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ZEITGEIST #5: Cauldron-Born (PATHFINDER RPG)
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2014 05:07:21
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The latest installment of EN Publishing's Zeitgeist-AP clocks in at 95 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 90 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



It's been too long since I took a look at one of the Zeitgeist-modules, but before I do, here the obligatory warning - this review contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

No, really. Jump to the conclusion.

...

Only DMs left? Good.

This adventure is the conclusion of the first act of the epic ZEITGEIST-saga, and as such, provides guidance of running it stand-alone (or the first campaign-act alone - just eliminate the conspiracy elements and there you go!) - which renders it longer than one would have expected. The constables of the RHC will have A LOT on their hands, so better hope they have honed their investigative skills.



A peace-summit is looming between the nation of Risur and Danor, finally bringing peace to the strained relations between the nations - including, btw., a list of the points of contention. In one sentence - there are a lot of elements invested in seeing the summit fail. Beyond a turf-war, a mad fey and radical eschatologists all have their own plots, which means that the constables will have to wrap up no less than THREE threads: In order to cope with this, magical long-range communication and the B-team are provided - the latter being only 4th level characters the players may play...and, of course, as always, characters may very well die.



And yes, on their way to meet the king, the PCs immediately are subject to a well-planned, rather deadly assassination attempt, including carriages, which should make clear the stakes are high - crimelord Lorcan Kell (backed by the two-letter-abbreviated conspirators) wishes to take them out. The king himself briefs them with the severity of the situation (as well as dropping some hints of ravenloftesque ties of rulers to their realm and citizens...) and tells them about the conspirators having some means of access to the Bleak Gate - something the PCs should better unearth as soon as possible.



Now the B-team will be busy with escorting the minotaur-ambassador Brakken - hopefulyl without attacking his dire-bear companion. Meanwhile, the PCs may see an old acquiantance from module #1 show up at the royal palace- the high elf Asrabey Varal asks, veiled, for assistance in hunting down aforementioned rogue fey. The B-team, escorting both the minotaur and the dwarven eye of Drakr at the summit will right NOW have their hands full -a deadly ballet of death is unleashed upon the city by a cadre of deadly dwarven eschatologists - perfectly timed bombs, sniper nests - the B-team will have its hands more than full trying to save what's there to save! Alexander Grappa, the golem-maker, has his mind currently inside the head of a demolished bronze golem and may just be the additional piece of information the constables need regarding the Bleak gate - though a clever geas prevents him from divulging crucial information. Now as an additional mini-game, the PCs will have to generate and train a task force of people to take down Kell et al, which also provides various means for complications - essentially, they have to order a shadow war against Kell and his associates - in a damn fun, cool mini-game. Better - if the PCs have good relationships with the Cipiano, they may utilize Morgan Cipiano's resources against Kell...for a price that will influence further adventures. Speaking of which - if the B-team can ensure that their outgunned fight in a night-club is successful, they can influence this mini-game as well - and actually get Kell's lawyer!



Espionage and counter-espionage very much determine how well the final crackdown on Kell goes -if moles are not exposed, the PCs may find themselves at a significant disadvantage. Now the investigation into the renegade fey with Asrabey turns out to be rather interesting - the haughty elf still vastly outclasses the constables and thus, combats tend to have certain things for him to do - and yes, the fey-opposition of the Unseen Court is rather deadly. While the main group dukes it out with powerful spellcasters, the B-team will have "fun" calming superstitious folk and hopefully prevent multiple lynchings due to the fear of a curse. Capturing and interrogating a gremlin may see the PCs finally in a position where they can confront the fey-lord Ekossigan - in the process of a ritual sacrifice, clearly mad and mumbling about dread things hidden...but more on that later.



If the PCs have made friends with Kvarti in a previous encounter, the dwarf's divergent take on eschatologist philosophy may provide a simple means for them to gain information - Kvarti is unhappy about the radical plan of mass-bombing the sub-railway system and wants to help prevent the unleashing of dangerous beasts bound for the harbor and a hostage situation planned by a particularly cold eschatologist - hopefully also diffusing the deadly bomb in a nail-biting finale.



The massive banquet scene that is to follow the happenings will be just as nail-biting and tense - there is a lot at stake and after the rather exquisitely detailed scene - which unmasks a particular NPC as a telepath and also provides the PCs with a means of maintaining an element of surprise over the obscurati in Cauldron Hill - depending on the means the PCs chose during the module, the finale's assault on the Obscurati base will happen under vastly different constellations. Beyond infiltration, the utterly EPIC boss-fights that reward making allies and smart choices here deserve special mention.



But this is not the end - the titan of adamantine is unleashed upon the city, and while, for now, without direction, it needs to be dealt with - the king assembles a makeshift fleet (plus allies PCs may have made!) and tries to lure the titan to sea, while the king executes a powerful ritual aboard the vessel to banish the titan. The PCs will have to hold off the deadly, nigh-indestructible creature while dealing with the deadly witchoil horrors generating from the titan, for one of the most epic climaxes I've seen in any module.



Pages upon pages of handouts and GM-guidance to running this beast are provided as well.



Conclusion:



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to EN Publishing's 2-column full-color standard with plenty of glorious, original pieces of art. The pdf comes layered to the extent where you can make it easily player-friendly. Cartography is glorious as well.



Thurston Hillman has done it. The fifth zeitgeist-module manages to live up to the utterly INSANE standard the first 4 modules set, all of which manages to score 5 stars + seal of approval, rendering this AP the only one among those I've reviewed that managed to maintain this level of quality. The ONLY reason I'm not playing this AP right now is that I'm waiting for it to finish - I never start APs that are not yet done. That being said, this module is glorious and the first ACT of this AP has more going on, more memorable moments, than many full APs I've read. Superb in writing and ambition, this killer module is simply brilliant and utterly captivating - my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST #5: Cauldron-Born (PATHFINDER RPG)
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The Antipodist - Radiant Shadowsage
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2014 05:04:59
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This base-class clocks in at 28 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



The antipodist base class receives d6,1/2 BAB-progression, no good saves and a locus-progression of level 1 to level 4 and 2+Int skills per level. Antipodists are proficient with simple weapons, but not any armor or shields - no here's an interesting cincher - they double the point costs of their loci when wearing armor they're not proficient in, but are otherwise not hindered by them - meaning that you're only a feat away from armored casting with these guys - sans penaltes.



The Antipodist receives two pools - a radiance pool equal to class level + wis-mod and a shadow pool equal to class level + int mod. These replenish after 8 hours of consecutive rest. If you're familiar with Interjection Games classes, you'll notice a similarity with the edgewalker here - and thankfully, multiclass-information is provided. Now an antipodist's career is called "Journey through Light and Shadow" for a good reason - the antipodist learns so-called loci, which range from passive extraordinary abilities to supernatural and spell-like tricks. Loci are broken into two subtypes - light and dark and within these subtypes, there are different philosophies further providing variance/sub-subtypes if you will. Now antipodists surprisingly have no caster level per se, but for interaction purposes, they treat their class level as caster level. Additionally, though some of the antipodist's loci are treated as spell-like abilities, they do NOT count as spells for e.g. PrC etc. purposes. Catching this one and covering it properly is rather impressive. For the purpose of concentration, a locus is treated as locus level + 1/4 antipodist class level, rounded down. It should be noted that supernatural and extraordinary loci cannot be identified via spellcraft. In order to activate a locus, the antipodist requires a key attribute (wis or int) of 10 + 2x level of the locus and save DCs, if required, are 10 + 1/2 class level + key attribute modifier.



An antipodist begins the game with 3 loci and she receives +1 locus every class level. However, within each philosophy, an antipodist can never know more loci of a higher level than of a lower one - in order to e.g. learn a second locus of the 3rd level of a philosophy, the antipodist needs to know at least 2 loci of the second level of the philosophy - essentially a pyramid rule. The antipodist may replace a locus with a new one at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, but must maintain the level of the retrained locus - but NOT the philosophy, allowing you to "cheat" the pyramid rule to some extent. Like the edgewalker, some loci require the use of the antipodist's shadow and thus, only one of them can be in effect for a certain time.



Got that? Well, that's not all - unlike the edgewalker, the antipodist can have different philosophical leaning - radiance, shadow or twilight. Twilight maintains the duality between light and darkness, whereas light and shadow, whereas the specialists in either light or darkness may not be able to utilize the other's tricks, but instead receive a slightly (+2) increased pool and, more importantly, may choose to ignore aforementioned pyramid rule to compensate their decreased versatility - anyways, all choices further modify what an antipodist receives bonus-wise - which is nice. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the philosophical leaning also provides further bonuses - increased pool size and minor bonus to one of the three saves. It should also be noted, that extensive advice for the DM and player to handle the transition of philosophies are provided - and that both light and dark are not tied to an alignment - playing CE radiance specialists or LG shadow specialisits is very much possible. Now interesting in this seeming dichotomy would be the "drawn from experience" ability gained at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, choosing a philosphy and increasing its potency - the trick here being that the very progression of the class can be used to mirror the moral development of the character and the preferences chosen. The extensive advice for philosophy-changing goes above and beyond, providing detailed guidance for the turnfrom one leaning to another, both in the crunch AND in the fluff departments.

At 2nd, 7th and every 6 levels thereafter, the antipodist may also choose one 1st level locus to become "well-travelled", reducing the cost of said locus to 0, but at the cost of treating a level-dependent effect as half the actual antipodist level, with the exception of DCs and saving throws. At 11th level, the antipodist may 1/day cause a 3rd level or lower locus to be spontaneously treated as well-travelled, +1/day for every 3 levels. Finally, at 20th level, three different capstones loom, depending on the philosophy chosen - these include turning one 4th level dark locus into a light-locus (and vice versa) or a third pool, the twilight pool, which can exclusively be used to pay for loci of the twilight philosophy.



The class also comes with favored class options for the core-races plus drow, aasimar, tiefling, kobold, orc, hobgoblin, puddling (with the one for elves referring to edgewalker instead of antipodist) and 3 feats for the class: Increased pool-sizes (including variance between twilight and the extreme leanings), making a 1st level locus well-travelled and +1 first level locus are possible here - solid, especially since the latter feat becomes rather important for pyramid rule-planning.



Now a total of 4 philosophies for radiance and shadow are provided and additionally, there is the twilight philosophy, which counts as either. Got that? All right, so I'll give you a brief run-down of the philosophies (If I mention every locus, the review would bloat...): Anima allows you to animate your shadow to execute close range reposition maneuvers, have your shadow record a locus (and execute it at your command) or stretch and peek around corners or even invade a target, potentially slaying it via fear. Other tricks of anima allow you to animate other's shadows, commanding them to help or hinder target creatures and passive bonuses to AC when not utilizing your shadow actively can also be found herein



The Beacon philosophy can help you cancel out ongoing fear-effects. on yourself and allies and perfect, short-burst flight alongside buff/debuff-effects, fast healing and healing (the latter with a 2 round delay-mechanism - interesting!) as well as beneficial mood lighting. Reflexive damage + dazzle when targets of a locus are hit by attacks and eliminating diseases and poisons also make for interesting choices. Now the coruscation locus is more combat-centric - duplicating color spray, unleashing deadly blasts of atomizing light and blinding light make for interesting choices. On a design paradigm level interesting, one locus allows you to regain limited radiance points of spent loci when reducing foes below 0 hp, meaning that the ability can't be cheesed or kitten'd via well-travelled loci - nice way of preventing abuse there. Dazzling and blinding of foes are often accompanying effects of this, and the negation of concealment as well as causing "catching fire" (akin to alchemist's fire) with coruscation loci can mean a nasty drain on an enemy's action economy. Interesting.

The illumination locus allows you to e.g. charge and increase the damage-output of the next damage-dealing locus you cast, net yourself darkvision, infuse texts with appropriate bonuses to skills or even "store" a d20 roll and later substitute it. The Manipulator philosophy has some truly unique options as well - take for example the possibility of subverting and hijacking summoning spells - damn cool! Subverting enemy morale also makes for a cool idea - as does intensifying conditions - making the relatively useless dazzle-condition blinded instead, upping entangled to staggered - really cool, especially since the save varies on the condition intensified! Also rather unique - clouding the minds of foes, causing them to treat all targets as if subject to concealment. Ignoring the immunity of mind-affecting effects at the cost of shadow points also makes for a cool idea, somewhat analogue to DSP's dread class. Also rather nasty - one high-level locus that is the equivalent of mass-haste for allies and mass-slow for adversaries. Causing the shaken-condition via images of "spiders, mothers-in-law" and similar horrific images made me chuckle and manipulating weapon-hands is interesting - a word of warning, though - if a target's HD exceed those of the antipodist, they may instead receive a buff! Now while this may look like an strange design decision, it also opens an uncommon way of using the class - cohorts and similar followers may actually end up as buff-specialists for their masters, with minor manipulation thrown in the mix. Interesting!



Now the Obscurity philosophy, of course, is the go-to toolbox of stealth-focused tricks - from turning into smoke and instantly moving 5 ft. per class level (to e.g. escape from the guts of a huge creature that has swallowed you whole), entangling globs of greasy darkness, dual short-term reflexive shaken/blindness - so far, so good. What about beginning an insurrection of shadows, resulting in a target receiving additional weapon damage when hit by a target for the first time in a given round? This philosophy has also perhaps one of the most powerful passive abilities of the whole class - once per day, your shadow dies instead of you when first reduced by something that required an attack roll reduces you below 0 hp. (Of course, the shadow regenerates, rendering this a neat type of life-insurance, though your shadow's absence may severely limit some of your options...) Shadow evasion and granting a weak sneak attack can be considered rather cool options as well, rendering this philosophy probably one of the go-to choices for thieves and those versed in the lore of the underworld - tag-teaming with your shadow to ignore the movement-penalty of difficult terrain does make for cool imagery.



The Refraction philosophy allows for 1st level invisibility via bend light, with the added caveat that taken items (up to 10 ft. sticking away from your body) also become invisible. Now while the mechanics of parabolic dishes may not be particularly elegant (not a fan of opposed rolls in PFRPG), it works mathematically here - d20+BAB+Wis-mod+deflection bonus to AC (e.g. granted from the hovering parabolic dish) against incoming rays - if you win, you can catch and return the ray to its sender, destroying the dish. Generally, this one can be thought as the most defense-focused of the philosophies, with quite an array of e.g. AC-bonus netting and even mirror image-like loci. An abuse-safe retribution-spear can also be found among the loci here. The Umbral Embrace philosophy is probably the most sinister of the respective philosophies - a lot of the loci impose negative levels and e.g. darkness rising even further penalizes saves against the ability depending on the amount of negative levels accumulated. One of the more iconic loci would e.g. allow you to conjure forth the literal sandman to put your foes to sleep and another generates an anti-duplicate of the target that crashes into it for massive damage.

The Twilight philosophy is rather peculiar in its general versatility, allowing you to increase the potency of loci when alternating between light and dark loci. Increasing the point cost of loci in order to have them apply to additional targets also makes for versatile options and adding swift action dimension doors to the casting of 4th level loci also offers some unique tactical tricks. A sneaking, auto-flanking weapon of shadow, a bolt that can be modified as belonging to any type of philosophy - the twilight philosophy is probably the most versatile and diverse of the philosophies.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' two-column b/w-standard with fitting stock art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience - with actual, nested bookmarks, rendering navigation easier than in many IG-pdfs.



The Antipodist was a surprisingly tough pdf to properly take apart - and this is mostly due to the pyramid rule and the slight modifications one may apply to its progression via retraining. Now shadow magic, as introduced back in the 3.X days of old, was a high-concept idea, flawed in its execution, and the antipodist provides a distinct array of tools that are significantly better balanced. While generally defense-friendly due to the option to go armored caster, the bad saves and otherwise subpar base stats of the class maintain and enforce one basic concept - the antipodist is what I'd call a trick-class. That means both that it is somewhat tricky in that you should carefully consider your advancement through it, but also that it lets you pull off interesting tricks beyond the capability of other classes. Much like the (scarce) good parts of shadow magic of days gone by, the antipodist offers some very unique options, cool imagery and goes beyond the original, tight focus, by adding in the concept of duality and specialization.



More interesting, though, would be the option to radically change philosophies mid-game and essentially reboot the character and choices made throughout the PC's career. This flexibility is in my book the most impressive component of the class alongside the cool twilight tricks. Now if I were to complain about one component of this pdf, it probably would be the antipodist's so far limited (though by no means TOO limited) selection of foci when compared to full casters, but then again, there's always the chance there'll be expansions for this guy down the line. The pyramid rule and whole theme of the class, blending mechanics with the proverbial metaphysical journey also proves to be gold for roleplaying - in the hands of a capable player, these guys can really, really shine, tying the acquisition of powers on level ups to key moments in the campaign.



The handling of one or two pools remains a relatively simple affair, so apart from planning for cool combos (especially with twilight-antipodists), the class is relatively simple to wrap your head around when compared to other IG-releases. So how to rate this latest piece by Bradley Crouch then? Well, to cut a long ramble short in its tracks - this is the shadowcaster class I always wanted.

Its odd options more often than not go a step beyond what can be done with spells and quite a few loci have this cool "see what I did there"-flair. Add to that the cool condition dispersal/identification-options and we have a winner, though one that imho misses one damn cool option - as written, edgewalkers and antipodists, while thematically similar, have no overlap apart from their pools. Some sort of synergy between waypoints and loci would have been damn cool and made the whole system much more modular (and rewarded those who have both books) - perhaps something to consider for a future expansion? After all, the system per se is similar and the other way round, using loci as waypoints, would have been interesting as well. Now yes, this probably would have been a nightmare to balance, but still - if it's not done some day, I'll probably do it myself to render the shadow magic as intangible and unpredictable as possible. Now consider this a the spoiled whining of one jaded reviewer, though - this class is still a damn fun option and quite simply the shadow magic we always wanted. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Antipodist - Radiant Shadowsage
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Genius Adventures: Spring of Disorder
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/05/2014 03:53:53
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look!



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



All right, still here?

The village of Feiknstafir (fully mapped and statted with a player-friendly map!), sheltered and peaceful, has seen the last of its serene days - odd things are afloat, as the PCs will almost immediately realize when the wolves attack the village and the local horses. There is something weird going on, and the PCs better investigate the string of unusual circumstances. While some of the townsfolk blame the animals of the forest for the antics and grief that has befallen them, it quickly becomes apparent that the PCs will have to venture into the woods to unearth the truth - also, since diligent investigation may point them towards the horse of the first man to go missing, one Varsk. meanwhile, things may slowly be pilfered from the PC's purses, with one particularly cunning thief doing his best to relieve them of their tools - including counter-measures to bypass e.g. alarm-spells etc. We all know players HATE being stolen from, so that's a nice way to get them invested from the get-go, though by far not the only one. And even if the PCs catch the thief - who could be angry at the cute raccoon?



While exploring the forest, this module will do its utmost to annoy the players - squads of animals will seek to create a thoroughly unpleasant experience for them by stealing whatever they can get their paws on. Thus, when the PCs finally find some goblins, they'll be happy to fight - only to have the goblins surrender and guide them towards their tree village. This particular goblin tribe is usually at home in the high branches of the trees, and, as the chief explains, currently they are losing quite a few goblins - with bodies nowhere to be found. The surprisingly reasonable chief offers a magical weapon to the PCs for their investigation and threatens repercussions versus the forest's wood elf enclaves.



Following the information gleaned from the goblins, the PCs can find caches of the wood elves, deserted and featuring encoded messages, from which they can pierce together that the elves have lost people as well and blame the goblins and the villagers of Feiknstafir - seems like the PCs are sitting on a powder-keg here, ready to erupt! Extremely cool - if you're like me and your players like a challenge for their mind instead of simple dice-rolling, the series of messages can also be deciphered manually in a simple, nice puzzle I won't spoil here. Kudos!



The scrawl leads the PCs to the gnomish settlement of Smaparmar (again, fully mapped!) - subterranean...and utterly overrun by unpleasant creatures. Uncanny valley territory indeed - no corpses, but traces of combat abound...including the fact that someone or something has cleaned up after whatever has eliminated the gnomish folk. Worse, upon leaving the complex, the animals attack in full force, potentially even kidnapping one of the PCs! (And yes, the array of animals are deadly - with multiple class levels, they can be deemed an almost functioning adventurer group!)





The finale of the module has the PCs find Kreller's spring (again, fully mapped), where all the dead have been carried, and fight the true mastermind behind the animal uprising, a certain horse, which, alongside its brethren, has been awakened by the malevolent ghost of an adherer drowned by an adventurer in said spring. Whether the PCs just attempt to destroy the ghost and all opposition or reform the now intelligent animals for truly unique cohorts at higher levels, there is plenty of adventuring potential here.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' 2-column full-color standard with nice full-color artworks and solid cartography supplementing it. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Mike Myler's "Spring of Disorder" is an uncommon module in that it oscillates between funny and utterly creepy, between suspense-building and minor frustrations, all ultimately leading towards a satisfying conclusion. Add to that the wholly unique opposition and the obvious (subdued) nods towards one particular Orwellian book and we have a great module here - with combat, investigation, social encounters, wilderness, easy puzzles and smart foes, there is nothing could complain about in here - my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Genius Adventures: Spring of Disorder
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Underworld Races: Hoyrall
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/05/2014 03:48:24
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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



As with the other installments of the Underworld races-series, this one kicks off with a massive mythology of the subterranean races, a collective origin history that can be potentially transplanted from Aventyr into other settings, should one choose to do so. So what are the Hoyrall? Apart from an interesting name (if you're Scandinavian or familiar with the languages, you'll get what I mean), they are a race of parasitic creatures from the stars, brought here and held in check by otherworldly entities whose struggle goes far beyond what has been gleaned from other Underworld Races-pdfs - the extended origin myth of them is AWESOME, full of grand ideas and the stuff of myths - fluff-wise, a glorious beginning.



The insectoid creatures had their hive-mind kind-of sundered and today, individualism exists - and hence, the potential for PCs. Rules-wise, these guys receive +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Str and -4 Cha, count as humanoids and aberrations, are small, have a land speed of 30 ft and a climb speed of 20 ft, 60 ft darkvision, get scent to sense creatures below 25% HP or carrion, are light-blind, get +1 natural armor, stonecunning, +2 to saves versus mind-influencing effects and two rather iconic tricks - number one would be the option to use their own blood con-mod times per day to deal 1d2 dex-damage for 6 rounds, 1 save to cure, scaling DC- cool. More important, if you've seen the cover - these guys have 4 arms. How do the authors balance that to prevent them being utterly broken chainsaws of shredders? All hands but one are off-hands and for every hand beyond the first used, they incur -3 to AC, CMB, CMD and ref-saves until the beginning of their next round. Yes, this adds a whole slew of power attack/expertise-like math to playing these guys. And no, they may only can one spell at a time - no dual-casting, thankfully. This makes the Hoyrall overall very effective fighters, but it also is balanced via light blindness, str-penalty etc. and in my game, they did not unbalance things - for this was one of the races that required a playtest to properly judge.



The array of FCOs is universally solid and we also receive the Siktauryi Specialist archetype for Gunslingers - but what are those Siktauryi? They are essentially stingray-like guns that fire globs of acid, which is made from POISONS. You feed these things POISONS to make acid. Awesome. Especially since more potent toxins increase the damage of the globs of acid. As living creatures, they can be healed (!!!). Another cool piece would be mated carapaced organic growths that allow for long-range communication - think living walkie-talkies. Yeah, awesome! But back to the specialist: Bred to work with siktauryi, these Hoyrall cannot benefit from poisonous blood, but they can directly feed the siktauryi via their modified hands and later, increase their "reloading" speed. I'm sorry. This reviewer Is just grinning from ear to ear right now - little, 4-armed insectoid psychos with living guns? THIS is what I review for. Weird, awesome and oh so cool!



A total of 6 racial feats allow for less penalties when using multiple arms, better feinting or carrion sense, increased blood toxicity, bonus damage when feeding one's siktauryi with one's own toxic blood and covert communication via antennae - iconic, interesting feats - nothing too strong, nothing too weak. And yes, if you want to burn 6 feats, you can get rid of all the penalties for multiple arms...you'll be a mean little shredding chainsaw of a hoyrall...but you'll be 6 feats poorer.



3 unique items allow people to utilize hoyrall antennae communication, draw forth infinite daggers (which dissipate again) or receive a hoyrall phantom limb that is, indeed, a ghost of a limb - it acts as a +1 ghost touch longsword! Cool idea!



Finally, we receive 6 new spells, three of which are devoted to emulating degrees of a hive-mind, while one nets you a fascinating carapace, one allows you to spit poison and one nest you a prismatic gaze attack - the last spell may be a bit strong for the levels associated with it, depending on your campaign's power-level.



Conclusion:

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



YES! *THIS* would be Mike Myler at his very best - the rules are solid and make multi-arm characters work. The fluff is GLORIOUS and inspired. The items are winners. The archetype is brilliant. The spells are cool. This is the Underworld Races-series at peak performance, with new, cool fluff, awesome crunch and, in spite of the very powerful benefits, a balanced race. This pdf had me grin from ear to ear and while it is not long, I guarantee that this is one of the coolest races you'll have seen in a while. The Hoyrall are so unique, so distinct, I *had* to introduce them into my campaign. Forget the Thri-Kreen, these guys are so much cooler! (Also: They are not broken.) While not all rules herein are perfectly streamlined with established PFRPG-canon, the reasons for deviating are unanimously due to maintaining balance, while allowing you to play and do things no other race can do.



This is AAW Games at its best, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Hoyrall
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Enhanced Racial Guide: Bhriota
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/04/2014 10:16:30
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive racial guide for the Bhriota clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with an impressive 36 pages of content, so let's take a look!



The Bhriota are a human ethnicity and as such, I feel I should mention one fact - I'm a huge fan of human "races" - chalk it up to my extensive reading of Sword & Sorcery literature, but I'd rather have different stats for different ethnicities than x pseudo-humanoid races with almost human cultures and outlooks. It's a matter of taste and thus, I am rather in favor of the base concept of the Bhriota. Now of course, one may suppose that such rules may not necessarily be perfectly politically correct, but then again, the same argument could be applied to all humanoid races, so I'm going to ignore this discussion for the matter of this review - as long as the fluff is great and the crunch lines up, I'm happy.



Now the semi-nomadic Bhriota are a people essentially sundered - chosen to be custodians of a seal holding the old ones in check, the majority of their race has succumbed inevitably to the seeping unearthly corruption imposed upon them by the dread things from beyond. Rules-wise, Bhriota receive +2 Str and Con, -2 Cha, +2 to intimidate, a bonus feat, weapon familiarity with axes and Bhriota weapons. Generally, the race is cool, but the dual statboost to physical attributes gear them slightly too strongly towards melee-roles for my tastes.



Extensive information on takes of the respective classes, outlooks on religion etc. are all provided and we also receive favored class options for all core and APG-classes - these generally are well-balanced. No issues here! As has become the tradition, Bhriota may choose from an array of alternate racial traits, which include exchanging the intimidate bonus for stealth or increased resistance against diseases and similar conditions, better CMD (or saves)for weapon familiarity. Once again, no complaints here.



We also receive 4 racial archetypes - the insane assailant can enter a reactive rage that also doubles as a confusion-effect on him in favor of better DR and scaling, powerful damage boosts. Over all, an archetype high in concept, if a bit on the weak side for my tastes. The Savage Huntsman ranger is a specialist of traps, being able to add negative conditions to their effects. Additionally, these guys may temporarily decrease their favored enemy bonus to attack a suiting creature and apply negative conditions upon targets - a damn cool mechanic: Finally, something interesting to be done with boring favored enemies! Over all, a cool one!. The esoteric binder summoners receive diminished eidolons in favor of expanded spell-lists and have his eidolon deliver touch spells. Thankfully with a caveat that prevents stacking of held charges. Spell-like abilities and an aura that cancels out morale bonuses and penalties make for an interesting archetype as well. Finally, there would be the Bhriota Witch Doctor - who uses con instead of int as governing attribute - highly uncommon! Patron-access is limited, though, and in order to learn hexes, these guys need to live through permanent disfigurements, which will see them ostracized in most civilized societies - the mark of agony clearly denounces them as adherents to unsavory practices and rites. In lieu of a familiar, these fellows receive a fetish mask to act as their channel to their patrons, which they later can enchant. Additionally, 1st and 10th level hex are fixed via the 2 new hexes: Rending hex duplicates a 1/creature/24-hours inflict light wounds, while another forces open wounds healed and deals damage + bleed - which can only be stopped by regular heal-skills, not magic. The first hex may be a bit much - every day, infinite inflict light wounds, provided you meet enough different targets feels a bit much, especially in combination with the con-based casting - con being the most useful stat for casters anyway and the lack of MAD of the witch class making this more grievous. While the implied social stigmata of this archetype, when properly evoked by the DM, may offset these balance concerns, unfettering this archetype from its fluff and the peculiarities of the setting may see this not work anymore. So, while not downright broken, one option that requires deliberation.



Next up are 10 new racial feats - Bloodlust being the first, allowing you to add base will-save (NOT the modified one) to atk and damage against uninjured foes. Wait...come again? While the bonus thankfully is not the modified will-save, the damage+atk bonus's scaling surpasses similar feats almost immediately and increases the mook-mowing capacities of charges and vital strikes further. With the rather low prereqs, especially for multi-class builds a nasty glass-cannon enhancer that needs some nerfing. +1AoO with unarmed strike is neat, as is better charging versus inanimate, unattended targets. rerolling fear-saves, resistance to saves versus disease and poison - per se cool. Odd, though - the Grudge Bearer-feat, which allows you to retaliate against racial hatred foes with +1/2 last received damage on the next weapon damage roll. Apart from the obvious means of exploitation, the race does not receive hatred - so it can't take the feat. Attacking unattended objects whenever you miss makes sense and applying wis-mod, if negative, as a bonus to will-saves while raging makes thematic sense for insane characters. Penalizing perception and concentration while in the presence of a non-instantaneous spell's area of effect at +1 spell level would be interesting. Making full-damage attacks against swarms as a standard action (somewhat akin to vital strike) also is within the boundaries of what I consider valid.



We also receive quite an array of different traits - from minor bonuses to small pseudo-rages and birthmarks that denote the chosen of the Old Ones, these traits generally are well-crafted and supplied with nice fluff.



Next up would be Bhriota Rune Magic - using the rules via Rune Catser and providing full synergy with e.g. how they are handled in Northlands and similar publications, we receive an array of various runes - including a total of 6 feats to dive into runic magic, should you not be familiar with the concept. The runes per se are rather awesome and well-balanced, though minor exceptions can be found - the Na'arlosham Rune for example, allows you to do the following: "Invoked upon a spear, the rune invokes divine favor from the Old Ones upon the first character who throws it over the head of an enemy force (nine or more opponents) in the next nine hours." -so what are the benefits? Another rune that nets you a bonus of +20 to the next bull rush attempt executed may feel a bit excessive. Why not opt for a scaling benefit depending on HD? On the cool-side - we receive a drawing for each rune - nice!



The Bhriota Shaman-PrC receives 1/2 BAB-progression, 1/2 ref and will-progression, full spell-casting progression, up to +5d6 sneak attack progression,d6 and 4+Int skills per level. The class receives a curse board with which to curse adversaries and special dances, which allow for the casting of particular spells (depending on the school) as spell-like abilities a limited amount of times per day. Alas, the class seems to have undergone some revision - the PrC's table sports various abilities like ranged legerdemain that are not listed in the class' write-up - while I *know* what these do, I'm happy they *seem* to have been cut - this PrC is rather strong even without them. That being said, the PrC is still feeling like it's missing half its content. Fun fact - Herbal Remedies, gained at 3rd level, is also missing from the table. So yeah, massive update glitch.



We also receive an array of cool, generally balanced and rather flavorful Bhriota-specific weaponry - sneak attack with specific darts reduces movement, special caltrops, a sacrificial kit - glorious pieces, even before the alchemical war draughts and war paints. A total of 4 different magical items, from aberration blood to insanely powerful, high-level bone rattles (almost 2K price!) and a cool two-bladed sword make for interesting options - the latter increases its enchantment by +1 upon scoring a crit, changing its bleed damage to cold damage for a limited time makes for an interesting mechanic. As a particularly nice service for guys like yours truly, we also receive a legendary weapon. These would be weapons that require specific wielder-characteristics and in turn, increase in potency with their wielder - the swords of legendary Vathak, Ataciber and Reratuv, scale in 10 steps over 20 levels and makes combatants truly fearsome indeed - a cool, almost artifact-level weapon-duo, though one I wished had some unique traits.



Now the next chapter would be among my favorite in this book - here, we receive tribal symbols and glyphs and complete write-ups of the corrupted, degenerate tribes. A total of 4 such tribal write-ups, full of great hooks, can be found herein and each write-up sports two exclusive alternate racial traits - no complaints there!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are better than in any Fat Goblin Games-pdf I've read in quite a while - very good, actually! Layout is beautiful in all the right ways - the 2-column full-color layout is easy to read, beautiful and still printer-friendly. The full color artworks, original pieces, are STUNNING. Seriously, these pieces are GORGEOUS and have their very own style and allure, rendering this pdf over all a true beauty to behold. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Rick Hershey always had potential as both designer and writer. The glitches lay in the detail and so, the presence of line developer John Bennett is felt indeed - this pdf is a joy to read. Its fluff is superb and of a high quality that makes reading this pdf inspiring. The quality of the crunch also has seen a significant step upwards - the majority of the content herein is rather cool and there indeed are some rather damn cool ideas in here. That being said, the few broken feats and glitched, unusable PrC somewhat neuter this pdf's otherwise stellar track-record. Were it for the fluff only, I'd rate this 5 stars +seal f approval, but with the glitches, I can't go any higher than a final rating of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. Still, consider me rather intrigued about Vathak - I now really want to see where the Fat Goblin Games crew takes the setting with this increased quality!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Enhanced Racial Guide: Bhriota
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Urban Dressing: Mining Town
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/04/2014 10:14:04
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of what I'd tentatively call the "new" Urban Dressing-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!



First: What do I mean by "new" Urban Dressing? Well, the first run of the series had a certain hit-and-miss quality; It endeavored to take components of the city and use the Dressing-formula to depict them. Alas, cities are complex and organic and the success not always guaranteed. Then, with a certain pirate town, the series changed - away from describing a single component (like a park/temple etc. and failing to take some moving bit or another into account), instead focusing on a general theme and the means for the DM to evoke this theme. This, then would be the second of these new Urban Dressings.



We kick off this UD with a massive, 100-entry-strong table of sights and sounds - from taskmaster's whips a-crackin' to prostitutes, desolate picks and wheel marks embedded deep in the mud, to essentially miner gangs/factions or just singing people - there is a lot to see and embellish here.



Now the business-section deserves special mention in this file -a total of 50 different entries can be found herein and range from guild halls to shoemakers and drug dens to even people where you can buy bad luck and curses to get rid of your rivals and foes - and yes, the latter example just screams murder-investigation to me and immediately made me come up with a complex module.



Now if you're like me, there is one thing annoying about designing settlements - the non-story-relevant NPCs. You know, the guys that have a name and look only so that your plot points don't stick out like sore thumbs. Well, this pdf provides a total of 50 short fluffy descriptions of sample characters, with suggested alignment/class/race info in brackets. Why do I consider that awesome? Because, apart from making the world more dynamic and believable, it helps add a sense of momentum to the game - what may just have been a note may resonate with your players, resulting in extensive development of such a sketch and adventures beyond that - and this organic growth is what makes a town come to life. It does help that the characters here run the gamut from bitter, old crones with a slight magical aptitude to philanthropic ladies of the elven aristocracy. Two thumbs up!



The final page, then, covers different complications, which range from eerie green mist rising from the ground to cave-ins, mysterious perpetrators breaking every piece of mining equipment in town to gas explosions and troll/bugbear bouncers/suppression tools - each of these is varied and should at least be able to spark one full session of adventuring, perhaps even more. They also run the gamut from relatively common to weird and span thus a range for various playstyles.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' 2-column b/w-standard and the artwork is thematically fitting b/w-stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use.



Josh Vogt's Mining Towns are in one word, awesome. The plethora of local color one can add via this pdf to any mining town is impressive, diverse and just smells of grime, dust and hard work - and I love it! This is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval for its creativity and diversity.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Mining Town
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Location Guides: The Pirate Haven of Blackrock
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/04/2014 10:12:12
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This location guide clocks n at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let's take a look!



So...another pirate town. Blackrock comes with a full-blown settlement statblock -situated at the island of Korte, Blackrock is now ruled by the pirate-queen Cassandra, a pirate haven spawned from necessity and since then, turned into a thriving village - complete with nice cartography, provided as a b/w-version with keys for the DM and in a full-color hand-out version sans keys for the players. It should be noted that the map is isometric, providing some nostalgia for guys like me. The city and its small, walled harbor is encircled by fortifications and thus looks somewhat cramped.



The numerous notable locations provide various hooks for players to pursue - from fortified alehouses to Cassandra's ship to shops, there is quite a lot going on in the town. Fortune-seekers will definitely not lack for employment. and the general break-down of the location into different quarters helps navigate the pdf. There is something that sets the town apart from similar supplements, though - the hooks. The pdf provides, beyond the inspiration that may be drawn from the writing, extremely detailed hooks that go beyond what a hook usually does. The basic concept is presented along-side a skeletal outline of the things to happen - with complications and further adventuring possibilities, the supplement goes above and beyond in that regard. Oh, and the hooks are pretty versatile - from poisoned prostitutes to stolen light-house-powering stones to delivering something important to the bank and have it heisted away, the hooks are surprisingly neat and the level of detail they provide can be considered exemplary.



Beyond crime and punishment, an extensive table of food and prices and hooks for nearby ruins, the pdf provides quite a few nice details for the DM to develop. Aforementioned pirate queen, receives a full-blown, detailed NPC-write-up and beyond that, a total of no less 7 statblocks for more generic, nameless NPCs provides further fodder.



Conclusion:



Editing and formatting are very good, I only noticed minor glitches here and there. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' printer-friendly two-column standard in full color and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. Cartography is nice as well, though the maps look a bit blurry in my version, as does the cover-artwork, The DM-map is abit too jumbled - the numbers with their white backgrounds obscure the drawing and make making out where the places are supposed to be slightly harder than it ought to be.



I feel like an utter prick. Darren W. Pearce and Gillian M. Pearce, supported by the statblocks by Carlos Ovalle and Mike Welham, have created a compelling, cool pirate town full of hooks and local color, a place that delivers what one expects. And still, I can't find it in me to like this supplement. Perhaps it's due to me having read too many Pirate-themed settlements - between a certain village backdrop, Port Shaw, Freeport, Skull & Shackles etc., I may simply be burned out on pirate towns. Perhaps I'm too jaded and need some unique angle to make me excited. I don't know. This location guide, with its more than fair, low price-point, delivers all you could expect from such a book.



And after some contemplation, I realized something - I've been utterly, completely spoiled by Raging Swan Press' settlement books. In direct comparison, this pdf has no nomenclature, marketplace, rumor-section, events, sights, sounds and smells - the place just lacks the extreme level of detail that helps DMs make a place come alive. A couple of years before, this pdf would have probably blown my mind, but using so many Village Backdrops or glorious towns like Wolverton has utterly spoiled me on a formal level. Make no mistake, Blackrock is a great place and it is NOT lacking in detail - but the little pieces of local color, the extreme attention to detail is just not there - much like many a Paizo-book, this is a potentially inspiring gazetteer full of nice information, yes. But it lacks this additional oomph that makes Raging Swan's settlements come to life and has the unpleasant handicap of covering a topic that has been thoroughly covered by superb, bigger supplements in a level of detail, it can, by virtue of its length, not perfectly compete with. Blackrock is a great settlement and if you don't have Razor Coast or Freeport, or if you need an additional pirate settlement - you probably won't be disappointed.



That being said, I can't explain properly why, but this pdf just didn't click with me - there simply is no leitmotif beyond the pirate-angle that sets this one apart for me. I am aware that this probably is the 13th age/pirate-fan in me talking, but some cultural peculiarity, racial tension, uncommon architecture - anything weird to make this town more distinct and it would leave much more of an impression. Now as a private person, this supplement, in spite of its excellent bang-for-buck-ratio, left me cold. For me as a person, this is a 3 star file. As a reviewer, though, I have to abstract (or at least try it!) said jadedness - and it may very well be that you, dear reader, are not that jaded, that you're looking for an inexpensive, nice pirate town - then this would be just what the doctor ordered. For you, this may even be a 4.5 star file. Hence, my final verdict will clock in between the two - at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars due to in dubio pro reo and me taking my own situation into account.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Location Guides: The Pirate Haven of Blackrock
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Path of War
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2014 04:25:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final version of the first Path of War book clocks in at 165 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with a massive 160 pages of content, so let's take a look!



A short lesson in history: Back in the 3.X-days, there was one particular book that divided the fans of D&D like few before - the "Tome of Battle", more commonly known as the "Book of 9 Swords", henceforth abbreviated Bo9S. This book took martial characters and provided choices for them - somewhat akin to spellcasting, with the target goal of making them more interesting. And the book at once succeeded and failed spectacularly. Why? Well, first of all, the respective disciplines of martial traditions were not properly balanced among each other. Secondly, the book utilized per-encounter mechanics, which broke in-game immersion and logic in ways most obtrusive. Thirdly, the mechanics, while innovative, utilized a whole array of options that could easily be broken without even trying. It happened by accident once in my game. The mechanic to regain maneuvers of two of the classes was sub-optimal to say the least. So, after some trepidation and a unanimous vote, my group banned the book.



Fast forward to 2013/14 -Dreamscarred Press releases the first supplements of Path of War, the spiritual successor to Bo9S, and after a highly controversial review, actually listens and includes improvements - but how many? Well, let's check this one out!



In case you're not familiar with the basic premise of PoW - the supernatural, extraordinary and spell-like special tricks these classes may execute, their "spells", if you will, would be called maneuvers. Each character has a so-called initiator-level, which, much like a caster-level, influences the power of many of the options herein. Maneuvers are grouped in different categories: Stances offer passive benefits and can be maintained indefinitely - unlike all the other maneuver types, which would be strikes, boosts and counters. The names of these categories are pretty self-explanatory, but for completeness' sake: Boosts provide benefits, buffs if you will. Counters can usually be initiated as immediate actions to react to foes/actions. Strikes would be the active, in your face attacks.



Maneuvers are grouped in different levels, ranging from 1 - 9, and in disciplines, which can be considered schools. Each martial class receives a certain list of available disciplines to choose their maneuvers from and has its own way of replenishing maneuvers.



In my reviews of the constituent pdfs, I have analyzed the respective 3 base classes Stalker, Warlord and Warder in detail, hence I will not go into the finer points here - also to avoid bloating the review further. As short summaries - Stalkers are the maneuver-dual-wield rogue/assassin-style class and quite focused on crit-fishing. Warlords are the fighting commanders that command amidst the troops and Warders would be the dedicated tanks that draw the foe's ire and keep their allies safe while they take the brunt of the foe's wrath.



Stalkers receive ki and have two options for the regaining of maneuvers - 1 maneuver for a standard action, or wis mod, min 2, for a full-round action - neither provokes AoOs, which is good. However, what still irks me on a design point of view - the latter option also allows the stalker to move his base speed AND receive a +4 insight bonus to AC AND add deadly strike as bonus damage to the next attack/maneuver he executes. This would be a significant bonus and imho one that would have been better off as a scaling benefit - i.e. the tying of class level to the AC-bonus granted. Why? Because playtest showed that, especially at low levels, regaining maneuvers can be used to make the stalker a rather great blocker when regaining maneuvers, when a true strategy/decision-making process behind regaining maneuvers could have provided so much more interesting decisions in combat. At higher levels, stalkers may also use ki to exchange readied maneuvers for other maneuvers, but since that one is based on a resource that is finite, I do like it.

Now I mentioned crit-fishing - that's where deadly strikes come in - each time, stalkers score a crit against a target, they deal bonus damage against said target for a limited array of rounds. Weapons with higher crit multipliers receive more deadly strike bonus damage. Ki can also be expended to activate deadly strikes, which renders especially high crit multiplier weapons powerful for the stalkers using them. The issue of stacking deadly strike durations has thankfully been cleaned up - while I'm never going to like the mechanic, it now works as intended and thus has my blessing.



The same goes for combat insight, which would be a passive tree of abilities that allows him to add wis-mod to a variety of rolls, scaling with the level. It is my joy to report that the broken regaining of expended ki that failed the kitten-test in the original stalker has been eliminated - kudos! Now if you're like me and have had some experience with multiple attributes being applied to the same roll, you'll realize that both combat insight and some stalker talents allow for some significant stacking of powers. The same fine-tuning goes with the option to regain ki via maneuvers - a daily limit with a HD-cap prevents abuse. Alas, melee strikes at range and ignoring all AoOs provoked by movement for wis-mod rounds via ki still are nasty. While I'm still not sold on the Stalker, this marks still a significant improvement over the first iteration of the class.



The Warder's regaining of maneuvers does not feature a bonus like the stalker's. Warder's marking, based on dealing damage to the target and thus forcing it to attack the warder at penalty still feels to me like it could use a saving throw - like the grand challenge, which high-level warders can execute to debuff all opponents within 30 feet as marked. It should be noted for posterity's sake that this one still feels rather strong as a free action to me. The saves of the class become rather broken at fourth level - int-mod to ref-saves, and initiative in lieu of dex-mod for ref-saves - this makes their saves better than those of the monk. That being said, I'm very glad the designers have made the extended defense ability actually work. Now one obvious glitch is still here - high-level warders may deflect blows that would reduce them below 0 hp to armor/shield, wrecking the items instead - I generally love this ability, but the lack of a caveat for indestructible items and artifacts is a bit nasty. Oh well, since the ability is resolved via the broken condition, at least the artifact can't be repaired and maintains its condition...I guess. Still, would have preferred the ability to properly specify what happens in such a case. The capstone of the class still doesn't work - "unable to die from hit point damage" still is pretty opaque - I *assume* this translates to still receiving the damage, but simply not dying, correct? But what once the ability elapses? Is a warder below 0 hp staggered? Or does the capstone grant immunity to hp-damage while in effect? The capstone, alas, still is not anywhere near operative.



The Warlord class is perhaps my favorite from the PoW-classes, mainly because I consider the maneuver-replenishment of the warlord the most interesting - it works via gambits, i.e. actions that provide a bonus upon success alongside the replenishment of maneuvers, while imposing minor penalties on a failure. The problem here with the original warlord still exists - while the gambit-system per se is cool, its fine-tuning is badly broken. A warlord charges a foe - if he hits the target with the first attack after the charge, all allies in range receive warlord's + cha-mod to damage for their next attack. It should be noted that the penalty for failing a gambit is only a -2 penalty to all d20-rolls. Conceivably, a warlord with cha 20 could grant his allies a+5 damage boost at first level - without daily limits. Shooting into melee (not hard with precise shot) can penalize the foe via another gambit by cha-mod to AC etc. Remember, that is the type of action used to regain maneuvers. I still consider the system per se damn cool, but the math and risk/reward-ratio behind the maneuver-regaining is wonky at best. Worse, the warlord can still charge kittens to grant allies damage-bonuses against actual foes or shoot kittens to grant them temporary hit points. On the plus-side, bonus-types have been cleared up and now are actually properly codified.



The warlord's presence, gained at 2nd level, is still the equivalent of a level 15 bardic performance, perhaps better. Yeah. Still broken as all hell. For a detailed comparison, please check my warlord-review. It should also be noted that the ambiguities of their effects still are here.



The new skill to identify martial maneuvers still lacks information which, if any non-PoW-classes should receive it as a class skill. Among the feats, thankfully, the utterly broken Defensive Web has died the fiery death it deserved. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for tactical rush, which allows you to 1/encounter move your movement as a swift action. Victorious Recovery still can be kitten'd as well, though these latter two feats still are within the parameters of what can be considered okay. What is not okay would be extended mark - ONE feat, no prereqs, double the duration of all the warder's armiger marks. Yeah. You'd have to be an idiot to NOT take this - it makes it highly unlikely that ANY enemy ever can stand long enough to see the mark go away.



Now I won't be redundant and blabber on about the feats, instead going ahead to the maneuvers themselves, all right? We kick off the maneuvers after an explanation of terminology etc. with a whole new discipline, the evil-alignment exclusive Black Seraph. Based on intimidate, it is an offensive, deadly discipline - that allows you to intimidate kittens to heal yourself as a supernatural ability. Remember, maneuvers can be regained infinitely. This means FREE INFINITE healing as long as any PC or kitten is around. What about negating attacks with intimidate? Doesn't sound so bad? Well, look for items, spells and class features that net bonuses to intimidate. Yeah. Here I'll go on a tangent - the mechanic to use a skill-check versus an attack roll or another skill-check is a 3.X remnant. It was broken back then, it is worse in Pathfinder - less skills, less expensive skill-boost items translate to easier buffed skills. Add to that the mathematical convention of d20-roll versus fixed value instead of 3.X's d20 vs. d20 and we have an assortment of maneuvers herein that simply do not work smoothly in actual play. It's the square-shaped chicken in a vacuum issue and an unnecessary relic of an older system that is only here as a remnant of the proverbial balance ruins on which PoW was built. I really wish the designers had just shrugged off abilities like this instead of re-introducing what never worked well back into PFRPG. Need an example? Veiled Moon is tied to Stealth, now look at the ways you can buff that through the roof. Yeah. One of the more powerful maneuvers of that one switches positions with the target if the creature fails perception versus your stealth. As an immediate action. No save. This is a nigh-guaranteed insta-kill for just about every character, especially casters, who has not maxed out perception AND is buffed to cope with it. Before breaking the skill check with items.

Back to Black Seraph: What about a level 3 boost that nets you a 10-foot movement sans AoOs and adds +2d6 damage "that ignores damage reduction" - I assume, only the bonus damage ignores ALL DR? Why not tie it to specific types of DR? It should be noted that per se, the discipline offers some nice options that combine strikes with debuffs. However, I do not get why none of the strikes receive the [pain]-descriptor - at least the debuff conditions obviously are pain effects and should not apply to those immune to it. This is especially odd since other disciplines like Veiled Moon take quite some care to apply the proper [teleportation] descriptors. Oddly, this oversight also applies to quite a few other disciplines.



The Broken Blade discipline still features a strike based on a fixed acrobatics DC of 15 that allows the initiator to move 10 ft towards or away from a foe sans provoking AoOs and attacking as well with bonus damage - why not use the existing rules to move in threatened squares with a bonus? DC 15 becomes ridiculous rather fast. Worse, more often than not, these mechanics completely ignore already existing ways to produce an effect , producing redundancy and ambiguity of the results of actions that simply wasn't necessary. Why tie the success of a trip executed by a martial artist to a ref-save instead of CMD? No, seriously. Yes, I am aware that this does not break anything. But the devil's in the details - dwarves, for example, no longer receive their stability bonus to this save, falling just as easy, perhaps easier than less stable foes. This is a harmless example, chosen intentionally to illustrate the point - PFRPG as a system features quite an array of tied mechanics and if you ignore an established way to doing things, you necessarily have to take these into account. PoW, unfortunately, often simply does not do this, instead creating its own context and thus leads to more confusion than necessary. Next time the dwarf gets tripped, he's eligible to ask whether his stability bonus does apply...and if not, WHY? And yes, I am aware of spells doing similar things. But spells are not strikes - I will get on that later on.



For now, let's just say that Path of War does not need these wonky mechanics - there are a vast plethora of examples in this very book that prove that neither the system, nor the respective disciplines needed these relics to work, which renders the maintaining of them all the more puzzling. Golden Lion would be such an example - apart from one single counter (skill vs. atk - see above) the discipline works conspicuously well without these blunders and is generally superior to the White Raven that spawned it. Iron tortoise, which renders shields actually damn cool and useful, utilizes the compared atk-rolls in counters and shield bashes, but that one's at least not as bad as skill vs. atk. The level 6 counter that negates an attack OR nets you DR 20 if you fail your counter-attempt still feels too nasty for me - its bigger brother has been nerfed down to DR 40/ on a failure, but still -even within PoW, that's massive. Where math goes into a corner to cry would be burnished shell - atk + shield bonus versus incoming targeted spell against CASTER-LEVEL Check - if you win, you negate the spell. Weapon Focus (ray)? Pff, wasted that feat, my friend. This one counter neuters all targeted spells utterly. Even within PoW's design paradigm, broken.



Primal Fury can be quoted as an example on how disciplines can work without (many) of the aforementioned relics - only one counter uses the skill-check nonsense. One particular counter deserves special mentioning here as one of my favorites - it allows the initiator to attack a weapon that has hit him - if the weapon is destroyed by the attack, the damage is mitigated. Elegant, cool, works perfectly within the established context of PFRPG-rules - why not utilize mechanics like this one more often?



Why do we instead get strikes that use e.g. sense motive to attack (against AC) AND deal double damage. The issues with Scarlet Throne persist. The second new discipline would be Silver Crane, the good equivalent to the evil Black Seraph. Conversely, Silver Crane's Blessing suffers from the same kitten-test failing infinite healing, with the restriction that practitioners of Silver Crane would require evil infernal kittens with damned souls to maintain their good alignment. If those can be arranged for, they may heal allies as well, though! Yay! Infinite healing for the whole group! -.-



On the plus-side, counters to shed negative conditions, for example, make sense to me - so kudos there! Steel Serpent still suffers from a discrepancy between poison fluff vs. poison rules, but I can live with that. Generally, Steel Serpent, Solar Wind and Thrashing Dragon exist and what I complained about in previous reviews mostly still holds true. Veiled Moon's counters still make evasion and even mettle go home to cry - stealth in lieu of saves etc.



Now this review is already long, so let's go through those archetypes on fast forward, shall we? The judges ambiguities have been cleared up; Final judgment has been moved to level 15, where it actually works. Divine Abolishment's targeted greater dispel strikes are still quite powerful, too much for me personally, but still: Kudos for cleaning this guy up! The Soul Hunter now has a kitten-caveat of nothing below 1/2 HD...but why not tie it to the soul hunter's level? This way, I'll have to take an advanced kitten with me; Still does not work. The Dervish Defender now need to actually dual-wield to use the two-weapon defense, which is neat. On a flavor-side weird would be that the archetype still does not receive the improved/greater TWF-feats for a massive hidden attribute/feat tax. Granted, this is a cosmetic gripe, but still - if the high-level ability mentions "mastery of TWF", you'd expect the archetype to know the feats. The ranged Hawkguard Warder has been cleaned of a wording issue and both Sworn protector and Zweihänder Sentinel are okay. Bannerman and Steelfist Commando for the Warlord are okay. The defensively-minded Vanguard Commander with his option to break the immediate action-limit a limited amount of times per day still feels a bit too strong for my tastes.



Now as new content, we receive two archetypes that allow psionic characters to wilder in PoW's systems - one for the psychic warrior, one for the soulknife. The Psychic Warrior Pathwalker learns up to 13 maneuvers, 7 readied, 4 stances, of up to 6th level. Each discipline receives its own psychic warrior path and...oh boy. Expend psionic focus for full attack at the end of a charge - yep, that would be free pounce. Urgh. Balancing between the respective paths is...strange, to say the least. The War Soul Soulknife receives the same amount of maneuvers and trades psychic strike and the 10th level blade skill for them. Interestingly, they have a mechanic to regain maneuvers upon the defeat of foes that actually manages, via HD and int-cap, to defeat the bag o' kitten issue - nice. The new blade skills provide the necessary mind blade customization. The option to throw mind blades and combine it with maneuvers, though, needs a heavy whack with the nerf-bat, analogue to the maneuvers that allow you to do this.



We also receive the awakened blade PrC - 10 levels, d10, 4+Int skills per level, full initiator level progression, new maneuvers known at every even level, additional maneuvers readied at 3rd, 6th and 9th level, +1 stance at 3rd and 8th level, 8/10th manifester progression and full BAB-progression, 1/2 will-progression. They also receive an omni-buff-focus, may expend the psionic focus to use an additional counter per round and at 6th level, any semblance of balance that could be achieved via action economy shambles away and whimpers, as psionic focus and maneuver regeneration become tied to another. Worse, by expending a readied action and the focus, these guys may grant themselves standard or move actions to be used as part of the counter, allowing them to add a strike, a cast, movement - you name it - to the game. This is essentially taking the one limitation of counters and throws it out the window. The capstone makes the powerful super-stance of the PrC effectively permanent. Urgh.



Okay, quick run of the PrCs - have they been repaired or are they still on the level of the supplemental content pdf? Battle Templar: Reach of the divine nerfed down to powerful, but okay - kudos!!! The same cannot be said for martial healing, which STILL nets the Battle Templar and his allies INFINITE HEALING. At this point I ragequit this PrC and move on to the next. The bladecaster's bonus damage is still untyped, the stance still broken, though a tad bit less so than before. The Dragon Fury is still nice, still fails the kitten-test. Mage Hunters have been somewhat streamlined, but still receives what boils down to evasion for all 3 saves. The capstone, which eliminates the option to cast defensively, is the other nail in the coffin for this class - Knowledge (Martial) DC 21 to realize it before hand? Nice, only casters don't get the skill as class skill, rendering that one just unfair. At least the infinite heal exploit is gone...it's now only infinite temporary hit points. The Umbral Blade would be my shining light (ironically) at the end of this PrC-tunnel - this one has been salvaged and is the one PrC I can't find it in me to complain about - indeed, the PrC serves as a nice example what can be done with the PoW-system -scaling class-specific NON-BROKEN stances, cool imagery. Two thumbs up -were the whole book like this, I'd be singing a whole different tune!



We close this pdf with 6 organizations, so-called martial traditions, to include in your game and advice for creating and adapting these traditions. I generally liked these, though I would have loved organization/fame-rules for them.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect -I noticed a couple of typo-level/italicization glitches. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with an additional, backgroundless, more printer-friendly version. Artwork ranges from original full color to b/w stock and does not adhere to a uniform style. The pdf comes fully bookmarked in both versions for your convenience. Production-value-wise, there is nothing to complain here.



Lead designers Chris Bennett and Andreas Rönnqvist with codesigners Jade Ripley and Sabrina Bennett have managed to write the worst emotional roller-coaster ride of my "reviewer-career." Alternation between cheers and resigned face palms to this extent has never been so frequent in a series. But how does the final book fare?



Path of War is better than the Book of 9 Swords. It is more refined, less jumbled together. Alas, it also chooses to inherit some of the worst traits of its predecessor and reintroduces them to PFRPG, when the base system purposefully got rid of them.



The explicit design intention of Path of War is to bring martials up to casters in power-level, to "give fighters nice things." I applaud that. I want that. Only problem is, PoW overshoots the target it set itself. Before you start booing and hissing, let me elaborate. We all have been there - wizards get the fireball and suddenly can clear whole groups of enemies while the fighter diddles his thumbs. DMs have seen this since the beginning of our hobby, through all iterations. When did this become a problem? Well, as soon as player-entitlement started to set in - suddenly, players started whining if they couldn't rest after every 2nd encounter to regain their nova-capacity and in a strange quirk f fate, DMs everywhere didn't tell them to plan better, to conserve their resources, but rather obliged. Thus, the 5-minute adventure day was born and with it, fighters and martials grumbled even louder. Now PoW does bring up the new martial classes up to the damage potential of casters - this is correct and should silence the whining on that front. So everyone's happy, right?

The problem is: Spells are not Maneuvers. Maneuvers are an infinite resource, whereas spells are a finite resource. Spellcasters can be bled of their resources...fast. And then they are the crappy, fragile dudes and ladies that can't do jack. The strategy of resource-conservation falls right of the edge with maneuvers - arcane pool, ki pool, rage rounds - all pales before these tricks, not necessarily by potential, but by the sheer fact that unlike all resources against which I can compare these, maneuvers are infinite. Yes, they have less AoE-oomph than spells, but their power-gain still is not limited in any way. This fundamentally changes the power-dynamics not only between classes, but of the whole game. Non-martial melee classes and their interaction with PoW receive next to no consideration apart from a paltry feat-tree, when especially the introduction of one PoW-class into a regular group quite probably will invalidate them. The high-AC fighter will never, ever even come close to the warder, the rogue (even talented + rogue glory-update) will pale terribly before the stalker and a paladin's smite turn ridiculous fast when compared to the tricks a warlord can pull off.



So is PoW balanced? Not in the traditional sense of PFRPG. If you had issues with psionics or pact magic or similar subsystems - well, this one amps the power-curve up far beyond these. Whereas usually, it requires a degree of system-mastery and tricks to produce strong, very powerful characters, the PoW-classes already have an above-average competence built into their relatively linear frameworks, even before maneuver selection.



Now this sounds awfully negative when it shouldn't - PoW's classes do many things right and offer interesting mechanics and some damn cool ideas. While personally, I don't like the stalker's crit-fishing, the warder and warlord make for interesting options. The maneuvers are stylish and breathe an aesthetic of anime martial arts and over the top fighting styles you may enjoy.



PoW is, to me, more divisive even than even the Book of 9 Swords - on the one hand, I consider the balance within the frame of PoW okay, on the other, I don't think it works well with its casting brethren or any other class. So I went ahead and tested. And know what? All of my above assertions proved to be valid... and my martial PCs had no more to do than before in any situation that was NOT a battle. Granted, their attacks were more diverse, mobility increased, foes melted like butter in the sun - but beyond combat, when spellcasters cranked out the utility and research/investigation tools...they still encountered lulls where twiddled their thumbs and grumbled about limited skills/non-combat tricks.



PoW enforces a certain playstyle that is implicit, but unfortunately, not explicit in the rules - very high fantasy. Rogues, monks, fighters, cavaliers and potentially (depending very much on your take of them, how many resources you allow, etc.) even potentially rangers, paladins and inquisitors have imho no place in a campaign with Path of War. They are utterly outclassed unless the PoW-class is in the hands of a novice and the regular martial class in the hands of an experienced player. If a campaign is on a Dragon Ball level of power (and that is NOT meant as chiding or belittling, so put away the torches and pitchforks!), Path of War will be just what the doctor ordered. Many of the abilities herein just ooze rule of cool and should provide a lot of entertainment and "did you see what I just did"-moments - I absolutely understand why PoW has fans. A part of me belongs to that camp. DMs should take heed to ensure that the casters are not overshadowed completely, though. As a DM, to enjoy PoW, you have to have no issue with the infinite maneuver regaining and the inability to bleed your PCs dry. If you are okay with that and are looking for truly high fantasy, this may just be what you want. If comet-throwing, dragon-solo high fantasy is what you're going for, then Path of War will fit the bill perfectly.



Now if you are an old-school player, enjoy the challenge of 15-point-buy and less over the top fantasy, if you like your fantasy low (or rare magic) and gritty, then avoid this like the plague -this is very much anime-style fantasy, not "A Song of Fire and Ice." or Conan



So far, both playstyles do not help finding a final verdict, though. So on to the mechanical execution - and again, things become difficult for me, though less so than I feared. On the one hand, quite a few of the very worst examples of broken %&/ have been eliminated and fixed - the content herein is superior to the one on the WiP-versions in every way. However, it has not been universally fixed - especially among the interaction with other systems like spellcasting and psionics, the horrible ways to utterly break the system can still be found. While the majority of the content herein is streamlined, aforementioned 3.X-relics taint quite a few maneuvers and if I can enhance particular attack-negating counters with massive bonuses beyond what any buffs to regular attacks would render possible, we have issues. An adept of veiled moon plus invisibility (+20/+40 to stealth...), +5 to perception for 2,5K...the buffing options of skills are simply too much, too easily gained for my tastes. Still, these, I could still chalk up to "increased power-level."

Worse, there are options for infinite healing. Multiple ones. These constitute the ultimate in design sins for me - they render all WBL-assumptions utterly ad absurdum and break in-game logic harder than a dragon crashing into a wall of force midflight. Another, though comparably minor thing the playtest did show would be that the disciplines not necessarily are balanced perfectly among themselves. While not in the realm of "useless vs. imba", damage + condition-dispersal was not always on one power-level.



"So steh' ich hier, ich armer Tor - und bin so klug als wie zuvor." I love PoW, it's ideas, some of its mechanics...more so than many, many pdfs I've read. I also loathe it for what it fails by a margin to deliver. With a tighter balancing, proper advice for non-initiator classes, a little bit of fine-tuning of classes and maneuvers, a cleaning up of relics, utility-options beyond combat and perhaps (sacrilege!) an alternate rule for maneuvers that are expended and remain expended until rest, like spells, this could have been the martial arts book everybody, me included, always wanted.



Only you, dear reader, can decide in which camp you're situated - cool or crap, it's, more than with any other book I've reviewed, a matter of perspective. One half of me want to smash this to pieces as it constitutes the worst power creep I've seen in ages with 1 star, while another parts just loves it to death and wants to slap 5 stars + seal of approval on it. In the end, I do consider multiple infinite healing tricks and options that are way too powerful even within PoW's context 2 strikes against the book, but not enough to condemn it utterly. Had this no issues beyond the relics and outclassing old martial classes, I think I would have gone 4 stars with it.



In the end, I urge fans of high fantasy that want to dive headfirst into this to check it out; I also advise fans of low (or even medium) fantasy to steer clear and avoid this like the plague. I urge any DM to carefully consider allowing this book. Read EVERYTHING very carefully and ban the broken pieces. My final verdict will clock in at a very close, borderline 3 stars - the pieces that are good, are too good to dismiss.



Over 5K words in this review alone...so many hours. I'll put the book aside for now. Unfortunately, it won't make its way into my regular game, but I may one day pick it up again for crazy one-shots, until I have some time on my hand to rebuild this from the ground up to be balanced with barbarians, paladins etc.

Thank you for reading this 10-page monstrosity of a review, whether you agree with me or not, I hope I have given an adequate impression of the series and provided enough information for you to decide whether his is for you or not.

I remain yours truly,

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Path of War
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Village Backdrop: Starspun Hollow
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2014 04:24:11
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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



Starspun Hollow may seem like a mirage to the weary traveler - situated in the midst of a rather unpleasant swamp, the village breathes an air of hospitality one would not expect from such a remote location - and indeed, the population, mostly made up of humans and halflings indeed seems to be friendly and surprisingly wealthy - mostly due to an exotic resource of most fantastic and yet easy to integrate into a given campaign.



Not too long ago, a druid observing a rare species of spider noticed the reflective properties of their webs, which not only reflects moonlight, but which subsequently brought wealth to the remote locale - after all, what better way to clad the resplendent beauties at court than in comfortable clothes that shimmer and reflect?



Alas, this influx of demand also brought traders and more humans to the formerly halfling-dominated settlement and with them came demands on a more high-scale production of starsilk, echoing conflicts we can observe in real life - progress and the lure of wealth versus the old ways, with one side accusing the other of being overly cautious and the other smelling the taint of greed behind the looming progress.



Which of these proves to be true and how the village further develops is very much up to the DM, the players and the usual amount of whispers, events and characters help further fleshing out the village. The CR 7 sample character and her animal companion are also neat, though I have to say that I consider one thing a true pity - with such a rich, evocative background, why not make the silk a new magical material and provide tangible benefits for it? While not beyond the capabilities of any Dm, this constitutes the one oversight in an otherwise glorious installment of Village Backdrops.



Conclusion:

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



Nicholas Wasko's first Village Backdrop is a winner - Starspun hollow breathes adventure-potential, subdued, yet tangible fantasy and ideas galore - it is a village most players will love exploring and devising a reason to visit the place is built into it as well - this is a furious, glorious installment and were it not for the obvious oversight with the silk as an alchemical/magical resource, it would be an instant seal of approval candidate. Without it, it misses the seal by a margin - for "only" a highly recommended 5 star final verdict. Two thumbs up for the author - consider me stoked to read more from your pen, Mr. Wasko!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Starspun Hollow
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AL 6 - Playing the Game (DCC)
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/02/2014 05:25:59
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This funnel for 0-level DCC-characters clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



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



All right, still here? So, how does this adventure begin? Well, each character has met an interesting, strange traveler from a far away land who challenges the PC for a game of Arbakampsi, an easy, tactical board-game first introduced in a Purple Duck Storeroom-installment. Upon agreeing, the unsuspecting heroes to be find themselves trapped upon the board - separated ad forced t play a variant of the very game from within. In order to triumph, they have to understand their own predicament. Now the interesting component here would be that each character voices his/her intended action and then, after all have spoken, the judge tells the results.



The respective rings of the colored board (which is btw. provided in this supplement) feature challenges - beyond combat with serpents of water and windpigs, each ring also sports a puzzle - and these are interesting - like showing a player a circular message for ONE second - the only way out; requiring the PCs to work together.



In the central ring, a series of questions tests the mind of the PCs further - success at these questions may net the PCs elemental lords as patrons and corresponding benefits, whereas failure has them confront deadly, weapon-destroying duplicates.



The elemental princes/princesses Grom, Splaasha and Krakaal are provided alongside rules for spell-burn for them and advice on scaling/adapting the module and properly playing the game can be found herein as well - quite a feat at this brevity!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed n significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with nice b/w-artworks and a colored arbakampsi-board. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Perry Fehr is best when creating odd societies and believable environments or when going utterly bonkers - this module is a fine example of the latter - this uncommon take on the classic trope is dauntingly different: With a focus on player-smarts above PC-luck, this is a surprisingly challenging, thinking man's module and an uncommon, cool introduction to a given campaign, its potential for scaling further making this easily adapted to other systems and levels - since the scenario and the puzzles are the bulk of the module, this is an extremely versatile little gem. Uncommon, creative and fun, this pdf deserves a final rating of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
AL 6 - Playing the Game (DCC)
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Alternate Dungeons: Haunted House
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/02/2014 05:14:59
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' Alternate Dungeon-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!



As in the first installment of the series, we begin with basic considerations for making the change of scenery to the alternate dungeon interesting - this time emphasizing the importance of mirrors, evil emanations and stuck doors before beginning with advice on running the place - with animated objects, sounds, decrepit structures etc. helping in keeping up the atmosphere. Here, the house fares better than the groves, while in the suggested treasures, things necessarily become a bit more generic.



The suggested function, here more a combination of ambient effects and background story is more versatile than in the first installment. Once again, the pdf comes with advice on "harvesting" dressing, which feels a bit out of place in direct comparison to the groves -how does one harvest e.g. portraits that follow the players with their eyes? How does one harvest echoing footsteps? That being said, the dressing-table this time around does not have the filler roll twice/thrice and generally has quite an array of glorious entries that will especially help novices to the genre of horror make the stay at a haunted house memorable.



Now the haunted house denizens suggested as adversaries are more or less what you'd expect - ye olde' assortment of undead and the same holds true for the 3 haunts - dancing decor, arcane locking doors and the suggested hazards are rather conservative.



The 3 adventure hooks included are solid.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, but not as flawless as I've come to expect from Raging Swan Press. Layout adheres to RSP's elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks as well as fully bookmarked. Additionally, you receive two versions, one optimized for screen-use, one optimized for the printer.



Alexander Augunas' alternate dungeon-suggestions for haunted houses are solid especially for novice DMs looking for inspiration regarding haunted houses. Now if you're a veteran Ravenloft/CoC/etc.-DM, then this one probably won't blow you away - the helpful considerations were okay, yes, but e.g. escape prevention (a default trope in haunted houses!) is glossed over, as is the general location of the house. Harvesting suggestions for dressings feel weird in the context of the haunted house and the supplemental reskins/hazards are old tricks for veterans. Whether this pdf is for you very much depends on your experience with horror modules in old mansions - if you're a veteran, don't expect to find much new herein - unlike the installment on mystic groves, the mansions uniqueness is derived more from story and individual dressing and this pdf, by nature of its scope, is hard-pressed in providing enough on that front. If, on the other hand, you are a novice DM or simply have no experience with these types of set-ups, then this will make for a good step-by-step guideline for you, collecting some of the classic tricks and considerations. My final verdict will hence clock in at a final verdict between "good and useful for novices" and "nothing for veterans" of 3 stars - quintessentially, a solid pdf.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Dungeons: Haunted House
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Ultimate War
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/29/2014 04:09:24
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third expansion of the kingdom building/mass combat rules presented in Ultimate Campaign, expanded by the very man who wrote the original rules, clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages on how-to-use/what to expect, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 36 pages of content, so let's take a look!



This supplement kick off by eliminating two of my most serious gripes with the base mass combat rules from Ultimate Campaign. Number one: Ultimate Campaign does not distinguish between ranged and melee capacity, instead subsuming both under the termino umbrellone of OM, Offense Modifier. This resulted potentially in ridiculous scenarios of elven archer beating orc berserkers in melee. Ultimate War gets rid of OM in favor of separate Melee Value and Ranged Values, abbreviated MV and RV. YES!!! Secondly, the hit points as an abstract measurement to determine an army's deceased is replaced with casualties - which can be tracked individually/separately for sub-units etc., allowing much more detailed and finer tactical nuances. Best of all - both allow for easy downscaling back into Ultimate Campaign's base system, if you prefer the simpler take.



Leadership Bonus of a commander is equal to +1 for every full 5 ranks in Profession (Soldier) and high BABs (+6, +11, +16), Wis or Cha modifiers, certain feats etc. can further increase this bonus. The rather rudimentary selection of command boons is also expanded by this supplement - and the boons are great - Battlefield illumination (or making light-conditions worse!), autosupplying itself, con/desecrate battlefields, divine healing or barrages, smoke screens or particular proficiency when deployed against aerial armies - glorious! Have I mentioned the awesome effects of war chants or the option to execute precise, less damaging assaults via surgical strikes? Brilliant!



Speaking of which - combined arms. Where the general army as a base unit type would be the catch-all default, the rules provided herein allow for a finer distinction. Via these rules, armies are made up of units, which in turn can be made up of several divisions. This is analogue to the distinctions between fleet->squadron->ships. The number of soldiers in a unit is the same as the one in the default rules' army. Creating a unit follows, according to these rules, simple steps - you pay and gather them, you assign a commander (with PCs being particularly potent!) - which influences the amount of divisions in a unit a commander can handle - 3+ cha-mod, max 5 divisions can be contained and losing a division penalizes the unit. Each division can take casualties equal to its ACR before being defeated - this concludes that each unit has hit points equal to ACR times 5. Divisions reduced to 0 hp can be healed normally, but additional damage annihilates them. MV and RV are ACR+leadership bonus of the commander, provided the unit is properly equipped. If not all divisions are equipped to execute one type of attack, the overall value suffers - cool!



Morale score is the kingdom's loyalty divided by 20, min 1, max 10 and determines all the psychological components. A default value and advice for using morale sans kingdom building (Kudos!!) can also be found here. Determining overland movement, scouting capacity, camouflage, name and home-base - in 12 easy steps, just about every DM should be able to create an army - on my first try, it took me less than 5 minutes to properly apply these rules and generate a unit - WITH double-checking that I got everything right.

Each army may contain a number of units equal to the general's cha-mod+3, further increased by leadership, certain boons, etc. Battle Phases are influenced by the new distinctions between ranged and melee values - hence, a concise run-down of the phases is provided, thankfully including proper inclusion of not only the new casualties mechanic. It should also be noted that recruiting armies works perfectly in synergy with Ultimate Rulership as well as the base system. Applying simplified combats between aerial and naval ships etc. would also be discussed here. Now I've already mentioned aerial combat and indeed, aerial reconnaissance, altitude levels, visibility, concise effects of different wind strengths - the peculiarities of aerial combat are well addressed in sufficient details - from balloons to flying carpets and floating fortresses, this chapter adds the third dimension to mass combat - war rockets, solar sailors - every companion of the firmaments-using campaign should consider this the way to add mass combat to their arrays - glorious! (Be honest - you always wanted to fight dragons while aboard a war rocket!) And yes, this does provide full DVs, cover, dmg, stall, crash etc. values - and if that doesn't mean anything to you by now, then only because you don't have the pdf before you - the system is ridiculously easy to grasp and concise in its presentation.



Easy to grasp stats for vessels with drift speeds or those being able to climb altitudes, hovering etc. - all here and supplemented further by 12 unique tactics - from soaring sweeps to dogfighting and strafing runs, aerial combat has scarcely been this awesome and tactical! Now, of course this opens a whole new field - i.e. the combat of earthbound units versus airborne assailants - and from options like digging in to using grapnel shots, a whole new dimension, literally, is added to mass combat. Now if that isn't yet enough for you, let's take a look at yet another expansion - the one to the sea. "But wait, EZG," you say "I already have 3 systems for naval combats to choose from and didn't you say that Frog God Games' "Fire as She Bears" was absolutely awesome? Yes, I did, and I still consider the system the best naval combat system available for any d20-iteration. However, we're not talking about skirmishes between a couple of vessels, we're talking about the clash of whole fleets! And for that, well, let's just say that the rules herein apply the same thoroughness to naval warfare as to that in the skies - depth zones (which allow for submarines and magical threats), wind effects and naval units...ask and ye shall find herein. By the way: All you require, once again provided in detail including required buildings to procure them (forgot to mention that regarding aerial units - yes, when used with kingdom-building, required buildings etc. are provided!) alongside massive tables of sample vessels in one handy tome. Want to know the level of detail these rules support - the difficulty of fighting back once your vessel's been sunk may impose a massive penalty, but it doesn't mean that your unit can't take down a hostile ship.

Which also becomes relevant since the system utilizes one unified frame of rules. Why is that important? Let's say a unit of sahuagin on board of a balloon has attacked your galley; You manage to put down the balloon and it crashes into the sea - you can continue playing all levels of combats like that with one single system. Want to play the fantasy-equivalent of the D-Day? Go ahead, these rules have you covered! Now while there is bound to be some overlap with the aerial tactics, I should not fail to mention that naval combat also receives quite an array of unique, naval tactics that add even more options to the fray.



Now sooner or later, assault on fortifications is bound to happen - and if you ever tried to use ultimate combat and campaign in one and the same campaign, you may have noticed some discrepancy there - instead of assuming abstract siege engines to be a part of a given unit, we receive a special, Knowledge (engineering)-and int-based LB to determine how commanders of units of artillery work - which makes MUCH more sense and allows for generals to specifically target these weapons...

Speaking of strategies - the array of ranged and close-quarters siege weaponry and the vast array of associated strategies, from bombardment (e.g. via smoke, plagued corpses, etc...) to infiltration and scatter volleys makes for a superb selection of choices - even before the 7 new magical siege weapons - like apocalypse zombie siege shots, adamantine rams or ooze-siege shots - glorious!



The pdf also comes with a neat index of the tables for quick reference and it should be noted that perfect rules-synergy with Ultimate Campaign, Ultimate Rulership and Ultimate Battle is maintained.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to legendary Games' two-column full-color standard with awesome full-color artworks. The pdf is relatively printer-friendly and comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf also contains the good type of hyperlink, making the rules presented even easier to grasp.



Jason Nelson took a *long* time making this final piece of the triumvirate of expansions and refinements to Paizo's kingdom building/mass-combat system (which he also wrote, just fyi). It is not a big surprise then, that the resulting books, unfettered from the limitations of page-count and relative simplicity, have been an utter BLAST to read and use. Offering options to get rid of some overly generic simplifications of the base system, the first two books were beyond superb and managed to add so incredibly much to the base systems I never, ever want to play kingdom building and mass combat without their options again.



Now the thing is - Ultimate War was pending and its task was to close the final gaps and cover the true clash of armies, remembering all the small modifications AND refining the base system. I'll make this short:



If you even remotely plan to run mass combat BUY THIS NOW. The additional options, even if you use neither aerial, nor naval or siege combat, are GOLD: The fact that they work perfectly together makes for truly dynamic mass combat. the vast expansion of boons and tactics translate to mass combat that is infinitely more exciting, strategic and ultimately fun. Now it's perhaps due to approximately 15K points of warhammer miniatures in my attic, but I expect some tactical options from a given system and Ultimate War's expansion fits the bill perfectly - indeed, the variance and peculiarities of aerial combat and naval combat allow for a finer gradation in these areas.



The most impressive component of these rules, beyond their modularity and synergy, though, would be the fact that this one system supports not only all those particular special cases, it allows for transparency and overlap between them - ships that can turn aerial? Why not! Cadres of wyrms rising from the waves to take to the skies, then land and wreck havoc among the elven archers?? Go for it, with this book, you can properly portray that - and the dogfight between the draconic assault and the giant eagle riding knights in the air! The assault of the gnomish submersible-riding saboteurs on the siege-weapon bearing frigate. This book is glorious, a must-buy for everyone who considered the base rules of Ultimate Campaign too simple, too rudimentary - with this, you could conceivably play a thoroughly compelling, interesting, strategic CAMPAIGN of warfare - and honestly, I'd probably have a nerdgasm if Legendary Games released a full mass combat-AP using these rules. For now, I have to plot, devise strategies and generate *a lot* of adventure material; I just have resolved to up the emphasis on war in my current campaign!



This book is brilliant, a worthy successor to its stellar companion books, and well worth a final rating of 5 stars + seal of approval + nomination as a candidate for my top ten of 2014. An absolute must-buy-level tome and one that also receive the endzeitgeist essential-tag as one of the must-have tomes for a campaign!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate War
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Town Backdrop: Wolverton
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/29/2014 04:02:06
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at a massive 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page statblocks by CR-index, 1 page advice on how to read statblocks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let's take a look!



First of all, this is a kind of full circle for me - when I started reviewing, Raging Swan Press' free mini-setting The Lonely Coast immediately grabbed my attention and made me buy Retribution, their first module. Now, hundreds of reviews of Raging Swan Press-supplements later, this book provides the fully detailed information on the largest settlement in that remote stretch of land, the town of Wolverton. Hence, it is only appropriate that we begin this book with a proper introduction to the stretch of land, including traveling distances, weather etc.



Now, if you know the village backdrop-series (and you SHOULD!), you'll be familiar with the formula used for this town - we receive a full-blown town statblock, information on what magic items can be bought, town lore, nomenclature, dressing habits, etc. However, as befitting of a larger settlement, Wolverton is more than just a village on steroids.



This becomes readily apparent from the extremely detailed map to the sheer number of notable places provided. (As always, player friendly maps can be downloaded on raging Swan Press' homepage.) 28 different notable locations at a glance are provided, and for conveniences sake and to help navigation, we also have them grouped by type - see, THAT is considerate! Wolverton is a walled city at the coast, situated atop some cliffs and the castle of the local pseudo-aristocracy, the Lochers, situated on a promontory. The town features a quarter separated from the rest of the town by cliffs (keep the rabble out) and sports a massive river flowing through it, the Arisum. Hence, the town also features several bridges that span the river and the town is fortified with solid walls.



So far, so good - but what is going on in the place? Well, a metric ton of things: let's begin with whispers and rumors - as opposed to just 6 for a village, we receive a FULL PAGE of 50 rumors, each of which has the potential to spark a full-blown adventure! Another example for this pdf going above and beyond would be the inclusion of information for kingdom-building and using Wolverton in conjunction with such a campaign. Festivals and traditions like "Wolf's Night" provide more than just a bit of local color, in the aforementioned example, townsfolk bake wolf-shaped biscuits and children get to eat fang-shaped sweet bread while adults in wolf skin walk the streets to scare children. Now if you can't use this festival to e.g. convert something Halloween/samhain-themed or make a lycanthrope-plot more interesting, I don't know! Weekly markets and a total of no less than 50 entries of sights and sounds (think of them as mini-hooks, dressing, etc.) spanning two-pages further enhance the unique and detailed perspective one gets of the glorious town.



Of course, if you prefer hooks to be less subtle, perhaps the 50-entry strong, two-page spanning table of events might do - from street urchins trying to steal from the PCs to being recruited for the theatre to pouring rain that renders the muddy roads difficult terrain, these events not only are interesting, they are, most of the time, downright inspiring, especially for the brevity with which they have to work. Oh, and if THAT still is not enough, you'll be happy to know that properly and fully developed hooks are interspersed throughout the whole book.



Now the town itself has plenty of truly interesting locales and places to inspire the prospective DM - take an inn, " The Hare and the Ass", which has recently been taken over by a half-orc. Said half-orc was raised by dwarves and thus knows the recipe of the Thunderhammer clan's famous beer, seeing quite a few visitors as a result - in spite of the latent xenophobia exhibited towards the green-skin.



While at no point obtrusive, fans of Raging Swan press will rejoice at e.g. small Easter-eggs and tie-ins with Hosford and other locales in and around the Lonely Coast. What this pdf acts like, can be best described as the massive linchpin that ties the whole of the Lonely Coast and its peculiarities together, rendering the whole picture more concise - while adding flourishes to just about every component of the area.



The various taverns, people controlled by intelligent helmets - we have *a lot* going on here - including strange experiments, no less than 3(!!!) major smuggling gangs (including their own conflicts, moralities, leaders and headquarters), burgeoning sorcerous power among those that should not e able to exhibit it (and some intrigue there...) - we have * A LOT* going on in this town - enough to cover a bunch of PC-levels!



Beyond this extremely detailed town, though, we also receive statblocks of its inhabitants - from merchants and peasants, reeves and high priests, rulers, veteran watchmen and a whole slew of smugglers and low-lives can be found herein - including the signature detailed fluff to supplement all of the named NPC-statblocks - background story, personality, mannerisms, distinguishing features and character-specific hooks - anything you ask for, it's here.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I did not notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' b/w-two-column standard, is printer-friendly and generally nice to look at. The artworks range from thematically fitting stock art to pieces I haven't seen before and the cartography is awesome - the town makes sense and looks rather neat. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use, one to be printed out, and both come excessively bookmarked.



I can't comment on the print-edition since I do not own it (yet).



John Bennett delivers the final missing piece of the puzzle that is The Lonely Coast and much like many a puzzle, this one piece makes the whole picture seem all the more enticing. As a hub full of adventuring potential, Wolverton elevates the other pdfs in and around the Lonely Coast by serving as a plausible, cool town full of local color, nice customs and adventuring potential. Even when used on its own, though, the town shines - Wolverton has taken to heart all the little improvements of the "small" series- extremely detailed, with rumors, sights and hooks galore, it also provides a multitude of flavors of adventuring it supports: Wilderness? No problem. Dungeon? Why not. Coastal caves? Covered. Courtly intrigue? Possible. Shadow War? Jup, feasible. You name it, this place has the means to provide an extremely detailed canvas for your brush.



Wolverton is more than just an oversized village backdrop - it is a full-blown, thriving, pulsing town rife with adventure potential, a place filled to the brim with details and local color, expertly crafted to serve as a hub for PCs, to support a plethora of playing styles...and still retain a unique identity. An impressive feat indeed and well worth 5 stars + my seal of approval, as well as a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2014.


Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Town Backdrop: Wolverton
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Animal Races: Clan of the Cat
Publisher: Eric Morton Presents
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/29/2014 03:52:53
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Animal Races-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



We kick off this pdf with a superbly-written piece of in-character prose, provided by a feline therian, extolling the virtues and peculiarities of cats and their experience - for example the custom to measure time in 12-hour-cycles. The level of detail provided for the feline therians is up to all expectations - age, height and weight-table, relationships, adventuring - all covered.



Rules-wise, we receive two different attribute arrays - medium catfolk receive +2 Dex, -2 Wis, while small catfolk receive +2 Dex, -2 Str. Small catfolk receive a base speed of 20 ft., medium catfolk the normal 30 ft. Members of the clan of the cat also receive low-light vision, scent, natural armor +1 (increase to +2 at 10th level), a primary natural bite attack of 1d4/1d3 (M/S) and have these base traits modified by the chosen clan:

Cats receive +2 to Int and may choose Cat Clan Heritage as a rogue talent, cheetahs receive +2 Cha and may use Cha as governing attribute for monk class features and receive the Cat Clan Sprinter-feat as a monk bonus feat. Leopards also receive +2 to Cha, which somewhat conflicts with the fluff, which asserts their toughness and athleticism - was Con intended here? Anyway, they may choose Cat Clan Lurker as a rogue talent. Lion Clan members also receive +2 Cha and may select Cat Clan Heritage as a rage power. Lynx Academy members who left their clan receive +2 to Int and may opt for Cat Clan Heritage as an alchemist discovery. Tiger clan members receive +2 Int and can select Cat Clan Heritage as a witch's hex.



Now the modularity of the race goes beyond that - the three aforementioned feats (Cat Clan Heritage, Cat Clan Lurker and Cat Clan Sprinter) can be taken multiple times and allow for the progressive accumulation of additional racial traits, which include claws, climb speeds, faster movement etc. - the interesting component here would be the fact that e.g. adding the grab quality to bites, increasing bite damage etc. - the available options scale within the feats: Upon taking a feat a certain amount of times, your selection is broadened to include advanced tricks and options Pounce, rake etc. - all possible, but only at the investment of a significant amount of resources -as they should be. I tried hard to break these three feats and balance-wise, they withstood my endeavors -kudos!



Now, as with the Clan of the Dog, proper heraldry is provided for the clan, and we receive a deity-write-up, this time Ishtar, and the folkloristic take on somewhat feline monsters - from the borrowed pugwampis to shiras and silvanshees, we receive a lot of rather damn cool pieces of information that help ground and root the Clan of the Cat within the framework of a campaign. Now, if you haven't read my review of Clan of the Dog, you should be aware that aforementioned heraldic symbols also double as traits to choose from. Relationships among sub-species and with other clans are also covered.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, easy to read and elegant two-column b/w-standard well complemented by the fitting b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.



Eric Morton's Animal Races-series ranks among the most impressive discoveries that has landed on my virtual desk in quite a while, at least as far as race-pdfs are concerned - so far, I have read two and both provided superb content, extremely modular, balanced races - and much like the pdf on dogs, the feline therians just brim with imagination, style and wonder. Studded to an almost unprecedented brim with grand ideas, this pdf offers a varied and distinct take on catfolk - to the point where, for the very first time, I consider catfolk more than just elves with fur and will allow them in my game. Not only thanks to the rock-solid rules, but mainly due to this pdf generating a distinct, viable identity for these feline fellows. If my gushing wasn't indication enough - this pdf is a true steal and well worth the low asking price - final verdict: 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Animal Races: Clan of the Cat
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Savage Alternate Class
Publisher: Forest Guardian Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/28/2014 04:10:17
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This alternate class clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



No the terminology might be considered a problem from the get-go - the word "Savage" constitutes more than a direct opposition to "civilized men." Hence, the 1st page is devoted to an explanation that acknowledges that this pdf is not based on any real life cultures -I applaud this maturity. If you're interested in the genesis of the development and meanings associated with this particular dichotomy, feel free to drop me a line.



The Savage class is an alternate class for both barbarian and monk, meaning that multiclassing into either is prohibited. The class receives d12, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with axes and generally, stone age-style weapons - a comprehensive guideline for savage weapons and armors would be included here, allowing for further, campaign world specific customizations of proficiencies. When wearing medium or heavy armor, the savage loses both fast movement, furious blows and the AC-bonus. It should also be noted that the savage can add two skills of their choice as tribal lore to their array of class skills.



The class also receives full BAB-progression, good fort and ref-saves, an AC (and CMD!)-bonus scaling up to +5 and increased movement rate scaling up to +60 ft. What are furious blows? Well, at first level, the savage can execute +1 attack, imposing a -2 penalty to all attacks. These scale upwards at 8th and 15th level and these attacks may only be executed with savage weapons. Interestingly, the ability manages to get two-weapon fighting rules-interaction right - there is none this time around and this is good in this case - the ability is rather powerful, though thankfully, certain massive weapons have an additional penalty applied.



Now the savage may also enter a primal state as a full-round action that provokes AoOs. Said state can be maintained up to 24 hours and provides +2 to Intimidate, Handle Animals and Sense Motive skill checks and Improved Unarmed Strike as a feat, which also works for the purposes of feat-prerequisites - nice catch! Additionally, the state can be expended to power abilities and feats, somewhat akin to how psionic foci work - the lists of feats/powers contain the necessary information for which needs the expenditure. Instead of a rage, savages may enter so-called rampages for up to 4+con-mod rounds per day, +2 per additional class level. While in a rampage, savages receive +2 to will-saves, acrobatics, climb and swim-checks. Now rampage also offers temporary hit points equal to foe's HD for every enemy reduced to 0 hit points or below - surprisingly, the ability comes absolutely kitten-proof - no way to abuse this! Gloriously done!



Now the next thing would be a bit complex, so bear with me - savages of 2nd level (and every even level thereafter) may select a monk's bonus feat or a barbarian rage power as a savage power, though the latter only work while rampaging. Evasion and improved evasion may be chosen as well, the latter thankfully with a level-cap. A massive list of rage powers from core, APG and UC are provided and yes, the pdf is smart enough to prevent combinations of different totem rage powers. The class also receives uncanny dodge at 2nd level (improved at 5th) and a scaling danger sense that translates to a bonus to initiative and a bonus to AC when being attacked by ranged weapons in the surprise round - nice spider-sense! Savages also receive scaling bonuses versus diseases and poisons that turn to immunity at very high levels.



Also rather nice - savages may learn to receive bonuses versus particular spell schools (including psionic ones!), but this is not where we stop:



At 4th level, the savage receives a pool of feral points equal to 1/2 class level +con-mod. As long as the pool contains at least 1 point, rampaging savages may have weapons count as magic for DR-purposes and at 9th level, also as cold iron/silver. When in primal state, a savage may expend 1 point from the feral pool as a swift action to increase movement by 20 ft for 1 round, +2 natural AC for 1 round, +20 (!!!) acrobatics for jumping purposes only or +1 to critical confirmation rolls for con-mod rounds. Additionally, 4th level savages may expend feral points to quickly heal non-lethal damage or diminish the duration of some negative conditions.



At 7th level, savages heal even without resting at an increased natural rate and increases the amount of conditions they can diminish. Where math became complex for me would be the option to expend 2 feral points for +1 round of rampage - think of all the combinations possible...



At 11th level, savages receive ferocity and the truly high-level savages may enter blood rages. The capstone makes the savage tougher and makes criting them very hard - but this is not where we stop; This pdf also provides quite a few archetypes, first of which would be the Dread Savage. Instead of entering a primal state, these guys may enter a kind of death-like trance that has them count as undead, but still allows them to be healed by positive energy - provided they succeed a concentration-check. Their rampage allows them to render targets hit by their wight strikes shaken, allowing the dread savage to expend rounds of rage for additional slam attacks (no synergy with furious blows, though) and the archetype also receives a debuff aura , increased saves versus level-drain etc. The dread pool the archetype has, also allows for wholly unique benefits and 3 new rage powers complement the package.



The second archetype would be the Noble Savage - noble savages receive an unleashed presence in lieu of rampaging, use their cha-mod to determine their pool and may expend said points to grant themselves cha-mod as bonus to saves for 1 round. It should be mentioned that the presence has the bonuses applied to completely social skills and that it's governed by cha as well. Almost perfect negotiators, they can grant themselves massive bonuses to bluff, but thankfully not for feinting purposes.



Next up would be a special treat with the phrenic savage alternate class, a psionic alternative to the base savage - these guys receive changed save-progressions, a limited array of power points (scaling from 1 to 70), governed by wisdom. The phrenic savage also receives unlocked talent and a pretty limited array of psionic tricks thus, later learning to use wis to govern it instead of cha. Phrenic savages may expend power points to temporarily grant them rapid metabolism and similar feats, including a kind of DR versus ability score reduction (somewhat unfortunately named "ability", making it slightly more opaque than it should be). The improved fiery discorporation capstone at 20th level is also rather nice, though the phrenic savage pays for the psionic tricks with both the flurry-like trick and the rampages. Still, would have loved the class to mention for what it is an alternate class - I *assume* full multiclassing potential, but I'm pretty sure the class probably ought to have some limit. The 4 psionic feats used by the alternate class and the two psionic powers are provided in here as well.



We also receive a final page of primitive weapons, courtesy of Little Red Goblin Games, ranging from the great macuahuitl to the gunstock club - these are all solid.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - while, in some instances, wording is slightly less precise than I would have wanted it to be, over all, the pdf manages to handle the complex content rather well. Minor issues like the "st/nd/rd/th" missing behind the numbers in the class level table of the Phrenic Savage can be considered generally cosmetic. The pdf comes with glorious, original full-color pieces of art and the 2-column b/w-standard generally is printer-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Morgan Boehringer (lead developer), with Jim Wettstein (and additional content by Keil Hubert and Christos Gurd), just delivers. There's no way around it, the savage may be the most interesting melee-base-class I've seen in quite a while - it is powerful and I was honestly surprised that it fared so well in playtest and turned out to be rather well-balanced. This is honestly the level of awesomeness I would have expected from each and every ACG-class. The savage has more options than either monk or barbarian, without invalidating the parent classes. The additional content just represents the icing on the cake. The psionic variant class is also solid, though it feels slightly less inspired - mainly because the class does not have that many tricks up its sleeve - the unlocked talent route does not necessarily provide a selection of powers to use, which the pdf seems to imply. Unlocked Talents nets the phrenic savage exactly ONE power, which is prescribed by the pdf. Why not provide at least a slight array of e.g. psychometabolism choices?



The psionic savage is simply not half as interesting and flexible as the base class and thus, would be one of my minor complaints. Another minor issue would be the 19th level of the savage class, which is a dead level. Now are these minor issues? Yes. Is the overall class AWESOME? HECK YEAH! The savage constitutes a damn cool addition to any kind of group, is fluff-wise easily implemented, complex, yet easy to grasp and would be 5 stars + seal of approval were it not for aforementioned minor glitches. With the slight imperfections, which in no way spoil this otherwise damn cool class, I will instead settle "only" for a final verdict of 5 stars. Consider this the monk/barbarian-class the ACG should have delivered, but didn't.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Savage Alternate Class
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