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Dark Oak Collector's Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/19/2013 04:34:16
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf is 45 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement 3 pages editorial (including SRD), 1 page ToC, 1 page foreword/table of encounters/CRs, 1 page advice on how to read statblocks for novice DMs, 1 page advice on how to use this module for novice DMs and 1 page back cover, leaving 35 pages of content.



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

Now if you're familiar with the original Dark oak-module, you'll immediately realize that this is no regular expansion/cut and paste-job; Much like Marc Radle's superb Sunken Pyramid, this module now ties in with a fully depicted village from the excellent Village Backdrop-series, namely Thornwood. This dreary, desolate village in the midst of a swamp makes for a great way to set tone and mood: From the decrepit town to the degenerate lizardfolk tribe of the Dark Oak, the step is not that long, a sense of degeneration and decay clinging tightly to all surroundings. Foreshadowing advice, excessive notes on how to get things going and especially the slightly rewritten background story do their best to properly fit both products together in a new organic whole.



The lavishly detailed Thornhill-settlement, rife with intrigue and sporting rumors, demographics, market-place settlement statblocks etc. is not only lavishly detailed, it also sets a superb tone and its great b/w-map should intrigue quite a few players while driving home the notion that this place is on the looming verge of disaster, not by virtue of a concrete doom, but rather as the result of a prevalent gloom that makes the very notion of this place seem like something that the swamp seeks to take down.



I did mention that this is not hack cut-copy-paste job and the subsequent exploration of the fully hex-mapped swamp with extensive notes on overland travel, random encounters, terrain effects on movement etc. makes for a superb connection between village and dungeon. Speaking of dungeon - unlike many a supplement out there, we get lore DCs for the respective adversaries. Speaking of adversaries - in order to even enter the complex, the PCs have to either destroy or negotiate with the degenerate treant guardian of the place - and yes, step-by-step negotiation information is provided - not just here, but also when dealing with mind-crush addicted (a new drug) lizardfolk. In teh combats the PCs face, they'll have to contend with an advanced crocodile and hopefully also manage the combats, which may easily spill into the water - in Raging Swan's tradition, DMs get all rules for said occurrences provided in one concise table, making running the otherwise potentially complex encounters rather easy.



If the PCs actually manage to defeat the lizardfolk's degenerate leaders and if they did not opt to kill the treant, the poor creature may by the way actually reward them. Among the bonus materials provided, we get a new deadly fungus, aforementioned drugs, two b/w-illustrated magic items, 6 pregens. You can also download the map of the dungeon with and without keys and grid in 4 versions on Ragingswan.com and you can also get a player-friendly version of Thornhill on RSP's homepage, but only on the entry for the separate Thornhill-file.



Conclusion:

Editing is top notch, I didn't notice any typos. Formatting also rocks and layout adheres to the clean, printer-friendly Raging Swan standard. As has become the tradition for Raging Swan Press' offerings, Dark Oak comes in two versions - one optimized for screen-use and one for print-use. Both come fully bookmarked for your convenience. The print-edition of this beauty in particular is awesome and elegant to hold in your hands - and seriously worth the fair asking price.

There are some very minor downsides to report, though: Not all artworks are stellar. On the other hand, the artwork for the treant just ROCKS and the superb cartography more than makes up for this minor gripe.

The adventure itself is straightforward but cool and features roleplaying encounters to solve problems without fighting. While I don't consider this adventure to be genius, I do consider it to be a supreme example of an adventure you can just pick up and play with your group without having to prepare it in advance and the expanded content indeed is well worth the fair asking price and means that this is by far the superior version - especially the short wilderness interlude greatly enhances the module.

EDIT: Check Raging Swan's hp for the web-enhancements/handouts etc.!



the original Dark Oak was good, the Collector's Edition is superb: Enticing, captivating, oozing flair and style, it breathes a sense of desolation only rarely seen in supplements, Creighton Broadhurst and Steve Hood have expanded a good module and turned it into a great one - a joy to read and a worthy upgrade of the original module and well worth 5 stars!



EDIT: Now that I don't have any gripes left: + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Oak Collector's Edition
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Arbakampsi (PWYW)
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/19/2013 04:28:29
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The latest installment of PDG's "Pay what you want"-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Arbakampsi is a game invented by the Zendiqi of the Patchwork-planet Porphyra and consists of one board with 64 spaces in 4 colors, 2 sets of 30 tokens of two different colors and 1d6.



The objective of the game is forming lines of 4 on the board, creating "borders". In the central space, the wager is placed. Said wager may be increased by the player "Arba", whereas the second player, "Kampsi", may decline this increase of forfeit. he may refuse the raising 4 times.



Arba is the elementalist and is first to go. Arba names a number from 1 to 4, then rolls the d6. When rolling under the announced number, Arba subtracts the number from 6 and places the appropriate amount of pieces on the board. If Arba has e.g. announced "2" and rolled a 1 on the d6, then Arba may place 4 tokens on the board. If Arba rolls over the announced amount, Kampsi may return one token to Arba and Kampsi's turn begins.



Kampsi, the second player, represents the Deists and may name numbers from 1 to 5. Both players may pass the die to the other. Lines of 4 tokens are worth 1 point. Having a majority in one of the colored rings is worth 2 points and completely controlling a ring is worth 3 points.



In-game, your characters may know these rules via skills and we get 3 feats as well - one lest you 1/day penalize a foe by -4 before he/she/it rolls, grant yourself a bonus of +5 before you roll or reroll one non-d20. The second fat allows you to reroll one natural 1 and a +8 bonus to one d20-roll after winning a game of Arbakampsi before sleeping again. This should have a caveat that only serious matches count, otherwise fellow players may lose by design to grant their ally the bonus. Finally, the third feat nest you a board as a starting equipment, allows you to place 3 free tokens on the board and nets you a +2 bonus to social skills in negotiations where the game is involved.



We get stats for the two mundane versions of the board as well as to a djinn-enhanced board, a magical rigged die and a shield with an Arbakampsi-board painted on it that can turn into two different magical shields for 1 round - depending on your luck.



The pdf also offers a neat full-color artwork of an arbakampsi game-board - essentially you just need hexes and 5 colors and there you go - simple to create!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights that has large enough letters to potentially fit 4 pages on one Din A4-page. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience - nice at this length!



Author Perry Fehr has actually created a fun little game to introduce to your game that makes for a nice mini-game of luck and strategy, supplemented with neat game-rules to boot. While I consider the second feat herein broken, the game per se and its mechanics should make for a fun diversion or something you could easily play in a solo-game or while waiting for other players to show up etc. - fun, cool and relatively easy to learn for any price you like? Now that's a neat offering and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Arbakampsi (PWYW)
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Feats of Evocation
Publisher: Abandoned Arts
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/19/2013 03:58:46
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Abandoned Art’s more feats-series is 3 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 1 page of content, so let’s take a look!



-Brilliant Light: Deal nonlethal damage to light sensitive/blindness creatures that enter the area of your spells with the light descriptor, but only once per cast. Very cool!



-Disruptive Evocation: Increase the concentration DC of those damaged by your spells.



-Elemental Evocation: When using an elemental spell metamagic-enhanced evocation with a duration of concentration, switch element each round. Interesting, though very specific.



-Evocator: Apply improved critical and weapon focus to evocation spells.



-Evoker’s Wand: Use 1 charge from the wand to unleash a ray at 1d6 per spell-level of the spell contained. Interesting mechanic, though it could use a cap. (And yes, I'm aware of the 4th level cap of wands etc. - It's matter of similar wording. For the whole discussion, check Endzeitgeist.com)



-Evoker’s Staff: As Evoker’s Wand, but for staves, with increased range – and weirdly, it damage caps at 4d6, whereas the wand-feat has no cap.



-Force Missile Font: Sacrifice up to wizard level spell levels when preparing spells for an equal amount of additional force missiles.



-Improved Elemental Evocation: As its lesser form, but applicable to any non-instantaneous, non-permanent evocation and usable as a move action. Opens some rather interesting tactical options.



-Shimmering Force: Radiate light with force spells.



-Viscid Force Spell (Metamagic): Grant non-instantaneous force ffects regenerative capabilities à la fast healing 10. +1 level. A bit weak for my tastes.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a no-frills landscape two-column standard. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.



I did not look forward to reviewing this one. In fact, I expected it to at best bore me – the opposite was the fact – for the most part. There are several feats herein that open up some rather interesting tactical options for evocation specialists. That being said, the feats also vary rather in their power – between weak and on the upper end of the power-scale, there is some diversity in here, and in the details…some feel a bit off. The lack of e.g. a cap n the wand-feat, the rather weak light-shedding of force effects… there just are some examples herein that could have used some balancing in one direction or the other. Hence, in spite of really liking several concepts, their respective executions did not always win more and thus will result in a final verdict of 3 stars: Some gems, some duds and some rough edges.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Feats of Evocation
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The Steamsinger: A Bard Tinker Prestige Class
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/16/2013 09:38:11
This supplement is 8 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



The 10-level Steamsinger-PrC included herein essentially blends his minions with musical capability - requiring 8 ranks of perform, inspire competence, skill focus (perform) and both automata and 2nd level inventions.



Mechanically, steamsingers get 3/4 BAB-progression, medium save-progression for ref- and will-saves and +1 existing level Inventions and Performances, but NOT spellcasting. Furthermore, only the type of action by which performance becomes faster and inspire greatness and competence are enhanced by steamsinger levels - as written, no new performances become available and archetypes/build not utilizing one or either of the two suffer hence a bit - which I'm not sure was intended. If so, I do think that the PrC wouldn't have broken balance by full performance-progression.



Now steamsingers get access to an array of exclusive, music-themed inventions to inscribe on their automata, but more on that later - a total of 11 breakthroughs become available at 1st level and every two levels after that and they are interesting in that they allow for the musical buffing of automatons as well as allies. Mechanically interesting would also be the "Encore", which nets a percentile chance of twice the perform ranks that automatons destroyed by anything apart from kamikaze result in the steamsinger regaining a use of deploy automaton.



When author Bradley Crouch works best is probably when creating synergies within his own craft and key vibrations is one such excellent example - while getting sonic resistance might be nice, actually making self-destruction sonic damage (for potentially more damage) and thus interacting nicely with other inventions by adding new options is neat to see indeed. On-the-fly modification of an automaton to exchange an invention for the improved version ("Requires and replaces" being the key-words) for the duration of the performance would also be possible - progress marches on, indeed! Thunderous blast is also rather interesting - allowing for a touch attack, the ranged sonic attack also acts as a directive for specific automatons to attack the target.

Generally, these breakthroughs are interesting and cool, though I do have one slight gripe - I assume that activating the respective breakthroughs is supposed to work like activating a bardic performance - since some are obviously instantaneous effects rather than ongoing ones and since there are resources out there that use multiple rounds of bardic performance at once, I would have preferred an explicit statement that they work like a bardic performance and cancel out e.g. ongoing effects instead of being there in addition to a performance's effects.



Now, I've mentioned inventions - and boy, they are HILARIOUS at times - no, seriously, I actually chuckled when first reading this supplement! Take the cello: Its baseline can be used to prevent the expenditure of other abilities - but once all daily uses are done, the automaton snaps it and proceeds to jump up and down on it, wasting a full round action. Very limited aura sonic damage via cymbals, making perform (dance) instead of bluff to feint, adding pyrotechnics (not the spell!) to instruments or creating brilliant flashes of light via puddleflutes - the options are quite varied and cool. And then, there is the one-man Band invention - automatons may use up to 3 instruments in a single full-round action - but only as long as the automaton is the only one deployed by the tinker. EDIT: I failed to get the fact that alphas are exempt - i.e. as long as only the alpha is deployed, it works. mea culpa!



Have I mentioned that tubas, by default, are used by automatons as bludgeoning weapons, increasing their slam damage? Or the fact that, following in line of myriads of information scientist-jokes, snare drums are reinterpreted as thrown weapons to ensare those hit by them? The imagery is glorious...



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good - while I did notice a wording here and there that could have been a tad bit more precise, I encountered no glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' 2-column b/w-standard with thematically fitting stock art and the pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length.



Let me get this out of the way: I LOVE the steamsinger's concept and execution to death - I really, really do - not only from a purely mechanical standpoint, but also from the one of this supplement actually being an enjoyable read. This class, to me, is more of a theurge than the Mechromancer in that it blends two classes while adding some cool new exclusive toys to play with. That being said, I'm not wholly comfortable with the very restrictive bardic performance-progression and there are some wordings here that could have been a tad clearer. Still, the PrC per se is absolutely awesome and thus, I'll settle for one a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 - and still will slap my seal of approval on it: The concept is simply too cool not to.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Steamsinger: A Bard Tinker Prestige Class
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The Mechromancer: A Theurge Tinker Prestige Class
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/16/2013 07:16:20
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This PRC for Interjection Games‘ awesome Tinker-class is 5 pages long, 1 page front cover,1 page SRD, ½ a blank pages, leaving us with ~2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?



Mechanically, the Mechromancer is a 5-level PrC that has a slow BAB-progression, gets d6, needs to be not of a good alignment and gets good will-saves. As to be expected from a class offering a theurge-approach, it offers +1 level of spellcasting and +1 level invention-usage per level, meaning mechromancer-levels stack with tinker-levels for the purposes of determining maximum number of available build points per blueprint, max amount of blueprints, inventions known and maximum invention level known as well as effective level of inventions and automatic HD-progression. I’d also comment on the amount of skill points per level, but unfortunately, the pdf lacks this crucial information. – Especially relevant since the PrC only offers two class-skills – this might have been intended as a means of balancing the class, but I can’t ascertain that.



Now fluff-wise, the Mechromancer is a blending of necromancer and tinker – i.e. of the two classes offering the most minions. Prerequisite-wise, this is reflected in needing to be able to cast animate dead as well as having an alpha. Now the first ability already had me chuckle “Blue Screen of Undeath” allows you to resurrect an automaton that has died within 1 minute mechromancer class levels times per day. Said revived construct only persists for a limited duration and counts as undead for the purpose of what affects it without gaining the undead traits. The reanimated automaton also can be directed sans using actions. Unfortunately, the ability fails to specify whether said reanimated automatons count towards the maximum amount of automatons a tinker can have deployed at a given time.



At 2nd level, the mechromancer learns to add one single mechormantic graft to each of his/her blueprints, including the alpha, which, at 4th level, gets a second graft. A total of 15 such grafts are provided and they range from a stomach that allows an automaton to heal 10 HP when digesting food for an hour to +3 natural armor via the addition of a skeleton, +5 to perception, an increased reach (only for combat maneuvers by 5 ft.) or the option to be healed by negative energy – but harmed by positive energy. There also is a graft that replaces the damage dealt by the kamikaze invention by negative energy – including a minor typo that speaks of “Customkaze”, but oh well. More significant are other glitches: Take adding a mechromantic brain-graft: It allows for the addition of a brain to an automaton – at the cost of counting as two deployed automatons. The automaton does deactivate when leaving the tinker’s master’s presence radius, though, paying thus for being autonomous. However, this does entail some peculiarities, as does the existence of reanimated constructs: Do these automata (either normal undead or those with a brain) get the awareness to make AoOs? What about combat maneuvers? Can automata with a brain be revived temporarily via Blue Screen of Undeath? The text mentions “irrevocable shutdown”, which makes me not so sure.



Another issue would be that adding a lymph system adds channel resistance +3 as well as +3 to fort-saves for the automaton – per se nice. However, channel energy usually deals damage to the living or undead – not constructs. It requires the variant channeling provided by the Forge portfolio to heal constructs via channel energy and damaging them via the channeling of an opposing energy is impossible until the mechromancer reanimated the automaton – prior to that, constructs are neither harmed, nor healed by positive or negative energy since they are neither living, nor undead. – i.e. channel resistance only applies once the automaton has been revived – prior to that, the ability implies that automata can be hit by negative or positive energy, which they RAW can’t.

Mechromancers may also add a secondary bite attack to their arsenal, I assume at the standard 1d4 for small creatures, but actually listing the damage said attack deals would have been helpful.



The Mechromancer’s Alpha also starts to radiate a permanent aura s per the desecrate spell and later adds the channel resistance provides by unhallow to its array, but not the other abilities of aforementioned spell.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not up to the level of quality I’ve come to expect from Interjection Games – from the missing skill points per level to non-italicized spells and minor typos, for such a short pdf the amount of glitches is too high for my tastes. Layout adheres to Interjection Games’ neat 2-column b/w-standard and the product does feature some nice b/w-stock artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.



I really wanted to like the mechromancer- it really caters to my sentiments and has a delightful mad science-feel in concept. In execution, though, I think it unfortunately falls rather flat: From the missing skills per level to the uninspired capstone, the PrC feels a bit raw and less imaginative than its concept deserves – while the necromantic additions to the automata are great, as is the option to temporarily revive them, they do suffer from some problematic uses of the rules-language and over all require more clarification regarding when/if they count as undead, constructs etc.. And they only cover one half of the equation: “Theurge” implies a duality and this pdf misses the awesome chance of adding inventions to the undead – the class essentially is a one-way street, only one side of the coin, and feels honestly cut down, like it was supposed to be so much more. Were it only for unrealized potential, I wouldn’t have rated this pdf down as much – but with the glitches that actually severely impede the functionality of the class, I am left with no choice in spite of liking the concept of this PrC: My final verdict will clock in at a final verdict of 1.5 stars, rounded up to 2 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Mechromancer: A Theurge Tinker Prestige Class
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Infernal Romance at Moon Temple (AE)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/15/2013 07:32:58
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the "Heroes of the Jade Oath"-supplement is 44 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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



All right, still here? Once upon a time, Heng-O, Goddess of the Moon, broke the vase sealing dragon fire and her brothers promptly absconded with it, turning into no less than 10 suns, scorching the earth. When the archer Yi-Shan proposed a solution, he was granted leeway to do so and, thus, did he shoot down no less than 9 of these suns. As reward and at the same time just punishment, he was elevated to the celestial bureaucracy - as a demon. Not giving in to the temptations of the demon goddess Chang-Wu, he maintained a relatively pious life, for his claim lay not with the nether-realms, but with none other than Heng-O herself. After a sufficient courtship, the archer turned demon actually managed to beguile the goddess and hence, a marriage was proposed wherein both would partake in the elixir of immortality. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and thus, Chang-Wu lied to Heng-O, insinuating that her shawl had been enchanted by Yi-Shan.

Furious, the moon goddess thus imprisoned Yi-Shan in her shawl's extradimensional folds, drank both doses of the wedding's elixir and proceeded to ascend to the heavens. Chang-Wu, though, tried to steal the shawl and thus the man who had jilted her and Heng-O finally understood - though too late. In the ensuing battle, the shawl was torn. Crying bitter tears, the ascended Heng-O's grief threatened to drown the world in a vast flood, but thankfully, the Jade Emperor intervened by granting Yi-Shan immortality and make him the minister of the sun. Creating a temple on the cross of dragon lines, Yi-Shan would be able to escape his prison once every 8 lunar cycles and meet his beloved in said temple. Unfortunately, Heng-O's tears had already created a tidal wave threatening to crush the temple's site - hence Heng-O used her control over the tides to essentially freeze the flood wave in place. In order to free Yi-Shan from his prison, mortals must carry the pieces of the shawl through the temple's gates, though - and this ceremony, as appointed by the Jade Emperor, would become the Spring Moon Festival. All of this is provided in both read-aloud text and as a player's hand-out and makes for the background of the city of Langyin, over which the still frozen in place tidal wave has loomed since this mythical age.



The player characters arrive at this historic site in time for the festivities and, via numerous lore DCs, can unearth even more information on the uncommon city. As heroes are wont to, they are contacted by the Mandarin - unbeknownst to the public, one of the pieces of the shawl of the moon goddess has been stolen and the moon goddess may well show her displeasure by unfreezing the tidal wave if the ritual is not properly conducted. The officials have deducted that a participant of the festivities is probably the culprit and thankfully, the Dragon-Lion Dance combat tournament is today and the PCs can do some research here as well, bringing them up to snuff regarding the Cult of the Lost and the folk heroines of the Stone Monkey Maidens, who are in conflict with the local mandarin. The PCs will have to participate in the performance combat of the Dragon-Lion Dance for the honor of being chosen as Moon Hunters - and the combat follows interesting rules: The participants have to hold on to the dragon-lion costume, can't move fast and the lead performer needs to provide dancing steps and the lead also needs to hold a lantern in the dragon's mouth. Fighting is strictly non-lethal. The participating teams enter the arena (fully mapped, btw.) in a free for all, with each team having some modifications to the basic stats - a combat the PCs will definitely remember - it should be noted, though, that DM's should probably have some experience under their belt since the combat per se is a bit abstract - some additional guidance for the behavior of the various teams would have made running this easier. The second test would be a test in courting a spirit attendant in the Blue Tavern of Eight Tails - here, we essentially get a complex series of skill-checks and social interactions in a kind of ceremonial masquerade - here, persistence in spite of incompetence may be seen as a type of virtue in itself. 5 fully depicted NPCs, all with their own agendas and motivations await the PCs here and while the basic rules for the contest have some minor formatting glitches, overall this section should be considered rather enjoyable. Cara Bui, a shenxue courtier gets promptly kidnapped by Faen pirates as the PCs are busy and a wild chase ensues - a complex chase with various obstacles etc. that leads the PCs to the Wharf Towers, where they will have to free Cara Bui (said courtier) from the clutches of infamous Faen pirate Tiger Eye - only to have to realize that the two were former lovers and the courtier with the fake shawl.



In the meanwhile, the cult of the lost has taken control of the shawls not in the PC's possession and is on the way to the temple - a second chase will lead the PCs to the sacred site, where immortal, constantly resurrecting terracotta guardians and the insane undead mandragoran who fancies herself Chang-Wu are trying their hands at the ritual - in order to save the city, they will have to eliminate the undead creature and perform the proper rite themselves while being harried by the immortal guardians of the temple - a furious finale indeed.



The appendix contains the information for the moon shawls (including object loresight-info), two new combat rites, the new moon shenxue aspect as well as the template for becoming essentially a vampiric mandragoran and much of the origin myth is duplicated on a handy 1-page handout for players.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I did not notice any deficiencies in that department. Layout adheres to HotJO's beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the full-color artworks are beautiful. The cartography in full color is player-friendly and extensive. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Author Frank Carr knows his lore - this module breathes high-fantasy WuXia-wonder in all the right ways and literally NONE of the encounters herein is anything less than high concept: This is a tour-de-force if there ever was one, one that breathes style and panache in every second. Genre-wise, this is a very much event-driven module that allows DMs to set up their own pace, but this is also a module that requires an experienced DM: The respective encounters are not that neatly tied together, the transitions very much remaining up to the DM, also due to the modular nature of the module which allows for various ways in which encounters can be drawn out or even cut from the module. This is no module for the faint of heart, but an experienced DM can create one glorious experience here - also one that could easily be run in the context of a convention.



Now usually, the weak transitions would see me rate this down more, but I honestly can't bring myself to do it - why? Because this module breathes the spirit of WuXia, of alien vistas and made me more excited for the Lands of the Jade Oath than I've been in quite a while for a setting, up to the point where I really wished there were more Jade Oath-adventures out there. It's that imaginative and cool and having played extensively in far eastern campaigns, this should be considered a joy in its potential. This being the original version of the module, the content works top-notch and is glorious. In fact, this module ranks as one of my favorite Arcana Evolved modules of all time and as one of my favorite eastern modules ever.

If you are not an experienced DM or very nitpicky about not wanting to work with transitions etc. then this is will prove to be very challenging indeed, though - still, one superb module and well worth 5 stars plus seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Infernal Romance at Moon Temple (AE)
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Infernal Romance at Moon Temple (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/15/2013 07:31:40
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for the "Heroes of the Jade Oath"-supplement is 45 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 41 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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



All right, still here? Once upon a time, Heng-O, Goddess of the Moon, broke the vase sealing dragon fire and her brothers promptly absconded with it, turning into no less than 10 suns, scorching the earth. When the archer Yi-Shan proposed a solution, he was granted leeway to do so and, thus, did he shoot down no less than 9 of these suns. As reward and at the same time just punishment, he was elevated to the celestial bureaucracy - as a demon. Not giving in to the temptations of the demon goddess Chang-Wu, he maintained a relatively pious life, for his claim lay not with the nether-realms, but with none other than Heng-O herself. After a sufficient courtship, the archer turned demon actually managed to beguile the goddess and hence, a marriage was proposed wherein both would partake in the elixir of immortality. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and thus, Chang-Wu lied to Heng-O, insinuating that her shawl had been enchanted by Yi-Shan.



Furious, the moon goddess thus imprisoned Yi-Shan in her shawl's extradimensional folds, drank both doses of the wedding's elixir and proceeded to ascend to the heavens. Chang-Wu, though, tried to steal the shawl and thus the man who had jilted her and Heng-O finally understood - though too late. In the ensuing battle, the shawl was torn. Crying bitter tears, the ascended Heng-O's grief threatened to drown the world in a vast flood, but thankfully, the Jade Emperor intervened by granting Yi-Shan immortality and make him the minister of the sun. Creating a temple on the cross of dragon lines, Yi-Shan would be able to escape his prison once every 8 lunar cycles and meet his beloved in said temple. Unfortunately, Heng-O's tears had already created a tidal wave threatening to crush the temple's site - hence Heng-O used her control over the tides to essentially freeze the flood wave in place. In order to free Yi-Shan from his prison, mortals must carry the pieces of the shawl through the temple's gates, though - and this ceremony, as appointed by the Jade Emperor, would become the Spring Moon Festival. All of this is provided in both read-aloud text and as a player's hand-out and makes for the background of the city of Langyin, over which the still frozen in place tidal wave has loomed since this mythical age.



The player characters arrive at this historic site in time for the festivities and, via numerous lore DCs, can unearth even more information on the uncommon city. As heroes are wont to, they are contacted by the Mandarin - unbeknownst to the public, one of the pieces of the shawl of the moon goddess has been stolen and the moon goddess may well show her displeasure by unfreezing the tidal wave if the ritual is not properly conducted. The officials have deducted that a participant of the festivities is probably the culprit and thankfully, the Dragon-Lion Dance combat tournament is today and the PCs can do some research here as well, bringing them up to snuff regarding the Cult of the Lost and the folk heroines of the Stone Monkey Maidens, who are in conflict with the local mandarin. The PCs will have to participate in the performance combat of the Dragon-Lion Dance for the honor of being chosen as Moon Hunters - and the combat follows interesting rules: The participants have to hold on to the dragon-lion costume, can't move fast and the lead performer needs to provide dancing steps and the lead also needs to hold a lantern in the dragon's mouth. Fighting is strictly non-lethal. The participating teams enter the arena (fully mapped, btw.) in a free for all, with each team having some modifications to the basic stats - a combat the PCs will definitely remember - it should be noted, though, that DM's should probably have some experience under their belt since the combat per se is a bit abstract - some additional guidance for the behavior of the various teams would have made running this easier. The second test would be a test in courting a spirit attendant in the Blue Tavern of Eight Tails - here, we essentially get a complex series of skill-checks and social interactions in a kind of ceremonial masquerade - here, persistence in spite of incompetence may be seen as a type of virtue in itself. 5 fully depicted NPCs, all with their own agendas and motivations await the PCs here and while the basic rules for the contest have some minor formatting glitches, overall this section should be considered rather enjoyable. Cara Bui, a shenxue courtier gets promptly kidnapped by Faen pirates as the PCs are busy and a wild chase ensues - a complex chase with various obstacles etc. that leads the PCs to the Wharf Towers, where they will have to free Cara Bui from the clutches of infamous Faen pirate Tiger Eye - only to have to realize that the two were former lovers and the courtier with the fake shawl.



In the meanwhile, the cult of the lost has taken control of the shawls not in the PC's possession and is on the way to the temple - a second chase will lead the PCs to the sacred site, where immortal, constantly resurrecting terracotta guardians and the insane undead mandragoran who fancies herself Chang-Wu are trying their hands at the ritual - in order to save the city, they will have to eliminate the undead creature and perform the proper rite themselves while being harried by the immortal guardians of the temple - a furious finale indeed.



The appendix contains the information for the moon shawls as well as the template for becoming essentially a vampiric mandragoran and much of the origin myth is duplicated on a handy 1-page handout for players.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect - I noticed some unfortunate formatting glitches, though none that deterred from my enjoyment of this module. Layout adheres to HotJO's beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the full-color artworks are beautiful, though inexplicably pixelated in places - something not found in the Arcana Evolved original version of the module. The cartography in full color is player-friendly and extensive. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Author Frank Carr knows his lore - this module breathes high-fantasy WuXia-wonder in all the right ways and literally NONE of the encounters herein is anything less than high concept: This is a tour-de-force if there ever was one, one that breathes style and panache in every second. Genre-wise, this is a very much event-driven module that allows DMs to set up their own pace, but this is also a module that requires an experienced DM: The respective encounters are not that neatly tied together, the transitions very much remaining up to the DM, also due to the modular nature of the module which allows for various ways in which encounters can be drawn out or even cut from the module. This is no module for the faint of heart, but an experienced DM can create one glorious experience here - also one that could easily be run in the context of a convention.



Now usually, the weak transitions and minor formatting glitches here and there would see me rate this down more, but I honestly can't bring myself to do it - why? Because this module breathes the spirit of WuXia, of alien vistas and made me more excited for the Lands of the Jade Oath than I've been in quite a while for a setting, up to the point where I really wished there were more Jade Oath-adventures out there. It's that imaginative and cool and having played extensively in far eastern campaigns, this should be considered a joy in its potential. I should nitpick this one so much more, but its ambition and beauty, at least for me, offset this pdf's flaws like aforementioned formatting glitches or e.g. mentioned listen-checks which should read perception etc. For me as a person, this would then clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 - if you don't care about aforementioned glitches. If e.g. reading "listen check" annoys you or if e.g. the mentioning of a jump-check (when two lines before that, we were talking acrobatics...) annoy you, then detract 1 star. Especially when viewed back to back with the AE-original, this one feels a bit inferior.

If you are not an experienced DM or very nitpicky about not wanting to work with transitions etc. then this is not for you, though. One more note - Heroes of the Jade Oath is not an optional book to run this, in my opinion it is required. Also, if you're playing both Arcana Evolved and Pathfinder, go for the Arcana Evolved-version (which I've also reviewed) - its formatting is much better. In the end, my final verdict will be in-between a good and an ok offering, at 3.5 stars - As a reviewer, I will have to round down for the purpose of this platform, while still encouraging you to check this out - the concepts of the encounters alone are worth the asking price!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Infernal Romance at Moon Temple (PFRPG)
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Mythic Monsters: Demons
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/13/2013 09:32:28
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This is Legendary Games' first collection of monsters upgraded to Mythic-level, focusing on demons this time around and clocking in at 30 pages of content, 1 page of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages how-to-use/introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of raw content, so let's take a look!



We kick this pdf off with notes on mythic demons crashing through bindings, bargaining and possessing mortals before diving headfirst into the mythic demons provided herein - from humble CR 2/MR 1 Quasits over Babau, Bodaks, Glabrezu, Hezrou, Incubus, Kalavakus, Nabassu, Elite Nabassu, Shadow Demon, Succubus all the way to the CR 25/MR 10 Balor, we get quite a solid array of statblocks for the respective demons, all mythified for your convenience and with thematically fitting abilities to boost - whether it's the succubus revealing herself in abyssal glory (potentially quite literally), thus making all crash to the floor growling (and take cha-damage upon shaking it off), an elite nabassus manifesting in conflagrations of fire upon being summoned (potentially turning those slain into mhorgs!) to the mythic klavakus that can use their mythic powers to command their slaves to commit suicide - these demons are NASTY with a capital "N" and come with appropriately twisted builds and abilities. Usually, the statblocks also mention where the non-mythic version of the demon can be found, though weirdly both succubus and shadow demon lack this specific information.



And then there is the Gulgerak - at CR 22/MR 9, these gigantic demonic siege engines are six-legged, two-headed wolves that sport chains on which lesser demons dangle for a both awe-inspiring and superbly deadly foe - including an origin-myth, description-fluff and an awesome full color artwork, the second apart from the cover artwork herein. An awesome creature that shows well why author Tom Philip's name can be seen on various awesome supplements out there.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant errors. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' 2-column full-color awesomeness and is a beauty to behold indeed. The two pieces of artwork are great and up to the highest standards of quality and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version.



This pdf provides awesome takes on those poor demons left out in the original Mythic Adventure book (which should have simply provided more paths and instead deliver a whole bestiary as a separate book, but oh well, that's what LG is here for...) and covers a wide variety of demons - and I get why dretches don't get a mythic equivalent. What does sour me a bit is that this pdf, while covering its targets well, does not cover...well, all demons. Call me annoying or nitpicky, but when I saw this one announced, I expected to see all demons covered that were left out of the MA-book - at least regarding Paizo's core bestiaries. So where's the Coloxus? The Shir? The Omox? The Shemhazian? The Vrolikai?

I could understand them being left out, but with the inclusion of the bodak (not a demon, but an undead), I can't help but wish for the book being about twice the size and complete in its coverage at least as far as the bestiaries go. (Mind you, not starting with the demons from Book of the Damned 2: Lords of Chaos or the Worldwound-supplement...) Now I'm wholly and completely aware that I'm unfair here - but still, the absence of the bestiary demons weighs quite a bit on my mind. I understand that further demons would have increased the price, but personally, that increase would have been made up for by the comfort of having all (Bestiary-)Demons in one handy book/pdf. Perhaps if there's a sequel I can print them all out and file them in the same folder... Still, at least for me, that's a lost chance.

Don't get me wrong: As provided, the statblocks are solid, the new creature rocks hard, the original mythic abilities are iconic and fitting and overall, I can definitely recommend this pdf to DMs looking for a mythic edge for the demons covered by this pdf. Still, at least to me, it feels not complete and, while I still recommend this pdf, can't do so as unanimously as I would have liked. HOWEVER, at the same time, penalizing a book for something *I* would have done differently would not be fair and I have to take into account that several people out there may not mind not all demons being in one tome - hence, my final verdict will clock in between considering this book "good" and "excellent", at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 since my gripes can't be universally applied and since the content that is here, rocks hard.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Monsters: Demons
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#1 With a Bullet Point: 6 Mythic Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/13/2013 09:29:11
An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the drill by now - 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content - so let's take a look at these mythic feats, shall we?



-Harder to kill: + mythic tier negative hit points, bonus to saves versus effects that would kill you, when at negative hp no greater than your mythic tier, regenerate.



-Improved Mythic Surge: Roll twice for a surge and take the better result.



-Mythic Empowerment: Choose a mythic power tied to your mythic tier. You count as +4 mythic tier regarding that ability.



-Mythic Focus: Select one option, mythic ability, path etc. powered by mythic power. You gain +3 uses of that ability per day and only that ability.



-Mythic Resistance: When being affected by something that renders you immune versus a non-mythic effect, you may force the mythic equivalent of the effect you're immune against to make a mythic power check in order to transcend your immunity.



-Mythic Restoration: Expend one use mythic power to restore one use of any ability with x/day uses. 1/day abilities may only be replenished so 1/day.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a 3-column standard in portrait-standard, which feels a bit cluttered here and results in some blank space at the bottom of the page. The pdf comes sans bookmarks, but needs none at this length.



These mythic feats are all about resource-exchange/expansion - allowing you to use resources to supplement others you may have expended already, these feats are useful to get more freedom. They also manage to be general enough to provide useful options for just about every character - though honestly, I'm not sure whether mythic characters need options to be even harder to kill off. Still, overall balanced options - though not ones that make me jump with excitement. It's had to properly judge whether the resource-exchanging options herein universally stay balanced and, while wording etc. are top-notch, these feats are generally +x ability exchange x for y-type of feats - there's nothing wrong with that and they are useful, but none of these made me truly excited. Hence I'll settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 due to the lack of gripes I have with this one.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#1 With a Bullet Point: 6 Mythic Feats
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CE 3 - The Folk of Osmon
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/12/2013 03:02:40
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of Purple Duck Games Campaign Elements-series fort eh Dungeon Crawl Classics-series is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?



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



Still here? The Folk of Osmon are weird – they have no hair. Their skin glistens and gleams and they live in a mire where once a vast city was destroyed by a dread cataclysm, now the home of argodiles, parasitic vines that implant their seeds in their victims and dread psilamanders. (All with full stats, mind you!) Swamp Faerie swarms seek to lead their victims astray and getting stuck in the mire poses a more mundane threat as well.



Apart from the map, four scenarios are provided: One depicting a good-natured bandit lord and his men, with whom the PCs will have to ally – for both groups have been surrounded by the strange folk of Osmon – which actually are asexual, amoeboid humans that reproduce by budding and worship their strange deity – which brings us to scenario 2: An atavism of the folk thinks of himself as gendered and falls in love, refusing to bud – resulting in the very real possibility of exploding into proto-osmonfolk and potentially exposing the nature of these men to the PCs. Scenario 3 has the PCs hunt for gold, but if you really want to scare your PCs, go for scenario 4 – the avatar of the Folk of Osmon’s chaotic deity, a vast ooze demanding sacrifice, wants his due – the PCs will have to interrupt the ritual (which btw. comes with information on the phrases used, including the translation – I wish more supplements did that!) and potentially take Osmon as a deity…



Advice for further adventures (squeezing it dry) are included as well.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the printer-friendly two-column standard of PDG’s DCC-supplements and the pdf comes with an original one-page piece of awesome artwork and the other b/w-artworks and the cartography are awesome for the low price-point.



Author Daniel J. Bishop is one master of the weird, of the uncommon, of the disturbing – he simply GETS what made old-school modules and the sword & sorcery genre tick. This campaign element is in the stellar tradition of superb offerings that should not only incite those playing the DCC-rules to check them out – for the ideas alone, this is very well worth the asking-price: Breathing imaginative ideas, cool and disturbing, full of potential, this supplement can be used in so many ways it is almost painful – this campaign element once again should be considered an absolute must-buy and thus will get full 5 stars + endzeitgeist seal of approval – I really hope I’ll get to read a mega-adventure from Mr. Bishop one of these days.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CE 3 - The Folk of Osmon
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Urban Dressing: Docks
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/12/2013 02:59:10
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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



We kick off this installment of Urban Dressing with a massive 100-entry-table of characteristics and appearances of docks - from gibbets with rotten remains to different offices and buildings, we get quite some variety here. Unfortunately, though, several of the entries in this table are generic to a fault - "A large dock dominated by imposing naval ships.", "This dock is a frenzied hive of activity." - while there are a bunch of cool entries here, it's extremely generic entries like the examples that slightly detract from this table's appeal.



After one b/w-page vista of a harbor, we get a table with 100 entries to generate randomly docked ships - and the ship's names are cool and varied and avoid the standard clichés of names - so two thumbs up here! The same can be said about the 20 hooks and complications provided - they universally make for interesting diversions/sidetreks a DM can develop and expand.



The best table of the book, though, would be the 50-entry-strong d%-table of sights and sounds to lend details to docks - with fresh lobster, performing bards and playing children, we get a massive, interesting table here that will provide ample opportunities for DMs to use. Finally, we get 10 fluff-only write-ups of NPCs to populate spontaneously your docks.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice artwork and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Brian Liberge delivers a good installment of the Urban Dressing here, with some neat, detailed tables. The first table is the only one of the tables in this product that falls a bit short of what I would have expected and honestly, I wished the NPCs had been cut in favor of another thing absent from the pdf - a dock-generator for the whole harbor: Essentially a table to roll the amount of places where large ships can anchor etc. - a meta-generator for the layout of the overall docks. That being said, the absence of that one does not hurt the pdf too much and hence I still feel comfortable of rating this pdf at a good 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Docks
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Psionic Items of Legend: Tempest's Blade
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/12/2013 02:56:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Psionic Items of Legend is 5 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



The former wielder of this enhancement for a mind blade is shrouded in mystery - known only by his moniker "Tempest", this individual was the last man standing from the weeding-out procedures of the secret society of dark tempests (after the new PrC) - what has befallen him/her/it - no one knows. The weapon, which looks like a crystal rod, comes with 10 levels of power increase and starts off as a standard crystal hilt +1 (scaling up to +3) and also allows you to forma mindblade as a double weapon without incurring the usual penalties for forming 2 mind blades and both ends may be individually enhanced, though they need to deal the same basic damage type. Dazzling Swordplay and Wither become available 3/day and the item also nets the user the option to call it to hand at-will within 30 ft. of the wielder. It also offers the bladewind blade skill for free and a third configuration. The capstone nets a selection of solid numerical bonuses.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred's two-column b/w-standard and the artwork is neat. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Authors David Pike and Jeremy Smith deliver a solid psionic item, with the third configuration being a neat idea, as would be the dual weapon. Mechanically, we're looking at an interesting item indeed, but its story falls somewhat behind in its rather generic, uninspired nature. The capstone could have also been a tad bit more exciting, but that's complaining at a high level. All in all, a good installment of the series and well worth 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Psionic Items of Legend: Tempest's Blade
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[PFRPG] Behind the Monsters: Omnibus
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/09/2013 06:36:56
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive pdf is 76 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 72 pages of content, so let's take a look at this massive tome, shall we?



Now if you're not familiar with Tricky Owlbear's Behind the Monster-series from the 3.X days of old, here's the idea of the series: Know those bestiary entries? Remember from the days of old the information on habitat, society, history etc. and later, the ecology-articles? Well, behind the monsters essentially takes a look at monsters and provides extensive background information on them, supplemented by crunch for variants and interesting options. Beyond that, we also get information on lore-DCs for the respective critter as well as some tactical advice for dealing with the respective critter, provided in a way that the entry can be shown/read to players. If you're not familiar with the series as of yet, here's the news - this one is essentially a compilation of old material, fully updated for PFRPG - so let's take a look, shall we?



Owlbears, what other creature could be possible for Tricky Owlbear Publishing, would be the first in the compilation. We all know about the "A Wizard did it"-background of this notorious creature - here, we actually get a detailed background story that explains the reason WHY Owls and Bears have been chosen - providing a coherent and sensible reason for the creation of these beings in the first place. Kudos for that, but where the entry shines more is with cool peculiarities like owlbears being bad in reacting to being flanked - DMs are encouraged to penalize flanked owlbears with concise, easy to use rules - which is AWESOME and something done not nearly enough in regular monster-design. It's peculiarities like this that make creatures more distinct. The creator used control collars to keep the reins on these ferocious beasts and so we also get the entry for these items - which is cool, though these, like ALL items in this book, lack the information on how much they weigh - an annoying blemish, especially since the items usually are rather intriguing. Also rather cool - owlbear-tokens as a semi-magical low-level item of respect for primitive cultures is provided herein - a cool little item, though the aura should probably read "faint", not "feint". ;) We also get the full statblock for the transmutation-disrupting...Bearwols! (at CR 2, btw.!)



The second creature covered herein would be the Xorn - here, we get no origin-myth, but rather a tale of how these weird beings may have come to the material plane as a result of a conflict between drow and duergar, bribed to participate with mithril - which is a bit of a weak point of this particular myth: The legend assumes that there is no mithril on the Elemental Plane of Earth, which is something that some supplements and modules contradict. Still, a nice yarn. On the crunchy side, we get rules that allow player characters to find tell-tale signs of xorn hiding within the rocks. Following the cool trend from the owlbear-entry, we also get an optional weakness for DMs to include in their game, this time all about exploiting the xorn's senses and overloading them, making them more susceptible to specific attacks by forcing them to roll saves twice - and again, I love those ideas that reward the PC's legwork since it very much mirrors how I tend to reward smart players. Beyond that, we also get a nasty Xeran at CR 7, which would be a magma-based xorn with a truly nasty temper and a magma-line breath weapon as well as the Shadowstone Cloak made from the hide of an elder xorn, which not only comes with nice benefits, it also includes information on how costs are affected if the xorn hide is provided - neat!



While we're at the weirder creatures of our hobby - what about the Bulette? Well, in this legend, the creature was the result of the madness of a wanna-be-conqueror archmage aquatic elf seeking to raze the surface world to the ground - upon his defeat and subsequent imprisonment, the mad mage created these creatures...perhaps in a designed environment created by the elves of old to capitalize on his massive arcane prowess. If so, stranger beings still might lurk out there to exact vengeance in the name of their mad creator. Among the cool character advantages, a glitch seems to have swallowed at least a part of a sentence with the second paragraph beginning "spellcaster and a roving bullette." - that's it. Which is a pity, for the ideas for tactical combat (plat growth to enlarge hindering roots, for example) are quite cool. Unfortunately, one of teh tactical options makes no sense, though - feather fall is supposed to help against their tremorsense, negating the vibrations and allowing travelers to cross their territory - unfortunately, that would extend to all creatures with tremorsense, something clearly not intended by the spell's description or the relatively powerful tremorsense ability, especially when feather step would fit the fluff much better Among the new pieces of crunch, we get a new level 3 spell (which should probably be on the magus/inquisitor-list as well) that nest you burrow speed, tremorsense and a bonus to attack when attacking from below the earth - a bit powerful for level 3. We also get the CR 3 Maglette Swarm variant creature, land-piranhas. Rather cool!



Barghests are the fourth creatures covered and are reimagined as the offspring of goblins created by the exiled, soul-stealing sword-wielding god Karg-Thaal: The instruments of his revenge versus the keepers, barghests have spread across the planes. In line with the countermeasures, this time casting gentle repose on characters makes barghests incur a morale penalty upon failing a will-save when attacking protected foes - rather cool! As a further weakness, barghests that have feasted on powerful adversaries may be sent back to the home of their vile master upon being hit by magical fire -interesting, also as a storytelling device/to save doomed groups that have already lost one of their own to the creature. Worse, said rift may result in invasions from teh dread god's realm...VERY COOL. Necklaces made from barghest fangs (which can grant minor bonuses and temporary hit points...) and a new feat are the crunchy bits provided - the feat allowing first level characters to draw upon angelic heritages, shifting to outsider type with minor deflection bonuses once per day. Okay, I guess, but rather weak - redesigning this as a feat/trait-combo, with the feat being more useful (minus the 1/day restriction), would have probably been prudent.



With the next entry, we go full out - what could have been just a lame joke-entry turns out to be rather well-crafted: The CR 5 Terror Turkey. Yes, Terror Turkey. And yes, it has deadly quills, a sonic gobble, matings eason rage, a clumsy flyby...what a damn fine critter! While I'm not a big fan of the quills (which require a perception check and then a ref-save to avoid), the creature again comes with cool weaknesses...oh, and 3 recipes. Roasted Terror Turkey, Terror Turkey soup and sandwiches! While we don't have Thanksgiving in Germany, I nevertheless tried the roasted Terror Turkey recipe by substituting its more mundane lesser brethren recently - and it was rather delicious! Kudos for a cool entry that also provides rules on using the bird's quills for crafting darts!



And next up...are skeletons. Yeah. How can they be exciting? Well, we get a tale of woe and love, o harsh punishment and a divine mandate that create the first of these beings, a deadly, immortal, mad creature, doomed for all eternity. Unfortunately, the tactical character advantage options have been subjected to sloppiness of a rather sad degree - first of all, the rules refer to undead immunity to critical hits and center on options to ignore that by attacking structural weaknesses - cool per se, but undead no longer are immune to crits in PFRPG. The second option refers to turning undead, which has been reduced to a feat not that many clerics I know use and ignores completely the channel energy ability. Weak. We also get an oil that temporarily makes piercing and slashing weapons deal bludgeoning damage and we get a new quality for skeletons - flesh-stealing, which may use the skeleton in question and leave a purple scar on the target. Not sure whether this quality is worth the CR +2 and d10-table to roll regions of where the flesh is stolen since the regions have no unique benefits.



Gargoyles get a rather cool background-story that can be blended with other creation-myths of the race - as an instrument of punishment, rods linked to an artifact that may transform beings into gargoyles, the result of a terrible justice system. The combat between a thieves' guild and the creators of said artifact damaged the awakened item...what has since befallen it, well, that's mostly up to the DM. Beyond the regular gargoyle, we get two variants for clan gargoyles and good-aligned noble gargoyles. Unfortunately, the non-lethal damage dealing subduing ray of the noble gargoyles lacks a range. Clan gargoyles look like they're made from earth and gain some earth-related abilities. On the tactics-side, gargoyles may be distracted by cries of pain (e.g. by good actors) -a and spellcasters may tear asunder their transmutation-spells via spellcraft to hold gargoyles in place - exceedingly cool! Also nice - we get a fully mapped sample lair and a new alchemical item, gargoyle blood, which allows you to temporarily get DR 1/magic.



The tale of Gothos Sund could have been a tale of the grand era of weird fiction - a hunter who learned to destroy new creatures, ropers, and inadvertently was transported to their home realm. Instigating a slave-revolt against the overlord ropers, the man also freed the ropers from their chthonic deity, the Great Maw, who may still be out there, looking for the ropers - thus explaining the relative xenophobia and isolationalism of the species - they're hiding! Among the crunchy bits, we get an alternate statblock for ancient ropers as in the tales - slightly less powerful than their regular versions, but studded with a fortification-like ability and superior mental faculties. Unfortunately, the alternate statblock uses wrong mechanics to simulate the drawing of creatures - no combat maneuvers or the like instead of just using the regular rules. We also get a variant option for ranger's favored enemy ability, allowing to specialize in killing one particular type of creature - not sure whether that's a good idea, though, unless your campaign has a very monotonous opposition. We also get 6 variants (5 at CR +2, 1 at CR +1) for ropers that specialize in crushing (using some antiquated rules-language, but workable), ones with icy breath, fast hunters, mind-controllers, ropers that can temporarily petrify foes and ropers than can unleash deadly waves of psychic energy - nice variety there! We also get 3 items - roper poison, roper whips and a roper's skin as a cloak - unfortunately, only the last gets a price and a harvest/craft-DC and none get a weight.



Vegepygmies, spawned from weird russet mold in caverns beneath the barrier peaks, in corridors of metal of a fallen star, have since spread throughout the lands and while the origin story here may be interesting and a nice read, it somewhat pales to the tactics/modifications provided - vegepygmy sap may be used to delay the onset of slime/ooze/mold damage, vegepygmies exposed to sunlight slowly turn berserk and finally, old colonies can create artifact-like russet mold bombs, infecting whole swaths of land. Oh, and old colonies of these threats may spontaneously develop giant, deadly guardians - almost 30-feet-tall Vegegyants, which, at CR 6 are very dangerous for their CR with force blasts, nets emitted from palms and a significant amounts of hp. I LOVE this creature, though its statblock lacks a perception-score in the sense-line, instead only offering +X. Since the skills list the +14 bonus, I'll let that slip though - functionality is not impeded. All in all, one of my favorite chapters herein.



The final creatures covered would be the Dark Folk, i.e. Dark Creepers and Dark Stalkers. The story here is once again aptly-written and presented, weaving a yarn that resonates quite nicely with the theme of light/dark and the fear of degeneration is competently portrayed - if you're interested in it, though, you'll have to read this pdf yourself. Unfortunately, the tactics-section once again features a cool idea improperly executed -as a cool idea, strong magic auras can be used to distract Dark folk. Unfortunately, magic aura i8s considered an example - but the spell does not allow the suggested increase in aura-strength, just a cloaking/modification of the aura. This is especially puzzling since the other tactic, inciting faux death throes via positive energy, makes proper use of channel energy and the rules, offering one superb, cool tactic. Also rather cool - specific attacks may make Dark Slayers turn temporarily undead - complete with positive energy vulnerability. Also on the crunch-side, we get the CR 5 Dark Keepers, guardians of the blood grails and we also get information on the libraries and hidden caches of the dark folk as well as a new item, the Staff of Warding. All in all, one enjoyable chapter.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are by no means bad - in fact, most of the time, they're really good, making the often rather significant glitches stand out even more, especially since they sometimes impede the usefulness of the crunch. A good rules-editor would have helped a lot here. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard with a black pillar on a side. The letters are big enough to enable you to print out 4 pages of this pdf on a regular page of DinA4-paper, which is nice and the reason I don't complain about the 1-column standard. The b/w-artworks in the book are ok, though don't expect to be wowed. The pdf comes extensively bookmarked with nested bookmarks.



Bret Boyd, K. Axel Carlsson, Michael Ferguson , Chuck Cuthbert and Stefen Styrsky have delivered a nice supplement - beyond the intriguing legends, the crowning achievement here should be the exploitable weaknesses and peculiarities that make fighting these beings so much more distinct that I really love. These are simply awesome when they work (which they do most of the time) and overall, I'd wish that more monster-designers would introduce options like this. This also makes me yearn quite a bit for MORE. I want to see more of these supplements - theme-wise, this is a 5-star+seal of approval pdf... one that also exhibits quite a few problems. From 3.5isms to spells not working as the tactics describe to the glitches here and there, we have quite an array of accumulating issues that drag down what could have been a superb offering. I did my best to give you an overview of potential problems that can be found herein, but still encourage you to take a look at this if you even remotely like ecology-articles or how Paizo's redesigns of classic monsters add to their lore and provide more details on them if you can look past the issues. In spite of really loving the plethora of ideas herein, I can't go as high as I'd like on this one -with the flaws, the best I can do, is rate this collection 3 stars and hope for more careful updates in the future - or new pdfs taking the cool concept into PFRPG-territory.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] Behind the Monsters: Omnibus
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Feats of Monstrosity
Publisher: Abandoned Arts
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/09/2013 06:31:22
An Endzeitgeist.com review

As always with pdfs of the "More Feats"-series, we get 3 pages - 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD and 1 page content, so let's take a look at these feats that are intended for characters that have acquired monstrous abilities!



-Awesome Strike: Requiring Str 25, 1/round use Awesome Blow as part of your full attack. OUCH!



-Daunting Damage Resistance: Demoralize foes as an immediate action when taking no damage due to DR.



-Deny Channeling: +2 to saves if saving successfully versus channel effects; cumulative versus said source in 24 hours; Also nets you the same amount as bonus to intimidate.



-Flyby Snatch: Combine snatch with flyby attack -awesome for the huge creatures that are required to use this feat.



-Gruesome Gaze: Creatures adjacent to you may not avert their eyes from your gaze attack. OUCH!



-Hazardous Hover: Creatures caught in your hover's cloud of debris are dazzled sans save.



-Rancorous Resistance: When hit by energy against which you have resistance, you get charged by it, adding 1d6 to your natural/unarmed/touch attacks for one round.



-Regenerative Clutch: At CMB -10, disarm foes that hit you as an immediate action by having your regeneration grow over the weapon.



-Undying Rage: Gain morale bonuses granted by rage and channel resistance +2, even though you're undead. Become staggered upon the end of the rage. Would be okay, had Kobold Press' Advanced Races #2: Darakhul not provided a vastly superior take on undead raging via a feat.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Abandoned Art's 2-column no-frills standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

Daron Woodson has created some feats that allow for truly dastardly tactics to drive the fear back into the players...however, prerequisite-wise, these feats see me troubled: The prerequisites could have used some additional racial caveats - as provided, I can see player characters qualifying for several of them and for player feats, honestly, these are too strong. A [monster]-descriptor or something like that would have helped there. The feats herein offer great options for DMs, but should remain out of the hands of players - and that's about all I can say about this collection; Offering iconic options for nasty adversaries, this pdf clocks in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform due to the low price, the 5 only missed by a margin due to the uninspired undead rage feat and the relatively weak deny channeling.

Endzeitgeist out

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Feats of Monstrosity
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A02: Devil of Dark Wood
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/08/2013 04:30:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

This pdf is 34 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving 29 pages of content, so let's check this out!



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



Still here? All right! Set on the Rybalkan peninsula of the setting, a place somewhat influenced by a clash of cultures between standard medieval people and the Viking-like Vikmoderes, the adventure presumes the following: A clan of devils has been stranded on the prime material plane and adapted to the place. Unable to return to the hells, they adapted and bred with humans too often, it seems - essentially, they degenerated and grew into their own secretive sub-race, sans e.g. the power to call reinforcements and with some individuals even leaning towards human behavior. A young devil fascinated with humans named Bakinqa managed to learn their tongue and some of their skills and tried to communicate with them, only to have his father shot in front of his very eyes by a bolt of devil slaying, as the devil (obviously carrying the taint of human weakness) sacrificed himself to save his son. The young devil subsequently plotted vengeance and schemed for years. When he first witnessed a lycanthropic transformation, he knew that a potent tool had fallen in his hands - especially with the rituals depicted in a dread tome of lycanthrope control that enables one to control lycanthropes via fetish dolls and even share senses with them. Unfortunately for the devil, he has yet to find the name and whereabouts of his father's slayer and thus has resorted to stealing a book containing the immigration records by proxy.

Brooks Balinger, a shepherd who has lost a sheep to the lycanthropes, couldn't find his usual, now deceased hunters to take care of his problems (they've been killed as well) and thus hired another hunter named Woln - unfortunately for the hunter, he's been captured by the devil and now serves as the infernal creature's guinea pig in creating a new devil-werewolf hybrid.



The PCs, after having a tour of the village (including many paragraphs of well-written flavor-text and a fully mapped tavern that includes even a price-list) are hired to find the missing hunter Woln and additionally, the local sage Yuri Statel wants them to recover his stolen books. The investigation soon yields a piece of pelt and thankfully provides some red herrings with named villagers who also wear pelts. After some minor investigation, the PCs find a victim of the curse, who may be almost insane, but also a possible way to reach the cavern of the true master. Otherwise the PCs are in for a fight with a were-wolf. The ice-cold rain also conspires to make their sojourn rather unpleasant and thus, the cabin of Cual Beartooth, skilled herbalist, is a welcome place to rest. Very cool: The herbalist can craft 3 types of special salves, but also expects the PCs to help improve the fully mapped cabin/do chores - which they actually can! Even better, the salves all come with ingredients, lending a sense of fluff and consistency to them. Unfortunately, no craft-DCs or information on how to replicate them like market price etc. is given. In order to earn their stay in Cual's refuge, they may have to do some chores, though - a nice diversion here!



After their stay at the hunter/hermit, the PCs finally reach the ominously-shaped Devil's Cave, where their adversary, a were-wolf slave and his hybrid - a true climax, and one easily adjustable by having one or more of the were-creatures change sides. The primary antagonist, the devilish alchemist, has access to extracts, bombs and mutagens, which is rather nice, even though I think the creature should have alchemist levels instead of getting the abilities of the class for free just "by having studied" it. As written, the statblock specifies no alchemist-levels. The finale per se is rather interesting and provides ways to adjust the challenge to your tastes. Even better, there's a "it's not over yet"-moment - the devil actually had a fourth fetish doll and thus, a fourth werewolf remains! Two sample ideas for continuing the adventure are given before introducing us to the dread tome that contains the knowledge to create the lycanthrope-controlling fetishes.



What still irks me, even though the origin story of Bakinqa has been vastly improved: The statblock does not use the correct devil-subtype-traits: Devils not only get a range-limited darkvision, they also see perfect in even deeper darkness. They are immune to fire and poison and don't have a paltry resistance of 5 to fire. They have a resistance to acid and cold 10, not just cold 5. Per default, they don't get a spell-resistance. Even if you take the cop-out and argue that this devil has degenerated, the modifications have made the subtype unrecognizable - I get that it's a species of its own. But it should not have the devil subtype. outsider? Evil? Okay, but rules-wise, this is no longer a devil - it shares almost no traits with the devil subtype. I also don't understand why the build does not specifically grant alchemist class levels to the adversary - all the class features are there, why not simply make him a base-race + alchemist-levels build?



Conclusion:



Editing and formatting are good, I noticed some glitches à la homophone errors (bare/bear), though, as well as inconsistencies regarding a statblock which may or may not be intentional.

Layout adheres to Adventureaweek's two-column parchment-style standard and has been vastly cleared up - this is so much better and crisper looking than its previous iteration.

The artworks are nice and the cartography is stellar. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks and herolab-support and comes with hyperlinks to respective areas of Rybalka, Items etc. on the AaW-page. Nice to look more information up if you're a subscriber! It should be noted that said links are optional only and all required information (and plenty of it) is contained herein.

All in all, the writing here is much more consistent than in "Crypt of the Sun Lord" and adheres to a mostly captivating and well-written prose. I particularly liked how herbs and ingredients are mentioned in some salves and the way in which the PCs may use their skills to improve a cabin as well as the sheer amount of detail provided for the village. The overall investigation, while easy to pull off, is well-presented and the environmental complications are neat. I also applaud the use of alchemist-rules. What I don't applaud is the lack of information regarding the rules for the salves introduced. The worst problem of this module was in its prior iteration an accumulation of terrible logic bugs and some clunky supplemental pieces of information, which have thankfully been purged. Indeed, as presented, A2 now actually makes sense and comes with a presentation that further improves it beyond its less than stellar first version to a point where I consider running it a fun endeavor. It is only rarely that one sees a publisher go back and improve a product to this extent and AaW's crew has my utmost respect for revisiting and improving this one. However, aforementioned subtype-hick-up, the weird antagonist build and the minor editing glitches here and there remain. Still, in this, its vastly revised edition, I can wholeheartedly recommend this module as a nice wilderness/investigation scenario with fluff galore for low levels that more than deserves a final verdict of 4 stars. Kudos!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A02: Devil of Dark Wood
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