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Alternate Dungeons: Mystic Groves
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/07/2014 08:35:06
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' new 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!



So what is this? Well, we've all been there - the oomphteenth cavern/dungeon/mine is only so exciting to explore - sometimes, one needs a change of scenery - and exactly that would be the task of this pdf - it begins with the general scene-setting: Whether by the powers of druids, fey or what have you not - mystic groves are essentially forest dungeons that require special considerations - like flight, the dimension and location of trees, etc. - something the pdf manages to address nicely, while also providing additional complications like making the dungeon sport a confounding haze that limits sight, render the trees intelligent (and the dungeon thus mobile...ouch!) etc.



Beyond these basic considerations, the tracking, underbush, natural hazards, a table of detection DCs to be noticed by wandering monsters while fighting - the advice given is concise, solid and helps prevent glaring oversights that might otherwise have resulted in face-palm-worthy moments.



Now suggestions for appropriate treasure in the guise of materials and alchemical ingredients are provided alongside 3 suggested functions to serve as the reason why the place exists in the first place. Now the cool thing about the dressing table would be that suggested DCs to harvest them are provided - 40-entry-strong (plus an entry for roll twice/thrice) can be found here - from fruit growing animals to crystalline growths to animals being born here with DR, the respective entries have more tie-ins with mechanics than in the dressing-pdfs - which is a good thing in this context.



beyond these, we also receive quite an extensive list of suggested adversaries to use to populate the grove, while suggested traps (including two new ones) allow you to further modify the dungeon alongside glyph of warding-duplicating mold and similar hazards. Should you require further inspiration- while one should probably be called "BLightbringer", not "BRightbringer", the three general hooks are nice.



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' Mystic Groves are cool - the general idea-kit/tool.kit provided herein make constructing a truly uncommon dungeon relatively easy on the DM and the wealth of ideas is pronounced and nice. However, as an early installment in the series, I also feel that this pdf could have used an additional piece or two - expanded terrain-features to drop in, especially efficient tactics (by PCs and adversaries) to be wary of - something like this. As written, this is an inspiring little toolkit, but one that falls a bit short of perfection and what it could have been. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Dungeons: Mystic Groves
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[PFRPG] Player's Options: The Infinyte
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/04/2014 04:35:11
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Player's Option-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 6.5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the Infinyte!



The Infinyte needs to be non-evil with a neutral component and is a 20-level base class that receives proficiency in light and medium armor, shields, martial and simple weapons, full BAB-progression, d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level and good fort-saves.



The Infinyte is also interesting in that the class is built around the hero point system - as champions of the multiverse, they may detect law and chaos and suffer from an interesting quirk: Proximity to other members of their class turns out to be detrimental to their well-being. Now these beings also, much like brooding heroes, receive a side-kick, a so-called consort that strengthens the resolve and prowess of the Infinyte. Now to offset that, DM's receive hero points as well to challenge the infinyte - why? Because the class receives so-called eternal hero points - which REGENERATE. Yeah. Ouch. While not as strong as Arcana Evolved's hero points, PFRPG hero points can still be used to cheat death...



Beyond that, Infinityes can also scavenge in ANY class feature, any class ability via incarnate memory -one at 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th level - this translates to recalling a talent from a previous incarnation - and can be either a class ability, a feat or skills - in any way, the nigh-non-existent progression makes this cherry-picking kind of workable - a total of 5 levels progression isn't that impressive. Feat-wise, the Infinyte counts as all classes for the purpose of this ability - however, weirdly, the text contradicts itself, once excluding races and once claiming that the infinyte counts as all races for the purposes of taking feats via this ability Some clarification would be in order here. The same goes for the rest of the ability, which, while understandable, could require some explicit statements regarding e.g. saves based on character/class level not scaling (or do they?) etc.



The Infinyte also increases hero points maximu, gains an increasing amount of rerolls of d20s etc. - so far, so good. Where any semblance of balance jumps out of the window would be via the option to, a limited amount of times per day, starting at 6th level and scaling upwards, take a additional round worth of actions - at any point in the initiative order. Not even an action. Not even an immediate action. Urgh. Compared to that, the alignment-spell immunity at 20th level and the DR gained feel a bit like a letdowner of a capstone. Especially when taking into account that the class essentially receives an item of power, a kind of DiY-scaling legendary item that you can develop over the levels - which is awesome. 3 sample items are provided with their level-assigned benefits to give you an idea here.



2 new, hero point based-feats for the infinyte are also provided, as is a comprehensive explanation of the hero point system and a sample level 1 NPC.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, if not perfect -a tad bit more streamlining regarding the rules would really help this class. Layout adheres to PDG's printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked in spite of its brevity - nice.



Perry Fehr's Infinyte is...AWESOME. Yeah, I know what you're thinking - 2 hero points = cheat death, lot of rerolls, scavenging in weird class abilities...regenerating hero points...how can this be balanced? Well, it kind of is and isn't. The issue is complex, so hear me out - on the one hand, the ability/feat-wildering requires tighter wording, but is damn close to working as *intended.* What do I mean by that? This class represents a champion of the multiverse, a born hero of reality. It is kind of supposed to be a bit off the chains and by its very fluff, it makes the class rather central to a group, which ought to be cleared with all involved, especially the other players. Otherwise, the constant death-cheating will feel unfair.



Now that being said - this class represents a capital H HERO, a champion with all the associated makings - sidekick, nemesis, heirloom item of power, strange tricks no one else can do... I *love* this guy. That being said, beyond aforementioned wording issues, the bonus round should at least cost an action and probably...should be severely restricted. If some kind of time limit beyond the generous hero point regeneration is applied to the amount of times they can cheat death (perhaps based on cha? on HD? Perhaps class level x 1/2?), I would actually see me allow these guys in my game. This, in spite of the relative brevity (if you take away the hero point-explanation, this is short!), should be considered one of the finest classes to come out of the Player's Option-series so far - one intended for mature and high-power groups and players that don't wish to hog the spotlight and certainly not a class for every campaign or group, but also a class unlike any I've encountered so far - in a good way. This has all the makings of a 5 star + seal of approval class, but due to the glitches still present, I will settle, at least for now, on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down by a margin to 3...and remain very expectant of the version in the final book - with some polish, this is a gem.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] Player's Options: The Infinyte
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The Edgewalker: Wielder of Light and Darkness
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/04/2014 04:32:07
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This revised and expanded version of the base-class by Interjection Games clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC (and a story of the genesis of this class - it has been commissioned by Preston Mitchell!), 1 page SRD, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



The edgewalker gets 4+Int skills per level, d8, proficiency with simple weapons, short sword, rapier, sap, kukri, shortbow and whip as well as light armors and shields. Over the 20 levels of the class it receives a sneak attack progression from +1d6 to a maximum of +7d6 at 19th level and the class gets a 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref- and will-saves. As you can imagine, Uncanny Dodge also can be found among the class features, at 3rd level.



So, what is the edgewalker's deal? The class can be described as a martial artist with a thematic connection to light and darkness - a kind of monk/rogue blend, if you will, and more importantly, one that does not fall by the wayside. Edgewalkers at first level receive thus two pools - the radiance and the shadow pool, both at least containing one point and both using an attribute modifier (wis for radiance, int for shadow) to determine additional points for the respective pools. At 5th level and every six levels thereafter, the edgewalker receives a +2 to maximum pool size that can be freely distributed among the pools (for a net gain of +1/+1 or +0/+2)



Now as a Batman/stealth type of class, receiving evasion relatively soon should not be considered uncommon (2nd level, improved evasion at 11th level, nerfing these two and taking away any lingering sense of these components being problematic) and 6th level edgewalkers receive hide in plain sight as long as they are within 10 feet of a sufficiently large shadow. Moving hide in plain sight further down the class progression was a smart choice, rendering the balance of the class better for it. Now this still makes targeting the edgewalker with spells et al rather difficult - the class is geared rather well towards taking softer targets out.



Now beyond FCOs for core races, drow, aasimar, tieflings, hobgoblins, kobolds, orcs and puddlings (all solid), we also receive 4 feats for the class, but these require explanation of the core talent system of the class: Essentially, edgewalkers start the game with two so-called waypoints known, one light, one darkness and at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the class receives an additional waypoint. Now there is a cool restriction in place here - the edgewalker needs to keep a balance between light and darkness, which translates to waypoint selection: If your light-based waypoints exceed those that are darkness-based, you need to learn a darkness-based one next and vice versa, creating a kind of equilibrium. It should also be noted that a couple of these waypoints count as either light, or darkness, depending on your needs.



The new feats can be used to gain a waypoint and do some interesting things - "Harmony of Essence" increases your effective edgewalker level for the purpose of the other type of waypoint whenever you use one, rewarding mechanically the switching between light and darkness. Luminous truth nets you the benefits of true seeing for 1 round as a supernatural effect (an effective caster level or SP as a base type would have been better, probably) and another feat allows you to alleviate one restriction of certain waypoints - some of these have asterisks, which denote that they manipulate the shadow of the edgewalker for the effect. That means only one of these can be in effect at a given time, though aforementioned feat allows you to have two of these in effect at a given time.



Now before I get towards waypoints, you should also be aware that at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, the edgewalker also receives a greater waypoint, which can be considered a kind of more powerful talent - one that requires some planning, for the greater waypoints also have to adhere to the light/darkness-dichotomy, offering opportunities for proper planning of character progression.



Now you're of course interested in the aforementioned waypoints and the waypoints themselves have diverse prerequisites - from none, to level-caps and other waypoints have certain skills and feats as prerequisites.. Now what can you for example make with these waypoints? Well, since there are more than 50 in here, I'm just going to note that the following is not a comprehensive list, but rather an array of options that should be considered kind of presentational for the class.



Very interesting for blocking charges and the like, "A Thousand Grasping Tendrils" allows you to, as a swift action, reshape your shadow into an array of tendrils that create a micro-aura of 10 feet of difficult terrain around you - which, of course, does not hinder you in any way. Ignoring difficult terrain and effortlessly scaling any incline less than 90° can also be done by these fellows. Another waypoint offers a dazzle against a creature you threaten - sans save, as an immediate action, useable whenever you switch between light and darkness consecutively. Armors of light (that do not necessarily enhance your stealth...), a shaken-causing breath weapon of black wind, 1 round slow at a higher save DC, better stealth, cushioning falls (the longer the fall, the higher the cost), very minor reflexive damage (plus dazzle), creating areas of demoralizing gloom and putting creatures subjected to fatigue-related negative conditions or con-damage/drain to sleep is rather interesting. Why? because for the edgewalker, rolling bad on sneak attack is not necessarily a bad thing: For each natural 1,2 or 3 rolled on such a roll, you also deal one point of con damage if you take the 8th level dark waypoint.



Now where things get interesting would e.g. be with the exceedingly cool ability that lets you set up your shadow as a flanking supplement and, quite possibly for the first time since I've been doing this reviewing thing, gets such an ability actually right. Now, with Ichor of the Firefly, the edgewalker may coat his/her weapons with virulent light that invades the bodies of target, negating invisibility etc., while also providing significant bonus damage, especially against creatures sensitive to light. Making conversely, a poison from darkness itself that scales damage-wise over the levels also becomes a distinct possibility. Speaking of said poison - if you use the dark-aligned poison, you may add a neat combo (though the following is not restricted to the darkness-based poison) that allows you to ignite the poison coursing through your foe's veins, dealing significant fire damage. Damn cool!



The equivalent of solo tactics sans requiring an ally (but only while your shadow isn't otherwise occupied) also makes for a cool array of tactical options. Want to know what's lurking round the corner, in the adjacent room etc.? What about stretching your shadow up to 60 feet and looking through its eyes? This ability, which can be taken at first level, is narrative gold and iconic in imagery!



Of course, various spell-like abilities, poison use, pillars of light that heal minor damage, motes of searing light or making your shadow the equivalent of a kind of bear trap are possible, but for me, the anti-ray/attack-roll spell Tenebrous Tango, which allows you to have spells utterly miss you - think mirror image variant with an edge. At a permanent cost of 1 point from a pool of your choosing, you may also master poisons to the extent they become more potent, making your poisons at +1 DC more lethal - and with quite a few requiring consecutive saves in PFRPG, this makes sense.



Now I did mention those greater waypoints and as you may have imagined, they are the big ones - Summoning forth several shadows from you one - cool. But more interesting would, at least for me, be the game-changer that is Cumulative Exposure - it deals automatic damage to all adjacent creatures whenever you subsequently use two waypoints. Using multiple dark waypoints may also yield bonuses and igniting mundane light sources to emit blinding flashes makes for a cool idea and better light/darkness poison/ichors are lethal and cool - what about e.g. an ichor that makes the target suffer from miss chances galore, but also receive an applicable miss chance as it becomes insubstantial -nice reflection of the duality-theme in the crunch here. Now also rather awesome would be the option to steal other creature's shadows via ranged CMB to power darkness-waypoints. Cool here - the ability manages to properly prevent kitten-bag abuse. Lifelinks also are possible - ouch! Now it should be noted that, although the page-count of the pdf remains unchanged, quite a few stock artworks have been taken out of the file to make room for more waypoints, which is rather cool and adds to the arsenal of an already fun and inspired class. It should be specifically noted that the greater waypoints receiving some awesome tricks - what about establishing a link that damages a target when you are healed? Yeah, evil and oh so cool!



The capstone of the class allows you to use radiance and darkness pool interchangeably, with the on-intended pool only increasing the cost of waypoints by 1 when paid from the other pool - which seems a bit boring at first, but the capstone greater waypoints more than make up for this - raise dead sans material components, ignoring just about all immunities, DRs etc. for a time or having your shadow utterly erase a creature from existence - quite awesome imagery and tricks await at the peak of power as well!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to interjection Games' 2-column b/w-standard and is printer-friendly. The artwork is thematically fitting stock and the pdf has no bookmarks, which is a minor comfort detriment.



This class by Bradley Crouch is rather simple when compared to other Interjection Games-classes and should not overexert anyone's capability to understand it getting the class at first read-through is all but guaranteed. That being said, the edgewalker is more complex than one would assume at first glance - one can set up quite a bunch of rather interesting combos and the synergy with some abilities present in the edgewalker makes for a surprisingly unique playing experience. When I went into this class, I honestly expected either a rip-off of a certain PrC from the 3.X Book of 9 Swords or a slightly more mystical ninja.

What I got turned out to be more rewarding than either. Whereas the ninja-class is essentially a type of rogue on steroids, playing an edgewalker in game, while similar on paper, feels actually much more tactical, more rewarding. The edgewalker is a great skirmisher/trick fighter and surprisingly fun to play. My final verdict is hence based on how the class performed in actual game, on its rather cool playstyle and neat variety - add the option for easy expansion of the system and the easy to grasp mechanics and we have a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval - now that we actually get more content and the rough edges have been polished off, there is literally no reason not to get this cool class and give it a try!



(Especially since I happen to have read the Antipodist, Interjection Games upcoming take on shadow magic, and the classes WILL have some interesting synergy...)

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Edgewalker: Wielder of Light and Darkness
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Pure Steam Campaign Setting
Publisher: ICOSA Entertainment
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2014 03:33:07
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 226 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page backer-thanks, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page of back cover, leaving us with 216 pages of content, so let's check this out!



So, after a short introductory text, we kick off this massive tome with a treatise on the core-races in the context of the Pure Steam Campaign setting, which translates to each of the core races receiving different ethnicities - usually, this would be one or two distinct sub-species, all with distinct look, culture etc. -and rules-wise, studded with a selection of alternate racial traits to choose from to represent the unique roles they have within the context of the Pure Steam world - did you, for example, know that amber elves tend to be accomplished martial artists? Or that the orcs (here known as Jonnish), are actually accomplished metallurgists and much more civilized? Over all, this chapter provides a neat array of balanced options and enough cultural information for the respective ethnicities, including those of the humans, to make a character feel distinct in the racial choice.



The next chapter then would deal with class options, explaining in detail the roles of the established pathfinder classes within the context of Pure Steam, before delving into the two new base classes, first of which would be the Chaplain, who fluff-wise is much more common in the secular Ulleran nation than clerics. Chaplains get d8, 4+Int skills per level, 1/" BAB-progression, good fort- and will-saves, proficiency with simple weapons and light armors and they may cast divine spells spontaneously via charisma, of up to 6th level. It should be noted that chaplains do not require the F or DF-components when casting spells and they also receive Eschew Materials at 1st level, rendering them just about autonomous from material foci for spellcasting. But what is the chaplain's role? Well, first of all, they are the agents of organizations - from a illuminati/freemason/skull-n-bones-style elitist secret order to the botanist red-cross like Treefoil Laurels and the academic agents of the magistracy, tasked to keep society in check and afloat, these organizations could be understood as a kind of chaplain's bloodline - they net class skills, organization spells and specific abilities for the organizations as well. My only gripe with these organizations would be that the class could have used more - this is definitely the point to expand the class.

Being the class of masters of rhetoric, the chaplains are the people who maintain the ideals of civilization and enlightenment - and as such, their very personality and mien carry power - gravitas. Gravitas can be used 1/2 class level + cha-mod times per day - the words inspiring one target who can hear the chaplain, +1 creature for every two class levels. Using gravitas is a supernatural ability that can be activated as a standard action and does not provoke AoOs. Gravitas nets its recipients 1d6+cha-mod temporary hit points, or can be used to inflict the same amount of nonlethal damage to foes on a failed will-save, half on a successful save- these guys can literally talk you into oblivion! Gravitas cannot become lethal damage and temporary hit points do not stack, their interaction working rather fine.



Gravitas scales upwards and increases in potency at 3rd level by +1d6 and continues to scale upwards every 2nd level thereafter. Furthermore, at 3rd level and every 3 levels after that, the class learns one of 25 elocutionary talents - while some are passive and increase the capabilities of the chaplain in various fields, the majority allows the chaplain to modify the gravitas ability - to provide an example, instead receiving class-level + cha-mod temporary hit points, but also a scaling bonus to atk and weapon damage. Increased ref-saves and AC, the corresponding debuff - generally, the gravitas effects are rather neat. Two of these talents deserve special mention - Interdiction and Subjugate. Both have in common that they have an array of options, with interdiction allowing the prevention of readying items, weapons, etc., autonomous movement, spells or spell-like abilities or attacks/hostile actions on a failed save. If this list has not been an indicator - these interdictions are VERY powerful, even though they allow for repeated saves on subsequent rounds. The subjugate talent has a similar array of very powerful options, and both have one thing in common - they're out of touch with the balancing of the other elocutionary talents - they are vastly superior to them. Now I'm not a fan of save-or-suck abilities and these both somewhat qualify for that...though the limited range of gravitas keep me from screaming OP. It's weird, really - the versatility and power of these two options feel somewhat out of line with the other talents Interdiction is a worse offender here, with subjugate being powerful, but still in line. Now this is not enough to break the class, but it does stick out due to the whole rest of the chaplain being pure awesomesauce and one of the coolest classes I've seen in quite a while.



The second new base-class would be the gearhead, who receives, d6, 4+Int skilsl per level, good ref- and will-saves, 1/2 BAB-progression, proficiency with light armors, simple weapons, firearms, exotic crossbows and repeating/hand crossbows as well as any weapon he crafts. Gearhaead also learn contraptions from level 0 to 9, with the amount per day being in line with prepared spellcasting. So what are contraptions? First of all, they require schematics, which can be written into a draft book, akin to book-based spellcasting. Learning new schematics follows guidelines similar to that of wizards learning new spells and generally, they are tied to int as a governing attribute. Now the interesting thing here would be that, unlike spellcasting, a gearhead prepares a limited amount of contraptions per day and then powers them via charges - they receive separate charges for every level, though, making the system a combination of prepared spellcasting and spontaneous spellcasting - while they have to prepare contraptions from their selection, the actual activation adheres to spontaneous spellcasting rules. While complex, the gearhead may hand his contraptions to allies, who can activate them via successful knowledge (engineering)-checks, adding a further level of uniqueness to what otherwise would be a relatively conservative system in its components - the reconfiguration of the systems, though, is nice, unique, and well-explained.

Now you should not be surprise to hear that the Gearhead receives bonuses to Knowledge (engineering) or that he learns to jury-rig items, receives faster crafting/repairing etc. At 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, the class receives one innovation from a selection of 5, allowing for the allocation of higher-level activation charges to lower level contraptions, miniaturized contraptions etc. - essentially, the arcane discoveries of the class.



At 1st level, the gearhead also needs to select a scientific specialty (or opt out of that in favor of the physicist specialty) - this specialty nets an additional contraption slot of each contraption level that needs to be filled with a contraption that only utilizes this specialties' schematic sources. The specialties also net unique benefits over the levels. Once again, this is probably where expansion will be easy - only 3 such specialties are provided, though they are cool: Steam blasts and penumatic armors? Now you should be aware that one specialty allows the gearhead to regain charges via electricity resistance, so if a druid or other class receives and eel or similar minor electricity-damage-dealing creature, that means unlimited activations. The pdf mentions "only one charge per encounter", which is bad design - see example, see all my rants à la "Per-encounter makes NO SENSE." Easily cheesed, that one - needs tighter wording.



Now how do contraptions work? Well, essentially it's a relatively simple DiY-system - up to 3 schematics can be combined at higher levels and the more schematics you use for a contraption, the lower is the maximum level - a 4th level contraption could e.g. feature one 4th level schematic or a 3rd +1st level schematic or 3 1st level schematics or a 2nd level +2 0-level schematics - a concise table delivers possible combinations at one glance. You then choose schematics (which have sciences assigned - essentially, the spell schools of the contraption) and saves are 8+ contraption level + int-mod, with save-interaction etc. being explained in easily grasped and concise terms. Special note should be given to the dice-maximum of damage, which prevents cheesing the system while maintaining flexibility. Target schematics allow you to generate cones, bursts, etc., essentially allowing you to modify the "target"-line - augments that increase the level of the contraption are also part of the deal here - bigger bursts, higher levels. It should be noted that both burst and line augments have been errata'd up by +1 level, which the pdf does not yet sport - adding in the errata should be done soonish -having to look for it online is not good customer service. Apart from this grumpy guy complaining here, the amount of effect schematics, which include acceleration, elemental damage, homing beacons, detect-effects, mind-control and the like, make for delightfully twisted ways to tinker and combine the various effects - and yes, teleporting, flight and at the highest level, even time stop, are possible. Over all, a nice, cool system that works better than words of power and similar DiY-systems I've seen. Kudos!



Now of course, a pathfinder book of this magnitude also offers new archetypes, which range from glorious (the poison-gas using fumigant-alchemist with his toxin bombs et al and the moonshiner, to note two) to the okay unarmed pugilist fighter. The barbarian civil bedlamite, driven insane by society and prone to shooting sprees should also be explicitly mentioned not only for the cool fluff, but also for the simply awesome concept. The non-lethal monk-police widowmen also deserve accolades for being so awesome in concept I would wnat to play one, even if the actual rules, while good, could use more unique ki-tricks. I won't go into details here, mainly because otherwise this review will never be done. What I do need to mention is the table of optional class AC-bonus by level based on proficiencies the base class receives, which is generally a nice way to keep classes relevant in settings that sport firearms - the bonus is retained regarding touch AC. Now after doing the math, though, I felt the bonuses too conservative myself, but your mileage may vary.



Where there are archetypes, there are feats, introducing a new subtype with calibration feats - essentially metamagic for contraptions. The default setting assuming a scarcity of clerics and divine healing, the feats herein that improve mundane healing (and even allow for raising the recently deceased, CPR-style) should be considered a godsend for grittier campaign settings (or those where the gods are gone...). Feats increasing prowess in specific fighting styles and class features are also nice, though the absence of a concise feat-table proves to be somewhat of a comfort detriment.



Now the equipment section deserves special mention - while prices are in $, the currency of Pure Steam (with an artwork of said currency, btw.), the prices can easily be converted to gold on a 1 by 1 basis. And the items are awesome - quarterstaffs with gunpowder-blasts generating eds? Check. Elven fragmentation grenade-style arrwos? Check. Gnome rocket pistols? Yeah. Special materials like asbestos and stainless steel or vulcanized rubber are provided alongside one damn cool innovation - manufacturing signatures: Essentially, special manufacturers modify the hardiness, efficiency etc. of the base items purchased, making these a kind of simple templates that can be applied to mundane items - the idea is simple, elegant and downright brilliant, with 6 sample manufacturers provided - to give you an example - you can get cutting edge versions that net bonuses, yes, but at the price of the item breaking on natural 1s. Ferrotype cameras, daguerrotypes (read "House of the 7 Gables", if you haven't...), gas masks, wing backpacks... from telegraphs to penny dreadfuls, this chapter is truly glorious as an idea-mine for any post-medieval setting.



Now there would also be technology -essentially, this chapter provides examples galore to convert magical items of just about every nature and their properties into equivalent technological items, before introducing us to specific examples of technological items like automatic lock picks, dark-vision granting goggles etc. The general ideas here are simple and range from copies of the magic items with a slight twist to new ones. Where I'm a bit stumped here would be in the interaction with magical crafting and magic in general - can they be enchanted etc.? Now don't get me wrong, I get that these are supposed to replace magic, but in a world that sports both, questions of whether these work in e.g. anti-magic fields, can be used to counterspells etc. should be addressed.



Now the next chapter provides vehicles...and had me grin from ear to ear - Gyrocopters and bikes? Valkyria Chronicles-style steam-tanks, war zeppelins... Glorious, I want more! Now personally, I think a house-rule that decreases the imho-too-high driving DCs established in Ultimate Combat makes sense for such a world and I encourage Pure Steam groups to decreaseit to make the most out of these great vessels.



Now the next chapter would be devoted to Ullera, the allotopia of an early America, if one will - flavor-wise between pulp novels, wild west and industrial revolution, rights wise after the civil war, Ullera and its overall flair produce a thoroughly American vision of steampunk surprisingly fresh and captivating to read The continent and its ethnicities, the nations and races in conflict and the overall aesthetics are surprisingly fresh, especially when compared to many a European steampunk-world as crafted, as they often tend to resort to name and event-dropping for the reader to establish a sense of cohesion. Ullera does not require this, painting a sensible, smart political landscape, providing interesting factions (alas, sans prestige-benefits or the like) and even quite an assortment of settlements (with full statblocks) and sample NPCs - enough to kick off a campaign, surely, but the thing is - I'd want seriously more. The setting material is compelling and interesting, yes, but due to the vast amount of pages devoted to the crunch, there simply isn't that much space to develop the setting, leaving us with a great first look, but one that cannot be considered deeper than a broad gazetteer's panorama.



Bestiary-wise, we are introduced to unique flora and fauna and recieve a somewhat eidolonish, very complex and rewarding system to create constructs of various kinds, so-called armatures - this toolkit is fun and well-worth a look for the DM, with cool effects like positive and negative polarity, net-launchers...you name it.



The book also contains the introductory adventure "Trouble in Grassy Spur" for 1st level characters, which I'll give a VERY brief run-down of now, so potential players, please jump down to teh conclusion. From here on reign SPOILERS.



All right, still here? After a short gazetteer of the fully mapped Grassy Spur (which includes a half-pneumatic cat with a nasty temper -who receives a great artwork, that is unfortunately slightly blurry), the PCs are contacted by Mayor Wyatt to foil an anarchist's plan and after a short investigation and a stand-off at the cathedral, the PCs will have to flex their investigative muscles to prevent the bombing if a railroad bridge and a steam wagon finishing the job. Worse, the anarchists have a second team inside the train, so the PCs will have to navigate the train and defeat the remaining bombers on the train, as it hurtles slowly, but steadily towards oblivion.... As a nice mechanical innovation, there are so-called exploits provided - these represent temporary buffs for achievements that are just cool or bonus XP - neat!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is surprisingly good - especially for a book of this size, by a new company, the relative lack of rules-ambiguities, punctuation errors etc. is astounding - the editors did a good job. Layout (by Jameson McMaster)adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous, two-column standard with full color-borders, but not background. The tome features a vast array of different artworks in b/w - Mates Laurentiu, Alejandro Lee and Chris DeHart have all managed to adhere to one uniform style that provides a unique and cohesive look for the book. It should be noted that almost all NPCs, archetypes, vehicles, etc. and beyond receive their own artworks, all original. That's impressive indeed and rest assured that only one of the artworks (in the module) is a bit blurry - all other artworks are crisp indeed. Speaking of which, cartography goddess Alyssa Faden (& Robert Altbauer)'s maps are awesome as well and fit in perfectly with the tone set by layout and artworks, though I wished there was a key-less version of the adventure's map. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The hardcover is a solid book crammed full of content to the brim - the spine feels a tad bit small for the book, but binding is solid and the paper is thick and high-quality - nothing to complain there.



When I backed this book as a KS back in the day, I never expected to see the book. A new publisher, sans new work, asking for a significant sum? Pff. Yeah right. And then, suddenly, this hit shelves. I postponed reading it, admittedly, mainly because crunch-intense books are a huge workload at this length and because I didn't think the inexperienced ICOSA Entertainment company had much to offer. I am glad to have been proven wrong.



Adam Crockett, Brennan Ashby, Davin Perry and L. James Wright have crafted an array of options I consider truly impressive - the Chaplain in particular hitting my soft spots VERY hard - I'd love to see expansions of that one. The Gearhead's contraptions and class design also proved to be much more watertight than I anticipated and the system introduced there is fun indeed. The setting itself is compelling, intriguing, and offers inspiration and fodder galore as well. That being said, once one takes to analyzing the content, here and there some rough edges show up, some of which I highlighted in the review. While these are in the minority and their scarcity being impressive at a book of this length, they still are there. Aloe, though, they would have not been enough to be considered a true detriment, which should be considered a testament to how utterly professional this tome is crafted in all regards. That being said, personally, I think the interaction magic/technology and the conversion of magical into technological items could have used more room, more peculiarities to grow - the touched upon "batteries" of these items, codified in rules or a direct opposition à la Amethyst Renaissance would have been cool to see - as written, that chapter proved to be a relatively conservative reskin.



The crucial, one issue of Pure Steam is a different one - the book does not really know whether it wants to be a core-book or a campaign setting. Much like Alluria Publishing's Cerulean Seas, the setting-information feels more like a tack-on than it should, especially since here, the focus on the setting is much more pronounced. It is my firm conviction, that separating this into two books, one for all the crunch (and more than 3 paltry chaplain organizations, more than 3 gearhead specialties) and one containing a full-blown, detailed campaign setting, would have benefitted both components of the book - on their own, the respective parts are awesome, but both leave you feeling that you only have an incomplete picture of what is going on, of not getting the whole. It should be at once deemed a testament to the virtues of this book that both crunch and setting left me wanting more, and as the crux of it trying a bit too hard to be both massive core tome and setting-supplement, landing somewhat between the chairs.



It is more this, than the relatively scarce glitches, that keep Pure Steam from receiving my highest honors - this book is currently THE definite steampunk resource for pathfinder, with production values of the higher echelons and great ideas galore. It should also be considered a first step into the captivating world woven, one that hopefully will see supplemental material in the years to come. My final verdict will clock in at a heartfelt 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 and a must-buy recommendation for all fans of steampunk.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pure Steam Campaign Setting
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Compendium Arcanum Volume 1: Cantrips & Orisons (PFRPG)
Publisher: d20pfsrd.com
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2014 03:31:42
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages SRD, 1 page "Thank you for buying note", leaving us with 14 pages of content, so what is this actually about?



Yet another spellbook? No, actually, this is something different. Remember Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved? One of the better d20-systems and variants of Dungeons & Dragons released in the 3.X days of old, its spells had a particular, rather rewarding mechanic- they could be cast in two additional ways - one heightened and one diminished way, each modifying the spell's level by +1/-1 respectively. The effects were modified thus and the overall result was a more interesting spellcasting system, especially with regards to counterspelling. Fast forward to Pathfinder.



In this book's pages, we are introduced to an array of cantrips and orisons (which have no diminished effects, already being 0-level spells), which can thus be upgraded to 1st level. The pdf contains all cantrips and orisons from the core rules, the APG, Ultimate Magic and Ultimate Combat, all upgraded and studded with the heightened effects. Now the respective spells are organized by letters and the heightened effects per se are interesting - take acid splash: Its heightened version allows you to hold the orb of acid for exactly 1 round - any longer, and its blows up in your face. However, if you hold it for 1 round, it instead deals 1d4 points of damage AND 1 point of str-damage. While usually I'd complain about low level attribute damage, the cost of holding the orb and planning make this a valid option. Killing word-count/space-limitations, dealing damage to elemental/ [fire]-subtype creatures via create water, rolling a faster detect magic into one spell with identify, ability to detect poison behind thin barriers... Have I mentioned programming ghost sounds? Or affecting magical objects with mage hand?



It is rather surprising, really, to see so many small options adding rather than detracting from story-telling potential, with just about every option making the respective cantrip/orison MUCH more interesting and versatile.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column, mostly b/w standard with thematically fitting stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with excessive, nested bookmarks and the pdf comes excessively hyperlinked.



D20pfsrd.com Publishing has in my opinion a great series at their fingertips here - in contrast to some of the more problematic first products of the company, this one looks professional, has solid rules-language and sports a lack of glitches I consider the hallmark of a good pdf. Author Timothy Wallace delivers a pdf that is humble, yes, and its premise looks boring, doesn't it? Well, it's not. Contrary to what one would expect, namely to pay for miniscule new content and double for the spells, the modifications enrich the respective cantrips and orisons to an extent that is more than awesome and enriches one's game. My only gripe with this book would be that it's not a massive tome of all spells, including 3pp-spells...Hey, one may dream, may one not? ;P Seriously, this is one of those little, humble pdfs that just are cool and fun and it made me rather excited about future installments of the series. Not all is perfect, though: I do think that the pdf ought to explicitly spell out how counterspelling, CL, metamagic etc. works with heightened/diminished spells for those not familiar with Arcana Evolved et al. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down by a margin to 4.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Compendium Arcanum Volume 1: Cantrips & Orisons (PFRPG)
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Veranthea Codex: Braxthar Grimdrahk, Scientific Innovator - FREE PDF
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/02/2014 09:32:36
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This free preview of the Veranthea Codex clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content so let's take a look, shall we?



Without much ado and aplomb, we dive into the new Scientific Innovator archetype. Instead of extracts, these fellows generate serums - which become extraordinary effects at 10th level! Instead of mutagens and the Hyde-style that accompanies these fellows, they instead turn to dabbling in gunslinging and thus also may elect to choose grit feats in lieu of discoveries - this is optional, mind you! At 11th level, the class even receives a limited grit pool based on int (as opposed to amateur gunslinging) and as a capstone, the class may generate antimagic devices. But before I get to these, wait a second - the archetype receives its own serum-list, yes, but in a smart move, spells not on the list can stlll be included - at VERY high costs.



Now I've mentioned devices - the scientific innovator can make essentially the non-magical equivalent of magical items with this feat, the archetype mastering these tricks even more thanother characters taking the feat.



The eponymous Braxthar Grimdrahk turns btw. out to be a dwarven alcemist 6 (scientific innovator) and comes with full-blown statblock and background, as well as two devices - an invisibility purging lantern and snares and pits and traps detecting array of lenses that can reproduce the effects of the two spells.



Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to the drop-dead-gorgeous full-color standard of Veranthea and the pdf sports beautiful full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.



Brian Wiborg Mønster delivers a cool character and nice supplemental material - the serums are a unique take on alchemy and the idea of devices can easily be further expanded. Oh, and this is FREE. You quite literally have no reason not to get this fellow to use or scavenge for pieces - and as a free preview, as something given away, this is 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Veranthea Codex: Braxthar Grimdrahk, Scientific Innovator - FREE PDF
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The Five Families: Criminal Organizations for Every Campaign World
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/02/2014 04:33:57
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 43 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 40 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



We kick off this pdf with a short introduction and then delve into generating an organization - which is surprisingly simple: Organizations receive stats, just like characters. These would be Force, Response, Resources, Information, Magic and Influence - if you haven't noticed by now: They are rather self-explanatory and analogue to a character's attributes. Now hit points for such organizations are interesting - they are calculated via members, strongholds etc. and high-level members provide more hit points. Loss of members via events etc. is covered with concise rules, as is an organization making skill-checks. Since it represents a pooling of resources, skills used take longer, but quite probably also yield rather nice results. From obtaining a mount to diverse levels of military support and making requests, the list here is pretty concise, makes sense and in-game, turns out to be working rather well. Much like characters, organizations may take feats - organization feats. A total of 15 of those are provided and my only gripe here would be that I would have loved to see this expanded much, much further. So these basic rules out of the way, let's take a look at the sample families created, shall we?



The first would be the House of Nath, which, like all organizations herein, comes with full stats and background information. This one would be a powerful criminal syndicate, appropriate for a large city or metropolis. The curious reader will also notice that no less than 4 sample NPC-builds with full stats are provided - from the lowly street-thug to the boss. While the statblocks lack the respective CRs, they do come with XP and all other relevant information. Beyond these nice builds, we also get information on the manse of the family, their signature sleep-inducing magic saps and 4 adventure hooks provide even further inspiration. While the manor's maps in full color are aesthetically perhaps not the best maps one could ask for, the sheer fact that the stronghold is mapped already is a nice bonus in my book - so kudos!



Now if you were looking for something more out there, what about the second organization, the Carnival of Air - devoted wholly to the grand game of cons. With dreamweavers, fireworks and illusions galore, this mobile organization brings something completely different to the table - once again, with fully mapped carnival's grounds, an AWESOME piece of b/w-art for the kitsune lord of the place and two damn cool signature magic items. And that's before the neat hooks. Two thumbs up ! (Even though no carnival will ever come close to my love for a certain evil one in the Scarred Lands...)



The third family is no less awesome - the "Daughters of Repose" as a secret organization of all-female assassins in service to the Deity of Death - you can't contact them, you donate and pray and hope they'll hear your prayers and end the target - especially if said target has been brought back from the dead. After all, we can't have those folk try to prolong their allotted time now, can we? Now these killer-nuns become even more awesome once you realize they can meld weapons via a new special quality with their bodies...Lethal, iconic in imagery...neat.



Now the Minders could be considered a conglomerate of academics, scholars and those embittered by those in power - all devoted to dragging the ugly, pesky secrets into the open and profit from them. Think "The Riddler", Wikileaks or just an extortion ring meets paparazzi, all combined with massive intelligentsia. Yeah, if the DM plays these guys right, the result will be nasty for the players...Have I mentioned the magical tape recorder brooch?



Now the final organization would be the Skrinn - think Warhammer's Skaven ratfolk gone full-blown sewer-drug-dealers - living in subterranean cities long buried and build over, this syndicate deserves special mention for a small array of nice traps to add to the 3-pages of dungeon levels that constitute their warrens. plus, I always liked evil ratfolk, so this is another winner for me. Add to that grappling liquid and sleep-inducing smoke and we have another neat one.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are better than in most Adamant-books I've seen so far and actually good - not much to complain on that end. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the b/w artworks range from stock art to beautiful pieces I haven't seen been. The maps are okay and do their job, but come sans player-friendly ones, which is a pity. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a major comfort detriment.



Author Peter Aperlo delivers an easy-to-grasp, concise system for handling organizations, any organizations, really, herein and then trumps it with 5 awesome sample organizations full of interesting statblocks and even maps to supplement them. I...I didn't expect this, but I really, really loved this book. Sure, there could be more organization feats. (And why stop there - go for TRAITS as well - only dwarves, only elves, drug-focus etc. - the possibilities to expand the system are endless!) And what I'd give for proper synergy with the downtime-rules from Ultimate Campaign to get a full-blown organization stronghold-kit... Or for a guideline for Prestige Awards/tie-in with the request-system...



But honestly, you can make this synergy work out yourself. The organization-as-character-system is simple, easy to grasp, remains firmly in the DM's control and does not invalidate characters, but allows you to depict full-blown shadow-wars, campaigns in which powerful organizations are the adversaries of the PCs, etc. This book is surprisingly glorious. Yes, it has some glitches. No bookmarks. And overall, these formal nitpicks add up. But it's still just...awesome. Inspiring and immensely useful. Note that these rules can easily make a village, a thorp etc. a character-like entity as well!



This is one of those humble, overlooked underdog pdfs I just love - and it should have so much more exposure. While I can't rate this in the highest echelon due to formal, NOT writing/quality-issues, I still can recommend the hell out of this damn fine, cool supplement - even if you ignore the organization-creation-rules and just go for the organizations themselves, this offers ample bang for your buck due to the cool ideas, neat characters and generally iconic options these families bring toa campaign. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at an unusual 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 and still add my seal of approval as a sign of my personal love for this beast.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Five Families: Criminal Organizations for Every Campaign World
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Gossamer Worlds: Ossuary Empire (Diceless)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/02/2014 04:30:11
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Now the eidolon is often considered to be the safer side of forces in LoGaS - this is an example why that is a gross and inaccurate reduction. Thematically based roughly around ancient quasi-Persian myths in style, once this place was ruled by the dîv - manifestations of eidolon that subsumed all in perfect order, only to wage war upon one another in the end. Oh, and the final two standing were nuked with a neutron bomb.



In this world wracked by deicides, the bones of the dîv as powerful artifacts (who get their own rules!) now act as a type of much-clamored for relic to access the vast power lost - essentially, we have a post-apocalyptic sword & sorcery world here with conan-level technology interspersed with potential super science from other worlds. Worse, much like the behiliths from the legendary Berserk-manga, the div-bones tend to change the creatures they come into contact with, adding the mythic nephilim to the roster - self-styled children of the gods and heirs apparent to the thrones of the erstwhile masters...who cares if the nephilim is a vast serpentine monstrosity? It has power! Add to that the Diamond Padisha and yes, the legendary league of assassins and we have a great blend of arabian nights, sword & sorcery and post-apocalyptic survival on a tomb planet. Yeah. AWESOME.



That being said, a general idea for the power-level of individual Nephilim (two of which are btw. rendered in gorgeous full-color artworks...) would have been much appreciated by yours truly.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's full-color two-column standard for LoGaS-supplements and the pdf comes with glorious, thematically fitting original pieces of artwork, with the awesome cover also coming as a glorious full-page artwork herein. The pdf comes excessively bookmarked, which is nice to see, even at such a short length!



Matt Banach's Ossuary Empire is one AWESOME world...and honestly one I'd love to play a whole campaign in - the grit, super technology, uncommon focus, sword & sorcery stale - all appeal to me excessively and make for one awesome world. However, the general lack of information on what the nephilim can be expected to do feels like a somewhat unnecessary oversight to me. While only a nitpick, this omission is the one thing that keeps me from slapping my seal of approval on this. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.



(Now can I please have this one redone as a full-blown 200+pages campaign setting for either LoGaS, DCC or PFRPG? Please?)

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Gossamer Worlds: Ossuary Empire (Diceless)
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Mythic Minis 25: Feats of Nature
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/02/2014 04:27:06
An Endzeitgeist.com review

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



This Mythic Mini provides 10 new mythic feats, roghly grouped around the theme of nature, so what do we get?



-Eldritch Claws: Bypass mythic tier DR with natural weapons; Expend mythic power to attune your natural weapons to a type of DR and ignore it for a short duration. Nice one!



-Feral Combat Training: Apply improved unarmed strike-based feats et al to natural attacks. if the character is a monk, also have flurry enhanced. Two thumbs up!



-Greater Wild Empathy: Use Wild Empathy with bonus in lieu of Diplomacy and Intimidate when interacting with appropriate creatures; Can be enhanced by mythic power. Kind of...boring.



-Improved Share Spells: Target bonded creature with shared spells at range with touch spells and increase range of the sharing. Also share spell-trigger/spell-completion effects via mythic power.



-Moonlight Summons: Creatures summoned gain DR/silver and may confuse targets on critical hits. Higher DR for mythic power - cool!



-Mystic Stride: Autofail for plants to grapple you/entangle you. Use mythic power to teleport through plants. Not a fan of autosucceeds. Why not deliver a massive bonus instead? Mythic Tier or Mythic Tier x 2 to CMD?



-Quick Wild Shape: Faster wildshape, via mythic power even as an immediate action.



-Shaping Focus: + mythic tier effective druid level for shaping purposes, increase that further by spending mythic power.



-Vermin Heart: Vermin have a starting attitude of friendly, be unarmed (or even take highjack via mythic power) controlled or summoned vermin via wild empathy. Neat.



-Wild Speech: Use mythic power to eschew somatic or material components when casting in wildshaped form and also increase DC for language-dependant spells on creatures of the same form; Also gain speak with animals of your shaped form at will. Okay, if a bit unfocused - the mythic power effect looks more like a poor man's natural spell - and as a casting shifter, that one is still probably a must have...



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice significant glitches, only e.g. "Speec" instead of "Speech" once. Layout adheres to legendary Games 2-column full-color standard and the cover-art is neat. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.



Jason Nelson and Tork Shaw deliver a nice array of mythic feats in here - Feral Combat Training (mythic) is a godsend indeed for many a build, and overall, the content is solid. that being said, the rest of the feats didn't exactly blow me away and while the utilize some nice mechanics and ideas, they do feel slightly less polished here and there. Auto-succeeds? Really? This is by no means a bad installment, but I didn't blow my socks of and is slightly rougher round the edges than other mythic minis. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 - a solid pdf, but one whose feats mostly failed to feel mythic to me.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 25: Feats of Nature
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The Genius Guide to Feats of Spellcasting II
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/01/2014 03:23:06
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Genius Guide clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



After one page of introductory fluff setting the scene, we read the first question that may pop into one's brain -"Do we need more feats?" Unlike many other books, this one is not intended to fill roles in the rules or make some insane combo possible - it is made to provide fun options for the respective characters - and honestly, that's a good approach. One crucial component of properly judging whether content will see use at my table would be that I require the crunch to properly supplement storytelling.



The first feat already points in exactly this direction -Arcane Blood allows sorcerors with damage-dealing daily-use bloodline powers to increase damage-output of said abilities by 2d6 per spell level for the expenditure of a first level or higher spell slot, balancing the increase in raw power with an additional resource-expenditure. This is a nice way to make bloodline abilities relevant at higher levels and increase a character's focus on them. Receiving feedback to be able to perceive things in the area of a cast spell, even sans line of sight. What about a metamagic spell that does not harm good-aligned creatures unless specifically targeted at them?



Another feat allows the character to increase caster level randomly for specific schools of magic depending on the random constellation of the stars of the world. Or take a magus-feat that allows you to use spellcombat with 2-handed weapons, albeit with minor penalties to concentration when casting spells with somatic components. Powerful, but also a particular option that is absent from the base class. I'm not 100% comfortable with making the magus more glass-cannon-y than it already is, but I get the appeal of the feat. The same holds true for the feat that allows monstrous magi to claw, (and later also claw, bite) and cast - which makes for a nasty damage-output.



Witches can go for truly devastating combos with a new metamagic feat - Cackle Spells may take +1 spell level, but said spells may be expended via the application of the cackle hex. Ouch! Not all feats like this can be booked on the awesome side -a spellcraft check to deduce knowledge from targets damaged via acid-spells, for example, at least to me feels to meta, too disjointed, Temporarily getting both DR and fire resistance when using cold damage based spells and spell-like abilities. Now the thing that makes this one not easily abused would be the smart decision to couple the mechanics with the dice of cold damage dealt.



Making fetishes to slightly increase the potency of your magic also is a cool idea, if one that could have used a more powerful or unique representation - sympathetic magic has quite some potential and the execution of this one, with only a slight increase to DC against the target while being tied to gp-expenditure feels a bit weak for my tastes. Now making non-damage-dealing spells potentially permanent at five levels higher and be treated as a kind of curse is a cool idea - though there's an issue here - the feat allows potentially for stacking and that can be problematic -while the intention is clearly to make the respective spells into kind of curses, as written, the feat can be used to rather easily and sans restrictions make buffing spells permanent. This feat needs further restrictions.



Establishing a link via touch attacks to channel further touch attacks also makes for a cool option, but one I'm pretty sure that can be broken - it is, anyways, a powerful tool, not only for attack, but also for healing and buffing purposes. Another potentially unpleasant beast being "Elemental Alloy", which allows you to lace spells with the effects of your elemental spell feat, potentially transcending immunities and resistances, requiring the target to be resistant/immune to both. Potentially okay, but the feat does not specify what happens if a target is immune to one and resistant to the other energy type. The same ambivalence extends to immunity to one element and vulnerability to the other - the feat does not explain what happens then.



Adding templates on summoned creatures is a cool idea as well, though one a DM allowing the feat should have careful control over - the various templates that can be found out there greatly diversify summons and add a cool dimension, yes, but templates per se aren't always well-balanced regarding the CR-adjustments. On the one hand, this is definitely a rule-o9f-cool feat, on the other, it requires an enlightened DM-player-relationship, so bear that in mind.



Immunity to one's own fire spells on the other hand, now that is glorious and rather iconic. Temporarily changing magic/alchemical items or devices to suit your needs is another one of the candidates - while extremely iconic and limited by a significant restriction, we here have another one that's great - if a DM and player agree on limitations. Using spell-trigger items a limited amount of times per day sans requiring spoken words makes for a cool option. Speaking of cool - making healing more efficient in non-combat circumstances makes sense and is mechanically sound.



Naming spells and making them more powerful also is one iconic options. What about making single-target AoOs with wands or staves. Potentially opting for average damage with spells also makes for an interesting option. Healing summoned creatures via summon monster, receiving a retributive strike or being able to be able to be revived from the dead by securing your soul in rings also can be achieved herein. The option to take out an eye for magical sight is also cool in its iconography, even if it could use better scaling.



The option to treat Spell Mastery-spells as arcane arrays that can be considered micro-lists of spontaneous spells also makes for a cool idea, further enhancing spell selection for arsenals of spells.

Making trap-like spells is also a cool feat -but where is the DC for rogues to disarm trap spells? Making excess healing applicable as damage to other targets also makes for an interesting option, mostly thanks to the daily limit. Extra lethal spells versus targets talked into lowering SRs and dual-activating rods also makes for cool ideas.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with thematically fitting stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and also extensively hyperlinked.



Owen K.C. Stephens delivers a neat array of cool feats that truly enrich storytelling herein - though, admittedly, some of them offer this awesomeness at the expense of mechanics that are less precise than what one usually would see from RGG. Now do NOT get me wrong - the feats in this book are actually rather awesome and do offer a lot of cool options that truly allow for some iconic builds that aren't supported by the vanilla rules. Still, this pdf, while exceedingly cool, also features some minor balance-hick-ups that keep it from coming as highly recommended as I'd love to do.



My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Feats of Spellcasting II
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Veranthea Codex: Master in Irons, Shojo Matsumo (NPC) - FREE PDF
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/30/2014 08:31:07
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This preview for Rogue Genius Games & Mike Myler's campaign setting of Veranthea clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement and 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of FREE content, so let's take a look!

Who is Shojo Matsumoto?Well, once Shojo Matsumoto was a brutal man - a butcher of fellow men born to the streets and poverty...which all changed once he was recruited by His Personage of Golden Fortitude to, over the time, become the commander of the emperor's ant-spellcaster strikeforce, the Spellthieves. Still wearing the chains of his servitude as a reminder, he is a unique blend of 5 levels bloodrager (untouchable rager) and tetori Monk 4 that may be a superb force, but now also a character specialized in taking foes alive... Whether his newfound allegiance is true or just due to the contained curse ravaging through his body - that's up for you and your group to decide!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. LAyout adheres to Vernathea's glorious 2-column full-color standard and the pdf's artwork of Shojo is neat. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none.

Luis Loza delivers a cool NPC here - and while I am no big fan of any of the hybrid classes in the ACG, this pdf's NPC makes for an interesting build that many a DM can probably use very well - even if you only want to scavenge the build or the story - this is FREE, so what's there to complain? Nice build, free of charge, 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Veranthea Codex: Master in Irons, Shojo Matsumo (NPC) - FREE PDF
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The Sinking: Seeking Dawn
Publisher: 0one Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/30/2014 08:18:30
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Sinking-mini-modules clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!



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



Still here? All right! First of all - read the previous module "The Freedom Gambit." Why? Because this is the immediate successor and the PCs, escorting Blood Senator Vulgrax, are on the run from the city, braving the wilderness - and indeed, after an easy intermezzo, the deadly hunt is on - the notorious Blood Fang is hot on the heels of the PCs and their ally - and if wyvern-riding elite-mercenaries don't drive the fear down the backs of the PCs, what will?



In a glorious hunt for the shelter the nearby mountains provide, the PCs have to traverse the mapped hills and survive the onslaught of the elite foes - the goal here being to withstand and persevere - until the PCs, by diplomacy and force and by, hopefully, wiles and wits, make peace with the alliance of giants and giant-kin, the Kalks, in a kind of subterranean sea-adjacent cavern. Whether with the giants or over their bloody corpses - the PCs will have, at least for now, found shelter from the onslaught or perished in the brutal assault...





Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant issues. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with cool, original b/w-artworks and 0onegame's great cartography. The pdf comes extensively bookmarked for your convenience.



Stefan Happ's Seeking Dawn is a straightforward, unapologetic action-romp that manages to fit diplomacy, slever terrain and truly iconic locales within a few pages, while still providing the level of in your face action the premise of the module demands - a furious and cool escalation that should have the PCs itch for revenge, and for the low price and thanks to the great production values, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Sinking: Seeking Dawn
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Underworld Races: Ahool
Publisher: AAW Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/30/2014 05:56:12
An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

This supplement clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We kick off this installment of the Underworld Races-series with an extensive history of the underworld's genesis -a subterranean origin myth, if you wish - from the banishment of the infernal forces of HEL in earth's core to the forging (and splintering) of the dwarven races to the rise and fall of the dracoprime and the arrival of the colloid (the contribution of your's truly to the lore of Aventyr) , we get an interesting, well-crafted origin myth here, one supplemented by a full blown-table of age, height and weight tables not only for the ahool, but for all underworld races.

After this general overview, we delve right into the write-up of the Ahool -so what are they? Demonic interaction with mortal races tends to spawn new species -and thus, the Ahool were born and from these did spawn the ahooling -a race of blood-drinking, vampiric humanoids. Ahoolings get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int, are monstrous humanoids, SR 6+class level, darkvision 60 ft, resistance 5 to sonic and cold, a natural bite attack at 1d4 as a primary weapon, get +4 to fly-checks thanks to vestigial wings (which can become full-blown wings via the racial paragon class) and suffer from light blindness.

Apart from their moss caverns, the race also receives a significant amount of favored class options, which generally tend to be rather cool and cover most of the classes. However, a glitch has crept here in the option for the fledgling ahool racial paragon class: The FCO specifies that the race receives +2 ft. fly speed, which needs to be increments of 5 ft to work - so far, so good. But weirdly, the FCO mentions that there's no effect if it has not been selected 5 times, which contradicts how the FCO works movement-rate wise - so which is it? Minimum increments totalling 5ft or 10 ft.? Clarification would be required here.

We also receive two so-called racial archetypes, which essentially constitute of a select array of alternate racial trait-kits that can be applied to the ahooling - the Terrestrial and the Aquatic Ahooling - both receive change shape effects and alternate movement rates. Most interesting, though, would be the modularity that seeps into the racial paragon class - the racial archetypes influence the apotheosis granted by the class.

Now I've been mentioning this 5-level PrC, which nets full BAB-progression, good ref- and will-saves, d10, grants and increases fly speed up to 60 ft., 2+Int skills per level, +3 natural armor bonus and the class allows the race to learn to blood drain, receive claws as secondary attacks and also learns to unleash obscuring mists, gusts of wind and finally receive a kind of apotheosis towards being closer to a full-blown ahool. They also receive a couple of appropriate proficiencies and the option to unleash a limited amount of sonic blasts on foes..

The ahooling may also opt for the Ironsinger PrC, which nets a 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 fort-save progression, +5 natural armor bonus progression and also DR 4/- over the 10 level-progression. The class also receives d8, 4+Int skills per level and increase the damage output of the sonic blasts granted by the fledgling racial paragon class. Beyond an array of thematically appropriate spell-like abilities, dazing and staggering sonic attacks and a capstone that lets them force targets to save multiple times to evade the lethal sonics.

Beyond these options, we also receive a total of 7 racial feats to improve bite attacks, flight and swoop down on foes, inspiring terror or reading information from the blood of those they consume. Speaking with bats and gaining fiendish familiars is also covered here.
On the glorious side, a moss rope and net and bloodflow staunching moss make for cool alchemical items, whereas 3 magical items and 3 spells add further, nice options - throwing darts of obsidian that damage those without natural armor trying to use them, or the cool ahool crown make for neat items.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches apart from some italicization errors. 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 original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Myler and Julian Neale deliver a great race that is high concept and intriguing - but alas, one that partially falls short of the great promise of the race's concept - the revised edition has completely cleaned up the confusion of the ahooling's flight and while the FCO-glitch persists, this greatly enhances one's ability to use this race: First of all, unassisted flight no longer is generally available for the base race. Beyond that, while I do consider the base race's racial traits a tad bit too strong, with especially the low SR being unnecessary, the fact that the race can't lower the SR makes the playing experience interesting. We have a significant improvement over the first iteration of the pdf and while the race is a bit on the strong side, it is not broken per se. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Ahool
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Veranthea Codex: Beztekorps Prestige Class - FREE PDF
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/29/2014 09:15:15
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This free preview for Mike Myler's Veranthea Codex clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 4 pages of FREE content, so let's take a look, shall we?

So what is the Betzekorps? On the mechanical side, one could call it a 10-level PrC with full BAB-progression, medium ref-saves, 4+Int skills per level and d8 HD, available only for gnomes and haflings...and one would be rather reductive in such a statement. Why? Because the Betzekorps is an example of good high-fantasy storytelling that makes logical sense.

Take this scenario - in the storied world of Vernathea, gnomes and halflings control city states in the savannah south of the scorched desert and have been at war with tribes of giants - to the point, where they were simply outclassed by superior foes - think Attack on Titan (if you haven't seen the anime, go watch it NOW) on a small scale. Pardon the pun. Now how did they fight back? Via a team that consumes a special type of water, which reduces weight (and makes you faster) as well as jetpack-style harnesses (Attack on Titan!) and a special material that is particularly light - Reciosteel. Now all of these 3 essential components are fully depicted alongside the Prestige Class, which you may now appreciate in a different light:

While the PrC's benefits net massive bonuses to using harnesses and allows the class to create the special water, evasions, defensive rolls, flyby attacks and the like make sure that taking apart foes while flitting around on the battlefield remains a cool option indeed...have I mentioned the flyby-full attack capstone that is not the only thing these guys get at level 10?

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full color standard - Justin Gagen did a great job, which also extends to artist Indi Martin - this is a beautiful pdf. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Mike Myler's Betzekorps is AWESOME. Much more than conventional fantasy, it feels more like fantasy-punk, is a love letter to Attack on Titan AND FREE. You can't say no to to a good, free product now, can you? Seriously, a cool PrC, iconic materials with cool implications for the world - if you require a reason why Veranthea is different from other settings, why you should give it a chance - this should deliver. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval - it's free, awesome and I'm an unabashed Attack on Titan fanboy. Even if you did not lke the anime, though, you should check this out - it's damn fun and alchemists, tinker-style characters etc. should benefit from the items and materials herein.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Veranthea Codex: Beztekorps Prestige Class - FREE PDF
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Laying Waste: The Guide to Critical Combat
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/29/2014 08:36:33
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive tome clocks in at 168 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of backer-list, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 160 pages of content, so let's take a look!



But before we do, full disclosure: After receiving the Beta-version of these rules and thoroughly enjoying them, I was asked to be a stretch-goal for this book and thus have contributed some content to this book. I do not consider my verdict in any way compromised by this, but felt obliged to mention it anyways. The archetypes I contributed are clearly discernible (since the book properly credits its guest authors - which is awesome!), so judge for yourself.



Got that? All right. So the basic question this book poses is one that has haunted me for multiple iterations and roleplaying systems - why are critical hits so boring? Yeah, bonus damage may be nice, but let's face it - the additional numbers just aren't that cool. In older systems I essentially scavenged and homebrewed components from e.g. rollmaster, but those brought their own issues. When the critical hit and fumble decks hit shelves, I went for them. They didn't do the trick for me, being not extensive enough and a tad bit too random for my tastes. Just taking and modifying systems from other rule-sets also proved to be not the best option.



Enter Laying Waste. The base system is ridiculously easy to grasp - all crits deal max base damage. There are no more critical confirmation rolls - these have been replaced by so-called severity checks: These are essentially a d20-roll + the the excess amount the attack beat the target's AC and also fractures in the critical modifier of the weapon and the size of the weapon. Even bonus damage, different size categories etc. are taken into account. What sounds moderately complex in a review's text is actually exceedingly simple on paper and thanks to the concise examples given. Now additionally, severity checks then result in no additional effect, a light wound effect, a moderate wound effect or a severe wound effect. Some of these wound effects have saves to mitigate - so yes, while you make chop off nose, puncture eyes or even behead foes, they will have to have failed a save to suffer such debilitating effects. Once you have determined the severity of the wound, you roll a d% to check the effect, with each table offering a massive 50 entries of different wounds that makes 150 for piercing, bludgeoning and slashing EACH. While there are some overlaps of wounds between the respective damage types, these are the exception rather than the rule, resulting in the diversity and uniqueness of the remarkable occasions of criting being significantly increased - it's no longer: "Remember how I dealt 47 damage to the ogre in one stroke!", but rather "Remember how it took that ogre's arm clean off?" Yeah. You probably get why prefer systems like this.



Now in case you haven't noticed - this results in a significantly increased gritty-factor and a kind of increased realism that gets rid of an, at least for me, unpleasant abstraction in the rules. Now another part of the effect would be the prevalence of bleed-effects - it never made sense to me that bleed doesn't stack and for the purposes of this system, it does. Means of recovery and the heal skill also are properly implemented - no longer is the latter a waste of skill points, but rather a nice option to help keep your battered allies together. Now this base system can be further modified rather easily via a couple of optional rules that worked well in my tests.



Now, of course one would assume that synergy with e.g. already published feats would become wonky, but since severity replaces the critical confirmation roll, the bonus added can be simply carried over - elegant. Now this book does sport a vast array of new feats to support the system - the table alone covers over 5 pages, just to give you an idea of the scope. If I don't want to bloat the review worse than Kaer Maga's bloodmagic practitioners, I'll have to resort to giving you a general overview, all right?



The feats generally interact and expand with the new system - take the very first feat, acrobatic reflexes: Instead of a ref-save, this allows wounds that prompted a ref-save to avoid the wound's effects via acrobatics. Other feats allow you to treat the base damage (e.g. piericing) as another damage type. Of course, just about all common class/race features can be expanded as well - racial foe/hatred? There's a feat for it. Better threat range against foes unaware of you? Yep. Increased bleed damage whenever you cause it? Bingo. On a plus-side - shields receive more relevance: With the right shields, you receive a chance to negate the critical hit. Yes. The whole hit. Why do I consider this a good thing? Well, at first, I didn't. In actual game-play, it did add a level of dynamics, a roller coaster of emotions to the combat: When my Death Knight scored a decapitation against the paladin, who then proceeded to negate the attack, the player was sitting on the edge of his chair. Now some of the feats admittedly are "only" a good idea that could use proper expansion into a full-blown system: Take critical channel - Roll a d20 every time you channel: On a 20, double the effects. While this one won't break any game and gives the channeling player some of the criting satisfaction, I still maintain that a full-blown system would work better here. I'm also not a fan of adding a second attribute (like e.g. cha) as a modifier to damage, even if it's only on critical hits, but that's a personal preference and won't influence the final verdict. Now Deflect Blow is also an interesting feat - as an immediate action, you may opt to be hit by an attack, but receive DR /- equal to you BAB against the attack. No way to exploit, tax of one feat, action-economy-restriction - this is an example for a damn fine feat. Why? Because it makes combat more dynamic, adds some tactics and can't be cheesed via items, buffs etc. Opting to increase the threat range at the chance of an increased fumble-rate.



Another peculiarity of the feats herein would be that, beyond the weapon damage type finally mattering more, the feats also often require specific weapon qualities to work, lending the respective builds towards a more diverse weapon selection and thus, fighting styles. While by far not all feats herein are winners, the vast majority actually work in rather awesome ways and serve to neatly expand the base system's impact. Now Laying Waste would not be a massive book on mechanics without new archetypes -a total of 16, each crediting the respective author (and yeah, these include Rachel Venture, John Reyst, James Olchak, Adam Meyers, Clinton J. Boomer (!!!) and yours truly). Now generally, the archetypes are rather high-concept: James Olchak's Bajquan Imperial Bodyguard, for example, makes for one of the coolest bodyguard archetypes I've seen in a while - and while regaining ki by receiving damage can be cheesed with regeneration and fast healing, it is at least slow - still, that particular ability imho requires further restrictions to prevent all-out cheesing. Brian Berg's sinister Blood Archer, firing arrows clad in virulent poison with bone bows just oozes cool imagery. On the other hand of the spectrum, Rachel Ventura's woodland snipers bounded to nature spirits, the Dakini, are less sinister, but still damn cool. My Disembowler archetype is all about wielding oversized weapons (and yes, I plainly disregarded the cluster-f*** that is the Titan Mauler FAQ in favor of a simpler solution)...and gaining, at later levels a friggin' one-man cannon. This barbarian archetype also is all about NASTY severity-effects and may wilder somewhat in the gunslinger's arsenal.

Now some Otakus may start grinning right now - If you haven't realized it: I made this one as a personal love letter to the character Guts from Kentaro Miura's legendary dark fantasy Manga-saga Berserk. Conversely, my master of 1000 cuts, a fighter specialist of bleeding criticals actually came, concept-wise from my 2nd edition-days, before the bleeding rules were nerfed to smithereens - with Laying Waste fixing that, I could finally update the cool concept and modernize it. James Olchaks fighting-style analyzing Mockingbird-rogue is cool and Rachel Ventura's take on the Amazon actually makes a low armor, agile barbarian based on CHA work. Now if you've seen any WuXia-movie ever, I probably won't have to explain the concept of the pressure point master I wrote - Iless damage, better critical effect control would be what to expect here. (On a personal note: Thanks to all the reviewers that explicitly commented how they liked this one!) Adam Meyers also has something rather cool up his sleeve - the head honcho of Drop Dead Studios provides some cool Sneak Attack Substitutions. Now I don't have to tell you that Clinton J. Boomer's contributions are high concept and awesome - heavily armored dwarven barbarian? Ninja? Yeah. Brian Berg also provides a more down-to-earth sword master and a mace specialist. James Olchak's Spiked Gauntlet/Armor-specialist also makes for a neat take on the trope. John Reyst's Vandals are barbarians all about stealing and destroying.



Now it's only fair in a system of cool critical hits to apply the same thoroughness to critical fumbles -a distinction between melee, ranged and natural critical fumbles covers all the bases for the mundane ways to botch. This part of the system is just as optional and modular as the base system, but also damn cool. Now going even beyond that, Laying Waste takes groups that play with Armor as DR and Called Shots as variant rules into account and provides rather extensive advice on using the systems in conjunction, should you choose to. While I liked both base systems (introduced in Ultimate Combat, if my memory serves right) idea-wise, their execution did not work for my group when I introduced them, but since some groups will like them, kudos! Now I already mentioned the increase in significance the poor heal-skill receives and yes, the rules here are concise as well.



Beyond that, magical items and item qualities, a nice piece of short fiction and the fully statted Cr 15 fetchling magus on the cover as an iconic round out the book.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, not the biggest strength of TPK Games, is better here than in any other book they've released so far - while minor glitches can be found, their frequency is low enough to not impede one's enjoyment of the book. Layout adheres to a relatively printer-friendly 2-column b/w standard (with red highlights) and the b/w-art is original, old-school and nice, apart from the full color cover and single pieces here and there. The pdf comes excessively bookmarked and hyperlinked for your convenience.



This critical system is AWESOME. There's no way around it. If I had not considered it great, I wouldn't have agreed to work on it. Now, quite some time has passed and the system has seen some use and I can wholeheartedly say - it has improved the game. Combat is more dynamic, crits are more memorable - and best of all - the system is ridiculously easy to learn and master, elegant in design and modular: Don't like the fumbles? Ignore them. Don't like a feat/archetype? Ignore it. Even better, the system does not require other supplements to be specifically designed for it - each new supplement you buy can easily be made to adhere to Laying Waste's rules - this system will remain relevant. That being said, I wouldn't be Endzeitgeist if I had no complaints - some feats and archetypes didn't blow me away, but that's all right. A more significant catch would be that this book, by intention, is all about martials and martial crits - alchemical, magical or psionic crits will have to wait for Laying Waste II, which will also be made. So yeah, there's a gap in the system there, but one that is acknowledged. After several months of playtesting this beast, I can say that neither I, nor my players ever wish to return to the boring, bland default rules. This book may not be perfect, but you can cherry-pick it very well and the general system is elegant and downright genius.



If dark fantasy, horror, scars or just a gritty, more realistic fantasy is what you're looking for, if crits no longer result in excitement at your table - then you MUST get this. Even if you just want an array of wounds or additional effects for your own critical system, this beast is well worth the fair asking price. My final verdict will take all of these into account, but ultimately reflects one fact: There are few books that see this much use at the table, that so effortlessly increased fun - and while I can't always play with it (since I do a lot playtesting), it has become a permanent fixture in my main campaign. Now when do we finally get book 2? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval plus a nomination as a candidate for my best-of 2014.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Laying Waste: The Guide to Critical Combat
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