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Mythic Monsters: Magical Beasts
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/19/2014 13:30:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Mythic Monsters-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction/how-to use, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let's take a look!



So this time around, we're taking a look at magical beasts - monsters in the truest form and some of the most iconic creatures of our beloved roleplaying game - but before we go into the meat of these beasts, we first receive mythic feats - a lot of them! 10 to be precise, and while some have been released before in Mythic Minis, their inclusion herein helps render the respective creatures more memorable. The Rending Fury tree and Pack Attack, as some of my favorite monster feats for bestial builds receive mythic versions herein.



From the first page of these beasts, you'll notice something - layout has been streamlined - when possible, two creatures now fit on one page, making the pdf more printer-friendly and less blank-space-prone than previous installments of the series - kudos for that! The first page thus is shared by the mythic Basilisk at CR 7/MR 3 and the mythic Behir - the latter lacking the CR-entry in the header. Mythic basilisks receive a damn cool caveat for their petrification - the poisonous blood of the creature can revert it! Behir breath reducing you to 0 Hp now utterly evaporates the unfortunate victim and their constriction is particularly nasty - especially since it can essentially AoE-constrict - glorious. It should also be noted that many creatures herein, including the Behir, receive alternate versions with e.g. the giant template applied or without them, in cases where the template has already been applied in the main statblock.



The CR 9/MR 3 mythic Bulette also receives these two versions - as savage feeding machines, not even mind-influencing effects can calm these beasts and their crushing leaps and magic resistant plates make for a cool protection. CR 8/MR 3 Girallons also receive this dual treatment and are just superb at rending foes apart, being even capable of rending off the heads of creatures - nasty!



Also at CR 8/MR 3, but sans the second version, the Dragonne may induce fatigue with roars and exhale breaths of sleep-inducing gas. Speaking of bad breath - the CR 15/MR 6 mythic Catoblepas has a slay living gaze, a horrible stench AND poison breath.



On the lower ends of the CR-spectrum, we receive Jacklweres at Cr 3/MR 1 receive a sleep aura and more alternate forms - okay, but not on par with the CR 1/MR 1 mythic...stirge. Diseased, able to bloat themselves with negative HP and swarming, these are a great example for low level threats. CR 5/MR 2 Perytons may rip the hearts out of living foes for mythic power and buff itself by flying over the shadow of targets - iconic, cool - two thumbs up!



The CR 6/MR 2 Leucrotta receives a mass suggestion-inducing whisper and they also receive a CR 5/MR 2 Crocotta-servant and the option to easily destroy objects.



The CR 21/MR 9 Thrasfyr enhances the cool tricks they can accomplish with their chains and get in a telepathic bond with a chosen, willing master. Per se, a nice beast, but some slightly more far-out abilities would have been appropriate and nice here. The Ypotryll at CR 18/MR 7 is all about deadly charges that rock the ground, ignores object hardness etc.



This issue's new creature would be the CR 5/MR 2 warpwolf - the nasty relatives of blink dogs, these creatures exist in a constant transplanar-flux that allows them to entangle foes with their innards, use teamwork feats solo and attack from different directions - and yes, that's only the tip of the iceberg. Once in a while, one stumbles over a design that is simply inspired and this is one of them - even among all those canine foes, the warpwolf stands out and puts to shame his hellhound, yeth hound etc. brethren - it's glorious in so many ways, in spite of its relatively low CR - brilliant!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are better than in the giants book, though I noticed minor glitches here and there - nothing too serious, though. Layout adheres to legendary Games' two-column full-color standard and is much more compact than usual - less blank space - more printer-friendly: Kudos! The pdf has no bookmarks, though, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.



Jason Nelson, Tom Philips and Alistair Rigg had an interesting task here - amp up these beasts without making them too flexible - that would contradict their bestial nature. Hence, while they do not sport as many unique abilities, those that are here have to count - and oh boy do they count: From the Peryton's proper heartrend to the behir's AoE-constriction (which finally makes this guy distinct) up to the superb and gloriously illustrated warpwolf, these beasts rock hard. The warpwolf in particular is just awesome, the type of critter that makes you light up, even after having read 2 bestiaries before that.



That being said, I still maintain that this time around, oddly, the high-CR-beasts feel a bit blander than usual for Mythic Monsters - when compared to their brethren in the book, their tricks feel more like linear progressions and don't add that much to the critters. This is me complaining at a very high level, though and in conjunction with the missing bookmarks the only reason I'm omitting my seal of approval. My final verdict will be 5 stars - now excuse me, I have to replace a lot of canine, lame foes with warpwolves...

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Monsters: Magical Beasts
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Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/19/2014 13:27:43
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Village Backdrop clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



What once was a lush forest inhabited by brutal savages, is now a desolate windswept moor where the waters of Blackraven Creek burrow into the acidic, infertile soil. Haunted by will-o'-wisps attracted in times long gone by, the plain is now home to peat-diggers - a harsh folk that reflects the unpleasant environment they live in. Unbeknownst to them, one greedy individual has struck a pact with the dread will-o'-wisps and the resulting tragedies have fostered an atmosphere of almost palpable anxiety -and a high danger-value.



Beyond the diverse population that includes the best and worst of people, the usual amounts of rumors, events, items to purchase etc., we also receive the stats of the hidden BBeG of the village as well as, rather cool, rules for the special moonshine sold in town - I love little mechanical pieces of crunch like this supplementing the fluff of an awesome village.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf's b/w-cartography (of which you can download player-friendly versions on Raging Swan's homepage for free!) is just as awesome as I've come to expect from the series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.



Okay, my first impression was "Oh yeah, another swamp/moor"-village - but know what? This is VERY distinct from anything you'd expect in a SWAMP. While Jacob Trier's village works with the tropes, it also subverts them -no degenerate fish-people, no voodoo cults, no looming lizard-men, instead painting a picture of a village of hard-working people that cover the broad experience of humanity and morality, suffering from a climate of fear invoked by some vile individuals. Fulhurst Moors may not be a nice place at first glance, but it can be the town where, once the loyalty of the populace is earned, the evil rooted out, PCs may find haven even if hunted by the king. Remote and believable, with a rich history to develop and hooks galore, Jacob Trier's village is well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors
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Journey to Cathreay
Publisher: Four Dollar Dungeons
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2014 10:58:09
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Journey to Cathreay clocks in at a massive 115 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 112 pages of content, so let's take a look!



The module begins with a massive explanation of the module for the DM - essentially, the module provides an extremely helpful explanation of the module's structure, making the modification on the fly very easy on the DM. A total of 5 maps are provided and a table of all encounters with CR, treasure, XP to be seen at a glimpse. It should also be noted that the pdf also comes with a 25-page NPC-book that has versions of the NPCs of varying strength depending on the number of PCs your party sports - one statblock for 4, 5 and 6 PCs. Indeed, DMs have an extremely easy time with this book - a reference for all animal tricks, beasts, items, rules and spells used in the module is part of the deal - i.e. you ONLY need this book when running it. No book-flipping. (And yes, these take up quite a bunch of pages, but a massive 67 is still left, making this a long module. This being a journey-module, we also get a massive write-up of a caravan resting, with rules for slashing through tents and the like as well as stats for bisons and their handlers - and yes, we actually get multiple stats for guards and handlers, making these guys more versatile than what most modules would provide.



This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion - believe me, you'd hate spoiling this one.



Okay, still here? Roco P'loma is a man with a reputation for making the trip to the domain of the Crimson Khan a couple of times and bringing back curious wonders - and now, his guards have ran off, claiming the caravan's haunted. P'loma, imbued with the power to negotiate by the Khan, offers a significant reward for the PCs and after signing the contract (yes, paperwork etc. would be part of the module's realism, though you can skim over this fast) and after that, the first subplot immediately kicks off - Acomat, the brother of Tegana and an important part of the caravan, is about to have the time of his life with gorgeous gal named Daisy. And after that, the worst, and last time of his life. In truth a doppelgänger, the creature wants to infiltrate the Khan's court and her plan is lavishly detailed. Know how usually in a module, such a plot works like "He is killed and replaced, the end." Well, here we get a full write-up, step by step of the infiltration process and thus also ample opportunity for the PCs to foil the gambit. This level of realism (including, btw., plainly hilarious moments of unobtrusive humor) is mixed with an uncommon assassination weapon (a giant rot grub - yeah...nasty) for the best handling of such an operation I've seen in quite a while. Whether the infiltration works or not much depends on what you as the DM want to do with it and how perceptive and paranoid your players are. After this, the PCs will have to make a short 4-mile trek to a dwarven bison ranch and escort bison to the caravan - in a dynamic skill-challenge type escort. And yes, bison are not that easy to ride or lead and accidents may well happen... This journey already uses a level of detail nigh unprecedented - take potentially poisonous berries bison may or may not eat, a wizard practicing his fierball-spell and unintentionally creating a stampede



The journey hasn't even started yet. Now if I go through the day-to-day things that happen, this review will become bloated beyond repair. So let me tell you: Yes, EVERY DAY of the 5-week journey has its own write-up of small things happening, landscapes changing, stops at settlements, interactions with ratfolk traders, taking down a fire drake so the caravan may safely progress (in its disturbing cave of 500 eyes) - there is a LOT going on and beyond these effects, it should be noted that 7 NPCs in here are of particular interest -interacting with them and driving forward their respective plots allows for maximum customization options for the DM. And yes, these interactions are relevant, but more on that later. Assaults by very smartly planned div-assailants and wonder galore await on this journey - what about an oasis, where peacock-feather-like reeds grow and turn towards those closer, making it look like the plants are watching you? (Including a neat, challenging combat here that makes nice use of the strange place...)



What about a Jiang-Shi that has managed to stowaway among the people of the caravan, making for yet another complex foreshadowing and multi-part plot that may see an innocent man and his goat exiled. Rescuing a desperate man from a cyclops? Crashing an arranged marriage via trial by combat and potentially winning the freedom of a lady by besting her less than enthusiastic husband to be's champion? An Elk-hunting mini-game with a megaloceros? The wonders of the journey are plenty and varied indeed.



On day 32, the PCs finally arrive at the Khan's winter palace to a roaring welcome party...during which, their employer bites of more than he can chew and unintentionally makes a bet with the Khan that he (or another of the NPCs with their various plots that the PCs unearthed during the trek) and the PCs can take on Sennacherib. What is Sennacherib, you ask? Well, it is a legendary Tendriculous. , dare I say, MYTHIC adversary. Yeah. And before you say anything - I've been using mythic foes as legendary adversaries in my campaign for quite some time and they make for superb bosses against non-mythic groups. However, they imho require proper foreshadowing and the module does a superb job - a fully depicted legend of the creature, extensive and superbly written, makes clear from the get-go that this beast is indeed something to be feared. Even the end of the creature, should the PCs and their NPC-ally prevail, is the stuff of legends. By the way, this is not the only legend provided in the module - remember the fire drake's cave? I failed to mention that another legend the PCs may have encountered hides the true treasure of the place in an unobtrusive puzzle. Yes. This module has it all.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch - I only noticed 2 minor typo-level glitches à la "Ncps". Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column standard that is exceedingly easy to print out. The module comes with a handy NPC-book, varied stats, includes all the rules required to run it, is extensively bookmarked with nested bookmarks and has two versions, one optimized for the US-standard and one for the A4-default used in Europe - awesome! A total of 6 solid full color maps are provided, also as high-res jpgs and the artwork is provided, handout-style, in the back of the module, allowing you to print them out and hand them to your PCs. The artwork is solid, btw., and adheres to a very old-school aesthetic.



The last 2 modules by 4 Dollar Dungeons made my top spot of my top 10 list of 2013. "Horn of Geryon" can be considered an apex of the art of wilderness sandboxes. "Panataxia" is one of the best dungeons/planar modules I've ever read, regardless of system. Then this one hit my review-list and I was concerned - caravans? Urgh. Two massive potential issues seem to be ingrained in such a scenario - a) the caravan-rules introduced in Jade Regent just aren't that good and b) such modules are by definition railroads.



"Journey to Cathreay" deals with both issues remarkably well - by ignoring the caravan-rules and replacing them with STORYTELLING. You know, with developments, cool wilderness-scenery and a ton of things to do. The second gripe is harder to handle, though - how do you change that up? Via great NPCs and subquests galore the DM can introduce on the fly, by providing varied challenges and options to amp up or slow down the pace whenever required. Then, there would be the potential issue with the final boss and its mythic nature (and no, you don't eed mythic adventures to run this module - all rules required are provided) - the module manages to properly foreshadow it and makes for a truly epic final fight that is challenging, yes, but NOT unfair. Each combat, each encounter comes with round-by-round tactics, interesting terrain-features and at the end of each section, all relevant skill-checks/DCs are collated into a handy box, available at a glimpse.



Richard Develyn seems to be out on a quest to demonstrate mastery in all types of module possible - this journey breathes the spirit of wonder so often lost in fantasy, the sense of exploring a truly different world. The level of detail provided is simply staggering and the world feels ALIVE. It may be ugly at times, it may be hilarious - but over all, these NPCs and places feel like they truly exist, like you could just fall from this world and wake up in the pages of this module. The diverse choices of the PCs and how they matter, the simply astounding, great writing, the unobtrusive, realistic puzzle (that can be brute-forced), the bison-herding mini-game, the hunting mini-game - adventuring is not always a fight to the death and this module shows exceedingly well why one would embark on such a career. PCs actually get to do something that may be considered fun not only for the players, but also for the characters. Add to that the copious amount of read-aloud text, legends, ridiculously easy to use format, the fact that NOT ONE ENCOUNTER in here is boring/common, that creatures get smart tactics and actual background stories/reasons for their actions and we get a module that is on par with the superb predecessors, perhaps even beyond it.



Want to know how good this is? My players actually were sad when the module was over. They've been badgering me about more 4 Dollar Dungeon-modules ever since Horn of Geryon, and this module took them a long time to complete and unlike every caravan module I've ran before, not one of them lost interest even for a short time - invested from beginning to end, this module just blew them away. This beast is long and never loses its stride. When your players refuse to get up from the table at midnight, even though they have to go to work on the next day, when they ask for more roleplaying sessions because they are so into a module, then you realize you have one glorious beast of a module on your hands. This module cements Richard Develyn as one of the best, perhaps even the best, adventure-writers currently active for PFRPG. It's hard to describe what makes this so impressive, how this quasi-realism and wonder go hand in hand - let it be known that there are few modules that breathe the spirit of old-school gaming to this extent and combine it with all that is great about new school gaming for a result that can only be described as master-class.



Modules like this make reviewing worthwhile. Seriously. And then there is the ridiculously low price, the fact that you need no other book to run this. And the rather interesting fact that this module surpasses its predecessors in length. If this review is short on the actual story of the module, then only because I want YOU to experience this beast like I did - with eyes wide open at the wonder that oozes from every page, chuckling at the humor, grinning at the smart encounters and all the details. The writing is so captivating, it also makes for simply a great experience to read and honestly, I've read a lot of fantasy novels I found less engaging than this.



You won't find a better bang-for-buck-ratio anywhere. Seriously. This is, by any scale I apply, the apex - if there were 10 stars, I'd slap 10 stars + seal of approval on this book. This is the best caravan/journey-style module I've ever read. This is a must-purchase. This module makes me run out of superlatives to slap on it and, at least as far as I'm concerned, may actually surpass its predecessors. This is a hard contender for the number 1 slot of my Top Ten list this year and, barring the means to rate it higher, I'm going for the highest honors of 5 stars + seal of approval. I guarantee you'll love this module if the idea of a caravan even remotely interests you, if you're looking for this sense of wonder the old grognards always complain about being absent from most current modules - here is where it lives and breathes and has been blended with all the comfort we now expect.



Why are you still reading this ramble? Seriously, buy this.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Journey to Cathreay
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Village Backdrop: Vulcanbridge
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2014 07:29:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Village Backdrop clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Vulcanbridge is perhaps one of the most interesting, unique settlements in the series so far - situated on a volcanic plain, the result of gnomish ingenuity and dwarven labor, Vulcanbridge is constructed as a hanging village on several stable pylons - which is rather neatly represented in the gorgeous map of the settlement.



It should be noted that the pylons of course suffer from tectonic issues and hence, the settlement, nowadays more dependent on delving below the liquid lava towards the gems and ores hidden within the bowels of the earth. The unique construction of the settlement and its frontier's position are also represented in the items for sale, the rumors and unique tools that characterize the uncommon and dangerous, extremely unique conditions present in and around this village.



The rather unique construction and surroundings are also represented in the damn cool events and if these, at times, potentially high-stakes adventure seeds are not enough, the incognito gold dragon in the town may make for one rather intriguing complicating factor.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf's b/w-cartography (of which you can download player-friendly versions on Raging Swan's homepage for free!) is just as awesome as I've come to expect from the series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.





Mike Welham's Vulcanbridge is, hands down, one of the most unique settlements I've seen in the whole series and ranks with its ingenuity and cool options that brim with adventure potential galore as a superb example how an extremely gifted writer can enrich one's game in a scant few pages - the implications for cutting edge industry and the will of mortals to succeed against the odds of hostile terrain, even in a fantasy context, just makes for a surprisingly vivid and unique backdrop that grips one's imagination - this is one of those settlements your PCs will come to love, one of the places they will want to save, no matter what. Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Vulcanbridge
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Underworld Races: Dweorg
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2014 07:26:39
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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



As with the other installments of the Underworld races-series, this one kicks off with a massive mythology of the subterranean races, a collective origin history that can be potentially transplanted from Aventyr into other settings, should one choose to do so. From there on, the dweorg are described - amidst the numerous dwarven races forged from the ancestry of the dvergr, the dweorg could be called those most in line with conventional dwarvenkind in other campaign settings - apart from better craftmanship and gruff demeanor (penalizing social skills when interacting with upperdwellers), they adhere to the regular dwarven virtues and attributes. Not only are the dweorg the dwarves closest to surface dwellers, unlike many races of the underdark, they are not utterly evil and rather an unappreciated vanguard against the threats from below.



Now as has become the tradition with underworld races-pdfs, we do receive quite an array of new favored class options, which include faster extract preparation (which may be a bit situational), better fighting with bludgeoning weapons etc. and "dwarven" weapon specializations. On the very nitpicky side, reductions of arcane spell failure by 1.5% per point may be a bit wonky -while the default is to round down, I'd complain here, but the fact that sufficiently consequent investment in it nets a heavy armor proficiency might be considered a cool idea, so I'll let that one slip.



Now we do get a racial archetype, the dwarven Smithkin fighter - endured against the elements (and non magically to boot), these guys are better craftsmen of things both mundane and magical, are limited to bludgeoning weapon groups regarding weapon training and may imbue weapons first with the flaiming, later with the flaming burst quality. An okay archetype, I guess, and one that receives a glorious full-page full-color artwork, but also an archetype that simply isn't that interesting.



A total of 7 racial feats are provided and one in particular is BRUTAL - clanmind lets you share in all teamwork feats of any dwarf from your hometown for 1 round wis-mod+1/2 level times per day as a swift action and also improves aid another - this makes the dwarven phalanx of home defenders VERY dangerous. Conversely, gaining fire resistance 5, 10 and 20 and the same for cold just elicited yawns from me - not bad, per se, but also a far shot from being interesting.



Now item-wise, we are introduced to a new spice, fungal rope and the new material called liavous crystals, which mimics adamantine, but is cheaper - at the cost of losing all potency when exposed to sunlight. On the magic item side, we have this installment's winners - the Pocket Anvil and the Instant Forge - with the anvil coming with full rules for being used as a missile (I sneak attack with an anvil!) and the forge making adventuring + crafting feasible. Two thumbs up for these! Finally, we are introduced to 3 (6 if you count the variants) new spells: One that grants the subject knowledge of dweorg history and variants of the cure x wounds spells that have greater effect on dweorg and a stew that greatly increases hit point recovery rate when resting.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches, though a couple of bolding and similar minor glitches can be found herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full-color standard with rocky borders and awesome graphic elements, making this a beautiful, if not very printer-friendly pdf. The plentiful original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



All right, Mike Myler & Julian Neale's Dweorg...I'll come out and say it, when compared to other Underworld races-pdfs, this one feels a bit...bland. The FCOs, feats and the relatively lame archetype didn't wow me (with one feat exception) and the spells didn't either. The pdf is relatively brief beyond the general origin myth provided in all Underworld Races-pdfs and while the production values are great and awesome, the two magic items alone can't really pull this one back up - it simply does not deliver that much inspired content for a brief pdf and falls slightly below even the book on drow - had we received more culture, more information on what makes dweorg unique, whether crunch or fluff, I would have felt otherwise, but as written, this one simply felt a bit flat. And yes, this may be rather harsh, but I actually considered it somewhat boring, especially when directly compared to the no way perfect, but inspired book on the dvergr and their great archetype. My final verdict will hence clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 because the items and great production values do not deserve a 2-star-rating.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Dweorg
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Dragon Tiger Ox (Wuxia/Wushu Source Book)
Publisher: Little Red Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/17/2014 07:35:11
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book by Little Red Goblin Games clocks in at 172 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 7 pages of SRD (with some pages duplicating text from the adventure at the end of the book), leaving us with 163 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Now if you've been following my reviews, you'll know that I usually take apart crunch for races and classes in a pretty detailed manner. The problem with a book of this size and my approach is evident -were I to do that here, the review would bloat beyond compare. Hence, I'll be somewhat less detailed than usual in this review, picking out the cherries and the less than awesome components and highlighting them. Got that? Great!



So after a short introduction to the topics and tropes of WuXia/Wushu and the implied setting of Dragon Tiger Ox, we delve into the basic supplemental pieces of information. A basic introduction to a third alignment axis in the guise of honor can be found here, as can be new uses for knowledge skills to identify styles. Unlike in a standard assumption of a setting, each character receives a favored style through which they progress, counting their class level as BAB-prerequisites for the purpose of taking these feats. A similar terminology is established for ki-level - that means it class levels in a ki pool gaining class.

Additionally, a new combat maneuver may be used to disrupt styles, canceling their benefits and allowing the maneuver's executor to increase the amount of time entering a style takes. While not particularly effective in itself, the maneuver lends itself to a versatile array of possibilities to follow up on. What rather impressed me with its simplicity and yet, genius, would be the diversified martial arts - headbutts, kicks etc. all get their own damage-columns and bonuses - kicks tend to do more damage, but inflict the new off-balance condition on a character executing them. This system not only immediately makes flurry of blows actually interesting, it turned out to work in a rather balanced and cool manner when I tried it out. These alternate rules indeed are glorious and should be deemed a nigh must to make monks and martial artists in general a more interesting playing experience.



Now if you want to go for full-blown WireFu WuXia à la "Hero" and similar movies, an array of solid rules to achieve just that would be provided as well. On the downside, the suggestion to default gestalt as monks with other classes makes sense and fits the tone, but the lack of advice regarding power-levels of characters and adversaries when implementing these rules make them feel more like an afterthought. And yes, gestalting is explained in x guides online, but I maintain that introducing a suggestion like this should also be accompanied by a thorough examination of its ramifications.



Now for the more light-hearted among us, the bad dubbing rules that have you pantomime what your character means and another player say the words might not suit my tastes for a prolonged and serious campaign, mostly due to me trying to explore questions of ethics and psychology as well in my games, but for a fun evening with sake or beer, I can guarantee that the results can be utterly hilarious.



Now race-wise, aasimars and vanaras may choose new alternate racial traits (including a draconic breath weapon). The Guaiwu, one of the new races herein, would imho be just a tiny bit too strong with both darkvision and low light vision, though not by much - still a good example why the RP-rules from the ARG don't work as smoothly as they ought to and by no means broken. That being said, one could nitpick a bit here and there. The second race, the Samebito can be rather overpowered in any aquatic campaign - gaining fast healing in saltwater, these guys are per se a cool race, but one DMs should be a bit wary of in the context of nautically-inclined campaigns. Shishi are awakened from statues of foo lions/dogs and are celestial guardians - and here, I have not even the slightest gripe. On another note - the Guaiwu remain the only race that specifies its RP-cost, in case you were wondering.



A total of 11 racial feats allow half-breeds to have two favored styles, Gaiwu to shoot elemental blasts (with a VERY high range), gain blindsense under water, wield larger weapons etc. -especially the Gaiwu gain the brunt of cool tricks here, with one-handing two-handed weapons and gaining regeneration temporarily for eating oni-flesh being two examples that skirt what is balanced and what is cool. Generally, I do like the feats on their own, but the concentration of awesome tricks for the Gaiwu and relative lack of coolness for other races bespeaks a kind of favoritism here. Seeing how the race already is powerful when compared to the base races, the damn cool and iconic toys might push them over the edge for *some* DMs, so please read this one carefully. The good news would be that the options provided by themselves are not broken.



A short primer on languages had the linguist in me excited, though the level of detail of e.g. Necropunk's supplements is not reached herein. Beyond a new wildblooded draconic bloodline for sorcerors to represent the eastern dragon's flavor and a new one for ki-centric sorcerors that helps them not suck at ki-tricks/unarmed tricks - at least not as much. The ki/metamagic synergy gained at higher levels also makes for an interesting design choice here. We also receive the ki domain, whose ki-powered channel and the potentially extreme increase of radius for it can easily break the balance when taken in combination with variant channeling or simply a powerful channeling specialist, so take that one with a grain of caution.



Next up would be the 3 new prestige classes – in all brevity, 2 are full BAB-progression classes, the third a ¾ BAB-progression. The Shifu would be a master of one style on the verge of developing his own style – hence, the PrC receives a secondary pool, so-called prowess points, to modify his strikes with. In an interesting take, some of the class abilities depend on the base-class used to class into this PrC. If you happen to know the movie tropes – these guys learn the hardcore martial arts – dealing the same damage as last round via mirror palm (explicitly working with vital strike!) and elemental blasts make for iconic techniques that are powerful, but limited by daily uses. Beyond these, the PrC also receives a disintegration-style killer strike and an insta-death attack – especially the latter is not something I’m generally a fan of in classes that are not the assassin. Yeah, it exists in the literature and movies, but still.



The second PrC herein would be the Jade Warrior, which can be summed up best as a kind of holy warrior that strives to become a balanced paragon of stoic virtues, a kind of anti-dishonor-paladin, if you will – though one powered by ki with quite a few more unique abilities than I would have expected – I particularly liked that their wounds inflicted on dishonorable targets resist magical healing and may leave jade green scars unless treated by restoration.



The third PrC herein would be the Wolong – a hardcore strategist martial artist that learns tactician and similar tricks. While I am not a fan of the general option of a mechanic that allows for counter-strikes and ties the mechanic to initiative (d20 vs. d20 minus 5 – too much variance), I do like the ability – for while I don’t enjoy this component of it, the option to pick their turn apart and e.g. take move actions at a different initiative than standard actions etc. makes for some very interesting changes in tactics. The ability to command allies pales in comparison and has been done in more interesting ways in other classes. However, with the very strong and iconic round-break-up, more would have been unbalancing. That being said – NOT a fan of adding int to damage, even with a max class level caveat – stacking up multiple attributes to base damage is too easy to game.



A couple of rage powers and rogue talents allow for the parrying of unarmed attacks via blades and even monk-style tricks for barbarians, just before we delve into the meat of the setting information with a general overview of the celestial bureaucracy under the emperor. An assortment of suggested deities and heroes is presented, alongside a massive chapter on the diverse sample of clans, orders and schools. If you have access to LRGG’s Heroes of the East-series, you’ll also notice some synergy with the styles established therein, allowing you to easier weave a tangled web of diverse martial traditions and ideologies competing for supremacy.



Of course, no such book would be complete without a new chapter on feats and Dragon Tiger Ox surely delivers in that regard with a massive chapter and MANY, many feats. Rather weirdly, the necessary index-table shows up after the first couple of feats, but that is admittedly a nitpick. The feats themselves, as befitting of the theme, make ample use of ki and allow non-ki-classes to wilder in this territory; It should also be mentioned that these feats have been built with regards to a kind of compatibility regarding the “Heroes of the East”-series, which generally is rather neat. The fact that the exceedingly cool upgrade to Ki Cannon does not feature the prereq-feat from the HotE-series may gall some people, though. Beyond a significant array of regular feats, we are also introduced to so-called Forbidden Feats – these feats come with significant benefits, usually in the guise of significant damage to the character, even attribute damage, but allow the respective character to regain ki-points. Surprisingly, I have found no easy way to cheese these feats – while it *is* possible, it would require some deep digging and uncommon race/ability combinations not usually available t PCs, so…well done. On another note – it is a bit weird that follow-up feats to Forbidden feats not necessarily are forbidden feats themselves – there seems o be some minor thematic inconsistency going on here, but once again, that’s a nitpick.



As a nice nod towards the glorious Ultimate Campaign supplement, we also receive some thematically appropriate story feats that let you prove that YOUR style is the best…or that your school should be considered supreme to your rivals. Another array of new feats would be introduced herein – qinggong-feats, which essentially represent spell-like abilities that are unlocked via taking the feats. These abilities, while powerful, are tied to ki and burn quite a lot of this resource. The dispelling strikes that allow you to counter magic via ki deserve special mentioning, though I consider the forbidden technique that allows you to convert incoming spells into ki a perpetuum mobile of a finite resource that does require careful oversight. And yes, THAT one can be cheesed, but only at high levels. So yeah, no significant issue.



A total of 5 new styles can also be found within these pages – from the elven Drambor that rewards tumbling through and over foes to the leg irons using Rattling Chain, the styles are one thing – unique. They breathe a kind of inspiration absent from quite a few published styles out there. Now personally, I consider the Sacred Lotus Style’s option to substitute caster level for BAB for the purpose of delivering touch spells to be rather nasty – while it allows for certain builds to actually work rather well, it also has the potential to go rather awry and become OP depending on the resources you allow as a DM – essentially, as soon as you have a touch attack based class like the warlock-variants (e.g. Interjection Games’ superb Ethermancer), you may wish to think VERY hard before allowing this style. It should be noted that this remains the exception in an array that is otherwise rather interesting – rope-darts, ki-draining – generally, this chapter deserves accolades!



Now the styles have been ample clue here – yes, there also is quite an array of new equipment herein, namely cool stuff like Bond-style throwing hats, flying guillotines etc. – the latter would constitute the one totally broken weapon herein – not only does it have an x5 multiplier (as if x4 wasn’t bad enough…), it also has a damage dice upgrade when used in conjunction with Throw Anything. And yes, it does require a swift action to retract, but still…I don’t see the fun in luck being rewarded this much. Other than that, Umbrella Spears etc. make for interesting options that even allow for some unique tactics.



Where there are mundane items, there are magical ones and this book does deliver in this regard as well – beyond jade and peach wood as materials, an array of ki-powered jade masks, fans with the powers of the wind, wooden oxen figurines, leadening weights, enchanted gourds – quite a diverse array, often with primary passive benefits and additional, active ones that require the expenditure of ki. New magical armor and weapon properties as well as advice on the pricing of these items can be found within this chapter as well.



Now remember those forbidden feats I mentioned? Well, there also are the immortal clans and styles – taught directly by the immortals, theses styles are very powerful, but have significant, story-based drawbacks that really have a massive oomph – from slowly turning into a tree to becoming utterly reckless, these styles work exceedingly well -why? Because they use the ROLEPLAYING aspect to codify drawbacks in rather unique ways that can enhance the game rather than only relying on sheer numbers. These are feats for mature groups, yes, but damn fine ones – powerful, narrative gold here!



Becoming immortals would also be a distinct possibility and perhaps, most appropriate when going Mythic anyways – yes, this also provides advice on mythic adventures in the cosmos of DTO – From Universal to path-specific abilities, a vast array of mythic versions of feats etc. mean that there indeed is *A LOT* of mythic content herein to use. That being said, the balance, even within the context of mythic rules, has been stretched very thin by some of these options – being treated as always having 1 ki point and adding yet another way of regaining ki can be combined with these abilities to make some truly fearsome combos – now don’t get me wrong; I don’t necessarily consider this inappropriate in the context of Mythic Adventures – but the options herein are powerful indeed and may be considered too much for some DMs not going balls to the wall-crazy with mythic adventures.



A total of 4 different mythic-exclusive styles further increase the fantasy-factor here – clad, for example, in righteous flames, delivering negative levels by the attack – the mythic styles are extremely lethal, but also risky – more so even than the regular immortal styles. Once again, the caveat that they’re intended for the higher power-levels of gaming applies, though these provide less potential for abuse than the vast assortment of path abilities due to story-based limitations of their accessibility.



The final pages of this book are devoted to different ready-made encounters, which, among others, feature the challenge of a 36-chamber pagoda – and generally, I do enjoy these encounters. Alas, the statblocks provided here are rather opaque and the one time the layout failed – no bolding, no clearly distinguished attack/defense-sections – mind you, the words are there, but presentation-wise, the statblocks feel jumbled when they’re not – a good example that layout *is* important.



Conclusion:

Editing can be considered very good; I noticed no significant glitches that would have impeded my ability to understand the content; formatting is less impressive, though – I did notice a bunch of glitches especially in the formatting department: From feat names at the bottom of the page, with the rest of the text on the next page to flawed paragraphs and the aforementioned statblock-presentation, this component is simply not that impressive. Which is especially surprising considering the layout – DTO features a beautiful, elegant full-color 2-column standard that manages to still be printer-friendly. However, the book also sports rather broad borders, which means there’s less text per page. Additionally, many a page sports quite a bit of blank space – some optimization there would have probably spared me quite a few pages when I printed this out. The artworks deserve special mentioning – especially the character art throughout the book is drop-dead gorgeous and on par with the awesome cover. The pdf comes with massive, nested bookmarks that allow for easy navigation.





Designers Dayton Johnson, Scott Gladstein, Caleb Alysworth, Jeremiah Zerby, Ian Sisson and Mike Myler have provided a massive, interesting book here – the love for the genre breathes from the pages and the fluff inherent in quite a few of these options remains compelling and cool. Now don’t expect a campaign setting here – this is a crunch-book with some setting-hints; If you’re looking for a setting, then this might not be for you. Continue reading, though.



Why? Because this massive book is essentially, for better and for worse, a huge grab-bag. Here and there, LRGG devises an alternate rule for something already codified by mainstream Pathfinder in another way, so an awareness and weariness of overlaps and stacking is required of prospective DMs. If you’re willing to approach Dragon Tiger Ox under this premise, though, you’ll be rewarded – unlike many books that feature complaints like the ones I fielded in the above paragraphs, Dragon Tiger Ox breathes the spirit of a true labor of love. In fact, rereading this review, it may even seem less positive than I intended it to be. Yes, there are potentially problematic options in here – but there is also a veritable treasure trove of options to scavenge, allow and use in your campaigns. From the iconic styles to the uncommon items, to the nice codification of ki that opens these tricks for a plethora of builds, Dragon Tiger Ox can be considered a great achievement and most importantly, a fun book.



Is it perfect? No. Do I consider all in this book good or balanced? No. Can I see myself using the vast majority of content herein? Heck yes! While not perfect, I do encourage any fan of WuXia or those wishing to run eastern campaigns to check this book out – it makes for a nice resource to have and its price is rather fair as well. Hence, in spite of some rough edges and the formatting glitches, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars with the caveat that a system-savvy DM should carefully contemplate the content herein prior to using it – some pieces might be inappropriate for some campaigns/rule-book combinations.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dragon Tiger Ox (Wuxia/Wushu Source Book)
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Treasures of NeoExodus: Dancing Dragons (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/17/2014 07:31:18
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Treasures of NeoExodus-series clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page of SRD/editorial, 1/2 a page advertisement, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The dancing dragons were the nunchaku of the Monkey Prince, NeoExodus' take on Son Goku and as such, are powerful, legendary tools - they are +2 mithral countering nunchaku that allow the wielder to choose damage type (bludgeoning, piercing, slashing) and upon disarms, the nunchaku animate the weapons of foes and have them attack the target. Finally, the nunchaku can blast foes in short-range, deadly cold bursts a limited amount of times per day.

As always, the installment comes with item cards for the weapon.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to LPJr Design's drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the pdf features a glorious original artwork of the weapon. The pdf comes in a more printer-friendly full-color version as well and while both pdfs have no bookmarks, at this length they need none.

Jeff Lee's Dancing Dragons are...AWESOME! Unique! Powerful! Iconic! With not one, but 3 relatively unique abilities, I thoroughly liked this one! One of the best installments of the series, my final verdict will clock in at full 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Treasures of NeoExodus: Dancing Dragons (PFRPG)
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Animal Races: Clan of the Dog
Publisher: Eric Morton Presents
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/16/2014 03:56:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment in Eric Morton's Animal Races-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!



The Clan of the Dog essentially encapsulates an array of therian humanoids of the adlet subtype that exhibit canine traits - race-trait wise, they receive either +2 Wis, -2 Int or +2 Wis, -2 Str - depending on whether size small or size medium is chosen, for both variants exist. Base speed clocks in at 0 feet for medium, 20 feet fr small member of the Clan of the Dog and these fellows also receive low light vision, scent, +1 natural armor (which later scales up by +1), a primary bite attack at 1d4 (or 1d3 for small ones) and a racial heritage:

A total of such heritages are provided, each netting either +2 to Dex or Con and allowing you to select Dog Clan Trickster or Dog Clan Heritage as a fighter feat, rogue talent etc., depending on the clan you've chosen. As a minor complaint here - the benefits of coyote, tanuki and fox are identical, which feels like a lost chance to add further diversity. Interesting would be the option for members of the wolf-clan to become a wis-based witch.



Now the interesting thing here would be the decision to utilize the aforementioned two feats, which can be gained via class features, as a catch-all gateway for a plethora of abilities to be chosen upon selecting the feat - faster movement, better bite and yes, even pounce and the iconic tripping bite. Oddly, fast movement is featured twice in the list. EDIT: I botched here - while the list of traits does include a couple of abilities like pounce or tripping bites, the feats themselves have a caveat that poses a level-limit for the traits themselves. I honestly have no idea how that could slip past me. I apologize.



Generally, though, I have to say that I am positively surprised by one of the most modular race-builds I've seen in quite a while. More than that surprised me the scope of this little pdf. I've read quite a few anthro-races so far and none really captured me. They mostly felt like race xyz with vaguely canine abilities slapped on. I never got the appeal of the concept, so I shrugged and moved on. What this book hints at and what sets it apart would be the cear of intelligent detail and proper research obviously put into it. What do I mean by that? well, beginning with proper age, height and weight tables, we move on to the conflict between law and chaos as basis for the clan's theology and central moral conundrum and go on to a short deity write-up of a moon-deity, extensive information on folklore of the clan on related monsters and humanoids like agathions and kitsune and delve further into heraldry (!!!) and its symbols, which also double as traits. This latter combination is a sheer stroke of genius. Regalia and resources, up to customs like usually assuming a higher status for those that walk before others - this pdf manages to cram more awesome fluff into its scant few pages than many books of thrice the size- to the point where I am honestly stoked to read more installments of the series.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard, is printer-friendly, elegant and nice. The b/w-artworks throughout the book are thematically fitting and the pdf comes excessively bookmarked with nested bookmarks.



"Urgh. Another anthro-race-pdf. How great is that. *sigh*" - that was in a nutshell my initial reaction. Boy was I WRONG. In spite of its brevity, this book manages to be better balanced and narrated, more captivating - simply a more intelligent book than many that sported much more pages. The implication that all Clan-pdfs will have links via genealogy etc. just adds further oomph to perhaps the very first truly compelling take on anthropomorphized animal-races I've seen. Full of detail and joyfully entwined fluff and crunch, this is actually not only a good supplement, it's fun to read as well. This is serious business in all the right ways - smart, intelligent, full of flavor and mechanically highly modular to boot. EDIT: My one gripe with this one was me botching big time - hence, the final verdict is upgraded to 5 stars + seal of approval!



Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Animal Races: Clan of the Dog
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Psychological Combat
Publisher: Everyman Gaming, LLC
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/14/2014 03:03:00
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page author bios, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Now this pdf kicks off with the crucial question - what is this pdf and why use it. First of all - feint and demoralize are the odd rules components out when compared to Pathfinder's otherwise streamlined combat maneuver mechanics - this pdf streamlines this to introduce a psychology DC. The DC would be 10+ HD+wis-mod or 10+sense motive bonus, whichever is higher - simple, easy to calculate on the fly - so kudos there. But also, at least so far, not that new.



Where things become more interesting would be with the new antagonize action. This can be used via Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate or Handle Animal, depending on creature targeted. Also depending on the skill you use, on your creature type in relation to the type you target, etc, we receive different benefits. If you successfully manage to antagonize a foe, you hamper their options to execute AoOs etc. - essentially, this would be "drawing aggro" from targets akin to Path of War's Warders, only for every character and better balanced due to a better scaling DC-system/presence of a DC in the first place. The pdf also fixes Demoralize by including the rules for fear immunity/mind-affecting components, fixing a whole in the rules. Kudos!



The pdf also (re-)introduces morale from the old-school days; When prompted, a morale-check is a d20+wis-mod - if the result exceeds your morale DC, you become shaken, scaling with degrees of failure - while from a rules-aesthetic point more in line with old-school gaming, this solution actually makes mathematical sense, since it cancels effectively the wis-mod out of the equation - this means you usually won't be hampered much by morale unless you botch big time, though. It also means that the roll boils down to d20 vs. 10+HD or 10+sense motive ranks + bonuses (sans attribute bonuses) - this renders quite a few creatures effectively immune regarding morale and also extends this to quite a few characters. While so-called morale events and their triggering modifiers can modify the roll Generally, I don't think the general morale-rules are particularly effective or well-crafted - while I did enjoy the old morale rules, I think a more streamlined solution less dependant on luck may have been a more prudent solution regarding this system.



After a short piece of aptly-written IC-prose, we are introduced to new class options to help against the effects of psychological warfare - alchemists receive a new cognatogen, barbarians a means to antagonize and deal damage as well as a mini-archetype focused on provoking foes. Brads may learn a new masterpiece to AoE-antagonize foes with a scathing satire and fighters may opt for a lightly-armored master of wits. Witches receive a hex which allows them to declare targets antagonized against her allies, while still reaping the benefits of the condition, while rogues receive talents for better feat qualification, feinting, teamwork feats and even the inquisitor's solo tactics. Beyond that, treating flanking allies as qualifying for teamwork feats is a neat advanced talent, while the rapscallion mini-archetype is better at psychological warfare and may sneak attack foes that are demoralized, etc. (go synergy with Dreads, for example...); the rapscallion loses evasion, though, so be cautious...



Speaking of inquisitors - these guys receive a new inquisition which allows them to use wis instead of int for the purposes of feat-prerequsites. The true winner here, though, would be the cavalier: Not only does this poor, under-supported class receive a nice new order with the Order of the Dazzling Lotus - an order devoted to heroics, righteousness and one's country and also a master of seeking retribution and inflicting scathing tirades upon his foes. Now Braggarts are perhaps one of the most interesting archetypes I've seen in quite a while - so inflated is their ego, these guys do treat EVERY combat as a performance combat. This mechanic and its way of bringing performance combats and its effects into game are elegant and damn cool - kudos! The second archetype for the cavalier would be the challenger, an archetype that has essentially an antagonize-based variant of solo tactics- interesting as well, if not as iconic as the braggart.



A total of 7 feats, each of which also comes with a second, mythic version, have been provided herein - combining maneuvers with antagonizing targets, ranged feinting,, using wild empathy for psychological warfare versus beasts. Especially interesting - the improved/greater variants of the maneuvers: Improved antagonize decreases the action-type it takes, while its greater variant allows you to plant a suggestion for a specific tactic in your foe's head. Generally, interesting and well-crafted feats.



The final page offers a total of 7 new traits, 4 combat, 3 social - tying wis to intimidate instead of cha, better resistance versus taunts, using cha to determine your psychology-DC or better intimidation versus kids and animals - all there. And yes, I do like the fact that there's such a trait in here - after all, we all knew that *one* woman or man down the street we ALL were afraid of, since we knew they hated children...



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is generally very good - I did not notice significant glitches that would have impeded my understanding of the rules presented herein. Layout adheres to a nice, beautiful and printer-friendly 2-column full-color standard with several neat pieces of original full color art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Alexander Augunas is not a novice designer, and it shows - the explanation of the rules herein is pretty concise, easy to grasp and mathematically feasible. The new antagonize option is glorious and something that has been absent from games for too long. Additionally, the fixing of demoralize et al. was long overdue. The supplemental class material and feats are all solid and humble pieces that show their coolness factor maybe not at first glance, but they do show up - and some gems herein deserve praise indeed.



So all glorious? Alas, no. The morale-system feels like an afterthought and quickly comes apart once one crunches the numbers - I'm not sure whether its relatively limited usefulness at higher levels is intentional, but its comparatively inelegant rules (especially if one knows Alexander's other work) strikes one as a system not implemented to its logical conclusion - also due to the relative brevity of morale events and their implications. My final gripe is aimed at the trait-section and the fact that the system, as written, has no options for characters who derive their psychological fortitude from their intellect - I do love the inclusion of cha, so why not cover int as well? Fiction is full of people whom you can attack all you want until you deconstruct and surpass their intellectual foundations, so that component feels like an oversight to me. The same issue applies btw. to morale - the basis solely on HD and sense motive does not survive casual contact with in-game logic, capable leaders with high cha or smart strategists - the system needs to be MUCH more complex to properly work.



Psychological combat is a glorious little pdf that suffers from the limitations imposed by its brevity - the streamlined system begs for further additions, complex mind-games and supplemental material - and while it does offer these bits and pieces, there definitely is room for quite a bit MORE. Add to that the fragile morale system and I cannot rate this pdf as high as I'd like to. Since this sounded pretty negative, let me spell it out - this is a great pdf for the streamlined psychology-maneuvers and the supplemental content; Just be aware that you may need to add minor bits and pieces here and there and don't expect too much from the morale-rules. My final verdict, for the glorious components herein, will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Psychological Combat
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Minor Artifact: Book of Eight Restful Retreats
Publisher: Christina Stiles Presents
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/14/2014 02:57:23
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 a page editorial (including author bio - nice!), 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!



If you've read the title, you'll have an inkling of what this is about - a book that is an artifact holds images, rendered in lavish detail -these offer direct portals to luxurious retreats for the hounded adventurer in the guise of different demiplanes. The author should be commended here - the crunch of the artifact is rock-solid - from taking items from the retreats to smuggling persons and items, the rules of this tome are surprisingly rock-solid - including even a means of destruction that can be considered logical within the framework of a magical world, so kudos!



This level of care thankfully also extends to the planar traits provided for the eight realms contained herein - all waited upon by spectral servitors and explained/detailed: Beyond better healing, both natural and magical, each of the realms comes with its own lavish benefits - ever ready mounts, a rowboat to tour the lake of a paradise of an oasis, cabins in lush perpetual autumn, a tower filled with vast arrays of tomes, tropical islands, a rider's perfect retreat, a manor with a huge maze - even ruins for the more misanthropic are provided - the perfect holiday retreat in a pocket...

..

... There's a catch, isn't there? Yes. There is the Beast of the Realm - every time one of these luscious holiday retreats is entered, there's a slim chance of the beast spawning - which is represented by the new "Beast of the Realm"-template - at CR+2, it can be applied to whatever you wish, makes the beast more deadly than its natural brethren...and worst of all, a superb hunter that is tied to the realm - the more targets it eliminates, the worse off are those remaining in the tome - first, healing boosts cease. Then, all in the realm have to save daily to avoid becoming shaken and further saves add to that and increase the penalty to the save...If you can't craft a compelling yarn from that, I don't know what to do - seriously, the idea is simple, yet glorious and reflecting a mounting sense of dread is...interesting. Plus - the beast can never truly be destroyed...it just returns in another form... A sample Beast is provided with a deadly CR 9 elder worg for your convenience.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf actually has two nice old-school full color illustrations by Indi Martin - not something I expected to see in such a small pdf - nice! The pdf also is fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Ian Harac delivers an iconic artifact that takes a cool, very magical concept ("I wish I could carry my holiday trips with me!") and translates it into a cool artifact that your players will love - the benefits are tangible, yet will not break a campaign and the inherent adventure hooks are plentiful. Especially in e.g. dungeon crawl campaigns or those, where the PCs just need a change of scenery, this ought to be a godsend. Fun, full of cool adventure hooks and available for a very low price, this is well worth a final rating of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Minor Artifact: Book of Eight Restful Retreats
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Oracle's Curse
Publisher: Tripod Machine
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/13/2014 15:04:00
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This little pdf on oracle curses clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!



A total of 22 Oracle Curses can be found within the pages of this small pdf, so what can they do?



Well, first of all, there would be "curses" that make you venerable or a child and then proceed to mitigate some of the penalties incurred by the respective age categories - especially interesting would be the Omen (evil)/Messiah (good)-like capstone of the child or the immunity to death from old age for venerable oracles - especially the latter makes adventuring for power-gain a race against the clock. Branded oracles are fire-themed and may touch foes to brand them, while chilled oracles receive a cold-themed suite of abilities, which thankfully is NOT an inverse copy of the branded curse - kudos for going the extra mile there, especially since the spell-duplicating touch actually receives a nice modification at higher level to set it apart!



For more...let's say, unpleasant fellow, the choleric and feral curses - though the former lacks a detriment - flying into rage as per the spell is a flat-out bonus that has no drawback attached apart from role-playing since control is maintained. EDIT: Yes, I am aware of the inability to cast; Still - too good. Not sold there. The animal-focused feral curse does a better job there. Being a focus of a prophecy and hence, exceedingly easy to scry upon makes for an uncommon detriment. The Ravenous curse has a weird EDIT: The following is no glitch: "You cannot eat for more than one ten minutes at a time." - it is just a hyper-specific penalty that only kicks in in certain spells and situations. A tad bit too specific for my tastes, but oh well.

Being phlegmatic, which hobbles your initiative, or frenetic, which translates to not being able to take 10s or 20s both are interesting, as would be what I'd call "icky curses" - odious curses you with stench, which is quite a powerful ability, yes, but also not nice for your allies, while infested nets you disgusting parasites - I somehow had a Dark Souls flash-back there for a second...



Waking Dreamers have a hard time focusing on what's around them in favor of esoteric spell-like abilities, while the more worldly sanguine curse does something similar, but instead grants you an aura of courage and helps at higher levels to avoid being staggered or falling prey to compulsions. There also is an array of curses that nets you a negative condition permanently - being wan allows you to pepper foes with negative energy/exhaustion effects, while being melancholic delivers the shaken condition, but helps against its worth brethren and against emotion effects at higher levels. The most powerful of these examples would be the catatonic curse, which smacks you with being staggered - and yes, this changes the playing experience drastically.



Some people are shunned and ostracized and whether you opt for the friendless or its bigger, more nasty brethren, the forsaken curse, both deliver impediments - from charisma not being applied to diplomacy (interesting!) to the inability to benefit from aid another, both make for compelling similar, yet very distinct cases.



I've kept my 3 favorite curses for last, though: Sedentary hobbles your movement down to 5 ft and neuters your effective str and dex-score down to curse level (which is oracle level +1/2 level in other classes), but also provides significant, flavorful benefits to offset this massive penalty. The Unchained curse is narrative gold and makes you a blank slate for alignment purposes, allowing you to do things no other class might dare. Finally, the merciful curse forces you to be a goody two shoes, yes, but it also nets you lay on hands and even mercies - and makes for a glorious curse for truly good characters to have.



The pdf also provides a bonus creature, the Rot Grub Swarm, which clocks in at CR 7 and is rather nasty.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - turns out what I considered a glitch was actually the intent of the pdf; I did not expect such a specific penalty. Mea culpa. Layout adheres to an easy to read, printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no art, but needs none at this length. While bookmarks are not compulsory at this length, having some would have been nice.



RJ Grady's Oracle Curses have a hard standing with me - I've read many curses and they are one of the trickier things to design. The level of hampering they have on the player character needs to be balanced on an individual level within the curse, while also maintaining a general sense of balance. That, and I've read *A LOT* of Oracle Curses. That being said, while I noticed some thematic overlap with other pdfs I've read, the mechanics per se actually try to be different, be unique, be compelling. The Oracle Curses herein did not bore me - more often than not, the curses do something mechanically unique or daring and thus truly enrich one's game. The pdf is not always perfect and awesome, but due to the very fair price point and its gems, well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Oracle's Curse
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Addendum: Empathy (Diceless)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/13/2014 07:42:17
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



This supplement details a new Lesser Power for LoGaS, namely empathy. the power costs 30 points and is based on Psyche, though long-term use also makes endurance important. As you probably have gleaned by now, Empathy allows you to open a gate to other minds, for better and for worse - causing or diminishing pain, even controlling lesser minds becomes possible, but at a risk - the channel opened goes two ways and makes one susceptible to psychic attacks, Icons and magic in general - empaths better tread carefully, especially when faced by the Dwimmerlaik's channeling. On the upside, they have an easier time with invocations since they can *relatively* easily glean True Names.



It should be noted that Empathy is neither aligned with Umbra, nor Eidolon and available to all. So how does it work? Well, first, one requires an empathic link - more of a passive ability that requires line of sight or similar long-range means of establishing contact. Sensing psyches, auras and reading items becomes possible. Mind reading and sensing thoughts and probing minds have already been hinted at in my above explanation. Where there's detection, there better ought to be hiding and camouflaging one's psyche becomes a distinct opportunity, just as well as the sending of messages or the manipulation of emotions.



Now if that is not enough for you, for 50 points you can instead gain advanced empathy to enter an empathic, problem-solving trance, increase healing, transfer energy from minds and environment, control lesser minds and even gain a measure of prescience.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not as good as in most Rite Publishing books - I noticed sentences with verbs missing and minor formatting glitches, though nothing that would break the book. Layout adheres to the gorgeous full-color two-column standard of LoGaS-releases and the copious original pieces of artwork are impressive and stunning. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.



Jason Durall's Empathy is a cool ability to have in LoGaS and comes with quite a lot of interactions with established abilities - and it covers most bases. Now where it somewhat falls flat is with regards to the Typhonians - being essentially fragments of a larger entity, some advice on handling empathy with regards to these extremely compelling adversaries, especially since these fragments potentially can be played, would have been helpful . That being said, this is me being nitpicky and chances are, you won't have an issue here. The ability per se is well-constructed and hence, my final verdict will clock in at a solid 4 stars - a good, if not perfect addition to LoGaS.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Addendum: Empathy (Diceless)
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Demiplanes: The Frozen Cage
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/12/2014 05:29:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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



The demiplane know as the Frozen Cage is...surprise: A cage! *cicadas chirp* Yeah, I know. So an ancient, daemonic evil has been imprisoned Now, a recent incursion of the vile crusaders of the shattered sky has almost brought down the defenses of the Wardens of the Frozen Flame, guardians tasked to ensure that dread Shektelmatu remains bound.



In the frigid, lavishly mapped wasteland, which may have regular gravity, but also enhanced cold/diminished fire magic and dimensional lock effects, a table of 50 entries of dressing provides frigid bones and remains of ancient battles to stumble across. emerging in the ruins of a temple, the PCs will probably be spotted by the dread host that seeks to unleash damnation - and the guys may actually want to parlay. while their leader is an insanely powerful antipaladin, the PCs may yet be fooled...or coerced. The potential for a frigid cat and mouse game in the planar tundra definitely is there!



Broken Bulwarks haunted by the living dead, flaywind bilzzards that may skin you alive, ashen grey fields of necromantically charged snow - the locations herein are iconic and pretty much can be read as a best of the environmental shenanigans of the classic Frostburn tome. Have I mentioned the fully depicted legend provided herein?



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press printer-friendly two-column b/w standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The original cartography for the supplement is cool and the pdf comes in two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer.



Robert Brookes' second Demiplane is once again one I'd definitely use - it's concise, the cartography is awesome and the theme and style suit my tastes very much - in the hands of a capable DM, this can be a very interesting combination of the frigid wasteland/undead battlefield tropes and fans of "A Song of Fire and Ice" - well, this could be considered an amped up, contained version of the North and its basic conflict. That being said...the Twilight Demesne has raised the stakes very high and while this demiplane is awesome, it is also much less versatile - it's a pretty much straightforward conflict with cool terrain and nice background thrown in the mix and does not lend itself to its predecessor's versatility. hence, my final verdict will omit my seal of approval by a margin for a final verdict of still awesome 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Demiplanes: The Frozen Cage
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[PFRPG] Player's Options: The Supplemental
Publisher: 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/12/2014 05:27:26
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final pdf of the "Paths of Power Player's Options"-series clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 11.5 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



The pdf kicks off with gladiator archetypes - not for TPK Games' gladiator class, but rather for that ne introduced in the first "Paths of Power"-pdf. If you don't have that one, rest assured, though, that you should be able to scavenge some ideas from these and reappropriate them for TPK Games' class, should you choose to. A total of 3 such archetypes are provided - the Auctorati being a galadiator who is not very deep in debt, while the Bestiarius is a gladiator with less of an urban focus, translating to different skills and skill bonuses as well as a specialization in slaying (and training!) animals. Finally, the Morituri may replace 1/day a skill-check's result with Knowledge (nobility), has a fixed reputation and seeks death at the hands of a worthy foe - this is represented via bravery as well as some restrictions in life-prolonging feats and a penalty to saves vs. death effects. per se solid, if not particularly exciting archetypes.



Next up would be a new 10-level PrC, the Grave Tyrant, who receives d8, must be evil, gets 4+Int skills per level, 1/2 will-save progression and 3/4 BAB-progression. While their channel energy progression remains intact, they exchange any spellcasting progression with a slow apotheosis towards undeath. The main draw of the class, though, would be the increase in power of the command undead feat that is a requirement to enter the PrC - the Grave Tyrant provides massive benefits to all undead under his/her control and the amount of undead the class can control rises to up to 10 HD per level - which is a lot indeed and makes relatively clear why the class receives no further spellcasting progression. A solid take on the master of undead, if a bit linear for my tastes.



The LG-only Monk of the Holy Blade archetype is a master of bladed weapons and may flurry with them - which is kind of a can of worms in itself that the pdf actually manages to get somewhat decently handled -instead of going with the default flurrying rules, the two weapon fighting-feats are taken as a base-line, thus avoiding the issue with interchangeable attacks. Now rather nasty, base-damage of the blades is increased similar to a monk fighting with unarmed attacks - here by one step per 5 levels and to add insult to injury, the archetype learns smite evil and by infusing ki into the weapon, it is rendered enchanted. And usually I would complain - swords are more common, more often enchanted etc. pp. The archetype gets smite, one of the paladin's best tricks... And yes, the archetype is stronger than the default monk. Here, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The LG-restriction, the woefully underpowered base class...yes, this archetype is strong, but as a kind of holy, sword-wielding monk, I do think it works.



Speaking of the Holy Blade - a cavalier order devoted to helping those that can't help themselves - a solid order of good guys with bodyguardish abilities.



We also receive 3 archetypes for the Voyager class - the cannonier (amateur gunslinging), the Filou (who learns a very limited array of spells, may levitate vehicles and is inspired by Honoré Beaugrand's "La Chasse-galerie") and the trappeur, who receives ranger traps and appropriately modified skills. Especially the Filou, with its very distinct, unique ability is cool.



We also receive new items, with DR-granting riot-shields and kits to better break down doors as well as feats - a lot of them; 32, unless I've miscounted. A pistol/blade variant of TWF, being able to drink more - per se solid pieces. But there also are some gems here - using shields as a brace versus charges to negate bonuses granted by charging, a feat for poison use in battle, threatening adjacent squares with loaded firearms for melee gunslinging - the feats usually have some cool idea going for them. I also like a shield-based feat that allows you to negate a critical hit as an immediate action by succeeding a fort-save 1/combat...only that the 1/encounter mechanic is just bad (insert my contra-per-encounter-rant) and fort-saves versus crit-confirmation seems hardly fair - I like the idea, but the feat's limit needs to be codified differently and the save feels punitive. I'd prefer at least the shield AC to the save...



Fans of swashbuckling (and Razor Coast) may like to hear that the bind maneuver also receives some love here. Also interesting would be an all-or-nothing feat - as a full-round action, make one attack at +4; If you crit, you automatically confirm. however, until the end of your next turn, you take a -4 penalty to AC and may only take a standard action. This feat has quite some potential! Alas, not all of the feats have solid wordings - the Pirate Trick-granting feat, for example, manages to get quite a few things wrong, duplicating effects that can be achieved otherwise via less solid rules and non-scaling DCs. Not good designs, though I like the concepts. Dealing non-lethal damage with sword-pommels is neat, while Reckless Attack is broken - at a -2 penalty to AC, make a single melee attack - if you hit, you threaten a crit automatically. Prereqs: Str 13, Power Attack, BAB +1. Yeah, never gonna happen near my table and needs to be redesigned from scratch; At low levels, there's no reason ever to not use this feat and with crit x3 or x4 weapons, it becomes ridiculously broken, outclassing keen, improved critical et al - the whole trees. Yeah. Urgh. Rest assured that this is the exception, though.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good - I noticed no particularly nasty glitches in here. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-.friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Perry Fehr and Sean O' Connor's final contribution to the Player's Options-line is thankfully one of the better in the series - the archetypes for classes of Path of Power and the content for the core et. al-classes actually is rather solid and the new items and feats more often than not hit the mark. The PrC is solid as well and while yes, this pdf does have some broken components that preclude it from being a "allow blind"-file, it does have some cool ideas and a very low, fair price-point. The amount of problematic content is lower than the cool bits and pieces and hence, I will rate this as 3.5 stars, rounded still down, though -the issues that are here need some help before this is "good", but I can see quite a few of the bits and pieces here show up in the final book!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] Player's Options: The Supplemental
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The Genius Guide to Gruesome Giants
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2014 09:05:06
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mini bestiary clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Giants aren't subtle. They don't lend themselves well to horror and so far, the undead templates released as "Gruesome" hit exactly that spot - so what is this about? Well essentially, it's a book to spice up giants and make them as "OMG -GIANTS!!! RUN!!!!" as possible. This is achieved via templates, though we also receive sample statblocks for giants to drop in as written into a given campaign, so let's go down through it, shall we? First of all: Shock ratings are back and part of the templates



First of the templates would be the collector -these guys wear armors of severed body parts (!!!) and will bash foes to mush with torn off limbs from their adversaries - or, they'll just throw them at you! Grisly imagery, for sure and at CR +2 a nice template...but it does have one weakness - it has no way of actually severing body parts. I mean, how nasty would it have been to have a giant pluck limbs off a character and then bludgeon the puny smallfolk to death?



Contorted giants (at CR+1) may squeeze into small spaces and may suddenly increase their reach with a mechanically cool and imagery-wise iconic ability.



If you're halfway fluent in Gaelic mythology, the Fomorian Giants (CR+2) need no explanation - if not, well, they come with a nice curse-aura that twists those nearby. The CR+2 Forgotten are the first template herein that truly blew my socks off - essentially, they shift in dimensions, gaining a massive miss chance and actually may forget the giants. Yeah...that WILL make for damn creepy narratives! Even before the ability to reach through the folds of space into the innards of enemies.



More visceral, the CR+2 maneater template may shatter bones with each attack (now we're talking!), may grow by eating humanoids and may grapple multiple foes, should they so choose. Weird regarding the growth ability - it specifies "Once per month", but also that a maneater can only benefit once from it - so which is it? Does the growth revert?



Masochist (CR+1) creatures may pierce their flesh (great kuthonite template) and thus disarm weapons that deal damage to them. They also receive bonuses when below 3/4 maximum Hp, though that calculation feels even more foreign than the 1/2 Hp/bloodied design seen in other publications - not a fan, but purely on an aesthetic level.



Reaping Giants at CR +2 receive a plethora of nasty universal monster qualities that make them nigh-impossible to surprise and also impose negative levels on foes. At CR+2, Undying giants become magi of their HD with spell mastery applied to the spells (!!!) and terrible forgotten lore. Unstoppable giants, on the other hand, receive deadly smashes that count as adamantine and particularly painful charges.

Now before I go on to the supplemental material herein, let me mention one crucial component I *LOVE* herein that I have so far failed to mention - each of the templates comes with one or more weaknesses clever players can exploit - whether it be the ancient oaths undying giants have sworn, the compulsion to charge foes, susceptibility to [good] spells - each template has a cool way for smart players to even the playing field.



If you've followed my reviews for any period of time, you'll know I'm a huge fan of horror mechanics - I.e. "If you fight without an idea/plan, you'll probably die." This extends to how I handle my fantasy campaigns as well - exploiting weaknesses, researching etc. - that makes a triumph of so much sweeter and rewards players for their brains as opposed to luck/brawns. Two thumbs up -I wished all (or many!) monsters had options like this!



Now a total of 20 feats, mostly for large foes with insane strength scores, provide better options for awesome blow (crit foes, potentially smash them to the ground), add smash damage to overruns - i.e. these feats allow you to amp up the damage output of these guys quite nastily. It takes some time to get by how far, but oh boy, if you do it right...ouch!



Finally, a wizard and ranger archetype as well as a sorceror bloodline complete the options - the wizard may trip foes with spells and increase CL, the ranger increases his/her prowess by harvesting the essences of the slain and the sorceror bloodline is solid, but nothing I haven't seen before. When compared to the imaginative templates, this crunch feels less inspired.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - there are next to no significant glitches herein. Layout adheres to RGG's printer-friendly two-column standard and each sample giant gets a cool full color original piece of artwork by Jacob Blackmon. Kudos! The pdf comes bookmarked and hyperlinked for your convenience.



The Four Horsemen (here: Steven T. Helt, Dan Dillon and Steven Rowe) deliver a cool pdf here - the giants themselves are nice builds, the templates cool - that being said, like in most collective designs, we have a discrepancy in design choices here, one less pronounced in the pdf than in other books, but it is still here - some of the giants are downright genius (Undying and Forgotten come to mind), while e.g. the masochist or the harvester template feel less inspired. Over all, the average quality is still exceedingly high and the inclusion of weaknesses makes these templates so much cooler.



The feats are also damn nasty food for a DM, but food that should be kept out of the hands of players - I can make VERY nasty builds with these and it is evident that they are intended as monster feats, so beware there. The additional options provided as archetypes and bloodline felt a bit like an addendum to me - compared to the monsters and templates and feats, rather uninspired, but your mileage may vary.



Now this may sound a tad more critical than it ought to - this mini-bestiary WILL amp up your giants and make them proper forces to be reckoned with. As such, the pdf does its job well, exceedingly well even. And, in parts, it is downright GENIUS and made me cackle with glee. As such, I can recommend it rather highly at a final rating of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform - for a full 5 and seal of approval, some of the mechanics felt a bit too conservative OR wonky for me, but that does in no way make the pdf less of a good buy and is mostly cosmetic.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Gruesome Giants
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