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Rise of the Drow Epilogue: The Commander of Malice
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/19/2014 02:53:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The ultimate finale of Rise of the Drow clocks in at 69 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page credits, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement (in the monster statblock sections - annoying if you print them out), 2 pages of SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 61 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.



All right, still here?

The war against teh drow is over, matron mother Maelora defeated. Oh those villains...so high level, yet so stupid...Or not. Sometimes, evil mastermind have something called "backup plan", as befitting of their mental attributes. So does the Matron of House Gullion. In order to defeat her, the PCs will have to track her down in her deity's home turf, the demiplane of venom. The module kicks off with an interesting little puzzle to recreate the portal before the module kicks off - and it will strike the PCs as weird - PCs just won't die. They stabilize at -9 hp. If they die and are lft behind, they return mysteriously, find strange healing draughts...but this all part of the master plan and is tracked by the DM via a specific table. More on that later.



The first arrival area is still relatively straight-forward, with a relatively simple puzzle to escape the section - which becomes a very interesting beast indeed, as Maelora escapes through a cube-like teleport maze full of deadly adversaries and no respite - to vanquish this extremely deadly place, its vast array of new creatures (which include btw. venom demons, colossal advanced spider zombies with more than 700 Hp and the dread spite spitters and venomwights...) and sheer endless onslaught of deadly foes, the only way for the players is to use their brains in a rather unique piece of abstract thinking - which personally, I love. Have I mentioned the fact that the venomous water slowly sears and saps away the PC's strength alongside the war of attrition of the adversaries. It shoudl also be noted that the planar labyrinth, which remains rather complex, gets individual maps for quite an array of the rooms to follow - why? Because these areas are complex, as are their challenges - titan bards with bad poetry, cannon golems, Despairs (the remnants of powerful adventurers defeated on a plane foreign to their alignment - and potentially the fate of the PCs...), a mighty drow malefactor (see TPK Games' great class, all necessary information included)/ warped-weaver in 3.5 and finally, vanquish Maelora, transformed into a spider-like dark angel hyper-monstrosity of no less than CR friggin' 23. Worst stat: 20. Yeah, ouch. Rather awesome - mind-blowing bad-ass one-page handout-style artwork of the mistress.



The encounters have their own index and just about all new creatures get their own full color artworks.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful full-color 2-column standard and the module come with copious pieces of great original full-color artwork as well a a ton of cool cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Stephen Yeardley and Joshua Gullion's "Commander of Malice", is a slug-fest (and no, I don't mean that in a derogatory way) and an epic war of attrition - all those artifacts, items, wands, potions your PCs have - they better start hoarding them, for even with suggested WBL and smart planning, the module can whittle down the considerate resources of high level PCs. That being said, the module, by design, will evoke hate from your players. The relentless onslaught of powerful foes, the strange terrain, the slowly creeping realization that something is fundamentally wrong. The sadistic requirements to the thinking faculties of your players...this is a module that carries bragging rights for beating and is one of the most difficult modules I've seen in ages. The sense of accomplishment in the end will be vast indeed and elicit cheers and high-fives. Still, by its very design, this module walks a very fine path, namely the one that your players, even with the catch that should prevent premature death, should be frustration-resistant and have joy while slogging through (literally!) endless waves of foes. If they don't have a healthy resistance to frustration, a mindset that they have to work for their triumph, then this is not for them. If they do, though, they'll have a truly unique experience.



Now one thing you should be aware of beyond that - this module's text is short - the statblocks, as is the wont with high-level modules, take up a lot of space and that's not something to complain about. Still, minus the creatures etc., the module is "only" 27 pages long - which looks insultingly short. And I won't kid - personally, I would have preferred more details, less war of attrition. That being said, you DO get your money's worth here - the mazes are damn complex and actually *running* this beast as opposed to just reading it, takes A LOT of time. It took me longer than the Prologue and the first Part of RotD combined. So yeah - this beast is definitely not for everyone, though if you're an aficionado of high level foes and builds and require foes to pit against the PCs but don't want to make them yourself - even as a statblock collection and only to scavenge, this has something going for it.



Now that out of the way - I do have to say, I still consider it the weakest part of Rise of the Drow, not due to being bad, but due to having a much narrower appeal than Prologue and main book - this module is a challenge to be beaten and should make the old-school crowd and fans of truly brutal modules exceedingly happy, but if the regular RotD already tested your group to their breaking point, then be cautious - this is for pros indeed. I won't hold it accountable for its brevity or its design choice, for it succeeds well at what it does, but I still think that a tad bit more versatility would have improved this beast. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rise of the Drow Epilogue: The Commander of Malice
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DD1: Fane of the Undying Sleeper
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/18/2014 00:52:17
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module by Raging Swan Press clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/how to use, 1 page advice on reading statblocks for novice DMs, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content so let's take a look!



This being an adventure module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.



All right, still here? Via one of 3 different hooks, gathering information, one of the 8 rumors provided or the like, the PCs find out about a particularly nasty set of slimy stairs on a wind-swept beach, accessible only during particular low tides and sure to pique the interest of fortune seekers. Said beach btw. comes with a short table of discoveries to add further detail to the shore...but it doesn't end there - the little dungeon than follows maintains this level of detail and even surpasses it by quite a bit. But let me give you a sample here - each room comes with a small description for the DM, followed by entrances and things players may perceive or miss, followed by read-aloud text and then features - from illumination, to terrain features and e.g. doors (including hardness/break-DC etc.) to dressings galore and infos gleaned via a vast variey of skill-checks, the level of detail is staggering and surpasses even most of Raging Swan Press' other offerings. Throwing pews, looking at various carvings - there is a vast amount of mood-setting going on here that ampsup the ante of what to expect by quite a bit. Indeed, the best thing here beyond that might be the fact that the presentation is so concise you can run this module sans preparation, just reading as you go. I did try that and it worked, with one minor caveat, to which I'll come later.



So what's the deal about this little dungeon? Well, it once was the center of worship for an unholy union of sahuagin and skum, brought together by the mutual veneration of dread Dagon. As is wont to happen with many a twisted cult of different races and/or beliefs, squabbles broke out that saw this particular fane deserted and a sahuagin imprisoned alive - not any sahuagin, mind you - much like other creatures herein, said being had the deformed template applied and is by now a skeletal champion. The theme of encroaching doom is enforced by the exceedingly short time-frame the PCs have to explore the complex - the tides are rising! Much like Raging Swan Press' "Dark Waters Rising" or 4 Dollar Dungeons' superb "Horn of Geryon", the tides influence the areas significantly and make the task of the PCs harder. In Raging Swan's trademark ease of using anything they put out, one handy page sums up just about all the necessary rules for the DM to handle this situation with varying levels of water-height. It should also be noted that the focus is different here - where the aforementioned modules used tidal tracking either as a global changer of certain areas or as a timer, here, while also a timer, a particularly nasty skill-challenge the PCs face might actually unduly and hastily increase the hassle they face -woe onto those who face Dagon's wrath! Exploring the fane doesn't end their troubles, though, as Dagon cultists may follow up on their exploits! Oh, said caveat - the pdf also introduces spell fragments, essentially magic-themed haunts that may end up doing...something. Per se a great idea, but their integration in the otherwise flawless layout could have been a tad more easy on the DM, with the standard text being bolded so the DM knows where these things are prior to reading the text.



The pdf also provides the deformed creature template and 6 pregens for the intended level 3.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting, as I've come to expect from Raging Swan Press, is top-notch, near flawless. Layout adheres to RSP's two-column b/w-standard and does sport a nice, if not particularly awe-inspiring map (no player-friendly version included), but the official homepage does sport the artwork as a hand-outs pack for layers - AWESOME! The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use.



Creighton Broadhurst, mastermind of Raging Swan Press, knows how to craft SUPERB modules - he has proven that time and again. This one is per se no different - I currently have next to nil free time on my hands to prepare anything, much less write my intricate, insane plots and thus, this module fit the bill. I tried running it and it worked exceedingly weell, with one minor hick-up - without preparing ANYTHING.

This, ladies and gentlemen, sets the bar higher for similar modules - go and play indeed! Now that being said, I do have some minor complaints - one being that the fane baackground story remains somewhat elusive to the PCs; slightly more means of unearthing it (and tying that to solving the module!) would have been great to see. Another minor gripe I have here is the difficulty, or rather lack thereof - the module does an exceedingly awesome job of creating this atmosphere of dread, decay, looming doom and finality via the encroaching tides...and doesn't, difficulty-wise, follow-though...with the exception of the boss, who, for once, is actually hard and had my players scared for a bit. Now I'm aware my players are much worse than most gaming groups, but a more linear difficulty/threat-curve with a slightly less pronounced difficulty-spike would have helped the pacing of the module. My players stumbled into the boss relatively quickly and were shocked and then expected something EVEN WORSE coming soon...which simply didn't. Now bear in mind, this is criticism on a high level. This module still had my players comment all the time how great the atmosphere was, how detailed etc. - they had a lot of fun.

But it still feels like this one slightly falls short of what it could have been - with a tad bit more rooms, more spell fragments (which are btw- also used in a puzzle that could be brute-forced in alternate ways...), a thread tying e.g. spell fragments tighter to the rest of the complex. Formally, this adventure offers extremely tight fluff and cool crunch to support it...just make sure one of your PCs knows abyssal, or much of the plot will be lost on your players. All in all, a very good module, a tad bit short of true excellence, but still a very enjoyable dungeon crawl, especially heartily recommended for time-starved DMs with a final verdict of 4 stars!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DD1: Fane of the Undying Sleeper
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Mythic Minis 12: Hierophant Path Abilities
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/18/2014 00:48:50
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Mythic Mini clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so let's take a look, shall we?



This time, we're all about hierophant path abilities, so let's check this out!



We kick off the pdf with 3 1st tier abilities, first of which would be the ability to cultivate potion-like plants. Unlike regular potions, depending on your mythic tier, you can expand these to include metamagic effects and increase their potency, but also tying them to yourself, seeing a rapid decay in potency upon being taken away from you. As living things, however, you can actually cultivate them and grow more of them! Quite cool, that one - not too strong, but very much in line with the trope of the wise, legendary herbalist that cultivates magic plants. "Spontaneous Deathbringer" nets you necromancy-themed spells to cast spontaneously and use mythic power to augment them - okay for necromancy-themed casters/evil priests/oracles. "Spontaneous Lifegiver" does the same for healing-spells.



The 3rd tier ability herein would be "Budding Branch" - and, as the big brother to the magical herbs., it allows you to grow wands as the branches of a tree or even, at tier 6, staves - once again with some unique rules to support the mechanic - beyond herbalist-checks, the plants require rather random investments of parts of the creation costs per day and serious amounts of plant growth-spells as balancing.



Now the 6th tier ability once again is something that SCREAMS mythic to me - you become a "High Clerist" - this translates to better leadership (or even mythic leadership as a bonus feat), decreased construction costs of religious buildings you erect (tie in with Ultimate Campaign - awesome!) and expend mythic power to call down a friggin' crusade on your foes - depending on the mythic power expended, you gain even more followers, who may even, in synergy with Ultimate Battle, can recruit more armies. However, the mythic power thus expended does not regenerate while the crusade is in effect. Beautiful, glorious, epic - and one campaign too late for me...my last one centered about two massive religions duking it out. Still, reading this one made me grin from ear to ear - solid mechanics and epic indeed!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.



Jason Nelson delivers. From the cool, shamanistic mythic plants to the solidly crafted, if somewhat artless healing/necromancy abilities to the epic crusade - all of the abilities herein feel worthy of being mythic - either by being high in concept, plain useful or simply glorious. This is what path abilities should feel like - beyond feats, beyond paltry standards and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 12: Hierophant Path Abilities
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Mythic Minis 11: Feats of Grappling
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/18/2014 00:44:43
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Mythic Mini clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so let's take a look, shall we?



This time, we're all about feats of grappling, so let's check this out!



We kick off with the mythic teamwork-feat equivalent of "Brutal Grappler", allowing you to be even more deadly when grappling in teams, allowing you and your allies to benefit from mythic tiers and allowing you to substitute combat maneuvers for bonus damage of crits. Solid.



"Carry Off" allows you to better move targets hit by the snatch or grab special attacks - nice for respective critters. "Final Embrace" and its two follow-up feats makes constricting mythic foes deadlier and also allows you, with the improved versions, add the frightened condition to said foes and further amp up the damage output. All solid, like "Brutal Grappler".



"Inescapable Grasp" is something that should have been houserules - a way to negate the annoying auto-success of freedom of movement and thus practically non-optional for grappling creatures beyond a certain CR. "Pinning knockdown" also autotrips foes you've pinned - which is nice, but opens a sort of bag of worms - I *assume* stability and similar abilities no longer protect from this one, though to me, getting them as a bonus to CMD versus being tripped feels *right*. So yeah, not a fan and some very minor potentially rules-fidgeting here. The improved version vastly increases nonlethal grappling damage and also makes it possible to temporarily negate immunity to non-lethal damage/DR. Kind of nice, but not sure whether it's worth the feat-slot.



"Rapid Grappler" can be used 1/round and allows you to grapple as a free action when using greater grapple. Mythic power allows you to roll twice and use the better result. I'd usually complain about action economy here, but a) it's grappling and b) the feat-tax of this one is already rather high, so yeah - nothing to truly complain about.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.



Jason Nelson and Tom Phillips deliver a solidly crafted array of grappling feats, arguably for one of the most loathed mechanics of the game - and the feats per se are mechanically solid and well-crafted, yes. But they also felt universally somewhat artless to me - they are solid, don't get me wrong, and they do improve e.g. serpentine grappling, giant flyer-snatching etc. But they don't do something truly mindblowing - they do fix some gaps in the rules, though, and overall, I wasn't disappointed by the pdf per se. I wasn't wowed either though - hence, this is the quintessential 4-star file - good, but sans the spark of additional brilliance.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 11: Feats of Grappling
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Gossamer Worlds: Tetsujin Shogunate (Diceless)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/17/2014 02:05:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Rite Publishing's extremely affordable tour through the infinite worlds of the Grand Stair is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!



The world of the Tetsujin Shogunate has been hit by a catastrophe - caught in-between the insterstellar warfare of the alien races oni and kappa, much of the world has become uninhabitable when the aliens crash-landed there. That being said, there also were positive aspects to all of that (or at least: supremely cool ones!): The kinda-slightly-benevolent Kappa came down in Japan and were coerced/swayed to help stem the tide of the monstrous oni that kept mutating and destroying the remnants of human civilization where the remnants of their ship didn't finish the job.



The result of that uneasy cooperation was the advent of Tetsujin - gigantic war-machines, piloted by humans and used to stem the tide of monstrous oni. On earth, which is now mostly a domain of nightmarish creatures, the last bastions of humanity thus wage war against the threat of the demonic oni and oni-blood tainted creatures, all while the kappa represent a dying breed on our planet and ninja seek to steal alien technology for their own inscrutable ends.



A sample Tetsujin is btw. provided (and yes, generally, it MIGHT be possible to bring these to other realms...though how is for you and your player's creativity to decide..), as is a neat array of massive adventure options.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RiP's two-column full-color standard with superb original artworks as we've come to expect from the series. The pdf comes with rudimentary bookmarks, in spite of its brevity - nice. Author Matt Banach weaves an interesting world here, somewhere between Cthulhutech, classic mecha-action and Japanese mythology for a thoroughly compelling world with enough potential to offer fodder for a whole campaign of LoGaS, should you so desire.



All in all, an awesome addition to the overall series and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Gossamer Worlds: Tetsujin Shogunate (Diceless)
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Mythic Minis 10: Universal Path Abilities
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/16/2014 03:59:45
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Mythic Mini clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so let's take a look, shall we?



This time, we're all about universal path abilities, so let's check this out!



First, we're on to 4 1st tier abilities, with "bound by honor" allowing you to take monk's vows and thus use mythjic tier to increase ki-pool (or mythic power), saves and also improve quarry, challenge and similar abilities to represent your convictions guiding you. Nice.



"Ever Ready" makes you more efficient in surprise rounds and against readied actions, which is actually rather fitting for a mythic ability and manages to convey the mythic flair rather well, in stark contrast to many a passive mythic ability. "Genre Savy" is imho the better (not in power - in execution) "Analytical Eye" - by making knowledge checks to identify creatures, you can use mythic power to temporarily ignore DR and resistances - and all sans requiring those pesky metagame aspects. Neat!! "Versatile Skill Mastery" nets you advanced skill mastery as per the advanced rogue talent, but also improves with your tiers, allowing for quicker switching of the skills. Now that one, while bland on paper, is very strong and feels rather mythic to me. Neat!



The one 3rd tier ability allows for free extravagant living and bonuses to gossip-related skills/information. Okay, but nothing to write home about.



6th tier also gets one ability - "spectacular death". Okay, so far, the abilities herein lacked issues, but also didn't utterly wow me. This one, though, is glorious: It codifies action types and assigns costs of mythic power to each. Upon dying, you can expend mythic power (with cumulative costs for repeated action types) to go down in a vast, action-limit/economy-breaking blaze of glory. And yes, the wording is concise enough to support this - including anti-teleportation caveats and an inability to prevent your own death. This ability is beautiful, glorious and exemplifies what high-level mythic games should be about - the superhuman, truly iconic bursts of grandeur. This ability alone is worth the price of admission for me.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. It should be noted that the one page of content has some blank space on it that could have been used for 1-2- further mythic abilities.



Just when I was resigned to keep hating the path-ability Mythic Minis, this one comes along - sans lame metagaming, sans problematic mechanics and with a stunningly awesome "Blaze of Glory"-style ability. Jason Nelson delivers this time around with a truly neat mythic mini. My only gripes here would be the blank space and the somewhat uninspired 3rd tier ability, making this still by far the best path-ability-pdf of the Mythic Mini series so far. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 by a small margin.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 10: Universal Path Abilities
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Mythic Minis 9: Feats of Terror
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/16/2014 03:54:56
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Mythic Mini clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so let's take a look, shall we?



This time, we're all about feats that inspire true dread, so let's take a look!



-Dragonfear: Says it all - better, mythic rank-powered frightful presence for dragons. Make those knights run! Pity there's no "Let non-mythic-guys-die-by-dragonfright"-caveat as seen in some books...



-Gory Finish (Mythic): Better, mythic version of the feat, allows you use it easier and use mythic power to spontaneously use it in conjunction with weapons that you have weapon focus in. Makes more sense as an option than the base feat. Neat!



-Intimidating Bane (Mythic): Another mythic version of a base feat, making the rather bland base feat actually work and be less of a waste - better intimidating effects and free weapo focus with bane weapons when using the base feat. Neat!



-Menacing Blow: Available in normal and mythic, this allows you to intimidate with critcal hits as a swift action (or in the mythic version, with tier bonus as a free action). Nice, though the mythic version can result in A LOT of annoying rolls with high threat-range builds.



-Nightmare Fuel (Mythic): See, that's what I expected - impose penalties on those hit by your demoralize-attempts, frightful presence and similar panic/madness-inducing effects and add nightmare to the fray. The special caveat for qlippoths is just the icing on the cake - two thumbs up!



-Sow Terror (Mythic): Better Sow Terror, can produce the condition cowering, can be extended via mythic power.



-Terrifying Critical: A non-mythic feat with an mythic option, this forces foes hit by a crit to save versus 10+BAB or become shaken for 1d4 rounds, 1 on a made save. The rounds actually stack in both versions, with the mythic version also increasing fear-severity and mythic power as an optional fuel to increase the save DC. I'm not a huge fan of stacking condition-durations, but in this case, I do think it works, with the BAB +11 requirement ensuring it remains balanced. Neat and kudos!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.



Jason Nelson and Tom Phillips deliver a nice array of fear-themed feats for the mythic rules that do quite a bit right - either by making otherwise weak options better or by creating cool new ones. That being said, the pdf's focus is a bit weird, with essentially (great) monster feats mixed with ones more in line for players. There's not much wrong here (apart from the potentially annoying mythic version of menacing blow - but mechanically, that one is still sound...) and a couple of the feats actually rock hard. On the other hand, while there's nothing wrong per se here, the pdf didn't blow me away. I'm also a bit surprised to find no options to use mythic power to temporarily eliminate immunity to fear, but that may just be me. This remains a solid, nice addition to the product line, if not a perfect one. My final verdict clocks in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 9: Feats of Terror
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Mythic Minis 8: Trickster Path Abilities
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/16/2014 03:50:03
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Mythic Mini clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so let's take a look, shall we?



All right, another path-ability installment, so let's take a look whether this one can finally convince me.

We kick off with 5 trickster abilities for 1st tier, with one, analytical eye, having already featured in teh Guardian Path abilities. I didn't consider it good design and too metagamey back then and that has not changed. Next.



The first new one would be backstabber, which is a passive benefit that increases to-hit and sneak attack damage output and allows you to spend mythic power to flank otherwise unflankable non-mythic opponents. Solid, nothing to complain about.



Caress of Steel hits a soft spot with me - it annuls the non-lethal damage penalty to atk with lethal weapons - and allows you to deal nonlethal sneak attack damage with lethal weapons. And yes, according to RAW, you can't do nonlethal sneak attack damage with lethal weapons, even when taking the custom -4 to atk. So essentially, this path ability eliminates a bad, gaping and annoying hole in the rules, which I applaud. The thing is, though - much like backstabber, this doesn't really feel that much like a path ability, more like a feat to me. (And a feat I think that should be non-mythic, but that's my obsession with "Good PCs don't kill intelligent humanoids unless absolutely necessary..:") So all in all: Makes sense, streamlines the basic rules, can't really complain.



False Allegiance on the other hand is essentially what I'd like to see as mythic abilities - you can bluff foes to believe they've positively influenced you with social skills or magic and then stab them in the back - yeah! One gripe, though - I *think* the ability needs a caveat that such a bluff also emulates the enchantment aura of the resisted spell/effect, otherwise tricksters are too easy to unearth in non-combat situations...



Out of the Way is also a strong, cool mythic ability, allowing you to not hinder allies by providing cover to foes and you even take no splash damage from allies (alchemist-double-team...yeah!) and can reroll fumbles against the saves of effects of allies.



We also get 5 3rd tier abilities, with one, "That Trick Doesn't Work on my anymore", still being solid (as a follow-up of "Analytical Eye") and still being none too impressive and too metagamey for me. So 4 new ones remain. Killing Joke is what I'd call worthy of mythic tricksters - use perform comedy to demoralize or make friendly and replace the resulting shaken condition with rendering the target flat-footed for one attack and then shaken. As big glitch in a cool ability here: As written, the target only loses the flat-footed condition if *YOU* attack it. RAW your allies can whittle away, though - a tighter wording is in order here, since I'm quite sure the ability is supposed to return from flat-footed to shaken after one attack, not just one attack by the trickster...



Masterful Skill Focus and Perfect Pickpocket are rather bland, offering passive bonuses (though the latter allows you to use the steal combat maneuver sans spoiling invisibility and thus makes some sense). Now Steal Spell on the other hand, has something going for it, allowing you to steal spells you interrupt and cast them via uses of 1/2 spell level mythic power.



We also get a new 6th tier mythic ability, the ability allows you to reverse social skills/enchantment effects etc. on your foes as an immediate action for 2 uses of mythic power. Okay improved version, but at 6th tier perhaps a bit high - this one's not *that* strong.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.



Author Jason Nelson delivers path abilities and this time, they feel a bit more compelling than the previous ones released in thy mythic mini-series. The solid, mostly passive benefits are per se okay, even if they lack the epic "I AM MYTHIC"-spark at times. The recycling of Analytical eye and its follow-up is not something I'd consider a good thing. Then again, Caress of Steel fixes an annoying hole in the rules, Out of the way is damn cool and Killing Joke's concept (if not its slightly flawed execution) is awesome. In the end, though, that's not enough to truly make this stand out and the glitch in Killing Joke is rather jarring. My final verdict will hence clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for the purpose of this platform due to in dubio pro reo and a slight increase in awesomeness from previous path-centric mythic minis.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 8: Trickster Path Abilities
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Rise of the Drow Prologue: The Darkness Arrives
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/12/2014 05:22:31
An Endzeitgeist.com review

So this is the prologue for AaW Games' massive mega-adventure Rise of the Drow...let's take a look! Page-count wise, this module clocks in at 129 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 122 (!!) pages of content, the first page of which would be an introduction by the authors before the first part, Jonathan G. Nelson and Stephen Yeardley's section of the module begins.



I won't waste much words here, so here's the obligatory SPOILER-warning. From here on out, players should jump to the conclusion. Got that? Great!



Only DMs here? All right! We start our scene at the lavishly detailed frontier's town of Rybalka, studded in AAW Games by now trademark blend of unique cultures, in what can be considered the equivalent of a longest night/Lucia-style folklore ritual, when fellow adventurers barge in and the ceremony must be maintained - against hunters acting obviously under some sort of compulsion, trying to extinguish the light - or rather, set fire upon the cathedral (and quite possibly, themselves) - thus requiring non-lethal means to subdue them. This is a great way to introduce local color and characters, while under the threat of the opaque, shambling beings outside and hinting at the shape of greater things to come - a full-blown assault by elemental spirits, turned archons, ghoulish goblins and all manner of other weird creatures - thankfully, the DM isn't left alone with this chaos, as the PCs try to keep the cathedral intact, calm people and prevent the theft of the mysterious moonshard - alas, even if the PCs can end the chaos in the cathedral, even if mysterious warnings by as of yet not fully corrupted vampire spawns are heeded - after that, the chase is still on - against drow hunting parties heading off for the Dark Wood, with quite a bunch of Rybalka's congregation in tow. With help from the fellow adventuring party and by now, tested to their breaking point by engaging the drow, the PCs have completed the first part of this module with a furious bang.



After the singularly most disturbing full-page drider artwork I've EVER seen (yes, better than any WotC or Paizo-rendition), part 2 (written by Steven T. Helt) begins with the PCs on the hunt for the drow in teh Dark Wood - and, push coming to shove, things get eerie....fast. The eclipse Naraneus Shadow, which swallows starlight, moonlight, sunlight - everything, is upon them and thus, the already creepy forest more than deserves its moniker...and worse, the eclipse JUST DOESN'T END. The PCs are on for a trek through one of the most feared forests, while no light permeates the gloom in a dread and surreal overland chase/tracking game - and believe me, the wilderness and its inhabitants (including btw. a glorious map of the area) are not to be taken lightly in the slightest - the challenges are quite profound and a skilful Dm can evoke a rare sense of dread via the smartly chosen adversaries here -even before the furious finale (including a battle-map style map).



In the ruined castle Adrik's Folly, the commanders of the drow await - and the final part of the module can be considered a MASSIVE infiltration scenario: Schedules, castel population, short fluffy descriptions to keep even characters with the same statblock apart, a massive map, several suggested means of accomplishing their goals - Michael McCarthy, author of this final section, in no way rests on the laurel of his co-authors. The infiltration is detailed, fair, difficult, organic - including, thankfully, even a harrowing escape with the enslaved townsfolk and a last stand at a country manor are distinct possibilities - let's hope the PCs were smart enough 8and wilderess-savvy9 and kept the populace from eating those funny, cramp-inducing, slowing berries...



We also get concise lists of drow traits and even an encounter index.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice significant glitches. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous, very easy to read two-column full color standard on a purplish-dark background, which translates relatively well to grey-scale in my experiment, but in the end, I'd still go full color - mainly for the great maps and at times simply glorious and copious full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and provides full stats for all creatures in 3.5 and PFRPG.



I was skeptic about the separation of authors/parts, to be honest - it's easy to lose the thread of a cohesive, narrative voice and assume different things. Thankfully, the team of authors has done a great job that caters to their strengths - we got the knack for tradition and ritual, the uncanny grasp of what makes a society distinct and believable from AAW's core author-team, expanded by Steven T. Helt's sense for one eerie, cool wilderness trek and finally, Michael McCarthy's strength for cool, organic complexes (as showcased before in e.g. Incandium's Eruption) for a module that is greater than the sum of its parts.



This module does an awesome job at establishing the Drow as a cool, competent and damn frightening force of foes (the implication that they can DARKEN THE SUN, when driven home right by the DM, should make the PCs VERY afraid...) and the module offers infiltration, defense, wilderness - over all, an eclectic mix of challenges that should ensure that no PC is left bored. That being said, this module is something I'd recommend to experienced DMs. Here and there, suggested resting/leveling places, precise overland movement charts and the like would have made this module a bit easier on the DM - as written, while not VERY hard to run, it does require some preparation and competence to not get swamped in it. Don't get me wrong, this *is* a stellar module still, but it definitely is aimed at competent players and DMs - novices might require extensive help by the second adventuring group as DM-proxies to make it through this alive. Then again, that sort of is the point - the opposition is numerous, smart and lethal and beating them should be an accomplishment. As a final piece of advice- I'd suggest establishing Rybalka via one of the other A-series modules before this one - it makes the local color and emotional impact more effective. Still, one furious tour-de-force and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rise of the Drow Prologue: The Darkness Arrives
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Rise of the Drow: Player's Guide
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/12/2014 05:17:26
An Endzeitgeist.com

This supplement is 18 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



All right, we kick this off with a discussion of AAW Games' two major human ethnicities in this part of the Aventyr setting, the Klavekian colonists and the native Vikmordere - both coming btw. with basic skill-based modifications of the standard human standard racial traits that are applied in addition to the regular traits, with the Vikmordere getting to chose between 3 sets even. Now if you expect a Tulita/Colonists-dichotomy à la Razor Coast, rest assured that this one takes a more balanced approach - neither are glorified. What are the Vikmordere? Well...think Native Americans crossed with Vikings. Yeah. Awesome. One of Aventyr's dwarven ethnicities, the Dweorg, is also depicted in detail, including once again a bit of minor crunch-modification - and yes, the races come with nomenclature, take on religion etc.



A short primer on underworld races is also included here, including a pointer towards the upcoming Underworld Races-books by AAW-games. The same goes btw. for the Underworld Classes-book that is referenced hereafter - essentially, the following nets players a break-down of some of the odd classes they will potentially encounter (from the latter book) and whets their palate for them - without giving away their respective crunch and nasty tricks. Or at least, the pdf makes it seem like this is what's going to happen. Unfortunately, that's not what happens. The Player's Guide already is rather short. The classes and races noted (with minor exceptions race-wise) here do not feature among the opposition faced in Rise of the Drow's antagonist builds. Players, upon reading these short, fluff-only lists, will expect to be able to use these classes or at least kill NPCs using them. That does not happen. This may be harsh, but what this is, is essentially a form of advertisement - nothing bad there, but it's also false information since the classes don't feature in Rise of the Drow. Why not instead provide some advice what characters should be able to do, which concepts would work well etc.? You know, PROPER player-advice? What about some legends about the underdark the PCs have heard during their stay in Rybalka? Wasted space and wasted pages here. Why not hint at the things to come, with legends helping PCs à la "There are rare mushrooms down there, glowing like the moon herself - I've heard you can do fabulous things and travel to the moon when imbibing them with alcohol under the starry sky." (Partially true, btw. - you'll see when you read RotD...)



Next would be a short player-friendly gazetteer on the town of Rybalka, with not only a neat one-page map, but also a stunning 1-page full color illustration of the place as well as an in-character prose piece that expounds the blacksmith's take on the subterranean city of Embla, which will feature in Rise of the Drow.. It should also be noted that the section contains rumors and whispers galore and a list of basic underworld exploration equipment, complete with gp-prices and weight. The pdf also offers a primer that explains types of caverns and phenomena in the underworld as a means of immersion.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a two column standard and the pdf comes with quite an array of beautiful full color artworks - the maps and art combined with the layout make this pdf truly beautiful. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



The AAW-crew Stephen Yeardley, Mike Myler and Jonathan G. Nelson have created a per se neat pdf here - a mostly spoiler-free resource that introduces players to the dynamics of the mega-module and its setting, all without spoiling significant portions of the things to come - in that regard, it can be considered an accomplishment. It should be noted that, if you expect a player's guide to deliver new mechanics or offer advice on how to create a character that perfectly fits (e.g. favored enemy/terrain advice etc.), this pdf does not deliver that, instead opting for a mostly fluffy introduction to the things to come in RotD. As a reviewer, I also feel obliged to mention that the list of underwold classes/archetypes might be considered minor SPOILERS for DMs or teasing/advertisement, so be aware of that.



If you don't mind that, though, you'll get awesome prose, a concise introduction for players and generally, top-notch production values here. The disappointed expectations regarding the classes and races teased here might prove frustrating though, and personally, for me sours the deal significantly. All in all, this player's guide is nice, if not 100% required or for everyone, and hence my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, whether rounded up to 4 due to the low price and high production values or down to 3 due to essentially providing quite a bit of advertisement (for class/race books to come), ultimately depends on the reader and what one expects from such a book. If you're looking for a crunchy type of player's guide, this won't deliver. For me, the fact that the teaser may result in expectations of fighting certain classes not being fulfilled weighs heavy and could more than annoy some customers, hence I will round this down to 3.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Rise of the Drow: Player's Guide
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Heroes of the Siwathi Desert
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2014 03:18:10
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of Purple Duck Games' Player's Guides for their upcoming, highly anticipated Porphyra-setting clocks in at 53 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD and 1 page blank back cover, leaving us with a massive 48 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Introduced to the setting's harsh realities by an aptly-written in-character narrative, we are introduced to the new races herein, first of which would be ancestor-worshipping Sibeccai-like humanoids, Fnolls and the godless, elemental-worshipping Zendiqi, the latter of which you may already know in more detail from one of the best Fehr's Ethnology-installments. These 3 races have in common that they are balanced, do what they set out to do and include 2- 4 racial traits (even properly listing bonus-types) - all three races have in common, that they properly portray the races, don't feature broken bits and can easily be dropped in just about every setting power-level-wise. Kudos! We also get takes on the 4 genasi-like races (and yes, I know Paizo has renamed them, but every time I write "Ifrit", "Oread", "Sylph" or "Undine" as a moniker for those guys, a part of me dies, so for the purpose of this review, I'll call the collective genasi...nothing to fault Purple Duck Games for, but still something that has me nerd-rage a bit at Paizo...) - these clock in at about the power-level of aasimar and tieflings, so they're appropriate for most campaigns that don't skirt the lower power-level echelons/point-buys. In their write-ups, some minor glitches have crept in - or rather, been taken over from the (imho less than stellar) ARG. Treacherous Earth, for example, still has no action type specified for it its use (why not make it su or even sp) thus making the action required to activate slightly more opaque than it ought to be - a flaw more on the side of the source-material, but still a flaw. Formatting-wise, speak with animals-like abilities could have used the (Sp) or (Su) in brackets, but that's me once again being anal-retentive. In the fluff-department, the roles of the genasi-like races is great and steeped in the cultural lore - which is awesome and something more settings should imho do - on the downside, the nomenclature might become somewhat jumbled. Air-genasi are for example called "sylph" and "habu" in alternating instances - why not establish the terminology in the text and then use the proper "habu"? Generally, that's a nit-pick, though - the expert writing and fluff actually make these races feel much more organic than I'm used to them being...so kudos!



After that, we not only get a full-page, gorgeous map of the area depicted in this book, we also are introduced into the politics , governments and social structures of the desert, including additional supplemental settlement qualities taken (and properly credited to!) Skortched Urf' Studios supplement on that topic - great to see such awareness! A total of 7 such qualities are here. A total of 4 wholly diverse settlements, complete with statblocks (and including a tent-city and a tomb city!) are up next and help getting much easier into the meat of the area. Have I mentioned the in-character narratives for the respective settlements? Yeah, cool!



The Five Spirits Master-PrC, a 5-level PrC has 1/2 BAB-progression, up to +3 save progression for all saves, d10, 4+Int skills per level and are all about the elemental monk styles, elemental fits etc. The PrC also gets a terrain-ignoring stride related to the elements, thus allowing the character to pass lava, water etc. - but requiring a full-round action as well as an end of the movement on solid ground. Limited, yet cool take on the stride and not one that can be broken easily. Now next would be an ability that may seem problematic - the blending of aforementioned djinn-related styles, activating more than one at once and getting each level an additional style active. I'd complain about multiple styles, but seeing how limited their selection is, it works. Furthermore, the PrC gets a cool mechanic that allows you to counter AoOs with elemental fist attacks, makingthe former make much more sense. And if all of that weren't enough coolness, the capstone allows you to use the style-endgame abilities as counters. And as the icing on the cake, the CR 13 sample character uses Rogue Genius Games superb talented monk-class instead of the regular one, netting you a superb sample character AND acting as a cool teaser, since all rules required to run the character are in here. Kudos for the best elemental monk-take I've seen in quite a while - I actually want to try this one out!



The Djinn, Marid and Efreet Binder summoners are all archetypes made in the vein of the shaitan-binder archetype - completing the classical elemental cycle of options - but once again going above and beyond what was required by sample statblocks and using material from the must-have Advanced Options: Extra Evolutions-book by Rogue Genius Games - again, using material, with an own spin and sans requiring other books. All the previously challenged summoners will rejoice at their new genie-eidolons. While still related in form, balancing and abilities to one another, they feel distinct enough to set them apart, though, again, as a nitpick, I would have preferred slightly more unique tricks for the respective archetypes to set them apart, but that's me complaining at a high level.



Fans of psionics can rejoice with the inclusion of the new Guardian Psychic Warrior Path - though this one has a weird wording ambiguity - on the one hand, the path renders immune to fear, one the other hand it nets a scaling bonus against fear effects. I *assume* a formatting glitch here, with the first instance of the word supposedly referring to the spell - see, and that's why I complain when spells aren't properly italicized. Expending the psionic focus to execute AoOs of foes moving through threatened squares fits with the concept, though - so generally, a nice path. Mahdi clerics wear veils, muffs and gags and can be considered as somewhat neutral-themed ascetic clerics that pay for the ability to daily choose the alignment domains with slightly less spells. Again, nice concept and rather visually cool. The sample character also uses a feat of domain channeling (again, from Rogue Genius Games) and also features two nice spells. The Muhartik Slayer rogue is all about slaying those pesky divine casters and similar infidels and makes for a rather effective foe of casters - neat and imho more flavorful in execution than similar mage-breaker archetypes I've seen! Cavaliers may now pledge allegiance to the Order of the Sundered Spear - no mercy, no retreat - dangerous stipulations - somewhat offset by the target of a challenge getting one counterattack per AoO performed against the cavalier. OUCH! That ability is powerful, yes, but on the other hand, the no-nonsense edict is also harsh, so I'll let that one stand.



Oracles of the Flames, Wind, Waves and Stone mysteries get additional revelations - and mostly, they're rather cool. One is a bit problematic, though - parting any size of water body (including oceans!) to provide passage feels problematic - while the caveat for x passing characters is fine, the overall wording is slightly problematic - as written, it can be inferred that the parting of waves is maintained for the whole body of water. But consequence-wise, that could entail grounded ships (no caveat but no. of crew!), flooded fields etc. - a slightly modified fluff-text that does not infer parting the waves for the whole body, instead implying more of a bubble would be more in line with how the ability is supposed to work - and while feeling less like Moses, it would probably result in less DM headache. Once again, a rather nitpicky complaint on my part, though. Pact Lords make for cool fighters that get the cavalier's tactician, is better at helping others and grant bonuses to allies via commands. Solid! 12 new feats allow for godless healing, better attacks versus vehicles (yeah!) or the option to add hieroglyphs to scrolls, granting metamagic effects to already created scrolls - cool! Add prophetic dreams and further feat-extensions to fighting styles (already mentioned briefly in the PrC) and we get a nice array here with quite a bunch of roleplaying potential. Want to know more about these style extensions? What about dealing +1 fire damage, +2 CMD when moving 10 ft or more? Force foes out of their styles/stances when active upon a successful strike? Or what about a feat that nets you DR 2/-, but sees you dissolve into sand at -1 hp? Yeah, damn risky, but also so cool!



On the spell-side, the antidivine field will become a staple for just about all undead in my games! What about a curse that turns all food to ash in the eater's mouth? Banquet of Ash indeed! Or the cantrip that deals no damage, but lowers initiative of the target? Seriously these spells are on the high-concept end of the scale, in both execution and ideas - and that's by someone by now VERY jaded regarding spells - I've reviewed more than 2000 spells for PFRPG so far and some of the ones herein still stood out to me.



Speaking about standing out -what about a book of Scheherazade-style tales, cool animal-totem-style masks, a more controllable rod of wonders, an artifact throne and even a sand-traveling folding boat-style item are in here as well. A massive 4-table list of mundane equipment available, including sources like the legendary Luven Lightfingers-book is also part of the deal- as is the cool, somewhat Go-like mini-game Arbakampsi, first pioneered in the Purple Duck Storeroom series - and yes, the game is actually fun - I had the opportunity to play it a couple of times.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, if not perfect - especially spell italicization isn't 100% consistent throughout the pdf. Still, nothing too bad. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and with cool full color artworks and great cartography and the pdf is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The pdf is also studded with unobtrusive hyperlinks for your convenience.



Authors Perry Fehr and Josh McCrowell have delivered a damn fine player's guide here - while I did not look forward to reading it at first, the generally balanced take on the races and content herein quickly dispersed my initial reluctance. The duo has managed to craft cool, iconic settlements and quite a few high-concept crunch nuggets I did not expect. Better yet - what I at first expected to be a bunch of yawn-worthy variants of established races interspersed with some original ones turned out to be valid, balanced recombinations of racial traits into a fitting, holistic whole - beyond the crunch, mainly thanks to actually getting solid and proper identities that root the races in the lore of the setting. Add to that the exceedingly cool PrC (just when I thought I was too bored to ever enjoy an elemental monk/martial artist archetype/PrC again...), massive use and awareness of pre-existing and beloved rules and we get a player's guide that actually fulfilled my expectations. Beyond simply offering crunch upon crunch, this book makes sense, draws you in and makes you excited about the setting and the stretches of land depicted herein; yes, even excited about the interpretation of gnolls and sibeccai-like humanoids. And then, there's Arbakampsi as a cool bonus alongside the new pieces of equipment. All in all, this pdf has over the course of this review been exposed to some of my nastier nitpicking habits and while it had to leave some small feather, it stands surprisingly well and intact, with the Zendiqi and the godless healing options making for cool rules to scavenge for low magic campaigns beyond the scope of this pdf. While not perfect or flawless, this player's guide is still one great achievement and imho a step up from the first one - my final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform - whether on Porphyra or elsewhere - desert-dwelling heroes (and DMs) should take a look...

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heroes of the Siwathi Desert
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Village Backdrop: Riverburg
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2014 03:14:53
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



As always the case with this series, we are herein introduced to a village that comes with full settlement statblocks, nomenclature, habits, industry, rumors and all the nice things required to properly run it - but before I get into Riverburg, take a look at that map. Yeah. That just about says it, doesn't it? Don't want to - well, Riverburg is NOT your run-of-the-mill village. Created at the conjunction of 3 rivers, the village has been erected on sturdy poles and stilts rising from the sluggish waters of the rivers, offering barges and services for those seeking to travel the forests and rivers.



And, of course, the village hosts unsavory elements (represented by two statblocks) consorting with river pirates; enigmatic, moaning caves that can be found in the vicinity; potential for whole houses to be stripped (and probably let loose) - burnt-out barges floating down the river...believe me when I say that this little pdf has more adventure potential than many supplements of 4 times the size!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' crisp, elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed. It should also be noted that DMs can download player-friendly versions of the map on Raging Swan Press' homepage as a print-out/hand-out resource - which is plain awesome.



I was duly impressed by Brian Wiborg Mønster's offerings so far for Raging Swan Press and this is no different - in fact, I'm once again thoroughly impressed by this supplement. Iconic in construction and in the angle taken, this makes for a cool semi-floating town that just sparks the imagination without rethreading tried and true terrain. This village backdrop is simply glorious, sparks the imagination, ahs adventure-potential galore and makes for a superb investment for the low and very fair asking price - final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval for one superb village. I look forward to seeing more of Brian Wiborg Mønster's creations! If this great backdrop is any indication, we have a talent on the rise here!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Riverburg
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Rite Map Pack: Ocean Cave
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2014 03:11:42
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This map pack is 35 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page map, 16 pages of full color blown-up versions of the map and the same amount of pages for the b/w-versions, so what's on the map?



The map depicts a grotto on the ocean, on the left side a coastal path leading alongside the ever-darkening waters. Inside of the cave, a raised level which features a dais and an entrance to what could be the cellar of a tower loom as a kind of hidden harbor, while at the shore within the grotto, a damaged boat looms.



Conclusion:

The map is a beautiful as we've come to expect from Tommi Salama's excellent cartography, with beautiful water, stellar work and helpful, unobtrusive grids. The pdf comes with full bookmarks t the respective map versions. As a cool additional bonus, we get high-res jpgs of the map with and without grids for those who want to use this online/via electronic devices. That being said, the map, due to aforementioned cellar/tower-like elements per se is slightly less versatile than I would have hoped - the entrance to the round structure, the dais - these conspire to make this map just a tad bit than it could have been - that being said, this is still a neat, beautiful map, testament to the immense talent of Tommi Salama and well worth 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rite Map Pack: Ocean Cave
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Parsantium: City at the Crossroads
Publisher: Ondine Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2014 04:26:01
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive city sourcebook clocks in at a brutal 178 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a whopping 172 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Author Richard Green kicks off the book by telling of its genesis - the city's inspiration would essentially be a Byzantium-inspired metropolis, closer to far-east influences than our real world equivalent was - and of course, as one glimpse at the superb 2-page map by Jonathan Roberts (Yes, THE Jonathan Roberts - you know the Fantastic Maps/Song of Fire and Ice-cartographer!) tells us, the city is vast and detailed. Nestled around a massive river delta flowing into the ocean, the city covers the north and south banks with its sprawling streets, while the merchant quarter, situated on the central island, the walls, the extents of the harbor and docks just feel right- all of these, at a glance, convey the believable illusion of a city that actually could have existed and developed. It may be a small thing, but people tend to note when settlements feel inorganic, constructed. This one feels RIGHT, including wards extending beyond the confines of the city walls, which also separate the respective wards. Even the array of streets, the bridges - all of these feel like they belong and this is seriously not an easy task to achieve, especially for a city of this size.



Now, as befitting of a city f this size, we kick off with an overview from the ruler, the so-called Basileus Conrandias XVIII and his less than popular consort (nicknamed Mendatrix - two brownie-points if you can guess the meaning, though the pdf explains for the less-linguistically-inclined among us) to the city's history and quarters and development. With a good overview out of the way, you'll be happy to note that the city gets a full-blown PFRPG-city statblock complete with demographics etc..



Now if you've been to Athens, Rome or Venice (or less famous: Rothenburg, Dresden...), you'll notice something peculiar about these cities - they have a kind of living, breathing flair, their very own mythologies steeped in stone and ready to be discovered at your leisure, if only your eyes are open and your mind (and literature/language-skills) sharp. Much of this has developed slowly over the ages, with the very rocks of the pavement, the ancient monuments speaking a language for those inclined and willing to hear. Ah, how glorious must that be in a world, where fantastical elements actually exist? Well, here's the crux - Parsantium's massive history, including a timeline stretching almost 2000 years, actually manages to lay the foundation for just such an endeavor - the basic mythologies of the place are in place.



Now a city sans people is just a ruin waiting to happen and the roles of the races, including dragonkin and gnolls as well as the default-races and their respective roles within the context of Parsantium are provided - but how are your player characters going to fit in? Well, know my ranting about boring character traits? Well, herein are traits (called character backgrounds) that allow you to customize your character within the confines of Parsantium.. Now in contrast to most traits, these actually come with extensive fluff-text detailing the precise implications and possibilities growing from these, making them so much more compelling. On a nit-picky side - why not call them properly "traits"? Why are the bonuses of the backgrounds untyped and not trait-bonuses? Nothing to break the content here, but good indicators that the focus on the narrative potential here is warranted.



Now beyond people, of course, government (with classic style b/w-artworks for the rulers), law and structure in general shape a city's life and experiences - and from bureaucracy, the Strategos, tribunes to praetor and council and yes, even FINES for crime and the respective punishments are included here. Don't believe these influence and mirror a society/are important? I'd suggest Michel Foucault's "Discipline & Punishment" - and the punishments detailed here actually conform much to the proper etiquette of punishment and the city's culture technology-level work well with these in context. Then again, you might not care at all, but the culture science-teacher in me rejoices when I see things make sense.



Speaking of making sense - from city watch to possible sources of entertainment like chariot races, local festivals, bathhouses, brothels and drugs to proper greeting and social customs and even superstitions, trade-routes and currencies, this chapter misses NOTHING of the constituting elements that make a city and its culture come alive. Commodities, healing and the trade of magical items also is covered in their own respective entries and, taking a cue from Raging Swan Press' superb offerings, a random table of different events happening in the city help further make the place feel organic. This also constitutes one gripe I have with the city - one of the reasons Raging Swan Press' villages and cities feel so organic would be the short entries of whispers and rumors and events available in tables for the DM to randomly roll - having one of these for the respective quarters would have made the city feel even more alive.



"I don't care about your academic squeeing, Endzeitgeist, tell me about what this does for me as a DM!" All right, what about a selection of campaign themes ranging from street gangs (perhaps with a Streets of Zobeck gone Byzantium tie-in?) to politics and intrigue or the return of a legendary rakshasa - Parsantium supports just about all play-styles you can conceive and the pdf offers some interesting guidance and inspiration for the DM in that regard.



Speaking of helping the DM - the districts are detailed in an exceedingly detailed manner that would blow the format of my reviews out of all proportions, so let's just say that the respective areas of the city are exceedingly detailed and also come with their own symbols, iconography and landmarks the local populace might use to tell you where to find certain areas.



Caravan-centric wards, forums, hippodrome, clubs for gentlemen arcanists (the Fireball Club - nice nod to the Hellfire Club...) - the wards come with first impressions, sample passer-by characters (fluff only) and places of interest. And yes, a 200+ feet colossal bronze statue is in here as well as just about all variations of sample businesses relevant for adventuring - taverns (also those frequented by the wizards of the esoteric order of the blue lotus +2 browniepoints if you get that allusion), shops, scribes, theatres, a garden mausoleum, mosques, a secret temple of Kali, a chinatown-like sub-ward , gambling halls on galleys and even a tasteful (and non-explicitly depicted!) BDSM-brothel and yes, even a flotsam town within the city - the mind boggles at the amount of surprisingly concisely fitted elements that constitute the sprawling metropolis and the adventure hook potential just about each of these has. Even before the tunnels that constitute the hidden quarter (including random encounter chart, btw...) and e.g. a mapped hideout for your convenience. From halfling camps outside the city to forests, the area around the city is also glanced at, just should you feel this wilderness itch.



If you require more motivation or some sample pro-/antagonists, you'll be happy to hear that no less than 16 organizations, from aforementioned mage-order to the friendly half-orc society and even more guilds provide for ample social networks for PCs to work and DM to use to tailor proper adventure potential....even before the obligatory noble houses and rakshasas influencing the city's fortunes. It should be noted, though, that none of the organizations provides distinct prestige-mechanics-related benefits - as fluff-only, they work, though.



Finally, religion of course shapes a city's life and feeling and Parsantium is no different - well, actually it is. At least for ole' Europeans like yours truly who isn't that used to religious multiculturalism from everyday life as some of you fellow American city dwellers might be - The eclectic mix of Byzantium-inspired gods and those drawn from the Indian and Chinese folklore makes for a broad selection that supports well the multicultural nature of Parsantium. It should be noted, though, that this supplement was released prior to "Gods of the Inner Seas" - thus, we get no explicit notes on obeisance, but also no inquisitions or sub-domains, restricting the gods to being rather rudimentary and, compared to the rest of the source-book, disappointing.



The pdf concludes with a massive index.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any particularly grievous issues - in fact, for a book of this size, the editing is very, very tight, so kudos! Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with scarce (but as far as I could tell) original and fitting b/w-artworks. The embroidered line of glyphs on the top of the page is nice to look at, but had a curious effect on me - during the course of this review, I skipped a lot of pages back and forth and the odd and even pages have a slightly different set, which means that staring at the screen while skipping pages might be slightly disorienting. Note that as an utmost nitpick, though. The pdf comes with EXTENSIVE nested bookmarks for your convenience, making reading Parsantium easy on the DM.



Superbly ambitious for a first product, I did not expect much from Richard Green's metropolis - and I'm seldom so glad to be proven wrong. Parsantium BREATHES authenticity and love - New York City meets Byzantium, modern metropolis meets swords & sorcery - this book actually manages to portray a believable, interesting, unique city that oozes the spirit of Al Qadim, early weird fiction and recent phenomena like the god of war-series, all while staying believable. Down to earth grit, high fantasy epics - this place supports everything and is better off for it -and manages to walk the tightrope and NOT become generic. Think Kaer Maga if a book of this size had been devoted to the city - only larger. The drop-dead-gorgeous map by Jonathan Roberts (which btw. also comes as high-res jpeg for your perusal) is just the icing on the cake here. Not since books like 3.0's Hollowfaust or since the Great City by 0onegames have I read a city and actually wanted to visit it. This is on par with how iconic Zobeck by now is - and feels thoroughly, wholly RIGHT. Concise. Well-conceived. A stunning achievement indeed! Now I wouldn't be me if I had no complaints now, right? So yeah, what hurts the city is its obvious intention to be multi-format. Don't get me wrong - I don't object to fluff-centric books and honestly, by now I'd rather have good fluff than the oomphteenth bad archetype, feat etc. But e.g. the Esoteric Order of the Blue Lotus screams at least PrC to me. The organizations practically demand prestige benefits. Concise addiction-rules for the drugs and beverages would have been so cool...what about vehicular combat rules expanded from UC for e.g. the chariot-races? Yes, I know - not the intention.



But these things, at least to me, are the only things missing from this glorious city. Now don't get me wrong - look at the price-point - exceedingly low. Note that this has been made sans kickstarter. Add the SUPERB writing and good production values and we still get a city that should find a home in Qadira, in Al-Qadim, in Conan- and similarly Sword & Sorcery-themed campaigns. We still get a superb milestone of a book, one of the best settlements available out there right now. There's a reason I evoked some of my all-time favorites in the above text - you simply won't find any comparable resource out there. This city is unique and daringly so, bravely carving its own niche and making for one of the most furious freshman offerings I've seen in quite a while. Light on the crunch-side yes, but any writing that manages to draw me in to the extent I want to walk a city's streets does it right in my book. Parsantium establishes one superb framework, one I hope will get ample crunchy books and especially, adventures to support it. If the muses and fates be just, this will be remembered just as fondly as e.g. Freeport in the years to come. Yes, the absence of whispers, rumors and events and lack of statblocks are minor downsides, but not enough to drag this down. The place deserves a chance - give Parsantium a visit! Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval. And yes, the relative absence of crunch and somewhat disappointing entry on the gods are the only minor nitpicks I could muster. For the exceedingly low price, this is a true steal!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Parsantium: City at the Crossroads
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Village Backdrop: Summerford
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2014 04:22:28
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



As in all installments of the village backdrop-series, we get a whole array of supplemental information -from the village statblock to rumors, nomenclature, notable places to information on trade and industry and even dressing habits, the supplement covers quite an interesting array of information to run the village.



Life in Summerford is good - while at first simply created as an outpost, the discovery of iron in the nearby renamed iron hills has seen the village grow and prosper, with the dominant local family even slowly gaining a chance to reach for nobility - at least in theory. In practice, unrest is brewing between the mine and the trading outpost of Summerford, for the mines have been besieged by kobold incursions and thus, tensions are slowly rising. 6 events and 3 sample NPCs add further color to the pdf.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' crisp, elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed. It should also be noted that DMs can download player-friendly versions of the map on Raging Swan Press' homepage as a print-out/hand-out resource - which is plain awesome.



Author Alex Connell delivers the ascendant village to the descending Golden Valley - a mine on the rise instead of one on the decline and it per se is a nice village indeed, with quite some implied adventuring potential - including potential conflict between the old ways and the new as well as between miners and villagers. There's quite an array of possibilities here. On the other hand, the village's map isn't as extremely evocative as some others in the series and the potential for conflict in the village itself is there, yes, but compared to other installments, it is a bit subdued. Now don't get me wrong - this is me complaining at the highest level, but I still feel that some inkling, some more pronounced spark/threat for the powder's keg that is adventuring, would have made this even better. Hence, I will remain with a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Summerford
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