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Monstrous Lair #27: Cultists' Hidden Fane

10 April 2019 - 5:17am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 3
An Endzeitgeist.com 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.

Conclusion:
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 Endzeitgeist.com 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.

Conclusion:
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: [http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/03/monstrous-monday-beasties-ii-from-night.html](http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/03/monstrous-monday-beasties-ii-from-night.html)
Categories: Game Theory & Design

DARK PLACES and DEMOGORGONS - The Cryptid Manual - An OSR Bestiary

24 February 2019 - 2:35pm
Publisher: Bloat Games
Rating: 5
If I have said it once I have said it a hundred times. I LOVE Monster books. Any and all monster books. I even grab monster books for games I don't play. So when Eric Bloat they head monster hunter at Bloat Games asked if I would be interested in looking over his new monster book (Kickstarting today) for his FANTASTIC Dark Places and Demogorgons I screamed HELL YES at my computer.

Now I promise to be fair here but a couple of words of full disclaimer. First I was sent this book as part of an agreement for a review. That is no big, I get a lot of books this way and I always try to be fair. Secondly. Well, look above. I am predisposed to like Monster books and I already love DP and P and cryptids are a TON of fun. So please keep all this in mind.

Dark Places and Demogorgons: Cryptid Manual is a digest-sized book weighing in at 90 or so pages. Some bits look like redacted Governmental documents and blood splattered hunter's notebooks. It's actually pretty cool looking if not 100% original (see Chill, Supernatural and Conspiracy X). That being said though it is also 100% EXPECTED. That's HOW I want my 80s monster hunting guide to look like.

The interior and the cover features two-color art (blacks and reds) on glossy pages. Now the gloss might just be my pre-copy version, or not. In any case the color, the art, and the layout are all a leap ahead in terms of style and look than all the previous DP and D books. If this is the future of their books then the future looks good.

A little over 50 monsters fill this book. They use the same stat block as DP and D so that also means they are roughly compatible with Swords and Wizardry (I'd say about 99%) and most other OSR-flavored games. Given the size of the book it fits in nicely with my Swords and Wizardry Whitebox games, so I have another monster book now for that! Each monster gets a page. Some exceptions occur with the Bigfoots and the E.T.s, but still, it's a good bit for each one.

There are also templates in the back of the book that work like the monster templates from 3.x. So you can apply the Vampire, Werewolf or my favorite Radioactive, template (among others) to any monster. Radioactive Bigfoots? Hell yes! There is also a table of enhancements and how they change your monster. So now it's Agile Radioactive Bigfoots!
There are some conditions ported over from 3.x (more or less) but very, very useful and I am happy to see them here.

Ok what are some of my favorites? There is the Almasti, which I also used in Ghosts of Albion. They have a special place in my heart. I'll likely include Almasti Shamen in my DP and D games like I did with Ghosts. Old faves like the Bunyip and Chupacabra. Holy crap there is a Crocoduck!

I have to admit I nearly shot coffee out of my nose when I first saw that. Worth the price of the book alone in my mind. Flatwoods Monster, all the various extraterrestrials (Nordics, Reptilians, LGMs, Greys), Hellhounds, the Hodag! (love those things!), Jersey Devils, Skin Walkers, and the Wendigo. So plenty really and many more. The monsters mostly come from modern cyptids, but there some classics from myths and local monsters.

This book is great really. While I may have been pre-disposed to like it, it really delivered and then some with me. The art is great and fun. The layout top notch and the monsters are just too much fun.

While reading it I could not help but think how well this would also work with White Star or other White Box derived game. So even if you don't play DP and D (and you should really, it's just too much fun) you can still get a lot of enjoyment out of this book. For example the Cryptid Manual is 90% compatible with Swords and Wizardry White Box. There is not a lot of overlap in monsters, so this makes the CM a perfect monster book for S and WWB players. Also, there are a lot of "new" monsters in S and W for the DP and D player/GM. Who's to say that an alien life form could resemble an orc or a wyvern.

In fact, this is true for nearly every clone. The clone game provides monsters for DP and P and the Cryptid Manual provides new monsters for your clone of choice. You just need to justify why they are there.

Worth picking up.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Star Trek Adventures: Science Division Supplement

21 February 2019 - 7:48am
Publisher: Modiphius
Rating: 5
The Science Division are often the unsung heroes of Star Trek - a bit odd when you consider the whole mission is about exploration and discovery, things that scientists are good at. Apart from Spock, who was Science Officer as well as the second-in-command of Kirk's Enterprise, the on-board scientists are just produced when there's a problem that science can solve, then sent back whence they came until the next time. Apart from the medics, that is, who are part of Science Division but with a much higher profile. Here's a chance to redress the balance!

The Introduction - To Seek and to Know - talks of science and medicine being at the centre of the urge to explore space. Finding out what's going on is a key driver for exploration and explorers have to be kept healthy whilst doing so. When not treating patients, medics are also interested in exploration - perhaps they'll find a medicinal plant or medical knowledge hitherto undreampt-of on the next planet. However, those scientific and medical professionals who join Star Fleet are quite special. Adventurous, certainly, but this is a part of the organisation that recruits seasoned professionals, older people, as well as train their own at the Academy. With a note from a grateful student whose training saved the day during an exercise, we move on to an outline of the contents of the book. There's also an example of individuals from various branches within the Science Division working together to resolve a potentially lethal problem, and a note indicating that technologies differ depending on which Era you game is set in, and how these are to be highlighted through the rest of the text.

Chapter 1: Science Division goes into detail about training, organisation, responsibilities and so on, with three main strands of scientists, medics, and counsellors. This is presented in the style of a briefing document for new Science Division officers and makes for a fascinating read. It outlines the protocols for exploration missions and science missions, and discusses the Prime Directive at length with some ideas on how to deal with breaches thereof. It also touches on time travel. There is a Department of Temporal Investigation in the assumed present day (TNE era), and some inklings of a Temporal Integrity Commission which appears to have been established in the future (29th century) - their agents won't reveal much, for obvious reasons.

Next Chapter 3: Science Division Characters looks at expanding the core rulebook's character generation process to make more detailed and diverse Science Division characters via extra Lifepath options and new Focuses and Talents. This allows for the sort of specialisation that you'd likely see - geologists and botanists, trauma surgeons and infectious disease specialists, and so on.

Then, Chapter 4: Research and Development examines the vast range of specialised equipment available particularly in the field of medicine, from hand-held devices to fully-equipped hospital ships. There are also details of lifeforms and other phenomena that have been encountered with ideas for further research and a discussion of the Q Continuum and ideas of dealing with encouters there. I'd say 'stay away' but sometimes it comes to visit anyway...

Chapter 5: Using the Science Division is crammed with ideas, providing rules for creating everything from medical emergencies to xeno-biological mysteries (why does every habitable planet grow something that looks exactly like Earth grass, I wonder) and running missions with a science/exploration focus. There's also suggestions for how to run adventures that involve medical interventions to save a ship's company, a planet or even the entirety of known space. This chapter also contains rules to aid the development of new alien lifeforms, sentient and otherwise, even those that live in places an unprotected human could not go. Finally Chapter 6: Sciences Personnel provides an array of fully-developed characters to use as NPCs - perhaps when an exotic specialism is required - or as an example for generating your own.

This is an excellent resource that should inspire you and your group to 'boldly go' like you never have before, with loads of ideas to help your exploration missions make many discoveries - and generate a mound of academic papers!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Assassin - The Sanguinity Hot Technique Tree

21 January 2019 - 1:17am
Publisher: Interjection Games
Rating: 5
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the Assassin base class clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Assassins with the sanguinity tree gain the blood pool feature upon taking the first sanguinity technique. This pool begins play with 0 points, and has a maximum capacity of thrice the assassin’s class level. Whenever a creature within 60 ft. takes damage from an ongoing bleed effect, the assassin gains 1 blood point for each point of damage taken. This pool resets upon resting.

Unless I have miscounted, the pdf contains 15 different techniques, with 2 of them being passive: Off the Top, available as soon as second level, adds + 1 bleed damage to the first weapon attack executed each round, with 7th level and every 6 levels thereafter increasing that by +1. Bleed damage from this ability stacks with itself, and the ability notes a Heal DC to quench the bleeding. The second passive would be blood sense, which nets you blindsense 60 ft., but only for the purpose of detecting creatures suffering from bleed damage and objects they’re interacting with.

As far as active techniques are concerned, we have e.g. “Bleed the Self” which has a presence required of 0 to 3 and nets a +1 presence change. The ability is a standard action or may be executed as a part of a full-attack action. The technique basically adds bleed that deals 1 ability score damage to an ability score that is randomly chosen each round. Interesting. Blood tithe decreases presence by 1 and requires presence 1 – 4; once more, it’s executed as an attack, providing a +2 bonus to Strength and Constitution that increases by a further +1 at 7th and 13th level. This buff ends when the target has not bled for one round or died. Upon executing this technique, you must spend blood points of up to class level, and the effect otherwise lasts for 3 + blood points spent rounds. This technique has an escalation option that modifies presence required and presence change, but if you opt for this iteration, you also penalize the target of your attack, essentially leeching the ability boosts.

Bolster the Blood allows you to expend blood points to enhance a target within 30 ft., providing temporary hit points that last for a round. Due to being activated as an immediate action, it also clarifies interaction with technique per round cap. Bolster the Self is the self-only version of this one, but interestingly, it’s NOT a prerequisite for bolster the blood. Cauterize causes fire damage to a bleeding target at presence change 1, and while there is no save, this does end any ongoing bleed damage of the target. Yes, ability bleed is properly codified. Crimson Font has a range of 60 ft. and targets any number of creatures – the ability inflicts 1d3 +1 piercing damage per class level, divided however you wish among the targets within 60 ft., with a Fortitude-save to halve damage. At -4 presence change, it requires some setting up, though. For each point of piercing damage you inflict, you also inflict a bleed damage…which makes this a great combo-finisher.

Enfeebling strike is easier to set up: At just a presence change of -1, enfeebling strike temporarily penalizes Strength of the target hit by 1d6, +1 per two assassin class levels, with 1 being minimum. Fortitude save halves, and the duration of the penalty is governed by the amount of blood points expended. Exsanguinate the Self nets a -4 presence change, and thus must be considered a combo finisher of sorts. You expend any number of blood points, up to class level, and inflict one point of random ability bleed damage for each blood point expended, to be distributed among any number of targets within 60 ft. A single creature can’t take more ability bleed than half the number of blood points expended, which helps make this avoid being a dragon-slayer. Fort-save negates.

Make it flow is a swift action with a 60 ft. range, and causes 1 point of bleed damage, which, at 0 presence change still makes for a good kick-off. Puncturing blow changes the weapon’s base damage die to bleeding damage instead, at presence change +1. It lasts for 2 rounds, and increases twice at higher levels. Transfusion has a -1 presence change and lets you touch a creature. Expend up to assassin level blood points, then roll d8 for every blood point. The target regains hit points equal to the amount rolled, and the assassin takes a penalty to maximum hit points equal to 1/4th of the rolled amount, rounded down. This reduction ceases after resting. Transruption, which, like Transfusion, is a presence change -1, lets you bind two creatures together. Whenever one of the bound creatures takes damage of the three physical damage types, then half that damage is siphoned off to the second target. When a bound creature takes bleed damage, the second creature does take the full bleed damage as well, but unlike the physical damage dispersion, this propagation of bleed damage may be resisted with a Fortitude save. Duration is governed by blood points expended. Finally, vermillion blade, at -2 presence change, is a melee touch attack with an empty hand. On a hit, you draw a fully formed blade of blood from the target. The weapon begins at +1, and increases its potency at higher levels, allowing for the use of some weapon special abilities.

There are 3 different feats included in the pdf: Blood Focus increases the maximum amount of blood points you can expend on a technique by +1. Bloodbonder Adept nets you 2/day an additional immediate action for bolster the self or bolster the blood, provided you did not perform them already this round. Odd regarding verbiage here: Does this mean that you lose an additional round worth of swift actions in the aftermath? If not, then why not simply allow for the use of these techniques sans requiring an action or building on free actions, with the appropriate not-your-turn-caveat? Anyhow, Transfuser, the final feat, nets you a transfusion pool with points equal to your assassin level. This pool acts basically as a buffer for transfusion, allowing you to expend its points instead of accepting the maximum hit point reduction that the transfusion technique usually requires. Nice one.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, juggling complex and intriguing concepts. Layout adheres to Interjection games’ no-frills two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Bradley Crouch’s sanguinity tech tree is pretty cool – a blood-themed warrior angle for the assassin class? Heck yeah, why not. The concepts are varied and interesting, and there are some cool tricks here that reminded me of one of my own designs. The finishers are deadly, the minor healing welcome, and many of the attacks have neat visuals as well. All in all, an inexpensive, fun expansion well worth owning, though one that could use a sequel to build on it. The concept and theme are strong, and I couldn’t help but feel like there is more waiting in the wings here. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars. Definitely recommended for assassin-fans!

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Assassin - The Sanguinity Hot Technique Tree

21 January 2019 - 1:17am
Publisher: Interjection Games
Rating: 5
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the Assassin base class clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Assassins with the sanguinity tree gain the blood pool feature upon taking the first sanguinity technique. This pool begins play with 0 points, and has a maximum capacity of thrice the assassin’s class level. Whenever a creature within 60 ft. takes damage from an ongoing bleed effect, the assassin gains 1 blood point for each point of damage taken. This pool resets upon resting.

Unless I have miscounted, the pdf contains 15 different techniques, with 2 of them being passive: Off the Top, available as soon as second level, adds + 1 bleed damage to the first weapon attack executed each round, with 7th level and every 6 levels thereafter increasing that by +1. Bleed damage from this ability stacks with itself, and the ability notes a Heal DC to quench the bleeding. The second passive would be blood sense, which nets you blindsense 60 ft., but only for the purpose of detecting creatures suffering from bleed damage and objects they’re interacting with.

As far as active techniques are concerned, we have e.g. “Bleed the Self” which has a presence required of 0 to 3 and nets a +1 presence change. The ability is a standard action or may be executed as a part of a full-attack action. The technique basically adds bleed that deals 1 ability score damage to an ability score that is randomly chosen each round. Interesting. Blood tithe decreases presence by 1 and requires presence 1 – 4; once more, it’s executed as an attack, providing a +2 bonus to Strength and Constitution that increases by a further +1 at 7th and 13th level. This buff ends when the target has not bled for one round or died. Upon executing this technique, you must spend blood points of up to class level, and the effect otherwise lasts for 3 + blood points spent rounds. This technique has an escalation option that modifies presence required and presence change, but if you opt for this iteration, you also penalize the target of your attack, essentially leeching the ability boosts.

Bolster the Blood allows you to expend blood points to enhance a target within 30 ft., providing temporary hit points that last for a round. Due to being activated as an immediate action, it also clarifies interaction with technique per round cap. Bolster the Self is the self-only version of this one, but interestingly, it’s NOT a prerequisite for bolster the blood. Cauterize causes fire damage to a bleeding target at presence change 1, and while there is no save, this does end any ongoing bleed damage of the target. Yes, ability bleed is properly codified. Crimson Font has a range of 60 ft. and targets any number of creatures – the ability inflicts 1d3 +1 piercing damage per class level, divided however you wish among the targets within 60 ft., with a Fortitude-save to halve damage. At -4 presence change, it requires some setting up, though. For each point of piercing damage you inflict, you also inflict a bleed damage…which makes this a great combo-finisher.

Enfeebling strike is easier to set up: At just a presence change of -1, enfeebling strike temporarily penalizes Strength of the target hit by 1d6, +1 per two assassin class levels, with 1 being minimum. Fortitude save halves, and the duration of the penalty is governed by the amount of blood points expended. Exsanguinate the Self nets a -4 presence change, and thus must be considered a combo finisher of sorts. You expend any number of blood points, up to class level, and inflict one point of random ability bleed damage for each blood point expended, to be distributed among any number of targets within 60 ft. A single creature can’t take more ability bleed than half the number of blood points expended, which helps make this avoid being a dragon-slayer. Fort-save negates.

Make it flow is a swift action with a 60 ft. range, and causes 1 point of bleed damage, which, at 0 presence change still makes for a good kick-off. Puncturing blow changes the weapon’s base damage die to bleeding damage instead, at presence change +1. It lasts for 2 rounds, and increases twice at higher levels. Transfusion has a -1 presence change and lets you touch a creature. Expend up to assassin level blood points, then roll d8 for every blood point. The target regains hit points equal to the amount rolled, and the assassin takes a penalty to maximum hit points equal to 1/4th of the rolled amount, rounded down. This reduction ceases after resting. Transruption, which, like Transfusion, is a presence change -1, lets you bind two creatures together. Whenever one of the bound creatures takes damage of the three physical damage types, then half that damage is siphoned off to the second target. When a bound creature takes bleed damage, the second creature does take the full bleed damage as well, but unlike the physical damage dispersion, this propagation of bleed damage may be resisted with a Fortitude save. Duration is governed by blood points expended. Finally, vermillion blade, at -2 presence change, is a melee touch attack with an empty hand. On a hit, you draw a fully formed blade of blood from the target. The weapon begins at +1, and increases its potency at higher levels, allowing for the use of some weapon special abilities.

There are 3 different feats included in the pdf: Blood Focus increases the maximum amount of blood points you can expend on a technique by +1. Bloodbonder Adept nets you 2/day an additional immediate action for bolster the self or bolster the blood, provided you did not perform them already this round. Odd regarding verbiage here: Does this mean that you lose an additional round worth of swift actions in the aftermath? If not, then why not simply allow for the use of these techniques sans requiring an action or building on free actions, with the appropriate not-your-turn-caveat? Anyhow, Transfuser, the final feat, nets you a transfusion pool with points equal to your assassin level. This pool acts basically as a buffer for transfusion, allowing you to expend its points instead of accepting the maximum hit point reduction that the transfusion technique usually requires. Nice one.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, juggling complex and intriguing concepts. Layout adheres to Interjection games’ no-frills two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Bradley Crouch’s sanguinity tech tree is pretty cool – a blood-themed warrior angle for the assassin class? Heck yeah, why not. The concepts are varied and interesting, and there are some cool tricks here that reminded me of one of my own designs. The finishers are deadly, the minor healing welcome, and many of the attacks have neat visuals as well. All in all, an inexpensive, fun expansion well worth owning, though one that could use a sequel to build on it. The concept and theme are strong, and I couldn’t help but feel like there is more waiting in the wings here. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars. Definitely recommended for assassin-fans!

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Tales from the Forlorn Hope

5 January 2019 - 7:38am
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
Rating: 5
Although this is a collection of eight ready-to-run adventures, this book is a bit more than that. Whatever backgrounds your party has, it's assumed they like to hang out at a bar called The Forlorn Hope, which is owned and operated by veterans of the Central American Wars. They have gravitated to the life of a Solo, and it's a good place for rumours and job opportunities for anyone able to prove their worth in the shady world of the cyberpunk. Your party probably fits right in.

To that end, the book opens with extensive details of the Forlorn Hope itself, and a whole bunch of NPCs found there. Most of it (apart from game mechanical bits) is presented as an article about the place: you might even want to share that with your players. There are even interviews with the NPCs that help bring them to life. Floorplans and notes on setting up your game - this is intended for fairly new if not beginning characters, but you might have a more experienced party so there are notes on how to accommodate them - are also provided.

It's not all 'local colour', though. Now for the neat bit. Each adventure is linked to at least one of the NPCs. This helps the party develop a feeling of investment, the fellow at the centre of whatever's going on right now is someone they drink with regularly. The adventures are designed to be run in a single session, but of course could be expanded on if you wish. Reading the first adventure - Agency Job - it all sounds very familiar: I think I played it many years ago. It involves raiding a consulate to get information on some foreign government's clandestine activities, and then putting paid to them by sinking a boat that's pivotal to their operations. When I played it we attacked by swimming underwater, and my character enjoyed it so much she kept the skill chips and SCUBA equipment in lieu of her fee!

Other adventures follow thick and fast. Each comes with ideas for both expanding the actual scenario and for follow-up adventures. There's A Hard Road to Go, which takes the party on a simple convoy escort job (yeah, right!). The Impalers involves a trip to Europe to find one of the regulars' missing brother. Girls' Night Out is an extraction mission. Colombian Cookout is a mercenary mission in South America (but there's scope for non-combat-oriented characters as well). Fall of the Axeman is a detective job, the party needs to find out who killed one of the Forlorn Hope regulars, and why. Street smarts and a spot of netrunning will come in useful for this one, but there's brawling as well. Tough as Nails involves helping a Federal Marshal clear a friend's name in a battle against corruption in law enforcement, and finally The Last Long Rider sends the party after a cyberpsychotic veteran. Each adventure is packed with detail, maps, believable NPCs, and more.

This gets to the core of *Cyberpunk*. Characters living in a gig economy, picking up dangerous jobs where they can, and living a life that's fast and exciting... but perhaps not very long. A good way to get started, especially if you don't have a grand campaign arc in mind right away.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Tales from the Forlorn Hope

5 January 2019 - 7:38am
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
Rating: 5
Although this is a collection of eight ready-to-run adventures, this book is a bit more than that. Whatever backgrounds your party has, it's assumed they like to hang out at a bar called The Forlorn Hope, which is owned and operated by veterans of the Central American Wars. They have gravitated to the life of a Solo, and it's a good place for rumours and job opportunities for anyone able to prove their worth in the shady world of the cyberpunk. Your party probably fits right in.

To that end, the book opens with extensive details of the Forlorn Hope itself, and a whole bunch of NPCs found there. Most of it (apart from game mechanical bits) is presented as an article about the place: you might even want to share that with your players. There are even interviews with the NPCs that help bring them to life. Floorplans and notes on setting up your game - this is intended for fairly new if not beginning characters, but you might have a more experienced party so there are notes on how to accommodate them - are also provided.

It's not all 'local colour', though. Now for the neat bit. Each adventure is linked to at least one of the NPCs. This helps the party develop a feeling of investment, the fellow at the centre of whatever's going on right now is someone they drink with regularly. The adventures are designed to be run in a single session, but of course could be expanded on if you wish. Reading the first adventure - Agency Job - it all sounds very familiar: I think I played it many years ago. It involves raiding a consulate to get information on some foreign government's clandestine activities, and then putting paid to them by sinking a boat that's pivotal to their operations. When I played it we attacked by swimming underwater, and my character enjoyed it so much she kept the skill chips and SCUBA equipment in lieu of her fee!

Other adventures follow thick and fast. Each comes with ideas for both expanding the actual scenario and for follow-up adventures. There's A Hard Road to Go, which takes the party on a simple convoy escort job (yeah, right!). The Impalers involves a trip to Europe to find one of the regulars' missing brother. Girls' Night Out is an extraction mission. Colombian Cookout is a mercenary mission in South America (but there's scope for non-combat-oriented characters as well). Fall of the Axeman is a detective job, the party needs to find out who killed one of the Forlorn Hope regulars, and why. Street smarts and a spot of netrunning will come in useful for this one, but there's brawling as well. Tough as Nails involves helping a Federal Marshal clear a friend's name in a battle against corruption in law enforcement, and finally The Last Long Rider sends the party after a cyberpsychotic veteran. Each adventure is packed with detail, maps, believable NPCs, and more.

This gets to the core of *Cyberpunk*. Characters living in a gig economy, picking up dangerous jobs where they can, and living a life that's fast and exciting... but perhaps not very long. A good way to get started, especially if you don't have a grand campaign arc in mind right away.
Categories: Game Theory & Design