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Tome of Twisted Things
Publisher: Little Red Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/27/2014 02:48:52
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf is 34 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 31 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



We kick this pdf off with the Darkborn-PrC - essentially a character who opts to take the wickedness into him/herself, slowly becoming the monster they ought to destroy - in the words of "The Dark knight" -either die a hero or become a monster. The PrC spans 10 levels and ofefrs d10, 4+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, 7 levels of spell progression and medium ref-saves. Unlike many other PrC, this class comes with a fighter/melee-centric alternative that offers full BAB-progression, but no spell-progression. Rules-wise, darkborn get a wickedness-pool of 3 x HD. Which brings me to two concepts - wickedness and purity: When the Darkborn uses his/her Darkweaving ability, a non AoO, non-touch SU with range, both s/he and the victim wager purity versus wickedness-points and the creature that wagered less is afflicted with the darkweaving. While said points do regenerate, they don't do so particularly fast, so a poker-face is helpful indeed. From exiled outsiders to walking on spiritual shards of glass to damage bonuses and negative energy damage, the 8 different effects truly are intriguing and fit thematically well with the PrC. On the downside of the doomed hero-angle, the PrC exudes a seductive draw - every level may see the hero slide closer towards the evil they seek to combat and an alternate rule may even make taking class-levels in other classes harder... Darkborn also learn to suppress darkweave effects that affect them, detect evil and undergo at later levels essentially an evil outsider apotheosis. Oh...and the capstone...you better quit before the capstone, for it has you transform into a truly vile monster, consumed by the darkness - of course, the lure may prove to be too great and still see you become an NPCs, perhaps even the final villain of the campaign? (And yes, there is an optional rule to avoid this depressing fate - but honestly, I think I'd omit that one - I'm into bleak, dark endings. Still, its presence is awesome!)This PrC does a great job at handling the doomed antihero-concept very well and while the purity-score determination may be a bit extra work for the DM, the formula is easy enough to do it on the fly - so all in all: One superb PrC!



The next class we get herein would be the Avenger, an alternate take on the Paladin that is not restricted in their alignment, gets no spellcasting and channel negative energy. Being all about revenge, they learn to place marks on designated prey and deal more damage (cha-mod) versus foes that have injured him/her. Foes designated as targets of this retribution also heal the avenger by cha-mod whenever he manages a crit versus the target. The avengers also learn so-called reparations - effects in addition to retribution, which come from a wide variety of selections that scale up over the levels and the class also nets auras that extend powers to the avenger's allies, allowing them to provide bonus damage to allies helping them with their revenge. They also learn to imbue their weapons with weapon qualities and finally, as a capstone, their get a kind of semi-apotheosis with DR and max negative energy channeling and all and their prey becomes almost impossible to resurrect. Again, a quite awesome class- the avenger makes for a flavorful, cool, alternate class!



Third among the offerings herein would be the Ruiner, who replaces touch of corruption with the option to supplement the damage dealing spells he casts with additional damage and may also thus increase the damage dealt via channel energy as soon as s/he gain it. At 3rd level and every 3 after that, the Ruiner may choose a Ruin, their replacement for cruelties. - essentially, being all about pain, they are focused on dealing painful and bleeding wounds, penalizing foes' saves against pain and yes, they may even negate morale benefits with their dread auras. A deadly, cool concept for an avatar of the blackest, most destructive nihilism. Neat!



The Tyrant PrC offers d10, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB, medium fort- and will-saves and essentially is a non-good, extremely lawful and honorable, but potentially twisted individual, fuelling his power with conviction (of which he gets 2+cha-mod +2 per class level): Tyrants are specialists of demoralization and may even demoralize the mindless and later even use conviction to prevent foes with a readied action to attack them - this is AWESOME! Stacking dominate person effects on the demoralized and smiting chaos to finally become a larger than life sovereign of his/her own domain, this PrC could have easily been a lame anti-chaos-borefest and instead proves to be a rather cool little PrC, albeit one that could have used a tad bit more versatility.



We also get a new race with the warped -offspring of mortals and eidolons, these folks replace the attribute modifiers of their base-race by +2 Con, +2 Wis and -4 Cha, get darkvision 6o feet, are treated as aberrations for effects and spells (but don't gain the benefits of the type) and get an evolution pool of 1 + 1 for every 5 character levels. Said evolutions follow their own distinct rules, preventing e.g. the skilled evolution from becoming overbearing. Only 1 and 2 point evolution are eligible and transforming costs a full-round action that provokes AoOs and leaves the Warped sickened - and is limited to the amount of times per day it can be used."We should wait before returning to the city, gotta get rid of that claws...wait, the paladins are around the corner?? Oh damn, better scram..." While they may Disgusie self as if not having any evolutions, still - quite some roleplaying potential there! They also get +4 to saves versus polymorph and +2 to Knowledge (planes) and Intimidate. A strong race, yes, but their social stigma should make sure that they remain a balanced and cool option. Two thumbs up!



We also get 2 new archetypes - the Bloodborn Summoner , a racial archetype of the Warped, who prepares spells as a witch, substituting his/her eidolon for a familiar and uses the magus' spell-list as well as Int as governing attribute. However, the eidolon is also changed: d8, -2 Wis, Int and Cha and 1/2 str and dex-bonuses over the levels. In order to unleash the eidolon, the summoner has to cut himself and let the beast gush forth from his/her wounds - interesting concept, especially since the archetype allows the warped to slowly partially ignore the restrictions imposed on their own mutable forms. We btw. also get 4 favored class options for the Warped.



The second racial archetype for the Warped herein would be the Monk of the Flowing Form - these monks blend their own shifting powers and natural weapons with the training of the basic monk-class. Again, a compelling, neat little archetype!



Finally, we get 20 feats, one of which is a story feat and one campaign trait - the feats per se are cool, offering e.g. synergy for avenger and rogue-builds, cavalier/avengers, more options for darkborn and even more tools for the warped. Whether by evoking the Lex Talionis ("An Eye for an Eye"), adding judgments to retributions, swearing dwarven blood oaths or fueling your meta-magic with wickedness - the feats one and all work rather well and even a feat the offers synergy between noble and Tyrant-classes is provided - overall: Kudos!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting has traditionally not been Little Red Goblin Games' strongest suit. Since their imaginative, intriguing campaign setting Necropunk was the first indicator on what they can do, I'm happy to report that the team of editors Dayton Johnson, Christina Johnson and Jeremiah Zerby have done a great job here - apart from the fluff-text in a couple of feats not being italicized and similar inconsequential nitpicks like "immediate reaction" instead of "reacting with an immediate action", I have the pleasure to report that LRGG have not stepped down from the level they've reached with Necropunk, instead applying the vastly increased standards to "regular" publications like this. Tl;dr: Editing and formatting very good, though not yet perfect.

The book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Layout. OMG. With a slight purplish tint, black borders and SUPERB, original and copious b/w-interior art by Tamas Baranya and Nathan Winburn, this book is a beauty to behold and ranks simply among the finest examples of b/w-art out there - aficionados of dark fantasy tones and artworks will love these evocative pieces.



Ian Sisson, Caleb Aylsworth, Christos Gurd and Scott Gladstein have created herein the BY FAR best book in their "Tome"-series I've read so far - while the purity-mechanic may be a little bit clunky in the beginning and not for everyone, it is a daring design - and one that does not extend to the other classes. The variant classes capture their respective topics well, their rules-language is rather polished and oftentimes simply INTERESTING. Imaginative, daring even. The avenger especially is a cool character and probably my new go-to class to recreate Guts from Berserk. By the way: If you haven't read this milestone of dark fantasy manga, go out there and get it NOW. (The anime is essentially btw. ONLY the extensive flashback!) Where was I? Oh yes, Tome of Wicked Things. Sorry there - this book just felt like it would seamlessly fit in one of the darkest and coolest sagas I've read so far and its content is overall...well, just awesome.

The new race is working surprisingly well, its restrictions preventing the "overpowered-omg-eidolon-evolutions" aspect I dreaded, while providing a great way to play a character that looks normal, but has a monster waiting just below the surface. Thematically, content fits seamlessly with presentation - from conan-style headers (with swords through letters) to the artworks to the content and we get one crunch-book aficionados of dark fantasy should not let slip through their fingers. While I could complain about the aforementioned minor glitches, that would by hypocrisy at its finest and simply not do this awesome pdf justice - The innovative ideas herein are more than enough to let one see past the exceedingly minor, almost non-existent little issues and hence, my final verdict will clock in at a heartfelt recommendation of 5 stars + seal of approval.



Congratulations to the crew of LRGG - if this is what we can expect from them now, then start saving and keep an eye on them, ladies and gentlemen!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Twisted Things
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A Sneak Peek Guide to Orbis
Publisher: Gaming Paper
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/27/2014 02:47:22
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This free teaser of Gaming Paper's Seeampunk-setting of Orbis is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover/editorial/SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content - though that would rather be 16.



Why? Well, because the pdf has one weird quirk - even if set to single page, it always displays two pages at once, something that usually only happens when a file is scanned in. Slightly annoying, but oh well.



So what is Orbis about? Essentially, it endeavors to be (as far as possible) realitsic, at least regarding the results of the availability of magic - the old guard, those that command arcane and divine might, are essentially the rulers and the machine age has relatively recently upset their power-base, inciting a struggle between the old and new, technology and magic, rich and poor - so far, so compelling - as further enforced by the nice in-character narratives in boxes.



In the following sections on the respective nations, we get a glimpse at potential for racial issues, colonialist discourses and problems and similar relatively unexplored tropes and topics that do offer quite a compelling selection of varying topics to cover via adventures (of which there are at teh very least, 3 planned) - in a world in revolution, a lot of changes can be made and the PCs may well end at the forefront of said upheavals.



All the usual races can be found on Orbis (so no humano-centrism), but orcs and half-orcs are unknown - instead, there are Crocodilians, who get +2 Str, -2 Cha, can hold their breath twice as long as humans, get a bite attack at 1d6 that is treated as if it were an unarmed attack (why not as a primary natural weapon?) and can be used in e.g. monk damage progressions as if it were a regular unarmed attack. Furthermore, they can 1/day move double their movement rate as part of a move action. The race feels a bit strong, but still okay. I hope the bite attack is streamlined for the final books, though. The second new race would be the Hekano - aquatic humanoids (full blown water + air breathing) with 4 tentacles they can use to make skill checks while protecting themselves. They also get +2 stealth,+2 to Int and Dex and -2 to Str. Those tentacles are a can of worms - can they wield weapons? If not, why? Can they activate magic items (via UMD a skill-check...) - do they get better grapple? Urgh...the concept is cool, but I fear that unless handled with much, much care, these guys will end up as terribly broken, even though the concept is intriguing. It should be noted that, while they do get a lengthy write-up, neither race comes with an age, height and weight-table, something I hope to see in the final book.



Now a new rule would be the calibration of weapons - via concise, easy to grasp rules, one component stat of a weapon can be raised, whereas another is lowered - which per se is damn cool - more damage for slightly less chance to hit (i.e. +1 damage, -1 atk) and similar options sound like fun. Magic items that are calibrated lose some of the inherent bonuses they get, but can be calibrated for three benefits instead of the standard two - and here I'm not 100% sold - why? Because threat range and crit multiplier are part of what can be calibrated. That means x5 scythes and picks. Urgh. Stacking with keen etc.- urgh. Also, giving a weapon range may be cool, but is the thrown weapon, if it was prior to calibration a pure melee weapon then treated as an improvised weapon? Uses it str or dex to calculate atk? Can it be thrown at the end of e.g. a flurry? Why not make weapons more usable for different maneuvers instead or provide an anti-calibration to make items especially suitable to destroy the efficient, but fragile wonders? The system is complex and can be rather cool, but I hope that all the moving parts are properly covered in the final books - this, as written, is still very exploitable.



The pdf concludes with a massive map of the world.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, nice two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but various beautiful b/w-artworks.



From what I could glean, Dan Comrie and Steven E. Schend have created an intriguing setting full of adventuring potential, cool nations and ideas - but at the same time, this pdf leaves me slightly cautious - while Orbis seems very intriguing, both tentacled humanoids and the calibration-mechanic are cool, but require very skilled hands to properly pull off without breaking the game - a mastery I'm not 100% sure that is there from what I've seen so far. Now this being a free sneak-peek, there's nothing to lose here and the ideas per se are inspiring - now let's hope the team Gaming paper has assembled is up to the task and that enough space is allotted to the respective rules. I am cautiously intrigued and hence my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Sneak Peek Guide to Orbis
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Road to War: The Equinox Crown
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/24/2014 04:19:26
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module is 26 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction (in which a rare Legendary Games typo can be found - a missing "Y" in "you" that has been eaten by the layout), 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 20 pages of adventure, 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? Level-wise and concept-wise, this module is somewhat different from usual plug-in adventures in that is rather modular: Essentially, this module level-wise is intended to span levels 6 to 7 and are intended to make the path to Drezen more varied, providing XP and more things to do for the PCs. While they may have an army of crusaders, each encounter herein actually covers whether/how the presence of their army interacts with the encounter.



The 7 encounters herein are woven together via a subplot centering on the eponymous Equinox Crown and features a short summary of time traveled since the PCs have left as well as the number of miles they have since then covered - nice to keep track of distance etc. So what can the PCs do? Well, the trail of the Equinox Crown begins when the PCs have to essentially convince a small village to evacuate. In the night after that,. a traitor contacts the demonic forces, which results in the PCs having to fend off a couple of Hala demons and...getting the Equinox Crown. As l00t. Yeah. Somewhat anticlimactic.



When the PCs then encounter deserters, things get weird fast - during interrogation, the deserters vomit forth swarms of locusts unwittingly implanted in them and dealing with the swarms via area effects may severely damage the PC's army. On the plus-side, this event may see the PC in question automatically bonding with the crown. That being said, this also features a massive moral dilemma I'm not sure the module handles well - what to do with the deserters? Execution may seem harsh, but letting them off the hook should have a catastrophic impact on troop-morale unless sold right - and this whole dilemma is completely glanced over and ignored - why not modify their army's prowess to reflect their decisions? A lost chance there.



We also get a bit of mass combat (and intrigue) when one of the Condemned (pardoned criminals) pleads the PCs to save his men and finding out about a noble who has essentially sacrificed the unpopular company -defeating an army of shir-demons can integrate the remnants of the Condemned into the PC's fold. Pity that said noble is already dead, though - here there would have been quite some potential for a hard choice and benefits/penalties depending on your PC's inclinations - again, lost potential.



Next up would be a fight for the PCs to handle alone (after losing scouts), against a Frost Drake (Who has a miraculously large font-size in the offense-section of his statblock) in a battle with different heights (awesome) - after that, we have the PCs explore the home of an ettin guerilla fighter and his bear companion Ripclaw.



The final encounter takes place within "The Demon's Heresy" and has the PCs convince an earth-elemental guardian to cease attacks and then take out a mythic locust demon, including a mini-ritual, which is nice, but could have used some more detail. The pdf also contains a full-blown bestiary entry for the earthen guardians, the Durdalis and a very detailed entry on the equinox crown as well as suggested means of increasing power.



Finally, we get no less than three awesome, grid-studded full color player-friendly versions of the maps of the encounters herein, adding to the module's value by providing top-notch cartography.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though slightly below Legendary Games' otherwise almost flawless track record. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with a flame-like orange top border for a distinct look. The artworks (2 full-page beauties that could be cover-images and 2 no less beautiful smaller pieces) are simply gorgeous and on Paizo-level. The full-color cartography also is up to a very high quality standard and the presence of player-friendly maps that can be used time and again is a huge plus for the value of this module.



So, Jim Groves and Neil Spicer deliver us the Road to War here to make the journey more interesting - Legendary Games has already shown that Jim Groves can do journey-adventures well with Road to Destiny and thus I was looking forward quite a bit to this one. Unfortunately, I have to admit to being rather disappointed - it's not the fact that this is not a module, but instead more of a chain of loosely linked encounters, mind you - the encounters per se are well-crafted, utilize terrain, come with LG's trademark superior production values. That's not the problem.

Unlike all other LG-plug-in modules I've reviewed so far, this one feels a bit redundant in it choice of adversaries. While I'm a fan of themed modules/APs where your primary opposition has a theme, certain tricks the PCs may adapt to etc., the foes herein feel a bit like random encounters, also thanks to the overarcing storyline around the Equinox Crown being simply, I'm loathe to say it, boring. The item per se is nice and has some distinct, cool abilities, but story-wise, there simply is nothing going on here - whether regarding the legendary item's background or the link between encounters, this whole module lacks a compelling frame narrative. And consequence. The PCs don't have to make any hard choices herein, even though several of the encounters practically hand the DM the necessary respective dilemma on a silver platter. Choice is what makes linear journeys matter - why not choose between arrogant nobles and redeemed criminals? Why not modify the army's stats according to the decisions made? Certainly not due to a lack of capability, seeing how excellent Legendary Games' "Ultimate Battle" turned out to be.



At least for me, this linearity, the lack of consequence and the rather flimsy story of the crown and the adversaries herein drag this module down from the position its otherwise superb production values would guarantee. This becomes especially evident when seen in direct comparison with the SUPERB plug-in modules LG has crafted for Jade Regent, all of which mop the floor with this one, offering a deeper story and more varied experience for the AP and even when played as standalone offerings. Even as a collection of encounters, as which I'll judge these, the lack of choice means that PCs will not consider this a respite from a railroady journey, but rather a prolonging. Is this a bad supplement? No! But also falls spectacularly flat of what it easily could have been. My final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Road to War: The Equinox Crown
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#1 With a Bullet Point: 5 Magic Diseases
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/24/2014 04:14:53
An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, you know the drill - 3 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page content, so let's take a look!



Soooo. magical diseases! YEAH! I'm a sucker for diseases, poisons, hazards, traps, curses and haunts as my poor players can attest, so let's dive in!



-Ashenblood: Contracted by magical fire, this disease damages your con-score, but for each point, you actually get fire resistance - to the point where you can temporarily gain the fire subtype! The downside is that upon death, you are incinerated and replaced by a fire elemental. But your players don't know that...hell, they might even keep diseased agents lying around when seeking to do battle against flame-using foes...



-Barrow Plague: This is also a transforming plague and will henceforth be added to the arsenal of each and every necromancer, lich and other undead mastermind I can find. Why? It not only damage con, it also imposes an additional penalty equal to the total of con-damage received to saves against necromancy, negative energy and level drain - and seeing how several of these are based on fort, that just adds insult to injury. Nice! Speaking of which: OF COURSE, you turn into an undead upon succumbing to this plague. What did you think?



-Fury Fever: This one deals int-damage and has an incubation of mere MINUTES. Worse, upon receiving a mere 4 points of int-damage, the target enters a mindless, barbarian-like frenzy, attacking everything larger than tiny and not infected. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have an appropriate representation of a rage-plague. Excellent!



-Green Guts Also highly virulent and with only an onset of mere minutes, this one nauseates the subject with a 10%-chance every minute, for up to 1d10 rounds. Now here's the cincher: Every time a victim is nauseated, it starts vomiting up green slime. Yes! Delicious, deadly, green slime. Oh, and the target is NOT immune against the vomited slime's effects. Hope your character has practiced projectile vomiting during his/her apprenticeship-days... Oh, and because its fun, having this for too long turns you into a gelatinous cube.



-Spellblains could be transmitetd optionally via the contact of diseased magical energies and is a bane for all casters, increasing the level of their spells for preparing or casting (for spontaneous casters) them, essentially crippling tehir spellcasting prowess - oh, and it gets worse, sicne the penalties are cumulative.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - apart from some minor improper capital letters, all is well. Layout adheres to SGG's old 3-column portrait-standard, which is somewhat cluttered and since then thankfully no more around in RGG's supplements. The pdf has no bookmarks and needs none at this length.



Owen K.C. Stephens delivers - 5 diseases, all killer, no filler - cool effects, iconic imagery, solid crunch - this is easily one of my favorite Bullet Points of all the time and 5 star + seal of approval material. And it lacks one important piece of information for every disease: Namely, how many consecutive saves are required to shake them off. Yes. None of the diseases come with the information on the cure-saves. That is a major blunder and the only reason I can't rate this otherwise superb supplement as 5 stars +seal of approval and instead have to penalize it down to 4. Still: A definite recommendation, folks - take a look: The fun concepts will prove to be infectious!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
#1 With a Bullet Point: 5 Magic Diseases
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Prepare for War - Basic Training Manual (PFRPG)
Publisher: Amora Game
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/23/2014 03:10:23
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Player's Guide for Amora Game's new AP is 29 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



Military-life is not for the faint of heart or easy, and the same holds true for the city-state of Thaddeus, where, in the Compound 13, the PCs will undergo their training for war against the city-state's adversaries. Hence, as you can imagine, the player characters don't start as full-blown adventurers, but rather 0-level characters. Where via SGG (or now, RGG's) Apprentice-level character-rules (don't fear - all required is in here) and char generation, the PCs are made. And we're in for at least my preferred style, with only 15-point buy (or the regular conservative rolling) making the PCs not super-heroes, but rather diligent soldiers. We also are introduced for the roles of the respective non-humans in the predominantly human Thaddean military. As the new race here, we have the ferals, essentially urbanized orcs that get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, 2 primary natural claw attacks at 1d4, low-light vision, +10 ft movement when running, charging or withdrawing, always treat Perception and Stealth as class-skills and get +2 to melee atk and AC when below half HP and without conscious ally within 30 ft. Compared to the other standard races perhaps a bit strong, but still within acceptable parameters.



Now background as per Ultimate Campaign, starting level traits, alignment etc. is covered in here as well, lending you a hand for proper character-generation. We also are introduced to the social hierarchy of the Thaddean Empire, which imho lends a level of realism to the set-up unfortunately all-too-often ignored in most settings, so kudos for that! Simple and easy to grasp though it is, its presence lends a distinct flair to the chapter!



The next section covers more than basic training, i.e. the graduation from 0-level to 1st level characters, which includes extensive breakdowns of the respective character-classes and the units they are considered as - from bards and alchemists and druids to infantry and the support-units - each class gets recommendations that help fit it within the context of the campaign and teh Thaddean Empire - and does a better job at depicting this than quite a few player's guides I've read. Furthermore, we are introduced to the Thaddean Empire's patron god Damocles. Here we also are introduced to a cool variant rule: Per default, Gods don't heal non-believers; Damocles heals e.g. only his believers and citizens of his city-state. Non-believers can be healed, but at reduced efficiency and with the chaplain (the name for clerics of Damocles) being temporarily sickened. At least for me...Two thumbs up! The clause of alternately belonging to a city-state being enough makes infiltration, not using healing as detect-spells etc. possible, so yeah: Neat one! It should be noted that gunslingers, monks and ninjas are not covered, though - they don't fit within the context of the campaign and while seeing them would have been nice, I'd rather have a believable, concise fluff than a half-baked hodge-podge, so again, kudos for having the guts to exclude them.



We also are introduced to quite a slew of new traits to choose from: A total of 30 new traits, to be precise. Also interesting here - they actually have a cool fluff and offer some rather interesting bonuses: Adjusting the Draw of your bow for 1 hour nets you a +1 damage-bonus to your shots, but also risks breaking the bow on a natural 1 or 2. The equivalent of the soldier fine-tuning the signature gun - rather awesome! Firing crossbows with one hand, increased pain-tolerance due to having met the military's bone-breakers, being known for arcane friendly fire (which makes saving for your allies easier!) etc. - these traits are actually all rather awesome and one of them is even a teamwork-trait, following Amora's rather cool installment in the Supporting Roles-series, which btw. makes for a superb supplemental pdf for an unbeatable price.



Next up are a total of 10 new feats: From Coordinated Volleys to charging through allies, being better at sabotage, combining dirty tricks and rage, improved resiliency in groups to avoid damage from forced marches and one that allows you and an ally to stack morale bonuses and extend them to allies, but at the cost of actions every round - these feats, overall, are well-crafted and flavorful.



Now, of course we also get new archetypes, first of which would be the Armiger - no, not the RGG base-class, here, it's a magus archetype that gets a reduced arcane pool, but may impart special arcane marks on weapons for bonuses, learn to craft magic arms and armor rather soon, at 5th level. The signature ability, though, would be arcane heraldry, which allows the armiger to create a seal on his tabard, armor etc. - when using his/her arcane pool, they may via this seal improve temporarily all weapons imbued with their marks, later learning to even add magical qualities. I can see playing this one being fun - nice, if unfortunately-named archetype.



The Battlefield Sapper Ranger chooses affiliations and organizations/nations as favored adversaries instead of creature types, get trapfinding and additional ranger traps. Even cooler, they can lay down bombs, Bridgeburner-style: Including countdown, increasing damage and rules to disarm them. Oh, and they later learn to combine these with ranger traps! AWESOME. Seriously, I really, really like this one!



Battle Sorcerors draw strength literally from their highest level arcane spell, boosting their strength and they may also erect spontaneous spell barriers to avoid being reduced below 0 hp, using his still remaining spells as a kind of hitpoint substitute; Nice, especially since the Battle Sorceror gets some solid weapon proficiencies! Later, the barrier can be used without even the immediate action it required in the beginning. Again, a cool archetype! The Cavalryman Cavalier is essentially a cavalier that is theme-wise more in line with the mounted soldier than the questing knight, with a variety of subtle modifications that make sense and should be considered balanced.



Decrier Inquisitors are masters of propaganda and censure, essentially the ideological think-tanks, whose words may stop the adversaries dead silent in their tracks or censure foes with negative effects depending on the alignments of the affected. The words of censure may later be imparted via attacks as well - again, a nice archetype. Field Medics are alchemists that get weaker bombs, but access to cognatogen as well as improved healing discoveries and fast healing-imparting smoke bombs. Nice! The Commander-class from Amora Game's Supporting Roles-series also gets a new archetype with the Iron Fist, especially fearsome and harsh commanders. Nothing to complain here either. Peacebane Oracles are masters of antagonizing adversaries and have an aura of strife. Raider rogues are mounted rogues that are particularly adept at striking from horseback - essentially mounted skirmishers. Again, rather cool. The Siegemaster-archetype from Abandoned Art's Amazing Races: Humans! has been acknowledged and adapted to this book as well. Bards may opt for the War Chanter archetype, who gets less skills per level, but 3 special bardic performances that allow them to negate fatigue, temporarily grant endurance and as a capstone world wave to sweep away enemies. Add to that sonic-damage causing war chants, calling lightning and grant temporary hit points to allies that respond to his call and we have one damn awesome archetype. Finally, War Wizards may reduce arcane spell failure chance, get Tactician and bonus feats, but pays for this with no less than four opposition schools.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches that would have impeded my understanding of the content's intent. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read two-column full-color standard with golden borders at the top and bottom. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the interior artwork in b/w is fitting.



Amora Game supplements have been work for me so far and I've bashed a couple of them to smithereens. Hence, to be honest, I wasn't particularly excited to read and review this.

Holy Moly was I wrong.



From actually fun to read prose to complex mechanics that are handled well, this supplement had me reread it multiple times, my heart swelling a bit every time - Greg LaRose, Daron Woodson (mastermind of Abandoned Arts), Wayne Canepa and Wojciech Gruchala have crafted a supplement that draws you into the culture of the Thaddean Empire, that breathes flair, offers solid crunch and feel surprisingly unified in voice and style. Oh, and the crunch here is excellent for the target goal of providing a good crunch-backdrop for their War-AP. Almost ex nihilo, the crunch herein is actually so cool and compelling that I'm rather surprised how well all the archetypes came out - there are several herein that just had me smile my predatory "Hell yeah"-grin; With these, your group actually could go all-out Bridgeburners (early books, before the demigod-aspects came in); Better yet, Amora Game shows awareness for other supplements, adding value to them as well, though not necessarily requiring them.



Seriously, there are more great archetypes herein than in MANY of the countless supplements I've reviewed and the fluff, traits etc. -everything goes seamlessly together, quoting all our favorite fantasy war tropes. This player's guide is superior to most I've read and is well worth the fair asking price - I salute the designers and team from Amora Game: 5 stars + seal of approval, Endzeitgeist reporting ready for the AP; If it can stand up to this guide, then I'm in for a blast.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Prepare for War - Basic Training Manual (PFRPG)
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Tribes Most Foul: Ogres
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2014 03:10:54
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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



As always with the Tribes Most Foul-series, we get 3 tribes herein, all of which come with a tribal roster, lore, some fluff-only NPCs, at least one statblock for a notable personality of a tribe and a unique crest, depicted in beautiful b/w-artwork.



Now let's get one thing out of the way - Paizo's ogres have made one of the most-loathed monsters (If I had a dime for every 1st level module that has an ogre as the final boss...) into a cool, disturbing race I love using to disgust my players. Now let's see what spin David Posener can give to these, shall we?



The first tribe herein would be the Masters of the Cauldron - a trio of ogres known as the Ladle King, Our Mother of Belches and the Great Gourmand (who comes in all CR 13 ogre witch-glory). These ogres are not only gourmands and brilliant chefs for evil creatures with a taste for the extreme, they also are accomplished raiders of the pantries of castles all around - weird, and yet incredibly cool idea-wise: Gluttony taken to an extreme, they and their winter wolves and kidnappers definitely make for deadly, unusual combatants your PCs are sure to remember.



The Cauterized Host could be a mercenary company, were it not comprised of horribly scarred ogres addicted to an insidious drug that is sprinkled into the wounds of recruits as they lose fingers, have their bones broken and otherwise suffer in the dread initiation ceremony of the band. The drug, Zerk, is fully depicted with all its consequences, while behind a wall of blazing, smoking steel the ogres waltz through the ranks of their foes, disturbingly disciplined and effective on the battlefield - in spite (or thanks to) their addiction and the need to fuel it. Volan, a Fighter (Phalanx Soldier) 5/Barbarian (Drunken Brute, Invulnerable Rager) 3 definitely makes for the most complex build in the series so far as well as one frighteningly efficient commander. Do not get on the side of the lucerne hammers and tower shields of these deadly brutes! If I may: For a web-enhancement or in a compilation, I would LOVE to see this one get an army-statblock: I think having these beasts ravage Kingmaker-campaigns and similar kingdom-building campaigns would be awesome!



The final tribe herein would be the Mottled Lurkers: In the canopy of mighty redwoods and blue gums, these hunters are true tribal primitives, perching on their moss-covered branches and solving their conflicts via ogre moots and wrestling matches. A CR 13 advanced true primitive barbarian 10 is the sample character of the tree-worshipping ogres that hear the murderous whispers of the bloodthirsty tree spirits - madness or truth, these ogres make for deadly stalkers of the ancient forests.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column b/w-standard, with awesome crests for each tribe and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, with one intended for being printed and one for screen-use.



David Posener has had a hard task to follow up after the superb installment on trolls and, showing that there's a reason he tends to rank as high as he does, he actually manages to pull off not only an awesome array of tribes that lives up to the insane level of the last installment, he has also crafted one of the coolest tribes to ever come out of Raging Swan's excellent series while providing some rather complex builds to boot - there is nothing to complain here: Variety, ideas, quality and sheer imaginative potential - all up to the highest standards and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tribes Most Foul: Ogres
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NPC Arsenal No. 2: Troll Witchdoctor
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2014 03:08:03
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?



Well, we get a beastmorph alchemist 6/Gravewalker Witch 2 Troll for a CR of 12! Troll physical prowess plus beastform mutagen + buffing + enhanced spell/alchemy-empowered regenerative properties supplemented by smart item-choices make this one memorable BEAST of a character! Add to that a smart spell-selection that allows for the purchase of time for the buffing suite and the information on build and tactical notes provided should guarantee that your PCs will NOT forget ending on the business end of this shaman's longspear (or bite!). And yes, he can fight until -47 HP and has a good chance to negate crits - I can see players crying "WHY WON'T HE DIE!!!"



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.



OMG - THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is a prime example of a damn cool, smart build -memorable, deadly, versatile and thoughtful, this creature is GOLD. Ever wanted to go Resident Evil: Nemesis on your players? Yeah, this one's pretty close - and gloriously so! The Aasimar was neat, this troll is glorious: 5 stars + seal of approval and well worth the fair asking price!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
NPC Arsenal No. 2: Troll Witchdoctor
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Path of War: The Stalker
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/21/2014 03:36:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf is 56 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a total of 53 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So...what is this? Remember 3.X's Book of the 9 Swords? Yeah, it's the spiritual successor. In order to properly review this series, let me tell you where I'm coming from: I own the Bo9S and when I first read it, I loved it: Essentially, much like in fantasy martial arts movies and anime, the approach is to grant martial classes maneuvers and stances to allow them some of the versatility of the casting classes and that concept rocks. Unfortunately, the Bo9S's classes proved in game that they were not exactly well-balanced - from weird, cumbersome mechanics to determine available maneuvers to flawed balance within the disciplines (e.g. utterly op Diamond Mind, ridiculously weak Setting Sun), playtesting soon showed that I was swept away by the coolness of the concept and should have checked the system more thoroughly. Also from this experience arose my utter disdain for per-encounter abilities - while on paper, they may not seem that jarring, in game they proved to be exceedingly frustrating for both my players and me: Encounters are arbitrarily defined interruptions of the game - they can range from 1 round to multiple days in theory and basing the availability of abilities on such a random interval is just bad in my book. Take this example: PCs storm into a room, kill two goblins in the surprise round, combat over. 1 round later goblins from the adjacent room enter and combat breaks out again. In this example, per-encounetr abilities could be used twice for double the oomph. Had one goblin survived the initial assault, the new goblins would have entered combat, meaning all per-encounter abilities could be used only once. Basing any availability on anything but hard rounds, minutes, i.e. non-random time-frames is bad design in my book and one of the reasons I opted against 4th edition as my system of choice. And yes, I'm aware of the judgment-ability's duration as the ONE example of an encounter-spanning ability that has its duration thus defined, but judgment also has a daily limit. That being said, I'll be professional and mention design-philosophy like this when I see it and probably complain about it, but I won't condemn the pdf for it - I'll try my utmost to remain neutral. I do love the idea of maneuvers and giving fighters "nice things", as the pdf puts it - so whatever way this review goes, I actually do want this to succeed.



So, does Path of War succeed where its trailblazing predecessor failed? Let's take a look! The class introduced herein would be the Stalker, who gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good will-saves, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light armors, starting at 2nd level +1 dodge bonus to AC (+1 every four levels), starts with 6 maneuvers known, up to 4 readied and 1 stance and develops that to a total of 21 maneuvers known, 12 readied and 6 stances over the course of 20 levels. The Stalker has access to a total of 5 disciplines (which are maneuver-groups somewhat akin to schools of magic): Broken Blade, Solar Wind, Steel Serpent, Thrashing Dragon and Veiled Moon. Unless otherwise noted, maneuvers are extraordinary abilities that do not provoke AoOs and at 4th level and every even level after that, Stalkers may retrain one maneuver and choose another. The lack of restriction apart from not being able to surpass the level-restriction means that, while you can't freely retrain maneuvers as you could other class abilities, you may later exchange lower level maneuvers for higher level ones. The key attribute for the stalker's maneuvers would be wisdom - here designated as primary initiator attribute modifier. Now, each character may ready maneuvers - reading these requires meditating and focusing ki for 10 minutes. This means that readied maneuvers can, time permitting, be changed - which is nice. No single maneuver can be readied more than once. Now where I start cringing is with the sentence: "He begins an encounter with all readied maneuvers unexpended, regardless of how many times he may have used them..." - not because of the unlimited usability, but because it's EXACTLY the immersion-breaking problem I described earlier: Many short combats: You excel. One long, epic battle with various phases? Tough luck. Now to be fair, Path of War is MUCH smarter than Bo9S in its basic approach - as a standard action, stalkers may recover 1 expended maneuver and as a full-round action, wis-mod, min 2 expended maneuvers. When using the latter option, the Stalker gets a +4 insight bonus to AC - which makes no sense to me. The replenishing of resources should not offer a significant, non-scaling defensive boost that especially at low levels, is simply too much. Also: Why do these not provoke AoOs? The latter has the Stalker "centering his spirit completely to re-align his perceptions of the battle and his place in it." - that screams AoO to me.



Essentially, resource-management should require and reward smart tactics, not simply impose a action-tax. If a Stalker had to think whether to use his last maneuver and temporarily retreat from battle to replenish them, there'd be more strategy here. And the AC-bonus needs to DIE or at least be somewhat nerfed at low levels - why not go with a scaling bonus, perhaps +1, +1 for every 4 levels?. Seriously, +4, think about it: It's the maneuver-refreshment-tank! Constantly refresh and tank. Nah. Stances are the second resource of the stalker and changing stance is now a swift action. Stances cannot be retrained and are not expended. Also: The encounter-refreshment is simply an unnecessary design-relic from Bo9S at this point - with the option to refresh maneuvers via actions, we have clearly defined guidelines to refresh them in a set time-frame concisely defined by the rules - why overly complicate the mechanic and add a reason to metagame to the mechanic? Just get rid of the at this time thoroughly unnecessary per-encounter refreshment. And yes, sans the per-encounter humbug, I actually consider this mechanic utterly AWESOME. So the baseline WORKS! At this point, I was smiling from ear to ear.



At first level, the Stalker also gets a ki-pool of 1/2 level +wis-mod. As a swift action, stalkers may add a +4 insight bonus to perception of sense motive. At 5th level, he may use ki to enhance his deadly strikes, adding his deadly strikes to all martial strikes initiated for wis-mod rounds. What are Deadly Strikes? Whenever a stalker scores a critical hit, this ability activates for wis-mod rounds, increasing damage by 1d6 at 1st level +1d6 for every four levels after that. Weapons with higher crit-modifiers deal d8 and d10 bonus damage instead when within 30 foot of the target. I'm not 100% sold on the overall usefulness of this ability - when crit-fishing via keen-builds etc., it gets a bit powerful, but in combination with the ki-powered component, it does work - only, it does not specify whether the benefits/durations stack - what if one scores a crit with a maneuver via the ki-activation of Deadly Strike, do the durations overlap? Stack? Also "The stalker must be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot and must be able to reach such a spot." - what does that mean? Does concealment make it impossible to hit the target with deadly strikes? What about those with fortification?



At 7th level, stalkers may expend 1 point of ki as an immediate action for a +4 insight bonus to saving throws. At 9th level, stalkers may also expend ki to get a readied maneuver available as a swift action. At least that's what the pdf specifies: "The character spends one ki point and may trade a readied maneuver for a maneuver known of the same level or lower and have it immediately readied and accessible for his use as a swift action a number of times per day equal to his Wisdom modifier." So does that mean that the temporarily available maneuver can be executed as a swift action? Or does it require a swift action IN ADDITION to the action it would usually take to activate? I'm honestly not sure, though I assume the latter.



At 2nd level, the Stalker also gets combat insight, which adds wis-mod to ref-saves and initiative - not a fan of adding any two attributes to the same skill/save etc. - especially since wis already covers will-saves -it's like adding con-mod to ref or will-saves: It makes no sense in game and can easily turn unpleasant. Later, he gets uncanny dodge, may regain ki or expended maneuvers when successfully criting. This latter ability fails the "bath of kittens"-test: While I don't object to maneuvers being thus regained, ki is a non-replenishing resource. Taking a burlap sack of kittens and criting the hell out of them (if you don't hit, you can sedate them first) would allow a stalker to regain all expended ki as long as his/her kittens don't run out. And yes, the example is ridiculous and the ki-abilities of the class not that impressive. But Ki stacks usually and more than one class uses it, as do various feats. When combined with other classes and options, this infinite replenishment of ki quickly gets out of hand - and needs to die a fiery death. At 18th level, stalkers get blindsight 30 foot. Okay, I guess.



At 3rd level and every 4 levels after that, a stalker gets a stalker art, essentially the talents of this class. a total of 18 such talents are provided and cover e.g. the advanced study-feat, +10 ft. movement and +wis-mod to acrobatics-check (again: two attribute modifiers to one skill - broken in my book) and expend ki to further increase speed, but at the cost of temporary fatigue. What's problematic would be combat precognition - choose one foe as an immediate action and spend 1 point of ki to make said for roll all attacks against you twice and take the worse result for 1+wis-mod rounds. NO SAVE. Supernatural ability? Seriously? This needs a mind-influencing-caveat, a save, something to bring it in line with e.g. the misfortune hex, which lasts only up to 3 rounds but extends its effects to more rolls and can only affect one target once per 24 hours and which comes witha SAVE. The defensive bonus when regaining maneuvers can be further enhanced by a 20% miss chance and even total concealment with a 50% chance. Now does the latter also mean that line of sight is broken as usual per total concealment? Relevant for spells and potentially broken as all hell, as it would allow the stalker to slowly creep forward sans being targeted. Also: I consider an AoO in line for the base ability and both would make this impossible, so in case there's a revision/ you houserule this, keep that in mind.



We also get easier qualification for critical feats and increased crit ranges. On the worse side of things, one Stalker Art allows the Stalker to expend one point of ki as a swift action to use deadly strikes in all attacks (not just maneuvers) against the target for wis-mod rounds. When successfully criting, the duration is instead extended by one round. Now where this becomes a huge clusterf*** is with the application of deadly strikes via ki to maneuvers - do they stack? At what duration? This whole complex of abilities and their interaction needs a thorough cleaning up. Another art allows the stalker to "While recovery[sic! - should probably read "recovering"] maneuvers as a full round action, the stalker gains the use of the Combat Reflexes feat (using his Wisdom modifier in place of his Dexterity modifier) and on attacks of opportunity triggered while he is recovering maneuvers, the stalker may add his deadly strikes damage to these attacks." - so what happens if the Stalker already has combat reflexes? At 11th level, the stalker may learn to regain 1 point of ki whenever s/he reduces an opponent to 0 hit points or below with a maneuver. This once again fails the basic kitten test. Stalkers may also conceal their presence as per the cloud mind psionic power (though that should probably be Sp, not Su) - the same extends to the art that allows you to duplicate charm monster, which imho needs a reduced duration since the DC is as regular (13+wis-mod) and ki isn't a particularly scarce resource for stalkers.



Where balance takes a nosedive would be with Phantom Reach: As a swift action, the character may "[...]spend one ki point and the character may initiate a melee martial strike with a range of melee attack with a range of close (25ft + 5ft / 2 levels)." Yeah. Full attack melee at range. While strikes with a range greater than melee don't work with this, it's still VERY powerful - as is the option to spend one point of ki to move for wis-mod rounds sans provoking AoOs. Yes. 1 ki= no movement AoOs. Do I really have to explain why that is insanely broken? These two abilities need a massive whack with the nerfbat.



At higher levels, stalkers may initiate 2 strikes as a full round action 1/day, later up to 3/day. As a capstone, the stalker can spend two points of ki as an immediate reaction to being hit by an attack, spell or ability to attack the target with a readied maneuver. I'm not sure whether the readied maneuver can be expended or not for the purpose of this ability, though. Other than that - appropriately cool capstone, though one essentially crippled in its impact due to the presence of the ranged stalker art - its only point remaining would be that it's reflexive and has a potentially longer range - that's it. When a talent-like ability available at 3rd level can steal the majority of the thunder of a capstone, something's severely wrong here - and it's not the capstone alone...



So that's the base class. We also get the new Knowledge (Martial)-skill, which essentially is spellcraft for maneuvers. Would have been nice to see DCs for style-feats and similar non-maneuver tricks. Also: A list of classes that should get this as a class skill when playing with Path of War would have been more than appreciated - fighters should e.g. have it added to their list of class skills when using the Path of War-rules. We also get 17 "new" feats, though extra ki isn't new and the usual suspects à la +1 stalker art, increased DC for one discipline etc. can be found here. We also get feats to add more maneuvers, have more readied maneuvers, 1/day recover a maneuver as a free action. There also is a feat which allows you to quick draw multiple weapons (and has a minor +2 bonus to CMD vs. disarm)...wait. Quick Draw. Allows you to draw weapons as a free action. So what are the benefits of this feat? Sheathing weapons! Since they are RAW exempt from the benefits of Quick draw and since disciplines require certain weapons, the feat may be useful for all groups not handling sheathing weapons as drawing them as per the RAW. Using weapon finesse with double weapons is a nice one, as are the 6 feats that allow other classes to access the martial discipline of choice and learn maneuvers. A feat that allows you to enter a fighting style and execute a maneuver at the same time also rather rocks. However, there are issues in here as well: First of which would be a feat that allows you to add dex-mod to damage in place of str. Which would be no issue for me, since it only applies to finesse-compatible weapons. However, with the option to go weapon finesse with double weapons, the thing gets ugly. I once had a character in my home game that had exactly that ability - and believe me, the result was ugly. Not sold here. Speaking of "not sold": Greater Unarmed Strike allows you to essentially go for a poor man's monk unarmed damage increase from 1d4 to 1d10. Not complaining about the nerfed damage, mind you - but sans the option to make the attacks count I don't see the long-term benefit here. Oh well, that are minor complaints compared to some of the issues with the base-class.



Now I've already covered the basics of maneuvers: Here some additional information on how they work: They require no concentration, but disarm, grapples etc. may prevent you from executing maneuvers. When mentioning movement etc. as part of a maneuver, these components (but not the initiation of the maneuver) may incur AoOs. Now what the pdf fails to specify would be whether a successful AoO against the initiator due to e.g. a movement would suffice to interrupt/cancel the maneuver. I assume so, but I'm not sure. Variables are determined essentially by a maneuver's caster level-equivalent, dubbed initiator level - these also determine the maximum maneuver level the martial artist may choose. As a minor gripe, the explanation of how maneuvers are (ex) or (su) could use a rephrasing - "The abilities of a martial discipline work fine in an antimagic field" would be simply wrong for supernatural abilities - add in an "extraordinary" and we're game and the wording is less confusing!



Now regarding the maneuvers - veterans of Bo9S will recognize a lot of the terminology - boost, strike, stance, counter etc. - we get all the explanations of actions etc. concisely presented - including, unfortunately, at least for me, a "definition" of the encounter as a timeframe. Why not simply go x rounds/initiator level analogue to spells? Why use this convoluted, metagamey, unnecessary...I'll cut the ramble short. Why not use rules analogue to PFRPG-design standards and instead insert this worse, metagamey duration? I don't get it. What I do get and dig are the ties of respective disciplines to weapon types -broken blade maneuvers require, for example, the initiator to be unarmed - and focuses on brawny assaults, snatching weapons etc. - essentially the spiritual successor of setting sun. Steel Serpent is about using piericng/slashing damage and poison-style effects. Solar Wind would be the ranged fire-themed discipline. Thrashing dragon requires two weapons/double weapons. Veiled Moon is somewhat akin to a certain shadowy discipline from the Bo9S, but focuses more on supernatural effects, featuring some mind-affecting maneuvers and a certain reliance on the ethereal plane. It should be noted that the pdf doesn't prohibit the combination of regular combat maneuvers (or vital strikes) and strikes -some clarification on these would be appreciated, as would be whether counters count as attack actions for the purpose of the vital strike feats and similar options.



Now to keep this review from bloating even further, I'll just mention a couple of great (or not so great) maneuvers from the disciplines, which btw. come with comprehensive lists in the beginning. Let's take the first one, shall we? At 8th level, adamantine fang is close to the apex of power, dealing +12d6 damage and bypassing all DR (even DR/epic? Don't think it should...) as well as requiring a will-save against DC 18+initiator attribute modifier (why not say 10+maneuver level+ initiator modifier, as per the established standard? This formatting peculiarity extends to all maneuvers and honestly, feels like it's only making the mechanic slightly opaque...) or be PARALYZED for 3 rounds. Ouch. Thing is - is it will or fort? The text says will, the saving-throw column of the maneuver fort. Adamantine Knuckle mentions a duration of 1 turn, which is rather odd duration-wise. The thrashing dragon maneuver Alacrity on Wing is broken as written - it allows you to use an acrobatics-skill-check to negate an attack (and yes, I'm aware of Paizo's precedents - they're broken as well - skills should never be able to negate attacks - they can be boosted to easily...) - if successful, the initiator may make an unarmed or melee attack for two wielded weapons at +2d6 damage. Sooo....does that mean both at full BAB? At the TWF-penalty? Can both attacks be freely chosen? (Becomes relevant if one weapon has a superior enchantment...) - as written unusable. 10ft-teleportation via stealth-checks versus perception may sound like a good idea - but what if multiple adversaries watch the initiator? Does it still work? Also: Skills are ridiculously easy to buff through the roof - why not tie this to other abilities? A minor image is left in the wake and it DOES count as a teleportation/figment effect - so generally: Awesome maneuver, especially since AoE-effects are also covered in the description, but it needs clarification.



Turning incorporeal and acting as a foil for teleportation is damn cool, as is a stance that negates the TWF-penalty. The Steel Serpent-effects suffer from one particular issue: They are poison-themed, but don't really follow Pathfinder's take on poisons - they essentially deal attribute damage, but have no frequency, no required array of consecutive saves required to shake them off. Reducing the amount of attribute damage and instead spreading the respective damage would have been nice, as would have been a caveat that immunity versus poisons offers at least a bonus against the poisoned ki they use. Blend with the Night should probably have the appropriate (glamer)-descriptor. Steel Serpent's level 1 stance Body of the Night allows you to add skill ranks in heal (but not other bonuses) to stealth as a competence bonus - cool. Breath of the Moon allows you to cause confusion, which is neat. Ignoring all armor bonus unless coming from force effects on the other hand feels kind a weird and can create potentially disputable borderline cases. Using touch attacks etc. instead here would have made this perhaps work better, but that's a nitpick. Generally one point I have observed with counters would be that they often allow for full attacks as a reaction to being hit - which feels excessive to me. At the cost of an immediate action, that would enable a character to essentially execute two full attacks per round - especially nasty when combined with flurries, TWFs and similar attacks. Generally, I'd nerf those down to single attacks - that's still powerful enough and transports the concept without becoming ridiculously exploitable at higher levels.



The Broken Blade Stance fails to mention at what BAB the additional attack it grants as part of a full attack is. The Thrashing Dragon capstone strike can insta-kill up to two foes with one strike - while not include the massive damage or HD-based mechanic usually used by death effects in PFRPG? Also weird: Desert Serpent Mirage uses competing attacks to determine whether it works (and it's by far not the only maneuver herein) - that's not how PFRPG handles such situations. It's roll versus fixed value, analogue to CMB/CMD - less variance than via 2d20s that way. As written, that one is too heavily based on luck. Using acrobatics versus AC to render an opponent flat-footed also feels plainly WRONG to me - that ought to be CMD, am I wrong? Then again, said maneuver uses a skill instead of CMB. Which brings me to a crucial balance concern - skills are easy to buff, CMB is not. In 3.X, there was no CMB/CMD, hence we needed the broken skill vs. X rolls and all the possible exploits they entail. Now in Pathfinder, A vast majority of the moves herein should either be against CMD or utilize CMB. Instead, these inorganic relics and all the inherited problems remain, making the respective balance of the individual maneuvers herein all too often simply a very fragile thing, wholly dependent on the player in question being not interested in exploiting the obvious gaps in the system.



Conclusion:



Editing and formatting are okay - I noticed a couple of minor glitches, flawed italicizations, open brackets and the like. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version.



Oh boy. This is one of those depressing reviews for me. But due to completely different reasons than I expected. I expected to have to continuously bite my tongue due to per-encounter-mechanics and just take them for what they are. Turns out, the per-encounter refreshing is just an afterthought that could simply be eliminated from the equation without any significant impact on the usability of the class - so why is it still there? Oh well, I don't care, I was happy - this looked like the Bo9S I always wanted - after all, the basic mechanisms finally work! Yeah!



And then I started reading the class - thoroughly. Beyond the focus on fishing for critical hits and the ability to make some really nasty combos due to the availability of ki, the class feels overpowered to me - the maneuvers already are a significant power-gain over other melee classes, but that was to an extent the design-decision and thus not something I'll hold against it. What I do hold against it is the at low levels OP tanking maneuver recharge AC-bonus and failing the kitten-test. Twice. That alone is enough to disqualify the class as a 1-star failure. This class needs a thorough revision.



Then, the feats and maneuvers came. And I really loved the majority - the concepts are iconic, tactical, cool. They mop the floor with Bo9S. They are superior. And then I started analyzing and, once again, my grin slowly dropped - author Chris Bennett is a very capable designer and it shows in the maneuvers. The rules-language is mostly very precise even in complex situations, to the point and well-crafted. The thing is - all too often, one can see a relative inexperience with Pathfinder's rules. Once you apply a fine-toothed comb, you stumble across a vast array of rules solutions that deviate from how things are done and established in Pathfinder. The reliance on MANY skill-checks versus AC (which, while not without precedent, is widely considered VERY BAD design), multiple instances of roll versus roll, insta-death effects - you name the relic, it's here. Were I to rate this as a D&D 3.5-supplement, I'd rate it probably around3.5 to 3 stars, perhaps even 4 due to the issues with the class, but an overall working system, but as written it is suffused with design-relics that just have no place in the PFRPG-system, especially since there often already are precedents on how the respective crunch is handled. It's essentially introducing two competing rules for the same thing - it dilutes the system's rules-syntax and causes confusion and is traditionally something I have always penalized HARD.



Is this a bad supplement? It depends on whether you care about rules-syntax and consistency within a system - If you don't mind that these rules follow their own precedents, then this still, with its flaws, is a solid 3 stars. If you do, if you don't want competing atk-rolls, skills versus ACs and all those balance-nightmares/exploits back in your game, then STEER clear. For you, this is a 1-star throwback to some of the worst rules-decisions of 3.X. Since I really, really, really want this system to work, since I can see the obvious talent and since I love A LOT of the IDEAS behind the maneuvers, I'll settle on a final verdict of 2 stars, though mechanically, this supplement failed for me. I'm hoping for a thorough redesign/update/clearing up of this supplement - it's only easily fixable details that don't work, the basic framework is awesome and this can still be cleaned up, brought in line with existing rules and made into a legendary 5 stars + seal of approval supplement.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Path of War: The Stalker
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Wilderness Dressing: Extreme Weather
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2014 08:25:25
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Wilderness Dressing-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content.



So...here we are, this time around for extreme weather phenomena, first of which would be rainstorms - 20 different rainstorm-appearances, from slow, escalating drizzles to perception-impeding sheets of downpour, with and without thunder - awesome. 20 Rainstorm-events like flashflooding rivers, short rounds of preparation, hot ground (and mist, reducing visibility) add further awesome mechanical components to these storms, with almost every entry offering some sort of cool mechanics to influence the weather. On the storytelling front, we also get a table of 20 hooks - from villages haunted by perpetual rainstorms, angry storm giants and weather controlling thieves to mudslides descending from the mountains, these hooks add a further dimension of usefulness to the tables.



Now some degrees less and what do we get? Bingo, snowstorms! The appearances here are no mere copies, though, instead including essentially white-outs, try flurries of snow, heavy and grey polluted snow etc. From painful amounts of snow falling from trees to a lynx or sharp icicles and annoyed bears - a lot of cool events here, again with a very dense array of crunch, help make these extreme weather phenomena cooler still. On the hook-side, we get, among other things, huge honeycombed snow-drifts, dog-sleigh-riding competitions, barges stranded in ice and so much more.



Where there is a downpour, there is all too often also wind - hence, the third type of storm covered again with 20 descriptions that include massive 400 feet walls of tan sand waltzing towards the PCs, with the 20 events making e.g. branches into lethal spear-like weapons, blinding blasts of soil and similar problems into very real challenges that show distinctly that not all dangerous situations need to be the result of monsters or villainous NPCs. AWESOME! The hooks once again add yet another layer to the content herein, fluttering scrolls with strange rituals in the way of the PCs, windstorms destroying the harvest of villages and similar catastrophes.



Now the last couple of pages are devoted to RSP's by now almost patented DM-cheat-sheets, providing all necessary information to quickly and easily run the storms covered herein, easily organized at your beck and call - one page, all the rules for rainstorms. I can't fail to tell you how incredibly useful that is.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one being optimized for the printer and one for screen-use.



Mie Welham has done it again - this pdf oozes awesomeness and manages one crucial task: Drive home the reason your PCs shouldn't be adventuring in storms and the fact that the weather can be a very real threat. This pdf will make nightly sojourns into the pouring rain (or snow or blasting winds) so much more intriguing, so much more challenging and cool - Seriously, this is one of the pdfs I guarantee that every Dm who picks it up will continue to use... A LOT. There is so much comfort, so many ideas, so much awesomeness in these short tables and the reference-lists, I can hardly fathom any criticism whatsoever. Well. Almost none - the title may be a bit misleading: Storms would probably have been a better fit, for extreme weather phenomena like cold snaps, earthquakes and similar disasters can't be found herein. Still, this is one awesome, stellar piece of writing and continues Mike Welham's tradition of downright required supplements for Raging Swan Press - all awesomeness, no complaints - get this, as soon as possible and teach your PCs the awesomeness, the majesty, but also the danger of storms! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wilderness Dressing: Extreme Weather
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Advanced Races 4: Dragonkin (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2014 08:20:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement and 3/4 of a page SRD, leaving us with 10 1/4 pages content, so let's take a look, shall we?



The Dragonkin are a relatively young race and their mindset as well as the rigid caste structure of the militaristic Mharoti empire are explained in detail, with the roles of dragonkin both within and beyond the borders of the empire being highlighted as means for players to get some inspiration for their PC's origin. Crunch-wise, dragonkin get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Dex, are slow and have their speed not modified by encumbrance or armor, choose one energy type and gain "DR 2 against that energy type". The thing is - it's not DR. It's supposed to be "resistance 2" - DR always requires a / - and yes, this error is repeated throughout the pdf. Yes, a nitpicky gripe, but one that irks me. Dragonkin get +1 natural armor, +2 intimidate and diplomacy and treat fly as a class skill. There also are 8 alternate racial traits to choose from - 4 of which represent the dragonkin's draconic bloodline, in this case a concept that aligns them with flame, stone, storms or waves for dancing lights, virtue, spark and create water as at-will spell-like abilities that replace armor. Alternatively, upgrading RESISTANCE to 4 at the cost of armor is possible, as is being able to speak with animals with reptilians. The attribute modifiers can also be changed to +3 Str and -2 Dex; Not a fan of odd attribute-bonuses - they are not standard for Pathfinder design and there's a reason for this - it promotes min-maxing. Energy resistance (here properly called...) can also be replaced with a +3 bonus to mind-influencing effects...which is rather strong for my tastes. However, we now get the age, height and weight-table, which had been absent from a prior incarnation of the book.



There also are 7 new feats...and they are WEIRD. +1 to "natural armor rating", which is the wrong wording, is just one example. What about a feat that nets you either Darakhul, Kobold or Minotaur as a language? Yeah. Wait, what? You know how language acquisition is done in Pathfinder, do you? Hint: NOT via a feat. One feat for a language? Come again? High-level dragonkin and kobolds can add +2 "natural armor rating" and "DR 3 to one energy type". Beyond the faulty rules-language...why take the feat that nets +1 natural AC (pardon, "armor rating" as the pdf calls it) again? +2 to Fly and improved maneuverability may be nice...but there's no such thing as "maneuverability rank" - its either "maneuverability" or "maneuverability rating". The word "Rank" is reserved for e.g. skills. +10 to intimidate versus the lower castes of the empire on the other hand is a neat idea. A spiked tail for a d4+3 damage may seem like a good idea...the thing is...why +3? Natural attacks usually are only the basic damage. Also, the feat does not specify whether it's a primary or secondary natural attack. Alternatively, you may take the Sturdy Tail-feat, which nets you +3 to CMD-checks vs. bull rush, overrun and trip. You may take this feat 3 times, but the feat's text omits that the effects stack - perhaps due to not specifying the bonus-type, though racial is probably the correct one. The interesting thing here is that some of the feats are from the "Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire" - though e.g. the feat that nets you a fly-speed is missing - oh, and the feats chosen are not necessarily the well-designed ones, but rather ones with aforementioned DR-glitch..



Next up are 5 archetypes - the Edjet Warrior is duplicated from the "Midgard Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire" and is still a good archetype. Wizards may opt for the Dragonkin Elementalist, who may later change incoming elemental attacks on the fly, which is cool. The problem is - the affected targets are the elementalist and his companions - sans range. A range or at least line of sight/effect-caveat would be in order. Oh, and a massive hit with the nerf-bat: The basic ability of the archetype allows for the casting of elemental spells of the chosen element even when neither having the spell prepared, nor in the spellbook. Looking at the amount of spells out there, this ability begs to be abused - at least a caveat à la "must have identified the spell via spellcraft before" would be in order. The capstone wreathes the elementalist in an elemental aura whenever casting a spell of his/her chosen element, but the ability suffers from a minor case of ambiguity - "primal bond energy descriptor" could be misread, though closer scrutiny reveals the intended purpose.

The Rubeshi Slaver barbarian archetype "cannot be aligned with good or law" alignment-wise, which is not only partially redundant, but also, again, a case of flawed wording. "Bloodied Rage" reeks of badly converted 4th edition mechanics - "+1 to fortitude saves made to negate or reduce damage" makes not that much sense - do poisons and diseases count? When dropping below half hp, the slaver gets 5 non-scaling hp - non-scaling and not very strong and utilizes a clunky concept. The capstone is ridiculous - wielding a spiked chain as a +1 wounding longsword - including downgraded damage? Oh yeah. Impressive at level 20, where can I subscribe? I'm not going into how the wording doesn't work, but the ability presumes that spiked chains can be wielded with one hand - which is not (automatically) possible. They're two-handed exotic weapons.



Clerics may opt for the Worldserpent's Chosen-archetype - which sounds awesome. These chosen must make DC 5+ spell level concentration checks to cast any spell with a verbal component - nice idea, but won't be fun at the table - spellcasting will take even more time and rolling.

As a bonus, the archetype nets this ability:



"With her mere presence, a World- Serpent’s chosen reminds good, evil, chaotic, or lawful creatures that life is short and that the afterlife is uncertain. Against all foes with a true-neutral alignment, a World-Serpent’s chosen has a fearful aura (10 foot radius). This aura functions as a fear spell, except any affected creatures become shaken if they fail the Will save (DC 14 + the World-Serpent’s chosen’s Wisdom modifier). This ability has no effect on creatures that are true neutral. This ability replaces aura." Emphasis added by me. Notice a glitch? Also: Fixed DCs? LAME. Their channel energy is replaced with either the ability to penalize foes within 30 ft. scaling penalties and getting spontaneous inflict spells or generating a boon of the same amount and spontaneously cast healing spells. The ability fails to specify whether its (Ex) or (Su) and allows no save for the bane, which is not standard design.



Sorcerors may opt for the Cloudtop-bloodline...and the bloodline gets a damn cool ability - the elemental shield they can conjure actually is rather complex and works well in absorbing incoming elemental damage. The second focus beyond this barrier is a resistance to mind-influencing effects and scrying - even if the scrying-spell offers no save, they can save against it at DC 15+spell-level - why not simply as per the usual formula of 10 + spell level + caster's attribute modifier? Apart from that, I did like this archetype.



We also get 3 new spells - one to conjure a geyser of fire that targets reptilians and deals fire damage to them. As a secondary effect, it temporarily blinds those affected, though the spell fails to specify whether the blindness is only for reptilians or for all creatures in range. Anyways, rather strong for 2nd level. We also get a level 9 counter-scrying spell and a spell that nets a creature immunity to an element - not a fan of that, since energy immunity and similar spells have established another tradition, i.e. not simply netting flat-out immunities. On the SRD-page, we get the dragonkin-exclusive lunging-weapon quality and the four-element-resisting enchantment for armors - the latter at a whopping + 42K base price.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on the formal level are not bad - the same can't be said about the rules-language. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' two-column full color standard and the full color artworks are awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Oh boy. I like nitpicking improper rules language because they result in confusion at the table, but I also let minor issues stand if they don't pose a major trend. My first nitpicks in this pdf were just that - nitpicks. And nonstandard attribute modifiers are a red flag for me, but oh well - still not too serious. And then the feats and archetypes come and all comes apart. If above was not ample clue - this pdf needs another THOROUGH rules-language editing. In fact, it needs a complete rewrite.

Beyond minor and major uses of flawed rules-grammar and syntax, balance is all over the place and ranges from ok to ridiculous. The one archetype I have nothing to complain about is a reprint from the "Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire". Which brings me to another issue - some of the most iconic options from latter book are simply missing here, in a book that is supposed to collate the Dragonkin's options. Either collect all the material or a best-of/essentials-type book (like the gearforged) or provide exclusively new material. Then again, looking at the new material...not sure whether that would have helped. And yes, I'm aware that I'm probably coming off as a harsh bastard here, but between 4th edition-relics, wrong rules-language and the amount of issues herein, I can only sincerely hope that designer Amanda Hamon consults the rules and properly revisits the rules-language of PFRPG and then fixes this mess.

This pdf is not in any way up to Kobold Press' usually high quality standard. In fact, the ridiculously low amount of content without one problem or another would have made me settle for a final verdict of 1 star, were it not for the final archetype and the well-written, if partially duplicated fluff and content from the Player's Guide/Campaign Setting. Still, I can't recommend this pdf in any way as it stands - fans of the Dragonkin should get the vastly superior Player's Guide instead. My final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars and try as I might, I can't bring myself to round up since throughout the lecture of this pdf, I felt as if I was doing the job of an unpaid rules developer - hence, rounded down to 1 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 4: Dragonkin (Pathfinder RPG)
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Cerulean Seas: Beasts of the Boundless Blue
Publisher: Alluria Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/15/2014 01:52:38
An Endzeitgeist.com

This bestiary of aquatic (and water/swamp etc.)-themed creatures is 294 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/KS-thanks, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank inside of th4 back cover and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 286 pages of content, so let's take a...



...what? 286 pages?? O_O

Oh boy, that's a lot ground to cover, so let's get started! Emily E. Kusbisz's introduction explains what to expect from this book: First of all, all races introduced by Cerulean Seas-books get their own entries and the book also contains ALL Cerulean Seas-creatures contained in the various bestiary-chapters of the respective books released so far - several of which actually get new and improved artworks. Yes. Since artworks were a weak point of Alluria Publishing's oeuvre. /sarcasm. Seriously - if you're not familiar with Alluria Publishing's offerings: These books look GORGEOUS. The artworks are often on a level that surpasses even what one can see in Paizo's bestiaries. Yes, that good. But this is no mere compilation - we actually also get a rather significant array of new creatures - which by themselves would probably warrant the asking price.



"But I don't use the Cerulean Seas campaign setting!" you're saying? Well, the book takes the time and explains in detail the little peculiarities like depth tolerance, buoyancy etc. and explains how to hand-wave them if you're so inclined. What I'm getting at is - this massive TOME is a stand-alone product that does not require Alluria's other books. Even regular Pathfinder campaigns can draw from this material with ease. (Though any aquatic adventure benefits from having the very best underwater resources ever penned for any iteration of d20, but that's just my opinion...)



The three subtypes of humanoids introduced by Cerulean Seas are also explained here before we take a look at the icons/creature glyphs that have become not only a staple, but a joy in every bestiary the folk at Alluria release: Each statblock comes with easily identifiable glyphs that denote the particular subtype AND geographic region in which the creature can be found. I didn't believe it at first, but when pressed for creatures and skimming through these pages, the glyphs offer a significant amount of comfort for the beleaguered DM to choose the right creature at a glance. Now, if you're looking for the original book in which some of these creatures have been released, a simple glance also unearths that, for the respective books also get their own glyphs. Adding the strawberry to the whipped cream, psionic creatures (fully compatible with Dreamscarred Press' Psionics Unleashed / Ultimate Psioncs) also get their own glyph that makes it easy for fans of psionics to find them and for detractors of psionics to avoid them. Additionally, green dots mark player character races and beyond even the massive array of creatures from the Cerulean Seas-line, we also get references to Alluria's excellent Fey Folio and Remarkable Races-series.



Now since I can hardly detail every creature herein without blowing this review up to novel-like lengths, let's instead take a broad sweep, shall we? take for example the Mohir - representing the apex of the CR-spectrum herein (which ranges from CR 1/8 to CR 25), these behemoths of the deep sea may resemble angler-fish that let whales look like toothpicks, but they also are something different - sleeping titans from a past unimaginably long gone or visitors from another planet, Mohirs can send just about all creatures their gaze encounters into a dread, madness-filled stupor, unleash deadly blasts of plasma from their glowing tentacles or, yes, suck in all but the nimblest of foes. Terrifying engines of annihilation, these beings make even the mighty song dragons, of which this book delivers a whopping 13 varieties, tremble. Speaking of impressive apex predators - the new Leviathan Devil should also be counted among these threats - beings of vast power, these titanic hunters represent the ultimate expression of the sahuagin's ideal of a hunter. And yes, at CR 20 they'd also make superb avatars of Dajobas or Sekolah in campaigns featuring these two entities.



Also rather interesting in a low CR-spectrum - the tentacled, orb-like douselings at CR 4 - predators of all things magical, these beings are superb guardian creatures that come with a constant antimagic field - ouch! Speaking of ouch - what about aquatic lycanthropes? Were-crocodiles, were-rays, were-seals, were-sharks and even were-squids can be found within this book, finally bringing the dreaded curse to the realms below the waves.



There are also new creatures herein that simply made me hungry - the CR 14 Meganantantia, for example: A whale-sized shrimp-like being that actually manages to look rather badass. Whale-sized. Shrimp. If these creatures existed irl, I'd be so all over them... *At this point the reviewer prepared his favorite chili-garlic-shrimp-ceviche before returning to the review* Among the more fun creatures herein would be the Moat Monkeys at CR 3 - remember those Sea Monkey-kits and their advertisements in various comic books etc.? Remember how dissatisfied we were when the actual creatures hatched and looked nothing like the humanoids depicted in the drawings? well, these creatures actually ARE those humanoids and stand ready to finally put an end to many a childhood disappointment...or as a safe way to exact revenge fantasies on them. Nice!



Not all creatures herein are beings of the oceans, though - brine and swamp, marshlands etc. also get quite a few rather iconic beings - take for example the swamp nixie - these fey may absorb and metabolize poisons and spit them at adversaries - oh, and eating them is not a smart idea...



Speaking of smart re mind - aforementioned psionic creatures also get new additions to their ranks herein, with for example the deep sea-crab-like psion-race called Oceanari at CR 8. Have I mentioned the extremely awesome looking septapi, the 5 different types of ships of the damned (though these are haunted by some minor issues), the beach-combing, acid-spewing clawed Soak Bugs? Old man-like fey swathed in cloaks of crabs or intelligent aquatic fungi waiting for the "stars to align"? the sheer amount of monsters herein is staggering, but does not constitute all of the pdf's offering.



4 simple templates, a brief discussion of monster types in aquatic environments, an art-index that properly credits all the incredibly talented artists that worked on this book, a glossary, a pronunciation guideline, extensive lists of aquatic weapons, armor and geopoisons, 8 pages of feats, aquatic environmental conditions (and e.g. rules for breaking through ice), 20 pages of aquatic spells and powers, indices of monsters by CR, by terrain type and by monster type and an extensive list of aquatic animal companions complete the deal and make sure that navigating this massive behemoth of a book remains comfortable. Have I mentioned that the index of appropriate creatures also extends to the Bestiary 4? The book also closes with a nice short poem, has has become the tradition with Cerulean Seas-books.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. In a book of this size. Go figure - it's possible! Editors Ben Welsby, Jeffrey Turner & Steven O' Neal have done a great job! Speaking of a "Great Job" - the layout adheres to Alluria's beautiful, slightly blue-tinged Cerulean Seas-standard and complements nicely the artworks. I've been there all the way through the d20-heyday and have a vast collection of bestiaries on my shelves and HD. The artworks in this one mop the floor with some books released by Wizards of the Coast and Paizo. Let that sink in. I'm not kidding when I'm saying that this book is the most beautiful bestiary I've ever seen a 3pp produce - PERIOD.



I usually don't do this in that extent, but here it is justified:

Tim Adams, Stefano Azzalin, Ian Barker, Joseph Barker, Michael Beaudry, Kevin Bedan, Caren Billings, Lane Brown, Adam Burnier, Juan Calle, F. Drew Chandra, Lauren Clark, Nicholas Cloister (of www.MonstersByEmail.com), Roy Cokenour, M. S. Corley, Vincent Coviello, Collette Curran, Alex Dedy, Nancy Disiro, Drachenmagier, Thomas Duffy, Edyta Felcyn, Dennis Fröhlich, Diego Gómez, Sandeson N. Gonzaga, Mary Graham, Michael Habiger, Mika Harju, John Harrison, Jim Healy, Roman Ilin, Forrest Imel (who also did the gorgeous cover), Derik Iron-fox, Eugene Jaworski, Cornelia Jolitz, Markus Juuso, Eoghan Kerrigan, Mathias Kollros, Anna Kowalczewska, Emily Ember Kubisz, Caroline Lahaise, Setiawan Lee, Philip Lindberg, Dez Lon, Chan Tuck Lueng, Dmitriy Mad-Hatman, Jorge Mantilla, David Melvin, Chenthooran Nambiarooran, Juan Novelletto, Bobbie Jean Pentecost, Mera Pierson, Fabio Porfidia, Randall Powell, Edward Pun, Andreas Rabenstein, Ryan Rhodes, Marissa Rivera, Molly Rodman, Emmanuel Bou Roldán, Markus Röncke, Javier Ruiz, Cesar Sampedro, Tyler Sowles, Dean Spencer, Dawne Stantien, Colby Stevenson, Candis Swain, Lotta Tjernström, Arna Tornwolf, Eliina Uibu, Justinas Vitkus, Sam Yang, Seoro Zgul, Daryl Toh Liem Zhan, Vasilis Zikos



-all of you artists DESERVE this shout-out. Why? Because almost universally, the interior art of roleplaying products has a hard time living up to the cover. Not so here. While not all of the artworks are this mind-blowing, the vast majority (and we're talking about 98%) actually ARE. Yes, that beautiful. This book is insanely gorgeous to look at and even casually skimming through these pages makes you want to use these creatures. The only bestiaries I could mention from the top of my head that reach this abject level of beauty would be Legendary Games mini-bestiaries - but those work on a completely different scale.



What makes this even more impressive is the significant amount of organization that went into this bestiary - from extensive nested bookmarks to the appendices, using this book is as easy as humanly possible - also for non Cerulean-Seas-campaigns, thanks to the advice provided.



The new creatures are varied and live up to the highest standards one could wish for, often featuring not only one, but several unique signature abilities and making clever use of the rules. Moreover, even simulationalist DMs should get their fair use out of these creatures, as they feel at times as if taken from the deep sea biology book of another world - they make sense and feel coherent, logical in their niches and yes, even in the titanic sizes some of these beasts reach.



Reviewing this book was a monumental task that made me get even a tiny glimpse of what putting this together might have been like - a labor of love if there ever was one that breathes its flair from every single page and illustration.



The team of authors Sam G. Hing, Emily Kubisz, Jeffrey Turner & Matthew Cicci (many of which you should know as some of the finest monster-crafters out there) have woven a tapestry of creatures both profoundly disturbing and alien and at the same time beautiful - these pages perfectly encapsulate the wonders of the Deep Sea that are instilled by documentaries, diving etc. and add the spark of fantasy creative people tend to experience when confronted with beauty.



Superbly useful, supremely edited with production values of a whole new level that surpass even most kickstarted products (and their higher art budget) this book is THE ANSWER for any DM looking for any type of aquatic critter. Personally, I can't imagine running "Skull & Shackles", "Savage Tide", "Freeport" or "Razor Coast" without the creatures herein (or the Cerulean Seas Campaign book, for that matter) - and in the context of the Cerulean Seas this book should be considered even more as something all but required. And yes, I was impressed - what drove me to the point of sitting slack-jawed at my desk was the price-point. At this quality, $20 would not have been too much for the pdf. Now look closely at the price and page-count. Yeah. I guarantee you won't find a better bang-for-buck-ratio in ANY bestiary out there and honestly, even for the massive array of new creatures, the price would have been justified. This book is one of the rare examples that you can show to people and brag - gorgeous in production values and content, this demands to be rated as the apex of what can be expected and is hence a candidate for my Top Ten of 2013. Final rating? Oh, if only there were six stars. Since there are only five, I'll instead settle on that and add my seal of approval. Books like this make reviewing worthwhile.



If you only remotely are interested in beautiful bestiaries and awesome aquatic monsters, then this should go into your shopping cart right now.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cerulean Seas: Beasts of the Boundless Blue
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Village Backdrop: Hulw'ma
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/14/2014 04:00:07
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement Greg Marks has crafted here, shall we?



Hulw'Ma translates roughly to "Sweet Water" in the local tongue and as you may glean by this, the village is actually build around an oasis! Great to see Raging Swan's Village Backdrops broaden their horizon thus! As has become the tradition with the series, we get a fully detailed marketplace, village statblock, lore-DCs, a short paragraph on how the villagers look as well as 6 rumors.



So what makes Hulw'Ma distinct? Well, the village is ruled by a theological autocracy that worships the very water of the settlement, which is not only taken in by the folk and travelers here, it also may assume humanoid form in the guise of Musheer. Said being, essentially treated as an avatar of the life-giving waters, is actually a marid with a sinister agenda unknown to the people of the village. What agenda? Well, you'll have to get this yourself!



Further complicating factors in the village are the power-hungry druidic ruler of the village, the nearby ruins of Xa'Niphan and the exiles that have fled the tyranny of the oasis, the Naji Su'ad, who wander a thin line between bandits and freedom fighters and may actually be both. Oh, and then there's the fact that the daughter of the local spice mogul, the most important employer of the village, has taken Musheer as a paramour...with potentially volatile consequences.



Both Naji Su'ad raiders and Musheer get btw. full statblocks and 6 events can serve the DM as catalysts or further complications for the PCs staying in the village. Oh, and of course, as always, law and industry and covered herein as well.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a nice map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs on RSP's homepage. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.



Author Greg Marks has done a great thing in diversifying the breadth of themes Village Backdrops cover - the desert settlement is a welcome change of pace for the series utilized with surprisingly efficiency - from the neat statblocks to the flair that should make both fans of Al-Qadim/LoF/Qadira as well as Sword & Sorcery-fans happy, this village offers a moral dilemma, shades of grey, intriguing customs and adventure potential by the spades - so much, I'm astonished that all fit on the scant few pages herein - a superb example of concise writing, this pdf is easily worth 5 stars + seal of approval - be sure to check this awesome village out!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Hulw'ma
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Mythic Minis 1: Monster Feats
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/14/2014 03:56:41
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement is 3 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So here we get mythic feats for monsters, so what do they do?



-Ability Focus (Mythic): Increased the bonus to the DC granted by ability focus by +2, use mythic power to force targets to roll their save twice, taking the worse result.



-Awesome Blow (Mythic): Essentially awesome blow's improved mythic version, including potential stunning (which can be extended via mythic power)



-Improved Natural Armor (Mythic): Increases natural armor further (depending on how often the non-mythic feat has been taken) and reduces bleed damage, even attribute bleed. Okay, but feels a bit underwhelming for a feat-slot, particularly for a mythic feat.



-Improved Natural Attack (Mythic): Increase damage for natural attacks enhanced by the non-mythic version of the feat and use a swift action to ignore up to 15 points of DR for mythic rank rounds.



-Multiattack (Mythic): Secondary natural attacks become primary natural attacks. When hitting a creature once with each natural attack in 1 round, spend 2 uses of mythic power for mythic rank times 1d4 damage. I assume this stacks with bonus damage from rend, if available.



-Multiweapon Fighting (Mythic): Gets rid of the -2 TWF-penalty for the primary hand and allows you to make a free non-AoO disarm or sunder attempt at +8 to CMD when hitting with both weapons in the same round for one mythic power.



-Snatch (Mythic): Use 1 use of mythic power as a swift action when making a grapple-check. Upon success of the maneuver, the target is automatically pinned and the penalty to AC is increased by mythic rank of the grappler.



Conclusion:

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



Authors Tom Phillips and Jason Nelson have created some Mythic versions of the most common monster feats, of monster feats that see A LOT of use. The variants are generally well-crafted, have solid mechanics and generally are well-worth the taking. That being said, they also are universally predictable and do what you'd expect them to. We get a solid nice little supplement, very useful and well-crafted, but no instance of truly astounding rules - hence my final verdict will clock in at a hearty recommendation for Mythic DMs at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 by a margin.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 1: Monster Feats
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Super Mega Ultra Mecha Fighting for You, Me, and All of Our Friends (A Tinker Prestige Class) [PFRPG & D&D 3.5]
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2014 04:58:30
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf is 6 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So, this is the much-anticipated installment of Tinker-expansions Bradley Crouch has promised should ever 200 Tinker-pdfs be sold - The SMUMFYUMAOOF-(said that out loud - surprisingly fun!)-expansion that provides us the Mechgineer, a 10-level PrC that gets 3/4 BAB-progression, medium ref-save and full invention-progression as well as d8 and 4+Int skills per level. The requirements for this particular PrC are rather steep, requiring ten ranks in Ride and Knowledge (engineering), the endurance-feat, the option to install 4th level inventions as well as the Megadroid greater innovation.



At 1st level of the PrC, the Mechgineer gains the cockpit innovation and may install it in blueprints, even if the Mechgineer's level would otherwise not be high enough to install them. Also at first level, all of the Mechgineer's blueprints automatically have the Megadroid greater innovation added - and yes, this includes any future blueprints - the ability isn't called "Go Big or Go Home" for nothing. Note, however, that this does not extend to the Alpha. As written, this does not retroactively decrease the number of automatons, so yeah, a rather powerful ability that adds +50% build point limits for all automatons sans the innovation's usual downside.



At 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the Mechgineer increases the HD by +1. At 3rd level, we get the ability "Powers Combined" - insert your favorite Captain Planet, Power Rangers , or imho, even better, Saber Rider-reference here. But how does the ability work? Essentially, at 3rd level, a Mechgineer may combine his Alpha with a deployed Megadroid to form a Super Ultra Mega Mecha, or SMUM. This is a full-round action that provokes AoOs and requires the Tinker to be in the cockpit of his Alpha. This combination consumes one use of the infuse automaton class feature. Per se cool and concisely-worded, though I think a caveat for the non-alpha megadroid to be required to be adjacent to the Alpha for the transformation would be prudent. When automatons combine, their maximum and current HP are added together for the new maximum, while the ability scores of the automaton with the most HD are used, thus meaning that usually, the Alpha will be the determining factor. It should be noted that size increase (for the SMUM is +1 size larger than its largest component) bonus HP are also depending on the size of the "dominant" construct, meaning e.g. a huge SMUM formed from a medium and a large automaton would get +20 HP if the medium automaton is the one with more HD and only +10 HP due to size increase if the large one is the one with more HD. A handy table summarizes the amount of bonus hp for size-increase, btw. - a smart move, since not many players out there will be familiar with this particular rule. It should also be noted that how daily uses of inventions, stacking of bonuses etc. is addressed.

On another note unrelated to this pdf's content: Sadistic DMs out there, take heed: An organic creature combined via these rules would get a whopping +80 bonus HP - keep that in mind for the next mad alchemist/fleshwarping beast...

Another thing you should be well aware of, is that automata need to be one size larger than their riders to have them in a cockpit, hence the medium Alpha of the example can only house a small Tinker, since the Tinker NEEDS to be in the Alpha's cockpit in order to combine into a SMUM. Medium Tinkers better increase the size of their Alpha as well...



Disassembling a SMUM once again costs a full-round action that provokes AoOs and sees the remaining hit points evenly distributed among participating automata. Excess hit points of single automata instead are added to other component automata. Inventions of the combined automata stack, as do bonuses and daily uses of duplicate inventions if applicable, though duplicate inventions per se do not. While Tinker, Alpha and Megadroid essentially form into a SMUM, the SMUM/Tinker only get one array of actions, essentially a balancing factor for the power-gain the SMUM offers.



At 4th, 7th and 9th level, the Mechgineer gets to choose from a list of 14 Super Mega Ultra Subroutines, which include massive barrages of all electro-related inventions, alchemical barrages (Full Mental Alchemist - nice nod to one of my all-time favorite anime...), the option to put allies into one of its cockpits (thus potentially saving them from being swarmed), the power to activate inventions that are already expended by tapping into the daily uses of other inventions, always having greenblood oil ready for poison-manufacturing inventions, dealing +twice BAB as damage as a standard action, as an AoO keeping foes from moving through threatened squares or the use of an activated invention as a swift action, which consumes all its daily uses, though, - all of these are possible via this PrC. Said latter invention needs to have at least two uses left, though.



At 5th level, the Mechgineer gains the Gigadroid greater innovation and may take it multiple times, while at 6th level, Alpha, Megadroids and Gigadroids ALL get free cockpits (and at 6 BP, that's a lot of free space to fill with gadgets and weaponry...). Finally at 10th level, the Mechgineer gets an epiphany, which can be used 1/SMUM-deployment, i.e. upon disassembly and recombination with another automaton, the ability is refreshed - and each and every selection here will bring broad smiles to the faces of otakus out there: From long disintegrator-rays (Saber Rider!!!) to coup-de-grace-damage dealing slices, kamikaze-attacks that leave the SMUM (relatively) intact to automatic ejector seats to the ability of the SMUM to interpose itself and catch attacks that would kill allies to repair subroutines that prevent destruction to the options to go into a defensive stance or even punch foes in orbit (or an adjacent height), these capstones ROCK. HARD.



Conclusion:

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



Let's you things out of the way: Number 1: I absolutely adore the concept of this class - it caters to some of my unfulfilled nerdy sensibilities in roleplaying and I so want to go all Saber Rider (listen to this kick-ass theme music) on adversaries and blast them to shreds. Secondly, if you get this pdf, you should be thoroughly familiar with the Tinker class - not cursory, but really, intimately familiar with it. The concept is so complex that you'll require some book-switching unless you're very familiar with the class. This is by far the most complex Tinker-PrC released so far and it also doubles as perhaps the best: building your own mech and going toe-to-toe with the biggest of monsters, this pdf offers you an AWESOME take on being able to pilot mecha that does not compromise your ability to undertake regular dungeon exploration. Furthermore, the sheer coolness of the abilities more than make up for the loss of flexibility that results from combining automata.



This pdf took me longer to review than most 20+-page supplements out there: This class is complex and requires you to take a look at things you probably haven't seen before - bonus hit points for bigger construct-sizes, for example, but once you get behind it, it also is cool, rewarding and offers something no other class even has attempted. unique signature abilities, solid rules. How to rate this? All right, I'll get one thing out of the way: This is one of my all-time favorite PrCs. Seriously. I love it to death. Hence, my final verdict would be a gleefully giggling, mecha-name-shouting, orbital-punching 5 stars + seal of approval, while also being a candidate for my top-ten-list of 2013, of course!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Super Mega Ultra Mecha Fighting for You, Me, and All of Our Friends (A Tinker Prestige Class) [PFRPG & D&D 3.5]
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[PFRPG] Pug's Bazaar: Tent #2
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2014 04:53:32
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment in Tricky Owlbear's Pug's Bazaar-series is 12 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Written in-character like the sales pitches of Pug, we are introduced to a variety of curiosities and oddities in this supplement, first of which would be hexeater voodoo dolls - these essentially work as buffers for curse-spells and hexes, with each prevented one draining chrages from the doll. As a nice idea, each item herein comes with adventure hooks, the Hexeater's one dealing with the potential that these dolls that emit shrieks upon expending their final charge, may actually be linked to orphans...haunted orphanages...perhaps using lifeforce to fuel their protective properties? Disturbing!



Desert-dwelling characters may be interested in the Sacrabshell Breastplate, which is actually a +2 shadow agile breatplate that protects the wearer from heat dangers and damage incurred by sandstorms, even allowing the wearer to burrow at 10 ft through sand - cool armor!



Blasting bubbles are actually a new battlefield control spell that allows Magi and Wiz/Sorcs to place bubbles around the battlefield - these not only block squares (but not line of sight/effect), you may cause them to emit damaging pulses as standard actions - oh, and trying to destroy them results in unfortunate explosions - which may result in rather deadly chain reactions that may be a bit much damage-wise for the level. Still, since the explosions cannot be triggered by the caster without attacking the bubbles, I consider the spell interesting enough to consider it cool and working - oh, and the hook has a wizard trying to make the PCs destroy their copy of the spell, claiming copyright infringement. XD



Now if you like those blackpowder weapons, do you know about the new Dragonfury Cartridges? No misfire, no attack-roll, 30 foot fire cone, 7d6 damage, ref 16 for half damage. Oh, and there are ones for other damage types as well. Powerful, but also rather cool and limited enough.



I love battlefield control and Banerock Caltrops - these caltrops are not only more efficient than regular ones - they actually move towards a creature type specified and deal even more damage to said targets NASTY and cool!



We get another spell that deserves the moniker "nasty" with the level 7 sor/wiz-spell Portal Guillotine - warding a portal, door or similar gate, the spell deals force damage to those trying to pass it, potentially decapitating foes! My only gripe here is the lack of mundane means of disarming the ward.



Marionette Meathook Gloves act as +1 cesti and may be quite nice - where they start becoming sheer awesomeness is when the wearer is swallowed whole -DR 25/-, acid resistance 20 and apart from the usual way to lsoe the grapple condition, as a standard action, the wearer can attempt to hichjack the mind of the creature that swallowed him/her - will save or dominated... OUCH. Purple Worm tank/Dune, anyone?



The final new spell herein is Bloodfrost, for Druid 2, Sorc/Wiz 3, Summoner and Witch 4 - this spell deals cold damage, more so if the target suffers from bleeding wounds. Solid, but compared to the other pieces of content herein, rather common.



The Amplifying Wand Widget can be applied to wands to burn more charges, but apply specific metamagic effects to the wand's effects - at the cost of a 10% misfire chance on every use. Nice!



The final item would actually 3 i one - Gerzar's Amazing Unguents: Crimson Clay may be shaped in either a doll that can do easy tasks for you or into a protection from evil-effect or it may be ignited for small bursts via fire or electricity damage. Green Gel nets natural armor bonus, but decreases starting attitudes due to smell, can be stretched into a bubble that allows temporary breathing under water or be formed into bullets/sling-stones that deal non-lethal damage. Awesome! Finally, Purple Putty can be used for +10 to disguise (but does not affect clothes and must be of the same creature type and only allows for 1 inch height-difference), allow the user to walk over liquid or copy a page of nonmagical writing by pressing it on the page - I LOVE these! Kudos for all of them!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read, nice and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a minor bummer, but still okay at this length - though only barely so. The pdf offers awesome little b/w-artworks for each and every item herein, amazing at this fair price-point.



Author Wendall Roy has created a selection of items that is almost exclusively killer, bereft of components I'd consider broken and full of cool ideas, with aptly-written prose adding fun to the reading experience of cool items - add to that the top-notch production values Tricky Owlbear Publishing has provided here and we get one stellar supplement indeed - apart from the lack of bookmarks, I've got nothing to complain and honestly, I can't justify rating this down for such a paltry oversight - it's just too much fun! Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] Pug's Bazaar: Tent #2
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