RPGNet eShop
DriveThruComics
DriveThruFiction
RPGnet eShop Visit the Book Shop
RPGnet columnsRPGnet ForumsRPGnet Gaming IndexRPGnet Reviews



Home » Rite Publishing » Reviews
Browse Categories











Back
Other comments left for this publisher:
In the Company of Giants Revised (5E)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/11/2017 04:56:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the second revised version

The second revision of the 5e-conversion of „In the Company of Giants“ clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.

Now one of the definite strengths of this series, should you not be familiar with it, lies in immersion - like most Rite Publishing books, the "In the Company of..."-series is defined by being simply pleasant to read, which is a pretty big deal for me. How does it achieve that? Well, know how some crunch-supplements read like telephone books? Rite books employ a cool strategy here - they are written from the point of view of actual characters. Thus, this pdf begins with Owain Northway, one of the sages of Questhaven, receiving a letter from a member of the Jotunnar race, who then proceeds to explain the basics of the race.

If Jotunnar does sound Norse-flavored, you wouldn't be wrong (their names sport the Icelandic suffixes of -son and -dottir, denoting "son of" and "daughter of"), but neither would you get the totality of the picture. Far beyond what other product lines offer in either 5e or PFRPG, we receive an in-depth look at culture and mindset of the race - which begins as Medium-sized and only slowly unlocks the true potential of their heritage. Philosophy-wise, the race similarly does take an unconventional stance - there are two dominant ways of thinking, with the first being called Vird.

Vird would be pretty much a philosophy steeped in Norse morale - i.e. cherishing the value of bravery, being forthcoming and true, but this does not extend to traditionally "good"-coded concepts like mercy. Courtesies and proper behavior still are very important and the elaboration of the concept is enticing and well-presented.

Osoem, then, would be the path of embracing what one could construe as the base giant desires - they are not necessarily evil, though their actions would be considered as such; instead, they very much behave as one would expect from the more unpleasant real world giant mythologies, rationalizing it as part of their nature. The scorpion on the turtle crossing the river comes to mind.

Racial trait-wise, the race increases Strength by 2 and they increase your choice of either Constitution or Wisdom by 1. On a basic level, Jotunnar become older than humans and favor a regimented society. At the start of the game, you are Medium and gain proficiency with Intimidation and Persuasion. You do count as one size category larger for the purpose of determining carrying capacity, pushing limits etc. and when you fail a Strength or Constitution saving throw,, you can reroll the save, but must keep the new result. You can use this feature only once per rest interval, requiring a short or long rest to use it again.

The main meat of this book. Crunch-wise, would be the jotun paragon class, which is exclusive to the jotunnar race and gains d10 HD, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, one artisan’s tool, Strength and Constitution saving throw and you get to choose proficiency in two skills, chosen from Athletics, History, Insight, Nature, Perception, Performance and Survival. Nice: Beyond quick build advice, we also get equipment choices and ability-score requirements for multiclassing purposes. While not wearing armor, the class has a natural armor of 10 + the greater of either Strength or Constitution modifier + Dexterity modifier and you may still use a shield in conjunction with this AC boost. The jotun paragon class also gains a slam attack that inflicts 1d4 + Strength modifier bludgeoning damage, which increases to 1d6 and 1d8 base damage at 6th and 11th level, respectively. RAW, it does not note that the jotun paragon is proficient in slams, but I assume so, analogue to other class features.

At 3rd level and 15th level, the jotun paragon gains a mighty cool ability – as an action, you can grow in size (so yeah, you still can adventure with your buddies), increasing your size at 3rd level to Large. Equipment changes size with you and your weight increases by a factor of 8. Items out of your possession regain their size after 1 minute. Now, 5e’s size-increase rules are brutal – in order to maintain balance, the usual rules for size increase are NOT applied for the jotun paragon class. Instead, weapon attacks deal an additional 1d4 damage, which increases to +1d6 or +1d8 at 5th and 11th level, respectively. You may resume Medium size as a bonus action. The upgrade at 15th level allows you to use a second action to grow to Huge size, for a further size and weight increase. Damage boost while Huge is +2d8…and before you ask: No, you can’t be affected by enlarge/reduce while thus grown. Big kudos for balancing this…and for explaining the interaction with e.g. a giant’s sword in a sidebar.

Starting at 5th level, we get rock throwing, which scales based on your slam attack; 7th level lets you swat rocks etc. out of the air as a reaction, protecting your puny allies. Also at 7th level, you gain temporary hit points equal to 10 + number of Hit Dice extended + Constitution modifier whenever you complete a short rest, but only when you actually spend Hit Dice, so no cheesing here. They btw. vanish after a long rest. While you have these temporary hit points, you ignore the effects of the frightened condition – note that you only ignore the effects – you’re still subject to it! Interesting ability!

At 9th level, you gain advantage on all saves that affect humanoids, but not giants. At 11th level, you may execute a crushing blow in melee, which inflicts of +2d12 damage and the target must succeed a Strength save or be knocked prone. The feature may be used twice before requiring a short or long rest to use again, +1 use at 14th and 17th level. 13th level nets perhaps the most hilariously epic ability of the class – at this level, you can take grappled creatures and use them to beat up their friends or throw them. Yes, you are proficient in using other folks as weapon. Yes, it’s cool, and yes, you can smash grappled foes against walls, floors, etc. At 15th level, you double your damage versus objects and structures. At 20th level, you increase your Strength by 4 points to a maximum of 24, gain +10 speed while Large and +20 speed while Huge. Ability score improvements are gained at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th and 19th level. Minor complaint: You have to deduce that and Extra Attack from the table, but that remains a cosmetic complaint.

Now, as far as player agenda goes, we get a Jotun Lineage, which is chosen at 2nd level and grants abilities at 2nd, 6th, 10th and 18th level. A total of 6 different lineages are provided: Cloud giant, fire giant, frost giant, hill giant, stone giant and storm giant – the classic ones, basically. The respective lineages are pretty flavorful – some abilities tie in with the mythological components associated with giants: Jotun paragons with a cloud giant lineage gain, for example, gain a kind of wildcard Charisma skill proficiency that may be changed upon finishing a long rest, representing their mercurial temper; at higher levels, these jotun paragons gain the ability to treat clouds etc. as solid and may even create duplicates from cloud matter. Fire giants can make nonmagical weapons temporarily magical and fiery, with the option to use Hit Dice as a resource to further enhance the weaponry. And yes, there is a hard cap on the number of weapons you can prepare thus…and having access to a forge increases the duration. When suffering normal fire damage, high level jotun paragons may draw some heat into their armors and at the highest levels, we have the ability to temporarily negate fore resistance or decrease immunity.

Jotun paragons with the frost giant lineage are not simply carbon copies of the fire lineage in cold; instead, they can fortify themselves against cold, gain Constitution-based limited spellcasting (representing runic lore). Really cool: At 10th level, grapples may inflict escalating negative conditions on failed saves, even including temporary petrification! Cool! Hill giants gain a necrotic bite and may regain Hit Dice by consuming flesh, but only once per long rest interval, and only as part of a short rest. Tapping into the cliché of the stupid, tricked giant, you can waltz towards foes if you succeed a save versus charms, illusions, etc., and you gain a thunder damage stomp that deals damage in a small cone and may push foes back on a failed save. Stone giants get a further AC bonus when not wearing armor, proficiencies and some adaptation to the deeps…which comes with a cool angle: Life aboveground feels less real, allowing you to use your reaction to declare one attack incurred in such environments as less real, halving its damage. Finally, the lineage of the storm giant nets you both resistance to thunder and lightning and some storm-themed, limited-use spells – the only lineage that I consider a bit less interesting than it could have been.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, both formal and rules-language has been kept pretty precise and well made. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s nostalgic, old 2-column b/w-standard with its rune-borders. Artworks are mostly stock and b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Rite Publishing must be congratulated here; The 2nd revision of the Steven D. Russell’s original playable giants, handled by Brandes Stoddard and developed by Dan Dillon, is finally what fans of 5e wanted. Another company perhaps would have moved on after the failed 1st revision, but Rite Publishing is devoted to making things right…and that’s exactly what happened here. You get the evocative size-increases and can still adventure with your buddies; you get the option to become Huge without wrecking balance…and better yet, the lineage abilities are evocative and cool, at least for the most part: I absolutely adore the somewhat fairy-tale-ish flavor that suffuses even brief descriptions of the crunch, how the respective lineages offer different, cool options…in short, I do consider this to be the conversion that the file deserves.

This is, in short, a great little pdf. While I was slightly underwhelmed by the storm giants, the 0ther 5 lineages are pure amazing and this pdf, in short, is very much worth getting. Flavorful, fun and well-made – the second revision gets well-deserved 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In the Company of Giants Revised (5E)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNet eShop Order

10 Vampire Magic Items (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/30/2017 07:21:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion-pdf for Rite Publishing’s phenomenal „Play VTM-style vampires in PFRPG“-toolkit „In the Company of Vampires“ clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.

Okay, we begin not with the first item, but with an optional rule – the pdf introduces Blood Crafting. Warlock blood nobles (aka, the Tremere-stand-ins) have, RAW, a bit of a problem with crafting; this issue is addressed by the blood crafting rules. The vampire requires a blood magic blood talent equal to or greater than the level of the spell required; blood magic VI would, for example, act as a substitute for spells of level 6 and below. To make up for this increased flexibility, the crafting vampire employing blood crafting must expend the spell level of the emulated spell in cruor points on every day engaged in blood crafting. Cost in cuor is cumulative, which means that complex items will require a LOT of blood…blood that the vampire must somehow provide… However, there is a flavorful risk to using blood crafting – if the vampire fails the Spellcraft check by 5 or more, he can still finish the crafting process successfully, but the item may become thirsty, requiring blood to work properly. But hey, at least the materials aren’t wasted! (Plus: Love the general concept!)

Okay, so this was already pretty cool…now let’s take a look at the items! The first would be the blood doll – these effigies come in 5 variants and act as a painless means to donate blood…and temporarily store it. While the stored blood slowly dissipates, these dolls should provide a colossal boon for vampires embarking into lifeless environments. Big plus! Blood staves come in 6 variants – these staves can be used by vampires employing blood magic to 1/day per spell level, reduce the cruor cost of blood magic employed. Nice. Elixirs of lineage are really cool: Basically, this liquid acts as a vampire Litmus test – drop a blood inside and you’ll see color-changes depending on lineage. I love this item. It feels incredibly right for vampiric nobles obsessed with the purity of their bloodline…and can make for some really cool infiltration complications.

But we move even further past simple items, as the pdf introduces the item category raiment of the ancients – it should be noted that this entry contains discrepancies between the truths of moroi myth and what was elaborated upon in the account given by sovereign Evelyn Arlstead in ItC: Vampires – this is intentional and should be considered to be a mild potential SPOILER-warning. These items are rare, valuable and can only be properly crafted by vampires; they require components taken from vanquished elders; it takes a vanquished elder or ancient vampire to provide sufficiently powerful components. The astute reader will realize at this point that the respective raiments are basically the proof and in-game justification that is analogue to the defeat of the antediluvians in VtM, though, taking the system’s peculiarities into account, the narrative takes on a different turn beyond the impending doom of their return, setting the moroi more clearly apart. It should also be noted that these items have different benefits for vampires and other beings that are not of the respective, associated bloodline. It should also be noted that partial mitigation of the respective curse is part of the items, further enforcing their special place within the context of the moroi. In case you haven’t noticed – these are basically the most sought-after items of the race and could be defined as almost-artifacts…depending on the power-level of your campaign and considering the genesis of the items, they may well be considered to be such, though crafting costs etc. are provided, should your PCs manage to defeat such an elder vampire. As a huge fan of making items out of vanquished foes in RPGs, I applaud this notion. It just makes magic feel more magical.

Grisly Fetish bracelets of the nosferatu allow vampires to suppress their curse and better conceal themselves. Heart’s blood is a special magic weapon property (+2 or +4) that allows for particularly potent attack-deflection – the ancient one is borderline insane and allows for Reflex saves to deflect any attack (not an action), with only enhancement bonus modifying the roll. Usually, I’d be screaming hellfire and brimstone right now, but considering the requirements, that the item will not be for sale (unless you’re playing a WEIRD campaign) and its implications, I consider it frankly to be closer to an artifact than to a regular weapon and will let it stand. If you dish out these items like candy, you probably expected a brutal power-surge. Well, obliged. Memorial tomes of the warlock bloodline enhance blood magic and also act as a kind of spellbook of sorts for the blood magic engine (which is a more complex rules-operation than you’d expect!) – kudos! The inspired’s relic of betrayal allows the vampires employing them to mitigate the superstition and also fortifies them versus channeling. Minor hiccup: The item is an amulet, but the elder version calls it a ring in a cut-copy-paste remnant.

The shade’s secret urn is worn in the belt slot and helps versus sunlight exposure and light, while the sovereign’s shattered crown helps versus the mirror problem…which would be as well a place as any to note that the tales of how the elders were slain make SENSE. They tie into the lore, curses, etc. and add a layer of depth to the items. The nightcaller’s stolen fur allows for indefinite hibernation in the ancient versus and mitigates the homesoil restriction.

Now beyond these, the pdf explains some subtleties of the vampire condition and the potent curse that sparked the condition, which make, frankly, for a fantastic backdrop for a whole vampiric campaign. Speaking of which…Raiments actually echo the true, original sin that gave rise to the moroi – and thus, moroi gaining access to multiple raiments can enjoy synergy effects beyond the already potent item effects…the layers of lore woven with a scant few lines are inspiring.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good; I noticed no serious issues apart from the somewhat uncharacteristic ring-snafu. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard. Artworks are nice full-color stock pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. KUDOS!

I challenge you to find better wrought crunch and lore for a single buck. Stephen Rowe is not content with just writing some items; instead, he has crafted a glorious, must-have expansion for “In the Company of Vampires.” The rules for blood crafting alone warrant getting this book; the non-raiment items are great and the raiments OOZE flavor; they can arguably inspire adventures on their own…perhaps even campaigns. The thread of lore is intricately woven through the crunch presented herein, adding a further dimension to the humble pdf.

This costs a paltry $0.99. For 8 pages of fantastic, vampiric goodness. Seriously, if you own In the Company of Vampires, then this is pretty much the DEFINITION of “Must-have”. Heck, even if you’re not interested in ItC: Vampires (Why? Beyond the player option, it makes for a rather nifty GM-toolkit, even if you don’t want playable vampires!), the raiments may very well constitute an excellent reason t get this pdf and its parent-file…the anti-arch-vampire story practically writes itself. Heck, blood crafting has very creepy implications when you ponder the consequences… So yeah.

GET THIS. Now! It’s less than a buck!

Forgot the rating? Obviously, this is 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Vampire Magic Items (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNet eShop Order

10 Aberration Magic Items (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/27/2017 04:18:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of magic items, tying in with the fantastic „In the Company of Aberrations“, clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

All right, we begin with an item that actually has a nice visual representation – the calamitous tentacle. Before you start yawning – the tentacle is NOT yet another tentacle whip – it’s actually a ranged splash weapon that detonates in icky bits AND that may attempt to grapple foes! Really cool! Encapsulated weirdness is delightfully disturbing: This item is a magical tumor that contains an extraordinary abominable weirdness, conferring its benefits to the “wearer” – oh, and if you don’t meet the prerequisites, it demands a steep price! See, this is how “gain feature x”-items can be amazing! The eye of undoing is basically a dispel magic and disintegrate spell in a can. Okay, I guess. The flute of mad enlightenment, Z-shaped and weird, is easier to play if you have tentacles (AMAZING!) and causes confusion…oh, and it can absorb magic missiles. Cool!

Glasses of puresight clock in at 20K and automatically pierce mundane or magical disguises of aberrations. I really dislike this item, as it can wreck a plethora of plots. Harness of the Favored Pet is amazing – aberrations slap these harnesses on pets, allowing the enslaved humanoids to be handled easier…including command words to silence and pin them. Can you see the scenario where the PCs lead an uprising against chthonic masters? I sure as hell can! Mindkiller’s vise takes a painful toll upon donning, but does enhance the mental powers of the wielder with mind-affecting spells and SPS as well as the offensive capabilities in psychic duels. Nice. Synthetic skin suits are basically a combination of Disguise-enhancing stolen skins and bracers of armor, and thus come in 8 variants – solid per se, though personally, I am partial to Everyman Gaming’s Skinsuit Ritual for that particular concept. Voidcaller’s serum is unique: It makes being adjacent to the user very dangerous (untyped damage, no breath, fatigued…) and allows the user to call forth void-called beings. Basically a magic drug sans drug drawbacks…which, come to think, is something that could carry a book of its own.

Now, as in most of these small item-pdfs by Rite Publishing, the final item herein would be a legacy item, namely Rift. This mighty dagger of crystal comes in 6 stages of improvement (legacy items improve as you gain levels and unlock new abilities); the dagger is nothing short of the stain on reality left by the first touch of Nyarlathotep. As such, it should not surprise you that the dagger can confuse targets, cuts rifts into space to conjure creatures, etc. – a flavorful item! I am particularly partial to the high level ability that, whenever you roll a natural 1, lets you force another creature to take a natural 1 on its next round!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches in either rules-language or formal criteria. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports 2 solid full-color artworks The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity – kudos!

Wendall Roy is one of the best-kept secrets, designer-wise – he constantly delivers intriguing, high-concept material with really cool, creative tricks and tweaks. This pdf is no exception – we get some really cool items herein. While personally, I loathe the flat-out auto-detection conferred by the glasses, that is mostly a matter of taste. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Aberration Magic Items (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNet eShop Order

In The Company of Vampires
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/30/2017 04:00:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Rite Publishing’s massive „In the Company…”-series clocks in at a massive 51 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

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

After a brief foreword, we begin with a letter by Sovereign Evelyn Arlstead – the vampire correspondent and narrator that penned the in-character prose – a lady obviously at least slightly infatuated with Qwilion, which provides a rather amusing subtext throughout the flavorful prose that suffuses the pdf. She is rather adept at trying to “sell” undeath to Qwilion with honeyed words, interlaced with some flirtatious comments. Of course, as such, she does have some serious words for vampire-hunters, zealots, etc. Moroi, just fyi, would be the polite term for the vampiric race depicted herein. Physical description and poise, a predator#s confidence and danger’s subtle allure – the romantic notions associated with vampires have been duplicated in a rather compelling manner here. Fans of e.g. “The Originals” won’t be capable of suppressing a smile when the good lady comments on being “a bit melodramatic when it comes to family.” Similarly amusing: As the lady ges through the respective noble families, her own view color the descriptions. There are also the vampiric middle classes – the respective descriptions are briefer, but the descritions nonetheless are intriguing. As in Vampire: The Masquerade, those with thin blood constitute the lowest rungs of the social ladder.

Moroi are only created from the willingly embraced, but there are some moroi that can indeed generate slaves, a practice obviously condemned by the narrator – though the question of sincerity springing forth from her agenda makes this interesting. As with the revised installment on wights, we do have the modified ability score generation array for undead, Constitution-less races. Vampires retain speed and size of the former humanoid’s subtype, but none of the other traits. As such, they are Small or Medium, have slow or normal speed and ability-score-wise, gain +2 Cha, -2 Wis. Vampires gain darkvision and a natural bite attack (properly codified in type and size) that can also cause Constitution damage versus helpless and/or part of establishing a pin.

Which brings me to blood drinking: The vampire uses up 2 points of Constitution drained worth of blood per 8 hours of activity; blood and how to preserve it is concisely codified. Better yet, the math checks out – I happen to have done the math for the blood of humanoids the other day and the formula scales properly. Failure to satiate the thirst can result in fatigue, exhaustion, etc. – and vampires with a Cruor Pool can use that pool’s points to sate their hunger (more on that later). The way in which blood thirst is codified here is simulation-level precise, interesting and very concise. Excellent job here – frankly the best engine for this type of issue I have seen. As you can glean, this makes travelling potentially a challenging endeavor, though the pdf does provide considerations here. Big plus: At higher levels, the significant magic at the disposal of PCs can make the vampiric condition a trifle – however, there is an optional rule provided, elder’s thirst makes the draining ever more potent and dangerous – and thus harder to manage. Big plus, as far as I’m concerned, and nice way to remedy the trivializing options at higher levels. Now, everyone who played VtM with a serious level of detail will note how hunting can take up a lot of time: This pdf acknowledges that and provides means for vampires to hunt via a skill-check: The smaller the settlement, the more difficult it gets – though expenditure of gold, magic, current hunts, etc. can complicate the matter or make it easier. On a significant failure, the vampire may suffer from one of 10 consequences in a table, which may provide further adventuring potential. This system is not a lame addon – it works smoothly and 3 different feats interact with it. Kudos for the extra support accounting for Blood Pack teamwork hunting, Thralls and Territory (the latter makes hunting MUCH faster and reliable). In a nutshell, this represents the most detailed and elegant vampiric hunting/blood thirst engine I have seen for any d20-based game.

But I digress, back to the race, shall we? Vampires have families: The inspired gain channel resistance +2; Nightcallers gain scent; Nosferatu can demoralize adjacent foes as a move action; Shades increase their darkvision to 120 ft.; Sovereigns gain +2 Bluff and Diplomacy; Vanguards gain a weapon proficiency; Warlocks with Charisma of 11+ gain Bleed and Stabilize 1/day as a SP, governed by character level and Charisma. However, much like in VtM, each of these bloodlines comes with a curse: The Inspired are innately superstitious and have a taboo à la garlic, not entering holy ground, etc. Nightcallers can only rest while touching at least 1 cubic foot of their homeland’s soil; the Nosferatu, surprise, are disfigured and decrease starting attitudes of the living while undisguised. Shades can be blinded by abrupt exposure to light; Sovereigns cast no shadow or reflection and have a hard time approaching reflective surfaces. Vanguards can be paralyzed by wooden piercing weapons (deliberately kept vague) and warlocks can’t act during surprise rounds during the day and is flat-footed for the first round of combat while the sun is up. As with wights, the modified undead traits are listed for your convenience. Similarly, becoming a vampire later in the adventuring career is covered – kudos!

Regarding alternate racial traits, we have options to retain humanoid base racial traits – in two steps. The first renders susceptible to any source of fatigue or exhaustion, the second costs the racial immunity to death effects conveyed by the modified undead traits. Vampires with the elder trait can make Knowledge and Profession skill checks untrained and gain +2 to them, but must drink more blood to sustain them. Mingled lineages yield more than one lineage, but also the corresponding drawbacks and penalties to Charisma-based skill checks when dealing with other vampires. Survivalist nightcallers can sustain themselves via animals – but these must be killed and a HD-caveat prevents the vampire from just subsisting on a diet of kittens. Some vampires can discern information from tasting blood, losing the family’s racial ability benefit(s). Vampires with weak blood, finally, have no benefit or curse and require less blood to sustain themselves. Favored class options for alchemist, barbarian (which lacks a “ft.” after the +1 in a minor hiccup), bard, cavalier, cleric, druid, fighter, gunslinger, inquisitor, monk, oracle, paladin, ranger, rogue, sorcerer, summoner, witch and wizard are covered -alas, no support for the Occult classes, which is somewhat puzzling for me, considering e.g. the mesmerist. Oh well, perhaps in an expansion.

Pretty cool: There is a lite-version of the racial paragon class as a general archetype that can be applied to other classes, with the benefits balanced by the worsening curse. The other archetype included would be the cambion sorcerer. This guy can choose the Knowledge (religion) skill instead of the Bloodline skill. The archetype gains a unique list of bonus spells and may choose vampire bonus feats. The cambion may choose to gain the skills, feats and powers of the chosen family or bloodline, but at the cost of vulnerability to a material or energy type. The archetype gains a cruor pool as an additional bloodline arcana.

Which brings me to the racial feats: 8 feats are included; The cruor pool is ½ character level + Charisma modifier and can be used to store basically blood, with each point equal to 1 point of Constitution drained – this also can be used to power abilities. Extra Cruor increases the pool by 2. Fast Drinker lets you choose to deal 1d4 Constitution damage instead. Merciful Drinker decreases the blood you need to survive and can eliminate the pain caused by the bite. Recovery lets you help the living recover faster from blood loss. Stolen Life lets you expend cruor to heal/gain temporary hit points, the latter with a limit. Unfortunately, this ability fails to specify the activation action. Undead Mind lets you use cruor to turn a failed Will-save versus mind-affecting effects into a success, while Undead Resilience provides the analogue for Fort-saves versus diseases, poisons and energy drains – these btw. properly codify the activation action.

The pdf also contains 5 racial spells: Blood supply temporarily increases the cruor pool; rain of blood can nauseate and frighten the living exposed to it; suppress curse is pretty self-explanatory regarding the context of the race, as is greater vampiric touch; villain’s feast can sustain the undead and vampires and otherwise is basically the undead version of heroes’ feast.

The pdf also includes, obviously, a massive racial paragon class, the blood noble, including favored class options for the dhampir, elf/half-elf, dwarf, gnome, half-orc, halfling and human races. The blood noble gains ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort-, Ref- and Will-saves, d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, but not with shields. The class gains the Cruor Pool feat as a bonus feat at 1st level. Also at first level, the noble family chosen upon character creation, with mingled lineage’s effects accounted for properly. Benefits-wise, this provides a number of class skills based on the respective family.

The class also begins play with undead evolution: +2 to saves against diseases, poison and mind-affecting effects. This bonus increases by +2 at 4th and 7th level, culminating in immunity at 10th level. 13th level yield energy drain immunity, 16th immunity to ability score damage and 19th, immunity to ability score drain – however, in a nice caveat, self-inflicted drain is not covered by this immunity. The class gains a bonus feat from a custom list at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter.

The development of vampiric abilities is handled via blood talents: The first is gained at 2nd level, with every 3 levels thereafter yielding another talent. And yes, talents based on secondary families are not at full strength.At 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter, the blood noble can choose to get an additional blood talent – but if the noble does gain one of these, the blood noble also worsens the effects of the respective family curse. Each of the curse-progressions further develops what we’d associate with the families – flavorful and sensible. Nice! The capstone makes permanent destruction contingent on a special set of circumstances, once again defined the family of the blood noble. Really cool!

The blood talents come in two big categories: General talents that may be chosen by any blood noble, and those that are exclusives for the respective family. The general talents are reminiscent of the classic vampire tricks – ability-score boosts via cruor, channel resistance, spawn creation, energy drain, fast healing that’s contingent on cruor and sports (thankfully!) a daily cap, DR, supernatural movement forms based on family (thankfully without unlocking flight too soon), natural armor, slam attacks, skill boosts or some energy resistances. All in all, solid selection.

The inspired can gain cultists, channel negative energy via cruor, quench the thirst of other vampires…and from blood oaths t gaining cultists, a domain, etc., the talents are somewhat resembling the Assamites/Setites from VtM, just with a broader, more generally divine focus. The Nightcallers would be the Gangrel equivalents – with animal calling feeding from animals, gaseous form, melding into stone, locating foes – basically the wilderness hunter/survivalist. Nosferatu are the Max Schreck-style, inhuman and ghoulish vampires – like their namesakes in VtM, though less disfigured. They can drink the blood of the fallen, crry diseases and learn to temporarily suppress their unsettling appearance…or exhibit stench. Strigoi nets a tentacle-like, fanged tongue and there is the option to animate the dead or detach body parts to act autonomously – a nice option if you’re looking for a monstrous vampire.

Shades would be the equivalent of the Lassombra – the shadow magic/illusion specialists. Nitpick: The Veil ability lacks its type. Sovereigns would be the representation of the aristocratic Ventrue and as such, are the vampiric leaders, with charming, deathly allure, soothing demeanor, telepathy – basically the option for the potent face/enchanter. Vanguards are the vampiric fighters and as such, are closest to the Brujah clan in VtM, with cruor-based blood memory, granting proficiencies, better CMB/CMD, armor training, weapons that are treated as magical, self-hasteing…you get the idea. Finally, the warlock family would be the representation of the Tremere: These vampires can gain progressively better wizard-list based SP – additional uses beyond the basics are unlocked later and contingent on cruor. Beyond that, blood-based metamagic and homunculi can be found here.

While the vampire families are VERY CLEARLY inspired by VtM’s clans, it should be noted that the blood lineage is a significantly more fluid concept herein.

The pdf also contains a vampire template for the GM to make use of the material herein – kudos! Speaking of which: Lady Evelyn’s post scriptum made for a fun way to end the pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level – I only noticed cosmetic glitches and those are pretty few and far in between and don’t compromise the rules. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice full-color artworks, all of which I haven’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

If you’re one of the unfortunates who didn’t have the chance to check them out back in the day: In the 90s, I consumed World of Darkness books, both roleplaying supplements and novels, religiously. I adored Vampire: The Masquerade. Yes, the rules sucked and yes, it was a nightmare to GM, but I adored the game. Big surprise there, right? Well, that ended when Vampire: The Requiem’s lore-reboot hit (just didn’t click with me, lore-wise) and there was another book that pretty much ended, at least for a time, all desire I had to see vampires in game: That would be the d20-version of the World Of Darkness back in the 3.X days. I love Monte Cook as a designer, I really do, but oh BOY did I LOATHE this book with every fiber of my being.

Where am I going with this tangent? Well, this pdf constitutes, at least in my opinion, the “Play a VtM-story in d20”-toolkit I expected the d20 WoD-book to provide. The rules are deliberate, precise and interesting; balance is retained…in short, Steven T. Helt and Stephen Rowe provide THE single best “Play a Vampire”-option currently available for PFRPG. I love the prose, the clans, äh, pardon “families” – they strike a chord with me and work without needless complexity – If you know how to play PFRPG, you will be capable of using this – the design is very smooth. If there is one thing that could be considered to be a weakness of this book, then that would be the fact that the respective families and their unique ability-arrays and options could have carried a book of easily 4 times the size – the topic of vampires, particularly of vampires indebted to VtM’s aesthetics, can cover at least 200 pages. So yeah, this is a good candidate for an expansion/hardcover with more lore, family traditions, etc. – or, you know, you can dig up your old VtM-books and start adapting their flavor, add more blood talents…

My second, minor complaint, the second reason I’m asking for an expansion, would be the curious absence of occult adventure or horror adventure support: Vampires and madness (the weight of years), occultists and mesmerists…these books seem to be natural fits and the pdf doesn’t offer anything in that regard. Now, let it be known: The bang for buck ratio is excellent here. Similarly, vampires depicted herein will not unbalance campaigns wherein not all PCs are vampires, which is a HUGE plus, as far as I’m concerned – this is very easily usable. Still, this book did leave me wanting more, probably courtesy to my own long-term attachment to VtM’s lore. In the end, my final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars for this book – and since I am a vampire fanboy, I will also add my seal of approval to this book, in spite of my nagging feeling that there ought to be more. If you do not share my love for VtM, you should mentally take away the seal.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Vampires
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNet eShop Order

In The Company of Doppelgangers (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/26/2017 10:15:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Rite Publishing’s „In the Company“-series clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 36 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

After a brief introduction of how this book came to be, we dive headfirst into the great in-character prose that is a hallmark of the series – with a threatening undertone, as the account provided for Qwilion of Questhaven did also allow the doppelgänger sufficient knowledge of the sage’s body… Anyways, we receive well-written notes on the background and myths of the race, including notes on the potentially problematic childhoods and adolescences of doppelgängers – by the way, the race refers to itself as immickers. This whole section, including the way in which the infiltration of societies are covered, carry a surprisingly threatening undertone, as the narrator tries to justify the influence of immickers – it’s all for the best for communities, obviously. The purchase of identities, even temporarily, is a thoroughly creepy concept as described here – the prose is impressive in how it makes a seemingly compelling, yet thoroughly disquieting case for the race. Similarly, the race is contextualized within the races and monsters via a tie to Limbo, providing an interesting angle there as well.

Unusual about immickers: They only lead a very brief life, and as such, their starting ages are modified. As shapechangers, they sport different builds and guidelines for these are presented – well done. Racial trait-wise, immickers gain +2 Str and Cha, -2 Con, are Medium shapechangers with a normal speed, darkvision, +4 to saves versus charm and sleep effects, +1 natural armor bonus. They gain at-will alter self to assume Small or Medium sizes, without adjusting ability scores – in order to assume specific sizes, immickers with a Charisma score of 12+ gain mental intrusion: They can employ detect thoughts, using Charisma as governing attribute, as per the psychic monster rules. The use costs 2 PE and an immicker’s PE-pool is equal to 4 PE per day. The immicker may assume the form of those that failed the save against the ability, but the ability thus gained only lasts for 24 hours. The adjustment process to such a specific shape takes 10 minutes and it remains in effect as long as desired, until changed. This is a really smart set-up: It provides full shapechanging at level 1, while still retaining balancing limits. Very elegant solution here!

There are two alternate ability score arrays: Brutes get +2 Wis and Con, -2 Cha, while guilekin gain +2 Dex and Int, -2 Wis. The other alternate racial traits allow for the replacement of the save bonuses in lieue of save bonuses against transmutations. This may also be replaced with properly codified (Nice!) claw attacks. Darkvision can be replaced with low-light vision. There is also the option to replace the natural armor and save bonuses for skill bonuses against a specific race. My favorites here, though, would be the alternative intrusions: The book makes excellent use of the occult rules, allowing for intrusions via detect desires or detect anxieties as a basis for assuming precise shapes – this allows you to customize the race in a rather interesting manner. The save-bonuses may btw. also be exchanged in favor of gaining two such intrusion options. Big kudos for these!

We also gain favored class options – beyond the paragon class, alchemist, barbarian, bard, cleric, fighter, investigator, medium, mesmerist, oracle, psychic, ranger, rogue, slayer and vigilante. I have no complaints regarding their powerlevel. Now, as befitting of the flexibility of the class, we actually get variant multiclassing options for the doppelgänger paragon class– nice! The pdf also provides archetypes: Mental grafter psychics gain Disguise as a class skill and does not gain a psychic discipline. Phrenic pool is based on Charisma. At 1st level and every 4 levels thereafter, the psychic gains +2 points of PE to use for the intrusion abilities. Successfully using mental intrusion also allows the character to regain phrenic points, and yes, there thankfully is a hard cap of regained points, preventing abuse. This replaces the detect thoughts SP. At 3rd level, the archetype gains the mindtouch phrenic amplification, but only for the purpose of using the spell or spells gained via the intrusions. 5th level unlocks all types of mental intrusion and 9th level provides two forms to fluidly change into, with additional forms unlocked every 4 levels thereafter.

The morphic petitioner cleric loses proficiency with the deity’s favored weapon and gains Bluff and Disguise as class skills, losing Knowledge (arcane) and Knowledge (history). Here’s the cool thing: Each day, the morphic petitioner swears loyalty to a deity, preparing cleric spells thus. The deity’s alignment must be within one step of the cleric, but this temporary allegiance influences the alignment aura and neutral petitioners can choose whether to use positive or negative energy anew, while good and evil petitioners are locked into their respective correlating energy. The petitioner only gains one domain, but may choose these anew with each new temporary allegiance.

Versatile armsmaster fighters begin play with the doppelgänger’s paragon’s appraising gaze, but may only retain combat feats thus gained. This replaces the 2nd level’s bonus feat. Also pretty cool: The archetype also gains a wildcard feat and at 6th level and every +4 levels thereafter, the bonus combat feats may be changed similarly. The ability codifies the prerequisite caveats correctly and the activation action improves, but retains a 1/round maximum. If this sounds like ridiculous flexibility, you’d be correct – however, an Int-based maximum keeps that somewhat in line. Weapon mastery may be changed, btw. Flexible and thankfully, more interesting than the base fighter, yet still sufficiently contained.

Druids may become natural mimics, who gain Natural Spell and treats the shapechanging as wild shape for the purpose of feats etc. The key ability of this archetype would be that it blends wild shape with the intrusion of the base race, but unlocks progressively better SP-equivalents, including monstrous physique, giant forms, form of the dragon, etc. They also, obviously, may assume animal forms and may memorize a progressively growing amount of forms.

Now, as always, the key component of this pdf would be the racial paragon class. The class gains d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, NO base proficiencies, ¾ BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and 5 PE at first level, scaling up to 15 at 20th level. The key base ability of the class would be appraising gaze, a more potent form of the base race intrusion. When succeeding at an intrusion, the class may make a special check to learn to mimic one particular trait of the target. This check is a d20 + Intelligence modifier + level (should probably be class level – in a later explanation, this is correctly depicted). The doppelgänger can retain knowledge of up to “twice their Intelligence score modifier” – that should be either “twice their Intelligence score” or “twice their Intelligence modifier” – I assume the latter to be correct; the former would be too much. The doppelgänger can choose to forget information at any time as a free action. This ability taps into baseline mimicry: The doppelgänger paragon gains the weapon and armor proficiencies of the current mimicked form and also a caster level in spellcasting classes, but this does not grant spellcasting prowess, only the option to activate spellcompletion or spelltrigger items. At 1st level, 2nd and every 2 levels thereafter, the class gains mimicked traits – these are retained in the dominant disguise and must correspond to the dominant disguise.

At 3rd level, the class gains morphic memory: At 3rd level when preparing a dominant disguise, they can choose two shapes they retain memory of via Appraising Gaze; these can assumed via change shape at-will. What is the by now often mentioned dominant disguise? At 3rd level,, one of the disguises is designated as dominant; this must be one chosen via morphic memory. The doppelgänger may only manifest mimicked traits while in the dominant disguise. Wait, what? Yes, this is somewhat confusing. At level 1, we gain 1 mimicked trait, another at 2nd…these only work in dominant disguises…but dominant disguise in only gained at 3rd level… I am, alas, not sure how this is supposed to work, meaning that this constitutes a serious flaw in the base engine of the class.

At 2nd level, the doppelgänger paragon chooses a specialization: Martial, skillful, or magical. The latter specialization gains access to the mesmerist’s spells per day, using the medium’s table of spells known. Charisma is the governing attribute – and yes, this means that mimicked traits will be used to gain more spells known. At 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the class gains an additional spell known. Magical specialists can only take general and magical mimicked traits. Martial specialization changes the BAB to full, but are locked into martial and general mimicked traits. Skillful doppelgangers gain +2 x their class level as bonus skill ranks, which may be reassigned upon gaining a level. Bingo: They may only take skillful/general mimicked traits.

At 5th level, the doppelgänger can mimic racial features in all disguises. 5th level nets an expansion for the detections available – slightly odd: one spell noted here is detect fears – which should imho be detect desires, as the other detection options mimic those available to the base race. At 9th level, the class gains a second dominant disguise, with its separate amount of traits – i.e. the full array, making the character exhibit two modes. 10th level nets the ability to count as both humanoid and monstrous humanoid and may be treated as either for a given effect. This does not grant inherent awareness of the effect. 13th level provides 1 mimicked trait for all forms retained in the morphic memory – these must not be dominant disguises. 17th level yields a second specialty and the capstone, the original form’s level no longer is capped by the level of the mimicked target, but instead use the doppelgänger’s level.

The check to learn traits, just fyi, categorizes them in three DCs – 5, 10 and 15…which means that the check becomes redundant rather quickly. Personally, I’d have preferred finer scaling here. Such mimicked tricks btw. use the level of the doppelgänger or that of the original, whichever is lower. Kudos: Interaction with e.g. psychic energy is covered, though, as an aside, we can find cosmetic hiccups here. Like “Craft: Alchemy” – not the correct formatting. In the skillset mimicking “equal to the appropriate HD amount in that skill” did confuse me. On the plus-side: The codification of alchemy is pretty solid. Beyond mimicking talents, the book then goes into the massive, impressive breakdown of Paizo-classes – including antipalas, ACG-classes, Occult Adventures-classes, vigilante, and even versions for the unchained versions of rogue, monk and summoner are included – which is neat and, detail-wise, impressive as all hell. Weird: The talents associated with the witch seem to have been cut from the book. I’d like to comment on their balance – as a whole, they seem to be solid, but due to the glitch in the base engine of the class, I have a hard time analyzing this properly.

The pdf concludes with 4 feats: One for +3 on gazes (wasted feat, considering the low DC), +1 mimicked trait (must be general), using your level as CL for item-activation if it’s higher and gaining more of the mind-reading options – here, the detect fear-glitch can be found once more.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are still good on a formal level – while I noticed more hiccups than in most Rite publishing books, as a whole, this can be read in a fluid manner. Regarding rules-language, I am thoroughly impressed by the high-complexity difficulty attempted here – for the most part better than I expected from the first big solo-effort of the author. However, unfortunately, some rules-hiccups compromise the integrity of pretty central components herein – development-wise, this could have used a stricter hand to iron out the minor hiccups. The pdf sports nice full-color artworks, though fans of Rite Publishing may know some of them from other supplements. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This is Joshua Hennington’s first stand-alone book, at least to my knowledge. Good news first: It is significantly better and more skillful than a ton of books by more established designers. The author manages to create a truly evocative race that gains all the cool shapeshifting without compromising even more conservative campaigns. The basic set-up is glorious. The prose and the ideas of the race similarly are inspired and make for a great reading. This book was on the fast-lane track to the 5 stars + seal verdict…but then, the paragon class came. And suddenly, the previously impressively precise rules-language starts to fray a bit; the class buckles under the weight of its high-difficult theme/concept. You can see the intent between the carefully connected abilities and how the engine is supposed to work…you can have the idea…but, of all the abilities, it’s unfortunately the core ability-cluster of the class that sports problems that compromise its entirety. From a didactic point of view, I read the system a couple of times and while I get the breakdown by class, even if it worked, it may be a bit needlessly complicated – codifying class features as tricks, with class and specializations as subtypes and minimum levels may have been a slightly more easy to implement solution.

I know. This sounds bad. It really isn’t that bad. The first half of this book is inspired, but the second half, at least to me, seems a bit rushed – the rules-language becomes less precise, we have references to non-existent spells, slight deviations from rules-language... With slightly more polish, this becomes a really interesting book, but I can’t rate that. I have to rate what’s here. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, but unfortunately, I can’t round up, in spite of the freshman bonus: The flaw at the heart of the class keeps me from rounding up, in spite of the freshman bonus. That being said, I sincerely hope to be able to read more of Joshua Hennington’s writing – this book does show a ton of promise and when/if it’s revised, it may easily become a fine gem. Until then, consider the race depicted herein to be one of the best-balanced, most interesting shapechanger-races I know. It may be worth getting for the race alone.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Doppelgangers (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNet eShop Order

101 5th Level Spells (5E)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/05/2017 04:23:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of spells clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 34 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons. I did receive this pdf prior to public release in order to allow for a speedy release of the review.

We begin this supplement with massive lists of the respective spells by class, before moving on the alphabetic presentation of spells. Now, obviously, I can’t go through each and every spell contained here, but I’ll try to give you a good idea of what to expect. Let’s begin with the first spell, alter metal. This spell modifies the damage threshold of affected objects and is particularly potent when affecting armor etc. – the spell properly differentiates between attended and unattended, magical and nonmagical and even intelligent items. Kudos. Fans of Diablo and similar franchises will also enjoy a spell, which renders skeletons into ticking shrapnel bombs.

Now damage spells herein generally sport a valid alternative and contextualization compared to core spells. Take e.g. arrow storm. The spell inflicts 8d6 piercing damage to all creatures within 30 ft. of a point in range (150 ft.), potentially inflicting the restrained condition as well on a failed save, necessitating cover or a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) to end the condition. The affected area may be farther away than e.g. that of cone of cold, but the PHB’s spell affects a larger area, has a slightly superior damage type and, with d8 damage-dice, a slightly higher average damage output. In another example, namely force ram, we have 12d4 damage and an unerring, automatic hit – but also the danger that shield completely negates the spell.

There also are utility type spells herein – or spells that you’d consider to be more relevant for the purpose of the more narrative aspects of the game: The befoul spring ritual can, for example, taint a water source. Bitter vintage can render wine into poison, with the caster gaining several different options regarding which poison to transform the vintage into. And yes, the transformation may be detected by savvy PCs. On a minor complaint regarding the formatting: The “At Higher Levels.” Has not been bolded and italicized properly here. There are spells like blood to sap – the spell deals poison damage on a failed Constitution saving throw and poisons the target for the duration, which reduced the target’s speed and imposes disadvantage on Dex saves, but also provides an AC bonus. Regarding damaging spells that also impose negative conditions, it is nice to observe a lack of save-less spells and the fact that the conditions and their potency receive the respect they should have. The pdf does sport some evocative visuals in the damaging spells it has, e.g. in brimstone cloud.

Campfire lullaby is interesting, in that it allows a character to get the benefits of completing a long rest more than once per 24 hours – the long casting time and duration and the caveat that lets it affect a character only once in 5 days act as good balancing mechanisms for this potent spell, though. There are carpets of fire and options to chastise foes with psychic damage. There is a means to generate circles of moonlight, protection against shapechangers and the undead. The pdf also sports a contingent healing spell, which is neat – and yes, these cannot be stacked…and they can be used offensively versus the undead. There also is a long-range curing spell – which is pretty cool, aye, but considering the impact of long-range healing on the game, it deserves to be noted that it may not be for all groups. Speaking of which: Eternal charm is permanent. Whether or not you like the ramifications of this depends on the type of game you run.

Sifting through thoughts via crystal probe, cursing targets with narcissism…what about changing the look of terrain and hiding it from the prying eyes of enemy spellcasters? There is also a powerful spell to compel targets to deliver messages for you. You can conjure forth earth barriers that bludgeon those foolhardy enough to attack you. Elfhome attunes an area in forests to elves and creatures, providing climb speed and quicker movement. What about first conjuring a tree and then having it fall on enemies? Really cool: Flatten makes you two-dimensional. Guard Dog conjures forth a variant dire wolf with modified stats to guard an area and the knave purge ritual provides a type of magic protection against thieves. Minor complaint – spell-references in the text tend to lack the italicizations.

We can find one-way pain circuits, the ability to travel through stone, several pahnatsms (lichs, nymphs, swarms…) – there are a lot of spells, some of which provide significant changes to the engine: Take remove condition, for example: The spell can even negate instantaneous effects like petrification via magic and may end the attunement to a magic item causing the condition, though curses are maintained. Now personally, I like this for the ability to make more controlled use of items with big drawbacks, but it does remain an aesthetic preference. Speaking of spells I like: Scry reverse does exactly what you’d think it does. I like the tactical option, but I can see some Gms not being as in love with it.

There also would be a powerful spell that requires the willing sacrifice of a mortal being to enhance your powers – suffice to say, that one is evil to the core. Potent songs that suppress spellcasting and magic item use make for amazing tools in the arsenal of bards – really cool. Spell grounding is a very potent defensive option: While within the range of a spell that does not have a range of touch, you may use your reaction to negate the spell, ending all effects and damage. No check, no differentiation between spell levels, no discharging of the spell – personally, I believe that this should have an “At Higher Levels”-scaling for maximum spell level affected and it should also have some wording regarding interaction of enspelled terrain into which you move – which imho should be exempt. While it is clear that this is supposed to work only for rays and chains, RAW, it is much more flexible, depending on your reading of the spell.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, bordering on very goo: I noticed a couple of missed italicizations and a few rules-language points that could be slightly clearer, but, as a whole, this is a well-made supplement. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports fitting full-color artwork, mostly stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ed Kabara’s conversion of Steven D. Russell’s classic spells does a valiant job at translating the vast plethora of spells to 5e. As a whole, the balancing of the material herein is pretty tight. The spells generally fit their respective levels. There are some spells that change how some aspects of the game work, which may be a matter of taste. Beyond the few hiccups herein, there is one aspect to be aware of: 5e sports less flexibility with the spells offered than PFRPG – spells have a higher value in direct comparison, often being entwined, availability-wise, with class features or feats as a kind of pay-off. This book does not provide the like or a means to contextualize the spells themselves – it literally only presents a ton of spells. Just putting them all in the game will, by necessity, generate a power-increase, courtesy of the increased flexibility. This is not bad, mind you, but something 5e-GMs should nevertheless be aware of.

As a whole, I consider this collection of spells a good example of how Rite Publishing has stepped up its 5e-content’s quality – of all the spell-collections I have read so far, this is by far the most refined. All in all a worthwhile collection of spells to grab and choose from – my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
101 5th Level Spells (5E)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNet eShop Order

10 Kingdom Seeds: Underground (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/28/2017 04:43:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

Okay, if you’re new to the concept – the Kingdom Seeds-pdfs are basically collections of 10 sample settlements, ranging usually from thorp to village, which are depicted complete with a settlement statblock and a brief summary of the village in question as well as notes on intriguing locales and a few rumors/adventure hooks for each – think of them as kind of akin to Raging Swan Press’ backdrops, but instead of focusing in detail on one locale, we get a few of them in broader strokes. Thing is – this installment not only goes underground – it also changes the formula of these pdfs by splicing crunchy tidbits into the respective entries.

Take, for example, the first settlement, NE Coldwylde, carved into pink sandstone, it is the home of escaped aranea slaves that have managed to create a new magical rope – the fanged rope of entanglement, made from an aranea’s last silk and fangs, it can entangle and poison those that try to escape them – really cool, magical item, with a somber note…and the means of construction have some serious roleplaying potential.

In CE Deepdell, gnomes are working on a mysterious vein of onyx…and it’ll be just a matter of time before they can deduce the power-component-like properties of these gems…. On the other end of the alignment spectrum, Frepond represents an idyllic academy of music and magic that would usually have no chance in the cutthroat underdark – but the singing stalactites and stalagmites in the cavern vastly enhance the options of bards, allowing them to maintain two bardic performances at once –and yes, the rules codifying that are concise and precise, though personally, I would have enjoyed to see a range here – I assume the default range of 30 ft. to tap into such a rock’s power, but I’m frankly not 100% sure.

A blaze of light in the dark is atop Griffonfort – the ceiling of this cavern is illuminated by a heatless flame. The place is haunted by frustrated ghosts of the first settlers, but the dwarven leaders try to make the dream of a perfect fort a reality, slowly releasing the vanquished ghosts under the glow of continual flame, greater, the new spell to supplement this one. Ironwynne was founded by the Ironfeet mercenaries as a supply and support center and as such, has a harsh, militaristic feel – even though the company was shattered. The reputation remains – and so do the mundane, iron boots that make for well-crafted marching utensils…or for percussion.

Joncrest is inhabited by Halflings that herd lizards. They harvest their tails, which regrow. Yeah, that’s pretty damn cool. But wait – Halflings can’t see in the dark! Well, these guys can: We get alternate Halfling racial traits – darkvision 60 ft. in exchange for keen senses and improved natural healing in exchange for Halfling luck, mirroring the hardy reptiles they herd. Amazing one! Narland occupies a huge cavern, which holds multiple towers, each focused on teaching a discipline of magic – cutting edge, these folks push the limits of magic, as represented by a new regional trait that lets you make a concentration check as a swift action to push a chosen school’s spell’s caster level…but at the risk of a magical mishap – which is accompanied by a percentile table with 7 different effects, just fyi. Really cool!

Pryness is situated next to a massive underground river, providing ferrying (and smuggling) services for those that require it; predominantly Halfling, the settlement also the home of, surprisingly non-evil river rat variant wererats that can only infect willing beings – cool! The problem is just…such societies are easy to infiltrate by the REAL wererats…

Silverflower looks like a place littered with dead stems in light; however, in the darkness, the flowers generate a soothing glow and wondrous scent – as a result, the place has a darkvision-only policy…which could make for a decidedly wondrous place to visit. Oh, and the perfume made there can help when navigating the more precarious social situations…though the effect does change, based on lighting conditions. Damn cool! More of a deathtrap: Stonekeep. The CE hamlet inhabited by dwarves can carve tunnels ridiculously fast, using identical, vault-style hyper-secure doors (which evil folks may wish to get for their magic-hampering and great locks…)…but the nasty dwarves have this habit of unleashing a rock troll with adamantine false teeth (!!!), their secret weapon, on those who come calling – this is an adventure just waiting to happen!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good, I noticed no undue accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports some neat full-color pieces I haven’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Liz Smith stepped up to the next level. I don’t know if it’s the guiding hand of Rite Publishing’s new line developer Stephen Rowe, but this blows the old Kingdom Seeds out of the water. The settlements all feature some truly evocative, unique, magical angle that sets them apart, that makes them distinct in spite of their brevity. The added crunch-components for each village amps up the wonder further – even if they’re just small tweaks, they add a sense of the unique to everything. Heck, in some cases, I really, really liked what these humble pieces of crunch do – they help tell stories and furthermore differentiate the series more from Raging Swan Press’ more fluff-centric offerings. For the low asking price, you get some truly wondrous and amazing places to visit and cool supplemental material to boot. What’s not to like?

Easily worth 5 stars + seal of approval and a strong recommendation for the very fair price-point!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Kingdom Seeds: Underground (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNet eShop Order

In The Company of Wights (PFRPG)
by Jeremy W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/25/2017 07:23:36

It should be noted that this is about wights only and not general undead. That's my fault for expecting too much, but I wanted to mention it so it doesn't happen to anyone else. The product does seem a little light compared to some of the other offerings in the "In The Company of" series.

It's a great product otherwise: I think the modification of the undead type is good for use in homebrew, and the cavlier archetype makes me smile after having rode skeletal horses in World of Warcraft.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Wights (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNet eShop Order

In The Company of Wights (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/25/2017 04:44:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised version

This revised installment of Rite Publishing's "In the Company of..."-series clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This is the review of the revised edition with the cool horseman on the cover – if you have the old version, re-download this asap.

All right, we begin this pdf with a heart-warming dedication to the founder of Rite Publishing, Steven D. Russell, who has left us too soon. After this, though, it is similarly heart-warming to see that the traditions of master Russell live on - we begin with an in-character letter of a member of the race, sent to Qwilion of Questhaven, the scribe that is responsible for collecting these pieces of information in the context of the great meta-narratives that suffuse these books.

Thus, as has become the tradition, the flavor-text presented to us would be written from the point of view of the species "We are the hollowed" - indeed! Intelligent, sentient wights spawned from strong souls, these beings sport a glowing gaze and retain the previous race's racial characteristics like height and they, obviously, stop aging -as such, this time around, we actually don't need an age, height or weight table and the racial traits replace those of the base race, but more on that later. The pdf elaborates on society...or rather, about how to fit in with the living and dead...and there is the Urge - the wights herein do crave the essence of the living and there are those that have succumbed to the Urge, while others resist it - the scenario is, roleplay-wise, not unlike that of the World of Darkness.

Now, regarding racial traits, we begin by acknowledging the first issue -as quasi-undead, the wights depicted herein (who call themselves the hollowed) have no Constitution, which would render them OP via most character creation methods - hence, ways to use them in a balanced context with point-buy etc. are included. The hollowed get +2 to Cha, -2 to Int and retain their former humanoid race’s speed and size, which means Small or Medium for the purpose of this race. Base speed is retained, though the hollowed lose, for example, slow and steady. As modified undead, the hollowed gain darkvision 60 ft., a +2 racial bonus to Intimidate.

Modified undead? Well, a sidebar properly defines this: Hollowed have no Constitution score, but have no immunity or resistance to mind-influencing effects. They are immune to bleed, disease and poison, as well as stunning or paralysis, with the caveat that effects that cause the latter two and are resisted by a Will-save still apply – interesting. The race is immune to death and sleep effects and neither subject to nonlethal damage, nor ability drain or damage to physical ability scores. However, they are still subject to energy drain or damage/drain to mental ability scores as though they were living creatures. They are immune to exhaustion and fatigue, unless caused by The Urge or unless caused by a spell, SP or SU or class feature the hollowed possesses. A fatigued or exhausted hollow must save versus the urge when damaged. Now this is interesting – however, there is a minor oddity here: RAW, learning a spell or SP makes the hollowed susceptible to fatigue/exhaustion gained from it. Some may complain about that, but I think one can justify that in game by being more attuned to the particular magics. Balance-wise, this is very much necessary to prevent a metric ton of cheesy exploits. Hollowed are NOT immune versus effects that require a Fort-save and use Charisma modifier instead of Constitution modifier for such saves. Big plus: They lose the annoying undead fragility and remain undead and kicking unless reduced to negative Charisma score hp. Resurrecting magic causes massive damage to them and they don’t need to eat regular food or breathe, but require meditative rest akin to sleep.

Okay, that is already a VAST improvement right there. Death’s Stigma makes starting attitude of creatures two steps worse, one step worse for those that have had interactions with friendly undead. Disguising as a mortal imposes a -5 penalty on the hollowed’s Disguise check

Now, let’s look at the urge and how it has been translated, shall we? The urge is the rage of the void and destruction – going for longer than 24 hours sans 8 hours rest fatigues the hollowed; 48 hours cause exhaustion. When a hollowed is fatigued and takes damage, she must succeed a Will save (DC 15 + ½ character level, DC 20 + ½ character level if exhausted) – on a failure, they succumb to the urge and are compelled to attack the nearest living creature with their slam and energy drain. While under the effects of the urge, the hollowed may not use Cha-, Dex- or Int-based skills (except Acrobatics, Fly, Intimidate and Ride) or any ability that requires concentration. Successfully imposing a negative level on a creature causes the hollowed to lose the fatigued/exhausted condition and allows the hollowed to re-attempt a Will-save (versus Dc 15 + ½ character level) to end the urge as an immediate action – on a failure, the hollowed must inflict another negative level before getting a chance to shake off the urge. Hollowed may choose to willingly succumb to the urge as a free action, but after doing so, it requires killing a humanoid (!!!) to get the chance to end the urge via a save – so no, your bag of kitten will not cut it! Big, big kudos!

A hollowed that has succumbed to the urge gains a primary slam attack, (1d4 Medium, 1d3 Small) and energy drain, but the hollowed does not gain temporary hit points from the drain. Humanoids slain by them become wights (with penalties to atk, saves, etc.) – however, these spawns may be controlled freely by the hollow, provided he does not exceed his maximum or chooses to free them. Slightly weird: The spawn-notes refer to a Stealth bonus they do not get, one I could not find among the base traits of the race. Not a big issues, though – it does not impact gameplay.

It should be noted that character creation for 5 attributes and the process of becoming hollowed are concisely codified here.

Clung to life, the first of the alternate racial traits, eliminates the harsh death’s stigma, but replaces your immunities to bleed, disease and poison with a +2 racial bonus on saves against them. Cure seekers are not harmed by resurrecting magic and have the built-in potential to become living once more – they lose the ability to beget spawn. Death sense nets deathwatch 3/day as a SP, replacing darkvision. With humanoid racial trait, which can be selected twice, you can choose to retain some abilities from your parent-race, balancing them on a helpful case by case basis that the pdf concisely codifies. Finally, cure seekers may also choose to have positive energy affinity, but loses energy drain for the easier healing. All in all, a VAST improvement that couldn’t be bigger. I mean it. Every single aspect has been improved far beyond what I would have dared to hope for!

The favored class option-section has similarly been expanded and now covers all classes prior to the ACG and sports meaningful options – e.g. access to cure or inflict spells for bards. Big kudos.

The pdf also features 3 racial archetypes. The night strider rogue can fake being destroyed when at negative hit points, replacing trapfinding. 2nd level replaces evasion with the equivalent for Fort-saves. This can be upgraded to an improved evasion equivalent with an advanced talent. The debilitating strike rogue talent can cause sneak attacked humanoids to temporarily become sickened. An advanced talent can upgrade that to cause negative levels. Trap sense is replaced with scaling save-bonuses versus effects that traditionally affect undead. HUGE improvement.

Now, the pale rider cavalier gains an undead mount at 1st level (losing several of the mount’s potent trick to make up for its undead defenses) Instead of the tactician ability tree, the pale rider gets to choose from hollow boons – basically a talent engine in small, the first of which is gained at 1st level, with 9th and 17th level providing additional choices. These include gaining a burning mount (must be 9th level for that one), cold immunity, channel resistance, being diseased, skeletal mounts air walk options (locked behind minimum 9th level), stench, and much more – these are very strong, but are balanced by a hollow flaw, which must be taken whenever a boon is gained: Sunlight powerlessness, fire vulnerability, recoiling from mirrors (particularly fitting when going for a vampiric mount…) – very flavorful and damn cool. Starting at 5th level, nearby living foes are penalized for the mere presence of the undead mount and 14th level upgrades that to potentially causing the shaken condition – which may then be exploited by a display of standard rearing, potentially causing worse conditions. This re-design represents an upgrade from lame and useless to evocative and pure amazing. Two big thumbs up!

The final archetype would be the void singer bards, who replace inspire courage with a demoralizing dirge and they may instill a pale reflection of the urge, replacing suggestion. Instead of versatile performance, they gain the dirge bard’s secrets of the grave. Solid engine-tweak.

The True Wight racial paragon class gets 3/4 BAB-progression, good Will-saves, d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple weapons and light armor. At 1st level, they gain the ability to create spawn and add +1/2 class level to Stealth checks – at 10th level, spawn within 30 ft. also use their master’s result. The racial paragon class nets the Slam feat at 1st level (the feat nets you the slam attack, even when not under the effects of the urge) and it is treated as both manufactured weapon and natural weapon for the purpose of spells and effects that enhance it. The slam attack of the racial paragon scales over the levels, with the table noting Small, Medium and Large damage progressions. Why Large? Well, there is a chance that your Gm lets your Large PC race turn wight one day – while RAW not supported by the race, I really appreciate this inclusiveness.

2nd level yields a +1 bonus to Will-saves to resist the urge that increases by a further +1 every 4 levels thereafter.5th level yields telepathic communication with nearby spawns and 7th level yields DR 1/- that improves at 10th level and every 3 levels thereafter. This level also yields Multiattack when using weapons and slam attacks in conjunction. 11th level allows the true wight to enslave mindless undead within 30 ft. (with concisely defined limits). 17th level lets the true wight always add his full Strength modifier to slam attacks, double Strength modifier when just using the slam. The capstone lets the true wight potentially enslave intelligent undead. 2nd level provides a death mastery, the talents of the class: More than 2 full pages of talents are provided and an additional talent is gained every 2 levels thereafter. These include a variety of demoralization effects that enhance these with a variety of tougher negative conditions. Better controlled surrendering to the urge, at-will detect undead, worsening fear-conditions via subsequent demoralize effects, quicker movement or even swim speed, granting nearby spawns draining, energy drain slams (as a full-round action) while not under the urge…pretty cool. Supplying temporary hit points a limited number of times per day, fast healing with a daily cap and the option to grant it to other undead, free-willed spawn, Leadership-style, talking to the dead, possessing spawn (AMAZING), a rage-based ability tree…all in all a cool, visceral array of talents.

The pdf also sports 12 feats: Beyond the aforementioned Slam, we have Undying, which lets you remain active when not reduced below 0 hp. Strong Spirit nets you +2 to saves versus death effects and versus abilities and effects that cause mental ability score damage/drain – also, while under the urge, you gain immunity to these! Ritual Spawn lets you create spawn sans succumbing to the urge via ritual murder (not useful in combat, but amazing storytelling tool). Recovery nets you a sort of natural healing and lets you and your spawn benefit from long-term care. Pass for Living helps you, bingo, pass for living. Consume Life provides temporary hit points when causing negative levels. Control lets you roll twice to avoid succumbing to the urge or when trying to recover from it. Dead Mind (minor typo: Prerequisite: hollowed) should capitalize the “´H”) nets you +2 to saves versus mind-affecting effects, upgrading to immunity while under the urge. Extra Mastery nets you a death mastery. Greater Spawn improves the spawn (surprise!) and Pack Hunter nets you lifesense 30 ft. while within 30 ft. of a spawn or hollowed with this feat.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting of the revised version are very good, I noticed no serious issues in either formal or rules-language levels. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with excellent, new pieces of full-color artwork. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Aaron Phelps’ original version of this file took a severe beating from me. Deservedly so.

Instead of shrugging and moving on, Rite Publishing’s Miranda Russell did the rite thing: She hired none other than Stephen Rowe of the four horsemen to fix the file.

If you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll note that Stephen’s name on ANYTHING is pretty much as close to a guarantee that it’ll be amazing as you get. Well, he did not simply fix the copious errors in the file. He basically rewrote the whole damn file from the ground up: Previously lame or broken options suddenly not only cover MUCH more ground, they have been turned into versatile, amazing options. A race that struggled with horrid mechanics, balance-issues and a lack of a unique identity was transformed in a zero-to-hero success-story of design into one of the best takes on undead PC-races I have ever seen.

Let that sink in. The hollowed,a s depicted herein, are decidedly undead – they feel and play like undead. But at the same time, you retain control at all costs: Want to play the reviled outcast? Possible. Want a lower impact of your undead nature? Possible. Want an undead sans the fragility? Possible. Positive energy? Possible. Do you want a stint of undead existence for your PC, perhaps spanning a few levels, with the goal of returning to life? Possible. Want to become the dread leader of an undead pack? The pdf obliges. More than all of that, I adore how the undead traits have been balanced here – as written, the wights herein provide meaningful benefits and immunities that set them apart, but not to the extent of flat-out immunities left and right -and the engine Stephen created allows you to customize precisely how your wight behaves. Are you playing in a pandemic campaign, where immunity to disease would trivialize the threat posed, making your GM concerned? You can get rid of that immunity if you want – or you could embrace it, but all decisions have consequences, all options are carefully structured to emphasize player agenda sans tipping the scales of balance.

In short, Stephen Rowe has rumpelstilskin’d this pdf thoroughly – he has spun gold not from wheat, but from chaff. His improvements not only pertain to mechanics, but also flavor, conjuring ex nihilo a compelling and amazing take on the undead rider trope that ranks as one of my favorites in this category. The expanded page-count is amazing. Heck, if you ever wanted a perfect example of what difference a great developer can make in a pdf, look at this and the horrible original back to back.

If you’ve been on the fence for this file, rest assured that this now represents a reference work par excellence regarding undead PCs – this is inspired in all the rite (haha!) ways. It also shows that Rite Publishing really cares about feedback and seeks to provide not something that’s just good or okay- the goal is excellence. A lofty level that this pdf undoubtedly has reached. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans hesitation.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Aberrations
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/18/2017 03:53:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Rite Publishing’s „In the Company of...“-series of playable monsters clocks in at 55 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a MASSIVE 51 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

We begin with a letter, framing the narrative that suffuses the pdf in the tradition of Rite Publishing supplements; the letter is one of resignation this time around, speaking of the horrors that were encountered, and indeed, the formula of the in-character description of the race that makes this series such a joy to read, has been modified here, as aberrations are a significantly less unified topic than previous races covered.

Instead, the content is framed as a report by the Voice of the Vigilant – who has basically possessed one of the unfortunates that encountered the aberrant threats, saving the company that encountered these creatures. This whole, strange channeling is a genius way of maintaining the enjoyable reading experience and blending it with a creeping sense of unease that fits the topic perfectly.

Anyway, since aberrations cover a wide field of different creatures, the report begins by roughly categorizing aberrant threats as cosmic interlopers (including noting the flumphs!), hadopelagic ancients, perversions of nature, reality-displaced entities and subterranean nightmares are discussed – as are warptouched creatures, making for not only a nice reading experience, but also serving as an interesting basic set-up to contemplate prior to making a character.

Now, a big problem for some aberrations would be a non-humanoid physiology – as such, it should come as no surprise that the magic item slot question arises in the context of playable aberrations. This is relevant from a mathematic point of view, considering how item-granted boosts are included in the calculations, particularly at higher levels. The imbued metabolism ability allows such aberrations to swallow magic items to gain their benefits. And yes, the rules-language manages to concisely codify this process and avoids cheesing and still features scaling regarding slot numbers, making the mechanic supremely elegant.

Okay, so let’s go through the respective racial traits! Cosmic interlopers get +2 Int and Wis, -2 Dex, a base speed of 5 ft., a fly speed of 30 ft. (clumsy) (5 ft. base speed), darkvision 60 ft., all-around vision, two tentacle secondary natural attacks at 1d4 and interlopers with an Int of 11 or more gain alter winds and whispering wind 1/day as a SP. They also can expend actions to resist vacuum, which is pretty damn cool. While slightly lopsided regarding base ability score modifiers and studded with low-level flight, the bad maneuverability (hovering works sans check, just fyi) maintains balance here and in fact requires some interesting, potentially even hilarious, tactical scenes at the table. There are two alternate traits that provide alternate racial traits: +2 Int and Cha, -2 Str for domination orbs (beholders, minus the closed content IP) – these guys can fire, 1/day, a spell as a ray from their eye. Cool! The stellar ray would similarly cover the classic ixitxachitl (or flumph…) with a proper stinger that deals acid damage as well. And yep, Small size. Instead of air manipulation, you may choose natural armor or sonic resistance (+ save-bonuses versus certain conditions). The all-around vision may be replaced with better Stealth, constant detect magic or a +2 bonus to Spellcraft to identify spells and +1 to atk versus arcane spellcasters. Instead of the vacuum adaptation, you may 1/day choose to roll twice on Bluff/Diplomacy or better tech-use, including decreased glitch probability. Both the vacuum resistant ability and all-around vision can be exchanged for Wild Talent – yep, psionics compatible!

Hedopelagic ancients get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Dex, are medium and have a movement rate of 20 ft., swim speed of 30 ft. They are amphibious, have darkvision 60 ft. and +2 natural armor. They get two secondary tentacle attacks and add +1 to the Dc of their illusions and SPs with the pattern and figment descriptors. Those with a Cha of 11+ also gain 1/day hypnotic pattern as a SP. And yes, they are balanced via the slots once again. There are two variants inclided: Deep spawn gain +2 Str and Con, -2 Int, gaining a primary bite and +4 to saves versus poison and diseases as well as a modified slot-list and the ability to make an angler-fish like dancing lights variant. Cool, if lopsided on the physical. The same holds true for reef menaces, who gain +2 Dex and Con, -2 Cha and is Small. They gain +4 to Stealth while underwater and get tangling tentacles as a natural attack, which do not cause damage, but may trip foes. Fully aquatic beings can be made with the Deep One alternate racial trait and you can replace darkvision with deepsight, doubling range for a total of 120 ft., but only underwater. Big kudos: There is a scaling fast healing alternate racial trait that’s reliant on water and that cannot be cheesed – big kudos! Keen underwater scent, an alternative SP, adaptation to water pressure (and cold resistance 5) and an unnatural aura complement this one. This is as good a time as any to voice my utter delight regarding the bonus and natural attack codification here – the rules are exceedingly precise and well-crafted – kudos!

Next up are perversions of nature gain +2 Str and Wis, -2 Intelligence, are medium and have a base speed of 20 ft. that is not reduced by armor or encumbrance. They gain the ability to Hold Breath, +2 natural armor, a primary bite, +2 to saves versus diseases, ingested poisons and effects that apply the nauseated and sickened conditions and a +2 bonus to Perception and Appraise to find hidden objects and determine whether food is spoiled. They also always treat Stealth as a class skill. The first of the two variants provided would be the chitined terror, who gains +2 Str and Con, -2 Cha, is amphibious with a 20 ft. swim speed and two claws. Curse-fused yields +2 Con and Cha, -2 Str and gains 30 ft. movement, but s affected by encumbrance and armor. It also gains a climb speed, immunity to magic sleep and a bonus to saves versus enchantments. With Cha of 11+, these folks also gain darkness 1/day as a SP. And yes, these suites are suitably balanced via exchanged traits. The other alternate racial traits net bonuses of defensive casting, a better carapace, carrion sense, better saves versus divine spells, atk and AC-bonuses versus a subtype of humanoid (bred to exterminate them!) and Improved Grapple via tiny grapple-helping appendages, Extend Spell for transmutations 1/day or sewer camouflage complement this section.

Reality-displaced entities get +2 Int and Cha, -2 Str, may compress up to ¼ their size sans squeezing penalties, get darkvision 60 ft, +1 to saves versus mind-affecting effects, two secondary tentacles and Dr 5/piercing. Alternate ability-suite-wise, we get the Small body snatcher, who gains 40 ft. movement and two weak claws. Minor example of a formatting hiccup here: The creature is affected by protection from evil as though summoned and the spell-reference is not italicized. The body-snatcher can crawl into corpses of vanquished humanoids that exceed its size, helping it offset its nigh non-existent item slots while wearing this meat-suit, which is btw. concisely codified in the rules – damn cool. The untethered gains +2 STr and Int, -2 Dex and gain two pincers as well as +1 to DCs of possession, magic jar, etc., representing something closer to yithians. The other alternate racial traits encompass burrow speed, lesser telepathy the SP to 1/day detect thoughts, being naturally psionic or immediate action grapple escape attempts. Precognitive flashes and the ability to send itself or another creature into the future or the ability to sense effects that distort time complement, as a whole, a damn cool array of tricks.

The subterranean nightmares, per default, gain +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, are Medium with a speed of 20 ft. that’s not modified by armor or encumbrance, darkvision 120 ft., light sensitivity, +3 natural armor, +4 Stealth while underground, stability, a bite attack and roper-like strands – while these inflict Strength damage, it’s only 1 point, has a save to negate and is iconic; moreover, its limits serve to keep it in check even for conservative games. They also get a variant of woodland stride in subterranean regions, but only for natural terrain. The alternate ability-suites include +2 Str and Wis, -2 Int and fly speed 40 ft. (poor), a secondary tail attack and +1 natural armor bonus. Note that the maneuverability and the modified slot-list does help reign in flight, though some campaigns may still consider this to be potent...but then again, you’re basically playing a cloaker-thing! Hungry worms would be the second ability-suite, +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Intelligence, base speed 30 ft., 20 ft. climb speed, +1 to natural AC, scent and secondary tentacle attacks. The alternate racial traits include burrow speed, Knowledge (dungeoneering) and Survival as class skills, better AC versus rays, SR penetration bonuses, hooks claws, -1 to Will saves in exchange to +1 to the DC of mental ability damage/drain-based abilities used, a Cha-variant of the strands or +1 to the DC of sonic effects – once again, neat!

Finally, we take a look at the most “normal” race – the warptouched, who gain +2 to an ability score of their choice, are Medium with 30 ft. movement, are treated as aberrations for the purpose of spells and effects, gain darkvision 60 ft., +1 to Bluff, Disguise, Knowledge (local), +1 natural AC, two secondary tentacle attacks at 1d4 base damage, +2 to saves versus SPs and SUs of aberrations and they may, as a swift action, suppress their unnatural traits, helping them greatly disguising their nature. The alternate racial traits include unlocking class skills, constant detect aberrations, a 30 ft. swim speed, +1 to atk versus aberrations, two favored class options, Wild Talent, a maw, +2 to natural armor and Intimidate versus humanoids, technological aptitude or being treated as +1 level regarding the use of revelations from the Dark tapestry or Heavens mysteries. While age, height and weight vary wildly between all these aberrations, a sample reference table is still included – kudos! We also get a massive FCO-list that includes psionic classes as well as occult classes – no balance concerns or complaints there. Well done! Okay, so the basic racial traits as a whole are amazing – they are balanced in a rather ingenious way; the options will not break any game and provide meaningful options galore. While I am not the biggest fan of races that grant their ability score bonuses to only physical or mental scores, these make sense here and, more importantly, don’t break any of the races. In short: It’s been a long, long time since I was this impressed with a section of races.

Do the classes hold up? Well, we have a total of four archetypes and, as always, the racial paragon class to cover. Let us begin with the two briefer archetypes, the first of which would be the conduit of the forbidden psychic, who is locked into the dark half or dream psychic disciplines. Instead of detect thoughts, 2nd level causes anyone who seeks to tap into the mind of the conduit to take Wisdom damage and be dazed. 9th level nets 1/day confusion, with the additional option to expend spells to cast it, getting the complex possibility of metamagic feat use in conjunction right. The archetype loses telepathic bond for this. At 17th level, when a confused creature damages itself, the conduit may assume control over it as dominate monster, thankfully with limited daily uses. The second smaller archetype herein would be the Opener of Ways summoner, who gets a modified summon monster list specializing in calling forth void-called beings instead of celestial/infernal ones, with aberrations added to the summon list. The void-called template is btw. also presented here and is, power-wise, approximately on par with the more commonly-used ones. 6th level yields a thought eater familiar that requires being fed spell slots to keep it from roaming, making it an interesting addition that replaces maker’s call and transposition.

A rather complex archetype for the hunter class would be the freak wrangler, who loses all summon nature’s ally spells. Instead of the regular Animal Focus, these guys gain an aberration focus: No less than 16 different foci are presented, basically rewriting the whole class engine with an aberration focus. This also extends to the pet gained: From akata to choker to rust monsters and snallygasters, the archetype features a total of 12 such aberration pets (and yes, rules-wise, they continue behaving like animal companions regarding tricks etc.) – all with their own stats, advancements, etc. big kudos here, this is actually a hunter I’d like to play! A minor complaint: The vampiric mist focus can allow the creature to be healed continuously via feeding it creatures to grapple and bleed dry. Since this is pretty limited and slow, it shouldn’t break the game, though.

Now the racial paragon class would be “That Which Must Not Be”, which, chassis-wise, receives good Will-saves, ¾ BAB-progression, d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple weapons. The class, unsurprisingly, can gain natural weapons galore, but only may employ a maximum number governed by level, beginning at 3 and scaling up to 7. Now, ability-progression-wise, we have a massive amount of player agenda: At first level, you choose aberrant power – this acts as a kind of bloodline, which unlocks new abilities every 6 levels after 1st and provides the base ability-suite: Mental juggernaut, for example, nets you at-will instigate psychic duel and builds on that as an engine and also features size-increases. Scion of Madness focuses on causing Wisdom damage and confusion and servitors of the Old Ones gain SPs. So these are the basics.

At 2nd level and every even level thereafter, the class also gets to choose an abominable weirdness – basically one of the talents of the class, which, if applicable, has its saving throw DCs governed by Charisma. These include better aquatic adaption, acidic blood, gaining attach with certain natural weapons, reflexive negative energy damage, blood-draining feeding tubes, pulling filaments, extra heads or limbs, etc. Flight is suitably locked, minimum-level-wise, and from fortification-style anatomy to natural weapons and a bit of mesmerist poaching or even a phrenic amplification, we have a very wide and cool array of options here. Wanted to extract brains, illithid-style? Well, starting 12th level, you can. Oh, and yes, toxins etc. obviously can also be found. 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter increase natural armor by +1. 9th level eliminates age penalties and eliminates the threat of dying of old age – strange aeons indeed.

Beyond these, the class gains another option for players to customize it in a wide variety of ways, namely Alien Heritages. These are also chosen at 1st level and similarly act as a kind of linear ability progression – one ability is gained at first level, the second at 3rd and thereafter, every 4 levels unlock a new one. Once again, if applicable, Charisma acts as the governing attribute for save DCs for these. How many do we get? Well, more than 30 (!!!). That is in addition to the impressive talent array AND the 3 aberrant powers that maintain basic usefulness! The theme here are specific aberrations – there is a flumph heritage, one for beholders (minus IP, but you’ll now what’s meant!), Yithians, phrenic scourges, ropers, neh-thalggus (yep, with braincollecting…), mimics, moon beasts (which, at 11th level, heal when inflicting Wisdom drain, save to negate – not ideal, but limited in its cheesability), aberrations sans easily discernible heritage, intellect devourers (with 1st level psychic stab that is kept balanced by concise limitations), hyakume, heikegani, grindylows, froghemoths, driders – basically, all the iconics are covered and the ability array also covers some of the under-appreciated aberrations for weirdos like yours truly. Particularly impressive would be, at least from a design-perspective, the fact that A LOT of the signature abilities you’d expect are gained rather soon and kept viable, but balanced via concise restrictions that prevent nasty cheeses.

At 20th level, the class gains a unique name and title – and when someone, somewhere mentions it…it KNOWS, making it possible to greater scry the hapless fool…oh, and the poor sod becomes more susceptible to the Thing’s tricks. Worse for your foes, at this level, you are extremely hard to kill, lying dead but dreaming…amazing capstone.

“But endy, what if I don’t want to commit to a full 20-level class?” – Well, the pdf has you covered: The final archetype, the aberrant champion, is basically a catch-all archetype that allows the character to dabble in aberrant power, abominable weakness and alien heritage! Oh, and the archetype can be applied to a metric TON of classes: Beyond psionic classes (including, but not limited to the often overlooked cryptic and dread), we also cover the core and APG-options, ACG- and Occult classes AND some 3pp-classics like the warmaster, the taskshaper and hellion. Big kudos!

The pdf closes with 6 racial feats, which include the option to knock foes prone with grapples, gain an extra weirdness, a bonus to atk and damage versus aberrations with a different alien heritage (slightly unfortunate wording there), an upgrade for tentacle attacks, swift, mind-affecting demoralize via telepathy and a more devastating rend, which thankfully is locked and reserved for the higher levels.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch: Editor Robert N. Emerson has done a phenomenal job. It’s been quite a while since I read a crunch-book this long that is this precise regarding formatting, types, etc. – big kudos! Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice full-color artworks, some of which may be known to avid readers of 3pp-material. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Wendall Roy’s latest In the Company installment is a masterpiece, pure and simple. It excels in writing and rules-language, provides a ridiculous amount of bang for buck and does so with panache aplomb. The multi-attack monster is a hard trope to get right and the sheer breadth of aberrations this had to cover is daunting. The fact that this allows you to play a vast array of aberration concepts via both races and class options, tweak them and further enhance the options makes this absolutely amazing.

I am hard to impress at this point. I have seen A LOT. Add to that the fact that I also require races to feel unique and worthwhile enough to integrate them in the first place. Add to that the vast breadth Wendall had to cover. Insert a wide open archetype and a really rewarding racial paragon class with a ton of player agenda and moving parts. By all accounts, this pdf should have stumbled at some point. And I tried pretty hard to find hiccups, flaws in the engine. Apart from the very rare and mostly cosmetic minor glitch, I did not find what I was almost certain would be here. Instead, I found beauty. The options presented herein are potent and tick off a lot of the things I usually complain about, power-level-wise, but when they do, they do so with often subtle, really interesting balancing mechanics to keep them in line.

Beyond being an impressive feat as a writer, this represents an impressive feat as a designer and frankly outclasses even his amazing supplements on dragons and rakshasas, as far as I’m concerned. This is a phenomenal toolkit, which, courtesy of the breadth of options, could carry a whole aberration party. The array of races and wide open archetype, the clever paragon class – this is, in case you haven’t noticed by now, a piece of excellence as far as I’m concerned. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars +seal of approval and I nominate this as a candidate for my Top ten of 2017. If you remotely like aberrations, then get this. (As an aside: GMs, this is also pretty much the ultimate aberration-cultist toolkit…)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Aberrations
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNet eShop Order

Kaiju Codex (5e)
by Justin S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/11/2017 12:03:44

This is a great book! Instantly had tons of fun adventure ideas for my players, will be doing a short "one shot" starting next week and plan to use kaiju more in the future!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kaiju Codex (5e)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNet eShop Order

Kaiju Codex (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/05/2017 05:47:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 5e-version of Rite Publishing’s superb Kaiju Codex clocks in at 49 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 44 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

We all have been there at one point, at least once we have a certain amount of experience under our belt; the point where the tarrasque looks…kinda unimpressive, but when it has actually been done in a campaign. At that point, we are looking for other ginormous creatures of immense power, we’re looking for mythic, impressive, really, really big adversaries. Well, the Kaiju Codex seeks to provide exactly that. Kaiju, much like the tarrasque, are as much plot devices as they are monsters, They are not necessarily made to be vanquished. In the same way that you can’t knock out a hurricane or an earthquake, they are challenges for the most epic of heroes – and frankly, even these may well be outclassed by them.

Now, as monsters of such an epic proportion, it should come as no surprise that the Kaiju depicted herein have legendary actions at their disposal – moreover, they are ridiculously large creatures – Colossal, in fact. Thing is, 5e per default does not have rules for that, so you should be aware of the fact that, by virtue of sheer size, the kaiju featured herein take less damage from most attacks by smaller creatures – half damage, in fact. Only level 9 spells and attacks by similarly monumental creatures still inflict the regular damage value and yes, the kaiju depicted herein can further decrease that amount via resistances and saving throws. Cool: Siege Monster does actually work against them, which is a nice touch in the details. Now, build-wise, the kaiju depicted herein will make some of you who are more mechanically-minded scratch their heads for a second – you see, the attack values and damage values seem to be wonky at first glance – there is a reason for that: If a kaiju’s Constitution modifier exceeds the Strength or Dexterity modifier of the respective creature, it is used instead of these as a governing attribute. I’m primarily mentioning this for the convenience of my readers, so should you endeavor to rebuild these, well there you go.

Now, format-wise, there are obviously weird anime-esque kaiju herein; but similarly, you’ll be able to find ones steeped in medieval mythology as well. All kaiju featured herein come with excellent, full-color artworks. It should also be noted that you are not restricted to use them as Cloverfield-style backdrops/plot-devices – we all know that players want to fight ridiculously massive monsters and the pdf does acknowledge this- via the inclusion of the iron giant. Whether Saber Rider’s Ramrod or the more well-known mega-zords, the Iron Knight takes that role – it is basically a massive mech that is piloted by the collective of the party. There are four key-roles for crewing the mech, meaning that even smaller groups should be capable of using it: Commander, Driver, Engineer and Gunner, though, to be honest, none are required to properly use this massive construct – so yeah, whle not ideal, smaller groups can pilot this massive mecha, though occupying a position also means that the mecha’s effectiveness increases. An artifact, the Star of Daikaiju, btw. allows you to command kaiju – so that would be another option to introduce them in your game; perhaps the villain has it; perhaps the PCs get the artifact and command a kaiju (hand them the stats and watch the PCs go to town with the kaiju – did so once in my campaign and it was epic…), so yes, the book allows for a variety of different uses of kaiju.

The colossal monsters introduced herein don’t necessarily need to be evil or ugly, mind you – there would, for example be a thoroughly cute flying squirrel-style being; the mighty Adam, the Defender; strange quasi divine beings like Inu or the ridiculously massive Hurbun, the big goblin – while the latter is evil, he also represents a trope that more than one player will most assuredly enjoy. Of course, really twisted monstrosities are found within the pdf – from the Beast of the Deepest Depth to Great Charybdis, we have some nasty threats herein that represent the classic idea of colossal creatures lurking in the abyssal depth of the ocean.

Of course, the trope of the dread thing from the stars also is covered – with e.g. Neuros, the Brain between Worlds or “That Which the Stars Rejected”…and there is the “Voice from Beyond”, which should put a BIG smile on fans of the classic Kull-stories; the sentient perfect storm, a natural force of annihilation; a mech designed by the ant-like formians; the dread drainer of giants; Inu and Iruk, which could have jumped straight from eastern mythology…there are a lot of amazing beings within these pages. Xel’unchek, a living diabolical siege engine, and Yssian, the abyssal engine, would make for planar weapons of mass destruction that most assuredly should be more than capable of ending blasé reactions to the forces of the outer planes. Particularly creepy for me personally would be the world-ender-level “Kudzu, the Everblight” (challenge 24 and by far not the most powerful thing herein…), a horrid, nigh unstoppable plant horror… Or what about trying to best the worldshaker, the animate form of the world’s very core?

It needs to be said that this pdf, while a bestiary/monster manual-style supplement, is not a dry read – each of the kaiju featured within these pages comes with a well-written, neat story that elucidates the nature of the kaiju in question, often providing some rather cool ideas to use them in your game.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with gorgeous full-color artworks for the kaiju. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

So, I’m a sucker for big critters; in fact, the original Kaiju Codex made my Top Ten-list, and for good reason. Brandes Stoddard has done an amazing job at translating the coolness and high-concept original file to 5e. He did not take the easy route, instead going for a translation that is well in line with the system’s aesthetics. The kaiju in question feature the proper signature tricks they should have and his elegant translation of the Iron knight’s mecha-rules also makes for a fun mini-game style bonus – in short: I love this. The only reason this does not get a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of the year is that the original pdf managed to score on that year’s list and I have a policy that prevents the like. That being said, this is an excellent example of how a conversion should be handled and well worth a final rating of 5 stars + seal of approval – this is very much recommended if the concepts of gigantic, horrid threats even remotely intrigues you…and frankly, who’s not intrigued by it? Sometimes, size does matter…

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Quarterly #7 (PFRPG)
by Carl C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/05/2017 03:26:55

Adventure Quarterly seeks to be the spiritual successor to Dungeon Magazine, a very tall order. It took Dungeon many, many years to become what it was in the best days with Paizo. But AQ delivers surprisingly well. The adventures are fun and varied, with opportunities for both exploration, interaction, and combat. NPCs have motivations beyont their immediate goals, a key when the GM role-plays them. The custom-made illustrations are adequate and clear, useful as handouts and descriptions. Actually, the artwork is so good that the magazine could increase the page count simply by giving it more space - it feels a little cramped sometimes. The maps go from useful to inspired. For someone like me who uses a flatscreen TV as a play surface, maps like these that are more than just the walls are a godsend. Overall, I cannot recommend AQ enough, and would like to see its circulation spread so that it can become more than just quarterly and generally have more resources to play around with.

/Carl Cramér



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Quarterly #7 (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNet eShop Order

Game Master's Guide to Kaidan
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/12/2017 04:39:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive tome clocks in at 221 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 216 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review. Furthermore, I was a backer of the KS that made this book. I was not in any way involved in the production of this book.

However, there is one thing you need to know: I am a Japanophile of sorts and as such, I am predisposed to liking this book.

But what exactly is Kaidan? The short answer, obviously, would be "A Japanese Horror Setting." - This, however, does not really help, so let us take a step back for now and talk about the representation of Asian cultures in most (Western) RPGs. You see, at least if you're like me and really into foreign cultures and their myths and peculiarities, you'll quickly notice that the way in which Asian cultures tend to be blended - influences and concepts from Chinese and (sometimes) Korean myths are blended with Japanese concepts to create a hodgepodge. Now that per se it not something I have an issue with. In fact, I do enjoy, to a degree, this melting pot blending.

At the same time, this left me, at least partially dissatisfied. Beyond modern authors like Murakami or classics like Dazai, the classics, from Genji to the folklore faithfully transcribed by Lafcadio Hearn, the Japanese culture has a truly distinct cultural tradition I adore. Moreover, the mythology and tales offer a vast panorama of adventuring potential far beyond those usually quoted by modern roleplaying games.

Kaidan, then, tries to be very much an authentically Japanese setting; at the same time, it does not fall into the trap of just reproducing cultural texts by different names or a varied emphasis, weaving a myth of a land that is similar, yet also very much distinct. This is more of a feat than you'd think at first glance, particularly considering the way in which mythology and religion has influenced and continues to influence Japanese culture to this date. But let me explain: The history of the islands known as Wa at one point, destined to become the lands of Kaidan, is one of immigration, paradoxically - it is a tale of the human ethnicity of the Anu and their beliefs mingling with that of the yokai, ultimately giving birth to what would develop into the stand-in for Shintoism, the Yokintoism. Kami, shrines, the concept of Mitama - all have been properly represented. Similarly, the second religion that has deeply influenced Kaidan, perhaps more so than Ykintoism, would be Zaoism...but more on that later.

Before we come to the original catastrophe that wrecked Kaidan, we should take a gander at the races featured herein: Anu (human variant, distinct from the Kaidanese), Henge, Kappa, Kitsune, Korobokuru and Tengu are included in the deal: While fans of Kaidan may recall a couple of them featuring in previous Kaidan-supplements, it bears mentioning for the new folks that the balancing of these races is pretty much pitch-perfect - the henge-variants, for example, never are lopsided. In short: The races are suitable for even grittier games and low-powered gaming, also courtesy of their unique abilities and racial traits: Korobokuru, for example, have an intrinsic loathing of violence, whereas the kitsune featured herein may e consummate shapechangers, yes - but at the same time, when in great distress, their concealing magics may partially fail, revealing fox-like characteristics. It is these small tidbits that make the races align more closely with the myths we know - and at the same time, they represent narrative angles and roleplaying potential steeped deeply within the lore of the setting and its culture. It should be noted that this is the GM book and while age, height and weight tables as well as some alternate racial traits have been included, no favored class options or the like can be found - I expect those to show up in the Player's Guide.

The existence of these races beyond the realms of myth is by the way more than window dressing - the races and their unique perspectives on religion, etc. and their interactions with the humans have ultimately shaped the land; they are not only believable cultures, they are deeply entrenched within the setting, with histories of dogmaticism and conflict engendering further a form of isolationalism and distrust towards strangers that not only extends to gaijin. Kaidan is wondrous, but it should not be thought of as a realm defined by being welcoming to strangers.

Which brings me back, full circle, to Zaoism. Zaoism is one of my favorite re-imaginations of basically any philosophy or religion ever. It fills the role that Buddhism has in Japanese cultural development, but does so in a genius way. Why genius? Because, as an atheist and humanist, Buddhism's philosophical teachings, if not the beliefs, resound with me. Kaidan inverts them thoroughly and constructs a take on the concept of reincarnation that is shattered - and it ties in with the famous feud between the Minamoto and Taira clans that most scholar of Japanese lore should be familiar with.

Let me engage in a brief digression here: Kaidan literally can be transcribed as the kanji for "recited narrative" and "strange, supernatural or uncommon occurence"; during the Edo period, telling ghost stories became a kind of competitive endeavor, a past time ostensibly reaching back to samurai testing their will, morale and mettle in an age where enlightenment had not yet vanquished the phantasms of superstition. As such, the tales had a performance character and, all too often, a psychological component - they were not focused on being in your face or startling in the traditional sense, instead building on tension and dread, slowly, steadily - often subverting the sense that the "world was right", if you will. A certain existential anxiety regarding merciless rules of the spirit world or a breaking, unwilling or not, thereof, suffuses these tales and makes them effective, even to this date.

And this is what ties in, once again, with the Minamoto/Taira-feud and Zaoism - you see, the Minamoto, much like in our world, won. However, unlike in our world, magic exists. And forms of malevolence exist as well. And thus, the curse was born: The ritual suicide and curse of the last of the Taira was so potent it severed Kaidan's connections from all but two spiritual realms: Jingoku and Yomi. Mists arose (And here, ladies and gentlemen, would be the OBVIOUS Ravenloft angle - Kaidan works PERFECTLY in conjunction with our favorite demiplane of dread...) and envelopped the lands. Escape seems impossible, with only death seemingly providing release - but not even death can save the populace, for the wheel is broken - the concept of enlightenment through pure living can no longer be attained. Kaidan is an eternal purgatory, represents the horror of perpetual, eternal spiritual stagnation....one represented perfectly by the eternal emperor and his undead daimyo, risen from the waters to reign forevermore over these lands...but then again, at least the undead overlords keep the oni hordes at bay...

This concept and the logical consequence of an undead ruling caste seeking to establish a power base ties in perfectly with the historical developments of the lands of Kaidan and explains in a succinct and concise manner not only the nature of the caste system in place here, but also how it came to be...and why it has been deeply ingrained in the moral fiber of the people living in these lands - the rationalizations and secrets revealed here make perfect sense and give further credence to the pervading sense of authenticity that suffuses this book.

It should be noted, that, from Miko Shrine maidens to warrior archetypes for NPC Sohei, the book also addresses, in quite a lot of detail, in fact, how class options interact with the world - that, for example, most priests do not have the powers of a cleric and instead are experts; that not all religious warriors are the undead-slaying yamabushi paladins...the general sense evoked by these balanced and flavorful class options is that they represent the exception, tying cultural status and a role within the respective social strata into the concept.

Let us reiterate: The web of culture, history, religion, and classes generates a thoroughly sensible and unique panorama, one that is supported by an interesting cosmology indeed. However, the main meat of this book undoubtedly would be the gazetteer-style overview of the fully-mapped regions of the archipelago, including a vast array of settlement statblocks...and secrets. This is the Gamemaster's Guide, after all, so the identity of lords, adventure hooks and the like can all be found herein - and since these would constitute undue SPOILERS, I will refrain from commenting on them.

What I will comment on, however, is the wonderful fact that we get whole chapters on life and death of the populace - and yes, if you've been a fan of the Project Zero (aka Fatal Frame) games, you should realize that the amount of truly horrific potential and dark rites depicted in these games make for a perfect fit, theme-wise, for Kaidan. is a land where NOONE is free. The concept of reincarnation, any life after death, has an inherent horror that is used to great effect by pretty much all religions - from the threat of hell to "demotion" to a lesser creature. In Kaidan, it is very much real and the inevitability of the broken wheel of reincarnation just further emphasizes the futility of struggle, the illusion of free will that is, ultimately, the consequence of a life after death - after all, this eliminates the freedom to choose annihilation. In Kaidan, paradoxically, there is no enlightenment - not even the reward, the consequence - instead, we get a karma system to determine player reincarnation one that ultimately comes full circle for even the most potent of nobles. Via magic diseases, as yurei or via other means - there is no end, no breaking of the cycle, a samsaran's ultimate nightmare of a world gone haywire, of a deck stacked against all of the world's inhabitants: As the book astutely sums up: Evil is ascendant, life is hard, the supernatural is hidden, magic is divine, tenmei is absolute and death is not the end.

The book, being a GM book, also elaborates on the types of fear you may wish to evoke and the strategies. Organizations, extensive mundane equipment, armor and weaponry complement the book, and from honor to wealth (and the relative scarcity of metal), there are a lot of different factors - and they, ultimately, all make SENSE. Speaking of which: The traditions of magic and the feeling of the setting, to a degree, is greatly enhanced by the spell-section of all candidates. Steven. D. Russell (at least if I understand correctly), has written a metric ton of power word-spells for all levels, as that is a dominant casting tradition in Kaidan. The effects are actually subtle: At low levels, maintaining health, already important, can become even more vital. Similarly, with options that can cause characters to attack allies or take one out of the fights for a few rounds, the combat requires more flexibility and strategy by the players - and indeed, the spells change the paradigm of quite a few encounters, potentially adding some very iconic scenes to the fray. And yes, condition-power and hit point limits are correlated in a rather well-crafted manner. While I would not allow all of these spells in a high fantasy game, where min-maxing and option-breadth can provide horrid combos, these work perfectly in the context of Kaidan.

Tsukumogami, haunted objects, if you will, are covered in the book with a variety of evocative and cool examples, and so are ancestral relics, magic items that grow in potency over the levels. From teh bones and remnants of the fallen, to enchanting brushes, we also get a couple of nice magic items and some solid feats. Shikigami stats can be found and the book concludes with a great, inspirational appendix as well as a glossary. And while we're speaking of language: Did I mention the dialect rules? Well, now I did.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are excellent on a rules-language level, though, on a formal level, one can find a couple of minor, typo-level glitches like one of the magic items having a weight of "ZZ" - nothing serious, but notable for perfectionists. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard with red headers. The gorgeous original b/w-artworks throughout the book are amazing and thematically consistent. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the softcover is most assuredly a nice book I'm glad to own.

Kaidan's concept was envisioned by Michael K. Tumey, penned by Jonathan McAnulty, with additional writing by the late and sorely missed Steven D. Russell - and all of these gentlemen did a fantastic job here. Kaidan is not a splat-book in disguise - it is an honestly amazing campaign setting oozing with detail; it is a campaign setting that is characterized perfectly by its exceedingly strong leitmotifs, by its internal consistency and the strong authorial vision that shaped the book. This does not try to accommodate Western tropes and mindsets where they don't fit, instead electing to concisely weave together elements into a whole that is infinitely more compelling than the sum of its parts. This is not the book to get when you're looking for high-powered options; the crunch, while solid, is not necessarily the draw here. This is a horror setting with a thoroughly disquieting, subtle sense of wrongness pervading the world, a tome that has tragedy and the creepy hardwired into its very fabric.

It is in the nature of the setting that I can't write "OMG; CHECK OUT THAT CR 40 OLD-ONE!!"; this is not about startling, about escalation - this setting is subtle in its horror, building dread and tension slowly without relying on cheap shocks. I tried hard to convey why I adore this setting the way I do, but it is hard to convey without representing the totality, as, much like in the weaving of real world myths, it is not simply a narrative that exists in a vacuum, but rather an organically-grown complex. It should be taken as a testament to the authors' respective prowess. In short: Kaidan is awesome. It is a great, inspiring read and if you even remotely are interested in Japanese horror, then this is a no-brainer. Even if you have never contemplated checking it out, this may well be a true breath of fresh air for you. As you may have gleaned, I adore this book. It is inspired and inspiring in all the right ways. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and I nominate this as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Game Master's Guide to Kaidan
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNet eShop Order

10 Wight Magic Items
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/04/2017 09:25:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion of magic items for the less than stellar playable wight-race clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

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

We begin with the bone breaker club, which inflicts +50% damage versus "skeletons and creatures with exoskeletons or brittle construction." Oh boy. This is not starting off well. So a) 50% of WHAT? Str-mod included? Precision damage? Before or after crits? MESSY. Also: "skeletons" are a specific creature - so not to skeletal champions etc.? What the EFF is a "brittle construction" in rules-terms?? It gets better: 5/day, you can break a bone upon successfully dealing damage. Breaking a bone caused short-term penalties. That don't even require healing to get better. Oh, and it lacks the information of what type of action is used to activate this ability.

The cowl of compassion nets a +4 bonus to Diplomacy and a 1/day reroll when dealing with living humanoids, but only for undead wearers...at least that's what I surmised. Boring filler. The crown of the barrow wight king sounds cool, right? +4 to Diplomacy and Intimidate versus undead and 1/day control undead...facepalms I don't have to explain this one, right? Continuing the array of uninspired filler, the slightly modified spell-in-a-can cryptwalker's boots allow you to teleport back to previously visited locations of death and slaughter like crypts, battlefields, etc. - living creatures thus transported are staggered for an hour on a failed save.

THANKFULLY, the next item is something different: The gray heart contains a reservoir of hit points equal to the wielder's "charisma score." That should be capitalized. Upon being reduced to zero hit points, the gray heart's hit points act as a buffer before death. Also, undead are not "dying" (that being a condition in PFRPG), but are "destroyed". The hit points in a gray heart can be refilled via draining SPs or spells, healing, etc. - but oddly not via SUs and the like. Installing such a heart causes 15 hit points of damage (OOOHHH!) and renders the character staggered for 24 hours. This item being slot-less. Negative charms absorb up to 30 points of positive energy damage. "The wearer of the charm does not make a Will save for half damage from channeled positive energy." Okay, but can he? You know, successful save = half damage...and it being slotless...does it allow for one character to have more of them??

Packmaster's hunting cloak is a sucky skill-bonus item that lacks the proper bonus type. Restorative funeral boards allow undead resting on them to regain hit points and ability score damage as though alive and prevents the living from doing so, while also instilling the fatigued condition. Classic item that has serious ramifications of a world's in-game logic and realities - GMs should carefully consider what this means for the game...

The thrall pendants are keyed to master pendants: The master knows where the thralls are, has an empathic link with the thralls at an enhanced range and the master may designate a creature to gain a boost to Strength and temporary hit points "for up to 2 rounds" at the end of round two, the undead creature "dies from overload." Oh, dear d12. Undead don't "die". The pdf lacks the information on how to designate a "master pendent[sic!]"; it only costs 2K. How does the destruction work? Does it have a cooldown for the two rounds? Can the master designate less time? If an undead has once benefited from it, does the 2-round timer reset? Why is there no save? Put one on a lich, two rounds later, it goes kablooey. WTF.

Vambraces of control tie into the horribly broken frenzy and urge mechanics. There is no legacy item in this pdf.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are decent on a formal level. On a rules-language level, I am astonished how many issues have crept into these extremely basic items. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the artwork on the cover is the best thing about this pdf.

I REALLY hoped that Aaron Phelps' items would fare better than his race. They don't. These items are extremely basic, sport filler galore (which is really bad at this length and not something we usually see in Rite Publishing's creative item-pdfs!), manage to get rules-terminology wrong in spite of the lack of complexity and universally are lame. The filler items would have been lame back in 2010. 2017, they are inexcusable.

I can try to being relativist here, but the matter of fact remains: There is not a single item herein I'd consider worthwhile. They either are boring, basic, or problematic in some way. The gray heart is halfway decent, but that's not enough, not by a long shot. Even for the low price point, this is not a worthy addition to Rite Publishing's canon and I can't find any way to actually recommend this to anyone. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 1 star.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
10 Wight Magic Items
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNet eShop Order

Displaying 1 to 15 (of 1028 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
0 items
 Hottest Titles
Powered by DrivethruRPG