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20 Things #16: Necromancer's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2017 04:08:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Okay, we begin this dressing file with a definite winner: 8 blasphemous tomes of forbidden lore, ranging from the Libermorbus to the Sable Flame, these are evocative and really capture the reader’s attention – oh, and as a further bonus, we get 6 cool and disturbing bookmarks suitable for evil masters of magic.

Beyond these, we move on to horrible sounds and sensations – 10 of both are provided and they are really cool: From sudden out-of-body experiences to feeling watched or a miasma of vile mists…really neat. From the distant clanking of bones to sounds from previously cleared rooms, these are similarly neat.

While we’re at the subject of blasphemous things: What about spell components? 20 are provided and range from jumbled bones of mass murderers to shriveled, desiccated hearts, gems to enhance undead-animating spells, horribly disfigured rats…Really cool!

Next up would be 20 things to be found in a necromancer’s sanctum and 6 pickled and preserved things – these, however, have been previously released in 20 Things: Wizard’s Tower and the associated compilation.

The final tables sport 10 basic descriptions, 10 battle tactics and 10 pieces of treasure, which allow for the quick combination of a variety of undead: One page devoted to skeletons and zombies each is provided, allowing for a vast variety of combinations to enhance the descriptions of the undead legions.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks are really nice – I particularly liked the component pouch. Additionally, the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use - kudos for going the extra mile there! The pdf sports several pieces of nice b/w-artworks.

Creighton Broadhurst and Jeff Gomez provide one amazing, excellent dressing file here – the respective tables are inspired, the dressing is diverse and e.g. the books can inspire whole stories. The dressing herein also makes for a great supplement for pretty much any horror context you can imagine, so yeah -this is useful beyond the confines of its theme. That being said, I would have wished for an new table instead of a reprint regarding the sanctum, though I understand its presence here. Even taking this into account, the pdf is really good, though – hence, the final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #16: Necromancer's Lair (System Neutral Edition)
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Hooray! Thank you for the review, End. Glad you enjoyed the book!
1KWA1: The Dark Hunters
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2017 04:06:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, this little system-neutral adventure-sketch clocks in at 3 pages 1 page front cover, 2 pages of content.

All righty, this being basically a system-neutral adventure outline in precious few words, I do not expect earth-shattering storylines here. Structure-wise, the module provides general guideline for the GM to adapt the module and suggests, in percents of the default value, a suggested reward. Helpful: A paragraph on bringing it all together and 6 different questions for GM-consideration help plan this little sidetrek. (As an aside: The pdf does confuse “affect” with “effect” here…)

On the plus-side, we do get 6 random effects, which are basically dressing or cosmetic events and 6 random, magical effects noted.

All righty, onwards to the SPOILERS. Potential players should skip ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

Only GMs around? Great! So, 4 years ago, Captain talis was exiled from the city of Florin. Disgruntled, he started training a cadre of half-orcs and proceeded to terrorize the land, until he and all but two half-orcs were slain. The survivors, Gog and Magog, did flee into an underground warren, triggering the wrath of an ancient spirit. The small town of Quay sits atop these burial chambers.

The PCs must explore Northhaven Warren, where they must pass shelf-beds with skeletons as they wade through the mud,a s they approach the breached mausoleum…which is literally mined with defensive spells – first triggering warning-shots and then getting progressively worse. The inhabitant also animate and it becomes pretty clear pretty soon that the glyphs were left to keep something in, something the possibly horribly mutilated half-orcs set free…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, if not perfect. Layout adheres to a relatively printer-friendly 2-column full-color standard with a mostly white background. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jim Pinto knows how to create atmosphere. In spite of the brevity and system-immanently sketch-like nature of the module, the set-up is pretty nice, the complex flavorful. While I really would have appreciated a map (since I suck at these), I get why the module doesn’t have one. Still, there are modules out there that offer just that. Anyways, the pdf does provide some cool flavor for an atmospheric sidetrek at a low and fair price-point. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
1KWA1: The Dark Hunters
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How Do I Fly
Publisher: Straight Path Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2017 04:04:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the series that explains the more problematic concepts of PFRPG clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content. The printer-friendly version comes with a different layout and manages to cram the relevant information on 4 pages.

All right, flight. So, one of the strengths of PFRPG’s rules, at least in my opinion, would be that the rules are organized in a very clever and sensible manner, at least compared to many other games. I never realized how good the organization actually was until I started designing for other systems as well and noticed how obscure the organization of certain rule-books is.

Anyways, if there is one aspect where PFRPG’s rules really suck and are incredibly annoying and opaque, then that would be frickin’ flight. The pdf first explains, very newbie-friendly, that e.g. the Fly skill doesn’t let you fly and just measures your competence. It also introduces the importance of size and maneuverability.

This out of the way, there is the issue of 3D space – hence the height of a 3D-5-foot-square is defined as 7.5 feet. After this, we take a look at the basic differences and advantages of flight over landbound movement. EDIT: Here, I was originally being a know-it-all prick; the pdf has since clarified a potentially confusing statement, which made me delete this section. The pdf has been corrected.

Anyhow, next we take a look at the uses of Fly that do NOT require a skill-check, then list those options that do require one. After this, we take a look at special considerations for magical flight and winged flight – the basics, mind you. A handy table sums up the modifiers for flying in bad weather (and explains the concepts of checked and blown away), and finally, the pdf sums up common uses of flight in combat.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though I noticed a few typos. Layout adheres to a two-column, full-color landscape-standard for the tablet-optimized screen-use version. The version for the printer sports a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf have no interior art, but need none. EDIT: The revised versions now sport proper bookmarks - KUDOS!

I love flying combat. In fact, I only recently had an utterly overpowered omnimental hunt my alchemist and his oracle cohort piloting a vril-powered gyrocopter through a city in the throes of all out magical warfare. I love 3D-combat and the cool tricks it lets you do…however, the organization of flight in PFRPG is less than ideal…and this pdf provides a relatively handy primer on personal flight. It only covers personal flight, but hey – it’s PWYW and for a novice, this little files is certainly helpful, if not exhaustive.

That being said, if you want a truly breathtaking book on assisted flight, do check out the legendary Companions of the Firmament – it is a must-have for all campaigns using flying mounts.

Öh…forgot the rating, right? Michael McCarthy’s file is certainly helpful for players new to the concept of flight. I consider it worth downloading and leaving a tip for. It’s helpful, PWYW, and the complaints have been taken care of - hence, the revised version is updated to 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
How Do I Fly
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How Do I Grapple
Publisher: Straight Path Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2017 04:03:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This humble pdf clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Wait – that was the screen-use version. The printer-version manages to jam all required information on 3 pages, sparing you some ink/toner – kudos!

Okay, so in 3.X and PFRPG alike, there is not a single mechanic among the base maneuvers that is as complex as grappling. It is not exactly the most popular part of the rules and most players aren’t that savvy when it comes to standard grappling, much less grappling that accounts for the variety of feat- and ability-based tricks.

Well, wanted a cleanly explained pdf that sums up grappling? This is what you wanted. It begins with grappling 101 and explains the basics – namely how to start a grapple. EDIT: The revised version now has a more precise and more newcomer-friendly wording. Kudos!

After that, the pdf first sums up the grappled condition, then the pinned condition. Helpful: Bullet point lists of what you can and can’t do. The pdf then lists what you can do while in control of the grapple. Then what you can do while not in control.

The pdf also lists the bonuses players may forget, which is pretty helpful. Big kudos - the original iteration forgot some of the bonus types that are added to CMD - this iteration now correctly lists them.

The pdf also sports a brief summary of dogpiles, a brief summary of monster-abilities related to grappling. Finally, we have a summary of being swallowed and a short note on grapple and the damage causing burn ability (not the kineticist-resource).

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are improved in the revised version. Layout adheres to a two-column, full-color landscape-standard for the tablet-optimized screen-use version. The version for the printer sports a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdfs have no interior art, but need none. EDIT: The author has revised the files. They now have bookmarks. Kudos!

Michael McCarthy provides a solid pdf here that can be particularly helpful for newer players. Personally, I never quite understood why people consider grapple confusing, but then again, I am weird. That being said, I do understand why grappling confuses a lot of people.

Hence, I was pretty stoked to see this humble pdf – and it’s PWYW to boot, which is a big PLUS, as far as I’m concerned. Even cooler: After I brought a couple of minor hiccups to the author#s attention, he immediately fixed them. Impressive support, particularly for a PWYW-supplement!

Having revised the pdf and streamlined it, the revised version is now worth 5 stars for newer players and those interesting in a clear ad easy to follow explanation of grappling.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
How Do I Grapple
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Villain Codex III: Enemies for Epic Heroes
Publisher: Outland Entertainment
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/16/2017 04:55:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Villain Codices clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue as a non-prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

All righty, so the respective villains all come with full stats,a brief history, a suggested plot (or more) and some goals the villain may have. The respective foes span a CR from 15 to 20. Each NPC gets a cool b/w-artwork.

All right, the first foe herein would be a former dwarven war-hero – Daegrim Siegebreaker, consumed by his hatred of orcs, the CR 15 foehammer fighter is looking for an artifact to eradicate everything with even a drop of orcish blood – the Greenbloodstone…and he may not share his genocidal intent with adventurers he hires to retrieve the artifact.

Also at CR 15, the pdf depicts The Final Star – an advanced lantern archon amnesiac psychic 12. The creature awoke with shattered memories of the end of all existence and a list of 1000 names– and is convinced that it has been sent back in time to stop the end of existence itself…sending out minions to strike the names from the list. This guy is amazing. It not only reminds me of my first published work (I did a similar angle, though inverted, in Coliseum Morpheuon), it also reminded me of one o my favorite Ayreon lines: “Send back visions of war and decay/paradigms of fear in a world of dismay/shape the present, alter the past/create a new future, one that will last/we can save this ill-fated race, who are lost in the ocean of space/find a way to prevent their decline/guide them back on the river of time.” So yes, beyond being a cool idea, this fellow resonates with me on a personal level. Huge kudos!

At CR 16, Kalina Marsh is a half-elven bard 9/master spy 8 – she is basically all about controlling the narrative, a propagandist and demagogue with a star-like reputation and serious combat capabilities to boot. Oh, and she may well start a war if you’re not careful…Surprisingly tough for her professions! Well done!

Ye Mi Goshi, at CR 16, is the yeti survivor of a planar congruence with the elemental plane of fire – witnessing the horrors and wonders of flame, the yeti has become infused with power – he is a potent pyrokineticist, obsessed with flame. Creative, cool and fun – kudos for the delightfully strange yeti!

Fyrek of the Bones clocks in at an impressive CR 17 – she is a Halfling iconoclast inquisitor, obsessed with death, bones…he’s pale. She’s also basically a fun riff on being a goth: She is obsessed with becoming a vampire and serves the undead as a willing champion/killer/executioner. She is ruthless, deadly and seeks to destroy the holy relics and champions that prevent “her” people from spreading across the land. Fyrek is a deadly adversary – and I generally enjoyed her as well – creepy Halfling is something not done too well that often.

Okay, now things become AMAZING. Know the old saying of “power behind the throne” – well, think what’d happen if that was wrong. Big time. CR 17’s second foe would be Throne. The throne. Who controls a whole nation. Throne is a mimic first, a mesmerist second and 100% amazing. I can’t believe I haven’t pulled this guy before. Two big thumbs up!! One of my favorite villains herein!

The villain depicted on the cover is up next – Adonia Grivas, a vampire unchained rogue: Once a master thief, the CR 18 lady is currently the king’s favored concubine, extending the power of her reach in the government’s highest circles.

At the same CR, there is Astralis, an advanced human skinshaper urushiol druid – she travels the world preaching peace and complacency – sounds nice, right? Well, unfortunately for all involved, she is the chosen of the mi-go, reconstructed from the ground up to be a superior lifeform and herald to their plan, preparing the world for harvesting…

The CR 19 vigilante Valene Azurian gets a really long and detailed story – the vigilante has had some sociopathic notions from the get-go, her royal parents sending her off to be raised by her grandmother only ended in enhancing her hatred for the monarchy – and so she presents a dazzling dilettante’s smile, while using her Halfling alter ego/identity to commit crimes that are aimed at changing the very notion of rulership.

Uldin the Gray also receives some advanced story etc. – the CR 19 half-orc bloodrager/dragon disciple. Uldin is actually the raging spirit of a vanquished dragon, reborn into the body of a half-orc. The dragon has since managed to infiltrate a group of dragon-slayers – he needs 33 body-parts from different dragons to regain his proper form…and woe to his “allies” and all that stand in the way of him reclaiming his dominion…

At CR 20, Thanadan was reared by a legendary general - who adopted the green dragon. The duo became legends…and while his rider was slain, the grief-stricken Thanadan is still a dragon…and a cavalier (cough AC 40…) and likes using lances…Ouch! Speaking of which: There would be one final foe herein.

Also at CR 20, we get Tyrin the Implacable. He is an awakened iron golem slayer (vanguard)…and he was forged in the battle god’s forges to rid the world of weakness – an implacable, huge force of destruction. Cities that face him and his host have 3 days – each day, the terms become worse, the price higher. Tyrin, in the meanwhile, sees himself as the savior of the mortal world, as he forges his empire in blood and steel…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious glitches on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports a series of several pretty neat, original b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

My congratulations to the authors of this pdf: Kate Baker, Phoebe Harris, Scott Janke, Mikko Kallio, Matt Kimmel, Jeff Lee, Luis Loza, Jacob W. Michaels, Matt Morris, Stephen Stack and Mike Welham – these villains are a step forward, even when compared to the already rather cool first 2 Villain Codices.

Complex, deadly and evocative, there are a lot of truly creative foes in this book. The villains offer a ton of cool ideas for the GM and many of the potent villains could carry whole adventure arcs, perhaps even campaigns. Stories and motivations are diverse, and from the weird to the more mundane, the villain cadre as a whole is varied and interesting. In short: This is an excellent NPC-collection, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Villain Codex III: Enemies for Epic Heroes
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: A Christmas Carol
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/16/2017 04:52:43

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mini-adventure for Vs. Ghosts clocks in at 2 pages, 1 page content, 1 page editorial/SRD/Etc., so let’s take a look!

This being a mini-module, I do not expect epic storylines or intricate plots – I’ll review this for what it is, namely a short sidetrek. As such, the module doesn’t offer in-depth details and should be considered to be more of a sketch to be fleshed out further.

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

..

.

All right, only Ghostmasters around? Great!

Recently, an unprecedented amount of CEOs, Wall Street bankers and similar folks known for their charity (/sarcasm off) has donated their fortunes to charitable organizations…particularly those clashing with their erstwhile enterprises. The PCs are contacted by Mr. Fezziwig, clearly an alias of the intermediary, who works for E.S. – the CEO of a major bank. E.S.’s CFO has suddenly resigned, selling all personal stock in the company. After being pressured by Fezziwig, the CFO has admitted to having been visited by 3 ghosts who showed him the error of his ways.

E.S. and Fezziwig are certain that the man believes this – and has hired the PCs to debunk the story or stop the ghosts, should they really exist. Some in-depth investigation provides some puzzling insights: There are no Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future – nor have there ever been. However, three heads of struggling charities has recently died – on Thanksgiving, of all days. These 3 spirits (division IV) now seek to do right, punishing scrupulous corporations….like the one that hired the PCs.

And yes, if the PCs aren’t smart about it, the corporation will try to cheat them out of their well-deserved salary. Each of the 3 ghosts has a fitting signature ability…which are nice, though they could be a bit more precise regarding in-game effects, like relieving your worst moments. Ultimately, the module poses an interesting moral conundrum for young players and adults alike: Do the ghost hunters destroy the ghosts in favor of a pay-check, or do they ignore the money offered in favor of having the spirits dispense social justice?

More intriguing for adult groups: What kind of impact would the series of CEOs retiring have? Will the well-meaning ghosts destroy more than do good? Surprisingly interesting conundrum!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a pretty busy three-column full-color standard. The pdf has no bookmarks or artworks, but doesn’t need any at this length.

Lucus Palosaari’s riff on the classic Christmas Carol theme, Vs. Ghosts-style, is surprisingly good for a 1-page adventure: The contemporary riff on the theme has been done to death, yes, but the moral conundrum posed can render this more interesting than what you’d expect from such a small pdf. Equally fun for adults and kids, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I can’t round up for it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: A Christmas Carol
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vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Talking Board
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/16/2017 04:51:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mini-adventure for Vs. Ghosts clocks in at 2 pages, 1 page content, 1 page editorial/SRD/Etc., so let’s take a look!

This being a mini-module, I do not expect epic storylines or intricate plots – I’ll review this for what it is, namely a short sidetrek. As such, the module doesn’t offer in-depth details and should be considered to be more of a sketch to be fleshed out further.

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

..

.

All right, only Ghostmasters around? Great!

First things first – this becomes much cooler with a prop: Get an Ouija board – the module assumes that a character has gotten one and focuses on trying it out. The board in question was in the possession of one Hason Schmidt, a little-known Pittsburghian spiritualist. At first, the communication via the board will deal with Hason…then, the responses become rushed, as the dark spirit Zozo (full stats provided) starts taking over….and sooner or later, Hason will spell “HELP” as the lights go out.

While they turn back on, temperature has dropped and Zozo has taken over. Screwing with the investigators, unleashing ghost orbs, angry shadows (with modified abilities)…and at one point, Zozo will attempt to dominate a character. While the specific means of destroying the evil spirit are presented, the pdf is silent on how the PCs are supposed to deduce the steps, which serves as a minor hiccup in the set-up.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a pretty busy three-column full-color standard. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t need any at this length. The pdf does not sport any artworks.

Jason Owen Black’s Vs. Ghosts-adventure is pretty fun – and if you have a Ouija board and use it, you can make it really horrific. The premise is simplistic and not too grand, but a prop makes it really shine. You can run this for kids and adults alike by emphasizing certain aspects, though as written, it probably is the creepiest Vs. Ghost module – squeamish kids may be a bit frightened here. The tweaks on foes are interesting and, as a whole, this can be a rather nice adventure, particularly if you have a Ouija board. My final verdict for this one is 3.5 stars – though ghostmasters who believe themselves to be capable of doing a Oujia-séance and integrate it in the module should add a star – as noted, that adds a whole level of atmosphere to the game, particularly if you can rig the light to go out… And yes, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Talking Board
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Tales from the Laughing Dragon Inn
Publisher: Wayward Rogues Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/16/2017 04:49:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure-anthology clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us still with a rather impressive 50 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

It should be noted that the eponymous tavern, the “Laughing Dragon Inn”, is depicted between front cover and editorial/ToC-page, with full map and brief room descriptions – the section can be used as a kind of hand-out, if you wish. The full-color map provided is nice, though it should be noted that no one-page or high-res jpg-version is included – if you just want to hand out the map, you’ll need to cut off the text. This holds true for all the maps contained herein. Whether or not you consider that a plus or not depends on your tastes. Unfortunately, there are no key-less player-friendly maps in the pdf.

It should be noted that the advertisement text is incorrect – these adventures are not for levels 1 – 10. Please consult my discussion of the adventures below for the proper level-ranges covered.

All right, got that? Well, we begin this book with a recap of the storied history of the Laughing Dragon Inn. GMs do get an extended history of the place, 6 sample events during night-time and 8 fluff-only write-ups of tavern staff, from barkeeper to owners to servers. Speaking of which: The picture of the servers is pretty much fanservice – personally, I’m not a big fan of the picture, as the exaggerated cleavage of the ladies felt like a bit too much…but then again, the pdf does something clever and actually makes that a plot-point of sorts….which is pretty ingenious and smart. Beyond that, the pdf does go into lavish detail regarding the inn’s menu: Food, drink and desert all get their own list of entries, with a general idea of prices provided as well. All in all, a solid way to start the compilation and establish an identity for the place within Brighton.

All right…and this is where we begin taking a look at the adventures. As such, I’d strongly advise potential players to jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Good!

The first module would be Kendra Leigh Speedling’s “Dust to Dust”, intended for level 4 PCs. The PCs attend the festival of St. Gran the Dust Warden, but the festivities don’t last too long – the PCs soon find that the wizard Viravar Harx has been murdered. The investigation of the body comes with multiple skill DCs to use. Mysterious: There don’t seem to be any tracks, just blood droplets here and there…and, big plus, the pdf does take some spells into account, though, alas, the spell references are not properly italicized – this, unfortunately, does happen more often throughout the module – the formatting could have been more precise here and there.

Anyway, the trail has not gone cold – and people seem to suspect Dervila, the sorceress, who would be the rival of the deceased wizard. The sorceress tries to Bluff the PCs away and is pretty good at it – but sooner or later, they will have to get inside of the house – in her workshop, the PCs will have a chance to duke it out with a junk golem and ultimately, will be able to track the sorceress to a hidden cave beneath her home – where cave scorpions and wights await – annoying formatting glitches in the stats, unfortunately included – while they can be used as written, there are e.g. plusses before CMD-values. Weird. On the plus-side: The artwork for Delvira is really neat – consumed by rage, the sorceress has become a penanggalen sorceress - a relatively brutal showdown. All in all a decent sidetrek with some cool monsters…though the BBEG didn’t exactly act that smart.

Rodney Sloan’s “The Demon’s Paw” is also for PCs of 4th level. Uness you believe the ToC – then it’s intended for 6th level PCs. It also takes place on a festival – the Wyre’s Winter Weave Festival. Dieter Hagen, who did not have an easy life, to say the least, has recently come into the possession of a demon’s paw…and this babau’s paw was unfortunately shown to less than scrupulous folks. Dieter is thus in attendance when a CR 7 fetchling dancer takes center stage with her haunting sandman abilities – this distraction is used by cultists to infiltrate the inn, capture Hagen and try to summon the demon – if that works out, stats are provided…and yes, the paw is a nice variant crawling claw. A nice artwork of a blood-spattered handout can also be found on one page – which not have that as a full-page hand-out in the appendix? Stopping the cultists, with or without having to deal with the demon, will end the sidetrek, though the reputation of the PCs may suffer from the involvement in the eerie proceedings, just while the cult of Shub-Niggurath starts plotting against them. Basic version of the monkey’s paw-theme – the weakest module herein, barely more than two encounters that PCs will probably hack through before realizing any aspect of the story.

“Under the Revenant’s Mask” by Thiago Rosa is up next, written for characters level 6 – 8. Strangely, this module doesn’t seem to sport a synopsis. Aurora, the daughter of Doctor Damile, is a talented singer that has fallen in love with Ceasar, a cook. Damile sought to impersonate Ceasar via disguise self (not italicized), but went overboard – his daughter died in a tried accident while running from him. Aurora has now returned as a revenant, hell-bent on revenge against an innocent and grief-stricken Ceasar, which Damiel sees as a chance – he had planned to resurrect his daughter via alchemical means…So that’s the set-up. Slightly strange: The first attack of zombies and revenant that kicks off the module does not get the usual encounter-formatting, happening exclusively in the flavor text. Anyways, Ceasar hires the PCs and they will sooner or later want to contact the local merfolk information broker (whose stats contain glitches). Maartin Bestor, the noble with a penchant for occultism, is not a kind man – but he may identify the zombies as alchemical creations. This will lead the PCs sooner or later (perhaps after the similarly basic depiction of the second night’s assault) to Damiel’s abode, where more undead roam – including Aurora, who gets a really cool artwork. Here’s the thing: Damiel is a potent alchemist – if the PCs haven’t figured out his possible involvement in the death of his daughter, the finale may well prove to be beyond them. That being said, there isn’t much in the way of proof other than speculation and roleplaying the dynamics here – which is a bit of a pity, for the visuals of the masked remnant are cool. This adventure suffers from its brevity and feels like an abbreviated form of a story that should have been more complex.

“Take me to the River” by Anthony Torretti is a sidetrek for 8th-level characters. The PCs are hired by a mining company’s prospector to investigate the disappearance of her assistant, convinced that Brighton’s folk are somehow involved. The PCs also encounter Artinus, an eccentric local druid and begin a brief local investigation here: Theis is structurally the best investigation in the book: We get read-aloud clues, several of them, guiding the PCs through the questioning process and the closer investigation of the man’s disappearance. The deductive reasoning to recreate the last whereabouts of the missing assistant is nice. The trail leads to the outhouse, which actually features a sewer system! In the mapped sewers, the PCs will have to face elder things and cultists…and rescue potentially the missing Lenam…who tells the PCs about the horrid, planned assault on the mining camp: In the water, pods (DCs to analyze the like provided) are bound to hatch, unleashing horrors upon the camp! The PCs have to get to the camp and deal with the Broodqueen of Shub-Niggurath (who comes with a GLORIOUS artwork) before the vile brood of elder things hatches. While not perfect, the sidetrek is structurally the strongest and presents a fun module.

The final adventure would be “A Comfortable Skin”, penned by Charlie Brooks, and intended for 10th level characters. Few entertainers are as popular as the gnomish pair Kavan and Lira Thresser and their adopted gnome son Barradan. Mywynn and Tannileigh seem to bit out of town, leaving Kavan in charge of the Laughing Dragon. He offers the PCs some serious money for the retrieval of stolen goods – and so the PCs set out to confront the Plundering Blades, relatively powerful, multiclassed bandits. Interrogation, however, yields that the bandits were hired to retrieve the stolen goods via nonlethal means by Teera Greyth, a seamstress. She is convinced that something’s not right at the Laughing Dragon…and close inspection of the intercepted shipment shows no less than 9 scrolls of gentle repose in a hidden compartment. At the Laughing Dragon, the PCs may well stumble into a deathtrap: The entertainer family has been taken over by intellect devourers…one of them even sporting assassin levels! And yes, both Mywynn and Tannileigh may be rescued…provided the PCs survive the brutal trio of aberrations… Solid, challenging, combat-centric sidetrek.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not exactly perfect – there are several formatting glitches, a couple of typos and if you’re picky about statblocks being correct…well, you’ll find hiccups there as well. Layout adheres to an actually beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports copious amounts of artworks – including some really amazing, high-quality pieces. Big kudos. The cartography is full-color and also sports some nice maps – though I wished we got one-page versions of them…or player-friendly ones. As provided, their lack represents a comfort detriment. Speaking of which: It is puzzling that an anthology of this length has no bookmarks whatsoever. Wile we’re at it: You can’t highlight or select text from the pdf, which is a further comfort detriment when creating your own notes.

Robert Gresham, Kendra Leigh Speedling, Rodney Sloan, Anthony Torretti, Charlie Brooks, Simon Munoz, Thiago Rosa and Jarrett Sigler have created a per se pretty solid anthology: While some of the modules suffer from their brevity a bit, as a whole, we have a couple of solid dark fantasy yarns here – nothing groundbreaking, but as a whole, I’d consider this compilation to be on the positive side. Considering the low asking price, the amount of content is pretty neat. I’d tentatively recommend this compilation in warmer terms if it was at least a bit convenient: The missing player-friendly maps, the lack of bookmarks, the glitches, which, while not crippling, do accumulate…they all conspire to drag this down. The adventures themselves are challenging and very lethal, as befitting the relatively dark fantasy-ish themes – and as a whole, I liked how this uses the Laughing Dragon Inn as a sort of story nexus and hub. The pdf, in short, does have something to offer if you’re not picky about formal hiccups – there is fun to be had here.

That being said, I can’t overlook the shortcomings the compilation does have. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars…but honestly, I can’t round up for this. If you’re looking for some brief, inexpensive dark fantasy sidetreks and don’t care too much about weaknesses in organization, editing and formatting, then this may be well worth checking out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tales from the Laughing Dragon Inn
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High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/13/2017 04:26:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module for Alpha Blue clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page Kort’thalis publishing glyph, ½ page editorial, leaving us with 15 ½ pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Wait, before we do: This is a review of a module for Alpha Blue, a game that is a kind of homage to 70s’/80s’ scifi-porn parodies. As such, sex and violence, particularly sex, are themes herein. A good litmus test is the cover: Does it offend you? If so, steer clear. If not, then proceed.

I do assume that you’re familiar with Alpha Blue in my review.

Before we take a closer look at the module itself, we are introduced to two new Alpha Blue classes – the first would be the Xenologist, who knows A LOT about alien xenology: 1/scene, he causes those attracted to him be drawn to his animal magnetism; those that believe themselves superior feel stupid and those that believe themselves brainy will realize the advantage of having him be a part of the crew. The range is 10’. Now, while functional, personally, I think it’d have been more elegant to codify this ability more precisely: One effect on a 4, 2 on a 5, 3 on a 6 and a bonus effect – a little table for success and failure. The second class herein would be the pickup artist: Basically, the SDM rolls a hidden d6 and on a 1 or 2, the prospective target is potentially available sans much fuss. No complaints here.

Beyond these two classes, we also get some rules for the benefits of sex: Special abilities with limited uses (like 1/hour, 2/combat, etc.), you gain a bonus use of that ability. You can trade sexual gratification for stealing the spotlight, allowing for the doubling of dice on a single action. You can forego getting off in favor of a reroll of a single dice pool reroll. I really like these. They add a bit of tactical depth to the game. Kudos!

It should be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to campaign worksheets for an Alpha Blue campaign, with influences, 23 quick questions to establish leitmotifs, etc. allowing for a pretty quick and dirty means to establish the base-lines. Beyond these, tables for 20 scifi names, 4 general dispositions, 6 reasons to be here and 10 sample outfits can be found, allowing for some quick and easy NPC-dressing for the characters herein. It should be noted that, structure-wise, we do not get a synopsis or the like – the SDM is strongly advised to read the entirety of the module before trying to run it.

Anyways, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

Only SDMs around? Great!The PCs are standing over the smoldering corpse of a foe…and then, some beeping can be heard. The communicator of the fallen enemy displays an alarm: Tomorrow, the galaxy’s largest Q’uay Q’uar tournament will be held on Zeta Minor…and the convention of Universal Pickup Artist Association also will take place there! If that’s not enough motivation yet, the pdf does provide no less than 6 custom angles for the SDM to employ. En route to Zeta Minor, the PCs will have a chance to avoid a cloud of strange matter that may result in bizarre occurrences….like being contacted by versions of themselves from an alternate reality, currently on the run from a dark star elf bounty hunter. (Oh, and “drow”? Bad racial slur…that ought to be funny) Oh, one more thing: The alternate versions of the PCs are really bad a-holes…

Anyways, once the PCs arrive on Zeta Minor, they’ll find Mistress Grenadine, former Satisfier of Alpha Blue – a brilliant and expensive dominatrix, hose attentions can yield palpable bonuses in-game – cool! The tournament director will btw. be none other than David “Space” Pumpkins and his dancing skeleton crew…oh, and he and his bodyguards get full stats and his unique wand sports several really potent effects. Cool!

Now, the module is obviously about participating in the q’uay q’uar game – and there are several means to do so: There are two different levels of abstractions for quick resolutions…but where the pdf goes the extra mile would be the first and most rewarding way to do so: You see, there is a bonus 1.5-page pdf here that explains the game, as well as a full-color, high-res jpg of the game table: “Q’uay” means “purple”, “Q’uar” means yellow – this is a two-player game. Purple goes first and both players start by placing their starship on a hex of the appropriate color. A player can move 1 hex per turn. When a player moves a spaceship on a hex with a symbol, the respective symbol’s effect kicks in. If both players’ starships are in the same hex, combat commences. This is resolved via competing d6s. Ties go to the aggressor.

There are two ways to win the game: Be the last man standing or ascending the symbol that’s the Star Throne: If you do, you roll 1d6: A 1 kills you, while 4+ wins the game. 2-3 means that political bickering requires a reroll next round. Wormhole hexes let you jump to another wormhole. There are also space stations, alien mercenaries and assassins – all contain the chances for bonuses and for penalties. The basic game is pretty simple…but more rewarding with the optional rules: 2d6s each round make the game chaotic: Preventing a color from ascending the throne, temporarily no wormholes…the mini-game is fun, the visual representation of the playing field is amazing and better yet, the game can be resolved quickly and thus doesn’t halt the game for too long. HUGE kudos for this fun mini-game! Even if you dislike Alpha Blue, this may well be worth getting for the mini-game.

However, beyond this mini-game, there is plenty of adventuring potential: Hessina Goldenfire, the vibroswordswoman and expert gambler, Jenna Rayne the space-slut who is seeking to settle down, Talador Gisholm the pickup artist (who gets stats, unlike Hessina, which was a bit weird)…the NPCs depicted are colorful and interesting. Crime lord Syresh Vos, a really powerful Bobba Fett style killer with several unique and fearsome, nay, legendary items, meanwhile wants to steal the prize money…and then there’d be Quai-Gon Jizz. A total douchebag, former knight in white satin…and the best player in the tournament…particularly because he cheats! The nasty zedi comes with full stats…and the PCs should better stop him and his nasty, drugging pipe.

Oh, and on the last day of the tournament, there’ll be a hologram…promising a fortune for the heads of the PCs. The instigator, btw., would be Fructis New Zaelyn, associate of Grabba the Butt and on the board of Purple Prizm’s directors…but he’ll probably get away. How that turns out? Well, that’s up for another adventure to determine!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups or issues. Layout adheres to the neat two-column full-color standard for Alpha Blue-modules. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version of the pdf. The pdf also is fully bookmarked for your convenience and the addition of the jpg for the game is great – two thumbs up.

Venger As’Nas Satanis’ latest Alpha Blue module is BY FAR the best he’s written for the whole product line. While one NPC that could have used stats didn’t get any (Hessina), this is a surprisingly crunchy, fun module. The set-up is creative and the different ways to resolve the game by playing the game or via the quicker, more abstract rolls are amazing, allowing the SDM to account for the peculiarities of the table, be they home-campaign or convention game. The NPCs are cool and the “further adventuring” angle is amazing as well – the finale this time around is not sudden or problematic. In short: This is a fun, creative, well-rounded module. I have only the slightest of complaints and they pale before the otherwise cool module.

As an aside: You can easily expand Q’uay Q’uar to work as a team-game: Take a sheet of hex paper, place glyphs and allow for multiple players per color. I suggest doubling the field-size for every pair of additional players, placing as many additional glyphs on the map (excluding star throne, which will remain in the center) as on the original field and…there you go. The game’s pretty simple and fun and if you do expand it to sport more players per color, I’d suggest providing dice-bonuses for ganging up on single vessels, etc.

…there I go, expanding a bonus mini-game. Anyways, back to the review: I considered this not only to be the most rewarding Alpha Blue module so far, it also is the best, craftsmanship-wise. It is pretty sandboxy, but sports concise rules and details. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this one – my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar
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20 Things #15: War-Ravaged Land (System Neutral Edition)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/13/2017 04:24:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Raging Swan Press' system-neutral #20-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

As the PCs wander a war-ravaged land, as the butchery and death have abated, they may wander the fields of war - and as such, 10 detailed pieces of battlefield dressing kickstart this installment of the 20 Things-series, depicting feasting crows,, ragged and blood-spattered standards and worse. Tragedy stalks these fields and the pdf's flavorful entries capture its facets well.

The next section is all about signs of war - for this scourge leaves its traces on the landscape, as smoke smudges the horizon and bloody remnants speak of minor skirmishes in yet another great little selection of 10 such signs. From here, we move on to 20 things you can see in war-ravaged villages: From collapsed buildings to gaunt dogs, starved by famine and wounds, darting across the street to the scattered remains of pillaged kitchens, this dressing selection is versatile and atmospheric.

Of course, chances are that, at one point, the PCs will be part of a siege - hence, 20 entries show us different things that can be seen during such a perilous time - and yes, the identity of attackers is left deliberately vague. Servants hustling around with drinking water, huddled guards, sudden influxes of arrows, conscripts in armor, all too young for the grisly death-dealing about to commence...the pdf offers a lot in this section as well.

The final table, alas, is a reprint from GM's Miscellany: 20 Things Volume I - in that book, it was a designated table for orc raids and while its name has been changed, in a minor complaint, a reference to orcs still can be found here, when more general humanoids would have made sense. That being said, only one entry is thus affected.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks deserve special mention - we get a great full-page b/w-piece as well as some nice supplemental pieces. Additionally, the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use - kudos for going the extra mile there! The pdf sports several pieces of nice b/w-artworks.

Creighton Broadhurst's latest 20-Things-dressing file is evocative, well-crafted and captures the horrors and desolation of war in a diverse and well-rendered manner, with crisp prose and a plethora of well-written entries. In short, this is a great little dressing-file for a more than fair price-point. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
20 Things #15: War-Ravaged Land (System Neutral Edition)
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks very much for the review, End! It's much appreciated!
Purple Duck Storeroom: Heroic Rings
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/13/2017 04:22:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck Games‘ inexpensive pdfs clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content. It should be noted that the content is formatted for digest-size – you can fit 4 pages on a sheet of paper when printing this. Let’s take a look!

We begin with the extremely potent (over 3K price) circle of the sage sentinel – it may only be used by someone with a trait, ability etc. that grants a bonus to saves vs. fear or immunity to fear, The ring nets the benefits of mage armor, overland flight at will and several X/day abilities, ranging from 10/day magic missile to 1/day crushing/grasping/forceful hand – as a minor complaint: Their activation could be clearer - I assume defaults, but one could argue otherwise. The ring requires that the wearer swears anew to uphold the ideals of justice each day, charging the ring with light – yep, this is a variant of the Green lantern ring.

Fans of Star Trek will enjoy the decoder ring and Grimm rings allow for the use of elemental body III. Jungle rings duplicate the gorilla form of beast shape II, while the signet of the legion Aeris nets constant fly, a bonus to Fly-checks and 1/day sending to other wearers of the ring. Twin rings of wonder are tied to one another and only work when used together – kudos for getting the rules right there. Finally, the wardrobe ring can store an outfit and be dressed in it as a swift action – cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – I noticed a double “s”-typo, but no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 1-column standard. The pdf has rudimentary bookmarks for start and end – kudos.

Jacob Blackmon’s rings are solid. They won’t blow your socks off, but for the low asking price, the pdf is worth checking out if the rings mentioned intrigue you. A nice, unpretentious collection – my final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Heroic Rings
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Recovery Dice Options
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/12/2017 03:55:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 32 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

One of my favorite components of 5e’s design would be Hit Dice, aka recovery dice – the means to keep adventuring without requiring a gazillion of healing potions.. The system requires minimal book-keeping and helps offset some of the issues previous editions had with nova-ing of characters, i.e. the burst-like expenditure of resources to blaze brightly and crush opposition, followed by resting. Now, granted, novas are not a problem in groups of experienced GMs, who’ll put the fear of attrition into the PCs, but from a design-perspective, Hit Dice are a smart move.

Now, here is the thing: As written, Hit Dice are a limited resource that otherwise doesn’t really influence the complexity of the game. This may be fine for some groups, but I know that quite a few 5e-groups out there enjoy an increase of tactical options and customizations – and this is where this pdf comes in. In a nutshell, this book is focused on providing approximately a gazillion different ways of utilizing recovery dice in ways that transcend the regaining of hit points. Hence, the SMART decision to differentiate the terminology: Hit Dice refer to the base resource; Recovery Dice is the term used when expending such dice from the pool for new effects. The resource as such and how to track the dice has been concisely depicted herein and the benefits of using them as noted as a collaborative narrative effort, emphasizing the individual’s tastes, which represents a big plus froma roleplaying perspective – whether you buckle up and grit your teeth, are assisted by an ancestor spirit or tap into some sort of primal energy – there are plentiful justifications for the effects of recovery dice and the pdf doesn’t skimp on examples.

Now here is the thing: As the astute reader undoubtedly has surmised, recovery dice represent an alternate system and are, as such, extremely cherry-pickable; no one keeps a GM from disallowing one such option to use them and allow others. As each option only takes up a relatively low amount of word-count real-estate, this pdf ends up being surprisingly dense regarding the amount of content it manages to cover in its pages.

But you’re interested in the precise effects of them, right? And here, things get interesting: While there are instances where you can expend a recovery die as a bonus action to e.g. gain advantage on a concentration roll or gain resistance t cold damage until the end of your next turn. Or you can, as a reaction to suffocating, treat Constitution as higher, gaining you precious moments to escape. The observant reader will have noticed something that’s quite obvious here: E.g. the cold resistance-granting option is called “Blessings of the North” – it isn’t a big step to e.g. grant this specific option to characters hailing from the frigid Northlands to further differentiate them from Southlanders. The Suffocation-prevention option? Now that makes sense for a character with the Sailor background, right? So yes, these options can be used to further differentiate between characters. The Diehard option lets you spend a recovery die to gain advantage on a death saving throw – and with the right of these, you can roll the recovery die to subtract the amount rolled from a critical hit. Increasing your Strength for the purposes of Athletics and jumping makes for another interesting option here.

Now, granted, not all of these are created equal: Dash as a bonus action, ignoring a condition until the start of your next turn…there are some general and very potent tricks here. After a short rest, you can expend 2 recovery dice to regain the use of an ability that would require a long rest to recharge, which can potentially lead to odd situations. In short: These are engine tweaks and as such, they deserve respect and should be allowed on a very conscious basis. This requirement of some Gm prowess becomes evident with another option, which only allows for the ignoring of a select array of conditions (as opposed to all), but for a number of rounds equal to the recovery die roll – which may or may not, GM’s call, require an action – the balancing of this one is contingent on the game as well as whether the previously mentioned one is allowed or not.

Allowing Hit Dice spent to heal to be used for comrades makes for another interesting option. As a whole, this section can radically change how the game works at your table, in a myriad of ways. This is not, however, where the pdf stops – instead, we are presented with race-specific racial recovery dice options: These follow, in general, a similar route as PFRPG’s race traits or racial paragon classes, in that they emphasize the tropes of the respective race: Elves can spend recovery dice and add the result to Dexterity (Stealth), for example. Or, if you want to go for the classic elven sniper trope, a recovery die lets you ignore the disadvantage imposed by having your target obscured – cool: Gets right that you still have to know the location and the benefits of cover etc.. Dwarves can grant themselves temporary hit points versus poison damage or temporarily ignore the poisoned condition for recovery die rounds– again, this is less impressive when using aforementioned, more high-powered general options, but for groups looking for dwarfier dwarves, this delivers. Human resolve is represented by turning failure potentially into success: When failing by 5 or less, they can spend a recovery die to add half its result to the roll, to give you just one of the potential options. Dragonborn can tap into the frightening aura of proper dragons or pimp their breath weapon, while gnomes can generate short-lived clockwork devices in a relatively fluff-centric, but fitting option.

Now, beyond these recovery dice options grouped by race, the pdf also features options by class: Bards can add recovery dice to jack of all trades ability checks or fluidly get temporary access to a bard spell they don’t know, for example. Now, here is something interesting: There are options within these options. When using the barbarian’s Desperate Rage, for example, you can exchange a recovery die for a use of rage. That’s VERY strong. However, there is an option of the ability, which adds a cumulative level of exhaustion whenever you use it before taking a long rest, making it a gamble. Druids assuming the shape of a beast sans darkvision can gain it. Fighters can turn their weapon magic and, temporarily, provided you allow the optional variant, even change the weapon’s damage type: “Witness my blade, forged from the poison of your clan’s deceit!” Sorry, got carried away there. Paladins with the guardian angel option can counter an enemy’s advantage; rangers can fire lightning fast opening shots. Rogues can use the dice to e.g. improved Uncanny Dodge or Sneak Attack. Sorcerors can regain sorcery points. Limited control over wild surges, while a bit clunky in its wording, is also one of my favorites here. Warlocks can, if push comes to shove, bugger their patrons for information, duplicating a variety of spells as a ritual. Wizards can attempt to cast spells beyond their capabilities, which carries a significant risk – at least if you employ the optional restrictions, which I’d very much suggest.

Okay, all of this, on its own, would already be a massively impressive, daunting amount of tweaks to the engine to check out – but here’s the thing: The pdf’s not done. In a game where recovery dice become more important, one may very well want to tweak the system as a whole – and here, the pdf goes one step beyond the call of duty, presenting a wide variety of alternate rules: Critical hits that cost you recovery dice, making healing cost recovery dice (or the healer’s hit points!), temporary hit points, monster with recovery dice – these options are discussed in detail and have their own lethality ratings, which allows you to, at one glance, note how they will influence the game. Want a world where healing is sparse and injuries matter, but need damage-negating tools and options? Between the significant number of individual options and these general system tweaks, you can cobble that together. Want a superhero-ish game, where recovery dice also act as a kind of secondary stamina mechanic? Similarly possible. What about preventing ALL healing sans spending recovery dice? Yes, there are a lot of cool ways to play dark fantasy, horror or grittier games here – but similarly, you can make the heroes larger than life! Using the wounded condition from TPK Games’ option-book? There is a synergy option. Such tweaks may also necessitate new threats, and thus, diseases that take away recovery dice, adding their removal to undead (life drain!) or certain spells – the pdf sports some cool suggestions here, closing the supplement on a high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, there are a few wonky wordings here, but none of them wreck the integrity of the book as a whole. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with an orange-ish background and the pdf’s artwork is solid full-color stock.

Mark Hart, with additional content by Brian Berg, Rick Cox and Nathan Sherrets, has written a gem of a book. Would I use all of these? HECK NO! Using all of them at once can be a colossal cluster-f***. At the same time, that’s not the intent of the book and I never want to miss these in 5e-games. You see, this pdf ultimately represents not a simple template – instead, you should consider it to be a grab-bag: You check it out, determine what works for you and disallow what doesn’t.

Which brings me to the ONE thing I don’t adore about this supplement: The individual recovery dice options don’t have a power-rating and some are definitely MUCH stronger than others. You can’t just hand this to your players and tell them “Choose two of them.”

So yes, using this successfully requires a GM who knows what s/he’s doing and careful, individual consideration of the options herein. They are not created equal.

Totally, absolutely worth it. I mean it. This pdf represents some of the coolest system-tweaks you can imagine. This is a thoroughly GLORIOUS customization option book that allows you to enhance the tactical dimension of 5e, modify the rules to better suit your playstyle, go gritty or heroic. Yes, it does require a bit more GM oversight than it probably should, but OH BOY is it comprehensive and massive in its massive catalogue of tricks. I absolutely adore this book and it frankly ranks as one of my favorite 5e-books to date, representing a true treasure trove of modifications. If you approach this with the right attitude, then this will enrich your games for years to come.

If this had a power-rating for the individual options, making it slightly more user-friendly, I’d have awarded it status as a candidate for this year’s top ten – it’s that good. Even with the work that a GM has to put into this, the value of this book is obvious and significant – this is a glorious toolkit, well worth 5 stars +seal of approval. And this gets my EZG Essential tag for 5e-supplements – there are so many cool ways to tweak the engine herein, I know that, no matter the campaign, I’m bound to use some of them. Highly recommended, best 5e-book by TPK Games so far. If you know what you’re doing regarding engine tweaks, then get it now. ‘Nuff said.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Recovery Dice Options
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Stairway of V'dreen
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/12/2017 03:53:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The latest module for Venger’s Crimson Dragon Slayer rules-lite old-school RPG clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page Kort’thalis glyph, ½ page editorial, leaving us with 16 ½ pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, the adventure begins with the PCs seeking shelter – whether from a meteor shower or something else; thankfully, there is a conveniently-located half-buried hunk of metal there. What could go wrong?

Ahem, well, a lot. This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

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All righty, only referees around? Great! It is no surprise that the PCs will find the hunk of metal occupied – within, Dr. Ebzub is performing an experiment of utmost importance – the planar and dimensional traveler is calibrating a portal and PC interference may have pretty fatal and unpleasant consequences. The random table provided does allow for devastating explosions or stranger things yet, including the skipping of the whole module, requiring some referee mojo to get back on track. If the portal is opened, hwoever, the important mission of the doctor may well bring the PCs to V’dreen, where the thin air can provide some hindrance, depending on the luck of the PC – a d4-roll determines whether and how the PC is affected, ranging from continuous, asthmatic gasping for air to not being affected at all. Weird: RAW, being winded imposes disadvantage on physical activities until you rest, whereas not being able to properly breathe only requires a rest, sans the rules-relevant repercussions. Pretty sure that’s an oversight.

V’dreen has been abandoned by the gods and thus, a table of 12 strange susurrations carried by the wind can be found; the biggest city of the world, laarzdyn, come with 30 sample professions, which include the makers of invisible nets and being a colorist of artificial fish. Beyond these, we have a random encounter table that lets us randomly generate genetic experiments gone horribly wrong – determine base shape with a d10, type (including T-rex and bunny rabbit) with a d12 and weird feature with a d8 – the latter includes, obviously, tentacles, mutations or being vampiric. It should be noted that you still have to determine the basic stats and rules-wise, there are no default repercussions – “tremendous bite”, for example, is reliant on referee judgment to determine what it does. There are also 6 sample stranded NPCs to encounter, which range from stranded dark elves to Miskatonic researchers, pirates, a lecherous old captain and Ro-Dan, the raging mutoid. These write-ups are creative, fun and cool – but once again, fluff only – you’ll need to provide/improvise stats yourself.

Okay, so those would be the free-floating complications/supplemental pieces of information, let’s move to the adventure proper: V’dreen is a world the gods forgot – and as such, it is fading at its rims, getting smaller…and the good doctor proceeds to whip out a device, visibly excited…before, quite likely, being disintegrated by an arrow of bone jade fired by the fully statted Maura’kai raiders – one of the factions of this strange place, a race of insectoid humanoid savages at war with another faction of this place. Whether the PCs hold them back or are brought to their encampment, sooner or later they should realize that, unless they do something they may vanish with this strange world – investigation of the edges of the world will yield an impression not unlike graph paper, stretching to infinity – and a promise of falling forever if you step into oblivion. Watching the blank infinity promises madness, as a Great old One is lurking there…and just as the PCs may want to leave, they’ll encounter black-skinned goblin-like creatures with a taste for human flesh…

There are three factions here: Beyond the aforementioned Maura’kai, there are the Klyngon star elves and the B’xeeru, sentient clouds of semi-corporeal flesh; The Mauru’kai worship the Beast of V’dreen, a tentacle, tiger-striped arachnosaur that breathes paralytic gas. And yes, we get both artworks and stats for this horrid monstrosity. Hint: That’s one of the instances where PCs should GTFO…and it usually can be found at the base of the mystical steps that may lead from this place. The star elves hate and loathe the stairway and the beast, but are also afraid of the latter; finally, the b’xeeru despise the mauru’kai and want to keep the star elves away from the stair.

Among the wonders of V’dreen are strange thinsg – the mauru’kai, for example, worship and fear the Faceless Demon, sealed and out of phase in his ancient temple…who, surprisingly, just wants to PCs to ascend the staircase and press a purple button, fixing the world. (Obviously, this is a ploy – but he’s willing to give the PCs an extremely potent, intelligent tri-bladed sword. The first creature killed with it will determine the strength of the demon as he manifests, so unsurprisingly, it wants the PCs to try to kill the legendary beast of V’dreen with it… There also is a garden containing three marble statues, which represent immortals lying in wait – defacing them can yield dire consequences, but oddly, not stats are provided – sure, they are immortal, but no information on attacks and tricks they have? There also is a massive one-eyed monolith, the nexus of worship for the fading world, where a d%-table and some guiding questions allow you to determine on the fly magic item-effects. That is, you interpret e.g. entries like “Spheres of Yog-Soggoth.” And yes, considering the beast’s stats, you better come up with some potent tricks for your PCs here. There also would be the slaver warlord Seejo Tulon, who provides the option to save some damsels in distress – neither is chain of hopelessness, nor his fear-inducing gauntlet have precise mechanical effects.

Finally, there would be a way to escape, beyond ascending the stairs - a temporally disjointed wizard who may or may not have been eaten by a crudzu, a strange plant monster, does have a strange device and with it, they potentially may return…if the referee so desires, that is.

If the PCs make it past the dread beast, they’ll find room 23, where they can witness the gods of V’dreen Dave, Jim, Phil, Ginny, Tom and Aleister thinking about the fate the of the world – and, in a funny jab at the horrid endings of Deus Ex 3 and similar games, 3 buttons that decide the fate of V’dreen- annihilation, integration into the purple islands or restoration.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though the rules-language is often a bit less precise and prone to requiring interpretation than what I personally prefer. Layout adheres to a red-veined, two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a second, more printer-friendly version. Kudos! The artworks are original pieces in b/w and absolutely amazing. The pdf comes with extensive, nested bookmarks. Personally, I was disappointed to get no cool map of V’dreen – to me, it very much feels like a free-form hexploration and the lack of a map makes it all feel a bit opaque.

Venger As’Nas Satanis’ Stairway of V’dreen feels very much like a fever-dream to me; I mean this as both a compliment and a criticism. On the one hand, we have a daunting, creative vision that is a pleasure to behold. The world feels primordial, strange and creative, and the graph-paper/fading world angle is amazing. This deserves heartfelt praise for its glorious ideas; none of the encounters/set-pieces featured herein are bland. That being said, at the same time, when rated as a commercial adventure, it feels a bit disjointed and sketch-like: Neither the star-elves, nor the b’xeeru are mentioned or explained in any depth beyond the brief, fluffy introductions. No stats or the like; they feel like afterthoughts to the mauru’kai. While we learn of the strange town of Laarzdyn, we do not learn what its populace is – mauru’kai? Star elves? B’xeeru? A blend? Something else?

I can accept Venger’s philosophy of requiring referee interpretation in his system; Crimson Dragon Slayer is rules-lite enough that this doesn’t necessarily break the game. But at the same time, here, there is a lot left to referee. The genetic experiments, the marble demons, the regular inhabitants…all require statting by the referee. Getting any sense of the place and its geography, in lack of a map, requires some serious close reading by the referee as well. Sure, I do get the idea here – make everything blurry, haze-like, allow the referee to move at his/her own pace. My contention is, however, that both the way in which stats and rules-text are missing in some instances and the lack of a map (even a point-crawl-y one would have worked!) conspire to generate a haze; the module, ultimately, becomes harder to use than it should be. The lack of a synopsis also adds to this, making a piece of inspired writing harder on the referee to run that it should be.

The beast of V’dreen is amazing and the primary obstacle of the module, with its ridiculous amounts of hit points. The PCs can even get a McGuffin blade to slay it. But what if they want to lead the star elves into an attack on it? Well, you’d need to improvise stats for them. The magic items the PCs will very much need to have a chance against the beast, require some serious, spontaneous Referee-mojo. Chances are, you don’t have a preconceived idea of what the eye of K’tulu does, after all. It is in these instances where I really wished the pdf would be more precise, would provide more guidance, a bit more structure. Combined with the lack of a map, we get an impression of a hazy fever-dream – a brilliant, far-out and creative environment and great set-pieces. But from a structural point of view, the module also, alas, sports the imprecise and slightly confusing nature of that dream.

This is really hard for me. As a private person, I absolutely loved this adventure. I adore its creativity. The beast is glorious and so are all the components of V’dreen – the setting and ideas are fresh and fun. As a reviewer, however, I also have to take into account the structural weaknesses that haunt the module and its at times annoying opacity. I have tried in my review to reduce this as much as possible, but in the pdf, we jump from the mauru’kai ambush to notes on their camp to the factions to the edge of the world, to Seejo Tulan…you get the idea. The structure of the presentation, as much as its minor oversights, constitutes a major drawback, particularly for less experienced referees – it is, in lack of a unifying backdrop and courtesy of its inspired weirdness, more opaque and hazy than Venger’s Revelry in Torth.

If you’re a veteran with great improvisational skills, then get this! This is an inspired little sandbox! However, if you want something to take up and play, if you have a hard time dealing with sandboxy environments, then this will challenge you more than most comparable modules, courtesy of a lack of summary or detailed presentation of its components. Personally, I had a blast with this – while I was annoyed by the amount of work I had to do to fill in the blanks, more so than even in many large-scale hexcrawls, the imaginative vision of this module remained strong enough for me to make it worthwhile. I can see this fail horribly, though – novices or referees accustomed to more hand-holding when running a module should probably think twice before embarking on the journey to V’dreen. Ultimately, my final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stairway of V'dreen
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8-Bit Adventures: Vampire Slayer Gear
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/12/2017 03:51:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the 8-Bit adventures-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so this time around we take a look at items that are designed to, bingo, duplicate the experience pertaining one of my most beloved video-game franchises, namely Castlevania. No, not the less than impressive 3D-games. I’m talking ‘bout old-school, baby. No save states, no continues. The clock tower was FEARED.

So, first, we take a look at the names of the in-game items and correlate them to PFRPG-items in a handy table: Keys from the Castlevania games, for example, act as skeleton keys, PFRPG-rules-wise. So yeah, so far, so good.

Anyone who played Castlevania will recall whipping candles. A LOT of them. The pdf does provide some advice on how to use this as a very transparent leitmotif in the game – and it sports a treasure table for candles. The use of this table, however, remains limited – one table is provided for all levels. I get it. Castlevania had no level-increases for Trevor. It was a platformer, not an RPG. That being said, PFRPG IS an RPG- and as such, more differentiated tables for different PC-levels would have significantly increased the value of this section.

The pdf then proceeds to present two new weapons, the first of which would be the cross boomerang – and as sad as I am to say this, it does not work RAW as written, requiring a readied action to catch (an impossibility) or a weird immediate action attack versus AC 10 that just eats an important action and is yet another delay at the table. It also fails to specify how many hands you need for it – assuming default 1 for thrown weapons, but yeah. The second item, the star whip fails to specify this as well. While both of them have been cleaned up in an errata by the author, the information has not found its way into the file and as such, can’t be taken into account.

Next up are 3 magic weapons and armors, starting with the slayer’s shield of defense…which sports one of my pet-peeves: It calls the wielder of the shield wearer instead. Shields in PFRPG are wielded. It also is a spell-in-a-can and has “goes into total defense” – which is NOT proper rules-language for that. Whip crystals can be added to a whip, bestowing the deadly special weapon ABILITY (not property!) and if the whip already possesses it or already inflicts lethal damage, it “increases the damage progression dealt by the whip by one step.” – yeah, that’s not how this is phrased. Does this refer to damage die size? Weapon size? No idea. Slayer’s Mystic Whip is a really potent star whip with spells-in-a-can. It “ constantly seeks out and can detect any undead within 60 feet, warning the wielder with its empathic link when danger is nearby.” Oh boy. How does it seek them out? Does it detect undead as the spell or instantly? What are the precise stats of the empathic link? Does the whip need to be drawn? Is it undead or danger? What are the effects – no surprise possible? No idea. This is non-operational.

The final section of the pdf deals with new magic items, ranging in price from 50 gp to 11.520 gp. The latter, btw., would be angelic wings of ivory, a jump/feather fall spell-in-a-can item. The blue crystal, a single use invisibility, also is a bit weird, in that shattering it has not been codified, action-wise. Bracers of Multi-Blow let you incur a -3 penalty to get an additional attack at the highest BAB. Which can be really strong, as it stacks with TWF. Interaction with flurry, etc. is wonky and the 1/day bonus damage is weird, as the damage is not properly codified. Candles of secrets outline secret doors and hidden compartments – like the visuals here. The holy water bomb deals holy damage. Which does not exist, and the item is even inconsistent in its own damage caused. Next. Hourglass watch is utterly OP: 1/day hold monster, AoE, for 9 rounds. For 7650 gp. WTF.

Hunter boots are better than comparable items as well. Large heart crystals replenish limited use charges when shattered, which can be rather problematic. Small heart crystals double the base weapon damage for some time when used – okay, how does this work with crits or similar multipliers?? Master keys are slightly better skeleton keys with spells-in-a-can added. The rosary of holy destruction cuases a burst of…holy damage. It also lacks an activation action. Urgh. The sapphire ring’s rules-language, alas, is also a bit wonky and contradicts itself, lacks a reach caveat…nope. Wall meat is a powerful healing item and the white cross is needlessly verbose – and for once, should reference the spell that it actually duplicates.

The final page of the pdf is devoted to a monster table, noting classic monsters and pathfinder substitutes.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting can no longer be considered to be good – while formally, the pdf does a pretty good job, the rules-language quality leaves A LOT to be desired. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard that evokes the classic Nintendo-booklet/cartridge-aesthetics – kudos! The artworks similarly are neat. The pdf has bookmarks for the chapter-headers, but not for individual entries.

I really wanted to like Derek Blakely’s pdf. I’m a huge Castlevania-fan and these items tug at my heart’s strings. Their execution, alas, is simply not up to par. They provide bland spells in a can, sport a lot of glitches, and even if I could take the errata into account, this would constitute a failure as far as I’m concerned. Unless you are a really hardcore old-school Castlevania-fan, I can’t find a justification for this pdf, even considering its very fair and low price. Even then, this falls very short of what it easily could have been. Personally, I did not get anything from this pdf – there are too many issues here. My final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars – if you really are a hardcore Castlevania-fan, you may want to round up…and since these fans are the target demographic, my official verdict will also round up. Otherwise, I would have rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
8-Bit Adventures: Vampire Slayer Gear
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Psychic Disciplines of Porphyra II
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/11/2017 05:42:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second pdf of disciplines for Porphyra clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content. It should be noted that the pdf is laid out for digest-size (A5/6’’ by 9’’) – you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper, should you choose to do so.

Most of the psychic disciplines herein employ Charisma as governing attribute for the phrenic pool – as such, I’ll explicitly note the two disciplines that use Wisdom instead.

The first of the disciplines would be Dance, which covers, bonus spell-wise, the gamut from feather fall to overwhelming presence. It nets Perform (dance) as a class skill and ½ psychic level, minimum 1, as a bonus to he skill-checks. Amazing: You can make an immediate action check to dance to fortify allies against sight-based magical effects. Starting at 5th level, you may substitute Perform (dance) for Acrobatics and Fly and 13th level lets you replace thought and emotion components with the somatic component of dancing, but at the downside of potentially incurring spell failure. Meaningful, creative and cool ways to influence the gameplay – huge kudos!

The second discipline would be fear, beginning, unsurprisingly, with cause fear and offering cruel jaunt and the like later. The focus of this discipline is cool: You are still affected by fear, but it hampers you less – really cool: You can elect to be affected by effects causing the shaken condition and instead of the condition’s normal effects, even gain a buff – cool tweak on the condition and, once again, a meaningful way to customize the character – particularly for darker, grittier games this one can be cool for a player who wants a character that is not impervious to fear, but who learns to harness its powers.

The heroism discipline nets you proficiency with 2 martial weapons, or one exotic weapon of Improved Unarmed Strike and makes the psychic basically a Way of Life practitioner (see PDG’s underappreciated, nice martial arts sourcebook "Unarmored and Dangerous") – but fret not: The relevant rules are provided herein – you don’t need that book to use the discipline. Higher levels yield Uncanny dodge and its improved brother. Once again, meaningful tweak, with spells ranging from mage armor to deflection and heroic invocation.

Kyudo would be governed by Wisdom and focuses, unsurprisingly, if your Japanese is up to snuff, on archery and precision, netting Precise Shot, proficiencies, starting equipment and a cool mechanic: Scoring critical hits against targets with bows replenishes 1 point of your phrenic pool. Better yet: The ability can’t be kitten’d due to a HD-cap – kudos!! You may also replace thought or emotion components with focus or somatic components while wielding the bow. Spells with a range that is not touch or personal, nor has a cone-shaped AoE may be delivered in the form of ghostly arrows, using the bow’s range increment instead and starting at 13th level, the discipline allows for the replacement of both thought and emotion components. Once again, really, really cool!

Mascot nets you a familiar or animal companion (Improved Familiar may not be taken) and sports, spell-wise, the usual array of animal-themed spells, from speak with animals to animal shapes, with e.g. planar refuge included as well. However, to prepare spells, the discipline requires touching the mascot. 5th level yields a Will-save bonus when sharing a space with the mascot and 13th level allows for the sharing of the mascot’s evasive abilities. Perhaps that’s the otaku in me talking, but while this one isn’t mechanically brilliant, it does make me recall some anime I really enjoyed…I can see that one being the default caster role in some campaigns.

The final discipline, Void, is once again based on Wisdom and would be the second discipline centered around the concept of a psychic with moderate capabilities in WuXia-like contexts – with spells like anticipate peril, transformation, mind blank and akashic form, it certainly works that way. Particularly since it provides the second tie-in with “Unarmored and Dangerous” – the psychic using this discipline is a Way of the Void practitioner. Once again, the full rules required are presented herein. Higher levels yield evasion and its improved version, respectively.

The pdf sports a bonus pdf penned by Mark Gedak, where we get, on the two pages of content, Sirani the Favored, a level 1 (CR 1/2 ) dhosari paladin. Nice bonus!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch: Apart from one instance where the size category “Small” was lower case’d, I noticed no hiccups – and that one is cosmetic. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ printer-friendly 1-column standard with purple highlights. The pdf and bonus pdf sport no artworks apart from the cover, but at this price, that’s totally fine with me. Amazing: The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. BIG kudos!

Carl Cramér second foray into psychic disciplines lacks all my criticisms of the first one: Each discipline herein is meticulously precise, offers a strong theme for both role- and roll-playing and, more importantly and impressively, a meaningful change in how the psychic class operates. In short: This is a truly impressive little gem. Oh, and it costs a ridiculously low $1.50. Seriously, I have read a lot pdfs with 20 times the word count and less cool ideas. Oh, and yes, if you’re looking for a way to make the psychic fit into an Asian context – well, then this should be considered to be a must-buy. Even if the Asian flavor of some disciplines doesn’t do it for you, they’re one name-change away from fitting into pretty much any setting. Inexpensive, creative, precise – 5 stars + seal of approval. Get this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psychic Disciplines of Porphyra II
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