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Razor Coast Fire As She Bears - Pathfinder Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2014 03:50:57
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This system for naval combat is 98 pages long, 1 page front cover, 4 pages of advertisement, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page ToC and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 88 pages of content.



So here we are - by now the third naval combat system for Pathfinder - after Paizo's system fell flat of my expectations and after EN Publishing's book thoroughly disappointed me, let's see whether this supplement can do the trick!



We kick off this sourcebook, as is only prudent, with an explanation of the terminology used as well as a handy diagram that explains how a ship is positioned in relation to the wind. In order to have a ship, one requires ship construction-rules - these are very concisely-presented here: Essentially, each vessel has locations, which could be thought of as 20-foot cubes that can be individually targeted by hostiles. How you place your locations is mostly up to you, though you have to adhere to certain conventions regarding length and breadth and height, allowing you to also add additional decks by stacking multiple locations atop one another. It should be noted, that one hull location could contain one or several decks, though! Each location-cube belongs to one of two classes - hull or rigging. Both types have different stats, costs etc. and their relationship has crucial consequences regarding the ship's attributes.



Attributes? Yes, ships have a str-score of 30+no. of hull locations + build modifiers and they also have a dexterity of 10+rigging locations-hull locations + build modifiers. (The latter, in case you're wondering, offer the choice between sleek and broad hulls. Ship armor-class is calculated just like with a regular character, though rigging is slightly harder to hit. It should also be noted that the rules depict not only touch AC (should you ever require it), but also the susceptibility of a ship from below the waves in a rather interesting manner and that they aren't silent on this matter either regarding AC. Carrying capacity, hit points - all of that is very intuitive and makes creating ships and grasping the system exceedingly easy.



Now where things get slightly more complex would be with movement - your ship has 3 movement rates, or speed values. Each point of speed roughly corresponds to 20 feet of movement - but why not simply go with the movement? The answer's simple, really - you actually could do that. But speed is also a resource AS WELL AS a restriction. Ships have no brakes in the traditional sense and thus you *HAVE* to move the value of your speed rating each round - furthermore, naval maneuvers like turns etc. have an associated speed cost. You thus have to actually plan movement rather carefully, adding a VERY cool tactical dimension to the combats that is easy to learn while offering opportunities aplenty for strategies and finesse - after all, sailing against and with the wind modifies your available speed. Putting essentially resource and restriction into one value is, in my humble opinion, a stroke of genius. Of course, ships also have a maneuverability and your ship's load influence how agile your vessel turns out to be - again, the rules here are very much n line with how characters work.



Now if you're like me, then you tend towards a relative preference toward simulationalist approaches - I tend to have my PCs track rations etc. For people who prefer this additional spike of realism we get advanced rules herein - the first of which would be the impact of wind speed on a vessel's speed rating. More complex, yes, but rather easy to grasp. And if you don't think that can be utilized for maximum awesomeness, I once ran an adventure based on the absence of wind - essentially stranding the players on the equivalent of the Méduse's grisly tale - no combats, just slow psychological descent into madness as the veneer of civilization started to crumble. Glorious. Of course, the more obvious use would be to handle ships sailing before a storm, as the sidebar "Riders on the Storm" suggests. Now beyond sails, engines (both steam-powered and alchemical, in varying efficiency-classes) and oars are also handled, and once again parallel to characters, ships get their own CMBs and CMDs and saves.



Saves? Yep. Though as objects, ships are immune to will-saves, ref and fort-saves, while hard to do, can be rationalized - which the pdf btw. also guides a DM through, explaining how to narrate a successful save. As you could glean from me spilling the beans about alternate means of propulsion, there are a lot of customization options here - 8 sizes of cannons, rams, crow's nests - it's easy and essentially just like equipping your character - locations having a certain amount of space, i.e. slots. There you go - elegant and intuitive. Where there are cannons, there better be grape shots, chain shots and the like and yes, for everyone who despises gunpowder in their games, reskinning is always an option here. Speaking of options - while cannonballs of a uniform size are the default simplification for fun's sake, there are rules to explain how to handle different cannonball-sizes, if you want that level of realism. the same holds btw. true if you'd prefer realistic load times - these have been, due to the presence of magic and to keep cannons cool, significantly shortened to between 1 and 3 full-round actions. For once, that's a simplification I will keep in my game.



Now I've mentioned grape shots. I shuddered upon reading this, for while the mechanics of the grape shot are solid, they don't take individual ACs into account. Well...UNLESS you take a look at yet another alternate rule that lets you take these into the equation as well! Even before ship armor, miscellaneous equipment like fire pumps, specific locations and the like come into the equation, we a thoroughly customizable base system of rules that is concisely presented and easy to learn, while providing just the level of realism you choose for your group.



Specific locations? Yeah, from smuggling compartments to brigs, captain's quarters etc., we have quite a few customization options here.



But a ship is only an object - we also need a crew. Recruiting a crew is done via relatively simple rules...but what about morale? We are introduced to a new loyalty-score, which is modified by the captain's level, his/her cha-mod and the mods of navigators, chaplains etc. - oh, and lost battles, pay, time at sea, charms and dominates - all of these are taken in. Additionally, charismatic captains may actually inspire their crews! Now we all have seen this: A basic issue in most naval combat systems would be that they degenerate into a one-on-one between DM and the captain's player.6 officer roles, all with benefits and vacancy penalties and special actions in combat does an excellent job in engaging the WHOLE PARTY, even beyond the capabilities of the respective classes that fill the roles. Now how does that work? Essentially, your players roll initiative twice - once for the level of their characters and a second, naval initiative wherein they may make the respective naval actions, ensuring that they don't have to spend actions to encourage the crew when they'd rather be flinging fireballs or swashbuckle through the riggings. It seems counterintuitive at first, but in play it works wonders - also due to each role using certain attribute-modifiers for their respective naval initiative. Food, crew placement, crew advancement, officer and enlisted roles - there isa neat level of detail going on here.



Now how does naval combat work? First, the most upwind ship may claim the weather gauge, which nets some bonuses (tough e.g. the +2 speed bonus may not fit in all strategies...once again, careful deliberation...) - but only until another ship manages to steal the weather gauge via skill or luck: Again, we have a neat dynamic herein that expands the tactical possibilities of naval combat. After that, the combat (with the exception of naval initiative) works much like a regular combat - but there also are 13 special naval actions introduced alongside 5 special attacks (including crossing the boards). We also get a handy table for spotting ships, some new skill uses (Can you disguise a ship? Yes, you can!) and an abstract, but relatively elegant way to determine losses among the crew (and prevent them, if you're a ship's surgeon. Of course, there is also the final resort of self-destructing engines, if available - and yes, the consequences are dire and the situation narrative gold.



Of course, as you're probably noted by now, specialists could have a field day here and yes, if you're so inclined, then a total of 9 feats allows you to improve your capabilities in that specific field - which is awesome, for while the system does not require such an investment, it rewards those that do. Now magic and naval combat is where a certain other naval supplement came totally apart - so how does FaSB deal with it? In one word: Perfectly. Instead of spamming us with useless over-specialized variants of spells, we get new uses for spells: Chill/Heat Metal+ cannon = useless cannon for duration of the spell. Zombie-crew? Possible. Control Winds vs. Control Weather? Covered. Fabricate? Repairs ship-location. Prestidigitation can btw. be uses to flavor gruel if food is scarce, thus offsetting the loyalty-penalty for eating gruel all day. We also get 9 spells, one of which temporarily transforms a part of the sea into GLASS., potentially trapping ships... Oh, and yes, there also is a ghostly crew for the wholesome necromancer captains among us.



Not content with all of that? Why not build levitating ships? Ships made from bone, coral or locations perpetually engulfed in flames? Masts that prevent casualties by means of feather fall? Enchanted bowsprits? Sails that steal souls? On the character level, what about enchanted rum? Magical hammocks? Tiny mechanical monkey with an extradimensional holding space? Harnesses that conjure forth ghostly whales to draw the ship? Yes. All here.



Now so far, we've limited ourselves to combat, ship-building and crew - but what about pursuits? Fully covered. Terrain obstacles for naval pursuits? Easy creation guidelines, various samples provided.



Don't want to stat a lot of crew? We get quite a bunch of sample statblocks (though it should be noted that they use Razor Coast's simplified gunpowder-rules), but thus no gunslingers. The book mentions "Brace of Pistols" as a great supplement and I concur, though I consider the absence of gunslingers still a huge pity. Now while there are a lot f relatively generic statblocks, the occasional weird one is in here to spice all up and sample characters galore accompany this chapter.



Beyond a pirate's song to sing and animated cannons, we also get full-color ship record sheets, 5 sample ships and finally, a 1-page appendix of sample ship names.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is still very good, though a couple of minor typo-level glitches could be found herein. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous two-column full-color standard. Artwork is mostly thematically fitting stock art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The hardcover of the book has solid production-values, though the paper feels slightly thinner than in other FGG-releases. The cover-illustration is a bit blurry in both the pdf and hardcover and was probably not intended as such.



*Ähem* In case you haven't noticed...look what's absent from this review: Yes. Serious complaints. This system is hilariously easy to grasp, working with established design-tenets and expanding them in a smart way that borders on being brilliant. Neither in 3.X, nor PFRPG have I ever seen such a concise, well-presented naval combat supplement - creating ships is exceedingly easy and fast, naval combat proved to be engaging for the whole group instead of for just one player and this supplement, unlike some books I've recently reviewed, does a splendid job at NOT creating logic bugs in-game. At working with the system and producing something that transcends and mops the floor with each and every naval combat system I've seen so far, offering a surprising amount of easy customization options and actually rewarding tactical combat decisions. Strategy, fun, easily implemented and presented in a truly concise manner, Lou Agresta & John Ling's "Fire as She Bears" is THE system for naval combat: Whether it's "Skull & Shackles", "Razor Coast" or something completely different - this supplement is a, let me emphasize that, MUST HAVE.



Seriously. Naval combat has never worked so smoothly, so seamlessly, so elegant. Heck, if I ever run En Publishing's Zeitgeist-AP, I'll ignore "Admiral o' the High Seas" and stat the ships with this. In spite of the work, the result will make it worthwhile. This is the perfect blend of options, solid rules, toolkit and makes for an extremely tight supplement, one I can't praise enough. I wouldn't be Endzeitgeist if I had no complaints, though - the lack of sample gunslinger-characters is a very minor detriment and honestly - I wished this had been a massive 200+page book with even more options, items, naval actions, magic items and sample ships.



...Yeah. That's about all the negativity I can muster against this superb book. This is non-optional. I want sequels...plural. Enchanted viking-ships, perhaps? After all, the Northlands Saga is impending...



This belongs into the library of each and every DM who only contemplates running naval adventures, a superb offering if there ever was one and the system that banished Mongoose's 3.0 "Seas of Blood" and Paizo's own system into oblivion. It's that good. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars +seal of approval, in spite of minor flaws here and there as well as this being a candidate for my Top Ten of 2013. From here on out, this will be the only naval system that sees any use at my table. Congratulations to the authors for a superb job!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Razor Coast Fire As She Bears - Pathfinder Edition
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CE 5 - Silent Nightfall
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/12/2014 03:34:25
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Campaign Element for the DCC-rules is 25 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank, 1 page SRD, ~ 1/4 of a page editorial, leaving us with 21 3/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!



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



Still here? All right, the first thing you'll notice here would be a freaky nursery rhyme and a skipping rhyme, setting the scene appropriately - why? Well, once upon a time, there was an advanced society on this planet and said society had access to nuclear power. When magical energies confluxed and made a core snetient, heavy water was used to seal deep tubes in the earth - codename silent nightfall. Millenia, perhaps even aeons passed and a wizard and the whispering stone found the complex, degenerating into something thoroughly DIFFERENT. More time passed and the owl-like humanoids, the gallistrix, that have since settled in the complex have turned into aggressive predators, hunting in triads. All the while, the sentience still broods.



Now I've mentioned that said Wizard has changed - he is now the Shaft Crawler, a dread fungoid shoggoth-like slithering abomination, smothering any failing str or agility-checks and worse, infecting tehm with deadly rhizomes. To add insult to injury, it heals itself when consuming ongoing spell-effects, making this 111 (!!!) hp monstrosity a behemoth at this level., one the PCs better try to outrun or at least battle smart...otherwise they'll perish.



The sentient nuclear core meanwhile has developed into something like a demi-patron; Problematic here is that the demon seeks to explode - annihilating everything within miles. We also get 4 complex spellburns for silent nightfall - these include whole-body sunburn and a shadow burnt into the closest wall and similar close to home effects that drive home an uncanny sense of familiarity. The whispering stone in the meanwhile haunts the complex with sentences like "doom", "fall" and similar proclamations of impending death and, once found, makes for a dangerous (read: gaslighting) bonded object. Oh, and it's over 2000 lbs heavy. Transporting this thing will not be easy and test your PC's ingenuity.



Worse, the Grallistrix actually not only levitate and move in perfect silence, they also can make perfect use of the massive shafts thus, potentially resulting in the PCs falling to a very real death. Worse, the gallistrix elders and firstborn and deadly violet fungus zombies roam here as well - 3 levels, all horror, atmosphere and choices - add to that a d30 table of aberrations, 4 sample mutated creatures, teh radiant brotehrhood as a new organization and we get quite some bang for our bucks.



Will your PCs survive the deadly tactics of the Gallistrix? Will the crawler swallow them? Will they unleash all-destroying nuclear-fire or fall prey to the insane gibbering of the stone? Only you can answer that - by diving down into the dark shafts, past ancient languages warning about "Silent Nightfall."



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to PDG's printer-friendly b/w-2-column standard and the original pieces of b/w-artwork are neat for the low price. The maps are serviceable and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Daniel J. Bishop is fast becoming one of my favorite authors for adventures - any adventure, mind you. His writing skirts seemingly effortlessly the border between horror and dark fantasy, has a playful characteristic and is simply brimming with imagination - so much so that I find myself looking forward to each and every module he creates - while his crunch may be good, it's in te end his imagination, the sheer chutzpa of his ideas that make his writing time and time again, fun and surprising to read - ONE of the imaginative premises would have been enough for a lesser author. In Silent Nightfall, we essentially get no less than 3 themes, each of which would have been enough for a module, masterfully blended into a module/supplement that has me grinning from ear to ear and demanding more: Superb, awesome and available at a price-point that is almost ridiculous, this is well worth 5 stars +seal of approval and should be bought (much like PDG's other DCC.supplements) by DMs/judges/GMs of other systems as well - you'll scarcely find better idea-mines.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CE 5 - Silent Nightfall
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Shadowlands: Secrets of the Tainted Adventure Arc
Publisher: BlackStar Studios
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/12/2014 03:19:16
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover,1 page SRD, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 blank pages, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



All right, still here? So what are the "tainted"? Essentially, the Tainted are the downtrodden of the big cities, those rejected that live underground, ins ewers, at the fringes of society. As a group they may select one of the 6 exclusive traits herein - all of which deliver what one would expect, i.e. minor bonuses/class skills or circumstantial bonuses when underground/fighting in cramped quarters. We also are introduced to 3 short fluff-only write-ups of different tainted groups and a short piece of fiction about the Tainted.



This being the beginning of the adventure-section of the review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the end of the SPOILER-section.



Still here? Well, the Black Hand has managed to steal a particular wand from the Brotherhood of Magus - and the PCs are contacted by one Jervo in the employ of Sergius Paco, to obtain the wand. The thieves broke into his store via the underground and the PCs have to venture down there. In the darkness, the PCs may track the thieves and find the remains of dark creepers etc. and also fight some thugs from the Viper-gang. They will also have a chance of saving a ratfolk merchant from his catfolk stalkers and thus find their way to the only glanced over, intriguing Baubletown, which remains dreadfully opaque. Travelling through skulk-territory (again, remaining rather opaque), the PCs arrive just in time to board the Blue Barnacle, defeat the sailors and retrieve the semi-burnt-out artifact. It should be noted that both the ship and the docks are lavishly mapped by cartography-legend Jonathan Roberts, though some may know these maps from the Fantastic Maps-series. As a help for DMs, this final encounter is given a 5-round round-by-round breakdown.



/SPOILERS.



The module comes with suggested random encounters for the underground as well as 25 1-line random events to make the underground come to life. We also get the alternate urban ranger class: d10, 6+Int skills, 4 levels of spellcasting, good ref-and fort-saves. The alternate ranger gets a stray companion, urban fighting prowess in crowded areas etc. We also get 4 sample weapons.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column standard in full color with unnecessary blank pages, but also with gorgeous artworks (though you may know some of these from other Shadowlands-books) and superb cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.



Author John Maki offers an eclectic mix somewhere between sourcebook and adventure here and generally, the idea of the "Tainted" is a nice one, but unfortunately, the adventure fails in every conceivable way - it is rather generic, not particularly steeped in Shadowlands-lore, less detailed than your average Season 0 Pathfinder Society Scenario, uses a tired angle, offers intriguing ideas only to railroad the PCs away from them etc. - there are so many nice locales in here, but NONE of them are driven by interaction with the players. They do something and then watch the cut-scene - apart from the combat, this is the FMV-school of adventure-design: Press a button/roll a dice and watch. Not many options here, no alternate ways of handling things - nothing. Neither the trek through the underworld, nor Baubletown get sufficient levels of details (or options to interact with them!) and the combats are at the very best uninspired.

The module hints at abstract, intriguing vistas without fleshing them out, though these would have been the only way to salvage the excessively clichéd story-line. Add to that the simply unnecessary, bland alternate class that lacks ANY reason to exist (having NO exclusive tools to speak of - it's essentially a cosmetic reskin sold as an alternate class) and the boring weapons and we have a supplement/module that may have top-notch production-values, but apart from that, NOTHING going for it. And I'd settle for a final verdict of 2 stars - were it not for the grossly inflated price that puts the artwork/cartography into perspective and makes this look more like a cash-grab than anything else - a short piece of fiction/supplement, blown up with a generic adventure if there ever was one, supplemented by a boring class-reskin and some weapons? For 8 bucks? You can buy two of 4 Dollar Dungeons SUPERB modules (like Panataxia or Horn of Geryon) for that price, each of which will entertain you infinitely better (and much, much longer) than this exceedingly short snore-fest. Final verdict? 1 star.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowlands: Secrets of the Tainted Adventure Arc
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Ultimate Psionics
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/11/2014 02:44:19
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Sooo...this is it - 453 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement... 448 pages of content, so let's take a look!



All right, to properly preface this - I've been using psionics for about 80% of my DMing career - from 2nd edition to the rather poor 3.0 version (and its kind-of-fixes by Malhavoc Press) to the great 3.5-version...and this is when I found Dreamscarred Press. I liked what I saw there and got just about everything. Fast forward to pathfinder and Psionics Unleashed. It might sound weird, but without this book, my campaigns would simply have missed a central ingredient, like a dish missing salt. It was then I supported the diverse subscriptions offered and got Psionics Expanded - and at first ripped some of the content a new one. The resulting book, though, remains one of my favorite rulebooks ever, on par with the APG. So yes, I was very excited about this book, but alas, the KS came at a bad time for me and thus I don't (yet!) have the hardcover in my hands.



Now there have been quite some errata over the years and getting essentially the "final" up to date version, with new artwork etc. is great. In case you didn't know - this book doesn't stop by collecting the information from Psionics Unleashed and Expanded - it also contains new material galore, which was also made available to customers of the former books in a very fairly priced expansion called Psionics Augmented Vol. I. All of these books have one thing in common beyond their themes, content etc.- I've already reviewed them - in excruciating detail. Were I to go into this level of detail here, the review would probably clock in at well over 30 pages and let's not kid ourselves - no one would read that. I'm already surprised that some people read my lengthy ramblings.



So what I'm going to do instead is give you a brief synopsis of what to expect - 10 psionic races, including old favorites like the blue goblins and new ones like the half-construct forgeborn - all of which come with age, height & weight, attitudes to other races, favored class options and yes, alternate racial traits. Furthermore, each race gets an array of exclusive racial archetypes, often making use of the unique talents of the respective race.

10 psionic 20-level base classes, all of which are superior to any prior incarnation - the soulknife no longer sucks, to just give you ONE example. The classes are also very customizable and some of them rank among my favorite classes for PFRPG - PERIOD.



Basic concepts like the psionic focus, psionic displays etc. - all explained very concisely and thoroughly, with the latter even coming with an extensive, comprehensive list of sample visual, auditory, mental, material and even olfactory displays are provided - as is essentially a beginner DM's guide to how psionics work and how to introduce them to your campaign, including a sample reskin should you not enjoy the flavor of psionics. Skills are also covered, as are feats - how many? The table alone spans 6 (!!!) pages! And yes, having all of them in one chapter instead of three books is a major comfort-plus. The same holds btw. true for the powers. How many do we get? An insane amount. No, really. No less than 100 pages of the book are devoted to powers. now take into account that unlike spells, psionic powers can be augmented, thus requiring less variants of one spell concept than spells and you'll get an inkling of how many options are herein. Have I mentioned all the legendary items (not the mythic ones) - powerful magic items that increase in power over the levels, all with unique artworks and stories to discover? (Yeah, I've reviewed all of them as well...)



There also are no less than 19 Prestige Classes to be found herein and no less than 56 pages of magic items...oh, and beyond that, we also get a glossary that explains terms...and one fact I enjoy tremendously - the book offers astral construct stats and similar player-relevant monsters, but unlike the previous iterations, psionic monsters will be released in a separate bestiary, making this book fully and completely player compatible. Two thumbs up for that!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting of this massive tome are of a surprising quality - excellent and top-notch by any realistic definition. Glitches indeed are thoroughly minimized to the point of being almost non-existent. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous full-color two-column standard and the pdf comes with a vast array of mind-blowing, awesome, beautiful artworks - and a Wayne Reynolds cover. Can't get much better than that in the art-department! The pdf is lavishly detailed in its bookmarks, making navigation simple - as is required by such a massive tome.



Sooo...what we have here is interesting: It's a bit like reviewing the CORE-rules or the APG: We're talking about what essentially is a completely non-optional book in my opinion.

Every campaign that shirks psionics not for flavor, but for by now completely inaccurate accusations of balance-issues is missing out on one of the most rewarding expansions for Pathfinder.

While this is not my personal opinion ( I enjoy both for what they do), I do feel obliged to point out that my players consider unanimously psionics to be the superior system when compared to vancian spellcasting (even though at least one of them dislikes the flavor) and in multiple years of using Dreamscarred Press' psionics have we not once encountered any crucial difficulties. Now this book collects all these nifty bits and pieces from 3 massive tomes in one book that is greater than the sum of its parts by sheer utility, by scope...and superb production values.

While I don't enjoy EVERY component part (see my individual reviews for that), the vast majority of the content should be considered simply stellar - awesome and a book that will enrich just about every game it is introduced to. Were I to complain about one thing, then that would be that the book has no index, at least in the pdf version on which this review is based since I don't yet have the hardcover.



So let me make that abundantly clear: If you have the component books, this is useful. If you don't have any of them, then this ranks among the best possible purchases you can make to expand your game and I stand by that. For me, this content of this book, whether as the component books or the superb Ultimate Psionics, is non-optional. It is as much part of the game as vancian spellcasting, as much part of my concept of Pathfinder's identity as a distinct system as the APG. Psionics Expanded, one of the component books, made it on my Top Ten-list of that year -and this is THE ONLY reason this book is not a candidate (and let's face it - high ranker or even winner) of 2013's list. Rare is the book that so wholly transforms the game, feels so concise and well-presented, offers so much and in this quality - rare indeed is such a monumental grimoire of crunch and much like Paizo's APG, this book does infinitely more to establish the identity of a distinct, diverse fantasy full of options than just about all crunch-books I've read. If you have so far shied away from psionics- here's your chance: Take it! If you have the component books, wager utility (all in one book) versus price point. If I may: The book is beautiful; personally, I'd go for the slightly more expensive full color version - the artwork's worth it. Final verdict? Unsurprising 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Psionics
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Mythic Minis 2: Champion Path Abilities
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/11/2014 02:40:28
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf is 3 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 1 page of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



We kick these new abilities for the champion path off with 3 new 1st tier abilities:



-Analytical Eye: When a creature has attacked you, spend one use of mythic power as an immediate action to learn about int-mod combat feats your foes may have. That's...exceedingly boring and feels rather un- mythic, not starting with the metagamey aspects of the mechanics.



-Combat Feat Mastery: Spend one use of mythic power, practice for one hours, get access to one combat feat for 24 hours. At 4th tier, instead get 1/2 mythic tier combat feats. At 6th tier, spend two uses for a training duration of only 1 minute per feat. This ability is insane, even for mythic power-levels - this essentially is not only a wildcard feat - it's potentially a wildcard feat-CHAIN. Not gonna happen in my game, even when going Mythic.



-Smashmouth: 1 use of mythic power to accompany your bludgeoning damage allows you to penalize bite-attacks and verbal spellcasting. Very specific - why not make this work for all types of natural attacks, potentially with arms correlating to miss-chances for somatic components? This ability has potential, but should have more benefits/options.



We also get 5 3rd tier abilities:



-Mythic Marine: Ignore just about all penalties associated with fighting underwater. Okay, I guess.



-Mythic Rider: Use mythic power to prevent being dismounted or having your mount fall prone. Alternatively, grant your mount hard to kill, recuperation and mythic saves for 24 hours. Solid for mounted characters.



-Reaping the Chaff: Make one full BAB-attack as a full-round action. If you hit and against foes with HD less than your mythic tier, you may follow up the attack with a movement to the next adversary and repeat the process until you miss or attack a foe with HD > your mythic tier. This movement does not provoke AoOs from foes with less HD than your mythic tier and you may move up to twice your movement rate. I had a similar ability in my home game once - it puts the game to a grinding halt. Attack upon attack, damage upon damage. It's just boring for the other players. Not a fan of this ability. It looks nice on paper, but in game...



-Trick rider: Gain one bonus feat from a mount-related short list for every 2 mythic tiers you have. Boring, but not without merit.



-Two Can Play at that Game: When learning of combat feats via analytical eye, you can spend one use of mythic power to be able to choose 1/2 mythic tier feats thus determined and gain access to them for 24 hours. Essentially a more limited additional way of getting feats - less OP that Combat Feat Mastery, but the requirement of a waste of a mythic path ability with analyzing eye mean I wouldn't choose that one either.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games beautiful 2-column standard and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length.



The duplicated cover artwork eats about 1/3 of the space available for the content, which is something you should be aware of. Jason Nelson is a great designer...but I don't know what has happened here. I'm seriously stumped. Combat Feat Mastery is very powerful even by Mythic Adventures standards - to the point where many will yell "broken". Mythic Rider and Mariner are solid abilities, but all the others herein either are very specific, fall short of their potential or are downright lame. I would only take most of these under very specific circumstances and generally, was thoroughly disappointed by them. While not per se bad, many of the options herein feel bland - the mythic path equivalents of taking a skill-bonus increasing feat. With a bit more space and versatility, the Smashmouth ability could have been made awesome and more useful by expanding its focus. Honestly...I thought long and hard...and my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2. Why? Because I can only see my table ever using at best 1/4 of the content herein - the rest is simply off on one end or the other of the balance scale or simply not that interesting. Even Legendary Games seems to get it wrong once in a while.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 2: Champion Path Abilities
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Beyond the Serpentine Lock
Publisher: Run Amok Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/10/2014 02:50:40
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module is 53 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 49 pages of content, so let's take a look!



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



All right, still here?

When the hero Amnis vanished, the people mourned - and now one his descendants, the historian Algus, has found the key to the fabled tomb, where Amnis allegedly vanished under mysterious circumstances - enter the PCs! Venturing into the woods, the PCs are soon beset by lizardfolk scouts and soon will realize that a whole village, Tenteeth, is rather near - surprisingly, the scaled humanoids there can be reasoned with and aren't hostile. The settlement is fully depicted and mapped herein and makes for a nice waystation where first ominous rumors on the stone structure in the woods can be gathered. Reaching the place, the PCs will see an indentation, where something obviously was taken - and it's not their key! Returning to the Lizardfolk's enclave, the PCs will, after some short investigation, realize that the shaman's shield might be what they're looking for. To prove themselves worthy, the PCs will have to defeat the tribe's champion, one Gutchewer - a Str 28 Lizardfolk BRUTE. Oh, and dealing with the hamlet by negotiation, stealth or brute force - the module has all the approaches covered.



Finally having the serpentine shield, the PCs can try to open the crypt - via a visual puzzle (fully depicted in the handouts) that has the PC drag the snakes extending from the shield in a particular shape according to hints gathered. After using their brains, the PCs will thus finally open the crypt (again, fully mapped)- where a guardian statue awaits: Rather cool here - dealing certain amounts of damage to the statue changes how it handles itself in combat! I wish more creature had such phases. Ghouls from which bloody skeletons burst forth, traps, haunts, attic whisperers and a semi-helpful protean voidworm can fill the PCs in on some details. It seems as if this complex was once the base of a tiefling matriarch who sought lichdom for herself and immortality for her daughter. Zalsiniah, teh failed lich, is still in this tomb and she is essentially a mindless horror - one that might annihilate the PCs - unless they have found her personal icons, each of which weakens the dread undead. It should be noted that beyond the hints of the protean, the implicit storytelling and the ability to trail Amnis' progress adds further depth to the small dungeon. In the failed lich's chamber, the PCs can also find Amnis' by now skeletal remains.



Depending on how the PCs have handled the lizardfolk of Tenteeth, they may have an ambush waiting outside - but either way, the module is not over yet: Returning to Algus' home (again, fully mapped), the PCs will have to save the scrivener from the descendants of Amnis' disgraced halfling servant, who ran away, thus dooming the hero. Defeating the halflings and finally bringing to light the treachery of their ancestor, the PCs will hopefully emerge victorious here as well to reap the rewards of being embellished by the scribe into larger than life versions of themselves.

The pdf's appendices contain the failed lich template (CR 1+half base creature HD), detailed scaling information for levels 2 and 5-6, 5 pregens (one of which a catfolk paladin, btw.) and the aforementioned village, which comes with full settlement stats for our convenience. The pdf also includes a gorgeous map-pdf that covers 13 pages of full color maps with grids and sans annoying numbers etc. or player-spoilers - AWESOME! Weirdly, though, no player-friendly version of the Lizardfolk village is included. Oh well.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Run Amok Games' elegant two-column b/w-printer-friendly standard and the full color map booklet is awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the amount of handouts is neat to see as well.



Ron Lundeen delivers a cool module here, including puzzles, various ways to deal with foes and a creepy dungeon. Add to that the superb cartography and we have a neat module at our hands - handouts,maps etc. - all at top-notch production values. That being said, as well-constructed as the module is, it also feels a bit...less inspired than other Run Amok Games-modules. Make no mistake, the combats (and how A LOT of creatures come with tricks that reward smart fighting), the puzzle etc. - all of these are great. It's just that the overall plot remains a bit stale. Make no mistake, though: this is still fun and a very good module that provides, especially once you run it, some serious entertainment, but it is also a module that will not have your players talk about it for years to come - it's fun, but lacks this touch of being special in its overall structure - its components do have that, though. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars, but sans seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Beyond the Serpentine Lock
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Pathways #34 (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/10/2014 02:46:59
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Rite Publishing's Free E-zine Pathways is 38 pages long, 1 page front cover, 11 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so elt's take a look!



We kick this off with an almost sadistic teaser by editor Dave Paul - his first adventure is coming and what he's telling so far, it's gonna be...unconventional. One word: Ettincommunicationbreakdown. Want to know more,? Read for yourself!



Steven D. Russell, master of templates and overlord of Rite Publishing has a template for us - this time at CR +3, the envious creature: These beings may not only change shape, counter-scry, and get feats, skills etc. of the form they turned into, they also, spiteful to the last, may deny their target's what they covet by self-destructing in a terrible blast. Jogund, a CR 8 envious troll, makes for this installment's sample creature.



Next up, Liz Winters shows us a behind the curtain look at some of the fellows responsible for the boon to gaming that is Hero Lab for many people, before Raging Swan Press' Creighton Broadhurst introduces us to a villain most foul - Myvainir Sehiatier, a skeletal champion necromancer/cleric/mystic theurge that clocks in at a nasty CR of 10. That's not all, though - Creighton also introduces us to Yoth Yagoth (love the nomenclature here), an advanced gnoll sorceror with a blue dragon's bloodline at CR 7. Awesome!



Steven D. Russell also has a useful system-neutral list of 100 epithets for us -for non-native speakers and designers as well - see if you could correctly define each one of them - I know I could and it makes for a fun little game (while also potentially broadening your vocabulary...)



Now this issue's interview is with Greg LaRose, head of Amora Game: From total inexperience, he has lifted his small company to ever increasing heights, resulting in recently even scoring my best verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval with Prepare for War: Basic Training Manual. Beyond being a fun read, it should be noted that Amora Game has recently started a kickstarter for Liber Influxus Communis, a book of classes where some of the most talented class-designers contribute. Check it out if you haven't already!



Next up would be support-article to what still remains my favorite construct-class for PFRPG, the Ironborn: This time, we get ability-suits for alchemically-treated ironborn that are resilient to bombs (and get more),one engineered for eidolon-connection, one that has a firearm included in its body, one that is particularly suitable for cavaliers, one that is excellent at hunting down foes and a design that is none - whether by ill or good omen, you are touched by something divine and hence may twist fortune to reflect the divine agenda behind your being. There would also be the hybrid design, which is particularly nice for Magi -two thumbs up and my favorite article this installment - I love it when old supplements are not abandoned and instead developed further.



We conclude this issue, as always, with reviews, this time one by Brian B. and the rest by yours truly.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any all too glaring issues. Layout adheres to RiP's nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



This is a great installment of Pathways, with nice fodder for DMs with cool characters, a deadly template and finally, also some great expansions for a neat race - at the price of 0 bucks, so what's not to like? Download it, read it, think about dropping abuck or two for Amora Game's KS and enjoy yet another neat month of cool offerings by Rite Publishing and friends- final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pathways #34 (PFRPG)
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The Ethermancer: An "Eldritch" Reboot [PFRPG & D&D 3.5]
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2014 06:04:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This class-supplement is 33 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC/introduction, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let's take a look!



But before we do - take a short look at the introduction - it helps get into the vibe: The ethermancer as a class gets d6, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, light armors and the starknife and the ethermancer's etherspells are subject to arcane spell failure in armor. The class gets 1/2 BAB-progression, good will-saves...and that's where anything resembling basic spellcasting, whether psionic or vancian or skill-based stops. *takes a deep breath*



So basically, there are infinite universes and planes, separated from another and their conflicting reality by a substance called ether, which ethermancers may manipulate via essentially a tiny metaphysical pinhole into the membrane that separates universes -extracting the material in-between is used to fuel ethermagic: An ethermancer may have a maximum of twice his class level +cha-mod ether points (EP) at a given point. At the beginning of the ethermancer's turn, he gains half class-level in EP.



Now ethermagic has essentially two components - the etherheart and the ethermanifestation. Etherhearts are essentially the basic ways of manipulating the ether, with manifestations adding modifications to them - essentially, they are a basic core component to which the manifestations are added. Unlike schools of spells, etherhearts have effects of their own - at least some do. Now the manifestations span 6 levels - the maximum manifestation level is upgraded by +1 on 4th level and further +1 every 3 levels after that, capping at the maximum manifestation level of 6 at character level 16. Unlike magic schools, not all etherhearts are available from the beginning - ethermancers start the game with access to the alteration and lesser blast etherheart and at 4th level, the ethermancer learns the bestow etherheart, at 7th level the greater blast etherheart and at 8th level the genesis etherheart.



In order to use a manifestation, an ethermancer needs to have a cha-score of at least 10+manifestation level. The ethermancer starts the game with 5 lesser blast manifestations and 2 alteration manifestations. Each level, he learns at least one additional manifestation - up to a total of a maximum 14 lesser/greater blast manifestations, 12 alteration manifestations, 7 Bestow manifestations and 5 genesis manifestations. New manifestations learned have to adhere to the maximum level as determined by the ethermancer's character level and he may never know more higher level manifestations for a given etherheart than he has lower level manifestations. I.e. one could never have two level 2 alteration manifestations and only 2 first level alteration manifestations - before taking the third level 2 manifestation, one would need to first learn a third level 1 manifestation. However, every level, an ethermancer may switch out one of the manifestations he has learned for another eligible one of the same level. The save versus a given manifestation is 10+ the highest manifestation's level used in the etherspell + cha-mod. To cast an etherspell, one simply adds the EP-cost of the etherheart in question and the manifestations used together. It should be noted, though, that the EP-costs of the etherhearts can vary depending on the used level of the manifestation - alteration etherhearts cost e.g. 1 base EP + 1/4 EP per level, rounded down. Casting an ether spell is a standard action unless otherwise noted and when modified to take longer, the longest casting duration takes precedence. It should be noted, that only genesis-manifestations can be dispelled - the other etherspells need to run their course. It should be noted that entering regular casting PrCs, identifying ethermagic and counterspelling is covered as well - though regular casters should never try to bleed dry an ethermancer: As mentioned, he always gets half his class level EP each round - which means he never, ever runs out of juice!



Now additionally, the respective etherhearts have limitations to their mutability: Alteration manifestations MUST be modified by ONE manifestation and only ONE alteration-based etherspell can be in effect at a given time. Lesser and greater blast etherhearts require no minimum amount of manifestations, but a maximum of 3 can be added to them - this means they can be cast without manifestations. Bestow etherheart-based etherspells have a range of touch and need to be delivered thus. They cannot be used by the ethermancer to touch himself (that came out weird...) and are not discharged upon a failed touch attack. However, the maximum EP of the ethermancer is reduced for the duration of the held charge AND the etherspell. They also require exactly one manifestation. Finally, Genesis etherheart based etherspells are permanent until dismissed/dispelled, but for as long as they persist + 1 minute cooldown, their caster's EP are reduced by the amount the etherspell consumed. Once again, precisely one manifestation must be added to the etherheart.



Brain already overloading? It's not THAT complex on paper, believe me! Plus, the class also has a more regular component with the Multiuniversal Philosophy. At 2nd level and every 4 levels beyond, the ethermancer chooses one of 5 paths, from multiuniversal hedonist to tinker or megalomaniac. These benefits increase/ can be used additional times upon being selected multiple times and in one case, requires access to the bestow etherheart to select. These philosophies will also determine the capstone - the philosophy most often selected will provide the 20th level benefit - nice way to show the character's growth and tie it to mechanics.



Beyond that, Ethermancers build up a certain resilience against precision-based damage due to their continuous exposure to alien energies: Strange rashes and lumps, discolorations...that translate to a 10% chance to ignore precision damage at 5th level and increases by +10% every 4 levels after that, capping at 40% at 17th level. And no, thankfully crits are not negated thus. At 12th level, an ethermancer has an interesting choice to make: Immunity to either poison, disease or fear - and -2 to saves versus the other two. OUCH, but damn cool.



Favored Class Option-wise, beyond the core-races Aasimar, Drow, Fetchlings, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Kobold, Puddling, Slyph and Tiefling are covered and we also get a total of 13 feats: One that makes identifying ethermagic via spellcraft more precise, a focus for etherhearts (+1 DC, with the greater focus follow-up, yet another +1 DC), a feat that reduce the EP-cost for one manifestation by -1 to a minimum of 0, two to increase etherspell duration as if you had +2 caster levels, a feat that allows you to extend bestow etherheart-based etherspells to affect an adjacent creature of the target, one that increases the limit of alteration etherheart-based etherspells you can maintain at one time by +1, one that allows you to deals either slashing, piercing or bludgeoning damage with your blasts, one that allows you to hand genesis etherheart-made weapons to nearby allies (or losing it via disarm and having it not evaporate) and finally one that immediately restores your etherspells upon dismissing a genesis etherheart-based etherspell, essentially eliminating the 1 minute-cooldown period these usually have. Oh, and there is a feat that nets one the benefits of one philosophy, but excludes you from ever taking it again. The astute reader will notice that these feats, beyond simple ability upgrade, allow the player to modify the playing-experience and rules of the class quite profoundly. It should also be noted that manifestations modify only etherhearts, not other manifestations. Also, continuous manifestations modified by instantaneous effects only add this effect the first time the etherspell is cast, not every round an effect can potentially be maintained: Lesser and greater blasts thus can be made into round-spanning effects, but potential manifestations added are only applied to the first round.



But I've been talking forever about the basics, let's take a look at what these manifestations may do, shall we? As you could glean from aforementioned explanation, each entry of a manifestation comes with a spell level, an etherheart-restriction (essentially denoting to which etherheart the manifestation can be added) and an EP-cost. Where applicable, they also have a range and a target. EP-cost wise, the EP-cost span a range from 0 to 15. We get lists of all ether manifestations by etherheart and level for our convenience's sake, which is nice for convenience's sake. Now let's take a look at how those ether manifestations work, shall we?

Let's take for example the first one, A Thousand Eyes: An alteration manifestation, it costs the etherheart's cost (1 + 1/4 level, here +2/4, thus=1) plus the manifestation's cost, which in this case is 3. Eyeballs around the ethermancer appear, increasing initiative by +2, +1 for every 3 caster levels up to +5. The second effect essentially conjures forth a barrier versus one element of the caster's choosing - either fire, cold, electricity or sonic - but surprisingly not acid. Interesting choice to include sonic instead here. In an improved version, said screen can transform absorbed energy into a limited amount of ether points. What's weird here is that the screen delivers a flat 2 EP regeneration per completely or partially absorbed energy. Now this ether manifestation can be abused in a VERY minor way -have any other (like an adept/follower/cohort) caster spam energy-damage dealing cantrips on the shield for a +2 EP increased regeneration. In any other class, I'd start complaining right now, but since the ethermancer's resources replenish every round and the required action requires rather close proximity to the ethermancer as well as an action-tax, it does work. Still, personally, I would have made the regeneration no flat amount, and instead based on the amount of damage prevented by the granted resistance - 1 EP for every 5 points of damage prevented, for example. That's a personal preference, though, and will thus not influence my rating. Another variant of this particular manifestation allows the ethermancer to modify the energy every round. Finally, there is a variation that not only provides resistance, but instead immunity. Two of these shields, the basic one and the flexible one, can also be bestowed upon allies via the bestow etherheart and two respective manifestations.



Also interesting (and now concise thanks to author Bradley Crouch IMMEDIATELY rewording the manifestation - that is great customer-service!) would be Alteration Cascade - this alteration manifestation allows the ethermancer two 1st level alteration-etherspells at once by paying the cost in addition to the one incurred by the manifestation. Nowwhen interacting with the Alterer-feat, which allows the ethermancer to have two alterations simultaneously in effect, things become interesting: The Alteration Cascade manifestation counts both effects as one etherspell, hence with the feat, the ethermancer could theoretically stack up to 4 1st level alterations with Alteration Cascade. The Greater variation of this ether manifestation can also be used to combine 2nd level ether manifestations, but due to the feat's level cap, can't be used to stack 4 - which oddly makes the regular version more flexible than its big brother. Also, would it be possible to stack the same manifestations with e.g. other elements chosen this way? EDIT: I contacted the designer and yes, the stacking of alteration cascades with the Alterer-feat is indeed intended.



Flavor-wise awesome, the Asphyxiate-manifestation, based on the Bestow-etherheart, can be used to force air from the mouth of the target, dealing 1d3 points of str-damage and staggering the target on a failed save for 1 round. Working much like a poison, the effect requires 3 consecutive saves to end. I like that incorporeal creatures and golems are immune and that creatures with an exoskeleton get a bonus to save and the pdf by now makes it rather clear how the power works - nice!



Not all effects are offensive or straight defensive, though - ethermancers can e.g. create one or more floating eyeballs that they can see through. The particular effect comes with a cool caveat that stuns the ethermancer if an eyeball gets destroyed and also a penalty to his/her defenses while not in sight of the eyeball. Now the Greater version, which provides multiple eyeballs, can thus see more than one eyeball destroyed, with AC-penalties stacking, whereas stunning duration does not.

Shields from nowhere can be conjured and of course, there is a wide variety of options to enhance the diverse blasts: Physical (or mental) attribute damage (which can be negated with fort-saves), elemental damage (which even can be blended!), making blasts count as cold iron or silver, adamantine or crystal, adding to the caster level, making the etherspell a 10 ft.-burst (or a 15ft. im/exploding burst that moves adversaries closer/away on a failed ref-save), 30 ft/60 ft.-lines or a 15/30 ft.-cone with a ref-save instead of a touch attack or have SR-repelled rays rebound to other targets you choose. Among the more unique benefits, we can have blasts trail 5-feet high walls of energy (which dissipates after the first target has been injured by it) for the round the ethermancer casts the etherspell. Cool idea! Making blasts that continue to deal damage on the follow-up round (unless you drop prone and spend a move action rolling around, essentially eating 1 full round including standing up) on the other hand feels off - at least some sort of save would be required here to negate catching fire/acid/whatever.

More complex would be celestial spheres, which essentially adds bonus-damage to a blast and has a sphere of energy streak along. This bonus damage can be negated, but can hit multiple targets in the path from the ethermancer to the intended target. Now these spheres have a duration longer than instantaneous - which allows the ethermancer to target adversaries with blasts and have the sphere move towards the targets of the blasts - cool! It should also be noted, that these modifications, like the burst/cone-shape, cannot be stacked, as denoted by the (Shape)-descriptor attached: Only one such effect can be used to modify a given blast.



You can also make invisible targets temporarily visible via cosmic rays, making bones etc. glow - nice imagery. Here was once a 150-word rant about how imbalanced Deep Impact was - alas, Interjection Games has fixed the manifestation and it now can be considered a nice option.



Straight damage-upgrades to blasts are also possible, as is the option to get temporary hit points instead of EP while under the effects of a certain alteration - this may sound powerful, but funnily, the lack of options to dispel this effect as well as the caveat that the etherspell immediately ends as soon as EP reach 0 mean that this particular buffer must be well-considered in its application. Via Doppler Effects, the ethermancer may also grant him/herself 10%/25% miss chance. It should be noted that said manifestation applies the same distortion to the attacks of the ethermancer, making it a double-edged sword (and interesting).



Ethermancers may also create a type of vortex - whenever he is dealt damage from a chosen type of energy, the ethermancer gains a charge, which, upon the third charge, he may as an immediate action manifest a blast sans manifestations as the etherspell disperses. Boosting and penalizing saves, granting allies DR and transforming the damage-type they deal to e.g. bludgeoning, dealing damage only to a specific creature race/type, increased range, the duplication of a haste-like effect by touching hyperspace, sending foes to a catatonic state in which they need to defeat a shadowy figment to return to reality (and not die to the shadow's tender assaults), increased mental stats or object hardness, improved movement, handholds ex nihilo, making etherspells illuminate the darkness (and even glow to dazzle foes) and even standing in midair -all possible. Ethermancers may also conjure blasts and have them wait for the next spell/spell-like ability/item activation - whomever the unlucky being, whether friend or foe, is attacked by the blast.



Quantum Indeterminacy deserves special mention, as it allows you and the touched willing creature to exchange places as long as you're not too far apart - these switcheroo-effects tend to be a lot of fun and useful for creative players. Turning into antimatter, essentially teleporting and damaging all in a line and reconstituting you via Quantum Leap also is rather cool - it does a decent amount of damage, has a cool effect for the strain on your body (temporarily lowering your EP-cap). We also get penetrating SR (optionally, also automatically, but at only half damage), inflicting a variety of temporary negative conditions, having a blast emit essentially a trail of magical tripping marbles (and their spiked cousins)- the effects are rather versatile.



Emitting a Scream from Beyond is fluff-wise right up my alley - imbuing the target with the option to scream and cause confusion (including the screamer!) feels just awesome and cool - and perfectly in line with the theme. This one is also now short of a minor ramble - it now can be countered by bards.



Oh, by the way, ethermancers can also look through solid matter, should they learn the appropriate manifestation or create sentries charged with blasts that hurl these at any non-friendly target the ethermancer specified at the time of the casting. Unfortunately, the etherspell does not specify the respective saves for these very fleeting guardians, though I assume e.g. auto-failure for ref-saves due to being immobile.



Have I mentioned the option to emit vampiric blasts and similar effects or the one to turn invisible by Ultraviolet Shift?



Conclusion:



Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice significant glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' 2-column b/w-standard and comes with thematically fitting stock-art. The pdf comes bookmarked, but only in a very rudimentary sense - one bookmark for feats, one for all manifestations. Looking for a particular manifestation is not really comfortable/possible with them - problematic.



So...the Ethermancer. The big heir to the blasting classes of the 3.X days of old. Let me go on a short tangent here - unlimited spellcasting was one of the reasons I turned my back on 4th edition. I'm a difficult audience when it comes to the very concept. That being said: I love the fluff of this complex class. I love its modularity and how it actually makes a regenerating spellcasting pool work. What leaves with a bit of a belly-ache is the relative potency of the blasts - 1d3 for lesser blasts at level 1 may not be that impressive, but add cha-mod to the equation and things get nasty with high-cha races/builds: 1d3+5 ranged touch attacks are a tad bit too strong for first level for my tastes. Why am I not bashing on this, then?



Simple: A combination of requiring a touch attack and having a sucky BAB. At 1/2 BAB, the ethermancer is simply not that accurate, which meant that in playtesting, it did not outshine ranged fighters etc. unless used against heavily armored targets. In contrast to older takes on the blaster-caster, the ethermancer is not doomed to fiddle his/her thumbs when not in battle and also has an array (though admittedly not that many) things s/he may do when not pulverizing adversaries. So yes, per se, I do consider the class well-crafted and once you get behind how it works, actually rather intuitive - just bear in mind the limits of manifestations and you're good to go.



Now that being said, while I'd love to praise this class unanimously, it does come with its flaws - the stacking of alteration-effects via manifestations and feat could have used some explicit clarification.



Another issue would lie in the etherspells universally counting as evocation - since they clearly include effects one would consider conjurations (and ones that would be closer to other schools), regular spellcasting defenses, conjuration-prohibiting effects simply don't work against them - which becomes relevant as soon as a teleportation-hampering effect is on an area - one that the Ethermancer could, RAW, simply ignore since it does not have the teleportation-descriptor. And yes, while just designating teleportation redirects etc. to work for Quantum Leap etc. would well be in the providence and capability of just about any DM, RAW that would be cheating the player. This lack of distinction re spell-schools and exclusive focus on evocation is perhaps the one halfway significant flaw of the class and it is one that could be easily handled by the DM.



So, how to rate the Ethermancer, then? Generally, I do love its complexity, its fluff, variety and its chutzpa in attempting to create a blaster-class that is balanced, but doesn't run out of juice. It may not be a class for every power-level out there, but it does work.

Then again, I don't feel justified in consigning this class to the netherworlds of mediocrity, since it clearly doesn't belong there - especially since it has been rid of the most grievous glitches I complained about in my first drafts of this review. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars for the purpose of this platform, just shy of my seal of approval, with the caveat that DMs should take a good look and understand the class before allowing it - the implications of ethermancers in a setting can change the dynamics of warfare (and "forbidden" magic) in rather interesting ways.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Ethermancer: An "Eldritch" Reboot [PFRPG & D&D 3.5]
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Tribes Most Foul: Worgs
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2014 05:59:09
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' Tribes Most Foul-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As always with TMF-supplements, each tribe herein comes with a full tribal roster, lore-DCs to glean knowledge on the respective tribe, information on combat, tactics, ecology, lairs and habitat as wella s advice on how to place the respective tribe in the campaign. Beyond that, we also get some fluff-only NPC-write-ups and one NPC-statblock per tribe. Now onwards to the tribes!



The first would be the "Howls from the Desolation" - separated by some cataclysm or earthquake from the landmass, the hunting ground of these worgs is inexorably drifting towards the southern pole and ever colder climates, with the ecosystem of the drifting landmass declining ever further, while the two-caste pack of worgs and winter wolf bone witches are faced with ever decreasing amounts of prey. The sample advanced old bonded winter witch 9 winter wolf makes for a "cool" (haha!) sample NPC here and as a nice little bonus, the bonded bone witch-spells are included in a small box here. Overall, one cool pack, also fitting for northern climes, impending ice-ages or simply desolate places like Slumbering Tsar's Desolation - especially in winter.



The Gaolers of Bleakmoor would be uncommon, to say the least - from skeletons to fast zombies, shadows and even vampires, these worgs may once have been alive, but now they are undead menaces, bound to the will of *drum roll* the dread Cossaylor, an advanced antipaladin 14 worg (CR 19!) LICH! This tribe's concept is so incredibly awesome, I can't emphasize it enough - beyond the desolation of the first tribe and its theme of desperation, here we have perfect fodder for horror in its truest form - simply glorious!



Hard to follow that...so what are the Regnant Void worgs about? Well...essentially about night hags interbreeding with worgs to create changeling worgs that haunt the dreams of those unfortunate souls doomed to a be rendered mindless, catatonic wrecks by their nightly predations. Yeah. And you thought undead worgs were bad news... And yes, this tribe is wicked indeed, its sample character being a changeling worg cleric 8.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column b/w-standard, though, as befitting of worgs, we this time get no tribal standard. The pdf comes in two versions, one for screen-use, one optimized for the printer and is fully bookmarked.



This TMF-installment is uncommon - not humanoids, but friggin' worgs. What can one expect? I expected some marauding packs with different social structures - the like. Pff. David Posener went above and beyond awesome and has created three thoroughly unique, evocative tribes worthy of your support - full of awesome ideas, storytelling potential and uniformly divorced from being common in any way, these worgs deserve to be feared and admired - we get the so far best Tribes Most Foul-installment, on par with certain were-creatures and a definite recommendation - these dark, disturbing hunters deserve to be let loose on your unsuspecting players - make them fear the howling in the night again! Triumphant 5 stars + seal of approval are the only possible verdict here!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tribes Most Foul: Worgs
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Mythic Monsters: Mythos
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/06/2014 04:37:20
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Legendary Games' Mythic Montsers-series is all about the Mythos and 34 pages long,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC (with CR/MR), 3 pages of introduction/how-to use, 2 pages of advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of insanity-inducing threats, so let's take a look, shall we?



This pdf kicks off with a nice legendary games-synergy that explains the [mythos]-descriptor for magic and also, as a subtype, before providing new mythic path abilities: Archmaes and Hierophants may learn elder signs: These signs are not only described (which allows players to actually make them!), these 4 signs allow for the addition of the mythic tier as bonus to identifcation of mythos-magic, improve conjuration/summoning, blocking extraplanar travel and improve objects or enhance your banishing/dispelling prowess. Oh, and before you ask - yes, we actually get a concise list of creatures from Paizo's bestiaries that would be "mythos"-compatible. The second ability, available to archmages and tricksters as a 1st tier ability, would be alien alchemy, which makes all alchemical items (including bombs) more potent versus creatures of the mythos.



Beyond these, we also are introduced to 4 new alchemical compounds: From the cha-enhancing incense of Xakauba to the mythos-specialized dustof appearing that is the powder of Abu Ghauzi or the Space Mead that allows for survival sans air or the vision-inducing Unguent of Khefnis - these alchemical compunds are awesome, come with prices and Craft-DCs and all have options to use mythic power to enhance their potency even further: Sheer coolness and two thumbs up for these; Now can we have a whole book of them please?



But this is a monster book, so let's take a look at the monsters and their mythic abilities, shall we? The weakest adversary herein would be the Celebric Fungus at CR 4/MR 1 - proximity to these threats blurs the vision of unfortunates to the point where otherworldly phantoms hamper their ability to strike their targets. Non-mythic creatures having to save twice versus their enchantments also makes for a rather nasty effect, as does their nauseating scream or daze-inducing touch.



Mythic Denizens of Leng get perhaps one of the coolest, weirdest abilities I've ever seen for a creature - whenever they would take bleed damage, said damage is negated, as their blood flies through the air in an extra-corporeal form of blood-circulation that defies the laws of gravity - among others. This, however, also results in their toxic blood being sprayed at attackers. Beyond the mythic enhancements to their abilities, a damn cool idea. Mythic faceless stalkers learn, by the way, to change between their own and a humanoid's face is a maddening cascade of rubbery flesh that may result in the disassociation spellblight as well as cha-damage... Gibbering mouthers of the mythic variety may make the duration of the insanity their babbling causes last longer and add the gibberish of their confused victims to their own potent powers, while Mythic gugs may entangle foes in their own intestines... EW!!! (Also, this may cause severe damage to all physical stats...)



Mythic Hounds of Tindalos may bilocate, i.e. exist twice at the same time by importing themselves from the future, netting them one of the most powerful, cool abilities I've seen in quite some time! Worse, they can manipulate the fate of their victims, forcing them to roll checks multiple times, taking the worse result. Have I mentioned the ability to duplicate detrimental effects they cause? These things are no truly frightening! Mythic Leng Spiders, with their nigh-indestructible nets and the ability to draw targets into other planes are cool, but don't manage to reach this level of abject awesomeness.



Mythic Moon Beasts learn to send helpless victims into a coma that has them transform into denizens of Leng and mythic Neh-thalggu learn to share telepathic visions of their terrible home-world, damaging their sanity and on the defensive side, they may use mythic power to shift through space and planes. Mythic Shantak can channel the void between the stars, dealing a bit of damage and heaping detrimental conditions upon hapless PCs or deliver devastating flyby attacks. Finally the CR 24/MR 9 mythic shoggoths can spawn non-mythic shoggoths or implant embryonic shoggoths in targets and they may also counter each and every attack with an AoO - suffice to say that gravity does not hold sway over these terrors. The final creature, the Mythic Byakhee, gets the ability to molt with nightmare-inducing results and create noxious acid pits to boot.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games neat full-color two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, as well as with hyperlinks - at least partially. Due to some sort of strange glitch, the Denizens of Leng, Gibbering Mouther, Hound of Tindalos, Leng Spider, Moon Beast and Greater Byakhee all lack the hyperlinks, while the other statblocks feature them. Weird. The two artworks herein are okay, though slightly less awesome than usual for Legendary Games - they did not drive home the sense of fear I expected.



I'm a sucker for mythos-threats, as just about all of you by now will probably know, and these mythic creatures are actually CLOSER to what mythos creatures should be able to do than the base creatures, which, at least for me, more often than not fall short of the weirdness they should be able to accomplish. The authors Tom Phillips, Jonathan Keith, Jim Groves and Jason Nelson have delivered a bestiary, which I will use to represent mythos-threats in non-mythic games - these beings should evoke terror and that they do, thanks to the vast array of unique, new, cool abilities! The amount of iconic signature abilities, the cool supplemental material - that's the icing on the cake and more than enough to offset the rare case when one particular version does not 100% live up to the level of awesomeness of the others. The inconsistent hyperlinking would be my only other gripe, but at least for me, that's not enough to rate down a supplement that vastly enhances the alien terror and thus enriches our games - not necessarily exclusively on a mythic level. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Monsters: Mythos
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Advanced Races 5: Ravenfolk (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/06/2014 04:34:57
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press' Advanced Races-series is 19 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC,1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



All right, let's get one thing out of the way - I LOVE Tengu and I adore the Midgard Huginn - blending one of my favorite races with a distinct Germanic/Scandinavian tone, the fluff of this race is simply glorious. Idea-wise...but can the content stand up to the concept? Racial trait-wise, Huginn (or Heru/Heruti, as they are known in the South...) get +2 Dex and Wis, - 2 Con, 30 ft movement, low-light vision, +2 stealth and perception, +4 linguistics (and two languages per rank invested) and are sword-trained (read proficient) with ALL sword-like weapons.. A list of examples are given and honestly, I don't get why punching daggers have been included in it. Seeing that weapons like elven curve blades and kukris are included, I think a slightly tighter set would have been still enough. They also get a 1d3 bite attack, which I assume works as a primary natural weapon, though the pdf does not explicitly specify that. Fluff-wise, the insights into Ravenfolk culture, psychology, nesting as well as the unique concepts as conveyed per their intricate Feather Speech, which contains otherwise untranslatable concepts - this chapter is just awesome. Did you for example know about the Huginn rookeries and ghettos, about the tsar of Vidim using the Huginn as elite-soldiers and spies? We also get to know about the Huginn of Zobeck as well as those of Nuria-Natal before being introduced to the Ravenfolk's take on various adventuring classes.



A total of 13 alternate racial traits are provided, allowing you to flavor your Huginn as servants of Horus, Wotan etc. Huginn blessed by Wotan may for example learn to speak with the dead, southern mystics arcane sight (though the spells are not properly italicized). Another trait allows the huginn to get a 1d8 claw attack in lieu of being swordtrained - I assume as a primary natural weapon, but I'm not sure since the pdf fails to specify. Also: Does this claw attack qualify as improved unarmed strike? While from the standard-rules it of course doesn't, it would be kind of cool as an idea. (And no, I won't hold that against the pdf.) Another trait allows for the investment into the fly-skill (and said skill as a class skill) sans having access to a fly speed as well as for the diminishment of falling damage via the fly skill.



A total of 6 racial feats allow for further customization, with those born from the bloodlines of Huginn and Muninn, the ravens of Wotan, being able to reroll saves versus enchantment or transmutation-spells 1/day - neat! The other 4 feats unfortunately offer cool fluff, but also rather lame +2 bonuses to skills as well as bonuses to e.g. damage versus aberrations, saves versus necromancy etc. Oh well, the fluff of the feats at least is rather cool.



We also get new archetypes: Wotan's Doomcroaker-oracle get clairaudience/clairvoyance as a spell-like ability (AGAIN not italicized) or contact other planes. The capstone allows for legend lore AT WILL as well as automatic stabilization and immunity to fear effects, though at least the stabilization will be all but inconsequential at this level. An ability for more negative HP until the oracle perishes would be neat... Marc Radle's excellent spontaneous caster, the Shaman-class, gets new fodder with the Black feather, which nets the shaman not only relatively fast flight and the ability to assume avian shape, but also feather fall at will and the new corvid spirit guide. Sea Ravens are essentially huginn vikings that can forego basic weapon dice (i.e. dealing only str-mod damage plus similar modifiers) for free intimidates as well as bonuses while at sea and later the rapid attack quality of the mobile fighter archetype. Tomb Raven Wizards double numeric effects of spells targeting undead, which makes them superb slayers of undead and deadly necromancers - to the point where I'm not sold on the effects - doubling? Seriously?. They also get an additional attack on the turn after an ally's been reduced to 0 hp or fewer - though this ability needs specification: Is this attack an action? Is it executed at the highest BAB? What if there is no eligible target? This one needs cleaning up. The final archetype would be the Thief of Secrets is an acolyte of the teaching of Thoth-Hermes and gets detect magic at will as well as 1/day obscuring mist and passwall. They also are specialists of fighting with quarterstaffs. Okay, I guess.



We also get 6 new spells - an improved level 3 version of fox's cunning (and its mass version), a cantrip for strange obscure pieces of knowledge from Mimir's Well. Mine! makes an object of your desire (at close range, but the spell lacks the precise range usually included in spells) insubstantial. This spell is a can of worms - when cast on magic gear, for example, does the wearer becoming incorporeal prevent the item from falling? What about cursed items? Those that require attunement periods? The idea of the spell is cool, but the execution would require a significantly more detailed text. Ravenfolk's Revocation allows the caster to prevent creatures from flying, but thankfully only works on creatures already on the ground. Cool one! Finally, Shrieking Flock acts as Mislead + a frightening effect for targets with not that many HD. Nice variant.



We also get new pieces of mundane/alchemical equipment herein - from putty that allows Huginn to disguise themselves as other featherless, beakless humanoids, feather dyes and bleaches (with their meanings!), lozenges to alter voices, a guide of feather speech, a quill that may contain elaborate messages and a particularly effective cloak make for culturally distinct, cool pieces of equipment. On the weapon-side, we get beak razors, fighting spurs and wing razors - making bleeding more painful, working better with called shots (and having an alternate bonus if you don't use called shots) - all in all, cool secondary benefits to these weapons.



Finally, we get 4 new magic items - Wotan's Whisperers are stone ravens that unerringly find their targets via the ways of the world tree (no tracking these!) and deliver their messages exclusively to them - which oozes the stuff of myths. The Sword of the Sea Raven allows Huginn to determine whether a vessel carries valuable cargo, whereas the Spear of the Sun Hawk is particularly effective versus evil, undead, can be whirled to generate true sunlight. Good huginn may does something that requires careful thought - they may throw the spear at a target and ignore any range penalties - the spear has essentially unlimited range, with only visibility limiting its range. Upon being used this way, the spear turns into a regular masterwork spear for 3 days, though. This is awesome! Finally, a minor artifact, the Thief of Many Things, a carved wooden raven. Whisper to the raven and it will steal something for you - something which will potentially endanger you, be not applicable to your situation or be just the thing you needed. Great storytelling potential here!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but far from perfect - while there are not that many issues in the rules-language as in the Dragonkin-installment, the amount of avoidable italicization-glitches is a bit annoying. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard for Midgard and the artworks in full-color and b/w are universally awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Author Wade Rockett has delivered a compelling supplement here, but one that sees me torn - the crunch herein, while not flawed, just isn't that inspiring - rules-wise, you will not be wowed by this supplement. Where he instead excels is with the fluff - the insights into Huginn society and psychology, the fluff behind many of the pieces of crunch - they are awesome and make the at times downright bland bonuses e.g. a couple of feats deliver seem almost jarring. Where the blending works best, superbly so, in fact, is with the items, both mundane and magical - they are universally awesome, cool and fun and deliver an eclectic blend of storytelling potential/narrative-driven options, unique weapon-enchantments and culturally significant items - were this just about the items, this would be 5 stars + seal of approval.



Alas, it isn't and I have to take the relatively uninspired feats and archetypes, the problematic spell, the formatting glitches etc. into account - and, unfortunately, they do drag the pdf down from the heights that the information on Huginn culture, the items and superb coolness of the fluff would deserve. In the end, I will settle for a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform because though personally, I value ideas above everything else, the minor issues add up. However, one can still design/assign other rules to the ideas herein, whereas ideas are what inspires one to do so, and idea-rich this indeed is - the author has taken more than a tiny sip from Mimir's Well. One final caveat: When not using this in Midgard, i.e. ignoring the fluff, detract 1 star from the rating.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 5: Ravenfolk (Pathfinder RPG)
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Lords of Gossamer & Shadow (Diceless)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/04/2014 03:08:49
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive sourcebook for Erick Wujcik's Diceless system is 168 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page list of patronage/Kickstarter-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 163 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Born from Amber Dicelss Roleplaying, LoGaS depicts a setting which, unsurprisingly, makes use of countless worlds - the Gossamer worlds, made real by ethereal, true power. These countless worlds are connected to another via the Grand Staircase, an unfathomably huge staircase that features countless doors leading to countless gossamer worlds. Behind the screen, the forces of eidolon and umbra wage war eternal - eidolon being the force of supreme structure and organization, the ideal form of the multiverse, whereas umbra, its opposing principle, is essentially the chaos and entropy that seeks to undo all - the shadow lurking between gossamer worlds, constantly striving to claim worlds - whether temporarily or permanently. You are one of the travelers of the grand stairs, made aware of its countless possibilities, as mere wandering it starts to enhance your prowess to superhuman levels - the lords and ladies of gossamer are indeed powerful enough to change the destiny of whole worlds and have carved mostly secure worlds from the vast number of them. But balance demands duality and hence, there are the Dwimmerlaik, servants of the shadow that wage war unending on the self-anointed wardens of the great stairs.



Now after a short glossary of basic terms for newcomers, we dive into character generation - First, you choose a concept (more on those later) and then, you assign 100 points - you have to buy attributes, powers and extras from this array of points - the thing is, you may undercut or overstep this - earning good or bad karma. Rather cool! Also unique: All characters start at superhuman levels in all 4 attributes - you can get more points by cutting down to various mortal levels, though. Now attributes are handled via an auction at character creation - whoever bids highest, becomes ranked one - this character cannot be surpassed by the others in the given field, only approached. The auction per se comes with step-by-step guidelines, two alternatives/modifications to the system and easily and comprehensibly presented. Essentially, the player's bidding determines the relative power rank and how many points its costs to be up there -almost, for later buying attributes nets you .0.5 ranks on the ladder - you're almost, but not as god as the one that has the full rank. It should be noted that only characters who do not bid for an attribute can diminish it to paltry mortal levels, thus gaining more points budget. And you'll want those points, for powers, among which easy egress to the great stair, can be found, also cost points - a LOT points. Mastery of the power of eidolon or umbra e.g. costs a whopping 50 points. Now I mentioned bad karma - it's essentially what is called "Stuff" - having bad stuff means that the universe treats you rather badly: Rain, unpleasant reactions etc., while good stuff means the opposite. It should be noted that the book does something smart in offering players points for e.g. selecting background music, making quote lists, campaign diaries, quest logs etc. - which is awesome and a practice I'm using in a modular version in campaigns throughout the systems I play.



Of course, a Gamemaster also has some say regarding e.g. parents, allies, mentors and items - character creation is essentially a dialog here - which is great for storytelling and assures a more fulfilled playing experience for everyone. The 4 attributes (psyche, strength, endurance and warfare) are well explained and the powers also have a lot of material herein - from essentially having a list of magic (including words of power to utter when invoking the spells) to the privileges that powers grant, each has a lot of different options available - with the exclusion of hard numbers/dice, the sky is the limit for more than a few of these, including a very wide array of different modifications of creatures and artifacts, allowing you to essentially design beings and items to your heart's content - again, costing those precious points, though... And the interesting thing here is, that secret bidding and precise capabilities are not known to the other players - after all, much like in Amber etc., intrigues and yes, potentially even fighting among the player characters is a distinct possibility... - which also makes character advancement interesting - upgrading to the next rank on the attribute ladder is done by the GM (since you don't know the final results of the auction after the secret ranks have been added...) and may mean you incur bad stuff - rather interesting.



Of course, combat is rather different from most other settings due to a) the PCs being essentially demi-god-level paragons and b) there not being any dice around. Hence, GMs get a lot of advice and examples on how to handled combat, PC death and similar situations -and on how running a diceless game changes the overall tone of a roleplaying session. And yes, these are things to consider and make players aware of - with immature players, every situation could turn into an argument and much like in character generation, all is dialog here and hence, Gamemasters in particular should take a very close look at all those examples and take them to heart as well as explain to the players how different the experience will turn out to be.



Now, of course, we also get the setting-information - R'lyeh, Valhalla, Hell - everything you can conceive exists on the Great Stair and the Gossamer Lords & Ladies and their war with the Dwimmerlaik as well as the opposing principles of eidolon and umbra already make for a compelling and rich tapestry of options before the sample lords & ladies of gossamer and the both named and generic dwimmerlaik are presented - the latter of which get access to a deadly tool called channeling, which does btw. an awesome job at keeping them a viable and deadly versatile threat to even the powerful demigods the player characters are. Add to that undead, minotaurs and similar mythic beings, shapechangers etc. and we have a nice arsenal of adversaries ready.



The book also contains a short introductory module, adventure seeds, a list of inspirations, a reference-appendix, a note of thanks by the author, an index and a total of 3 sheets, one of which allows a player to design his/her own domain. (Yes, I forgot to mention that one - you can, of course, have your own home-base/world/plane...) Oh, and the pdf comes with form-fillable char-sheets.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed scarcely any minor glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard with purplish/violet, unobtrusive borders. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Beyond the books initial patronage model, Rite Publishing ran a kickstarter for more art - and oh boy, does it show - this is one of the most beautiful books I've ever seen a 3pp produce - the artworks are classy, awe-inspiring and make you want to craft the depicted characters immediately, evoking a wide plethora of associations and at the same time carrying a very distinct flair and unifying artistic vision. Glorious!



When I was a child, I played diceless with my friends - though not the system. We'd run around outside in the garden, venture into the forests, and our characters would have special powers, which we determined beforehand - thus, by climbing on top of trees, lying down on mossy earth, scavenging raspberries and evading noisy squirrels, we walked through a land crafted by our own imagination, a world layered atop our own, where wonder and endless potential loomed, where our fantasy was the only limit. Video-games proved to be fun inspirations for us, but nothing ever came even close to our holistic fantasy of universal wonder, the countless tales we had woven.



Then life happened - one can, alas, not remain blissfully ignorant and this world's gossamer weave clings closer and closer, until the doors of one's fantasy start slamming shut, becoming mere windows that still can provide a glimpse of the exceptional, but that's it. And sooner or later, we have to concede that "The kids aren't all right", as harsh realities come crashing down.



Roleplaying, to me, recaptures a tiny fragment of this spark of immediacy once lost, a means of weaving a yarn greater than the sums and ambitions of its parts. The catch is - ultimately, more often than not, the rules get in the way. "You can't do that." And while I love the thrill of the rolling dice, at times, I long for a storytelling where one jumped across a bed of flowers, imagining carnivorous plants or seething magma, one essentially all but unhampered by restrictions or balance-concerns - and this is as close as you can probably get to it. Jason Durall has created a setting that is similar enough to Amber's tradition to keep fans happy, while at the same time, at least in my opinion, expanding the possibilities - this setting transcends fantasy and sci-fi, horror even, as genres and allows you to tell YOUR story - with no limitations to your imaginations but those you and your players compromise to adhere to. This book does so much in inciting the imagination, it's almost unbelievable - this is collective storytelling, codified by a solid, easy to grasp ruleset that keeps balance sans impeding any sort of creativity. I am extremely positive that just about any DM (and even player) can benefit from reading this book, even if one does not intend to run a campaign - why?



Because this book makes it possible for you to experience once again the wonder, when you fought Godzilla with Excalibur, when your cyborg-buddy cast the spell to seal the devil in your lamp, when the power rangers duked it out with the Ninja Turtles and you were caught in between.

Oh, and one thing - this system does not require you to be at a table - provided everyone knows the rules, you could quite frankly play this system with tucked in char-sheets while hiking, camping and doing similar activities, perhaps adding a slight LARPish tint to it for additional fun ("All right, if you manage to jump across this little tree stump, then your character can do XYZ") - be responsible, though! I know that's how I will probably use this game.



If you haven't noticed by now - I love this system. Will I make it my dominant one? No, I love rolling the bones too much and a bit of roll-playing, frequent character deaths etc. are exciting to me and my players. But once in a while, a very pure ROLEplaying experience, one that omits the "roll", is glorious and quite probably might change how you think about our hobby, storytelling etc. Oh, and if you're like me, this book will open doors towards realms of inspiring, unbridled creativity you deemed once lost - recapturing some components of that magic, where everything, for a moment at least, is possible. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars +seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.l

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lords of Gossamer & Shadow (Diceless)
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Urban Dressing: Thieves
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/04/2014 02:31:00
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Urban Dressing-series is 15 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Every city needs its conmen and scoundrels and this pdf delivers fluffy portrayals of these rogues for DMs to pursue - the first table providing more than 30 entries of NPC-names (including one little note on classes/combinations), each of which offers not only a name, but also a modus operandi these pickpockets and conmen use to try to relieve poor commoners (or even PCs) of their hard-earned gold! From meat-cleaver carrying lock-breakers to thieves targeting beggars (despicable...) or street magicians - quite a bunch of nice options waiting here to fill the cells of the local watch...or the gallows.



15 different thus are included in the next table, men for the tough jobs, when folks need intimidation or the loss of a finger, toe or similar easily misplaced part of the body. Mute hunters of tongues, halflings that awake you with a blade to your throat, sling-using dwarves - an interesting assortment of men and women of violent tempers. The third table offers an even wider selection of skilled thieves - A total of 33 characters with PC-races and various experience-levels: 4-fingered pickpockets, specialists in providing boltholes and all the other specialists a guild may require are here for the introduction into your game and the building of their respective statblocks. Neat and thoroughly iconic! Speaking of specialists - a total of 15 additional entries provide a true assortment of specialists - from cat-burglars to clean-up men - here are the true specialists!



We also get 4 statblocks for generic thieves, ranging from CR 1/4 urchins to CR 3 Bruisers and close the pdf with a massive table of 50 entries providing further complications for encounters with and around thieves, rounding out this pdf rather well - after all, the masked guy that has just traversed the wall may actually be who he claims- the god of thieves...



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column full-color standard and the one-page piece of stock art works well in the context of the supplement. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and arrives on your HD in two versions, one intended for screen use and one for the printer.



Designer Josh Vogt provides a DM's dream - if you ever needed to create a compelling, functional thieves' guild or criminal underworld, you'll realize how much consideration and time it may take, and while you'll still have to do the statblocks for non rank-and-file thugs, this pdf does all the rest for you: The specialists etc. are glorious and demand being inserted into the seedy underbellies of your campaign - all fluff and glorious ideas, with some nice basic stats thrown in the mix, this supplement is a joy to read and thankfully very versatile - this is a load of work off any DM's back and actually inspiring. Well, this pdf is damn close to perfection, but honestly, I would have enjoyed a short tie-in with Ultimate Campaign or a sample cost of some operations/guildhouses (just rooms + costs). I'm complaining at a high level here, though - this is damn close to being perfect and is simply more varied than the book on the watch - hence 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!]
Urban Dressing: Thieves
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Between Chains and Starlight
Publisher: Space Potato Productions
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/03/2014 03:18:08
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This book by Space Potato Productions is 228 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages about the book, 2 pages ToC, 1 page blank inside the back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a whopping 218 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



We kick off this setting's introduction with a flavor-text in character that gives us a brief (and surprisingly well-written) run-down of the setting: Essentially, it was not an AI that led to this dystopian future, but rather mankind's own potential for less than savory practices: In a vast war, a significant amount of planets was destroyed and made uninhabitable and now, the empires of Corinth and Kurion are at a stand-off -when Altair is discovered: A comparably primitive world, yes, but a populated one and one rife for the taking, one that dares stand up to those two entities. As you can glean from this introduction, the sci-fi setting as depicted herein is not particularly rosy, but it does have the makings of being potentially played in a more over the top space-opera style.



Now the first thing you'll notice from the introduction of the setting would be that both magic and technology exist -some of the worlds covered in the setting may actually be of your regular technology-level of fantasy worlds or pre-industrial revolution societies - the opening of portals and interstellar travel to those can of course result in massive changes in the way demographics react to ideas - as a catalyst for change and sheer unlimited potential for cultural clashes, the premise could be described as "Magic offsets technology's advantages in part" and "There is no prime directive". In the meanwhile, the darker empires out there are on the verge of decline, whereas the fractured empires of Altair have united under the Admiralty, and much like other human empires, crafted space ships to defend them, taking half-understood knowledge salvaged from wrecks etc. to do so. On the side of most important technological advances should stand the 3D-printing and CnC-advances, Plasma Thrusters and cold fusion reactors - while computers have hit a dead-end, with sufficiently powerful AIs and systems usually running afoul of a weird wave that hampers their processes - hence, human presence is still essential in warfare, though drones and the like are still used. Trans-planar communication is handled via satellites and asynchronous, for the information only manages the speed of light, so in Simmon's terms, information incurs quite a time debt. Travel between galaxies is undertaken via worm-holes in the (relative) proximity of the respective central stars. Surprisingly, only ships boarded by organic life seem to be able to make these instantaneous jumps - hence, the jumping is actually treated as a magical/psionic effect. So let's sum up the status quo - we have two evil empires, an emergent light in the Admirality, Hazioth (more on that later) and some potential, including hostile galaxies.



Okay, that essentially are the basics - after that, we're introduced to Altair, the first faction: Essentially a feudal, magical setting that has instantly been made aware of technology - hard sci-fi mixed with a backdrop of feudal fantasy. Much like the overall star-system map, we also get a map of one part of a planet and quite an array of fiction that goes into the peculiarities from this unique set-up, written in-character from various perspectives and covering thus some peculiarities - e.g. the problems of attacking undead with laser-guns. Each faction herein comes with nice in-character narratives, by the way!



The Corinthian Hegemony is a dystopian society where the rich and powerful have, via a tight control of education etc. - life-expectancy is 54 years (strangely for men and women), while only 10% truly hold power and live in comfort. the hegemony is considered an empire devoid of large innovation - as befitting a culture that deliberately enforces aggression and stupidity to create soldiers. Those guys should probably have read the memoirs of the "Alter Fritz" (aka Frederick the Great), the Prussian king - he understood that stupid and malnourished/addicted soldiers are bad soldiers and via his educational reforms turned a semi-backwater kingdom into a significant power with one of the most efficient militaries of his time... What I'm trying to get at is...I understand the intention of providing a dystopian, noiresque background, perhaps even one that may act as a kind of satire on our own culture. But systems like these here don't work as flawlessly as depicted here - there always will be revolutionaries, brilliant minds born from idiot parents etc. and postulating an absolute class system sans means of ascending not only will prove to be fatal for the gene-pool, it also simply won't work in the long run. I get that that may be the intention, but for me, I can't truly suspend my disbelief for this society - it's a tad bit too dreary, too grimdark to seem "realistic" to me.



Hazioth is the utopian equivalent to Corinth's Dystopia - loosely based on egalitarian values as practiced in our world, this faction is most earth-like and un-alien, also in its aesthetics - the faction represents mankind "getting it mostly right" - and yes, that's a direct quote from the book. The thing is - it feels TOO close. From the writing, I did not glean any information on how stellar travel, magic etc. has influenced society and this, honestly, makes the faction feel a bit like the obligatory bland goody-two-shoes faction for players to oppose the evil empires.



Speaking of evil empires . you thought the Corinthian Hegemony was despicable? Kurions use cybernetic implants to rule absolutely over a huge population of people, enforcing their will upon them - where the Corinthians are decadent, the Kurions are downright fascist bastards, complete with Running Man-like gladiatorial TV-programs and mass-deportations to refresh the ranks of their cyborgs. Environment is poisoned and ruined, military police is corrupt and overall, the living conditions are a total disaster - though at least here, we get a form of rebellion in the making, futile and doomed though it may be. Again, I feel as if this whole construct was born from dystopian concepts like the "Running Man"-like shows and similar disturbing visions and to an extent, it works, but overall was not consequently thought through - why oppress and bury in violence when you can rule and be loved by the population? All dictators that are truly "successful" have learned to sway the masses in their favor - you can antagonize adversaries, but you need to establish a common enemy, a cultural identity, an ideology to enforce properly such a system - essentially a threat that justifies being a tyrant. Overall, for me, this is too plainly and one-dimensionally evil. We also are introduced to some smaller factions, but in order to not bloat this review further, I'll skim over pirates, patchers etc. here.



The basics of the setting out of the way, we are introduced to 5 new feats related to e.g. starship piloting. Computer-Use and Crafting of various technological tools are also covered, as is piloting and repairing items. Speaking of items: Sealed suits and integrating magic items into them is covered as are powered armors -the rules to create these are awesomely customizable, though they do leave some minor questions: One: They net DR 2/- - Does that stack with the DR granted by adamantine powered armors? What harness and hp have the exotic materials? It's cool that armor may have chameleon skin for invisibility-camouflage, but does the spell see invisibility for example see through that one? It's small bits and pieces like that make mixed settings like this one slightly problematic - there just are so many options - perhaps too many. Energy weapons, sonic weapons etc. are also introduced and while generally, I like the range-modifications (sonic weapons working e.g. better under water), they also suffer from some minor inconsistencies: Laser-weapons are blocked by sand clouds or smoke. And while lasers as weapons as a concept are problematic (slightest wiggles make them off-kilter, air becomes plasma that blocks the laser etc.) - smoke is NOT a problem for lasers. Even if you assume that lasers work as weapons, smoke and sand as obstacles are ill-defined -dusty room + gust of wind/ventilator: Does it still work? I don't know. And yes, I realize this is nitpicky, but still. Burst Fire and auto-fire get their own rules, though the latter gets an easy, fixed DC of 15 + 1/+2 for focus/specialization to avoid: Why not tie that to the actual attack roll? Oh yeah, another issue here - it requires a hit versus a fixed AC 15 and covers 10 ft. x 10 ft. - why not make this area variable for different weapons? What's rather cool on the other side is the inclusion of large weapons intended for powered suits and vessels as their peculiarities - it's hard to shoot medium or small targets with railguns, for example.



Scanners, psionic receptacles (which can regenerate bullets, repair items, ships etc.) and similar items are introduced and rather cool. What about magic and technology? Well, there is an arcane technology school and a cleric domain (both of which violate standard formatting for lists like that) and essentially, magic and technology can be freely combined - true strike sniper rifles? Yes, possible. Spells to highjack machines, clear viruses etc.? Covered. Punch others through the web via Punch by IP? Yes. If this spell existed irl, I'd be quite probably dead. While cool and catering to my sensibilities, these spells make for problematic laws - while dealing only non-lethal damage, how authorities deal with options like this would be VERY interesting. Oh, and I want to cast Summon Ferret Inside Enemy Spacesuit - yes, this spell exists herein. AWESOME. Speaking of awesome - while I'm not wholly sold on the blending of technology and magic, at least the book wholeheartedly embraces the potential: Cold lasers, bayonets that cause machines to flee, crystals that can be substituted for XP in crafting and even medical units and regenerating pods can be found herein.



Now what about creatures? The setting herein has Cyborgs -quite a bunch of them, and yes, they can be hacked, their control/torture-chips over-ridden. And yes, we get all the DCs as well as neat artworks for most of the cyborgs - from strange assassin-cyborgs to walking turrets and the Kurian nobles, we get quite a neat array herein. Have I mentioned the Cyborg Tyrannosaurus or the optional ability-upgrade Kurian nobles may get by entering a pact with a demon? Or the fact that the Kurian emperor's brain has been implanted into a gold dragon (yes, there's a template for that!). Living machines are essentially free-willed machines that developed a sentience and have since turned away from their erstwhile creators: Taking imagery from insects, fungi and similar designs, these machines feel distinctly alien, with e.g. the fungi being able to reactivate defeated machines and huge mechanical mantises acting as "living" siege weapons. Per se, all of that is damn cool - take the mantis - it's weaponry sucks the air from its surrounding area, drawing potential beings closer. Problematic - instead of properly using pull/drag-maneuvers as per the PFRPG-standard, the ability instead works via a fixed Str-DC, which is not only uncommon, its antiquated design more suitable for 3.X. Unfortunately, this does not remain the only example where a closer scrutiny of PFRPG's rules-conventions would have made for a much smoother integration/unified feeling. Have I mentioned undead space pirates?



Now, we also get ship-to-ship combat rules - and they are actually rather good: Not using the basic vehicle-rules, though, they allow for multiple characters to act, with the pilot's skill adding to the AC each round, gunners shooting, electronic warfare etc. - a rather significant amount of options are available, though distances are mostly handled on a relative scale, not a simulationalist's scale. We also get a rather impressive array of quick-to-play rules here - mass warfare, Point-blank combat, planetside combat and combat as cruise speed - a surprising and more importantly, surprisingly easy to grasp array of options for proper ship-to ship combat that can keep more than one player engaged is presented here. Kudos! We also get a SIGNIFICANT array of generic ship classes including mass, hp, hd etc., including some planetside combat vehicles like hovertanks. Customization is also rather important -from shield generators, to increased speed, weaponry etc. to actual technology that can be further upgraded via magic, this chapter, if anything, could have been even longer for my tastes - it's by far the most fun and versatile of the chapters so far, even before introducing jammer missiles and all those delightful ship weapons. And yes, all of these components are expensive as sin, but come on - you KNOW you want to blast something to pieces with a friggin' fusion torpedo! I don't get why mines don't get an easily readable chart like missiles and instead have costs etc. in the regular text, though - a formatting oversight, I guess. What's not an oversight, but a tinker's wet dream, would be the massive rules for creating your own ship - tables upon tables upon tables upon tables - easy to understand, expensive, but oh so rewarding. Of course, we also get sample crews and ships by the respective major player fractions, with e.g. Corinthian ships utilizing modules to change type and weaponry - cool idea and solid execution! Oh yes, and there are star- wraiths and pirate ships herein, too!



The next chapter deals with vehicle combat rules - These work mostly analogue to ship combat and include spider-mechs, hover limousines and the like - a rather large array of vehicles, but by far not that many exclusive customization options as the ships - as such, this chapter feels comparably a bit bare-bones for my tastes. Some additional land-vehicle only-modifications to make use of varying levels of gravity (something btw. mostly ignored herein) and similar environmental peculiarities would have gone a long way here.



Chapter 5 then offers Missions, i.e. adventure-outlines, intended for characters between level 6 and 9 and providing basics as well as a general outline and maps. I'll only briefly glance over these, but still: Players should skip to the end of the



SPOILERS



Still here? All right! The first mission is all about two cults warring on Altair, both of which have purchased a biological weapon that now kills the primitive inhabitants. In order to stop the plague, the PCs have to unearth the origin of the plague, its design-specifics from a cell-phone, and request help from Hazioth. In the next mission, they are to follow up on this issue and thus defeat lizardfolk, kobold tinkers' berserk reverse engineered Cyborgs and finally defeat the Kurion spy and his evil druid assistant. The next mission sees the PCs stranded on Tajano, a Kurion-controlled planet, where they'll have to survive in the wasteland, deal in trading bunkers and scavenge in hostile terrain featuring both living machines and marauders - fully mapped, btw.! Finally, the PCs will need to travel to the city of Lixian, where they'll have chances to interact with a living machine nursery and even infiltrate a military base before finally repairing the ship and escaping first the world, and then the system- I would have LOVED this mission being depicted in full-blown mega-adventure-detail - it is rather fun, but due to its format also requires severe work on behalf of the DM to flesh out. The next mission is more straight-forward and has the PCs hired to deal with pirates attacking a particular asteroid-colony -when properly played up, this one may become VERY creepy. Neato. The next mission has an uncommon target - the PCs are to crash a Kurion series and prevent psionic rift drive components from falling into the hands of either competing Kurion nobles. This, of course, is harder than it seems at first and includes infiltration and finally entering a huge ice-lump in space (with ship to steal the prize. Again, neat!

/SPOILERS

The appendix includes fluff-only write-ups of sample NPCs, random encounters (CR 6 - 15) and an example for ship to ship combat to help you get how the rules work.



Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are still ok - I noticed a couple of instances where the font-size changed, where information was not put in item-boxes or minor formatting issues and here and there some clunky wordings/mistakes. Nothing too serious, though. Layout adheres to a per se nice 2-column full-color standard and the background is essentially a leather-like skin spanned over dark techy engines and the pdf comes with quite an array of relatively neat full color artworks that lend the product its own distinct identity. Some pages are black with white ink. The pdf has been updated to include a printer-friendly version and now also sports bookmarks, making navigation much more comfortable -awesome!

Benjamin Martinali's "Between Chains & Starlight" is an extremely ambitious setting - planar and stellar travel, ship-to-ship combat, magic & technology - that's A LOT to cover and indeed, in spite of this book's massive size, I fear cramming all inside one book may have been over-ambitious. Why? Because magic and technology and their interaction is NOT that simple: What about divination-communication? How do humans treat other humanoids? The introduction of ONE such component creates a vast panorama of changes that can make for intriguing material indeed - and this book skirts the premise, but only grazes it. The introduction of two such components then would massively change the whole dynamics of how societies work - why not teleport/assassinate into Kurion palaces, for example? As much as I'm loathe to say it, "Amethyst Renaissance" has covered the results of magic/technology (though there in opposition to one another) in a more concise, mature way - in "Between Chains and Starlight", the resulting blend essentially makes technology just an extension of magic - since it can be enchanted, the "real" component, the rationality implicit in technology, is lost. The fact that AIs don't work, but Cyborgs and Living Machines are out there also feels a bit like a cop-out - Dan Simmon's TechnoCore or similar scenarios show easily how such a concept can be included sans breaking humanity. Now I do love some of the ideas, but the web is also rather ill-defined and sketchy, while the factions are a tad bit one-dimensional, which also doesn't fit with the more shades-of-grey mentality that accompanies most sci-fi settings - and the fact that this setting screams "Firefly with magic" to me. That is a good thing, for I'm a huge sucker for said series. Essentially, the book stretches itself too thin to provide anything but sketchy outlines of the factions and thus make them less believable than e.g. "Amethyst Renaissance"'s cultures. Which sucks, for both some of the mission-outlines and the crunchy bits indeed do show promise, but could have used some expansion as well.



Unlike Necropunk, we don't get proper Zero-G- (or phase-)combat rules and overall, this book feels like its respective cultures, as unfortunate as that may seem, make no sense to me. They are too stereotypical and they are most certainly not what I'd label "dark" - in fact, as an over-the-top fun space-opera setting where anything goes and hard science has no place, this setting probably works best and is thus, at least imho, misnamed. While we have two dystopias, there is more to being "dark" than having "Evil Places" - in order to be "dark" and memorable, one has to ask questions - transhumanism, relative morality and the choice of lesser and greater evils, survival - all these resonate and are NOT the focus here; instead we get a mostly b/w-morality that tells us plainly: "Here there be culture clash, here there be evil, here there be good, here there be more evil." What about deities? Can they leave their planets? Demons etc. exist -can outsiders survive in space? Can planar gates be used to jump from planet to planet via the planes? By not limiting magic in any way, there are more question here than this book could ever have hoped to answer. And that's before getting into the issues with technology/interaction. Magic weapons vs. rifles, breast-plates versus plasma guns etc. - nothing covered, though even per the regular firearm rules, old blackpowder weapons can shoot past armor like that.



As a setting, I can't really get behind this book - it feels too undetailed, too black and white, too anything-goes and not logical enough to make proper use of its premise. Now does that make it a bad book? The answer would be a resounding NO. In fact, both the equipment and ship-rules are rather interesting and cool and really neat - seeing how "Sailing the Starlit Seas" was cancelled, this is, with reskinning, probably as close to space travel we'll get in a while and these rules are actually rather fun. I'd also complement the monsters - idea- and style-wise, the cyborgs, living machines etc. are AWESOME. However, they also suffer from various instances where they simply don't utilize rules as per PFRPG's design-standards. Also: Don't expect any support for non-core classes herein, vehicle rules, firearm rules in line with Paizo's or the like.



This book oozes heart's blood and passion and contrary to my nagging, I actually enjoyed several section in here, the irreverent tone of some spells/rules and several ideas just filled my heart with joy - in fact, this book should be considered a monumental achievement for such a small newcomer company. Benjamin Martinali can definitely be proud. That being said, the nitpicks accumulate. As a book for space ship-to-ship combat/ weapons/idea-mine via missions, as a scavenging ground, this book works well. As a believable setting, it fails due to too many unanswered questions and often one-dimensional depictions, at least for me.

And I probably would give this more leeway, were it not for how more mature both "Amethyst Renaissance" and "Necropunk" have handled the sci-fi/magic-technology/dark-themes. "Between Chains and Starlight" is by no means bad, but it also has MUCH room for improvement - for every nitpick there's a cool idea and every neat idea offers one or more particular instances where additional information can be developed. I think that by splitting this in a proper setting-fluff and a proper crunch-book and developing both, this could have indeed reached a high pinnacle and cover all the things it missed. And I've only scraped the ice-berg. Now I've haggled a lot with myself, since the at times non-standard rules are massive detriments I have to take into account as a reviewer. Still, there is enjoyment galore to be found here, cool ideas, working rules - but within the context of all other books I've reviewed, I can't ignore the issues that are here.



In the end, I'm settling on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform - the components that work in here are glorious, just don't expect to have your work cut out for you or a truly dark setting as advertized. Instead, consider this as an anything-goes book that requires some development to work as a setting, but also offers some awesome ideas and for scavenging purposes, makes for a nice offering. Feel free to add +0.5 stars to the rating when getting this only as an idea-mine.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Between Chains and Starlight
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NPC Arsenal No. 3: Mercenary Pikeman
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/03/2014 03:07:11
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This new series by Abandoned Arts offers you one NPC-build, a complex one - 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page character, so what do we get here?



This time around, we get a human polearm master fighter 9 at CR 8 - finally some love for the poor, underutilized polearms! The mercenary fights with a glaive-guisarme and when pictured, should remind you of how fighting against Kilik (or any other long-range character) can annoy the hell out of you in Soul Calibur: With improved readied actions and pushing assault as well as vital strike, running against the readied actions of this guy will prove painful indeed. The extensive notes on further leveling the build and tactics of this NPC add more value, showing (gleefully so), how utterly evil this build can be in melee, with potions helping against some of the character's weaknesses.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a landscape two-column standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.



A more than solid build centered on just being a polearm master, AoOs and readied actions, this build may not be the most complex one, but it is a fun build; One that should definitely make some PCs gnash their teeth. Now it's not a particularly complex build, but it's versatile and mobile enough to make for a fun NPC - taking the low price into account, I'll settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5: A very good, if not exceptional build.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
NPC Arsenal No. 3: Mercenary Pikeman
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