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Temple of the Harpies

18 June 2019 - 11:41am
Publisher: Aegis Studios
Rating: 4
PDF. 14 pages, color cover, b and w interior, two maps

This adventure is a pretty straightforward affair that can be run in a long afternoon. Designed for four to six characters of 2nd to 3rd level, the character must retrieve a missing child, defeat harpies, kobolds, and an ancient curse and not awaken an army of undead. Suitable for any OSR game or really any d20 based fantasy game with tweaks. This one also includes some new monsters, which I always like.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Shrine of the Wolf Maidens

17 June 2019 - 7:07am
Publisher: Aegis Studios
Rating: 5
After the standard account of the state of the setting (chiefly for those new to *Odysseys and Overlords*) we get the background to the adventure: a merchant called Madeina Ilrekar hired an adventurer, a fellow called Jorasco Vinn, to go into the Untamed Gauntlet to prospect for precious metals. Apparently he didn't do very well, when he returned he spoke of an ancient shrine, the name of which is lost to antiquity. Now Madeina's daughter has vanished, and she thinks that Vinn has kidnapped her with an eye to reviving the practice of human sacrifice at the shrine he discovered!

This is where the party comes in. Perhaps they have heard about the daughter's disappearance, or maybe Madeina hires them to go in search of her... she is, it transpires, of marriageable age, and Madeina has a few potential suitors in mind. There's an optional opening encounter with Madeina, or you can start the adventure with the party already travelling through the Untamed Gauntlet. One encounter is provided for the journey, you may wish to add others of your own devising.

The main part of the adventure is the exploration of the shrine. This starts with a puzzle to unravel to get in which is very well presented. You get the puzzle itself (and its solution - not all GMs are puzzle fanatics, after all!) and suggestions about how to use die rolls to help the party crack the code and gain admission, if they don't figure it out on their own. The few rooms are described clearly, along with contents and inhabitants, and the party ought to find out what happened to the daughter. Every possible outcome is covered, depending on what they decide to do about the situation.

Overall, it's a neat little adventure. Can the party save the daughter? Only you and your group can tell!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Wyvernseeker Rock

10 June 2019 - 6:58am
Publisher: Aegis Studios
Rating: 4
This jumps straight in with the party travelling through the Untamed Gauntlet on other business, when the stream they are following abruptly ends in a cliff with a waterfall. It's too steep and slippery to climb up, the obvious route up is through an opening beside the waterfall.

There's a top-down view, a plan of the pathway through the cliff, and descriptions of the five chambers therein. To enter, the party needs to solve a puzzle: instructions for the die rolls required to solve it are given, but there's no actual puzzle given. Personally I prefer to let the party at the puzzle, and suggest die rolls if they get nowhere with it. Once they get in, there's a long spiral staircase going up (and down, but that's another story) which will let them get to the top of the cliff, provided they get past the monsters and other hazards.

Once they reach the top, they've actually come out at the top of a rocky peak even higher than the cliff. Here there's a cunning device that you can use to provide a hook into further adventures, a vision that gives them some inkling as to what is in store...

This is a rather thin 'something to happen along the way' which rather leaves you wondering why. Quite nice if you struggle to find ways to make wilderness travel interesting apart from reaching for the wandering monsters table. It could possibly be strung out into a complete session (2-3 hours) but that would be a bit of a struggle.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Idol of Bala

6 June 2019 - 6:28am
Publisher: Aegis Studios
Rating: 5
This 'dungeon crawl' for 2nd-3rd level characters opens with the standard overview of the setting, useful for those who don't have any other *Odysseys and Overlords *material - it works with any OSR ruleset, but best with *The Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game*. We then get on to the background for this adventure, being a discussion of how people turned to worship other deities when the local mob decided all-out war between themselves was a good idea. One such was called Bala, who was mildly popular with creative folk for a few years before falling out of favour again. However centuries later a rumour arose that Bala's followers had discovered the secret of eternal life, only by then nobody could remember where any temples to Bala were. The hunt was on...

... and this adventure begins with the discovery in the Untamed Gauntlet of a tablet whose inscription, according to a priest called Dendefsha (who worships another deity), contains directions to one hidden deep in the Gauntlet. He wastes no time in hiring a party of adventurers to go and take a look. Of course, other interested parties are also looking for the temple. Who'll find it first?

The adventure proper begins with the party standing on the doorstep of the temple. Actually finding it is an adventure you'll have to provide or, if wilderness adventures aren't your thing, just give the party sufficient background and start the game here. The first trick is figuring out how to get in, and it doesn't get much better thereafter: there are tricks and puzzles galore as you explore onwards. As well as rivals for the idol, which is said to be carved with Bala's secrets, there are some creatures to contend with as well.

Although small - there are only three main chambers - the temple is well-described. Details of all the traps or effects are explained clearly, with notes on relevant mechanics, saves to make, and so on, and all monsters come with a stat block to enable you to run them effectively. Player and GM versions of the map are included. The conclusion assumes that the party is successful, but does give the possibility of future allies and enemies that can be woven into further adventures.

This is a classic 'delve' adventure, with monsters to kill and loot to acquire... being short and sweet it could be a good filler or one-off adventure, or even an introduction to OSR play. It's nicely-done, however, and there are concepts here worthy of expansion should it suit your campaign to do so.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

From the Mouth of Babes

4 June 2019 - 6:31am
Publisher: Aegis Studios
Rating: 5
There's the standard thumbnail background of the *Odysseys and Overlords* setting and notes about suitable rules (handy if you've just picked this up without reading anything else in this game line), then we're off with the background to the adventure itself. It seems a bunch of goblins has been hanging out on the edge of an area of wilderness hoping to pick off adventurers going there to explore (or even better, coming back with their loot!) but a leadership dispute led to the loss of a magic dagger... which fell into their watersource, with dire results.

The party first find out about all this when they, like any adventurers worthy of the name, head into the wilderness - or snap up one of the plot hooks provided - and are accosted by a couple of hungry, grubby goblin youngsters who ask for help. This encounter should prove entertaining. Provision is made for it taking place either in the day or during the night, and there's plenty of detail to help you role-play it to the hilt.

Hopefully, with an optional encounter on the way, the party with the youngsters guiding them should arrive at the goblin lair. It's even smellier than the words 'goblin lair' suggest, for reasons that should become apparent as the delve into its depths proceeds. Everything is laid out clearly, with ample description, stat blocks/hit point check boxes for all encounters and other game mechanical information as necessary.

As with the young goblins in the opening encounter, it pays to try talking with at least some of the inhabitants of the lair, for if the party does so, they will be able to piece together what has been going on, as well as undertake the expected exploration, killing and looting. Whatever the party decides to do about the goblins, there are other monsters to slay and loot to be had.

Everything is left quite open ended. The party might help the goblins and continue exploring the wilderness, or they might - especially if you used one of the plot hooks provided - want to go back to town. There are suggestions for some further adventures and a welcome selection of 'story-based' XP awards that you can make based on the party's actions. There are a couple of new items and a new monster, and maps for both players and the GM.

Whilst OSR in essence, this has a welcome range of options for interaction and role-play, and is well-resourced to enable you to cope with just about anything your players might decide to do.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Spire of the Kobolds

3 June 2019 - 6:18am
Publisher: Aegis Studios
Rating: 4
This adventure for 1st-2nd level characters opens with the standard overview of the history of the land (in case you've picked up the adventure without looking at any other *Odysseys and Overlords* material) and then gives a brief note about the background to the adventure. It's designed to toss the party straight into the action when they are in some wild country called the Untamed Gauntlet.

Interestingly, the party has not been sent to the Spire, a known but mysterious landmark in the Untamed Gauntlet - the intention is that they are going elsewhere when they notice activity there and presumably decide to investigate. In case they don't, there's a kobold hunting party wandering around that might decide to have a go at them. From there it's into the Spire proper and a room-to-room description follows.

Two maps are provided, one for the GM and one for the players. They are nice and clear, but the only difference between them appears to be the room numbers (which the players don't get). The room descriptions are good, providing details of what's there along with stat blocks for who/whatever is in there - complete with checkboxes to mark off their hit points as they die, a neat addition - and relevant mechanics for any traps.

There's enough going on in this small space, with several of the kobolds potentially willing to interact rather than just fight to the death (although they mostly will, if not running away, should the party not be inclined to conversation. Overall, it's a nice introductory adventure that brings out the essence of the 'OSR' style of play.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Odysseys and Overlords Game Master's Guide

28 May 2019 - 7:36am
Publisher: Aegis Studios
Rating: 5
This opens with exactly the same overview of the background and current state of the setting as is to be found in the *Player's Guide*, along with the note that it designed to be used with *The Basic Fantasy Role-playing Game* ruleset, but that any OSR rules will do. There's also mention that this is for the Game Master and that although they will need to consult the* Player's Guide* occasionally, this will be their main reference.

The first topic to be explored is encounters, divided up into dungeon, wilderness and urban ones. The use of random tables is encouraged, which will of course be different depending on which environment you are in... indeed, you may well find it useful to construct several for different places in each environment type, as well as according to party level, time of day (at least, when outside) and the like. There are plenty here to be going on with, complete with explanations of what each list entry signifies. From this, we move on to how to create a group of NPCs, including adventuring parties, brigands/bandits, pirates and all manner of undesirables as well as groups of merchants, nobles and pilgrims. Some might be friendly, but that's rather brushed aside as "making things too easy for the players"! This includes allocation of magic items and using non-humans.

Next comes a section entitled Dealing with Players. This begins with how to deal with players who don't like the statistics they've rolled for their character then moves on to the acquisition of spells including how clerics may be limited according to the deity they revere and how magic-users gain their spells. Also touched upon is what happens if a character uses armour or weapons that are 'prohibited' for them. There's a fair bit of discussion of advancement and how to deal with character death as well. We then move on to magical research with plenty on creating new spells or magic items as well as enchanting weapons.

This is followed by advice on how to create adventures, beginning with that classic, the dungeon adventure. The first thing to decide is why they party wants to go into a dungeon in the first place. (I remember asking that the very first game of* D and D* I played... the rest of the party had no real answer for me - might have helped if they'd read this!) Once you've decided why they are going there, decide where 'there' is, decide what monsters to use and draw a map. Then 'stock' the dungeon - assigning contents (including monsters) to each room, not forgetting puzzles and traps as well as monsters to kill and treasures to loot. Some sample traps are provided. Wilderness adventures then get a similar treatment, with an area map rather than a detailed floor plan, and this leads neatly into strongholds, as those might be found in the wilderness. This discussion includes building costs (maybe your party wants to construct a base) and a note that a stronghold might have a dungeon underneath it, as well as a few notes on laying siege to the place. In some ways it's all very basic and obvious, but if you are new to GMing could prove invaluable.

Next up, Monsters. There are notes on how they are described, and then a selection of them (including plenty of dragons!) ready for you to use. Some are sentient, like gnomes or giants, others are of animal intelligence or lower, like the gelatinous cube. Of course some, like ghosts, are undead, and lycanthropy is also covered.

Monsters dealt with, the discussion moves on Treasure. Plenty of charts to help you determine what there is to loot... and a section on using magic items once you have laid hands on them. Lists of magic armour, magic weapons, potions, scrolls, rings and other items follow, covering what they do and what benefits (or otherwise, if they are cursed) they confer.

Finally, there are thumbnail sketches of various kingdoms and other lands within the setting. I'm crying out for a map here... although this book is well-illustrated I like a map to get oriented! The descriptions are good, though, bringing each polity into vivid life.

This work provides a wealth of basic material to set you off on a path to running effective adventures. Whilst much work remains to be done, the scaffolding is here to aid you in developing places and adventures to happen in them. Have fun!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Odysseys and Overlords Player's Guide

20 May 2019 - 8:21am
Publisher: Aegis Studios
Rating: 5
The book opens with a broad sweep of the history of the land. A long time - a thousand years or more - ago, the gods lived in peace and prosperity amongst mortals, with magic and learning flowing freely and animals also living in peace. Unfortunately that didn't last, due rather predictably to the gods squabbling and spoiling it all for everyone. When the brawling stopped, most of the gods were either dead or had departed, leaving mortals to fend for themselves. A few hung around hoping to be worshipped but in the main mortals relied on military might to decide matters of rulership and even righteousness. The land is now fragmented, with islands of civilisation separated by wild lands where bandits and monsters hold sway. People rely on Adventuring Companies (guess who?) to bridge these gaps and protect those who would travel. There are also plenty of ruins filled with relics of happier times to loot. What more could one want for an adventure setting?

A character, that's what, so the next part of the book explains how to go about making one. It's recommended that you use The Basic Fantasy Role-playing Game ruleset, which is available as a free download, written with 'old style rules' play in mind, and also suitable for introducing younger players to role-playing. The instructions for rolling up a character are beautifully clear. To start with, get a piece of paper and a pencil. Roll 4d6 dropping the lowest die and adding the rest up to generate your ability scores. Next you choose a genus and class, making sure you meet any prerequisites for them in terms of ability scores. Of course, there is a bit more detail than that, but not much, and everything is made clear, although you do need to read through the final steps of character creation before you find out what a 'genus' is let alone what you can choose!

The genus (pl. genera) is the equivalent of race in most games. These ones draw on the history outlined earlier, and are groups who took different paths during the squabble of the gods but all are based on normal mortals, except Wildfolk who are descendants of mating between humans and animals, which was considered normal in ancient times. They are Abyss-Kissed, Human, Spellscorched and Wildfolk.

Next, the classes: Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User and Thief. In general, once chosen you have to stick to your class, only Spellscorched are permitted to be combination classed, and then only Fighter/Magic-User or Magic-User/Thief are allowed. Genus also affects class choices, some genera are limited in the choices they can make. Money and equipment lists round out this section, so by now the character is just about fully equipped and ready to go...

... unless, of course, they wish to wield magic. There's a comprehensive section for both Clerics and Magic-Users, with spell lists for both and a massive alphabetical list of spells with full details of how that spell is cast and what happens when it is. Both game mechanical and flavour aspects are handled clearly.

This magic section consumes much of the rest of the book, but there's space to explain what dungeon and wilderness adventuring is all about; along with a section on hirelings and services, as well as that all-important matter of combat. This section explains how combat is conducted, what your character can do, and includes things like turning undead as well as actual brawling. And that's it. Short and sweet, and notable for the clarity of explanation. Off you go and enjoy adventuring!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Odysseys and Overlords Free Preview

17 May 2019 - 6:39am
Publisher: Aegis Studios
Rating: 4
Opening with an account of a golden past, when people lived in harmony with their gods, all was peaceful, a time of learning and of plenty, we then hear how it all went wrong predictably enough by the gods starting to squabble amongst themselves and wrecking it all for everybody else. Mortal lands lie divided, with brave adventurers (guess who?) guiding people between them and dealing with monsters, exploring ruins to find relics of the lost golden age over a thousand years in the past.

Next, there's an overview of character creation. Notes explain that Odysseys and Overlords is designed to be used with the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game, but any 'old school rules' will do: it's aimed at those who like that style of play... just about everything you need is here, though. Every character has a genus (equivalent to race) and a class, the one chosen to demonstrate how classes are presented is that of the Bard. It's all pretty familiar if you have played a bard in any class/level fantasy game - bards can fight a bit but their primary skills are in performance (often music, but poets, storytellers and the like can also be played), and through their performance thay can generate spells. There are various charts showing how a bard character gains levels and develops as they gaim experience.

Though short - two whole pages of an eight-page PDF are devoted to the Open Game Licence - this gives quite a good overview of the game/setting as a whole, and should let you decide if you want to investigate further. The little bit of world history provided is evocative and sets the scene well for the sort of game envisaged, encapsulating a world that sounds like it will be fun to adventure in. The notes also suggest that it ought to be easy to introduce younger children to this game, always a good thing. Take a look, and if you like the sound, jump right on in!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules

7 May 2019 - 11:44am
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
Rating: 5
Original review appears here: [](

Old-School Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources. The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format. All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green.
A moment about these covers. They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement.
All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off. Everything is easy to find. Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

Old School Essentials expands on these rules and reorganizes them some more. There is a Basic Rules that takes place of the Core book and then a Genre book that covers classes and other "D and D" like topics. I imagine that different genre books will have other rules and classes.

Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules
This free 56-page book covers all the basics of the OSE line. Picking it up you can see the stylistic changes from B/XE to OSE. Also this book covers just about everything you need to play right now. It includes the four human classes, some rules, some spells, some monsters, and treasure. Enough to give you a taste of what OSE will be like.
It has the same modular design as B/XE so finding things is simple, leaving more time for play.
There is no interior art in this free version, but that hardly detracts from it.

I am really looking forward to seeing OSE out. But until then I am going to enjoy playing with B/XE!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Monster Menagerie: Gruesome Foes Preview

6 May 2019 - 6:16am
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
Rating: 4
This short preview - designed to promote a Kickstarter campaign for the complete product - begins with an explanation of how to create a 'Gruesome' monster by adding one of the gruesome templates to an existing monster (or, of course, one of your own devising. Each template comes with an example creature, but although certain templates seem suited to particular types of creature, it's suggested that mixing them up a bit can result in interesting and challenging foes. There are also suggestions for how to use the monsters to which you apply that template to best effect and a set 'shock value'.

The 'shock value' is an indicator of the sheer visceral horror induced by meeting the gruesome monster, a real treat for those who want to add a twist of horror to their game. You may be aiming for a horror-themed game anyway, or perhaps you want the shock factor of introducing one such monster at an appropriate place in a more regular game. Either can be an effective use of these templates.

The samples presented are the Bound Horror - which poor beastie is bound to a given location or object (or even an individual) - and the Forgotten - which exist in more than one reality simultaneously and can cause amnesia in those who encounter them. Hopefully you can forget meeting one, 'cos they look quite repulsive and, yes, gruesome!

If you like the look of this, trundle over to the Kickstarter and sign up!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Starfarer's Codex: Legacy Dragonrider

4 May 2019 - 9:54am
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
Rating: 5
Starfarers Codex: Legacy Dragonrider is a book that simply provides rules for a character class that is focused on riding dragons. Have you ever been in a game where a player asked, 'Hey, can my character have a pet dragon to ride on?' Of course you have! It happens all the time in role-playing games set in fantasy settings--and this book actually provide some great rules that allow players to ride a dragon into combat that aren't game-breaking.
The dragon rider class presented in this book is a playable class just like any other in Starfinder. It high a high attack bonus and good reflex, will, and fortitude saves. The class gets a few spell-like abilities that choose from pre-existing class spell lists depending on the type of the dragon that the character rides. They also get some sensory abilities, such as low- light vision, darkvision, etc that progress with the character, as well as energy resistance tied to dragon type. The class is weak in a few spots: only being proficient with light armor and some limited weapons, and lacking any special abilities that are really useful in combat, aside from energy resistance. To make up for this, they do get to ride a dragon and have it fight by their side--with some limits.

Of course, when introducing dragons as a player option in a game in any capacity, there is the concern that they may be too powerful. The rules for this class are designed with that concern in mind, and they do a fairly good job of letting a player have a dragon in a way that won't break your game. Players selecting this class are allowed to pick their dragon's type, starting with a young dragon that grows in size and power as the character advances. There are stats for all of the standard chromatic dragons (black, blue, green, red, white), and metallic dragons (brass, bronze, copper, gold, silver), as well as outer dragons (lunar, solar, time, void, vortex). These dragons show up in the Starfinder Alien Archive books, though you don't need those books to use this character class. The dragons have been alerted from the standard monster stats to make them more balanced. Each dragon has different abilities that may include different move speeds, movement types (some can swim or burrow), different starting size (some dragons start off too small to ride), different attack damage, and breath weapon abilities. These rules are close enough to dragons as described in the Alien Archives, but nerfed enough to make them playable, though still some dragons are more powerful than others. To deal with the power discrepency between dragon types, this book adds a mechanic called 'mystic focus' that determines the character's ability to get the dragon to do what they want. The more powerful the dragon, the harder it is to control, and it requires more of the dragon rider's time each round to control it. If a character doesn't spend time each round controlling their dragon, it takes only move actions. Thus, if your character has one of the more powerful dragons, you will be able to do little else than direct it each round. At higher levels, mystic focus takes up less time each round, and it really brings balance to what might seem like an over-powered class, especially at lower levels.

Overall, this book presents some fantastic rules for allowing a player to have a dragon in your game. As a long-time game master, I've had many players wanting their character to have a dragon, and balanced rules for allowing this are very much welcomed and appreciated. The rules strike a good balance between allowing players to have something powerful, but at the same time restrict their use of it so as to not make it game-breaking. Starfarers Codex: Legacy Dragonrider does an amazing job of this, and I hope to see these rules adapted to similar fantasy games.

Read teh full review at [!](
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Star Trek Adventures: Nest in the Dark

18 April 2019 - 12:07pm
Publisher: Modiphius
Rating: 4
It's always a bit disconcerting when your warp drive fails. The Synopsis explains what is going on, and what the party will have to do to resolve the situation, and there are notes explaining where to fit this adventure within the timelines of several Star Trek eras, although it's intended to fall in the TNG era of play.

The action begins during a routine trip to check on a lost probe. Just around shift change on the bridge of the party's starship the warp drive fades away and a whole shed-load of alarms go off. Once they have figured out the immediate cause - a massive subspace field - they can then discover some other unnerving problems. They are off-course, and time is acting oddly as well. There's a remarkably strange sight on the viewscreen as well. Figuring all this out is likely to be quite difficult, but some detailed information on likely rolls to discover what's out there are provided and the party ought to get there with a little nudging and the expenditure of some Momentum. There is a wealth of information for the GM to take on board and disseminate as appropriate - this is an adventure that will benefit from some prep time in getting your head around what's going on before you run it!

By the end of the initial investigatory phase, the party should be curious and filled with wonder at finding something hitherto unheard of. They shouldn't feel threatened. To begin with, what they have encountered hasn't even noticed them, and once it does, it's only curious about them. Yet... that disruptive field is only going to cause problems: the anomaly is on course for a Federation outpost! However, when the anomaly gets curious, it starts trying to find out what it has encountered, resulting in a series of puzzles for the party to figure out (once they realise that they *are* puzzles, that is!). Interestingly, a range of variant puzzles are provided for the GM to choose depending on whether the party is more Command or Science orientated. All are well-supported with suggestions of how to solve them, as well as providing the answers. It's important to understand Extended Tasks for this adventure.

Eventually, the party will meet with an individual, or manifestation, with which they can communicate. Or at least try to... the concepts and background understood by this representative are truly alien, and should prove entertaining (if a bit of a challenge) for the GM to role-play. There's plenty of guidance to help, though, and suggestions as to what can be said and explained. The immediate need is to persuade them to change course, which once the message is got across, they will agree to do so. The adventure concludes with the likely aftermath of this encounter and a few suggestions for further adventures.

This is a very cerebral adventure, which some groups might find dull - others will be entranced and thoroughly enjoy meeting something so unusual and possibly unique. It will need thoughtful GMing to make it work well, but should prove memorable when done well with the right group, capturing the real essence of exploration.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Monstrous Lair #27: Cultists' Hidden Fane

10 April 2019 - 5:17am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 3
An review

This installment of the Monstrous Lairs-pdfs clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Sometimes, you just need a bit of dressing for a wayside encounter – or something specific to a monster type. Finding appropriate entries can be rough, and so, this series attempts to remedy this shortcoming on 2 pages, with a total of 7 d10-tables.

Outside of a cultist’s lair, one may see rain-soaked steps leading into decrepit buildings; they may be hidden behind a pane in a boudoir, or behind the smiles of a shopkeep – when handed the right token. Soul-deadening smoke may conceal what’s going on – and while I like this section, it is a bit stair-centric, but that’s probably in the nature of the subject matter. As for what’s currently happening when the PCs happen upon the cult’s fane, the PCs can witness horror, like cultists slicing off flesh from bones, engaging in haruspex, or sharpening saws, clearly meant for dismembering bodies. Or, they could be painting demonic masks for the next ceremony. This slice of mundaneity, or normalcy, was something that made me smile, when the entry that features reading from a skin-bound grimoires elicited a less enthused reaction.

Major lair features may include sound-muffling curtains, braziers burning strange incense, obscene murals and more, while minor lair features include the stink of rotten meat, weaponry designed to inflict maximum pain, coffins or grave mould, etc. – as a minor complaint, a blood-stained table seemed less like a major feature to me, and as a whole, these two tables featured pretty much what I expected to see – no surprises there. As for cultist appearances, we have the obligatory robes (with or without stuff underneath), masks, bare-chested dances, bone-covered armor, etc. Sample treasures suggested once more, thankfully, elicit more excitement: A lyre made from skull and sinew and golden teeth, fanged gloves of black leather, a stone for an instant bonfire – this section is truly inspired! The table of less valuable things to be found includes old boots, documents that implicate folks in crime (badly prepared…but that doesn’t have to stop the PCs from trying their hands…), a neat statue that may crumble when moved. Solid.

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and we get a nice piece of b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity (kudos!) and is included in two versions – one optimized for screen-use, and one for the printer.

Steve Hood’s take on cultists is interesting – while there are a few entries that are a bit bland, that most GMs will probably be familiar with (or immediately think of when hearing “cultists”), there also are a couple of entries that are frankly inspired – particularly the treasure-table deserves applause. That being said, this still leaves the pdf not as strong as e.g. the installment on bandits or pirates. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Star Log.EM-069: Time Traveler's Hot Tub

2 April 2019 - 3:37am
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
Rating: 5
An review

This April’s Fool installment of the Star Log.EM-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 5 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 also got this prior to public release, in case you were wondering.

So, this time around, we begin with some pieces of salient advice for handling time travel. To do note that in advance: personally, I prefer time travel to be handled in the vein of e.g. Primer. That being said, Starfinder is obviously a bit more happy-go-lucky, and as such, it’s very much important to note that this supplement doesn’t restrict you to a particular set of time travel rules.

The eponymous Time Traveller’s Hot Tub is an artifact, a cylindrical tub with a retro-design, and it is y hybrid item that includes, among others, elemental gates to heat water, diviners to collect data on the occupants and surrounding areas, etc. When within 10 ft. of the tub, it automatically swaps your attire and equipment for appropriate swimwear, and you are redressed if you move out of the area. Augmentations and items required for your well-being are not swapped out. Sizes of Large or greater are accommodated, as the tub warps space time to make you Medium while in the tub. The artifact uses a holographic interface that you can use as a full action, displaying biometrics, time and date…and a ton of options to make the tub itself more comfortable for you, like shell shapes, jet locations, etc. Any recreational items such as food, drugs or hot tub accessories may be requested, provided their item level is below 15. These items vanish if removed farther than 10 feet away from the tub, and the tub may only create a maximum of 25.000 credits worth of items per day – still, should seriously suffice to get some decadent relaxation out of it!

3/day, the tub can be commanded to translocate all inside to another place and time on the Material Plane, a process that requires those inside to spend ¼ the Resolve maximum (minimum 1 ) to travel through time. Setting a course is a full action, and the input coordinates must approximate the physical location of a planet or planetoid, and the time and date may not be sooner than before anyone currently in the tub was born or became sapient. A sample Dc for travel to less well-known places is provided. Upon activation, a frothing display of water and Technicolor, you travel to the respective time and are knocked unconscious for 1d20 hours, during which time your body ages to fit the age you had then, emerging at the age they had. (See Star Log.Deluxe: Aging Rules.)

Mind and memory are unaffected by the travelling experience. The tub can’t travel to a place that’s toxic to its occupants, and has a paradox resolution software, though that may be damaged. Indeed, the tub has hardness and Hit Points noted. The process of deactivating the safety limiters is concisely explained with damage, hacking (provided you can concentrate on it – the tub tells you to relax; minor complaint: There’s a reference to suggestion not italicized here), etc. The tub has an integrated mk IV null space chambers module, a body adjustment module, a temporal limitation module and a paradox correction module – all of which come with their own hacked/malfunction entries. But what happens if it’s destroyed? How can mortals fix it? Well, that’s what the Repairman’s here for. The powerful CR 25 inevitable (stats check out, fyi) is an oddity in its role, for sure. It’s also insanely powerful and has a whole array of cool abilities, including mystic spellcasting (as per the new connection.)

Wait, what? Yep, this does have a new mystic connection, Temporal. This one has Culture and Perception as associated skills, and it gets baleful alter age (See Star Log.EM: Temporal Thing). At 1st level, we have the ability to, whenever you roll a d20 and fail, to spend 1 Resolve as a reaction to reroll the d20. Starting at 3rd level, this may also be used to affect allies you’re aware of within 100 ft. At 6th level, you may use the ability as a swift action before rolling, or use it as a reaction before an ally rolls the check – when doing so, the d20 is rolled twice and the better result is taken, as opposed to the second being the one that counts.

3rd level lets you recall knowledge untrained and add channel skill bonus to all skill checks to attempt to recall knowledge. You also may use your Wisdom modifier when doing so, provided it’s higher than the skill’s associated ability score modifier. At 6th level, we have erase from time, which lets you, as a standard action, remove a creature on a failed Fort-save from time for a minute, with subsequent Will-saves allowing for quicker ends to this effect. The ability may be used after a 10-minute rest, and target a creature only once per 24 hours, keeping its power in check. 9th level allows you, as a move action to teleport to any space you can see within 30 ft. sans provoking AoOs. You can only teleport to solid ground, and hazardous terrain interaction is covered.

12th level nets you the ability to spend 1 Resolve Point as a standard action to make a melee touch attack vs. EAC to put the target into a temporal stasis on a failed save, with 16th level allowing for more Resolve expenditure to make that permanent. This, obviously, has a ton of utility for e.g. folks stranded in space, etc., and a helpful hex caveat prevents spamming it against bosses. Kudos! At 15th level, you can designate an ally within 100 ft., and note Stamina, Hit Points, daily uses of abilities remaining and active effects and durations. You can only designate one ally at a given time and need a 10-minute rest to regain Stamina Points to do so again. As a reaction, you can spend ¼ your total Resolve Point maximum, minimum 2 Resolve, to rewind time for that ally to the point you noted, restoring that moment in time. The ability can’t be cheesed due to the fact that Resolve is very deliberately NOT noted and restored, but the ability can very well return the target to life! Super cool! 18th level has, obviously, the big one – Time Stop. For 1 Resolve as a full action, you get 1d4+1 additional turns, and the rules for attacking targets etc., ongoing effects and the like are concisely codified.

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ nice two-column full-color standard, and I enjoy the pink touch and the water-effect used to modify the look of the file. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Alexander Augunas delivers with panache aplomb here: The hot tub is amazing and if you’re a fan of Doctor Who (and who isn’t?...sorry, will have beaten myself for that pun sometime), then this is pretty much a must-own. We not only get a thoroughly amazing item that can govern whole campaigns, we also get a kickass high-level NPC/monster and a potent, well-crafted connection. What more could you ask for? This is an amazing Star Log, and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Beasties 2

11 March 2019 - 11:36am
Publisher: Night Owl Workshop
Rating: 5
Now I have gone on the record, many, many times, talking about how much I love monster books. My first glimpse into D and D was way back in 1978-79 when I first saw and read the Monster Manual. Very few books have come close to that feeling of unlimited potential. So when a new monster book comes out, I have to take a look and usually grab it.

Beasties II from Night Owl Workshop has something of a pedigree in my mind. The art and text are from none other than Thomas Denmark. He is responsible for some of my favorite art during the d20 boom, in particular, Citizen Games' "Way of the Witch". Plus I LOVED Beasties I so grabbing this was a no brainer for me.

Beasties II is a digest-sized book. 90 pages with black and white art. According to the sales text on DriveThru the book contains:
27 Monsters
8 NPC's
40 Drawings
1 Map
Article on Goblinology

The book follows the same format as Beasties I. Like the first Beasties it certainly punches above its weight class in terms of monsters and content. All the text and art is by Denmark himself.

The book is designed for "Original Fantasy Rules" but plenty of conversion notes are given for OSRIC and Basic Fantasy. There are also some conversion notes for Nite Owl Workshop's other games Colonial Troopers, Guardians, Warriors of the Red Planet, Raiders of the Lost Artifacts and Freebooters.

The definition of "monster" is certainly very old-school too, with some traps, "minor monsters", and NPCs included for good measure.

But the REAL reason to get this book is goblins. There are several goblin hybrids; Blorc, Bugbearzerker, Gnomblin, Hoblin, Hoblin (Cruel), Koblin, Zoblin and a whole article on Goblinology or the Ecology of the Goblin. Frankly, the book is worth it for all of this alone.

Seriously. If you like goblins then grab this now.

There are also some undead and some really fun fiends. The Drumph gets a full publication so that is now. A new aquatic humanoid race is introduced, the Shahatha. I rather like them to be honest and will be porting them over to my 5e game.

The NPCs are also a lot of fun. One, Isaina Lyd’ar, reminds me of the work he did for Way of the Witch. So much so I might convert to a White Box Witch. She looks like she would be fun to play. Maybe she is a Sinderan Witch tradition.

So a lot of great content for $4. Plus the entire work is released as "Open" under the OGL so that is a nice touch.

Bookmarks in the PDF would have been nice as well as a PDF clickable table of contents, but that is a minor thing really.

If you love monsters get this book.
If you love goblins you REALLY need to get this book.

This reveiw also appears here: [](
Categories: Game Theory & Design