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Star Log.EM-032: Levialogi
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2019 03:51:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

With an original debut in PFRPG’s Paranormal Adventures, levialogi were high-CR threats, tailor-made to withstand the punishment that high-level PCs can dish out, designed to NOT be a wet paper-towel under stress…suffice to say, I absolutely loved them to bits, and now, they have come to Starfinder!

In a great bit of encrypted (and already decoded) introductory prose, we are introduced to the threat of the levialogi, with [redacted] components enhancing the atmosphere generated from the get-go. Originally, levialogi were inspired by the Leviathan as depicted in the Supernatural TV-series, and as such, their original shape is pretty much liquid. Encountering flesh, it can rewrite the creature’s genetic code, creating indistinguishable copies of the originals, stalking among mortals. Careful and calculating, they are intelligent and combine themes of doppelgangers, body horror and cthulhoid horror. And I mean horror. They are genuinely frightening.

Their bites ignore all DR, and when they devour at least a light bulk’s worth of flesh, they can assume that flesh’s owner’s appearance. With a ton of immunities and resistances, they thus retain a crucial function they had in PF, perhaps doing that aspect even better: Know this anticlimactic scene, when player cheers turn muted as they realize that their strategy/insane luck has just one-shotted/crited to smithereens this cool adversary? When being really good isn’t as fun anymore? Enter these fellows. Unbeknown to the PCs, the mastermind was a levialogos, and bam, suddenly, the combat turns into a whole new thing! Beyond immunities, they also have regeneration and DR, both of which are notoriously hard to deal with – and full functionality is provided, in that the levialogi get a full subtype graft write-up that codifies traits and how they can emulate class-based abilities, all perfectly in line with the Alien Archive’s graft-system.

The pdf also contains three sample statblocks – the CR 1 Cessilogos that still has to consume an appearance, and the mighty CR 20 Erythologos (with soldier tricks), as well as the CR 25 Leucologos, who seems to have feasted on an operative. Their stats are within the parameters of what you’d expect from really difficult targets – as a minor nitpick, the Leucologos’ EAC and KAC are not properly bolded. A minor nitpick that won’t influence the verdict: It would have behooved the pdf to mention that devour appearance’s class graft granting does not provide the benefits of the class graft’s adjustments, if any. While this can be deduced from studying the Alien Archive, it may be a minor stumbling stone for less experienced GMs.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Star Log.EM’s two-column full-color standard, and the artwork is neat. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas’ levailogi have been translated exceedingly well to Starfinder. Indeed, I do believe they may fit Starfinder better than Pathfinder; the statblocks are solid (though some signature tricks would have been nice – but then again, their subtype already provides a ton of them…), but the subtype graft is where the gold lies. The levialogi graft just plain rocks, and I’m sure to use it in the future! It makes creating them swift and painless, and allows crafty GMs to create a failsafe to make sure that, even if in the future power-creep changes the power-balance of SFRPG, the old materials can still be sued…just add in a levialogi subplot and add some serious staying power to the big bad guys and gals and other things… A nice toolkit indeed, this gets my recommendation at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-032: Levialogi
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Kobayashi Maroon
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2019 03:47:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first part of what once was supposedly the last Alpha Blue supplement, released on its own as this file, clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page kort’thalis glyph, 1 page blank, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As always, the following disclaimer applies. Alpha Blue is a gleeful parody of 70’s/80’s scifi porn spoofs, and doesn’t take itself seriously; there is puerile humor, drawn nudity and the like herein. If you are offended by naked bodies or the like, then steer clear. This supplement makes use of Alpha Blue’s iteration of Venger’s rules-lite VSd6-dice pool system, which is based on d6s, so mechanically, there isn’t that much depth (unless you combine all the disparate optional rules spread throughout Alpha Blue’s catalogue), but since the main-draw here would be concepts anyhow, I don’t see why you couldn’t create stats of the like for systems like “Stars Without Number”, should you choose to do so. If beer-and-pretzels gaming is what you’re looking for, then stick to Alpha Blue, obviously. I assume familiarity with Alpha Blue in my review, so if you have no clue about the setting, I’d invite you to read my reviews of its supplements. I’ve covered all of them released up to this one, and if you read this in a couple of months/weeks after release, probably all of the,

The supplement does start with a couple of pieces of advice for roleplaying in Alpha Blue, easing them into the more explicit themes.

All right, that out of the way, let’s dive in! The following discussion contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only BDSMs (Bold Dungeon Space Masters) around? Great! The PCs start aboard the vessel “Get Woke Go Broke”, when they witness a distress signal by the space-luxury line “The Vanessa”, which is breaking apart due to proximity to a pink hole. The first set-piece lists a bullet-point suggestion of what may entail when the PCs do enter the rare space phenomenon. Some suggestions for strategies to save the folks will help – but in the aftermath, the PCs will witness a Great Old one oozing from the hole, asking them its favorite color – further exacerbating the situation, and potentially killing PCs for answering incorrectly. And yes, as the title suggests, this was a simulation – and the PCs get to roll on random tables if they shat their pants. But why? There are 6 random reasons for having subjected yourself to it. All of this fits on two pages, and as you make have noted, this is pretty much an adventure outline.

The second chapter, episode #2, starts as a solo-adventure, but may be quickly expanded to cater to a whole crew of PCs. This episode takes place during Pr0n Fa’ar – the Vulcan parody should be readily apparent for everyone. The module begins with read-aloud text that references a Hendrix song, as well as a wife wanting to take the space cardboard with you. I…could relate there. Minus space, obviously. XD As the PC returns, he finds himself cuckolded by an alien, and, to make things worse, the no-longer-BAE lady has actually been an agent in disguise all these years. Both the alien and the unfaithful wife are btw. fully stated, in case the first reaction of the PC has something to do with an itchy trigger-finger…or otherwise existent pseudopod. Going through Agent Spectra (true name of the wife)’s phone will yield a reference to a space station, where the agent is not there – his vorpal whoopee-cushion, though, is. (Including a d8 appendage severing table.) Random (and kinda funny): If the agent-contact is killed (stats provided), the PCs will be teleported by his failsafe device into the middle of a Mexican standoff between S’pock, two martians from Sesame Street (I meant, the Seza’ame System…), Fade Hardkockian, Clint Eastwood…and a Tron Girl, for a fat battle royale – for the price of the last female of an all but extinct species, including sexual encounter aftermath random table. Funnier than the first one (objective though that may be), I enjoyed this quick series of encounters more than the first scenario; it’s more of an adventure, and less of an outline.

Episode 3 is the longest of the 3 short modules and begins with a read-aloud message for zith lord try-outs, with a fortune and the right of the first night in the whole system. Thus, they are sent to a big VIP-laden party, which is supplemented by 8 sample, suspicious NPCs. This section also has notes on “safe language”, which translates to being penalized for blowing stuff out of proportions. Space muslims attack the party, and when a bonafide zith lord enters, things can become more dangerous…though the contest for the title may also be resolved via a vagina eating contest, which is resolved in a quick and dirty (haha) mini-game with the usual dice pool mechanics.

The pdf also has a rule for sneak attacks, a d100 table of “WTF are NPCs doing right now” (and a d6 table to determine how they take the interruption)…and, apart from the backstab rules, also a pretty interesting optional rule – for blue balls (or ovaries, I guess): Not having sex in Alpha Blue, with this system, will brutally penalize you, the less often you get off. 7 steps, from bonuses to brutal penalties, are provided, and the pdf comes with a Blue Ball tracker (also included as separate pdfs in color and mono). This brings me to one point: Right now, the best rules of Alpha Blue are spread out over x supplements. At one point, a second edition that collects a new array of core rules may be a smart move. Just sayin’, since this is a nice method to gamify and reward roleplaying in convention with the system’s lewd themes. It should also be noted that an 8-name table (with a column for male, female and non-binary entities) is provided, and we do get stats for none other than Venger Satanis himself, who btw. does come with full stats. He’s brutal.

As you could glean here and there, there are a few politically charged terms used herein, which may or may not annoy you. It is not my place as a reviewer of RPG products to comment on the lampooning of these terms in a product for a game that focuses on parody.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level; Venger’s (pardon, Zoltan’s) rules-fu precision has increased. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes with several nice full-color artworks, which of course feature nudity. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Venger’s (Pardon, I mean: Zoltar Khan Delgado’s) Kobayashi Maroon collection alternates in its usability somewhat. The great premise of the eponymous scenario, episode #1, is somewhat marred by being little more than a sketch; while the second episode does feel a bit random, it is also wild – the scene on the cover? That actually happens in the adventure! The third scenario is a bit more straight-forward. While they all have wild vignettes, they ultimately feel like brief sidetreks – which they are. The presence of proper stats for all involved is a plus, though, and the optional rules herein rank among the best in the whole series. Frankly, the blue-ball tracker mechanic is smart, and having a visual representation helps. Backstab rules are overdue as well – these rules should become core, should there ever be a second edition of Alpha Blue.

So yeah, within the confines of the rules-lite VSd6-system, the rules were my favorites here; simple, cleanly presented, easy to grasp, fun. This may actually be the first Alpha Blue supplement where I genuinely liked the rules presented and what they bring to the Alpha Blue table more than the modules/adventure outlines did. If you’re no fan of Alpha Blue, this will not change your mind. If you like what you’ve seen so far, this provides more of the same, with some cool vignettes, but ultimately, the variant rules will be the biggest drawing point…with the probably and notable exception of the scene on the cover. Which is pure, glorious madness.

That being said, while Venger, äh, Zoltar, has definitely improved the structure of his writing, I couldn’t help but wish that one of these scenarios had instead been extended to proper module length. As written, Alpha Blue has a metric ton of sketch-like vignettes, but not that much in the vein of longer modules – at least not without the GM extrapolating from Venger/Zoltar’s outlines. All in all, I found this to be an enjoyable addition to Alpha Blue’s canon, though the influx of politically-charged terms may irk some folks. It’s not the best supplement in the product line, but for the low price point, it represents a fair offering. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kobayashi Maroon
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Eldritch Elementalism
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2019 12:26:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, though, as always for Legendary Games, these are cock-full with content – many other publishers wouldn’t have crammed this much text on a given page.

Okay, so, in a way, this pdf represents partially a player’s option booklet, partially a GM’s toolkit that also is somewhat relevant for players…but in order to explain that, we should take one step at a time.

Upon opening the pdf, we are greeted with something I did not expect, but very much enjoyed: The book presents us with a variety of ecologies for the respective elementals for the 4 core elements. This may sound like a small thing, but to me, text like this helps getting the creative juices going, and indeed, few beings require this little help as much as elementals do…but I’ll get back to what I mean by that later.

For now, let us take a look at the two new archetypes, which both aim to fill a hole in the rules regarding elemental-themed support. The first of these would be the elemental channeler druid archetype, who receives Knowledge (planes) as a class skill and chooses an elemental focus among the 4 core elements. For the focus, the channeler gets a +1 bonus to CL when casting spells with the corresponding descriptor. This also determines the opposing element. The archetype has diminished spellcasting, but gains access to a kineticist’s simple blast associated with the chosen element, with 6th level increasing the range of the blast to 120 ft. – and another ability nets basic aerokinesis for air, geokinesis for earth – you get the idea. The elemental channeler treats the latter as at-will SPs. Nature bond, nature sense and wild empathy are lost for these abilities, though. At 3rd level, the elemental channeler can learn a 1st level utility wild talent associated with the chosen elemental focus, which becomes an at-will SP or SU, depending on the utility wild talent in question. Every 3 levels beyond that yield an additional such utility wild talent, which must be of a level equal to half the elemental channeler’s class level or lower. Instead of being governed by Constitution, they use Wisdom as governing key ability modifier, and instead of accepting burn, they are powered by expending a spell slot of a spell level equal to the wild talent’s level.

The archetype can also choose to learn the element’s defense wild talent, though here, the spell slot expenditure required is equal to the amount of burn accepted. Instead of woodland stride and trackless step, we get different abilities depending on the chosen element. Instead of resist nature’s lure, we have a bonus to spells and effects originating from elemental creatures with the druid’s subtype. A purely cosmetic hiccup: A bit of a sentence here is bolded that shouldn’t be. This does not impede functionality, though. Wild shape is altered to allow the druid to assume elemental form, counting as +2 level for the purpose of assuming the form of the chosen element, but prohibiting her from assuming the form of the opposed elemental. Instead of a thousand faces, the archetype, finally, has an apotheosis to native outsider with the chosen element’s subtype, but sans the immunity/vulnerability, and with the explicit caveat of that not hampering raising from the dead. All in all, an interesting kineticist-y engine tweak for the druid.

The second archetype within would be the elemental witch, who is locked into Elements, light, Mountains, Storms, Water or Winter as patron. The elemental witch chooses a single element to focus on, and the choice is in part determined by the patron chosen, and the elemental witch does not have an opposed element. At 6th level, the witch may choose to gain another elemental supremacy in place of a hex, and she may select several, provided they are allowed by the patron chosen. Subsequent choices after the one at 1st level are treated as witch level minus 5, though. We get custom elemental supremacy effects for each of the elements, and I was surprised to see some interesting angles here – air, for example, allows you to ignore wind effects up to a certain strength, while also providing +2 to Fly, a bonus that increases over the levels. Air descriptor spells get a +1 CL, and the supremacy includes an at-will SP, with 5th, 10th and 20th level providing upgrades in the face of additional SPs and better defensive tricks. This paradigm applies to all of these supremacies, though in different ways. Beyond supremacies aligned with the 4 core elements, we also have a supremacy for cold and storms.

At 4th level or whenever she gains a new hex, the witch may choose Improved Familiar instead, gaining an elemental patron associated with the respective patron. 6th level nets elemental shape, basically a wild shape variant for elemental shapes only. Minor complaint: One reference to elemental body I is not italicized properly. The ability upgrades at 8th, 10th and 12th level, with durations and uses per day increasing per level. The ability replaces the 6th and 12th level abilities. The archetype also may choose from among 8 unique major hexes, which include Augment Summoning elemental summoning, and the option to grant some supremacy benefits to other summoned creatures. We also have a cyclone, a crashing wave that can push targets away, etc. – these are interesting, and, you guessed it, contingent on the patrons chosen. All in all, a nice archetype!

The pdf also contains 5 feats…for elementals! Smothering Grapple is a feat for air and water elementals, and allows an elemental to suffocate grappled targets. Manifest Armaments is an overdue trick for elementals, allowing them to manifest armor and weaponry, with unique benefits depending on the elemental subtype – air elementals have weaker armor, but get scaling miss chances, for example, while earthen armor is better, but bulky, and thus subject to an increased armor check penalty. Improved Manifest Armaments increases the range of the base feat, now allowing for the creation of medium armors and two-handed weaponry, or light and one-handed weapon at once. Cool! Manifest Earthen Bulwark increases DR granted by the armors, and unlocks heavy armor equivalents. (As an aside: The feat is called “Earthen” because it’s earth-exclusive.)

Shape Summons is a key-feat here – it’s not for elementals, but for their summoners, allowing the summoner to apply elemental templates to called elementals. This brings me to the lion’s share of the book’s content, namely what I always wanted – rules-relevant tweaks to diversify elementals, here, in the guise of a plethora of templates that may be applied to elementals. Before you ask, yes, interactions with planar ally et al. are covered, and each of the templates comes with a sample creature, many of which come with actual full-color artworks! One of these fellows you can see on the cover – it’s an air elemental with the CR +1 avian template applied, the “Roc of the Gales.” We also get templates for cephalopod elementals, exemplified in application…by the sky squid! The pdf does contain rules for the CR +2 draconic elemental template (yep, they’re indeed harder than regular elementals…) and, as you could probably deduce from aforementioned Armament feats, there is the humanoid elemental template, which, also at +1, would be a great place to note that the respective sample creatures are NOT just lazy applications of the base template. Instead, e.g. the sample humanoid elemental does make use of the new feats…and has class levels. (As a cosmetic note: The armor class-header is not bolded in the template.) Predatory elementals take the form of hunting animals and beasts, while piscine elementals – bingo, resemble fish…and yes, you can make a piscine fire elemental! Finally, there would also be serpentine elementals – the last three all clock in at CR +1, btw.

However, beyond these roughly creature-shape-themed elemental templates, there is more to be found within: Consuming elementals, at CR +1, can consume the elemental energy, and a kinetic blast-based breath weapon. Speaking of which: The kinetic elemental gets kineticist tricks that improve based on HD. A pleasant surprise for me was the presence of the CR +1 radioactive elemental template, which draws upon the Technology Guide’s radiation rules, with HD governing radiation strength. The sample critter here is particularly neat: We get a consuming radioactive kinetic humanoid earth elemental with invulnerable rager levels! CR 17. You know you want to send this fellow to kick your PC’s behinds! On the more down to earth side, the unbound elemental template at CR +0 represents a more mutable elemental.

Beyond all of these, the pdf also contains two eldritch elementals as a bonus of sorts: The Flamboyant Flame, a CR 13 humanoid fire elemental swashbuckler that masquerades as a graceful efreeti – and yes, we have notes to call this fellow via planar ally. And then there would be the endboss. If your players ever laughed about the notion of a campaign ending in a battle versus an elemental that is not a prince or, well Tharizdunian in theme, here you go: Infernatrox, the Draconic Conflagration, is an advanced draconic mythic fire elemental that clocks in at a cute CR 25/MR 10. AC 47, an ability called “Immortal Flame” that not only has him detonate upon death, but makes it possible for allies to quickly and fully revive the fellow, an ability called “Everything Burns” that bypasses all resistance and immunities of nonmythic targets and also compromises that of mythic beings…and I’m just getting started. An interesting thing about this brutal beast, though, is that it is designed to reward planning and clever PCs. Several abilities have specific means to offset them – yep, mythic characters can, with a clever trick, benefit from resistances and immunities versus his flames. In a way, this is a great build that is both mechanically interesting and a small puzzle of sorts. Really enjoyed this fellow!

Conclusion: Editing is very good on a formal and rules-language level. Formatting sports a few more glitches than what I’m accustomed to see from Legendary Games, but none of them are impediments to grasping the concepts within. Layout adheres to the blue-tinted two-column full-color standard of the reign of Winter-plugins, and the pdf sports quite a few nice full-color artworks. While I had known a few before, I also found several new ones within. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Deborah Kammerzell, Chris van Horn and Jason Nelson have crafted a pdf I frankly did not expect to like. At all. When I read “elemental” on most books, I get this immediate yawn-reflex. I have seen elemental options done so often, and often so well, that I am hard to excite. However, the simple form-templates for elementals in this book really serve a niche: they provide a quick and painless, fun toolkit for the GM to finally make elementals top being so damn boring. If you have ever bemoaned that e.g. no birds of lightning, no fish of fire graced your table, here you have an array of templates that elevates elementals from boring hunks of elemental matter to actually interesting adversaries that get players talking: That eel of lightning sure was creepy, right? Anyhow, if there is a minor weakness here, then that would be that I would have loved to see a few more outré templates for the elementals. Predatory, for example, is a pretty simple one, and not all of them are equally exciting. However, that is me complaining at a high level. The pdf does have its genius moments, and some of the sample elementals indeed go above and beyond.

All in all, this represents a pleasant surprise, and as such, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars – a super-handy toolkit for GMs, and particularly if you’re too lazy to make all these small templates yourself, a real time-saver. (Plus: Sample critters rock!)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eldritch Elementalism
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NIGHT SOIL #zero — for the DCC RPG (Dungeon Crawl Classics) — INNER HAM
Publisher: Inner Ham
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2019 12:25:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The #ZERO issue of the Night Soil ‚zine for DCC clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, laid out in approximately 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), meaning that you can theoretically fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this.

As the editorial page makes clear, the theme of Night Soil as a ‘zine would be art – or, to be more precise, the art of the 4th printing of the DCC core rules. Basically, we get rules that correspond to the artworks in that book. Thus, content herein is not governed by type of material, but instead, in its sequence of the artworks that inspired their respective creation. While I do get the notion here, from a purely practical point of view, I am not particularly happy with this decision, as it ultimately makes finding a specific bit of content harder if you’re e.g. looking for a magic item. On the other hand, if you’re skimming through the DCC core rules for inspiration and flip this open right next to you, well, then it works as intended…but still is, at least in my book, somewhat inconvenient.

Anyhow, I will attempt to structure this review by content, not be the sequence of the art that inspired it. All right? Great! So, another thing you have to know, is that this ‘zine follows the tradition of e.g. many articles in Gongfarmer’s Almanac and similar ‘zines (Yep, do own those – however, as they’re free/at-cost for print compilations, I won’t review them unless tasked to do so by my patreon supporters) for DCC, in that it employs a quasi-type-writer style font. While this obviously is intended as a draw for nostalgia, as a callback to the old days of DIY-‘zines, it’s not a decision I am particularly fond of. While DCC is not exactly intense and hard to grasp regarding its formatting conventions, the adherence to this typewriter-style font means that even basic formatting conventions like bolding and italicization of certain rules-materials, are not properly implemented within. In essence, the pdf chooses nostalgia over convenience, and while DCC is not as reliant on such formatting conventions, they do exist for a reason. They make processing information simpler and quicker. For me, this is a definite drawback.

Anyhow, the first piece of content within would be a monster, the terrordactyl (guess what that fellow is), which has a nasty stench and can actually insta-gib you on a natural 20. Not a fan of that one. As an aside note – the movement ratings throughout the ‘zine tend to lack the feet-indicator, presenting only the number. I know. I’m nitpicking. Phlogiston elementals are more interesting – pretty powerful at between 6d6 and 10d6 HD, they have act 1d20 + 1d14 and are more vulnerable versus wooden weapons, while metal ones are less efficient. I like this type of design paradigm. We also get somewhat unremarkable stats for unicorns, that are primarily relevant due to the notes on using them as mounts. The coolest creature herein, both conceptually and mechanically, would be the lobsterclops: Beating the fellow on initiative isn’t necessarily beneficial, and its tongue-lick can cause freakouts on a failed Will-save. Cool! Stalking demons are pretty creepy, and can wreck your movement until there literally is no escape.

The pdf also has brief notes on dogmen, who can only advance to 3rd level in cleric, thief, warrior and wizard. These fellows are Small, have a 1d3+Strength modifier bite attack, get a keen sense of smell, and bones they discover that are used for magical effects get a whopping 40% increase when employed in the presence of the dogman. They are easily distracted, though, and must make Personality checks to avoid being distracted, which translates to losing an Action Die when confronted with such stimulants, or move a step down the dice chain when saving. On the semi-stat-like side, we have a brief write-up for catbat familiars, as well as for zombie retainers, and one for “Death Guards” – basically schmucks that have been indoctrinated to think that they have great fighting powers – which they don’t have. However, as long as enough of them are standing, they actually can rise above their crappy stats via 4 different inspirational tactics, though the verbiage here could be clearer: Do all guards get the benefits? Can each choose their own benefit? Can the group use a total of one trick per encounter, or is that tracked by death guard? And finally: Why, for f**’s sake, per encounter. Per encounter mechanics have never made any form of in-game sense. insert my tired old rant and examples*

Now, the ‘zine also contains a collection of different magic items: Horseshoes of returning are certainly one of the most inconspicuous weapons I can think of, and they are particularly intended for halfling use and for thieves. Speaking of halflings: The pipe of contentment can only be used once every two days and takes a calm hour to smoke. Upon finishing the pipe, the user gets either a temporary luck boost on a failed Fort-save, or a longer lasting temporary luck boost and also heal Intelligenceor Personality damage. Halflings get better boosts and proceed to heal the two attribute damage types faster for a couple of days. A brief sequence also notes 4 uses for a dead giant, which mentions the skull being desirable as a witch’s cauldron (sans mechanics) and effects of feasting on the flesh of a giant personally killed. 5 effects are provided. The other uses are closer to story-relevant and turned out to be pretty cool: Polar kraken bait? Heck yeah! Vorpal swords get an interesting mechanic: 1-in30 chance of decapitating the target on a critical hit, which increases by 1 every time the decapitation’s not rolled. Sigh Hand me the bag of kittens…I’ll start slaughtering until the heads-off effect is higher… Aethereal quarterstaffs can only be held by one of 3 persons, and a wielder can call it to the hand or send it to nothingness. Okay, how do you become the guy that can call it to your hand? No idea.

The Not-two brooch of time has a nice mechanic and can bolster spell checks and deflect incoming spells on a 1-in-5, as well as stop missiles. The dagger of fire steering can generate a 5-in-7 reliable bubble of fire-negating on the wearer, and it can hasten or slow the spread of fires by 50% The cauldron of contact is one of my favorites within, coming with a d20 table of side effects, and requiring specific wood to use. Horned caps enhance Luck burns regarding animal or fear-related spells slightly. Dragon staffs can 1/day be thumped to the ground to net a unique power from dragon table VI for level rounds. Ouch! The amulet of six segments requires a cleric to use and is aligned – each of its segmented effects can be used exactly once. Solid. Enchanted skull bookrests act as magical ciphering tools for wizards – remove the scrambled book from the skull, and you have gibberish. Yep, textbook example of “Quest for it!”-material. Straddling the line between item and plot-device, speaking headstones do pretty much what you’d expect them to, and there are rules for a collection of inspirational lore. An armlet of Azi Dahaka helps traverse desert storms – provided you’re a disciple of the dread entity.

Speaking of somewhat dressing-related things: A submerged skull of a titan, and some unusual effects for a hanging tree can be found herein, and the pdf also notes a weird monk-tradition that inscribes spells on insect-based scrolls that revert to live insects upon being cast…unless the caster’s lucky, for there’s a chance these scrolls are not consumed.

The pdf also depicts three new spells: At level 1, we have shadowblend, an AC-buff for wizards. The pretty lame eye of chaos that pretty much is an anti-law alignment spell and clocks in at level 2 – both of these are wizard spells. Clerics can get the new level 2 spell seeking shrieking shrike, which fires an animal-shaped bolt of energy that takes a while to hit the target, but does pretty decent damage. Not genius, but this one is at least conceptually compelling, in contrast to the previous two.

Finally, the pdf also contains a few hazard-like obstacle/creatures: Lock defenders are tiny beings that can attempt to prevent intrusion into a lock, but most importantly, carry all sorts of nasty diseases. Frogmoths are a winner, drifting through the air. They are loud, then exhibit a hard shellack coating stuck to the surface, making for a weird kind of temporary armor that makes movement impossible. Minor complaint: No suggestion is provided for a movement speed reduction when putting these moths on you – other than that, this represents one of my favorites in this book!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay on a formal and rules-language. I noticed a couple of typos and some instances where the rules-language could have been clearer. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes with quite a few sketch-like b/w-doodle-style artworks that range from nice to not-so-nice. Like the cover? You won’t mind the aesthetics. As noted before, I’m not a fan of the layout decisions within. The pdf version, alas, has no bookmarks, which provides a further comfort detriment.

Bygrinstow’s Night Soil #ZERO is a solid grab-bag of miscellaneous things for your DCC game. The content within ranges from inspiring and cool, to bland renditions of classic tropes. While the cool components that get this DCC-weird-vibe, this Appendix N-flair, definitely are in the majority, the formal criteria and lack of bookmarks are hard to ignore. All in all, I consider this to be a good example of a mixed bag – some aspects are definitely worthwhile. The low price, however, does net this half a star, but not enough to round up. My final verdict will hence be 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
NIGHT SOIL #zero — for the DCC RPG (Dungeon Crawl Classics) — INNER HAM
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Languard Locations: Under the City (5e)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2019 03:22:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final installment of the impressive Languard Locations-series, which further elaborates upon the unique locales to be found in the city of Languard clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It is time, my fellow travelers, to once more walk the streets of Languard, of this beautiful and horrible pearl of the Duchy of Ashlar – and this time around, we won’t go to a particular neighborhood. Instead, we will light our torches and delve below the dirty, cobblestone streets and explore what lies beneath the surface of this city.

In case you were wondering – we do get the full-page map of Languard, beautifully hand-crafted by Tommi Salama, and on it, the respective places are noted. While I very much would have welcomed a map of the main tunnel systems, this map does do its job and contextualizes the respective locales featured within.

A total of 9 new locations are provided in this pdf, and, as before, the respective write-ups all feature their own adventure hooks. They sport the sensible letter and number combination that allows you to easily assign them to a neighborhood. “S7”? Obviously a location in the shambles. It’s a small thing, but one I enjoy. Key NPCs note race and class, as well as alignment, but otherwise remain focused on flavor-text. Where applicable, the 5e-iteration references the default NPC-stats, and where this would make no sense, a combination of class-name and suggested level allow for easy contextualization. There are no stats provided, but you probably won’t expect them at this point.

6 of the locations are roughly in the vicinity of the High City, and there is a reason for that, as the introductory paragraphs duly note: North of the Svart, an abundance of natural caverns made for an easy choice to expand into a proper, full-blown sewer system…but the same did not hold true for the poor South of the city: Low City, shambles, fishshambles, wrecks – these places will feel just as grimy as you probably envision them to be, as noted in their respective reviews. In the context of a fantasy world more so than within the context of a mundane one, there is obvious danger looming within the darkness of sewers – and indeed, Languard does have a force that takes care of that…the Dark Wardens. Languardians living in the High City call the tax that pays for these men and women the Shit Tax – for obvious reasons.

In the dark recesses beneath the earth, you can find the “House of the Clouded Mind” – more commonly known by its informal moniker – The “Screaming Halls.” These darkened and damp corridors house Languard’s insane, and while the house above ground may be pleasant enough, the same can’t be said for the regions below that act as a dumping ground for undesirables. Less grim and heart-wrenching would be the dwarven shrine, set into Languard’s cliffs, where the stout folk may worship in peace and in cavernous settings.

In a cavern, right in the midst of a pool, there is a shard of clearly unnatural rock – the low shard. In the dim twilight, a toll must be paid to enter, but in the strange presence of the rock formation, couples tryst and both dalliances and alliances are commemorated. A cavern beneath a lamp-lit tent conceals the entrance to the black market of Languard, where freak show entertainers, exotic goods and weaponry and more may be purchased…if you can pay the price and know where to look, that is.

And then there would be the tunnel of shades, and amazing adventure location. A prior ruler of Languard once had the idea to give the unemployed something to do, and attempted to tunnel under the Svart, connecting the two halves of the city. Well, turns out that this did not go well. Partially flooded, courtesy of incompetence, and haunted by the spirits of the dead, this tunnel may exist, but it is a dangerous proposal to navigate it by skiff.

Right beneath the eminent Father, there are the Languard catacombs, divided by class just as the city above is. In the Shambles, south of the Svart, there is Saren the rag-lady – a potent information-broker rumored to be undead…and a glance at her sloughing skin and blisters may well lead the PCs to conclude that the rumors are true. Prices for information on specific targets are provided. If you’ve read the supplement on the Shambles, it should come as no surprise that the chaos of the place does extend to the area below the surface. And indeed, the maze of wooden passageways and linked cellars makes for a labyrinthine environment, while also housing the headquarters of the Shadow Masks. Finally, beneath the notoriously unstable and wretched Wrecks, there lies the place known as Smuggler’s Crux, a maze of half-sunken canals, crawl-holes and soughs of connected barrels – unreliable, notoriously dangerous, and twisted, air pockets can be found in side vents and wells, subterranean rangers and rogues lair here…and there even is a tiny subterranean sanctum for the truly desperate. I adore this one!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. As this basically contains next to no rules, there isn’t much to do wrong here. Layout adheres to the series’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a plethora of really nice b/w-artworks. As noted before, Tommi Salama’s cartography of Languard is excellent, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf also comes in two iterations, one intended for screen-use, and one intended to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst, Steve Hood and Richard Pett provide a triumphant farewell to Languard and its locations. The series has managed to seed the already impressive city with truly remarkable, down to earth, grimy and gritty locales that get the creative juices flowing, and this supplement is no exception. The 5e iteration holds up to the comparison with the other two versions of this installment, retaining the strengths of the supplement. A worthy final offering, this pdf gets 5 stars + my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Languard Locations: Under the City (5e)
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Creator Reply:
Thank you so much for this review, End. I much appreciated it and I'm delighted you enjoyed the book!
Languard Locations: Under the City
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2019 03:16:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final installment of the impressive Languard Locations-series, which further elaborates upon the unique locales to be found in the city of Languard clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It is time, my fellow travelers, to once more walk the streets of Languard, of this beautiful and horrible pearl of the Duchy of Ashlar – and this time around, we won’t go to a particular neighborhood. Instead, we will light our torches and delve below the dirty, cobblestone streets and explore what lies beneath the surface of this city.

In case you were wondering – we do get the full-page map of Languard, beautifully hand-crafted by Tommi Salama, and on it, the respective places are noted. While I very much would have welcomed a map of the main tunnel systems, this map does do its job and contextualizes the respective locales featured within.

A total of 9 new locations are provided in this pdf, and, as before, the respective write-ups all feature their own adventure hooks. They sport the sensible letter and number combination that allows you to easily assign them to a neighborhood. “S7”? Obviously a location in the shambles. It’s a small thing, but one I enjoy. Key NPCs note race and class, as well as alignment, but otherwise remain focused on flavor-text. There are no stats provided, but you probably won’t expect them at this point.

6 of the locations are roughly in the vicinity of the High City, and there is a reason for that, as the introductory paragraphs duly note: North of the Svart, an abundance of natural caverns made for an easy choice to expand into a proper, full-blown sewer system…but the same did not hold true for the poor South of the city: Low City, shambles, fishshambles, wrecks – these places will feel just as grimy as you probably envision them to be, as noted in their respective reviews. In the context of a fantasy world more so than within the context of a mundane one, there is obvious danger looming within the darkness of sewers – and indeed, Languard does have a force that takes care of that…the Dark Wardens. Languardians living in the High City call the tax that pays for these men and women the Shit Tax – for obvious reasons.

In the dark recesses beneath the earth, you can find the “House of the Clouded Mind” – more commonly known by its informal moniker – The “Screaming Halls.” These darkened and damp corridors house Languard’s insane, and while the house above ground may be pleasant enough, the same can’t be said for the regions below that act as a dumping ground for undesirables. Less grim and heart-wrenching would be the dwarven shrine, set into Languard’s cliffs, where the stout folk may worship in peace and in cavernous settings.

In a cavern, right in the midst of a pool, there is a shard of clearly unnatural rock – the low shard. In the dim twilight, a toll must be paid to enter, but in the strange presence of the rock formation, couples tryst and both dalliances and alliances are commemorated. A cavern beneath a lamp-lit tent conceals the entrance to the black market of Languard, where freak show entertainers, exotic goods and weaponry and more may be purchased…if you can pay the price and know where to look, that is.

And then there would be the tunnel of shades, and amazing adventure location. A prior ruler of Languard once had the idea to give the unemployed something to do, and attempted to tunnel under the Svart, connecting the two halves of the city. Well, turns out that this did not go well. Partially flooded, courtesy of incompetence, and haunted by the spirits of the dead, this tunnel may exist, but it is a dangerous proposal to navigate it by skiff.

Right beneath the eminent Father, there are the Languard catacombs, divided by class just as the city above is. In the Shambles, south of the Svart, there is Saren the rag-lady – a potent information-broker rumored to be undead…and a glance at her sloughing skin and blisters may well lead the PCs to conclude that the rumors are true. Prices for information on specific targets are provided. If you’ve read the supplement on the Shambles, it should come as no surprise that the chaos of the place does extend to the area below the surface. And indeed, the maze of wooden passageways and linked cellars makes for a labyrinthine environment, while also housing the headquarters of the Shadow Masks. Finally, beneath the notoriously unstable and wretched Wrecks, there lies the place known as Smuggler’s Crux, a maze of half-sunken canals, crawl-holes and soughs of connected barrels – unreliable, notoriously dangerous, and twisted, air pockets can be found in side vents and wells, subterranean rangers and rogues lair here…and there even is a tiny subterranean sanctum for the truly desperate. I adore this one!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. As this basically contains next to no rules, there isn’t much to do wrong here. Layout adheres to the series’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a plethora of really nice b/w-artworks. As noted before, Tommi Salama’s cartography of Languard is excellent, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf also comes in two iterations, one intended for screen-use, and one intended to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst, Steve Hood and Richard Pett provide a triumphant farewell to Languard and its locations. The series has managed to seed the already impressive city with truly remarkable, down to earth, grimy and gritty locales that get the creative juices flowing, and this supplement is no exception. A worthy final offering, this pdf gets 5 stars + my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Languard Locations: Under the City
Click to show product description

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Creator Reply:
Thank you so much for this review, End. I much appreciated it and I'm delighted you enjoyed the book!
Thank you so much for this review, End. I much appreciated it and I'm delighted you enjoyed the book!
Languard Locations: Under the City (SN)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2019 03:12:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final installment of the impressive Languard Locations-series, which further elaborates upon the unique locales to be found in the city of Languard clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It is time, my fellow travelers, to once more walk the streets of Languard, of this beautiful and horrible pearl of the Duchy of Ashlar – and this time around, we won’t go to a particular neighborhood. Instead, we will light our torches and delve below the dirty, cobblestone streets and explore what lies beneath the surface of this city.

In case you were wondering – we do get the full-page map of Languard, beautifully hand-crafted by Tommi Salama, and on it, the respective places are noted. While I very much would have welcomed a map of the main tunnel systems, this map does do its job and contextualizes the respective locales featured within.

A total of 9 new locations are provided in this pdf, and, as before, the respective write-ups all feature their own adventure hooks. They sport the sensible letter and number combination that allows you to easily assign them to a neighborhood. “S7”? Obviously a location in the shambles. It’s a small thing, but one I enjoy. Key NPCs note race and class, as well as alignment, but otherwise remain focused on flavor-text. There are no stats provided, but you probably won’t expect them at this point. The system neutral version properly references old-school class nomenclature – you won’t see rogues or newfangled wizards here – it’s all thieves and magic-users.

6 of the locations are roughly in the vicinity of the High City, and there is a reason for that, as the introductory paragraphs duly note: North of the Svart, an abundance of natural caverns made for an easy choice to expand into a proper, full-blown sewer system…but the same did not hold true for the poor South of the city: Low City, shambles, fishshambles, wrecks – these places will feel just as grimy as you probably envision them to be, as noted in their respective reviews. In the context of a fantasy world more so than within the context of a mundane one, there is obvious danger looming within the darkness of sewers – and indeed, Languard does have a force that takes care of that…the Dark Wardens. Languardians living in the High City call the tax that pays for these men and women the Shit Tax – for obvious reasons.

In the dark recesses beneath the earth, you can find the “House of the Clouded Mind” – more commonly known by its informal moniker – The “Screaming Halls.” These darkened and damp corridors house Languard’s insane, and while the house above ground may be pleasant enough, the same can’t be said for the regions below that act as a dumping ground for undesirables. Less grim and heart-wrenching would be the dwarven shrine, set into Languard’s cliffs, where the stout folk may worship in peace and in cavernous settings.

In a cavern, right in the midst of a pool, there is a shard of clearly unnatural rock – the low shard. In the dim twilight, a toll must be paid to enter, but in the strange presence of the rock formation, couples tryst and both dalliances and alliances are commemorated. A cavern beneath a lamp-lit tent conceals the entrance to the black market of Languard, where freak show entertainers, exotic goods and weaponry and more may be purchased…if you can pay the price and know where to look, that is.

And then there would be the tunnel of shades, and amazing adventure location. A prior ruler of Languard once had the idea to give the unemployed something to do, and attempted to tunnel under the Svart, connecting the two halves of the city. Well, turns out that this did not go well. Partially flooded, courtesy of incompetence, and haunted by the spirits of the dead, this tunnel may exist, but it is a dangerous proposal to navigate it by skiff.

Right beneath the eminent Father, there are the Languard catacombs, divided by class just as the city above is. In the Shambles, south of the Svart, there is Saren the rag-lady – a potent information-broker rumored to be undead…and a glance at her sloughing skin and blisters may well lead the PCs to conclude that the rumors are true. Prices for information on specific targets are provided. If you’ve read the supplement on the Shambles, it should come as no surprise that the chaos of the place does extend to the area below the surface. And indeed, the maze of wooden passageways and linked cellars makes for a labyrinthine environment, while also housing the headquarters of the Shadow Masks. Finally, beneath the notoriously unstable and wretched Wrecks, there lies the place known as Smuggler’s Crux, a maze of half-sunken canals, crawl-holes and soughs of connected barrels – unreliable, notoriously dangerous, and twisted, air pockets can be found in side vents and wells, subterranean rangers and rogues lair here…and there even is a tiny subterranean sanctum for the truly desperate. I adore this one!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. As this basically contains next to no rules, there isn’t much to do wrong here. Layout adheres to the series’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a plethora of really nice b/w-artworks. As noted before, Tommi Salama’s cartography of Languard is excellent, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf also comes in two iterations, one intended for screen-use, and one intended to be printed out.

Creighton Broadhurst, Steve Hood and Richard Pett provide a triumphant farewell to Languard and its locations. The series has managed to seed the already impressive city with truly remarkable, down to earth, grimy and gritty locales that get the creative juices flowing, and this supplement is no exception. The system neutral version of this supplement retains all the strengths of the other iterations. A worthy final offering, this pdf gets 5 stars + my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Languard Locations: Under the City (SN)
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #6
Publisher: Red Moon Medicine Show
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/15/2019 10:48:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Vacant Ritual Assembly-‘zine clocks in at 53 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of introduction/editorial/recommendations, 5 pages of advertisements, leaving us with 45 pages of content. These are laid out in approximately 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), and it should be noted that one advertisement also serves as the back cover. The other advertisements are spread throughout the ‘zine, but thankfully, none of them bisect an article – they are used as breaks between articles, which is okay, if not ideal – at least in my book.

In case you’re new to the ‘zine – the default rules-system assumed within is LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess), and thus, we’re looking at a comparably low PC power-level (though magic generally can have super serious repercussions). Conversion to other OSR-systems is pretty simple as far as the material within this ‘zine is concerned.

So, let’s start with the material within that I can discuss without going into deep SPOILER-territory. The first article, penned by Clint Krause, would be “Grigoro’s Wonders Untold”, a travelling sideshow of weirdos. The write-up contains stats for the cast of NPCs, which include magically-conjoined twin orange yetis, a frog demon pseudo-aristocrat, a bubbly four-armed fairy, and a melancholy spirit trapped in a glass tube…to note a few. Much to my surprise, we get a rather well-drawn b/w-artwork depicting this cast of characters, and beyond stats, we also get a breakdown of how a show actually runs and can purchase some slightly magical oddities, that include cake that makes you dance, and brownies that give you explosive diarrhea. No, I have not made the latter up. They are called…Browntownies.

Later in the pdf, Clint Krause also presents us a twist on the killer-children trope, with a brief one-page excerpt of the Grimsly Hill Cherubs, taken from the long-time upcoming Driftwood Verses book – which I backed and still very much look forward to, though, when compared to what I’ve seen there, this sneakpeek seems comparatively conventional. Not my favorite piece herein.

The Gallows on Heretic Hill, and the Noosefriars, are two articles also penned by Clint Krause that do a much better job at highlighting what he’s capable of. In a way, these two brief articles represent a whole campaign template that will prove to be a godsend to many gamers out there. With a fully mapped cathedral and stats for Penitent jack, this section does have rules-relevant components and map-support, but the strength here is the concept: Basically, you can picture the Noosefriars as a kind of church-sanctioned black Ops strikeforce…one that is immortal. You see, when the noosefriars get a noose from gallows’ hill, they won’t die. Instead, upon death, their spirits are transplanted into one of the corpses dangling from aforementioned gallows, with them retaining their personality, but losing 50% XP. This set-up allows you to retain one “character” through multiple deaths (of which there are plenty in LotFP) and also explore identity-questions, transhumanism, questions of faith and free will…all through a dark fantasy lens. It’s a brief two connected articles, sure – but it’s really inspiring, not just for LotFP. If you ever wanted to play a really deadly campaign, but have players that really dislike having to come up with new character identities time and again, this makes for a great solution. Similarly, for Dark Souls/Salt & Sanctuary and similar gamestyles, emulated in RPG, this does its job rather well.

Speaking of jobs done rather well – the ‘zine also includes an interview with Emmy Allen, the mastermind behind Dying Stylishly Games and author of “Wolf-packs and winter snows”, a book that I really want to finally see the PoD version for the revised edition. Anyhow, I digress.

These are the aspects of the module that I could discuss without going into SPOILERS – but the ‘zine actually contains not one, but two fully-mapped modules, and one particular environment/complex encounter/sidetrek. All of these are generally suitable for low level parties, approximately from levels 1 -4. The second adventure I’ll discuss will be exceedingly hard at these levels – 3 to 5 seems like a better level-range there.

In order to discuss these, I have to dive into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only referees around? Great!

So, the first adventure, penned by Kathryn Jenkins, is “From Dunnholt it Rises”, and it is a brief, but furious dark fantasy yarn that is easy to expand upon. It is presented in a pretty barebones general level of detail considering its complexity, but without that ever really bothering me. Dunnholt is a miserably island, some distance from the coast of Scotland, or any other locale you choose, really. In fact, with barely minor cosmetic reskins, it can be easily be transplanted to pretty much any cultural sea-adjacent sphere. Dunnholt doesn’t have much to offer – a few docks, a fortified hold, atop cliffs, a bit of rock, and a bit of forest…and it recently got worse and less welcoming than it was before. Dunnholt has been transformed into a quarantine island, receiving plague victims and not much more. Now, the PCs are faced with the task of investigating the late arrival of the latest ship – and when it comes, the crew is riddled with black tumors, black rats scurrying in the shadows, carrying “Dunnholt’s Gift”, a horrid degenerative disease that basically slowly turns those afflicted into tumor-ridden plague-zombie-like things, so-called yearning ones. The spread of this darkness must be stopped, particularly if the PCs want to find a cure against the horrid disease.

Dunnholt itself is a foreboding place, and while each individual location is only briefly sketched, they all have something going for them: As the PCs explore the island, they’ll be attacked by the tumor-ridden yearning ones. In the hold, an anthropomorphic giant rat flutist asks for a dark pact, while a dying plague doctor utters cryptic warnings…and indeed, beyond the forest and beneath the hold, there lie the labyrinthine plague dens (alas, sans scale), the tunnels in Dunnholt where the miserable truth can be found. The only reason that the island’s vileness hasn’t yet spread further is the state of checkmate between two of three dark forces: There is a coven of three witches, which have been drawing power from the dark heart of the island. They want the PCs to eat from the heart of the island – they’ll provide a cure…but unbeknown to the PCs, this will be fatal for them. The island is alien – an alien parasite of vast proportions, which has, tick-like, afflicted our planet. Eating from the heart will have a new island gestate years later, rupturing the PC, spawning a new such den of evil. The other faction is a horribly disfigured plague doctor, known as “The Good Doctor” – fused with his plague-mask, the grotesque thing of tumors and mutations is behind the spread of Dunnholt’s Gift…and slaying him is a condition for the help of the witches. Killing the heart will have cataclysmic effects, as the island sinks and the floods will destroy coastal towns…so the decision the PCs are making and the consequences thereof will not be pleasant…

The second adventure, “Death Planted the Esther Tree”, is penned by Kreg Mosier, and is labeled as “A Rootmire Mansion Crawl” – much to my chagrin, I found no additional scenarios written by the author, and frankly, that’s a damn pity, for this is not only an excellent mansion crawl that is genuinely horrific, it also represents one of the best iterations of what I’d consider to be Southern Gothic traditions in an RPG-adventure. Not only is the prose absolutely excellent, the mystery pertaining the fates of a well-to-do, if clannish family, the Relecroix, is absolutely genius. We have a three-level mansion-crawl with a plant-theme and rot/dilapidation suffusing every location – not just in theme, but also in rules-relevant aspects. The horrid tragedy that is at…the root (pardon the pun) of the tragedy here can be discovered by the PCs as they explore the perpetually overcast and rain-shrouded house. Vat-born albino-slaves and animated twig-things roam the grounds, and skin pierced with ebonwood can afflict the PCs with a kind of rot. An undead mire dragon can be found in a subdued optional boss battle (and nod towards fantasy traditions), while the true final boss proved to be not only evocative, but downright nasty. This is easily one of the best modules I’ve read in a ‘zine, and I seriously hope we’ll get to see more from the author in the future! I want to know more about Rootmire! And yeah, the amazing map does not have a scale, but it does have squares, which allows you to easily run this.

Can this be topped? Well, it depends on your preference. As much as love my classics, I am always enamored with things that are thoroughly novel – and Anxious P. delivers in the final article that I have to comment on: “Papa Lathmos Sugar Cane Crop.” This series of extended encounters/environment is, by its own subtitle, a “hyperglycemic nightmare”, and this description pretty much tops whatever I could say regarding the content presented. The prose here creates images of sweltering, relentless heat and hallucinations. To give you a brief excerpt: “The sugar cane shakes without breeze as you waddle or tromp towards its edges, like thousands of rattlesnakes in a rain storm. The stalks are striped in a violent black camouflage [...]“ – we learn about the people of sugar, subsisting on a sludge of dehydration and sweet rot, speaking dreams through rotting teeth, chattering a language too „dripping“ to be understood. Their swaying is infectious, and being in the presence of an elder may make you…move..into the sugarfield, where 4 different nightmareish encounters hearken. With dream-logic and truly disturbing and resounding visuals, as you turn into sugar, only to have it melt away, rendering the clearing a sludge…with strange things of multiple bodies attacking you, laughing, as you can see a man punctured and drained by sugarcane…and worse. These brief encounters are not meant to be an adventure, but they are genius and understand how nightmares work. I’d totally buy Anxious P.’s book of nightmares without a second’s hesitation after reading this article. It’s a masterpiece of weirdness, supplemented by the stats of ephemeral, but deadly things. It’s not mechanically complex per se, but it doesn’t have to be. I love it.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. While I noticed a few minor hiccups, nothing really impeded my enjoyment of the articles within. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the ‘zine sports a surprising amount of neat b/w-artworks I haven’t seen before. The cartography for the adventures is b/w and impressive – particularly for the Rootmire crawl and the Cathedral on Gallows’ Hill, though I would have loved to get player-friendly, unlabeled versions of these maps. The pdf version has bookmarks, but only three of them, which limits usability of the ‘zine. I strongly suggest getting the softcover PoD version – I actually got it right here in my hands, and it’s definitely worth owning.

Clint Krause’s decision to move Vacant ritual Assembly to PoD and expand its breadth is a great call – the expanded room for material makes this easily the best of the installments of the ‘zine so far, and while usually, the lack of bookmarks and player-friendly maps would see me penalize this in some way, I frankly can’t bring myself to doing so here. Why?

Well, for one, even the weakest article herein can still be considered to be “good”. The majority of the content, though, is, frankly, awesome. Clint Krause’s noosefriars are a stroke of genius and blow his previous factions clear out of the water. Kathryn Jenkins delivers with her dark fantasy island-tale – it’s compressed and requires that the GM fleshes it out, sure, but if you’re good at improve, you can get a ton of sessions out of this one. I know I’m going to expand it!

Kreg Mosier’s Rootmire crawl, though, and Anxious P.’s nightmare-encounters are, what ultimately, to me, elevate this issue above all previous installments of Vacant Ritual Assembly. They are absolutely inspired – the former as a near perfect execution of genre-piece in a genre that is all but unrepresented in RPGs, and the latter for just being so…disturbing and novel. Either of these articles would have imho warranted the asking price, but combined? Yeah, this is a ‘zine that’s very much worth owning, particularly if you have even remotely a thing for Southern Gothic themes. My final verdict is 5 stars + seal of approval, with the caveat that the pdf-only version loses a star due to the comfort detriments noted above.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #6
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Monster Menagerie: Bulette Points
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/15/2019 10:45:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Monster Menagerie series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, so first of all, the pdf acknowledges the folks that contributed in a FB-chat that gestated into this book – kudos for giving credit where credit is due! The introductory page provides a bit of optional setting-contextualization for the bulettes herein…and then we begin with what may be the most pun-tastic monster book for Pathfinder.

How pun-tastic is this? Well in case you missed that the title obviously is a reference to Rogue Genius Games’ Bullet Point-series, each monster herein represents some sort of pun regarding bullet/bulette. Every. Last. One. … Yeah, who am I kidding? I love puns. Particularly bad ones. The real groaners. So let’s see what we got, shall we? We begin with a pretty harmless one – the CR 7 armor-piercing bulette, a bulette like one from a final fantasy game, with a massive adamantine blade embedded in its head. This obviously also is represented in the specialized leap and charge assaults these fellows have. Nice and delightfully odd critter, though I would have loved to see a unique Achilles’ heel here – after all, the blade impedes line of sight of these beings, at least judging from the artwork.

The CR 8 frangible bulette has strange pustule-like pods on its body, and has some serious resistances and defensive tricks. Negating such damage, or being struck by physical damage, charges these bulettes, to be more precise, said pods/pustules, which the bulette may discharge in a nasty 60-feet blast, as the immature bulettes gestating in these pods are fired in a living shrapnel blast. While the young of this mutation are usually killed by the impact, not all of the survivors grow to become full bulettes. Some of them stay Tiny CR 1 bulettes…that are called…yep. BeeBee. With rolling leaps and the ability to curl up, they are a nice example of a low-CR critter that makes sense.

Leave it to magic-users to devise solutions to problems that make things worse: The Blank Bulette is a CR 7 incorporeal version of a bulette, shunted to the ethereal to make it cause less havoc. Well, the entities have developed a life drain aura, trigger conical force energy blasts on critical hits, and the avoid detection of undead or living, being invisible to lifesense and the like, as well as not registering for locate creature. Yeah…definite “improvement” of the bulette problem…

At CR 8, the cross-cut bulette has the good subtype, and gets smite evil. Basically good bulettes. Hmm..okay. Not particularly interesting. Why don’t they get a “named bullet/bulette”-type of ability that allows them to engrave an evil-doers’ name upon themselves? Some interesting tweak to the smite evil angle? Anyhow, at the same CR, the Dum Dum is more interesting: It can crush targets and may, as a swift action, expand itself to twice the size and 8 times the weight. Yeah, this one’s pretty cool – can see this being a fearsome foe! Also at CR 8, the incendiary bulette radiates heat for +1d6 fire damage, and the charges of this bulette also result in a 30-ft.-radius fire blast, with a cooldown. Also at CR 8, the multiple-impact bulette can divide itself up into two Large or 4 Medium versions with magical fission, which do have identical statistics…and yes, we do get the modified stats for them, and hit points are evenly divided. Awareness is shared, making these fellows pretty lethal one-monster-pack-predators, which is also reflected by the feats chosen – nice one and mechanically, one of my favorites within.

The Percussion Cap also clocks in at CR 8 and gets a leap into combat that allows it to slam its head against targets of the ground, detonating embedded thunderstones for a blast of shrapnel that is in equal parts stone shards and pure sonic damage. And yep, it looks like a being that attacks you by literally smashing its detonating face into you.

Clocking in at CR 10, the full metal jacket (XD) gets a boost to overrun and bull rush targets, and they come with rules to remove the plates fitted into these war-beasts. How do you call an undead bulette? …Hollow Point! Yeah, this got a long chuckle out of me, and at CR 9, the undead bulette has a detonation upon destruction, gets an Acrobatics-based pounce-bite, and swallowed foes are energy drained. They also rejuvenate unless their remains are specifically treated and consecrated.

The final bulette within would be the CR 7 tracer, basically a tracking specialist that leaves a trail of faerie fire-like glow, and gets a trigger scent, falling into a frenzy upon reaching a target whose scent it tracked. Cool concept, and one of the critters within that I’ll definitely use.

The final page provides two feats: Number One With A Bulette nets an adjacent bulette you trained a +2 bonus to Wisdom, and allows you to…bingo, train bulettes. The more ranks in Handle Animal you have, the faster you can teach them tricks. High Caliber Summoning allows you to call the monsters within this book via the use of summon nature’s ally/monster, with a handy table organizing them by CR.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules languages level. While I noticed a couple of minor hiccups here and there in the statblocks, as a whole, the pdf is pretty solid. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, mirroring a grimoire, and the pdf comes with pretty neat full-color artworks for all of the bulette-variants – all of which are original pieces! Kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf comes with a second version that has a smaller size, and thus is more mobile device friendly.

Jeff Lee’s menagerie of bulettes is a cool and pun-tastic little bestiary. There is plenty of flavor and background story to contextualize the critters, which is a good thing, as it helps render them more organic and inspires the GM. While this book is not flawless, and while not all variants within are genius, there are plenty of outré and interesting bulettes within, quite a few of which I considered to be genuinely interesting. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up, since the book is closer to being good than to being a mixed bag.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Menagerie: Bulette Points
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Anpur of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/14/2019 10:14:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, in case you didn’t know: Porphyra RPG is a continuation of Pathfinder’s first edition, with slight tweaks to formatting conventions, some rules-stream-lining and the like. As per the writing of this review, the RPG is still in the playtest phase, so how/whether formal criteria change is still up in the air – as such, I will de-emphasize these aspects in my discussion of Porphyra’s Anpur. That being said, rules-wise, this is pretty much 100% compatible with Pathfinder 1e.

As for the patchwork planet as a setting, the respective races tend to have a slightly higher power-level than core races; compared to many settings and supplements out there, they are still rather conservative, and I rarely find myself considering a race in the setting to be overbearing/too strong, particularly in view of how Pathfinder 1e’s power-curve has increased over the years.

As far as the anpur are concerned, we begin with a brief piece of flavor text before diving into the racial stats: Anpur receive +2 Strength and Wisdom, are humanoids with the gnoll subtype and get darkvision 60 ft. They are Medium, with a base speed of 30 feet, and courtesy of their practice of ancestror worship, they are treated as one level higher with regards to divination school spells, the benefits granted by the Ancestor subdomain, the Destined bloodline or the Ancestor mystery. Capitalizing the respective class feature names is a peculiarity of Porphyra RPG, and serves pretty well to differentiate the respective class features, so as far as I’m concerned, that’s a plus. Anpur are skilled travelers of the deserts, and as such receive a +4 racial bonus on Constitution checks and Fortitude-saves to avoid exhaustion and fatigue, as well as to resist the effects of harsh environments, forced marches, etc. They also get a +2 racial bonus on saves vs. fear-effects, and treat exotic flails as martial weapons, and may use heavy flails one-handed. Additionally, they may use the flail weapon group as a blanket choice when choosing a fear or ability that focuses on one weapon.

This is a very interesting design choice that will, in the long run, positively influence weapon diversification among races: You’re not locked into a single weapon for many of the feats you choose, and weapon training matters more. I like this choice. The anpur also are proficient with khopehses, longbows, shortbows, temple swords, flails and heavy flails. So, that’s the base racial write-up…and it is pretty cool – certainly more compelling than many a gnoll write-up I’ve read!

As far as alternate racial traits are concerned, we have 6 of those: One replaces the divination et al.-improvement with an increased duration for elemental summoning. An alternate choice to replace ancestor worship instead nets a +1 natural AC. One limits starting languages, but nets the anpur 1/day speak with animals. Fearless may be replaces with 1/day deathwatch. The increased resiliency versus harsh environments may be replaced with a 20 ft. climb speed, and finally, the flail specialization may be replaced with taking no negative effects from negative levels (though they still can kill you).

We follow this with something absent from many racial books: An ecology that discusses their temperament and societies. Dubbed “city gnolls” by outsiders, the anpur, the children of Anubis, are a proud and religious warrior race that, while exhibiting a kind of inborn aggression, temper this with restraint, creating an interesting racial psychology here. Speaking of interesting aspects: The primary food source of the race are flightless birds, like chukks, krakka or kochok – dodos, emus and megafauna moa. This is just a line, granted, but it added something to the race and made it stand out to me. The association with Anubis obviously conjured forth images of quasi-Egyptian cultures, or of the Sibeccai from Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved, but this humble line made me think about dodo breeders, moa-cavalry and the like, and I honestly couldn’t help but smile. But I digress.

There is some quasi-Egyptian notion here – as a race with Anubis as patron deity, the Anpur obviously have a structured day that focuses on plenty of religious rites, with a special emphasis given for funerary rites, and the concept of having a building-debt to the deities makes for a great impetus for civilizing efforts and expansion on a scale beyond the personal realm. Age, height and weight tables are btw. provided. The pdf sports an assortment of race traits, 5 to be specific. However, the application of bonus types is inconsistent here – 2 of the traits lack the “trait bonus” moniker, while the other 3 do properly codify the bonus type.

As far as racial feats are concerned, anpur may take Keen Scent and Improved Natural Armor sans making the prerequisites. Two of the racial feats, Desert Warrior and Desert Defense, are assigned to a variety of races, and allow for improvement of offensive and defensive capabilities, though the offense feat also nets you a Persuasion penalty versus the chosen races against which you apply your offense training. Eyes of Death requires aforementioned deathwatch alternate racial trait and nets at-will deathwatch, and +4 to saves versus effects that cause the shaken condition. Eyes of Endless Death builds on that and is locked behind 10th level, providing 1/day death ward and a +4 bonus to effects that cause the panicked condition. Fate-Servant of Anubis. Nets you one additional hero point – I assume this to pertain the maximum of hero points and not a one time gain, but I’m not sure. The feat also lets you reroll 1 Fortitude save per day. Pack-Hunter Block’s a combat feat that…honestly, is kinda cool, but until Porphyra RPG is done, I can’t judge it. It lets you sacrifice an iterative attack to cancel an AoO against an ally or yourself. Does the iterative attack vanish next round? Do you have to hold it? I like the notion here, and frankly, it’s one that could speed up gameplay if built into the core combat mechanics, but as a feat, I’m currently puzzled as to how precisely it’s supposed to work. Servant of the Gods nets you a specialized familiar if you don’t already have one – the choices are pretty intriguing.

The equipment section introduced crescent axes and ternion flails, both of which are interesting. The latter is exotic and has a dual physical damage type – which is something that Porphyra’s rules have a chance to precisely classify. It always irked me that PF 1e didn’t exactly do a great job there, so here’s to hoping that Porphyra will do better. One glance at the magic items will note something interesting – the DC-rating is included in the header for your convenience. 3 are provided: The finis crossbowis pretty cool: It doubles as a melee weapon (counts as a dagger +1) and comes with a extra-dimensional storage container that allows the wielder to reload it with specific bolts stored inside; otherwise, the reloading sequence is a bit faster and more linear. Minor complaint: It imho wouldn’t have hurt to explicitly specify that the bolts are not conjured ex nihilo. The crossbow may also 1/day turn a bolt fired into a slaying bolt. The ranseur of conviction counts as a divine focus and may, in a 1-hour ritual at the start of the day, be attuned to exhibit one of several special weapon properties. Additionally, the ranseur can temporarily suppress fire resistance. The scarab armor is per se cool: It is lighter than usual, protects against swarms and lets the wearer call forth a scarab swarm. However, while such a swarm is called forth, the armor loses its light fortification quality, which is mislabeled as light fortitude once. Formatting is also not 100% consistent here.

On the REALLY interesting side, the spell-section here introduces new descriptors – one for Anubis, one for psychopomp ushers and one for Shankil. These ultimately mean that only followers of said entities may cast the respective spells, allowing for more meaningful differentiation between magical traditions. As an aside – spells also note e.g. (Exotic) or (Complex) behind the spell level to denote how common they are. I really enjoy this direction! An immediate/swift action instant pyramid-low level protection, or a buff versus soul imprisonment and the like make for some compelling options here.

Of course, the pdf also contains archetypes and class options. Black dog slayers get a modified skill list and replace studied target with a variant that provides skill bonuses and damage boosts versus targets of the sacred mission. Tracking is replaced with more swift application of oils and weapon blanches, and later holy water etc. 2nd level’s talent is replaced with Endurance and Diehard. Instead of the 2nd studied target and the 8th level’s talent, 5th level provides the means to blend in crowds, while 7th level replaces stalker and swift tracker with an inquisitor’s judgment at -6 levels, with 11th level adding an additional use. 10th level and later provide an assassin’s death attack, with 13th level, 15th, 17th and 20th level improving the ability. Nitpick: The 20th level ability refers to angel of death: “a black dog becomes an angel of death” – this should probably note that the character gets the ability, not “becomes” it.

Stalwart dredge fighters get a modified skill and proficiency list, focusing on mobility over heavy armor. The archetype gains brawler’s cunning, can fight better while squeezing and focuses on weapon training with a given group, gaining Weapon Specialization, as well as Weapon Finesse synergy. 6th level nets a counterattack that does not rely on annoying opposed rolls, instead focusing on retaliating, and at higher levels, we get halved duration of stunning or enchanting effects.

The pdf also features a the sand elemental subschool of earth: Acid cloud is replaced with the ability to make sand traps, and 8th level nets the ability to blast searing sand at foes – via caster checks. This is, obviously, an interesting angle, though once more an aspect where we’ll have to wait for the final RPG. For use in conjunction with PFRPG 1e, this should probably be a ranged touch attack, using casting attribute as a substitute governing key attribute.

The pdf also includes the Ahmutou – a crocodile with a lion’s mane around head and neck, as well as a golden crook under each eye. The critter clocks in at CR 2 and is an option for Monstrous Companion.

Next up, the pdf discusses how the anpur race views a metric TON of different classes, allowing you to think about the respective role in their society, and the pdf comes with a ton of favored class options that cover all Paizo classes, as well as a best of chosen from Purple Duck Games’ classes, including e.g. illuminates, living monolith, etc. The pdf concludes with a sample CR ½ PC, a cleric of Shankil.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, and just as well-executed on a rules-language level, at least as far as I’m able to determine that by now. Layout adheres to the printer-friendly one-column b/w-standard with purple highlights that PDG favors, and the pdf has a few really nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Derek Blakely’s anpur are an interesting and rather compelling take on the concept o jackal-folk, one that goes beyond the defaults of what one would expect. In another supplement, we’d probably just have seen an inversion – replace the barabaric tendencies of gnolls with being rigid and civilized. Here, it’s particularly in the small touches that the anpur come into their own, start feeling distinct. The items and notes on their culture and how the respective classes behave in a societal context all are interesting and deserve being lauded. The archetypes, alas, are slightly less interesting and didn’t blow me away – they’re not bad, mind you, but in comparison, they are not as well-wrought as the rest of the pdf, which includes the rules-language here.

That being said, many of the changes of Porphyra RPG shown here actually are aspects that do make one excited, and the race itself as well as its overall presentation is generally nice and has some inspiring tidbits. All in all, a solid offering, definitely on the positive side of things. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up, since the pdf is definitely closer to 4 than to 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Anpur of Porphyra
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Advanced Adventures #16: Under Shattered Mountain
Publisher: Expeditious Retreat Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/14/2019 10:13:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front/back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

So, as always for the Advanced Adventures-series, this module is intended for OSRIC-rules, but adaption to another OSR rule-set is very much possible. Nominally intended for 5 – 8 characters level 9 – 12, the adventure is very modular and represents more of a sandboxy backdrop than a unified narrative, and it should be noted that, difficulty-level wise, the adventure ranks in the upper echelon. There are a few encounters herein that are very dangerous and that will potentially destroy careless or unlucky players. These are not always telegraphed that well in advance, so an old-school mindset that can deal with character-death is very much recommended. On the definite plus-side, it should be mentioned that the more intelligent adversaries do get tactics that set them apart and help the GM render them appropriately dangerous, making them stand out a bit more than they’d otherwise would.

As far as supplemental materials are concerned, we get 4 new monsters – a pretty deadly toadstool critter, cavern crows that can be driven into a frenzy by the scent of blood, the lightning devil, and a unique devil are provided, all with appropriate stats. As far as adversaries are concerned, some beloved classics can be encountered, and a few of them are surprising – but I’ll get into that below.

The pdf does contain two new magic user spells: At 3rd level, we have Hestler’s Verbal Disruptor, which generates a white noise style acoustic-dead zone, is an interesting one. Black Embrace, a 7th level spell, booby-traps a corpse, which will embrace the living, draining their life-force. Cool visuals there.4 magic items are included as well, with experience and GP values noted properly. One of them, a flask that can be used to poison targets or be harmless, is nice, though here, a deviation from OSRIC’s default assumption of save-or-die for poisons would have imho made sense from a design perspective. A cooldown or countdown of sorts would have certainly made falling prey to that item less frustrating. One of the items is cursed, and honestly, it may actually be fairer than this one. A bloodsucking dagger (with rather nice mechanics) and a rod are also part of the deal here.

Now, before we go into SPOILER-territory, let’s briefly talk about how this is set apart from most modules: Shattered Mountain is vast, and as such, it contains miles upon miles of tunnels that lead from a) to b) – in a way, it is reminiscent of a wilderness crawls inside a mountain, limited by the claustrophobic tunnels. This structure allows and encourages insertion of your own adventure modules and scenarios and characterizes this firmly as more of a backdrop than a primary narrative. This is also further emphasized by the random encounters table, which is pretty hefty and feels down to earth enough.

In fact, the lion’s share of the adventure is taken up by a variety of not necessarily connected encounters, each of which comes with its own functional little map. These are NOT aligned in a linear manner, which, once more, represents a big plus as far as I’m concerned. On a downside, the respective areas (10 of which are provided) are designated with letters: “Area F”, for example. However, on the respective maps, we have starting positions of dynamic adversaries, for example, also denoted by letters. When you look are the map of “Area B” and read “A, B, C”, you can’t help but feel that this choice of labeling wasn’t too wise. Using Roman or Arabic numbers, glyphs, whatever, would have been more comfortable for the GM in these cases.

Beyond these encounters, there is a more conventional 2-level mini-dungeon included here… But in order to discuss more of the details of this adventure, I will have to go into SPOILER-territory. From here on out, I strongly urge potential players to skip ahead to the conclusion to avoid SPOLERS. … .. . All right, only GMs around? Great! So, among the encounters, we have, among other things, a slightly loopy fungal druid (including the series’ by now traditional deviations from OSRIC’s formatting conventions), a tribe of troglodytes, aforementioned cavern crows in conjunction and cohabitation with gargoyles, trolls, earth elementals, stone giants – the aesthetics here seem to be deliberately close to what you’d expect from a classic AD&D adventure – whether you consider that to be a bug or a feature depends on your own tastes. For the most part, I have to admit to being not exactly blown away by them, as the terrain simply doesn’t matter as much as it probably should. Compared to the fantastic “Stonesky Delve”, the caverns under shattered mountain feel quite a bit more sterile. I did mention that this module can be really deadly, and perhaps unfairly so. This claim primarily stems from one of the encounters, which springs not one, but two very old red dragons on the PCs – once they pass a certain threshold, they’ll be blasted by not one, but two breath weapons. No, the dragons are not hostile to another; they work together.

While it is “realistic” in a way that going down the wrong tunnel may get you killed, I did not consider this one to be particularly fair or enjoyable. There is no foreshadowing here, and I’d strongly advise GMs to seed some warning signs for the players. Otherwise, this is pretty much one of the bad “Lol, you die”-type of old-school encounters that doesn’t earn its lethality.

More fair, if certainly no less deadly, would be aforementioned mini-dungeon: Sheth, aforementioned unique devil, has his own little complex that spans a total of 21 keyed locations. This mini-dungeon is a hackfest in the purest sense, and if you’re looking for some good ole’ murder hobo-ing, this’ll do, perfectly. From the gorgon guardians to a lamia to twin rooms housing no less than 6 (!!) stone golems in total, this complex is brutal. Said lamia has btw. high-level adventurers and a trolls charmed, making the encounter function somewhat akin to handling rival adventurers. We even find nilbogs here, and as a whole, this dungeon is deadly, but cool – there is for example a really cool trap, where a collective of screaming magic mouths may render the PCs unconscious. While this can TPK a group, mundane means to offset the trap (as well as magical brute-forcing) are viable tactics, making this a cool example of a trap that has more than one step, and one that rewards player skill over PC luck. I really liked that one. Sheth and his cohorts are similarly a challenging and cool final encounter. Here is a lost chance, though – the lightning devils and the pool featured in the final encounter don’t really interact, and as cool as some of the trap/hazard-related aspects of the complex are, they don’t extend to actual interaction with the creatures, which makes them feel a bit more sterile than they’d otherwise seem.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good of a formal level, though there are deviations from OSRIC’s formatting conventions. On a rules-language level, I’d consider this to be precise and well-crafted. Layout adheres to the two-column b/w-standard of the series, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf features no interior artwork beyond the editorial page, and cartography in b/w is functional and solid. However, no player-friendly, unlabeled versions have been provided.

James C. Boney can write really, really cool dungeons. The author gets the theme and tropes of classic fantasy really well, and I am particularly enjoying the tactics of his adversaries, as well as the creative and fair traps that his modules mostly seem to feature. At the same time, I couldn’t help but being somewhat unimpressed by this offering.

I love the notion of Shattered Mountain. The crawling through labyrinthine, lengthy tunnels is something I really love. Heck, I’ve written more than one book devoted to the theme of subterranean gaming. That being said, this feels, whether by design or by lack of inspiration, somewhat cookie-cutter in what the encounters offer. They are pretty segregated from one another, and theme-wise, there is no encounter within that I couldn’t have improvised on my own. On the plus-side, the mini-dungeon makes for a rather enjoyable hackfest – I can see that one work great for a fun convention game, for example. If you’re looking for a hard, but fun hackfest, the mini-dungeon included certainly delivers.

Still, this module has the somewhat unfortunate timing of having been released after “Stonesky Delve”, which not only offers a more alive, terrain-wise interesting adventure with verticality, nooks and crannies to explore, etc. – it also offers much more bang for your buck. This is by no means a bad adventure or hub/backdrop, but it also could have been much more. If “vanilla” AD&D flavor is what you’re looking for, then this delivers – if not, then you’ll be better off with “Stonesky Delve” or similar adventures. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Adventures #16: Under Shattered Mountain
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Dungeon Crawl Classics 2016 Holiday Module: Twilight of the Solstice
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2019 05:13:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 25 pages of content - +1 page bonus pregens. In contrast to earlier Holiday modules for DCC, this is btw. laid out in standard size, not in the 6’’ by 9’’ trade size of previous holiday adventures.

This review was requested by one of my patreon supporters to be undertaken at my convenience. I consciously decided to post this review before New Year’s, as its Christmas/Yule-themes are rather subdued, but I got injured pretty badly – hence the delay. This adventure is intended for 4th level characters, and works in every season equally well, at least in my book. The respective areas feature well-written read-aloud text. It also probably works best as a one-shot, as it has something we need to discuss. While it does come with notes on how to use it with existing characters, one of its gimmicks results, system-immanently, with a disjoint of sorts when used in conjunction with established PCs.

“Twilight of the Solstice” has a pretty central gimmick, namely the use of scratch-off character sheets. Before you groan, let me explain: You don’t need them. The pdf-version comes with a blank sheet, and a one-page bonus-pdf that contains the stats for 10 different PCs, allowing you to simulate the use of scratch-off character sheets. Kudos for going the extra mile here.

The way in which this gimmick is integrated into the plot is rather ingenious, but in order to discuss the connections betwixt in- and out-game woven here, I must delve into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only judges around? Great! So, in the frigid north, in times ancient and primeval, the jotnar were sealed away – a horrid race of rime giants that gets its own d30 table to customize personality traits and the like. These beings, once slain by fire, become a primeval yeast monstrosity, which is an interesting component and tweak on the classic trope. As giants, they are pretty brutal – with Act 1d24 and 8d10 HD for their standard huntsmen, they are pretty brutal. Minor complaint: The editing isn’t as tight here as usual for Goodman Games, with e.g. their three-eyed winter wolf pets on page 7 not having their name bolded, and with the sample giants not having precise hit point values. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

To seal the dread rime-giants away, the world-clock was fashioned – and it’s supposed to keep them at bay until the end of time – a place that PCs that fail the adventure may well get to see. The very subdued Christmas angle is represented by “The Grandmother” – a matronly, female version of Santa Claus, if you will – and a potent magic-user/guardian that prolonged her life by studying the clock. Yet, each annual sojourn from the clock brought her closer to her own demise, until she, in her desperation and desire to not leave her wards alone, made a pact with the giants. Yeah, dumb. Yeah, I didn’t get it either. She reopened the portal to the Jotnar’s prison, and now creation’s going belly up. Faster than you can say “Curse your sudden, but inevitable betrayal” they turned upon the Grandmother, and so she uses the last of her magics to send for the PCs, reach out for them in cryptic visions.

Meanwhile, the jotnar have sped up the progress of the world-clock, and the ripples through creation have wiped the PC’s memories – this is the justification for the scratch-off sheets and doubles as a hard time-limit regarding the completion of the module. There are only 12 “steps” of the solstices, as the world-clock hurtles the world through aeons. Magnificent civilizations rise and falls, and the PCs will watch even mountains perish. On a rest, the Grandmother gets a chance to visit the PCs, but the clock advances; similarly, every hour real time advances the clock. There is no dawdling here, and considering the difficulty of the antagonists here, this is not an easy adventure to pass.

The Grandmother is btw. yet another angle of quasi-Norse themes, should the moniker of “Jotnar” have not been ample clue for you: There will be, later, a fire-giant named Surtr that may help the PCs, and indeed, the Grandmother’s reverse aging process over the course of the module makes her pretty much a one-woman iteration of the classic Norn-theme. You know, Skuld, Verðandi and Urðr. This also is mirrored in some subtle tweaks, like the boss’s pet wolf having 8 legs, mirroring Sleipnir, with the aloliance of giants and wolves carrying resonances with Fenrir etc. This emphasis also extends to the dwarves within, the dvergar, who hearken more to the depictions of entities like Alfrikr, more commonly known as Alberich – mighty craftsman with a vicious streak and no particular fondness for the gods, these fellows are pretty nasty as well…PCs should be careful, particularly since they have pretty much no access to their character abilities and stuff.

Every advancement of the world clock through the aeons unlocks a new aspect of their characters, which is also why I think that this works best as a one-shot. DCC’s rules are simple enough that plenty of players know their PC capabilities by heart and sans looking at the sheet – just taking this information away doesn’t mean that they can’t recall it, creating a disjunction between in- and out-game playing experience that I personally consider to be grating. This is a system-immanent issue here, but I still strongly suggest running this as a one-shot or as a breather from ongoing campaigns. (Perhaps the PCs witness the phenomenon, and you cut to this module and a whole new group…) The gimmick is really strong and well-implemented here, and it surprisingly retains its functionality in the pdf, courtesy of the pregens provided, but it loses its novelty and impact in conjunction with PCs that the players know.

Now, here is a pretty big plus: Beyond the gorgeous (as pretty much always for Goodman Games) maps, the pdf provides 2 specifically designated handouts that help with puzzles within, as well as a one-page artwork that pretty much represents an unofficial, third handout. Puzzle? Yep, but here’s the thing – knowledge of the fuþark doesn’t really help – while there are runic puzzles to solve here, they are based on novel runes, including meaning. Basically, the module presents two different primary paths that both lead to the finale, and both offer for pretty different playing experiences. This means that a) the judge has replay value here, and b), the play-style of your group will be accounted for. If you prefer straight dungeon-crawling, you can follow the Jotnar’s tunnels and enter the world-clock through the back door…or you can brave the rather creative and fun puzzles that prevented access for mortals for ages past. Personally, no surprise there, I preferred the puzzle-path, but if you’re in the mood for some good ole’ murder-hoboing, you can get the like herein – just note that your opposition is nothing to sneeze at in either of the paths. Even in the more action-focused path, PCs will need their wits to survive in that path as well. Personally, I do think that some of the traps could use clear telegraphing to avoid them via clever playing, but considering that we’re talking 4th level PCs, and the fact that the traps are not particularly deadly, I can live with that.

Either way, the PCs will have to save the Grandmother and stop the Rime-giant jarl and his carls to halt the aeons and prevent getting a front-line seat to an untimely heat-death of the universe. As an aside: If you’ve been looking for a way to transition your game from DCC to MCC, the time-jump angle, which, alas, is pretty underutilized apart from the scratch-off sheet gimmick, may be a pretty neat way to do so. Instead of dumping the PCs back in their own time, dump them someWHEN else… this also represents my main gripe with this module: While the cold terrain and the scratch-off sheet are well-integrated, the origin of the distortion, the time-angle, is not. The complex doesn’t change, the PCs can’t speed up – the fleeting passage of time, the whole angle, just screams for mechanically-relevant tricks for PCs and foes alike.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level, but on a formal level, I noticed quite a few minor hiccups. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the b/w-artworks and handouts provided are absolutely gorgeous, as we’ve come to expect from Goodman Games. The same holds true for the fantastic cartography, but alas, we do not get player-friendly unlabeled versions of these fantastic maps. This represents a comfort detriment and is a bit of a bummer for VTT-fans. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks for each general area, but not for individual rooms, which makes navigation slightly less comfortable than it should be.

This is the first adventure by Marc Brunner that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, and indeed, it is an impressive one. I expected the module to fall apart when bereft of its gimmick – I do not own the scratch-off character sheets, so yeah. Instead, the module actually does an admirable job at integrating a distinctly metagame aspect and codify it in an in-game context, in a way that seems feasible. So yeah, big kudos for that!

I also found myself really loving the twist on Norse concepts, the different paths to victory, and enjoying the puzzles. And yet, in spite of me loving pretty much anything even vaguely Norse in theme, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling like this somewhat overstretched itself. The Grandmother is basically window-dressing, and represents the one jarring narrative aspect within. Similarly, the tempus fugit-angle could have been developed better, made more central. In a way, the module feels like it tries to do perhaps one or two things too many at once. With the complex slightly shortened in favor of pronouncing these aspects, this could have become my all-time favorite of the holiday/end of year DCC-modules. As written, I consider it to be the second-best of those I’ve covered so far, with only the masterful Trials of the Toymakers besting it. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics 2016 Holiday Module: Twilight of the Solstice
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The Assassin - The Fabrication Cold Technique Tree
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2019 05:10:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the frickin‘ amazing assassin class by Interjection Games (srsly – check it out, if you haven’t!) clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Soooo…what of an assassin deprived of the tools of their trade? Well, with “Killer Engineering”, that is no longer an issue. Each morning when refreshing the technique pool, you get to build custom gadgets. You get one of them, plus an additional one at 3, 7 and 15 fabrication techniques – this means you can get up to 5 per day. Each gadget consists of two different components: You first select the base tool, then add up to two addons to it, paying the fabrication cost. Upon first gaining killer engineering, you choose one base tool and ALL associated addons, and upon gaining the next fabrication technique, you get the tool and all associated addons.

When building gadgets with this ability, you have a total of class level fabrication points. These don’t need to be spent, but also do not carry over to subsequent days. You can’t hoard gadgets. Building new ones cannibalizes the previous ones, and they may not be sold.

The first base tool presented within would be the hidden blade, which may be attached to pretty much anything like gloves, boots, etc. A maximum of one such blade may be applied to a given item. Hidden blades that are deployed cause 1d4 piercing damage with a 19-20 threat range. Attacks with a wrist-mounted blade while the hand is full are possible, but penalized by -4. Toe-mounted hidden blades may only be used to execute one attack per round. Multiattack or Improved Unarmed Strike negate these penalties and restrictions. The hidden blade is Weapon Finesse compatible. It is treated as a weapon for spells and effects, and I assume that the assassin is proficient with it. Whether or not that needed to be clearly spelled out depends on your reading – I read this as a class feature, and as such, think that it does not need this. This also, however, disqualifies the hidden blade for feats enhancing a specific weapon. A scaling DC to notice the blade is provided, with class level and Intelligence modifier determining the Perception DC. Retracting or deploying the blade is a swift action, and the pdf properly codifies Sleight of Hand et al. to do so unnoticed. As for addons, 2 are provided: Enhanced blade lets you spend fabrication points to render the weapon magical via enhancement bonuses, with 0 points expended making the hidden blade masterwork. The second addon significantly enhances the capability of concealing the blade from onlookers.

The second tool contained within would be the smoke bomb, which is codified as a thrown splash weapon that may be employed as part of a full-attack action or as an attack action, but for full attacks, using a smoke bomb prevents you from making off-hand attacks. Smoke bombs have a range increment of 20 ft. and don’t generally inflict splash damage. There are three base types of smoke bomb that you can make: You can make 3 classic smoke bombs, 2 incendiary smoke bombs, or 1 smoke bomb laced with inhaled poison. Regular smoke bombs create an obscuring mist analogue with a 10-ft.-spread. Incendiary smokebombs get scaling fire damage, but sport a rules-terminology snafu. The rules language erroneously refers to a Dexterity saving throw, when it should refer to reflex saves instead. The save DC to negate is not explicitly noted, requiring defaulting to the standard, which may be considered to be slightly inconvenient. Poison bombs do require the additional cost of poisons. The tool also gets 3 addons: 1d3 acid splash damage, increased reach by 10 ft. (o point cost), and also at 0 fabrication point cost nets an additional smoke bomb if you create 3 or more smoke bombs of one style, with the same formulation.

The third tool presented within would be the springknife, which may be installed into a willing target. When the creature makes an attack against an enemy it’s flanking or when it’s subject to an attack of a flanking enemy, the springknife activates, making an attack versus the flanked or flanking target. It has a reach of 5 ft. and only activates if the noted target is within that reach. The attack is executed at a BAB equal to class level + Intelligence modifier of the installing assassin + the enhancement bonus of the installed blade, if any. The creating assassin’s Intelligence modifier is also added to damage on a successful hit, and after this attack, the remnants of the springknife fall off. The dagger installed into a springblade may be retrieved as a standard action. I adore this from a design-perspective, though personally, I would have made the blade get a limited number of uses before falling apart….which brings me to the first addon, the double tap, which does, bingo, exactly that. For 2 fabrication points, it nets you a springblade that may be triggered twice before falling apart. This also ties in with a great optional component, but more on that later. At 0 fabrication points, we get sneak attack synergy, and at 1 fabrication point, we get an increased reach, with attacks versus closer targets getting a bonus to atk.

Now, here’s the thing: All of the above? That’s the base killer engineering ability. This ability is NOT a technique per se, which explains the rather subdued power-level of these options. Instead, all of the above represents, ultimately, an extension – something that you get upon taking a technique in the fabrication category! Yep, we’re only done with the prologue, if you will!

All righty, so what do the actual fabrication techniques do? Well, without a prerequisite, we have creator’s confidence, which nets you temporary hit points equal to the number of gadgets installed on your body, lasting for 1 round – basically a kind of replenishing shield. If you have at least 2 fabrication techniques and have a springknife installed and it targets a being with 0 presence, you get one presence versus the target. Full-round gadget installations and getting two springknives as a capacity to hold may also be found. Specialized springknives has three addon options: At 1 fabrication point, you can install an alchemical springknife – i.e. the option to instead install alchemical items and use them in conjunction with springknives, with 9th and 17th level allowing you to install additional flasks/substances into the springknife instead. At these higher levels, the fabrication pool cost is also sensibly reduced. Secondly, also at 1 fabrication point, we have the option to integrate blinding powder – this is incompatible with other alchemical springknife substitutions or the default daggers, but has obvious benefit. In spite of not dealing damage, it explicitly provides synergy with abilities that hinge on targets being damaged. The third one has tanglefoot bag synergy.

Defensive construction (available at 2nd level) provides, like elemental construction (available at 4th level), a total of 3 (!!) new addons. In the former instance, this includes temporary hit points for 1 round after gadget use, scaling AC bonuses (and minor DR), and minor AC boosts that also are applied as a penalty versus targets damaged by the gadget. In the case of the latter, we have minor elemental damage added (scaling) to those that attempt to damage the wearer in melee, while another addon adds energy damage or added energy damage of all available types – in the case of this technique, that’s cold, fire and electricity. Thus, the latter is a pretty nice way to get to know the resistances or lack thereof of a target.

For hidden blades, 6th level unlocks the exotic blade technique for the taking, which allows you to create an autopoisoning hidden blade, natural attack synergy and feinting with it. Field manufacture allows you to spend 3 technique points to produce one unit of an expended gadget you know, with springknife savant reducing this further, though gadgets with 0 fabrication cost do get their cost increased to 1. The 10th level technique mass produce allows you to optionally make more gadgets, but also has your assassin level for numerical purposes reduced by 10 for the purpose of their effects. If you’d rather have a regular, but less pronounced upgrade of gadget uses, under the table, available at 6th level, has you covered.

Liquid smoke unlocks both tar and grease bombs, the former entangling, while the latter duplicate the slickness of the spell of the same name. Minor bummer: There are two techniques that reference a “spare parts technique”, which, from context, seems to allow you to retain technique points. However, I could not find this spare parts technique in the pdf, nor in my other assassin files. This makes these two techniques basically nonfunctional.

On the brighter side, if you ever wanted the classic Batman utility belt…this pdf has it. The technique of the same name unlocks the new utility belt tool, which comes with, obviously, beast repellent, buffered padding versus energy types, extradimensional storage, and indeed, means to quickly activate utility belt tricks 1/round. A peashooter, a rebreather and the like, a Diazepam like sniping enhancer and stimpacks can also be found here. This one had me, once more, smile from ear to ear. And yes, that were all components of the tool’s base functionality. There also are 3 addons provided!

The pdf also contains 5 feats: Bauble Hoarder lets you 1/day pull a reserve smoke bomb out of your behind, which does not count towards your maximum. Killer Engineer increases the fabrication points available by +2. Mundane Munitions Wrangler nets you one additional extra gadget chosen from the classic three – this doesn’t count towards the maximum, but also may not possess addons, which limits the usefulness here rather starkly. Utility in Utility allows you to remote-trigger components of your utility belt, even if someone else is wearing it. Cool! Optimized Process, finally, unlocks a new addon that provides numerical improvements, and it allows you to combine utility belt components with non-utility belt gadgets, though only in a limited capacity.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the absence of spare parts and the Dex-save snafu represent two uncommon guffaws for the otherwise excellent wrangling of complex concepts within. Layout adheres to the classic 2-column b/w-standard of the Interjection games-supplements, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length. They’d be nice to have, though.

I absolutely adore Bradley Crouch’s assassin class, and getting more material for it is amazing. Getting a whole new technique tree in particular is something that has me rather excited. The fabrication angle shows here is intriguing indeed: We have many things here that had me smile – from obvious Batman inspirations to Assassin’s Creed/Dishonored-like tricks, there is quite a lot to enjoy here. The power-level of the choices herein makes the fabrication tree suitable even for no-magic campaigns, which is a pretty neat plus. The focus on supplemental utility this one has ultimately means that it’s a supplemental trick array, and in this aspect, it succeeds triumphantly. However, it also has a few rough edges that make it impossible for me to rate this the full 5 stars. Instead, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down. Don’t let these minor blemishes deter you, though – the options within are pretty damn cool and worth the low and fair asking price.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Assassin - The Fabrication Cold Technique Tree
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GM's Miscellany: The Thingonomicon (System Neutral)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/07/2019 11:01:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive compilation clocks in at 188 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page foreword, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 179 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested as a prioritized review by my patreon supporters and moved up in my reviewing queue accordingly

First of all, this supplement has got to have one of the coolest names ever – kudos there! In case you did not notice, this one represents a compilation of Raging Swan Press’ first 25 installments of the #20 Things-series of dressing files.

This means it covers ancient necropolises, bustling marketplaces, creepy graveyards, cultist lairs, curio shops &pawnbrokers, dark caverns, fallen dwarven holds, forts in borderlands, goblin lairs, haunted houses, hill giant steadings, kobold warrens, looting bodies of various professions, necromancers lairs, noisome sewers, ocean voyages, seedy taverns, slaver compounds, smuggler lairs, subterranean mines, sun-scorched deserts, townfolk and villagers, troublesome treasures, war-ravaged lands, wilderness camping and wizard towers. Coincidentally, I have reviewed all of these individual dressing files, which means that, should you require a detailed breakdown of the files, you can just click on the “#20-things-series”-tag on my homepage and have the reviews listed in a convenient manner.

I’m not particularly fond of repeating myself, so I will refrain from discussing all of these aspects in detail once more, instead focusing on how this works as a compilation.

Well, the first thing you’ll notice would pertain organization of the material – the respective entries have been organized alphabetically, which is one way to do it. We thus begin with “Ancient Necropolises” and move through the list above in the sequence I presented it.

This means that you won’t e.g. have one section for dungeons, one for urban environments. One for NPCs/corpses, instead, focusing, well, on an alphabetic presentation. While usually, I’d consider that to be a detriment on a comfort level, closer examination of the book led me to a different conclusion: Since the topics covered are rather diverse and disparate, there is not a single properly suitable organization paradigm I could come up with that would have been more efficient that a simple alphabetical presentation. If one would have e.g. grouped necropolis and crypts together, what’d one do with necromancer stuff? Put it there, or adjacent to the wizard’s tower? Closer examination of the book yielded a lot of these conundrums – so yeah, organization in an alphabetical sequence is pretty much the one feasible way to go here, and it makes sense that the book went that route.

Slightly less amusing – there is some overlap among a few of the respective #20 Things-entries. This, for example, affects the entries for the necromancer’s lair and wizard’s towers. Both of these have a duplicate of the same “20 Things to find in a Necromancer’s Sanctum” page, including the same 6 pickled and preserved things. It’s certainly nothing that sinks the supplement, and considering the quality, this duplicate doesn’t hurt the book in the slightest, but it still remains a minor blemish in my book. Then again, it thus is a faithful compilation of the material. Heck, you know me by now – I always have to find something to complain about. ;)

Kidding aside, the Thingonomicon’s dressing, as a whole, is ridiculously useful, and having the book in proper print is a huge boon – much like the phenomenal Dungeon/Wilderness-dressing books (still among my most-used books EVER), this is used much more when you just have it lying there, within reach, at the table. Flip it open, and viola! Need a blasphemous tome? The Rat’s Nest was written into the very fabric of the world, and cannot be unwritten, showing up as glyphs and symbols in filth, mold and rat’s nests. Now that is one damn amazing angle, right? What about a tome that may only ever be tattooed, vanishing if written otherwise? Got a kobold warren? 10 trap suggestions, right there. PCs wandered into a seedy tavern? 10 strange things behind the bar will certainly piqued their curiosity. This is one of those books that are just…useful, that allow you to focus more on things that matter.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re very good on a formal level, and being system neutral, rules-wise, tehre’s nothing to complain about either. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks, though, oddly, the Wizard’s Tower-section does not list its bookmarks as nested. They’re still here, but yeah. One of the bookmarks has a superfluous “s”, and I noticed a few not linking to the correct page: Dead adventurer bookmark links to the subchapter header, while dead bard erroneously links to dead adventurer. These only ever are a single page off, and if you display two pages at a time on your reader, this is a non-issue. The pdf comes in two different versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer. Kudos!

Alexander Augunas, Aaron Bailey, John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Ronald Calbick, Seamus Conneely, Kalyna Conrad, Jeff Gomez, Eric Hindley, Cole Kronewitter, Jacob W. Michaels, David Posener, Paul Quarles, Alex Riggs, David N. Ross, Liz Smith, Amber Underwood, Mike Welham – if you know anything about the authors currently working in the 3pp-circuit for Pathfinder, you’ll be familiar with most, if not all of them – the cadre of talented authors has crafted a wide array of useful dressing articles, which are enhanced even more by being compiled in a concise tome. Much like Dungeon Dressing back in the day, I wholly expect this book to be significantly more useful in print that in its electronic iteration, and indeed, I plan on purchasing the hardcover at my earliest convenience. While I can’t comment on the merits of the print version of this book, I do own plenty of Raging Swan Press print books – many of which are crucial tools in my game prepping and running. This book, while system-immanently less focused than previous Dressing compilations, nonetheless serves an important role, in that it really helps you bring to life complexes and adventuring locations, particularly those that are depicted in a more sketch-like manner – a perfect example of a book that can really use the details provided here will hit sites next week. For books like that, spontaneous adventures, mini-dungeons and locales, etc. in particular, this must be considered to be an all but invaluable resource, and as such, in spite of its minor flaws, which pale in view of what it brings to the table, this book gets 5 stars + seal of approval, as well as a nomination for my Top Ten of 2018.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: The Thingonomicon (System Neutral)
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AL 9: Danger in the Deep! (DCC)
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/07/2019 10:59:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure-location/dungeon-module clock in at 47 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 44 pages of content, which are laid out in booklet-size (6’’ by 9’’/A5), which means you can fit up to 4 pages of content on a sheet of paper when printing this.

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue…because I really wanted to review it.

All righty, so the first thing you’ll notice upon opening the booklet would be the delightfully old-school-y map with its hand-drawn vibe – the PLAYER’S map! Yep, this booklet actually has a proper, player-friendly version of the map. And yes, obviously, there also is a judge’s version. One quick glance at the map also shows you a big plus: Unlike many modules, it actually is pretty non-linear – there are always choices, forks, etc. – I’m a big fan of this type of design.

This is an adventure location that depicts a cavern complex that can be used to link multiple modules together, or to act as a destination if the PCs “Quest for it!” right now – which, this being DCC, they most likely are!´

The challenges presented within are intended for a group of 4 – 8 level 2 DCC-characters. A significant plus, as far as I’m concerned, is that, while murder-hoboing through the adventure’s locations very much possible, clever PCs and players will have a MUCH easier time in the scenario if they, you know, actually roleplay and talk to some creatures. Don’t fret – there is plenty of action to go around, and this is very much a DCC-scenario in its aesthetics.

The two most likely candidates for the “Quest for it!”-angles here, which also prominently feature among the introductory hooks, would be the perpetually-wet grimoires Running Water, and the legendary club Cold Stone – both of these items come with tables of lore for PCs that do their legwork (or that consulted an oracle, etc.), that have the appropriate backgrounds…you get the idea. They both have really cool angles, and the pdf also comes with a new patron, including a full-blown write-up that includes Invoke Patron, spellburn and patron taint tables. It should also be noted that this patron write-up does include a new monster associated with the patron, which itself has a d7-table of visceral and really cool effects for its attacks.

Beyond aforementioned adventure-hooks, we do get a d5 random encounter table for the complex, with all critters properly statted for your convenience.

The descriptions of the respective adventure locations include read-aloud text for GMs less apt at improvising the like. It should also be noted that the adventure telegraphs its challenges properly – there is no save or suck, and when the PCs encounter hostile or detrimental terrain, they do so after incurring risks – in short, this is challenging, but FAIR. It should also be noted that mundane and roleplaying-based solutions to challenges are very much welcomed and accounted for – in short, this has the “right” kind of old-school spirit.

All right, and this is as far as I can go without diving into serious SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only judges around? Great! So, the module begins with a narrow entrance tunnel that is slick with guano and rather difficult to traverse: PCs failing low DC Agility checks risk falling/sliding, and while crawling is an option, it carries its own risk, namely infection with vermin, which can temporarily reduce Agility. This is a great example of the design paradigm mentioned above – the module allows for a means to offset dice-rolling here, but it carries risk that is obvious, namely that crawling through guano-laden muck crawling with odd bugs…well, isn’t a pleasant experience.

Beyond this introductory passage, we get even more coolness – the PCs can happen upon a land bat swarm, and trigger a variety of delightfully odd spores – a d7-table of spore effects is provided here…and guess what? The module accounts for clever PCs weaponizing the spores, providing rules to do so! This goes one step beyond what’s asked of it in its terrain features, and even mundane challenges are codified in a manner that is this precise, this detailed, showing an attention to detail and care that is a pleasure to see.

The cover, btw., depicts one of the intelligent denizens and potential “bosses” herein – it’s no mere spider, it’s the intelligent Spinwoman, and her webs are strong, as she drags targets in her chimney, wrapping them up in her shawls…being intelligent, smart PCs can potentially try to reason with her…though she is indeed intended as an adversary. Plaghorn the giant intelligent snail, is very much intended to be interacted with – the giant snail gets its own artwork, has hallucinogenic slime, and actually only attacks targets to defend itself. The slime, btw., has serious value for its interactions with the spellburn mechanics! Did I mention that snailtaurs that trade with Plaghorn? They really add a level to what they can deliver, content-wise: The snailtaur potion-masters come with a table of stuff they want, and a d14 generator of potions, names, effects, how they look, and their prices. These potent potions add some seriously cool tools to the arsenal of the PCs, and they make for an amazing reason for them to return to these caves time and again. Oh, and the full-page full-color artwork of the snailtaur potion-masters is just delightful.

Stone bushes and stalactite galleries paint a beautiful picture of subterranean wonders, with strange, blue flowers and similar wonders painting a picture of caverns most wondrous. Speaking of wonders – if you do happen to own a couple of the other rather excellent DCC-supplements released by Purple Duck Games, then you’ll get even more out of this. Where applicable, the module does acknowledge connections you could develop, though these d remain subdued enough: The module is not impeded by a lack of them among your files. Personally, I did very much enjoy these cross-references.

Anyhow, did I mention the conch-shell of psychedelic doom?

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly one-column b/w-standard, with a couple of nice one-page hand-out-style full-color artworks thrown in. The cartography for the supplement is charming in its full-color hand-drawn aesthetics, is precise and features a grid…and it comes with a player-friendly version! The one downside I can field against the supplement would be the lack of bookmarks. I’d strongly suggest getting print here…or printing it yourself.

Daniel J. Bishop’s name on a module tends to be an indicator of quality. The trip into this cavern section oozes care and attention to detail from every pore. Many a DCC-module has high-concept “star”-encounters, sure – but it’s in the smaller details that one can see true artistry. Does the attention to detail afforded to the bosses, the “cool” scenes, also extend to the smaller encounters? In the case of Daniel’s writing, the answer tends to be a resounding “Yes!”, and this pdf shows well why that’s the case. Beyond having terrain et al. matter, the adventure succeeds in making even small decisions, small hazards matter, feel plausible, feel real. It has plenty of weirdness and Appendix N-style, sure – but to me, the impressive aspect here was how the module hits the more subdued notes, how care extends to all the small components that are so easy to overlook.

While the lack of bookmarks costs this half a star, the inclusion of player-friendly maps makes up for this as far as I’m concerned. For the print version, I’ll definitely rate this 5 stars + seal of approval. If you want to run this pdf-only, detract half a star.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
AL 9: Danger in the Deep! (DCC)
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