that the DC to determine con-damage doesn't scale and that the enhancements, per se, would imho work better as a feat-chain. Now declaring them as such wouldn't be hard on a DM, so there you go. generally, the races can be now categorized as a medium till strong race-option, but not as overpowered as they once were - the core-races no longer feel like declassified second choices compared to them, with fungoid infections, slayer-dwarves etc. offering a neat array of racial fodder.



On the other hand of the spectrum, there are some feats (like aforementioned bone armor) that can only be used 1/day - some scaling for additional uses based on level etc. would have made some of these more viable - which they deserve to be, for they are exceedingly cool.



More than all of that weighs another point - whereas Obsidian Twilight felt a bit like "What's cool? All right, let's mush it together into a setting!", Obsidian Apocalypse does not pretend to be a setting - it's a toolbox, a kit of a plethora of options, ready for the picking. Want to combine the sanity-mechanics from the chapter on cthulhoid threats with the shaper virus or Lucifer's incursion? There you go! You could even reappropriate the mechanics for "humanity" and go for a walking dead-style zombie apocalypse, where the survivors slowly turn into sociopaths. Obsidian Apocalypse KNOWS what it is - it's not the subtle kind of horror (though especially the shaper virus lends itself to this approach), but rather the in-your-face blare of horror, of Midnight-level despair and valiant last stands.



The crunch in the beginning was good, much nicer and more streamlined than I expected - but in the apocalypses, in the scenarios, their settlements and organizations, in the monsters and threats - this is where the book started to grow its rather evil potential. let me give you a comparison: One of my favorite 3.X books EVER is Elder Evils. I loved the book's threats to death - but the signs, the repercussions of the impending apocalypse there just...FAILED. One paltry little change and that's it? All the page-count devoted to lame maps and lamer minion-stats, when all could have been devoted to actually helping a DM make the catastrophes his/her own? Yeah, Elder Evils failed there. Obsidian Apocalypse triumphs in that regard - I guarantee you, that upon reading this book, you WILL be inspired - whether it's a spell, a feat, a monster, a hazard, a legend (though, as mentioned, give those guys more equipment!), an organization - this book will get your creative juices flowing. Whether it's the drawback-laden infection-feats, the ideas, the compelling prose that depicts the respective cataclysms - there is so much to take, combine, change and use that the book simply screams to be used.



This campaign toolkit ranks as one of my favorite toolkits for any iteration of d20 - it may not be perfect in EVERY little component, but it manages to be INSPIRING, even for jaded "seen it all"-DMs like yours truly. There aren't many of these books around. Now don't expect a full-blown setting , but rather consider this an inspiration to follow, a means of making your very own end-of-the world scenario with all its repercussions and you'll find ample, copious inspiration herein. All in all, this is, in my opinion, the BEST BOOK LPJr Design has so far made. It oozes heart's blood, passion and makes for a fantastic book to own. I was honestly skeptical when I backed the Kickstarter back in the day - and am thoroughly glad I did. I'm not kidding when I say that this is a whole new beast that rectifies just about all of the issues of its predecessor and adds vast amounts of awesomeness on top. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval - and, since I didn't manage to get the review done in time in 2013, this one now is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2014. If you'll excuse me, I have an endtimes-scenario to plan...

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Obsidian Apocalypse (PFRPG)
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GM's Miscellany: Tribes Most Foul
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/03/2014 03:55:18
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of Ranging Swan Press' superb Tribes Most Foul-series is 65 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page info about the designers, 1 page advice on reading statblocks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 57 pages of content, so let's take a look!



We kick off this book with a table of statblocks by CR (Including the page numbers) and then, get a tribal name generator: 100 descriptors, which are then supplemented by one of 4 characteristics: These may either be a body part, geographical, weapon/armor or animal/monster. Each of these sample characteristics gets a 50-entry-table and for DMs really hard-pressed for time, a final table offers 50 ready-made sample names.



As you may know if you've followed my reviews, I've reviewed all component-pdfs in detail, so if you've got questions regarding e.g. were-troll dire echidnas and the like, I'll hereby refer you to these. If you're new to the series - essentially, we get thoroughly unique tribes containing a sample tribal roster, advice on how to use them in a campaign, lore-sections, notable personalities and sample statblocks for the respective NPCs as well as heraldic crests.



And yes, ogre-cooks, deadly kobold trapsmiths, primitive orcs led by awakened dire apes...there are a lot of cool tribes herein that just kill it - concept-wise, style-wise, all awesomeness. These are now supplemented by the new Scions of the Grinning Skull, a tribe of ghousl/ghasts/wights awaiting the prophesized return of their fallen lich-master, lairing in the abandoned cliff-village of Awan Ral for the shattered phylactery to once again give rise to their foul master. Statblock-wise, we get a ghoul-cleric and an advanced wight weapon master here.



The second new tribe would be the Black Wing Lizardfolk -- degenerate beings on teh rise, these survivors struggle in the demesne and bones of their erstwhile master, while sicking half-draconic crocodiles on intruders and slowly increasing in number... Statblock-wise, these come with a lizardfolk ranger and an advanced half-dragon crocodile.



The bleached white fur-sporting bugbears of teh Ghostbear clan may be a small tribe, but vicious indeed and in dire need of new blood as well. Coming with a sample warrior as well as a ranger2/rogue 2 bugbear, the ghostbears make for a good take on the mountainfolk-trope, including potential inner-tribal squabbles that may tear the small tribe apart.



The final new tribe would be the Kukulkan - a clan of lizardfolk broken into 3 castes, protecting the partially sunken stone pyramid their swamp hides. Hands, Feet and Heart make for interesting castes, as the scaled humanoids worship their living goddess, the fully statted medusa sorceress Illyria.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, as we've come to expect from Raging Swan Press, are top-notch. Layout adheres to RSP's printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the artworks are thematically fitting. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with nested bookmarks and even sports a second version, allowing you to choose between one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.



The conglomerate designers Creighton Broadhurst, Alex Connell, Ben Kent, David Posener and Mike Welham have crafted a collection of tribes that should bring fear to players out there - in case you don't want to dig up all my reviews: More often than not, the respective tribes herein are thoroughly unique, add superb spins on the humanoids/creatures in question and offer both great cultural flair and ideas. The Tribes Most Foul-series quite literally has not a single bad entry in its run and this collection of pdfs, with its bonus content, makes sure that there is no valid reason left not to get these if you haven't by now. With literally each tribe offering a conservative easy-to-fit or just a plain awesome angle, just about any DM looking for some unique panache for his/her humanoids will get their buck's worth out of this. Had I any complaints here, then that would be that I would have enjoyed the full 3-tribe roster for those tribes included as a bonus and that I would have loved seeing unit-statblocks for the tribes. This is me complaining at a very high level, though. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval...unless you also have all component pdfs. If you do, this offers slightly less bang for buck and should be considered a nice, if not required compilation at -1 star, primarily due to not all of the new tribes completely blowing me away.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Tribes Most Foul
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Path of War: The Warlord
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2014 03:21:05
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Path of War-series is 52 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 49 pages of content, so let's take a look...



...wait. Since my review of The Stalker was met with downright hostility by some people (but not the designers, I should add!), let me make some things clear: I have excessive experience with To9S. And while I loved the basic concepts, its flaws became abundantly clear in game. One caveat DM's ought to have in mind when using PoW is that the classes herein are INTENDED as a power boost. Multiple d6-bonus damage, attack negation etc. is beyond the capabilities of regular martial characters and since their abilities can universally be refreshed infinite times, these tricks can be pulled off more often than the spells of a caster, thus making a DM's war of attrition as a tool much less effective. So no, we're not looking at regular PFRPG-balancing here. In short: DMs should be aware that PoW increases the power-level of the party.

Path of War has established, as a spiritual successor, a superior take on the concept of To9S, one that works much more streamlined.



Why do I consider it superior? Take the refreshing of maneuvers: By allowing for actions, i.e. concisely defined time-frames, as a means to refresh maneuvers, the classes are more in line with the in-world logic. I consider per-encounter refreshing of abilities, pardon my language, stupid, since it makes no sense in-game - an encounter can span any duration from 1 round to, hypothetically, hours and is a metagame concept that makes in-game no sense.

...

Or rather: MADE. Path of War is SMART - we actually now GET a concise in-game definition of per-encounter abilities, one THAT MAKES SENSE in-game!!! Yes, you can now put away your axes.

This takes care of an unpleasant relic from the 3.X days and streamlines the whole system. Excellent. I already explained the basic system, just in case you're not familiar with it - essentially, Path of War wants to bring martial characters more in line with the casters, allowing them to use martial maneuvers, essentially supernatural martial abilities that they can use to destroy their opposition. These maneuvers have different sub-categories: Boosts tend to buff/debuff as instant effects, stances are maintained and offer bonuses as long as they're active and strikes are special attacks. Finally, there are counters, which you can usually use as a reaction to attacks etc. - many of these utilize immediate or swift actions, which means as a player, you ought to be rather familiar with these types of actions to properly plan your action economy.



Another caveat before I FINALLY start the review - the goal of Path of War is a power-upgrade for martial characters. As such, I will not reference other martial classes in direct comparison - PoW-classes, by design, are supposed to be superior, something DMs ought to bear in mind. That means, my balancing complaints, should any come up, do not refer to the power-level assumed by CORE-martial characters, but rather to potential issues within the frame of PoW. I, of course, will otherwise be the obnoxious complainer about any issues that I see. Got that? Awesome!



So let's take a look at the Warlord! The warlord gets d10, 4+Int skills per level, good fort-saves, full BAB-progression, proficiency with light and medium armor, bucklers and simple/martial weapons. They start with 1 stance, 6 maneuvers known, 4 maximum maneuvers readied and expand these to 18 maneuvers known, 11 readied and 6 stances at 20th level. Now I've already touched upon regaining maneuvers and the warlord may regain an expended maneuvers as a standard action... or the warlord may use a so-called warlord's gambit.



Each gambit can be initiated as a swift action and consists of 3 components, a risk, a rake and a reward. The gambit describes a risk, an action the warlord must undertake. If the action is successful, the reward of the gambit kicks in, thus rewarding combat behavior that is not the "I attack routine" - cool. When succeeding the gambit, the warlord regains cha-mod, min 2 maneuvers. If he fails, he only regains one maneuver. If a maneuver helps a warlord accomplish a given task, it should be noted that it can used to succeed in the gambit by initiating it. However, a gambit cannot be used to refresh a maneuver that is expended as part of the gambit, thus preventing the looping of maneuvers. Warlords start the game with 2 gambits chosen from a list of 15 and gain another one at 4th level and every 4 levels after that. Now if a warlord fails at a gambit, s/he incurs a penalty of -2 to d20 rolls for one round - which seems harsh, however, one should bear in mind that ANY d20-roll required to succeed at a gambit (be it skill, CMB/attack/whatever) gets the warlord's cha-bonus as a luck bonus, which can be quite a significant bonus - for many 1st level warlords this will probably mean at least +3, more realistically +4 or even +5 - which is more than an improved xyz-feat would grant.

Generally, I think this somewhat undermines the point behind gambits - refreshing maneuvers, especially at low levels, should not entail such significant bonuses: To compare: A paladin's smite evil would apply in a similar manner to the attack and is limited in daily use. And yes, I am aware that the smite's bonus damage is the primary benefit of the ability, but still. Gambits do have some limits, though -they can only be used once per encounter. Some gambits also provide benefits to allies within 60 feet - for example, when using dastardly gambit, a warlord tries to use dirty trick. If s/he succeeds, s/he and all allies get the warlord's cha-mod to a single attack against the target in the next round. Other gambits allow you to follow up on successful combat maneuvers initiated via gambits to follow up with an AoO against the target, usually with +cha-mod bonus damage.

Granted, the gambits do not offer AoO-free combat maneuvers, but also, their risk is often rather minor - Pinhole Gambit requires the warlord to make a ranged attack into melee, with one feat rather easy and with a decent cha-mod, it even makes precise shot not necessarily required. Additionally, the foe takes a penalty equal to the warlord's cha-mod to AC for a round if the gambit succeeds.



I LOVE gambits - their concept is downright friggin' AWESOME. How do you get players to play more risky, more diverse? Offer them actual incentive to do. Tying the whole process to maneuver replenishing is a win-win - make more interesting combat decisions and be rewarded for it by getting to do more of your favorite tricks. This mechanic rewards planning and smart playing and that is always good in book. However (I can hear the "boos" as I'm typing this), I do think the system needs some fine-tuning. Why? Because there currently is simply no reason NOT to gambit. At low levels, cha-mod as a bonus is a huge thing in itself, even before the additional benefits come into play. Let's take the pinhole gambit as an example, shall we? So, a warlord starts the gambit to shoot into melee. If the warlord doesn't have precise shot, the cha-mod of Cha 18 would completely offset the penalty for shooting into melee, if he does have the feat, we're looking at a +4 bonus to atk. If the attack hits, the target incurs a -4 penalty to AC. Furthermore, our warlord would regain 4 expended maneuvers upon hitting. This is the success criteria. The failure criteria would be to incur a -2 penalty to all d20-rolls for 1 round. Yes, this trick can only be pulled off once per encounter (thus no complaint in that regard), but it is, especially at first level, a VERY powerful trick. Still, not enough to make me yell OP...at least in the context of PoW.



What does irk me about it, would be that the system seems to somewhat deconstruct its intent - as far as I've understood, the intention of gambits would be to reward risks in certain contexts, but the penalty on failure feels like it is not in a significant relation to the rewards. Due to not scaling both benefits and drawbacks, the former start off as strong, whereas the latter become more and more insignificant over the levels. This becomes especially apparent when taking a look at acrobatic gambit, which rewards an acrobatics check through a threatened square by dealing +1d6+cha-mod damage upon a successful attack. At first level, that can be rather impressive, double damage even. At let's say, level 10, I can't imagine anyone being impressed by this -especially since CMD for acrobatics-DCs scales differently (i.e. more rapidly) than AC (as per pinhole gambit) does. Now apart from this rather different scaling (and thus, diverging utility of the gambits), I do think that right now, there is simply no reason not to use a gambit if you can...ever. After all, you only get -2 to all d20-rolls (which is unpleasant at low levels, but there are worse debuffs out there) and still regain one of your signature tricks. And this relative minor consequence for failure detracts from the potential of the whole concept - if the penalties (and benefits!) did scale and were at least a bit more severe at higher levels, their significant benefits would make enacting a gambit no less rewarding, but actually more exciting for the player - can s/he pull off the gambit and regain her arsenal or be kicked in the shins, only regaining a portion of his/her arsenal? That would be the situation where the whole group holds the breath and stares at the dice as they roll...



Another issue would be that two gambits fail the kitten-test: Brave gambit requires you to charge a foe, then nets all allies your cha-mod as bonus to their first attack. You could throw a kitten in the field, initiate a gambit against said kitten dies horribly, which emboldens your allies. Weird that here, among all gambits, the tie of the bonus to the target of the gambit has been forgotten. Second failed kitten-test: Deadeye Gambit. Initiate a called shot against a kitten. He and all allies within 60 feet gain cha-mod hit points. While this infinite AoE-healing via shooting kittens, takes long due to the definition of per-encounter in concise terms, it's probably still an oversight not intended and makes potions of healing and similar low-level healing items completely obsolete.

Another nitpick I have here would be with the bonuses granted to allies as part of successful gambits - as per the writing of this, they are universally untyped and thus stack with other sources. They probably should be labeled as luck-bonuses (like the one the warlord gets when executing a gambit) or as morale bonuses (which would make more sense to me) - in either case, they would prevent stacking with defense buffs and thus make the whole gambit-system more streamlined. To cut a long ramble short: Glorious class feature that could use some streamlining both in its system and in balance between the ranged and maneuver/melee gambits.



Beyond gambits, warlords may, at 2nd level a warlord may maintain a so-called presence as a move action (free action starting at 7th level) - there is no choice here, the progression of presences is linear. Not that you wouldn't take the second level presence: All allies within 30 feet get the Diehard-feat and + warlord's cha-mod to saves against death effects, fatigue/exhaustion and poison effects as a morale bonus. Yeah. That means, for a significant amount of effects, the allies get the equivalent (again, presuming a cha 18 warlord) the equivalent of Inspire Heroics, a level 15 bardic performance. More if the cha is higher. Okay, I can see the tighter focus on which saves this is applied to as a mitigating factor. Paladin's get their SU aura at 3rd level, after all...the aura that nets allies +4 to saves against fear. Within 10 feet. Okay, I won't compare those two, though presence is Ex and thus not subject to antimagic fields. What does irk me, beyond that would be the warlord's presence neither requiring line of sight, nor actions to maintain. nor audible or visual components - there is simply no way to negate it. RAW, the presence doesn't even stop if the warlord drops unconscious or is paralyzed. The ability also fails to specify whether allies already unconscious get to choose whether to benefit from diehard upon the warlord using the presence or upon falling to/below 0 hp. What if an ally is unconscious and the presence is initiated? Does the unconscious character get to choose whether to remain lying or start acting as per the feat or are only conscious allies eligible to receive the bonus?



At 5th level, a warlord may use rallying presence to add his cha-mod as a bonus to will-saves of allies versus fear, death or compulsion effects within 30 ft. The overlap with death effects here is a bit strange, as is the fact that this presence, though received later, can actually be interrupted. At 11th level, 2 of the presences can be maintained at the same time and at 15th level, all 3 may be maintained at the same time - bear in mind that these are morale bonuses, though and thus the overlaps between the first two don't stack.

The final presence works - starting at 9th level, the warlord and all nearby allies within 30 feet get character level + cha-mod temporary hp upon the warlord being reduced to 0 hp. at this point, the action to enter the presence is a free action. HOWEVER, as Caedwyr pointed out (yes, I did not catch that one), the reflexive nature of the presence doesn't work - free action can only be taken upon one's turn. While the ability uses the word "immediately" in the wording, it does NOT state that receiving the benefits of this presence requires any actions. As written, the presence can be adopted as a free action, but does nothing until its conditions are met. I'm not entirely sure whether the intention was to make this presence available reflexively or not - in dubio pro reo, though, so I'll assume the ability works as intended.



At 3rd level, the Warlord gets the Warleader ability, which translates to receiving a teamwork feat that the warlord, as a standard action (later as a move action and even as a swift action), can share with allies. Alternatively, the warlord can thus benefit from an ally's teamwork feat - for a total of 3+cha-mod rounds. The ability can be used 1+cha-mod times per day. The warlord also learns to add cha-mod to will-saves at 3rd level and later, when flanking foes, instead of the net +2, warlord and ally flanking a foe get +cha-mod instead of +2 to atk. The warlord also gets a bonus to atk and damage when using a weapon associated with a fighting style when in a stance of said style.



At 6th level, warlords learn to execute 2 boosts as a swift action 1/day, +1/day every 6 levels after that, use aid another for allies at range with cha-mod instead of the standard bonus. As a capstone, a warlord may enter two stances simultaneously.



After that, we are introduced to the Knowledge (martial) skill to identify maneuvers etc. - nice one, though I hope the final book will offer information on which non-PoW-classes ought to get this as a class skill. Next up would be new feats, 17, to be precise. 6 of these allow non-PoW-classes to wilder in PoW-maneuvers. Of course, expected feats can be found - for example one to learn more maneuvers/stances, one that nets you another gambit, an extra maneuver or a focus on a discipline and its weapons that increases saving DCs and weapon damage. Increased damage for unarmed attacks (significant for non-monks), entering both a style and a martial stance via the same swift action - all possible. Deadly Agility, which allows you to add dex-mod to damage instead of str-mod when using a finesse weapon also deserves mention, as does a feat that allows you to finesse double weapons. Another feat allows you to 1/day regain a maneuver as a free action. There also is essentially an improved version of quick draw and a feat called martial power. This one allows you to incur a -1 penalty to melee atk and CMB-checks to gain 2 temporary hit points. This increases by -1 and +2 temporary hit points when your BAB reaches +3 and every +2 thereafter. The temporary hit points increase by 50% if you wield a shield. You may only use this feat as part of a melee attack or when initiating a maneuver. Temp hit points only last one turn, but the feat doubles as an alternative combat expertise. All in all, solid, since its limit means it does not fail the kitten test.



Now let's get a broad overview of the maneuvers, shall we? If you have the Stalker-pdf, you'll notice that both the thrashing dragon and solar wind disciplines also are available for the warlord. They also get access to the Golden Lion, Scarlet Throne and Primal Fury disciplines. It should be noted that among these, only the scarlet throne has an equipment restriction - the maneuvers require the initiator to have a shield, buckler or ring of force shield in order to initiate the maneuvers. The Golden lion discipline can be hearkened to the White Raven of the To9S, focusing on buffing allies and charging into battle, allowing the initiator to provide additional flexibility to the respective ally. Additional 5 ft. steps and even move actions for allies resulting from your attacks are distinct possibilities for adherents of the golden lion, as is the initiative moving of allies that at my table, once was rather well-liked. Primal Fury on the other hand, surprisingly often is about destroying the weaponry of foes, coming off as a combination of martial arts and a fighting style reminiscent of savage battle skills, whereas scarlet throne is defensive, but also allows for quite some celerity while moving around the field of battle.



So...I actually have good news to report - no insta-death effects. And only a couple of the new maneuvers herein follow the "make an opposed skill-check versus attack roll"-formula. As I've mentioned before in various contexts, I consider skill-roll versus atk/AC not optimal. Skills had been easy to buff in 3.X, and they're more easily buffed in Pathfinder. Don't believe me? Look for items that net you a significant skill-bonus, note the cost and then find an item that nest the same bonus to atk or AC. Note the price of that item. Compare. Same goes for spells. Yeah, note a slight discrepancy there? Also: Note how many bonuses to said skills granted by magic items are untyped and how many different slots grant those bonuses...much more stacking potential than atk/CMB.



I can see the outrage flare up again "You hate on the key concept of To9S 1111eleven!!!" No, I don't. The basic concept is maneuvers and using them/managing them, not rolling a skill versus something that adheres to completely different scaling-mechanisms, also regarding treasure/WBL/buff-spells. "But this is required to maintain the feel of Path of War!" No, it's not - take a look at Golden Lion. A grand total of ONE counter uses diplomacy versus attack roll. ONE counter. Other than that, the discipline is completely free of the d20 versus d20-roll/skill-check using relics. Two of the primal fury maneuvers use survival. Unfortunately, scarlet throne relatively heavily relies on sense motive versus x. I'm not getting into the perception/solar wind stuff or thrashing dragon/acrobatics. I particularly object to "roll skill x to negate attack z"-maneuvers. They are essentially better evasions against more common attacks, exceedingly easily buffed through the roof with inexpensive items.

Some of the maneuvers herein could also use some minor clarification, unfortunately also sometimes tied to said skill versus X-mechanics. Take thrashing dragon's devastation roll: Here's the text:



"The martial disciple’s movements are so quick and precise, his deadly strikes are hard to evade. With a sudden twist and Acrobatics through the opponent’s defenses, the disciple strikes hard into the exposed and undefended foe. The initiator must move at least 10 ft. alongside his opponent and make a Acrobatics check equal to the target’s AC. If successful, the target is considered flat-footed until his next action due to being put off-balance from the strike, and the attack inflicts an additional 6d6 points of damage."



So...what does "alongside" mean? I *assume* it means the target moves through two squares adjacent to the target, which would mean that an acrobatics-check against the opponent's CMD per threatened square, CMD +10 when moving full speed for half speed movement. But is this acrobatics-check in addition to the one the maneuver calls for? If so, why? Why is AC the opposing value, not CMD as per the standard of moving through threatened squares? Does the maneuver's use of acrobatics incur AoOs or doesn't it? Also: Why not simply use the CMD/CMD+5-formula standard in acrobatics?



Another example for a maneuver that could use a bit (literally - just one word...) of rephrasing would be Primal Fury's Panthera on the Hunt - per se a cool strike - full round action, charge at +2 (for a total of +4) and it ignores "attacks of opportunity from moving through a threatened square." I assume this means ONE threatened square, not ALL in the charge. If so, then please specify this and also, please denote whether the initiator can freely choose which square doesn't provoke the AoO.



It should be noted, though, that the VAST MAJORITY of the maneuvers actually work sans such clunky mechanics and do a MUCH BETTER job at utilizing Pathfinder-streamlined rules...at least the new ones.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good - while I noticed a typo and relic here and there, the vast majority of the pdf is concisely-written and well-edited. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with original pieces of art and stock being mixed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and with a second, printer-friendly version.



So...Path of War: The Warlord. I'll be honest. After the stalker, I did not look forward to reviewing this one. I was consigned to being "that guy who hates on PoW", in spite of actually believing in the concept and trying to help make it better. After reading this pdf, I was pleasantly surprised - I said it in my review of the stalker - Chris Bennett is a talented designer...and here it shows, even more so than with the stalker. There are reasons for this claim:



Number 1: Per encounter is concisely defined, maintaining in-game logic. Great! Number 2: "Skill vs. X"-rolls obviously aren't required for PoW - in fact, I am of the certain conviction that the system can perfectly work without them. The decrease in their prominence is a promising factor in favor of the system and its streamlining within established PFRPG-rules.



Beyond that, the warlord as a class is just...rewarding as all hell. The capable, cool commander is a neat trope and the warlord is great at fulfilling it...though it does have its rough edges. Even within the increased power-level presumed by PoW, the presence-abilities need to be knocked down a notch. As written, they are extremely powerful when compared to similar effects, both among spells and class features by casters and martials alike, not starting with them requiring no actions to maintain or somatic/visual components.



The gambit system is a stroke of brilliance, but as written above, I think that the risk/reward-ratio is off, somewhat negating what the system tries to do - instead of being a tension-inducing choice for the players to actively make, right now it feels more or less like a non-maneuver maneuver, a cooldown that's actually a defensive maneuver in disguise, if you will. Add to that the fact that the gambits vary more than a bit in strength and we have a couple of strikes against the pdf, even when assuming PoW's increased power level. Some sort of scaling instead of fixed bonuses would make these components much more useful (and balanced over the levels).



But not enough to put this pdf in the box. Overall, we have a massive improvement over the last PoW I looked at and generally, a superior book that shows A LOT of promise. I sincerely hope that some of the rough edges will be filed off prior to finishing the compilation, for this pdf actually renewed my hope in the PoW-series, making me actually want to take a look at the warder very soon.



How to rate this, then? As mentioned, I see a couple of rough edges, but the discrepancy between could be/and is-state is much less pronounced. If you don't mind the skill-check issues, minor wording hick-ups and mentioned power-level of the warlord, then I encourage you to check this out - while not perfect, I do think that fund can be had here. Since the design is much more in line with PFRPG-standards, since this time the class doesn't fail as hard the kitten test: it still fails it, twice, but is less easy to abuse than usual due to the concise definition of per-encounter.



Still, while I do see quite some potential for improvement and streamlining, I still consider this installment of PoW a big step in the right direction. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 - while I'd love to rate this 4 stars or even higher, the failed kitten-tests, minor ambiguities and rough edges do crop up, even when assuming the increased power-level of PoW. If you didn't mind the examples given in this review, then check it out - I'm fully aware that not everyone is as critical regarding these things as I am and chances are, you'll enjoy this.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Path of War: The Warlord
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Eclipse: The Codex Persona Shareware
Publisher: Distant Horizons Games company
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2014 03:12:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Okay, today I'll do something different - and take a look at a free d20-supplement. This review has been requested last years and it took forever. Why? Because we're talking Eclipse, 202 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 197 pages, so what do we get?



First of all - if you like this pdf, you can buy the print edition or pay for it here - in the fine shareware tradition, I encourage those of you who find this book interesting to do so.



So, what is this about? This book is essentially the world's biggest character class-generator for d20-based systems. Don't believe me that this system is massive? Well...you could conceivably play children, infant characters even with it. The system introduces CPs - character points, which are used to buy EVERYTHING - skills, feats, Hit Dice - everything can be customized via these points, of which a character receives 24 per level. How does HD work? Essentially, a character gets d4+con-mod for free - bigger HD cost progressively more CP, allowing, provided the DM allows it, up to d20 HD.



This is a running theme - the system herein offers maximum flexibility, but never tires of emphasizing that a DM should retain the final say.



Skills not on the class-skill-list start as essentially the equivalent of cross-class, becoming class skills at 6 invested CP- with 1 CP equal to 1 rank. Now relevant for PFRPG would be that class skills/cross-class skills are handled more in line with PFRPG than its 3.X predecessor here, but with a catch - the character can also buy very specialized knowledge, i.e. knowing about a specific tome, a ritual etc. - these cost CP as well and provide in-depth information on those topics. Generally, that makes for a very interesting way of handling very specialized information. Saving throws cost 3 CP per point and most specialized abilities clock in at 6 points, but could theoretically also cost more, depending on the ability in question.



BAB is increased similarly - via the slightly unfortunately named Warcraft - which is an ability that costs 6 points and nets +1 BAB. Base Caster Level works similarly and have a limit of level+3, surprisingly. This also extends to the BAB, allowing you to potentially go above the level in question. Spellcasting per level is purchased in a similar manner, with fixed costs. And yes, these include the 3.X psionic classes.



Now beyond tables upon tables, there are roleplaying modifications to CP earned - depending on the campaign you run, you could prescribe X bonus CP to be used in a specific way. On a character's side, players may enter obligations, restrictions and the like to increase or decrease the CP gained each level. Disadvantages, much like flaws, are presented here as well. Action points are part of the deal as well, mind you, and represent just another buy-in option of specialized abilities available for CP.

Want to have a dominion, an equippage? Doable. Want to get completely rid of any class-distinctions? There you go. Point-buy casting via mana (which could be used to generate power points or spell-levels?) - in here. Return from death, villain-style? Possible. Shapeshifting? Sacrificing treasure in favor of mystic powers? Oversized combat maneuvers and weapons? Yep. Deal ability damage with attacks? Yup. Block attacks via fixed ref-DCs? Yep. This would also be one example (of many), where a particular rules-solution is inelegant and wouldn't see use at my table - ever - non-scaling, competing throws? Not my cup of coffee and similarly, not particularly balanced design.



Metamagic, lacing of spells - the same exceedingly modular approach applies. The same goes for handling ECL+X races and race-generation - including size modifications down to cellular levels. Some existing templates are also broken down by CP-cost and channeling energy, monster abilities etc. are covered in their own chapter, allowing for quite an array of alternative options for channeling.



Now, I've noted the option to have a dominion - this one nets Dominion Points, which allow further options for customization and achieve with the political might. Card-themed casting, godfire, occult abilities, martial styles, ritual magic, witchcraft - all there. Have I mentioned spells from the levels 10 -23? Yes, in case these meteor showers just don't cut it anymore.



World generation and motivations for characters would also be found herein - the system supports anything from anime-style campaigns to gritty ones and even pokémon-style gameplay. Sample character class (and PrC)-break-downs, handling different power-levels - and even checklists to make sure your now class-less character has proper motivations etc. - all of this is covered and infinitely more.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice significant glitches. Layout adheres to an easy to read 2-column b/w-standard with fitting stock art. The pdf comes extensively bookmarked with nested bookmarks.



Paul Melroy and Patrick Bryant have created an interesting book for 3.X - one that can be made compatible with PFRPG, by the way, if you're willing to do some work.

EDIT: I've been made aware that the system has been made Pathfinder compatible - you can find the respective information here:



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der-the-expanded-alchemist/
http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/eclipse-pathfin-
der-the-sorcerer/
http://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/eclipse-d20-the-
-soul-knife/ (notes on the Dreamscarred Press-Pathfinder version at the end)

Thanks to the comments that pointed this out!

Over all, Eclipse provides a superbly modular framework, essentially breaking down d20-based gaming to its base constituents in the endeavor to allow maximum flexibility. And generally, the authors have done an exceedingly fine job with it. The major problems I found were system-inherent - maximum flexibility allows for maximum options and hence also maximum fluctuation between PC power levels. While generally, the system tries hard to maintain a sense of balance, overall, eclipse is less about standard number-crunching and more about narrative-driven playing environments. "But why not go diceless or old-school in that case?" Well, perhaps you like the framework, perhaps you want some choices...or perhaps you just want general ideas on what *could* make for compelling, non-standardized options.



Now what makes Eclipse different, concise within the d20-framework? It is a system that breaks just about EVERYTHING down to CP - everything. Attacks, sneak attack, psionics, mana, runes, being a lord - everything. This is the system of ultimate possibilities and this vast array of options, some of which you probably won't even think you desired, makes this book such a mile-stone.



For a mile-stone it is. This book, true to its name, eclipses by far other race/class generators I've seen and over all, remains MUCH MORE balanced than e.g. the race generation in Paizo's ARG or just about all similar generators I've read so far. I still wouldn't unanimously recommend it as a base for a campaign if your players enjoy the power-gaming/number-crunching game, unless you're willing to do quite a lot of checking, also because some of the individual rules simply aren't balanced (or not scaling) or rather clunky. While in no way true for the majority of content herein, I managed to break a couple of sample concepts - which is acknowledged and in line with the more narrative-driven focus of this book. So what is the grand achievement in this book? This is essentially the talented concept, taken a significant step further. Now while it's theoretically compatible with Pathfinder, I'd contest that claim somewhat by pointing out the changed ability-suites, power-levels, skill-emphasis etc. - it *IS* compatible, yes, but it also imho requires A LOT of work and quite a few design-decisions not all DMs will be capable of making to fully break down PFRPG in CP. While the conversion on the blog are extensive, they necessarily can't cover the entirety of material out there, so be aware of the necessity to do some conversion.



This is modular...in the highest sense. And it also is one of those books that get the juices flowing. Even if you don't use this book, there are so many ideas for classes, archetypes, feats, magic systems etc. in here that any designer who hit a writer's block regarding such concepts can flip open this book and get inspired - not necessarily by the individual mechanics, but by their proximity, their concepts, their general idea and general CP-cost - the same holding true for balancing more esoteric means and CP as a means of specialized knowledge is a stroke of genius idea that could easily be integrated into a given game, even without the rest of the rules - this is crunch/idea-cherry-picking at its finest - and it's free to check out. If you like what you're reading, support these guys.



All in all, this may not be perfect, but the book is an inspiring read nonetheless and should be checked out by anyone intrigued, even slightly, in the idea of a truly modular character-generator that gets rid of all the class-borders. As such, I will rate the inspiration, what can be drawn from this, at 5 stars. You should be aware, though, that the experience provided here is radically different from standard d20 and requires a crunch-savvy DM as well as a lot of dialogue between DM and player and should not be considered a toolkit for anyone. Personally, some of the rules-components rub me the wrong way, I'm a bit too balance-obsessed and too time-starved to break down NPCs etc. in CP, but at the same time loved the inspirations this book provided.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eclipse: The Codex Persona Shareware
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Razor Coast Heart of the Razor - Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/29/2014 03:41:57
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion anthology of 4 adventures to enhance Razor Coast clocks in at 162 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages char-sheet, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 152 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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



All right, still here?



First of the adventures would be Richard Pett's "Angry Waters" for 10th level characters - which could be summed up in the words "Quest for Eldorado," at least on a superficial level. The PCs are recruited by one dazzling lady-captain, captain Mercy and her crew - they require the PC's assistance, since they've found the legendary veiled isle - unfortunately, it's within the territory of Armada. What's Armada, you ask? Well, if you've read China Miéville's "The Scar", you'll have an idea - Uriah Tame, the vile lord of the place, lords over a lawless city made of vessels tethered together. Unfortunately, Tame and Mercy aren't exactly on speaking terms. Thus, accompanying the crew on their voyage, the PCs are off to said place. Here, a rather cool mechanic takes root -the PC's actions accrue Victory Points, which serves as a means for the DM to determine the loyalty of Mercy and her crew towards the PCs...and whether they'll be betrayed. Neat! It should also be noted that the module offers quite an array of troubleshooting advice, should the PCs betray Mercy at given stages in the module, making it rather easy to run. But back to Armada - in order to secure passage, the PCs will have to brave the decadent, chaotic revels on Armada in a cool mini-game of skill and, potentially, combat.



Securing passage, the PCs then finally reach the isle in question...which first brings me to an issue. Armada...ought to be more detailed, Seriously, I love the concept (air elementals as spies, btw.!) and its presence in the module, but at the same time, I feel that Armada would change the power dynamics in Razor Coast as a setting, whereas it here is mostly an afterthought to the plot of this one module. So DMs using this in razor Coast probably ought to give some thought to the change of dynamics Armada's existence poses to the power dynamics of the coast. That complaint out of the way, the island is interesting - displayed as a mini-hex-crawl (YEAH!), not only has another crew of pirates been stranded there (and make neat adversaries/allies, depending on your PC's actions!), the island is also home to degenerate orcs sired by the local girallon populace, which makes for formidable guerilla foes. Worse, said intelligent primates are led by a deadly girallon vampire, offering the true Pett-horror in terrible traps and truly spooky environments. What about e.g. a corpse of a fallen pirate, stuck on a tree and stuffed with rotten fruit, thus attracting swarms of hornets? Yeah, shudder-worthy...in a good way.



Sooner or later, the PCs will finally reach the city of gold - beyond the gold, deadly guardians remain, as do sadistic traps (which I will not spoil) as well as some old-schoolish puzzle-like hazards. Exploration of the city will sooner or later put the PCs in a position, where they may wake an ancient evil and defeat it...also dooming the island, which proceeds to sink, while all hell breaks loose. As they are trying to escape with as much gold as possible, the PCs will reap what they have sown throughout the module and potentially have final chances to out-gambit their opposition. A rather uncommon module that shows well that Richard Pett's talent is not limited to dark adventures - he can obviously craft old-school explorations just as well!



The second module, would be Gary McBride's "Black Spot" - in which the PCs are once again hired for a mission, this time by one captain Riggs, who wants them to help him salvage the grounded wreck of the Flying Fortune, which is stranded on a tooth-like mountain in the middle of the sea. Once again, the journey provides ample opportunities for bonding with the crew. As soon as the PCs reach the iconic locale, though, a completely different tone begins - exploring the Flying Fortune proves to be one of the finest examples of mood-setting I've seen in any mystery/horror module - the slowly creeping suspicions rising, inquisitive PCs may soon deduce that something's not right with captain Riggs. Indeed, he was the captain of the Flying Fortune and as clues accumulate, the PCs may actually find out that he's possessed by a weird, parasitic black leech. Taking the captain prisoner, killing or saving him or falling prey to his wiles, the PCs find themselves in a nightmare most uncommon: Riggs ran afoul of the wiles of the Engineer - the vanguard of a planned neh-thalggu invasion, whose ship is hidden in the depths, just missing a few brains to launch true otherworldly death on the Razor Coast. In order to stop the aberration's plan, the PCs will have to brave the vastly iconic and superb ship and its dread inhabitants:



From strange undead-like creatures to jade butterflies used for scrying (which are also rather deadly!) up to a heart-pounding race to escape the self-destruct of the ship upon the defeat of the dread engineer, this mystery/horror-module makes for a superb offering - even in Gary McBride's great oeuvre, this one stands out as one superb example of adventure-crafting, including the extensive notes on possible aftermaths. Glorious indeed and both as stand-alone and as part of Razor Coast, a great module!



The third module, intended for 11th-12th level, would be Owen K.C. Stephens' "Jungle Fever" - yes, grandmaster crunch actually took up the pen for an adventure - but how does it fare and what's it about? It starts with a simple, yet uncommon hook - the PCs are hired by the mistress of a brothel, which has suffered from a curse/returning disease that is, of course, bad for business. But, and that is no hyperbole - your players won't see where this module is going with that angle. Soooo...players, seriously, skip ahead... All right. What happens if isolated Tulita become desperate? They, in this case, turned to a dragon turtle as a false deity, cannibalism and worse....and no one would care. Problem is, their island harbors a special plant which amplifies the power of the dragonsmoke-drug. A Tulita survivor seeking help stumbled across a truly vile captain with this drug and she promptly set out to erect her own, no less vile and despicable colonial nightmare on the island, enslaving everyone, poisoning the dragon turtle and killing the spiritual leader of the tribe in a most gruesome manner. Now her super-drug didn't catch universally due to limited supplies and the wanton cruelty of her men - and now, only one of her former crew remains, for the wench has reaped what she's sown - the dread cannibalistic shaman turned the tables upon his vanquishers upon returning from the dead, making terrible disease-creature-incubators of the living and turning the island into full-blown nightmare territory. In order to stop the disease and its undead carriers, the PCs have to find the island, navigate its treacherous reefs and end the various despicable existences on the island as well as the false turtle-totem and its degenerate offspring -preferably including all the dread dragonsmoke enhancing flowers and before Pele smashes the island for the atrocities there. Seriously...wow. If I hadn't known better, I would have assumed one of the masters of dark horror here - Owen K.C. Stephens delivers in spades here, with a module that encapsulates all the terrors of colonialism without falling into the "tulita are good"-glorification some parts of Razor Coast fall prey to. This module is dark, iconic, action-packed and full of great, unique creatures. If you've asked yourself why Paizo got Owen for their module-series - here's a superb reason. I've always said that I'd enjoy it if Owen wrote more fluff - this one is an excellent example for that stance. Impressive indeed!



The final module, by Tom Knauss, would then be "Sinful Whisper" for 5th level characters - but can it stand up to its predecessors? The PCs are hired for a task they're bound to hate rather soonish - escort a noble scion, a pampered (but capable!), arrogant elven woman to a taboo island where her former vessel was attacked, her fellow noble scions taken by bestial men. The thing is - the island isn't taboo for nothing - chocked in hallucination-inducing, paranoia-enhancing spores, populated by degenerate subhuman creatures, the trip to the island not only will lead them all into dire danger, but also on a journey into the heart of the surprisingly dynamic elven maid - who may be turned towards good or evil, all by the PC's actions - if they manage to survive the truly dastardly creatures and not lose their sanity to the plants of the place, the vile practices there or the ancient evil slumbering beneath the island's soil, waiting patiently for its time to return to truly vile glory... This module is psychological horror paired with some truly disturbing imagery and on par with the best and most disturbing ones I've read for PFRPG - a good indicator that Tom Knauss should try his hand at these types of modules more often!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice an undue amount of glitches. Layout adheres to Razor Coast's two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with quite a few iconic, awesome original pieces of full-color artwork. The pdf comes with one bookmark per adventure, which makes navigating rather hard and in the pdf, at least the cover is a bit blurry - something absent from my hardcover copy. The maps in full color are great, though I wished they had player-friendly versions included in the map folio.



4 modules by masters of their craft - and I don't use that lightly - and all 4 are killer. Seriously, all 4 of the modules in this book greatly enhance not only a Razor Coast campaign, but can easily stand alone. In fact, at least "Angry Waters" probably works slightly better as a stand-alone, with Armada otherwise changing the political landscape of the coast a bit too much for my tastes. The other 3 are plug-and play in the truest form, with the last one offering actually a way into Port Shaw's elite sans rubbing shoulders with the despicable masters of the place and thus making for an all but required addition for particularly virtuous groups. Now let me say this again, loud and clear - each module herein is killer. Each one, 5 star + seal of approval material. However, the scarce bookmarks and lack of player-friendly maps make for somewhat significant detriments. Usually, I'd rate this down a whole star for these issues...but the modules don't deserve that. They're too good, even providing, in multiple instances, vistas that help make the Tulita less annoying one-dimensional good guys. As such, I think they should be considered required for Razor Coast. If I may offer a piece of advice for DMs: Don't fall back quite as often on the "island-sinks"-gimmick as implied here; a given campaign should probably one employ this plot-device once and I'd suggest "Angry Waters" as the best candidate. Owen K.C. Stephens' module doesn't require the sinking and actually poses an interesting conundrum if the island remains...

But I'm rambling. Long story short - too good to be rated down, in spite of some comfort-detriments - 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Razor Coast Heart of the Razor - Pathfinder Edition
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Dungeon Dressing: Ceilings
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/29/2014 03:38:06
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Dungeon Dressing-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As often with the Dungeon Dressing-series, we kick off with a DM's primer on construction - this time offering no less than 5 different quality modifications to apply to ceilings as well as 6 base materials. Beyond that, rafters, beams and handholds as well as climb DC and a short primer on ceiling style vocabulary kick off this installment with a bang of customization options even before 42 entries of a d%-table introduce us to a wide array of different appearances of ceilings - from ceilings created to look like scrolled parchments to strange apertures emitting miniature waterfalls, the entries contain from regular to the wildly wonderful quite an array of excellent and evocative appearances.



Next up would be a massive 100-entry table (though no. 100 is the roll-twice-entry) that contains walls studded with faerie fire, knowledge (dungeoneering) DCs to realize the presence of suspended ceilings, embedded ammunition, chains and rings and even dead people with doom-laden messages. Over all, a versatile, cool table.



The final page contains 3 new traps, including different CR-variants with additional effects. The base ones clock in at CR 2, 8 and 8, with the variants covering 4, 5, 6 and 12. The traps per se once again partially span multiple rounds and come with crushing blocks, cave-ins and collapsing ceilings. Per se, nice.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column b/w-standard and the art is fitting stock that takes up about 2/3 of a page. The pdf comes in two versions, with one optimized for screen use and one for the printer. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Aaron Bailey covers ceilings in this installment of Dungeon Dressing - and weaves a surprisingly awesome yarn with quite an array of cool options, superbly useful first page (DMs - archive that and never leave home without it!) and imaginative tables. All in all, an exceedingly great installment on a topic that is many things, but probably not that easy to write for. So all superb? Not exactly - the traps, while not perfect, are cool and useful, but also not completely in line with the awesome start of the pdf. Still, that is me complaining at the highest level - this is still a 5 star-file, though one slightly short of my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Dressing: Ceilings
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Mythic Monsters: Mounts
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2014 03:11:17
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Legendary Games' Mythic Monsters-series is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisement and 1 page inside back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of raw content, so what do we exactly get here?



Since mounts aren't just monsters, we kick off the pdf with some general pieces of information regarding mythic mounts (and animal companions), noting that some of the mounts herein come with integrated advanced creature templates as alternatives to provide sturdier options. Cool! Advice on further advancing mounts via templates, training them and 2 new mythic feats help here as well - one upgrading a companion's ability to its mythic equivalent, one making the training of mythic creatures easier. The Trick Rider and Mythic Rider champion/guardian path abilities are also included, as is the companion mythic ability for the 6th tier guardian. Whereas the former you'll know from the respective mythic minis, the latter makes a companion mythic/adds a mythic ability. This bonus content is okay, but a) not the focus of this pdf and b) not yet something that got me excited. Solid in craftsmanship, yes, but not yet legendary.



Let's start, shall we? First would be the CR 5/MR 2 Mythic Bison, which can generate spirit bison phantoms to improve its trample. Sweet! CR 2/MR 1 mythic camels are next to unkillable due to starvation/thirst thanks to counting as if under the effects of a ring of sustenance. better yet, via mythic power, said camel can share its powers with the rider and even negate the fatigue condition or mitigate exhausted down to fatigued. Again, very cool. Mythic Riding Dogs (CR 1/MR 1) can emit pity-inducing whimpers and follow trips immediately with drag-maneuvers. This one also comes with an advanced version at CR 5/MR 2 that also gets the ability to stabilize the dying and duplicate some healing/soothing-themed SLs via licking the targets. Super-Lassie ftw.! ^^



Mythic Dragon Horses (CR 11/MR 4) can ride the lightning and generally makes for a truly fearsome flying beast to carry the most powerful of heroes into battle. The Mythic Giant Eagle at CR 4/MR1 gets an ability that more creatures should have - when hitting with both claws, they may drag opponents along: Either offensively or defensively. Nice swooping action! The CR 8/MR 3 version is an even better aerial interceptor that gets bonuses when readying against adversaries.



Mythic elephants clock in at CR 9/MR 3 and may pass through natural undergrowth, throw adversaries with the trunk and even toss adversaries with their charges - once again, this is one of the beasts that is closer to what the base creature ought to be able to do - the trunk and charge-tossing will be added asap to all non-mythic elephants in my campaign. Mythic hippocampi clock in at CR 3/MR 1 and allow the riders to breathe water or even act as if under freedom of movement while underwater. They may also create waves to topple/bull rush foes. Neat! The Mythic Hippogriff comes sans a non-advanced version and may emit a stunning shriek and catch falling allies mid-air via mythic power as immediate actions.



The CR 2/MR 1 Mythic light horse has superb speed and when running, benefits from an array of cool defensive abilities. Again, a set of abilities I will apply to some (though not all) supernatural/legendary horses. The Cr 6/MR 2 mythic advanced heavy warhorse is more geared towards combat and not only is not particularly impeded by armor, it also gets essentially a counter-flanking kick and diehard/mythic power fast healing when knocked below 0 hp.



The CR 6/MR 2 Mythic Nightmare can exhale soporific smoke and entice innocents towards an enchanting ride...that fascinates and kills them. NASTY! The CR 14/MR 5 Mythic Nightmare Cauchemar is this beast's big bad brother - flaming hooves, hellfire, powerful trample - a steed worthy of the champions of darkness. Perhaps it's my Warhammer background, but I was constantly thinking "This could be Archaon's steed" while reading this one.



We also get two pegasi, one at CR 4/MR 1 and one at CR 9/MR 3. These flying steeds are particularly adept at avoiding titanic adversaries and they also can emit a reflexive whinny after succeeding a save versus freedom-restricting effects. The advanced version also gains wing buffet attacks and the option to use mythic power to smite foes larger than the steed. Cool.



At CR2/MR 1 the mythic advanced pony has one of the coolest abilities in this book -inexplicable survival. For one mythic power, these trusty mounts can survive EVERYTHING. Yes, even rocks fall, all die. And no, abusing this ability will not end well for the rider... At CR 15/MR 5, the mythic advanced roc makes for a truly majestic beast -with fortification, the option to drop huge things on foes, the option to create superbly strong winds, these titanic birds will make for a superb entrance.



At Cr 13/MR 5, I was exceedingly looking forward to the Mythic Sleipnir - and boy, does it not disappoint -summoning valkyries as the choosers of the fallen, and creating giant-damaging rainbow-bridges breathe the spirit of myths. Glorious and so much closer to the myths than the rather disappointing non-mythic standard sleipnir!



What can step up to this awesomeness? What about riding a CR 10/MR 4 Mythic Triceratops that is a true juggernaut of charging destruction? The pdf also includes a list of the mounts by CR.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a 2.column full-color standard and the pdf comes with several nice artworks. The pdf comes without bookmarks, which is somewhat of a comfort detriment, but it is hyperlinked with unobtrusive hyperlinks -the good kind, that only is applied where it makes sense.



Jason Nelson delivers a glorious array of mythic mounts, worthy, one and all, to carry the best of heroes and worst of villains into battle, adding arrays upon arrays of superb signature abilities to the base-creatures, several of them actually fixing the base creatures not being too closely in line with what the creature ought to be able to do. Usually, I'd consider depriving this pdf of my seal of approval for the bookmark lack, but the pdf is simply too good - the mounts are universally awesome and not one felt lackluster or boring - final rating: 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Monsters: Mounts
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Gossamer Worlds: Brokeworld (Diceless)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2014 03:03:11
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Infinite worlds lie on the Grand Stairs - here, we get Brokeworld in a 6-page pdf, of which 1 page is the front cover, 1 page the editorial, leaving 4 pages - so what is Brokeworld all about?



In in-character prose, this little supplement introduces us to the Brokeworld, a cosmic dumping ground for other gossamer worlds - plagued by size/shapechanging gremlins that propagate via fecal matter, roamed by the Unmade, broken practitioners of Eidolon, this world not only is notoriously hard to leave, its domain table also makes sure that poor saps stranded there have their good stuff slowly drained and means of taking control etc. all are present - a truly destitute, apocalyptic vista indeed!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's purple-bordered two-column standard for LoGaS and the pdf even comes with bookmarks, in spite of its short length.



Written by Matt Banach, who has proven his mettle for the weird before in RiP's superb Faces of the Tarnished Souk-series (which remains my go-to benchmark for NPC-supplements), Brokeworld is a captivating read of a supplemented by a superb top-notch artwork by Trung Ta Ha. Mechanically interesting, with ample narrative potential, it makes for a great place to integrate into a LoGaS-campaign and should also act as a neat inspiration for planar adventures of other settings. Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Gossamer Worlds: Brokeworld (Diceless)
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Purple Mountain VI: The Well of Stars
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/25/2014 10:56:08
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The sixth installment of Purple Duck Games superb Dungeon-module-series clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 42 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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



As always, this module can be run as stand-alone or as a continuation from the continuously SUPERB last levels of Purple Mountain - also providing information for including this in PDG's Porphyra-setting. The pdf kicks off with a conflict - the PCs may endeavor to save some undines from derro aggressors, which include kineticists. Yes, this module is fully compatible with and makes use of Ultimate Psionics. Awesome! The undine princess Glubela then tells the PCs about being on a mission to the eponymous well of stars to take a mallet of the titans to a young kraken to bring down the cavern on the beast's head. Here is where the module turns uncommon - via the new helms of lesser underwater action, the PCs will have 72 hours beneath the waves before the helms deactivate - so yes, there is a timer on this beast of a module.



Braving psionic crysmals and diving into the depths of the well, we are once again shown how dungeons (and the underworld per se) ought to be: 3-dimensional. The palpable sense of doom when going underwater is fun to watch on the faces of just about any player...at least to me. Suffused beneath the waves lies a labyrinth of quartz and geode-littered wholly submerged tunnels sporting unique creatures like gemstone kapoacinths concealed as crystalline cysts. In the flooded tunnels, aquatic dark creepers, stalkers and slayers loom and the PCs will have to traverse a watery vortex, brave kelpies and crab swarms as well as crystalline ID oozes, amphibious, potion-brewing cloakers (and twisted halfbreeds - creepy!) - speaking of creepy: Of course the underworld tunnels also contains an aboleth mastermind - who also happens to be the master of said Undine princess.



Whether her betrayal turns things ugly or not depends among other things on how well they could handle all the aforementioned threats, whether they have been gullible and how they could e.g. deal with ulat-kini slime-herders, skum and finally, the psionic aboleth. In the aftermath, the PCs may well have an orb of dragonkind (dragonturtle) - which bodes well for future installments of the series! (Riding a dragon turtle into battle is 7 types of awesome...)



The pdf also comes with an extensive DM-cheat-sheet for underwater adventuring and also battle strategies for the respective characters as well as 5 magic items. Finally, we even get lists of XP by room, creature and a list of treasure/value/room-breakdown of the module, which also includes some solid trouble-shooting advice regarding aforementioned mallet.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience and also provides player-friendly (and MD-keyed) high-res .jpg-versions of the full color maps. The full color artwork ranges from cool to okay and the printer-friendly 2-column layout makes printing rather easy.



Purple Mountain is one of the most underrated series currently produced for Pathfinder by 3pps and I stand by that. Ever since the series has truly hit its stride with level 3, each and every level has provided joy galore to me - but this also means that this module had a tough legacy to live up to. I am happy to say it does live up to it - author Perry Fehr has crafted a thoroughly distinct underwater module with weird societies and strange customs. He uses his biggest strengths as an author to create believable, yet fantastic cultures and marries them with some decidedly high-concept ideas that make what otherwise would be a *relatively* straight-forward premise a thoroughly enjoyable romp.

There aren't many good aquatic modules out there and this one will not only cater to fans of Purple Mountain, but also provide fodder for adventure-starved psionics-advocates. It also would, with some minor work (mostly depth tolerance/buoyancy) make for a great module to put into the regions of Cerulean Sea's Azure Abyss. By the way: Waves of Thought, the psionic supplement for Cerulean Seas, would make for a superb collection of material with which an enterprising DM could further enhance a great module into an unforgettable one.

So yeah, in case you haven't noticed - I really enjoyed this sojourn through maddening depths, crystal-laced tunnels and habitations of things from beneath the waves. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Mountain VI: The Well of Stars
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Village Backdrop: Chasm
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/25/2014 10:52:24
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 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 visit Chasm, shall we?



Like all village backdrops, we get full settlement statblocks, short primers of local folk, demographics, a market place sections of items for sale, information on villager customs and clothing, sample rumors and village lore.



So what is Chasm all about? One look at the lavish b/w-map makes it immediately clear - we have a case of nomen est omen here - formerly known as Callowright, the village has been hit by a terribly disaster, with the eponymous chasm opening mid-village, swallowing buildings and people, sending them crashing down into the dark recesses of the earth. Now, years later, a twisted web of ladders, latticework and rope pulleys connect the halves of the village, with the looming threat of deadly duergar skulking in the darkness of the ravine.



Law and order, strange events and a mixture of oppression and an all-too-present catastrophe loom above the village, all while rare materials like mithril and adamantine draw fortune seekers like your adventurers into a setting, that will prove rather uncommon - for the duergar have entered a mutually beneficial alliance with the surface-dwellers, sending your PCs into an oscillating loop between pragmatism and idealism in a place that aptly visualizes not only the incision of catastrophe, but also the cultural divide between the two races. Included in the package is a statblock for a duergar mine guard and, as always, you can get player-friendly versions of the map on Ragingswan.com.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's printer-friendly, elegant two-column standard and the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use. The map is great. The pdfs also come with extensive bookmarks.



Christian Alipounarian has crafted a glorious village full of overt and covert symbolism and adventuring potential - beyond its top-notch adventuring potential, Chasm displays an unobtrusive, concise symbolism that adds an additional gravitas to the village, one that makes it resonate even beyond its unusual construction. Were I to complain about one thing, it would be that I would have loved a 3d/side-view of the village/inside of the ravine. Note, however, that at this price-point, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more rewarding village to visit. Even if your players don't get the symbolism, their subconscious will - and when handled by a capable DM, this will resound triumphantly within both PCs and players. A superb offering and, alongside Retribution, one of the few modules, where subtext unobtrusively underlines the point of the supplement, proving that intellectual concepts don't have to be shoved down the throat of one's audience. A joy to read - 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Chasm
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Urban Dressing: Sages
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/25/2014 10:50:09
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Urban Dressing-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



The supplement wastes no time (or space) and provides us first a list of 50 entries that cover the general look of a sage's domain: Small shrines, winking fiancés, strangely old back doors, trees decorated with ornaments containing scribblings of an ancient language - a solid table, though one lacking in something truly weird.



The interior of the respective places are also covered: From neatly organized scrolls, to steins and desks bolted to the floor, we have quite an array of different dressings to lend an air of mystique alongside a sense of normalcy to the respective locales. A d20 table of whispers and rumors further enhances your options regarding the sage in question - from being actually of another race to bitter disputes with rival sages or being a poet operating under a nom de plume - some solid ideas here.



There also are 20 rather complex hooks and complications regarding sages: What if the local sage ahs recently passed away and now agents from all around the world are on the hunt for said sages' maps and notes - they might lead to long-forgotten treasures/nations/sites. Extremely awesome, since it takes the peculiarity of the installment into account, would be a short d6-table to check whether a given sage is actually available - perhaps the guy is not waiting for PCs to come around and earn a living! Two thumbs up - its small tables like this dealing with the unique topic that make dressing-files so much more useful!



We conclude this supplement with 10 short fluff-only entries (including hooks, mannerisms etc.) of sample sages, partially experts, partially PC-classes, all versatile. Nice to see here is that the evil sages among them actually are not gibbering psychos, but people with severe character flaws - two thumbs up for that! All too often, CE in a statblock means totally bonkers, while here, the character in question is actually fully functional.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant b/w-two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. The thematically-fitting b/w-artworks fit the theme.



Brian Fitzpatrick's take on Sages at first didn't wow me - the tables depicting the outside of the respective shops are nice, yes, but not too exciting. Then, the pdf turned things up a notch and actually gets rather cool. Now I'm biased here: Scholars are vain and eccentric and have esoteric interests - so where are the ticks, the obsession/specialty of the respective sages? Where is the table that tells you that a sage is particularly interested in the nature-magic-channeling capabilities of the honeybee? Or perhaps the scholar is particularly invested in the discussion of whether global imprisonment-spells cast on all evildoers would end the threat of the abyss and the moral implications of such actions? Perhaps s/he is particularly obsessed with a certain poet/genre/occurrence? Perhaps he only writes with giant eagle quills? So much potential, none realized - a table of actual preferred pursuits for the sages would have made this so much more awesome and could also be used to indirectly characterize the sage in combination with the exterior/interior tables - as written, the titular sages are rather scarce in the pdf. This dressing-pdf works superb in crafting the surrounding of the sage, but the personal touch the pdf would require for indirect characterization is curiously absent.



Which is a pity, for this pdf is very close to being actually superb in what it tries to do and misses the mark by a margin. In the end, this dressing is anything but bad, but also fails to be truly excellent and feels a bit lacking. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Sages
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Razor Coast - Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/24/2014 04:44:32
An Endzeitgeist.com review

46 pages, 1 page front cover (by Wayne Reynolds), 1 page editorial, 3 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page dedication, 5 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover. That leaves 534 pages.

534. Pages.

It's been a long time since Razor Coast has been released and there's a reason my review took this long. First of all, let me preface this with a disclaimer: I can't, by any means, be truly neutral regarding Razor Coast. I just can't. you see, there would be no Endzeitgeist without this book. It was Razor Coast that made me excited enough about a book to actually end my online abstinence and register at Sinister Adventures back in the day. I didn't even have a Paizo account. I had no idea Rite Publishing or Open Design even existed. Without this book, NONE of my reviews would have ever been written. Without it, none of the friendships, none of the kind people would have ever entered my life. I was stunned by the kindness of Nick and Lou and then...Sinister Adventures went down. My heart bled, I raged, I reasoned...all the steps of grief, as pathetic as that may sound. I never ordered a refund. I waited. When Frog God Games took Razor Coast and uploaded the KS, I thought "NO WAY" - why? Because the funding goal seemed insane. The requirement to commit 30-buck preorders from back in the day, get new artwork etc. blew up the goal and you can't begin to understand the amount of exhilaration I felt when it funded...with flying colors, reaching all those stretch-goals. I couldn't believe it. At this point, not only had Razor Coast's prior vapor ware status been the grain of sand that was in the center of my decision to go reviewer, it had amassed such a n epic level of expectations, I started dreading the arrival of the massive tome (#213, btw.!) and all the bonus books I went for via the KS.



Then, I started reading it. And from a reviewer's perspective, I was looking at a problem of no small proportions - Razor Coast seems to defy proper reviewing. Usually, when I take a look at a module, I take a look at the plot, hooks etc. and then give you a synopsis of what to expect, try to analyze issues with the plot etc. Alternatively, a sandbox gets a similar treatment, but more free-form. Well, Razor Coast refuses to fit in either mold. So what is this monster's structure? We have inciting incidents, that kick off a given arc - two massive major plot-arcs suffuse this tome. These are supplemented with vignettes, set-pieces and stand-alone encounters as well as relationship subplots. These are here, and in the end, it's up to DM and players to decide in- and outgame which/what to pursue. Essentially, Razor Coast tries to combine the free-form modularity of a true sandbox campaign with the plot-driven structure of an AP.



Now, usually, I'd just give you a run-down of the general plot-structure - that doesn't work here. If I were to list everything herein, this review would probably be as long as all my Slumbering Tsar-reviews combined. So instead, I'll tell you about what can be found herein: First of all, there would be indulgences, i.e. Sinister Adventures' small pdfs, converted to the PFRPG-ruleset. This means that Craig Shackleton's dueling rules, including the bind combat maneuver, have been updated. These are intended to essentially make the swashbuckler a more valid option char-build wise and if used as intended for low-armor, dex-based fighter, makes sense. The thing is, the feats aren't particularly weak and while not per se broken, e.g. treating a one-handed piercing weapon as a reach weapon can be broken badly - enlarge character, magus levels etc. At prereq BAB +1, too easy to abuse, also thanks to the feat not requiring an explicit action, thus making it possible to combine this with other feats. Then again, the parrying rules per se are solid and have seen some use in my game. The Tulita-ethnography comes the throw maneuver (which feels unnecessary) and also some feats, one of which isn't as broken as it was in 3.X, but fixing unarmed threat range at 18 sans following usual rules of threat range enhancements would be bound to lead to confusion. The Mai'kal archetype gets a somewhat broken ability at 15th level, allowing them to, as an immediate action, reverse an attack on the adversary 1/round as an immediate action for 1 ki point. The essay on underwater adventuring contained here is also nice, though after the release of both Sunken Empires and Alluria Publishing's glorious Cerulean Seas, there are better options. But you don't want me to pick this one apart crunch-wise, do you? The adventure is what counts, so what can I say about it before I go into spoilers?



Let's give you an overview - the Razor Coast is a tropical paradise, though not one sans its dark past. The native population, the Tulita, lived in relative peace until colonialization began and the white/yellow/black/whatever men came and defeated them handsomely. Now, the once sacred whales are hunted, the eggs of the venerable turtle smashed and colonial ignorance has erected Port Shaw, a thriving port on sacred ground. Dark days have found the paradise in peril, as racial tensions rise and evil conspires above and beneath the waves. Here, one thing should be noted - the writing is superb. In a genre, where Freeport and Sasserine constitute two very iconic settlements with their own flavor, making a given age of sail-style settlement stand out is quite a feat and neither settlement would be confused with Port Shaw (though they probably could replace it with some work) -the writing makes the settlement, the whole coast really, come to life from the pages. immersion is also increased via the entries on e.g. deities in the appendix. Oh, have I mentioned that5 thanks to a collaborative effort with Green Ronin, the book actually offers information on how to handle both Freeport and Port Shaw in the same setting and how they geographically relate? Yes. Awesome.



Now beyond the leitmotif of colonialism and the resulting racial tensions and cultural warfare, we have a leitmotif of progress vs. nature in the guise of colonial powers destroying natural resources and killing essentially the sacred animal guides of the Tulita. This topic per se is rather subdued, though its presence can be felt in one of the main plots, but more on that later. Now I've mentioned relationship subplots - and these deserve the moniker. Essentially, Razor Coast is as character-driven and NPC-rich as you want and a former band of heroes, down on their luck and destined for an inglorious downfall, is provided in excruciating detail - these beings are characters in the truest sense of the word and while they all have been broken, the PCs have a chance to mend them. The same btw. holds true for the legendary widow of Captain Razor and even some antagonists - overall, indifference will lead to depressing ends indeed, while invested PCs can truly make a difference and save those souls from the abyss into which they gaze. If you're like me and read these, you'll probably recognize yourself or some of your friends n their darkest hours in these NPCs - yes, they're that detailed. So if your PCs are big on the ROLE of roleplaying, Razor Coast provides ample potential.



A DM also gets special tools - essentially, a level-by-level breakdown of potential plotlines/encounters to run as well as check-list-sheets for the respective levels/phases of the plot as well as an NPC-relationship tracker help further in making sense of the tremendously complex, vast array of potential plots one can craft from Razor Coast. Which is rather interesting, for the plot per se is as strong as you'd expect from a linear AP:



SPOILERS



Essentially, colonialism and the killing of animals has helped dread shark-god Dajobas and his chosen to return to shore. Dread were-sharks have infiltrated Port Shaw and expect to hold a massive feast of carnage and death in its streets. Furthermore, the legendary kraken-fiend has all but taken control of Port Shaw via a secret society and plans to soon reap the city. Then former plot is conspiracy 1, the second one no.2 and both make for linear, rather epic (apocalyptic, even!) scenes - within the modularity of the vast tome, these stories are what drives the meta-plot. And yes, they're infinitely more complex, tied to x characters, strange islands, sunken treasures, betrayals long past etc. And yes, in order to not bloat this review beyond 20 pages, that's all you'll be hearing from me regarding the plot(s).



/SPOILERS



Soooo...those plots and all the encounters, flavor etc. need to be organized. The tools are there. Before we go into that, another caveat, though - look at the end of the book. Among the indulgences, several mini-modules await and the book also features essentially what can be considered an additional Voodoo-themed adventure that is completely optional. These are NOT part of the main-book's outline, nor are the modules from the expansion "Heart of the Razor", though the latter help with levels in which the main material is a bit less versatile than one would expect. It should also be noted that the appendix features new creatures galore, including, yes, undead cannibal pygmies (and their unliving totems!), a race of degenerate Cyclopes, drugs, items both mundane and magical and much, much more. Have I mentioned the hand-out driven puzzle/treasure map, options for underwater adventuring etc.?



Since its formal approach to adventure-craft is so different, the grand question would be how to rate this... which brings me, perhaps to a surprisingly early



Conclusion:



Editing and formatting are surprisingly good for a book of this length - while there are glitches in here, they are relatively few and far in-between. Layout adheres to a parched-map-style full-color 2-column standard that is easy to read. The respective full color artworks are universally drop-dead-gorgeous and the maps are as well. While some maps have the scaling-numbers slightly pixelated, the maps themselves are plenty and beautiful. Furthermore, the map folio offers player-handout-style maps of the respective areas herein, adding for me tremendously to their use. The massive tome comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The pdf's artworks sometimes feel a bit less high-res than those present in the hardcover - if you can, I'd definitely suggest going for the full-color dead tree tome. Printing this would probably cost more in ink/toner than just getting the book anyways.



There's another reason for this - you'll need post-its. Seriously. A metric ton of post-its. I have a very good memory, but still - running this behemoth will require you to have a lot of things at your fingertips, even with all the help the book tries to give you.

Which also brings me to the reason why this took forever - first of all: Novice-DMs need not apply. Sorry. Even for me, who considers running modules of ZEITGEIST-complexity easy, with years of sandboxing campaign information, this is a rather complex endeavor. The best advice I can give is to read the whole book. At least twice. Which won't be an issue, since the respective areas are full of iconic encounters, compelling characters and superbly dark, gritty, nail-biting climaxes. The writing is superb and just glorious. It should also be noted that the shades-of-grey themes actually are there - while the Tulita generally are pictured as the good guys, there are ample exceptions and only scarcely does the book stoop to painting a clear b/w-contrast. When it does, though, it MAY be slightly jarring - the whole book essentially portrays the process of colonialization in all its violence and despicable facets. Indigenous population under control via drugs? Yes. Cultures destroyed? Yes. Slavery? Yes.



There are not much saving graces for the powers that be here and thematically, that is the only narrative weak spot in an otherwise surprisingly versatile plot. While the book actually manages for the most part to maintain complex moralities and shades of grey in all protagonists and even in some of the more despicable antagonists, when it comes to the Tulita, it sometimes reverts to simple b/w: Portraying them in a very much romanticized noble savage-way. I'm been discriminated against and personally, it's probably this experience that makes me consider this to be, in its way, just as problematic as a demonization of a given people. In any other setting/module, I wouldn't have complained here, but in the gritty, surprisingly deep Razor Coast, this feels a bit off at times, especially due to generally, the depiction maintains an enlightened, non-glorifying stance. But then again, perhaps that's just the cultural studies mayor talking. To let me make this abundantly clear - this is NO white guilt-trip, theme-wise, but it also falls, by a margin, short of what it could have been in that regard.



It took me some time to analyze what made this, at least in my perception, harder to run than e.g. Slumbering Tsar and similar massive campaigns. The reasons are twofold: For one, the massive tome shoots itself somewhat in the proverbial foot by noting several sample motivations à la "Champion of the Tulita", "Allied with the Powers that be" etc. IGNORE THESE PREMISES. While one could craft a Razor Coast-campaign with these themes, the overall narrative is imho neutered by trying to shoehorn it into one of these adventure-path-like premises. Essentially, the whole of the book does not particularly support these themes. Yes, they're there, but looking for them and trying to jam the sandbox into that frame tremendously hurts the experience and limits players/could lead to a less versatile experience for them. The support for these pseudo-AP-motivations is just not pronounced enough and I'm of the conviction these hurt the book more than anything else. So, again: Ignore those.



Secondly, the organization of the massive material is more confusing than it ought to be - the "build-your-own-AP"-section with all its checklists and help doesn't help that much - or at least, it didn't help me. Why? Because it lacks the supplemental material, even from the same book. Tying indulgences and "bonus-storyline" (and Heart of the Razor) into the whole would have made this section much more useful. Another issue would be that you first get Port Shaw, then the Key-NPCs, then the planner and then the encounters/meat of the book. Essentially, the planner is talking about things, which, if you read this in a linear way, you haven't read and have no clue about. So if you start reading, skip this section and return after reading. While this isn't bad, it also makes preparing this behemoth more challenging, at least at first sight, than it ought to be. Much of the problems simply dissipate if you just read the meat of the adventure, the setting-information etc. and start planning for yourself.



One of the reasons some people experienced a slight backlash here, can be explained via the tremendous expectations associated with this tome, while others lie primarily at the problematic organization. This book would have imho fared better by sticking to a sandbox-presentation and then just add a generic time-line and insert encounters into that. Just my 2 cents, of course. Endeavoring to make this both an AP and a sandbox ends up unnecessarily complicating this.



Now all of this sounds awfully negative - and it shouldn't, let me make abundantly clear that this is a rite-of-passage-style monster-tome to separate the men from the boys, DM-wise. It's challenging (Though not Frog God Games-hard.) and ultimately a great module that takes cultural cues otherwise scarcely, if at all, explored and provides a rich, fun, dark and at times downright evil setting that oozes unique style and flair, provides superb writing, ideas galore and more potential for fun than MANY collective modules/APs of similar length.

Is it for novice-DMs? Hell no. Is it polarizing? Yes. Is the crunch universally awesome? Nope. But does this belong into every PFRPG-DM's library? In my opinion, yes. Razor Coast is a gloriously wicked tome, superbly written and while it is not perfect, I don't regret a single cent I've spent on it. (And yes, I went all-out on the KS.) Is it the perfect tome of superlatives that years and years of expectations painted it in, in many a mind around the globe? No, but it honestly couldn't have been. What it is, is a great mega-adventure in a unique setting, full of unique, interesting characters and a living piece of PFRPG-history, a mega-adventure your players WILL keep talking about for years to come. And while it didn't make my Top Ten-list of 2013, it came damn close, by virtue of its originality, scope and ambition, by its narrative clout and the hard work of Nicolas Logue, Lou Agresta, Tim Hitchcock, John Ling, Ton Knauss, Frank Mentzer, Richard Pett, Craig Shackleton, David Posener, Greg A. Vaughan, Adam Daigle, Wolfgang Baur and Brendan Victorson.



To me, this tome is still 5 stars + seal of approval must-have material. It may not be perfect, but it is different, ambitious and downright evocative. And we need more books of that caliber, that take chances with something different, both in form and ambition. Oh, and if you're an experienced DM, you'll be hard-pressed to find a given module to better show off your skills - in the hands of one, this vision will come alive in all its blood-drenched, tropical glory.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Razor Coast - Pathfinder Edition
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