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Going Through Forbidden Otherworlds

22 August 2018 - 9:55am
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Rating: 4
Going Through Forbidden Otherworlds, or GTFO (cute huh) is again a case of me getting something that is exactly what I need. While I am not going to play it as-is, there is a tweak mentioned in the book itself that works perfectly for me. In fact, a lot of this book works perfectly for me and my next set of adventures. I can't believe I am saying this, but I will turn up the gore factor in this Lamentations product for my needs.

Not a real fan of the art inside but I see why it works for this.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GM's Screen #6: Borderland Keep

8 August 2018 - 3:42am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 3
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.


Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, partially compiled from previous Raging Swan Press dressing books.


One column notes 10 entries for dressing, including sparring dummies and smoke rising from a chimney of the fort. Minor complaint here: Dressing outside and inside should probably be separate. The second 10 entries are devoted to sights and sounds, which does have a bit of an overlap with the previous table: A single boot jutting from the mud due to rain (table 1), compared to a raven squatting on the battlements (table 2) – I fail to see a distinct differentiation here. Making one table focus on inside, one on outside, would have probably been smarter. The final column features 10 whispers and rumors, telling us about the strange behavior of the priest, rumored bandit activity and the bedbug infestation of the tavern, these are okay, but nothing too exciting.


Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. These include human female and male sample names, alternate names for battlements, castles and wilderness, as well as for soldiers. A few castle descriptors are also noted.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.


I wanted to like this GM-screen insert more than I did – Creighton Broadhurst usually does better and the information has more thematic overlap than the previous screen-inserts. My final verdict will clock in at 3 stars – easily the weakest of the first 6 screen-inserts.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GM's Screen #6: Borderland Keep

8 August 2018 - 3:42am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 3
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.


Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, partially compiled from previous Raging Swan Press dressing books.


One column notes 10 entries for dressing, including sparring dummies and smoke rising from a chimney of the fort. Minor complaint here: Dressing outside and inside should probably be separate. The second 10 entries are devoted to sights and sounds, which does have a bit of an overlap with the previous table: A single boot jutting from the mud due to rain (table 1), compared to a raven squatting on the battlements (table 2) – I fail to see a distinct differentiation here. Making one table focus on inside, one on outside, would have probably been smarter. The final column features 10 whispers and rumors, telling us about the strange behavior of the priest, rumored bandit activity and the bedbug infestation of the tavern, these are okay, but nothing too exciting.


Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. These include human female and male sample names, alternate names for battlements, castles and wilderness, as well as for soldiers. A few castle descriptors are also noted.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.


I wanted to like this GM-screen insert more than I did – Creighton Broadhurst usually does better and the information has more thematic overlap than the previous screen-inserts. My final verdict will clock in at 3 stars – easily the weakest of the first 6 screen-inserts.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GM's Screen #5: Noisome Sewer

8 August 2018 - 3:41am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 4
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.


Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, partially compiled from previous Raging Swan Press dressing books.


One column notes 10 entries for dressing, which include bricks that have fallen to create a slippery surface, a roughly-hewn niche, and also evidence of something large slithering through the much…nice table. The second 10 entries for sample events, which include rumbling from above (yay for paranoia!), muted splashes of something heavy falling in, sudden wings driving the abominable stench home… The final column features 10 things to find in the sewers, including a small tree floating in the effluent, a silver necklace on one branch, ropes dangling from hammered in spikes dangling over a channel, a dagger tip wedged between rocks – some nice pieces of detail here.


Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. This time around, we learn alternatives for “damp”, darkness, for decay, disgusting things, for excrement and similarly delightful concepts.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.


Creighton Broadhurst provides a nice GM screen insert here – it certainly is helpful for sewers and has been well-curated and chosen. My final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GM's Screen #5: Noisome Sewer

8 August 2018 - 3:41am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 4
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.


Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, partially compiled from previous Raging Swan Press dressing books.


One column notes 10 entries for dressing, which include bricks that have fallen to create a slippery surface, a roughly-hewn niche, and also evidence of something large slithering through the much…nice table. The second 10 entries for sample events, which include rumbling from above (yay for paranoia!), muted splashes of something heavy falling in, sudden wings driving the abominable stench home… The final column features 10 things to find in the sewers, including a small tree floating in the effluent, a silver necklace on one branch, ropes dangling from hammered in spikes dangling over a channel, a dagger tip wedged between rocks – some nice pieces of detail here.


Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. This time around, we learn alternatives for “damp”, darkness, for decay, disgusting things, for excrement and similarly delightful concepts.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.


Creighton Broadhurst provides a nice GM screen insert here – it certainly is helpful for sewers and has been well-curated and chosen. My final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GM's Screen #4: Seedy Tavern

8 August 2018 - 3:39am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 4
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.


Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use.


One column notes 10 entries for events – like men sitting alone, yelling for more wine before being slapped by the serving wench. Dice-based gambling, Conan-like warriors entering to immediate quiet and the like are featured here. The second 10 and third column sport 10 entries each, and feature 10 atypical patrons or staff members, with alignment and race noted: Fat gnomes in finery, clearly out of place, halflings indulging in drugs to quell fears – some surprisingly descriptive and evocative entries here! And yes, these brief NPC-hooks do come with suitable names.


Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. These include synonyms for “dim”, but e.g. “s mashed” is probably a typo. Alternate names for taverns, for being seeds, and sample food/drinks are noted.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed only one minor typo. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.


Jeff Gomez and Creighton Broadhurst provide a helpful, nice screen-insert here. Well worth checking, my final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GM's Screen #4: Seedy Tavern

8 August 2018 - 3:39am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 4
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.


Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use.


One column notes 10 entries for events – like men sitting alone, yelling for more wine before being slapped by the serving wench. Dice-based gambling, Conan-like warriors entering to immediate quiet and the like are featured here. The second 10 and third column sport 10 entries each, and feature 10 atypical patrons or staff members, with alignment and race noted: Fat gnomes in finery, clearly out of place, halflings indulging in drugs to quell fears – some surprisingly descriptive and evocative entries here! And yes, these brief NPC-hooks do come with suitable names.


Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. These include synonyms for “dim”, but e.g. “s mashed” is probably a typo. Alternate names for taverns, for being seeds, and sample food/drinks are noted.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed only one minor typo. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.


Jeff Gomez and Creighton Broadhurst provide a helpful, nice screen-insert here. Well worth checking, my final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GM's Screen #3: Goblin Caves

8 August 2018 - 3:36am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 4
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.


Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, partially compiled from previous Raging Swan Press dressing books.


One column notes 10 entries for dressing – these includes blankets separarting an area to work as a toilet, junk and rubbish piled up and a murdered goblin; the second 10 entries for sample events sport a terrified goblin child hiding in a heap of sheets, arrows flying from the darkness and the sudden rise of goblin battle chants. The final column features 10 things to loot, which include a black furred scarlet cloak, a wolfskin hat and the like.


Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. This time around, we get synonyms for dancing and singing as well as insulting or wounding targets. Male and female names, as well as last names complement this section.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.


Creighton Broadhurst’s inserts for goblin caves are solid and fun – if you need a page of handy screen-inserts, this is worth checking out for the low price. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GM's Screen #3: Goblin Caves

8 August 2018 - 3:36am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 4
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.


Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, partially compiled from previous Raging Swan Press dressing books.


One column notes 10 entries for dressing – these includes blankets separarting an area to work as a toilet, junk and rubbish piled up and a murdered goblin; the second 10 entries for sample events sport a terrified goblin child hiding in a heap of sheets, arrows flying from the darkness and the sudden rise of goblin battle chants. The final column features 10 things to loot, which include a black furred scarlet cloak, a wolfskin hat and the like.


Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. This time around, we get synonyms for dancing and singing as well as insulting or wounding targets. Male and female names, as well as last names complement this section.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.


Creighton Broadhurst’s inserts for goblin caves are solid and fun – if you need a page of handy screen-inserts, this is worth checking out for the low price. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GM's Screen #2: Borderland Forest

8 August 2018 - 3:35am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 4
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.


Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, in the classic tradition of Raging Swan dressing files.


One column notes 10 entries for dressing, noting, for example, sodden floors that render boots muddy and wet, gnarled oak trees looming or small bones, tied together with thin cord – creepy!

The second 10 entries for sample events, with sounds of laughter followed by pain, darting foxes and the faint smell of smoke in the air. The final column features 10 entries that depict a read-aloud text for an uneventful days’ journey, allowing for excellent foreshadowing and mood creation. Kudos!


Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. This time around, we get descritors for trees, some flowers and trees, descriptors for vegetation both dead and alive, and parts of plants. Nice one!


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.


This screen insert proved to be more useful for me – the dressing is broader, has quite a bit new entries, and Mike Welham and Creighton Broadhurst are both very good at their craft. For a buck, I consider this worthy of 4.5 stars, though I feel I need to round down for this one.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GM's Screen #2: Borderland Forest

8 August 2018 - 3:35am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 4
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.


Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, in the classic tradition of Raging Swan dressing files.


One column notes 10 entries for dressing, noting, for example, sodden floors that render boots muddy and wet, gnarled oak trees looming or small bones, tied together with thin cord – creepy!

The second 10 entries for sample events, with sounds of laughter followed by pain, darting foxes and the faint smell of smoke in the air. The final column features 10 entries that depict a read-aloud text for an uneventful days’ journey, allowing for excellent foreshadowing and mood creation. Kudos!


Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. This time around, we get descritors for trees, some flowers and trees, descriptors for vegetation both dead and alive, and parts of plants. Nice one!


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.


This screen insert proved to be more useful for me – the dressing is broader, has quite a bit new entries, and Mike Welham and Creighton Broadhurst are both very good at their craft. For a buck, I consider this worthy of 4.5 stars, though I feel I need to round down for this one.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GM's Screen #1: Kobold Warren

8 August 2018 - 3:31am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 4
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.


Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, compiled from previous Raging Swan Press dressing books.


One column notes 10 entries for dressing – here, we can find mottled scales, crude dragon drawings or suitable graffiti; the second 10 entries for sample events: Clatter, rattling chains, taunting from an unseen kobold… and the final column features 10 things to loot, which include half-burned candles plus flint and steel, a ragged belt pouch holding an ornate dagger hilt, and the like.



Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. This time around, kobold epithets are included alongside names for males and females, and some basic trap ideas complement this one.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.


Aaron Bailey, Creighton Broadhurst and Paul Quarles have made a humble screen-insert is solid and handy to have. While the screen insert probably won’t blow you away, it's handy and per se well-structured. My final verdict, considering the low price, will be 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GM's Screen #1: Kobold Warren

8 August 2018 - 3:31am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 4
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This GM-screen-insert clocks in at 6 pages, though only one page of these is actually content.


Now, it should be noted that this insert, structurally, sports dressing that you can spontaneously use, compiled from previous Raging Swan Press dressing books.


One column notes 10 entries for dressing – here, we can find mottled scales, crude dragon drawings or suitable graffiti; the second 10 entries for sample events: Clatter, rattling chains, taunting from an unseen kobold… and the final column features 10 things to loot, which include half-burned candles plus flint and steel, a ragged belt pouch holding an ornate dagger hilt, and the like.



Finally, at the bottom of the page is a cool little list spanning the whole width of the insert: This would be “Words have Power”, and it provides neat, descriptive synonyms and miscellaneous information, providing some on the fly variety for your descriptions, with bolded words highlighted to differentiate the general concepts from the examples/synonyms. This time around, kobold epithets are included alongside names for males and females, and some basic trap ideas complement this one.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant typos. Layout adheres to a 3-column landscape b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity. The insert also comes in two versions – one intended for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.


Aaron Bailey, Creighton Broadhurst and Paul Quarles have made a humble screen-insert is solid and handy to have. While the screen insert probably won’t blow you away, it's handy and per se well-structured. My final verdict, considering the low price, will be 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Everyman Minis: Fey Shaman Spirits

31 July 2018 - 2:03am
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
Rating: 3
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Everyman mini clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 5.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


After a brief introduction, which also expounds upon the realms of faerie in a sidebar, we begin with the new shaman spirit included within, the fey spirit: The spirit magic spells provide a nice mixture of fey-related tricks, with invisibility at 2nd and conditional curse at 4th level as remarkable low level tricks. The hexes include a fey-themed disguise self that later upgrades the scaling fey form spells. There is also a 1-minute duration curse that enhances damage taken on a failed Will-save and the old teleport from one plant to another striding, with distance traveled as the limit. Better illusion disbelieving (with see invisibility added at 8th level) and memory lapse-use complement the hex-section, making it, as a whole, feel distinctly fey. The spirit animal gets fast healing 1 at 1st level, which can be problematic in conjunction with HP-sharing abilities. Fast healing should have a scaling daily cap. The sprit ability nets a dual blinding/stagger-gaze with a 1-round duration, which is very strong, but kept from being OP by only affecting a target once per day. The greater ability nets DR and a 10-ft. glitterdust burst. The true spirit ability allows the shaman to 3/day increase the save DC of an enchantment, illusion or transmutation spell. The capstone is a fey apotheosis that nets immunity to death effects and fast healing 5, as well as respawning in the faerie realms after death, with a 1/month cap.


The pdf also includes an archetype, the fey conduit. This archetype is locked into the fey spirit and replaces the wandering spirit ability with 3 + Wisdom modifier times per day standard action summon nature’s ally II, which improves over the level. As a balancing caveat, no more than one such effect may be in effect at any given time. The ability may also be used for crafting purposes. Instead of 6th level’s wandering hex, the archetype may, whenever the conduit uses the aforementioned summoning ability, choose to call from a lower level spell list and add the fey creature template. Instead of 14th level’s wandering hex, the fey conduit may not call a creature from her highest level summoning list with said template applied, but only Wisdom modifier times per day. Basically a fey summoner archetype. Okay, I guess.


The pdf also includes a new spell, available at 6th level for druid, shaman, sorcerer/wizard: Pixie pollen. Oddly not included among the spirit magic spells of the fey spirit, in spite of being a perfect fit, this spell can target up to 6 creatures with a batch of specifically-created pixie dust. Unique: When targeting a creature, you choose the duration individually and modify the spell save DC accordingly: Permanent effects have a lower DC. I like this! These allow the caster to make targets behave age-appropriately (using the mental age rules from Childhood Adventures), modify the age of the affected, reincarnate targets (also into 0-HD-critters, for -4 to the DC), erase all memories of the current age category, shrink targets (Microsized Adventures-synergy…) – and that’s not all! The spell is amazing. Potent, yes, but also limited enough, and by far, the coolest thing in this pdf. Kudos!


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the new two-column full-color standard of Everyman Gaming’s latest layout style, and the pdf has a nice full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


David N. Ross’ fey spirit is a solid expansion for the shaman. Personally, I was rather underwhelmed by the archetype, and I am not a fan of the easily cheesable first level fast healing. The spell is inspired, though, and elevates this beyond what I’d otherwise rate it as…but not enough to increase the final verdict beyond 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Hybrid Blood

27 July 2018 - 2:31pm
Publisher: Silver Games LLC
Rating: 5
Miscegenation has long been a thorny issue in tabletop role-playing games that involve racial hybrids. The question of why there are half-elves but no half-dwarves, or elf-dwarves for that matter, have long been one of those unanswered questions that has never had a good answer. Most of the time, the answer is a shrug and some utterance of “because that’s how it is,” since the alternative is to either begin charting out every possible combination (a task daunting in its impossibility) or disallowing crossbred characters altogether.

More recently, race-creation systems have been proposed as the answer. Any Pathfinder aficionado, for example, will likely be able to tell you all about the Advanced Race Guide’s use of Race Points (RP) as a means of generating a character of unique parentage. But even then, problems still arise: from issues of stark lists of abilities whose RP costs fail to invoke any ideas about what sort of beings would possess them to an overly-permeable scale of how many RPs a character can have before being “too powerful,” that and similar takes on standardizing the act of custom-race creation tend to be unsatisfying in what they offer.

Then we come to Hybrid Blood, the race-creation supplement from Silver Games, and the problem is solved.

Before I go any further, I need to make some disclaimers. The first and most important is that I have a potential conflict of interest here. Not only am I Patreon supporter of this company, I’ve also worked with the author on several projects. Make of that what you will.

Another thing that needs to be stated upfront is that this book, while it does deal with anthropomorphic characters (i.e. furries), contains absolutely no fetish-fuel whatsoever. Don’t expect anything even remotely suggestive here; the most you’ll find are a tame notation that “beast people” are able to interbreed. The artwork is likewise no more tantalizing than anything you’d find in a contemporary mass-market product. This book is all about being a role-playing game supplement, and nothing else.

Finally, let me note that Hybrid Blood is configured for no less than THREE distinct role-playing games: Pathfinder, Starfinder, and Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition (though the Starfinder material is often folded into Pathfinder). While I know a lot of gamers for whom that’s a huge issue (i.e. no one wants to buy material that isn’t for the game they’re playing), I can’t stress enough just how much the books use of layout and formatting makes this feel like a non-issue. The brilliant use of color-coded backgrounds/headers (always paired with a small two-letter symbol – PF, SF, or 5E – to make sure things are completely clear), completely eliminates any ambiguity and makes it easy for your eyes to instantly be drawn to the section of the page that’s relevant to your interest. The degree to which this mitigates the feeling of wasted space cannot be overstated.

With all of that said, how does Hybrid Blood tackle the topic of custom-race characters? Interestingly, the book presents two different answers to this question. The first is for “beast people” as an overarching race, while the second is present hybrid characters. The two are held as being distinct from each other, but their presentation is exceedingly similar in how they’re built.

For beast people, a standard PC racial write-up is given. The rub lies in the fact that a given beast person needs to pick not one, but two special qualities from a list: one for how they acquire their food, and one for their method of locomotion. This takes us to the book’s answer to the how races are built: by selecting multiple thematic packages of racial qualities.

To put it another way, your beast person character might (after noting the basic racial qualities given under the “beast person” racial outline) take “tooth and claw” for their diet-based quality, which gives them a choice of where they allocate their ability score bonuses and penalties, and gives them natural weapons. They’d then choose “tunneler” for their movement-based quality, potentially modifying their ability score distribution and giving them a burrow speed. Of course, height and weight tables are given, along with a robust selection of feats and traits to round things out.

Then we come to the next section, which takes up roughly three-fourths of the book: hybrid characters.

Hybrid characters, as noted above, are built similarly to beast people characters. The difference is that, while beast people are essentially a single race with some comparatively minor modifications based on their diet and movement, the qualities of a hybrid character have no standardized aspects to them: everything is determined by their construction. In this case, that construction is chosen by taking two “physical quality” packages and one “upbringing quality” package. I have to take a moment to point out the conceptual brilliance in making upbringing be an integral part of building a character this way; this is a (metaphorical) hobgoblin that the tabletop gaming community has struggled with for some time (i.e. “would an elf still be good with a bow if he was raised by dwarves and never taught archery?”), so clearly delineating which parts of a hybrid character are nature and which are nurture is a brilliant move that deserves notable props.

The packages denoting these qualities, both physical and upbringing, make up the bulk of the book, and for a very good reason: there are a LOT of them! Insofar as physical qualities go, the book presents the basic races, Ponyfinder races, Advanced Race Guide races, Starjammer races, and a collection of even more unusual races such as worgs or phoenixes alongside more familiar groups such as dragons or the undead. All for Pathfinder/Starfinder and 5E. Interestingly, the more familiar races are presented as having two physical qualities: “X Blooded” and “X Bodied” (where “X” is the race in question). The former denotes intangible qualities that are nevertheless biological, where the latter are gross physical attributes. This means that, if you take, say, Elf Blooded and Elf Bodied – along with the Raised by Elves upbringing – you’ll essentially have a bog-standard elven character, rather than a hybrid per se.

The book doesn’t end there. It makes sure to denote what you do if your qualities make you have different creature types (i.e. if you’re an Outsider or a Fey, depending on your choices), how this impacts reincarnation, sub-races, and other topics. There are also several new feats, traits, spells, and other character options to complement what’s given here.

I should also note that, while this is technically a Ponyfinder product, there’s very little setting-specific material here. The bulk of what you’ll find is an overview of how the gods of Everglow feel about the beast people, and how beast people tend to view other races. Other than that, you might find the odd reference to Everglow or its gods, but aside from that what’s here is completely setting-independent (save for the Everglow races being among the thematic packages). In this case, I can’t help but feel that this is a plus, since it widens the potential appeal; throw in how many non-pony-related races have material in here (tieflings and goblins and oreads and so many others) and this is essentially a setting-independent book for all intents and purposes.

Having said all of that, it should be obvious that what’s here is not just a stellar product, but one that can honestly claim to have set a new standard in answering an age-old issue among tabletop gamers. The rules here, specifically the hybrid rules, are a race-generation system that allows for myriad potential combinations that’s not only intuitive in its design, but stimulates the imagination far more than a dry listing of mechanical effects. With a layout that lets it easily work across three game systems, this book is one that you need to have in your library if you’ve ever given more than a passing thought to building a custom race.

The bottom line is this: when it comes to making new races, Hybrid Blood is the transfusion your game needs.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Hybrid Blood

27 July 2018 - 2:31pm
Publisher: Silver Games LLC
Rating: 5
Miscegenation has long been a thorny issue in tabletop role-playing games that involve racial hybrids. The question of why there are half-elves but no half-dwarves, or elf-dwarves for that matter, have long been one of those unanswered questions that has never had a good answer. Most of the time, the answer is a shrug and some utterance of “because that’s how it is,” since the alternative is to either begin charting out every possible combination (a task daunting in its impossibility) or disallowing crossbred characters altogether.

More recently, race-creation systems have been proposed as the answer. Any Pathfinder aficionado, for example, will likely be able to tell you all about the Advanced Race Guide’s use of Race Points (RP) as a means of generating a character of unique parentage. But even then, problems still arise: from issues of stark lists of abilities whose RP costs fail to invoke any ideas about what sort of beings would possess them to an overly-permeable scale of how many RPs a character can have before being “too powerful,” that and similar takes on standardizing the act of custom-race creation tend to be unsatisfying in what they offer.

Then we come to Hybrid Blood, the race-creation supplement from Silver Games, and the problem is solved.

Before I go any further, I need to make some disclaimers. The first and most important is that I have a potential conflict of interest here. Not only am I Patreon supporter of this company, I’ve also worked with the author on several projects. Make of that what you will.

Another thing that needs to be stated upfront is that this book, while it does deal with anthropomorphic characters (i.e. furries), contains absolutely no fetish-fuel whatsoever. Don’t expect anything even remotely suggestive here; the most you’ll find are a tame notation that “beast people” are able to interbreed. The artwork is likewise no more tantalizing than anything you’d find in a contemporary mass-market product. This book is all about being a role-playing game supplement, and nothing else.

Finally, let me note that Hybrid Blood is configured for no less than THREE distinct role-playing games: Pathfinder, Starfinder, and Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition (though the Starfinder material is often folded into Pathfinder). While I know a lot of gamers for whom that’s a huge issue (i.e. no one wants to buy material that isn’t for the game they’re playing), I can’t stress enough just how much the books use of layout and formatting makes this feel like a non-issue. The brilliant use of color-coded backgrounds/headers (always paired with a small two-letter symbol – PF, SF, or 5E – to make sure things are completely clear), completely eliminates any ambiguity and makes it easy for your eyes to instantly be drawn to the section of the page that’s relevant to your interest. The degree to which this mitigates the feeling of wasted space cannot be overstated.

With all of that said, how does Hybrid Blood tackle the topic of custom-race characters? Interestingly, the book presents two different answers to this question. The first is for “beast people” as an overarching race, while the second is present hybrid characters. The two are held as being distinct from each other, but their presentation is exceedingly similar in how they’re built.

For beast people, a standard PC racial write-up is given. The rub lies in the fact that a given beast person needs to pick not one, but two special qualities from a list: one for how they acquire their food, and one for their method of locomotion. This takes us to the book’s answer to the how races are built: by selecting multiple thematic packages of racial qualities.

To put it another way, your beast person character might (after noting the basic racial qualities given under the “beast person” racial outline) take “tooth and claw” for their diet-based quality, which gives them a choice of where they allocate their ability score bonuses and penalties, and gives them natural weapons. They’d then choose “tunneler” for their movement-based quality, potentially modifying their ability score distribution and giving them a burrow speed. Of course, height and weight tables are given, along with a robust selection of feats and traits to round things out.

Then we come to the next section, which takes up roughly three-fourths of the book: hybrid characters.

Hybrid characters, as noted above, are built similarly to beast people characters. The difference is that, while beast people are essentially a single race with some comparatively minor modifications based on their diet and movement, the qualities of a hybrid character have no standardized aspects to them: everything is determined by their construction. In this case, that construction is chosen by taking two “physical quality” packages and one “upbringing quality” package. I have to take a moment to point out the conceptual brilliance in making upbringing be an integral part of building a character this way; this is a (metaphorical) hobgoblin that the tabletop gaming community has struggled with for some time (i.e. “would an elf still be good with a bow if he was raised by dwarves and never taught archery?”), so clearly delineating which parts of a hybrid character are nature and which are nurture is a brilliant move that deserves notable props.

The packages denoting these qualities, both physical and upbringing, make up the bulk of the book, and for a very good reason: there are a LOT of them! Insofar as physical qualities go, the book presents the basic races, Ponyfinder races, Advanced Race Guide races, Starjammer races, and a collection of even more unusual races such as worgs or phoenixes alongside more familiar groups such as dragons or the undead. All for Pathfinder/Starfinder and 5E. Interestingly, the more familiar races are presented as having two physical qualities: “X Blooded” and “X Bodied” (where “X” is the race in question). The former denotes intangible qualities that are nevertheless biological, where the latter are gross physical attributes. This means that, if you take, say, Elf Blooded and Elf Bodied – along with the Raised by Elves upbringing – you’ll essentially have a bog-standard elven character, rather than a hybrid per se.

The book doesn’t end there. It makes sure to denote what you do if your qualities make you have different creature types (i.e. if you’re an Outsider or a Fey, depending on your choices), how this impacts reincarnation, sub-races, and other topics. There are also several new feats, traits, spells, and other character options to complement what’s given here.

I should also note that, while this is technically a Ponyfinder product, there’s very little setting-specific material here. The bulk of what you’ll find is an overview of how the gods of Everglow feel about the beast people, and how beast people tend to view other races. Other than that, you might find the odd reference to Everglow or its gods, but aside from that what’s here is completely setting-independent (save for the Everglow races being among the thematic packages). In this case, I can’t help but feel that this is a plus, since it widens the potential appeal; throw in how many non-pony-related races have material in here (tieflings and goblins and oreads and so many others) and this is essentially a setting-independent book for all intents and purposes.

Having said all of that, it should be obvious that what’s here is not just a stellar product, but one that can honestly claim to have set a new standard in answering an age-old issue among tabletop gamers. The rules here, specifically the hybrid rules, are a race-generation system that allows for myriad potential combinations that’s not only intuitive in its design, but stimulates the imagination far more than a dry listing of mechanical effects. With a layout that lets it easily work across three game systems, this book is one that you need to have in your library if you’ve ever given more than a passing thought to building a custom race.

The bottom line is this: when it comes to making new races, Hybrid Blood is the transfusion your game needs.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Castle Falkenstein: Variations on the Great Game

16 July 2018 - 3:12am
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
Rating: 5
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Ladies and gentlemen, I bid you once more welcome in my lounge! Please, do take a seat, as I want to show you a thing most intriguing; surely, you recall the little pieces of intangible ephemera that we tend to conjure to diversify the experience of engaging in the Great Game?


Well, this little booklet now, for the first time, compiles these ephemera, while, as I was told by my servants, also getting rid of some of the minor imperfections previously noted by astute dignitaries, personas and individuals of staunch character and stellar pedigree. At 48 pages, 4 less once you subtract covers and similar components, we have a rather hefty little tome.


Oh yes, I wholeheartedly concur, my dearest. As you can see after reading Tom Olam’s introductory text (which is situated, mind you, on the page denoting the contents), the entrepreneurs that so charmingly self-depreciatingly style themselves “Fat Goblins” have not simply stitched magically the contents of our beloved ephemera together; nay, I say! They, as befitting of the care and respect due our pastime, elected to redesign the formal presentation of materials within, employing a wide cornucopia of artistry, ranging from the thematically-suitable artworks (which, it should be added, could be at home in a proper salon such as this!) to the presentation of the pages themselves: Unobtrusive, yet gorgeous aesthetics render the book a balm for sore eyes, not unlike all those looking upon me and/or reading these lines right now.


But I digress; we begin our discussions within with a further look regarding specializations and their interactions with abilities; particularly useful for debutantes in the Great game would be the explanation of the lexicon employed by our most civilized of pastimes. It should also be explicitly mentioned that a previously slightly ambiguous component accompanying the implementations of specializations in the Great Game has been done away with: The booklet now explicitly notes that extraordinary abilities are exempt from specializations – a decision that rings as sensible to me, considering that they are already designated as extraordinary, n’est-ce pas?


A table of the most useful kind indeed is provided here, providing the tools to implement these in conjunction with all of our favorite elaborations and expansions of the Great game – criminally few though there may be.


Now, as all of you may well be aware, I am a staunch proponent of the notion that all ladies and gentlemen should be able to employ and use the specific implementation of the Great Game that best suits their respective taste, and as such, I am not opposed to seeing the notion of the Divorce Variation, a modification that removes the direct tie between suits and abilities – though I do have to say that the resulting potential bickering strikes me as unbecoming of a proper environment and something more suited to those newfangled, class-less new-money people babbling about FATE, as though shouting (most uncouth…)


More steeped in tradition, though not necessarily *our* tradition, but tradition nonetheless, would be the suggestion to employ “improvement points” to determine the growth of a dramatic character; as you all are well aware, this steeps the progress gained very much in a literary tradition regarding the journey and growth of a dramatic character. As the profane rabble would call it, “experience points” or some such nonsense, though they are still kept very much in service to the demands of proper etiquette and narrative sensibilities. As such, I have no qualms about recommending these to hosts to so inclined – there even are suggestions presented for various growth velocities.


Awareness of the, at times, almost incredulous feats accomplished in our Great Game, is expected at this point; but, as well all know, when paraphrasing an adage by Hardy, “there ought to be sympathy for the less fortunate.” Or at least, that’s what my maid used to tell me the other day. Anyways, as you are well aware, the experience of those less fortunate than ours, who are living a life less characterized by adventure and great deeds as providence foresaw for us, might well be intrigued to play when given the chance; heck, we might well want to step back ourselves and be immersed in a scenario or two where we are not as…impeccably extraordinary. As such, imposing a hard limit on cards played serves as a truly fantastic way to envision a world that is, at least slightly, more mundane than the at times tiringly wondrous lives we lead. What’s that, James? Ugh, tell the faerie I want the yard clean for the late afternoon tea.


Pardonnez-moi, mesdames et messieurs – good help is so hard to find these days. Now, when recalling, as individuals of such astute faculties undoubtedly can, the Half-Off variant is pretty self-explanatory, focusing on providing half the benefits when cards do not align…like that of my fate and that splendorous debutante last year…And yes, at this point, I should not be remiss to note that the variations presented within actually can be modified and tinkered with further. Think of them like the intricate wheels of a proper clock – they run just fine on their own, but depending on your joyous curiosity regarding experimentation, you’ll have different experiences.


Perhaps one of the most vital variations ever devised upon this wondrous world, though, would be the finer differentiation between Feats difficulties that one of these provides; this one, all on its own, should easily make the truly paltry price, respectfully asked, truly worth it, and it frees the host from the requirement to play cards to enhance difficulties – in short, it enhances the fair play at a table by taking a needlessly divisive burden off the host’s back, while also enhancing the gravity of the decisions made by dramatic characters.


Now…I’d ask those of faint dispositions, those of weak hearts, to leave the room. The fairer among us may want to take out there fans, for yes…it is my outraged duty to report that the most scandalous dice-based variation, devised by the mischievous, malignant Moriarty, is also included within this booklet! The criminal mastermind’s attempted subversion of our proper world order seems to be alive and kicking, and while obviously despicable and dastardly, one cannot help but find a sick genius in the implementation of these rules. While obviously worthy of shunning and prosecution, one must be able to look into the eye of savagery, even in the variations, imposed in this case, upon the Great Game. Now, unflinchingly, I have to concede that there is a well-based foundation underlying this, but now that I have determined this, none of you will have to. If I may, ladies and gentlemen – keep this variation out of the hands of savages, staff and similar beings of less firmly-grounded morals. We don’t want them to feel entitled to play in our grand pastime now, do we?


As you may know, this series of ephemera started with a humble little offering, highlighting how one of these decks, these Tarot cards, that are all the rage right now, may be employed with the Great Game; success bred…more success. Like our family trees, correct? We did, hence, get more than one of these ephemera, which have since been properly fitted with a more evocative nomenclature, namely that of the Fortunate and that of the Sorcerous Tarot Variation. If you, like me, love to regale your astute audiences as a host, then the following happenstance may well have occurred in your game as well: You have the Major Arcana…and its effects simply would not fit properly. Quel dommage!


Now, it seems like some distinguished individuals, who shall not be named for now, have observed this as well, and thus proceeded to alter the tables of the effects of these types of cards, making them more widely applicable. While it is my firm assertion that a host of the proper caliber would not require this modification, I couldn’t help but marvel at the simplicity of the modifications added to the material at hand. Speaking of which, this book does also note an option that can combine our classic deck with major arcana, and one that would allow for the discarding of a major arcana card to redraw – this one, ladies and gentlemen, obviously does vastly enhance the power and versatility of dramatic characters. If you want to weave a truly outlandish yarn, this may well be the way to go!


Now, as noted before, the aesthetics of this booklet do not leave anything to be desired; there are these little bookmarks included for ease of navigation in the ephemeral iteration of this booklet. The compilation and refinement exerted throughout combine to make sure that these variations, transcribed by the esteemed Mister J Gray, is a masterpiece, pure and simple; had it not been for the fact that I have already bestowed my highest accolades upon the components, this would have been a candidate for my list of best offerings of the year. Since this already has reached these heights, I am in the unfortunate position of not being able to bestow these honors once more.


This, however, should not be taken to mean that this is anything but a truly required purchase – this humble offering should be considered to be an EZG Essential, a required reading for any host of distinguished character and skill, a 5 star + seal of approval supplement.


Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Ultimate Vehicles: Vehicle Creation Rules

5 July 2018 - 2:59am
Publisher: Gamer Printshop
Rating: 4
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 64 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page foreword, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 58 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.


So, this book has a rather impressive goal – making vehicle creation truly modular. Vehicle, for this purpose, does not mean using Small or Tiny spacecrafts as submersibles, etc. The book focuses on vehicles that are somewhat “smaller”, and rules-wise, use hit point mechanics as opposed to hull points. Each size is assigned a numeric value – this is important, and though it is later referred to as such, the section that establishes it never explicitly states this, so let me do that for you: This numeric value would be the “size level,” and it determines the maximum number of modifications you can fit on the vehicle.


They are, as such, susceptible to being destroyed by hit point damage causing spells and effects. But does it succeed? Well, we begin by choosing an idea – after this, we choose the array that suits best the body of the design. Each body has a base cost per tier, and certain modifications are added after body selection. For example, if you want a hover tank, you first choose tank, then add the hover modification. These are jutted down on a piece of paper…or on the handy vehicle creation work sheet included! Now that is foresight, ladies and gentlemen! Nice! This step encompasses determining the size of the vehicle in question and choosing from 12 array types that include bikes, flying vehicles, walkers, trucks, etc. Vehicles come in 20 levels, with regular and maximum speed on a character scale, while the third speed rating denotes per hour movement. EAC and KAC ratings are provided per level and seem sensible for the respective vehicle types. Damage that exceeds the hardness of the vehicle is applied to a random passenger, and cover provided, if any, is similarly noted. Cool: Modifiers for Piloting at full speed are and regular speed are provided per level. There are a couple of minor editing glitches regarding plural “s,” missing prepositions and the like here, but I found the section to be pretty easy to grasp, though the pdf does sometimes become a bit inconsistent regarding level/tier, using them interchangeably – here, a revision of terminology has obviously not been implemented to the fullest extent.


Didactically, there are two components that first feel a bit odd: We note passengers, but there is no passenger stat per se included in the tables; instead, each vehicle body type notes the passengers in the beginning; this is slightly counterintuitive, since the previous rules explained by the pdf all refer to table entries. Secondly, vehicles get a Ram DC. This is 10 + tier of the vehicle (should probably be item level, analogue to SFRPG’s core rules) for collision, with damage governed by vehicle size. These are more unified and based, as a default, on d6s. Okay, got that. The Attack DC is equal to the “vehicle in DC modified by add-ons” – I stumbled over this “vehicle in DC” at first, but since it’s the same paragraph, I’m pretty confident, that the DC to ram it is meant. The presentation of this part of the rules could be slightly clearer. Now, this whole section becomes clearer once you reread the collision section in the SFRPG core book, but in a pdf that otherwise does a really good job explaining its rules, this stood out to me. As a nitpick, the collision damage type should be noted as bludgeoning.


The section also provides a couple of examples for this step of vehicle creation. A minor complaint here: Not all examples provided come with formatting of the stats, lacking bolding of elements. The material is functional, though. Visual representations of the respective vehicles bodies are provided.


As hinted at by the presence of modifications, which can range from pretty cosmetic to being complete overhauls of the base body – adding Military to a bike, for example, might well make it behave more like a Batman-Bike style 2-wheeled tank. All modification costs are added and then modify the cost ”per tier” – should probably be item level. The list of modifications is extensive and amazing: From advanced, really good materials to piloting an aged craft, armors of varying degrees, being capable of transporting other vehicles or mechas. These modifications are given in base percentages for the most part, with some offering a fixed cost per item level. Here, the book does get the distinction level/tier right – thankfully, otherwise it’d become really confusing: You see, the modifications do include starship materials and thruster modifications, allowing for the upgrade to essentially pseudo-starships, with hull points and starship options. Big kudos for attempting this step and incorporating it into the system!


This is not where the system stops, btw.: After the modifications, we come to the add-ons, which serve to distinguish vehicle functionality. These include additional passenger compartments, auto-piloting units, more hit points, more limbs, cargo spaces, adding ship or mecha expansion bays, applying ship weaponry. A vehicle can add its “size plus one add-on” – here, we once more refer to the numeric value that was deemed “size level” in the modification chapter, in case you’re wondering. Add-on bonuses, cost-wise, are added to the total cost, after modifications per level have been taken into account.


Finally, you can add finer details – gun ports, HUDs, sunroofs or luxury details. Et voilà!


The pdf also presents 6 feats and 4 piloting actions, which have in common that they disregard standard formatting for the like in pretty much every way possible – they are presented as though in an abbreviated table. The rules-language here is also kinda flawed, using terms like “give back” and, for example, this line “This allows a pilot to select a specific type of Int 15, Dex 15 vehicle and…“ – what? Pretty sure that those should be prerequisites… The rules-language here is really, really flawed and I frankly wished the page weren’t there. The piloting actions aren’t better, failing to specify their action type – this renders them unusable as written.


From there, we move on to dumb bombs, oil spills etc., using damage as based on the size of the vehicle in question. Damage types are not properly noted here, and verbiage isn’t always perfect, but thankfully never reaches the levels of non-function of the one page of feats and piloting maneuvers. The final chapters are devoted to a massive selection of sample vehicles, as well as a brief summary on the topics of destroying/repairing vehicles.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not as tight as this book deserves. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and we get quite a few, detail-wise decent, but inspiring full-color artworks. The pdf comes with bookmarks for each chapter.


Edward Moyer’s Ultimate Vehicles is a truly fantastic little system that can provide a metric ton of crazy vehicles for your interstellar adventures. There is a ton to love about this book – so much, in fact, I’d consider it to be a best of candidate. Alas, this book is a good example for my claim that good editors/devs are the unsung heroes of the RPG-industry. The book, good news first, does not lack crucial components and presents a functional system.


On the downside, though, the per se concise and well-presented rules are needlessly obtuse in some components. The inconsistencies between tier and item level; the fact that the rather important numerical values for sizes (size levels, as they’re called exactly once, a couple of chapters after being introduced) are not even bolded or otherwise emphasized or concisely defined with a unique term – this book, for the most part, manages to make the process of creating vehicles super-easy…only to become obtuse due to terminology inconsistency. I’ve had to skip back and forth a couple of times to get how the system works, and that is, in part, due to presentation and content editing snafus.


In short: This book requires some tolerance regarding these problems. But if you *do* get past these issues, you’re rewarded with a phenomenal toolkit that can enrich your game for years. Once you get past the imperfections, you’re rewarded. The entry-barrier generated by the book can potentially sink this pdf for you – unless you’re willing to look past the flaws and invest time in understanding the engine presented here, you will not have fun with this. For the formal issues, I should rate this down further. If the quality of the crunch was as bad as for the feats and piloting skill uses, the only part herein that simply doesn’t work, I’d consider this to be bad.


However, on the other hand, the book does deserve applause for what it does once you get how it’s supposed to work. Once you get it to function as it should, the book becomes amazing. And it doesn’t simply become a “bit” amazing, but rather, a MIGHTY, versatile toolkit you’ll adore.


This is, then, ultimately the best definition of a diamond in the rough. It is needlessly VERY rough in its components. But it can shine. Oh, can it shine. As a reviewer, I am utterly torn. The formal criteria regarding rules-consistency, etc. are simply not met by this book; were I to rate this on smoothness of didactic rules presentation and consistency, I’d have to rate this seriously down to something in the vicinity of 2 stars. However, on the other hand, the book does not deserve being called bad; heck, it doesn’t even deserve being called mediocre – it is, potentially, a truly inspired gem of a book, a book that could have easily been a Top Ten contender. I am, truly and thoroughly, torn.


If I rate this 3 stars, emphasizing the serious problems this has, I’d do the book a serious injustice; at the same time, if I do ignore the rather pronounced flaws this has, I’d be misleading the consumer. As a whole, I consider the flaws to be components that can be overcome, and with but one page of truly bad material in a book of this size and density, I feel justified in rating this 4 stars.


For me, as a person, this is a huge winner. If you can live with the caveats I noted, then you’ll love what this has to offer. Now, excuse me, I need to start building some vehicles…

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Creature Components - Tome of Beasts

27 June 2018 - 1:52am
Publisher: Playground Adventures
Rating: 5
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Playground Adventure’s so far absolutely fantastic Creature Components-series clocks in at 54 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 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.


Now, before we dive in, let me state the obvious: This book is about the concept of harvesting parts from defeated monsters for use with magic; conceptually, this is a development of the idea of power-components, i.e. optional material components that can change the casting of spells, function of other magic, etc. Secondly, it should be noted that the book, after the first installment for 5e took a look at the basic Monster Manual, covers the massive Tome of Beasts by Kobold Press. In case you do not yet have this phenomenal tome, you should definitely get it: The Kobold crew has delivered a truly fantastic tome of unique critters that is pretty much a must-own book for a 5e-campaign. To use this book, you need Tome of Beasts and the first Creature Component-book.


It should be noted that, aesthetically, the book adheres (if the cover was not ample indicator) to the same sentiments as the Tome of Beasts, mirroring layout and presentation-aesthetics as well as some artworks from the ToB, which is a nice touch here, though *personally*, I preferred the somewhat travelogue/catalogue-style aesthetics championed previously. The frame narrative of the book is retained via a nice piece of introductory prose. It should be noted that this book does not explain the basic mechanics of harvesting creature components in detail – for that, you will need to reference the stellar “Creature Components Vol. I”; since that book is simply phenomenal and covers the basic creatures, I wholeheartedly recommend getting it asap if you haven’t already.


Making use of Tome of Beast’s components, the book also inherits synergy with the Deep Magic-series of spellcasting-themed pdfs released by Kobold Press. While many of these have in the meanwhile been collected and expanded in the Midgard Heroes Handbook, the GM-centric “forbidden” magics covered in the series are not included in that tome.

Deep Magic, as a series, has been somewhat hit and miss for me, and the revision in the MHH has improved most components to the point where I consider them valid. That being said, since the Midgard Heroes Handbook does not contain the Void Magic and Blood and Doom installments (former is stellar, latter is super problematic), this Creature Component installment has elected to reference spells from the series with the unified, superscript “DM”-tag. You will be able to use the majority of the material herein sans owning the Midgard Heroes Handbook or the Deep Magic-installments not included in it, but I considered it still important to note. If you absolutely want to use absolutely every component herein, you’ll need aforementioned files. (Links collated at the bottom of the review.)

That being said, in this review’s rating, I am not going to penalize this pdf for its internal consistency regarding these spells, nor am I making any judgment on the spells the components build upon. I endeavor to focus on the content of this book, i.e. the way in which the components enhance the respective magics and the game itself.


That being said, the content of this second Creature Component-installment begins with a bang and a modification to the component harvesting engine that is absolutely phenomenal. It’s an optional rule, and one that, in hindsight, is one that I should have expected from the base engine: Harvesting complications. It makes sense once you think about it: You’re tinkering with potentially volatile and highly magical creatures, and as such, it makes sense that exposure to acid, toxins, etc. could happen. As such, the book opens with concise rules that codify potential hazards when harvesting components. You can handcraft these, or refer to a simple percentile roll and consult a table: Here, you take a look at component potency and immediately see the hazard category. In a nice analogue to the basic system, the hazards are grouped in three types: Lesser, moderate and greater hazards. Identifying and mitigating them, DC-wise, is concisely-presented, and the book also suggests skills by type to identify them.


DCs of harvested materials are contingent of the vanquished creature’s proficiency bonus, as well as an ability modifier of the defeated foe. This renders the harvesting process much more engrossing and captivating.


But you’re interested in the main meat of this massive book, right? Well, the majority of this book is devoted to a metric ton of diverse components sourced from a variety of creatures. Each component notes what type of component it is (like cerebral fluid, voice box, claws, etc.), the potency and the spells that can be augmented by them. Each component notes a price and a cost as well. Some of these can only enhance a very specific spell, while others can affect a variety of different magical effects. Take the first component, a nihileth aboleth’s cerebral fluid: It can augment crown of madness, detect thoughts, dominate person or similar enchantments: The fluid is rubbed on the spot where the “third eye” of the caster usually is, and once the spell enhanced thus has run its course (by broken concentration or elapsed duration), the target must succeed a Constitution save or fall prey to a disease that renders skin translucent and slimy, causing acid damage when not fully submerged every 10 minutes and prevents the regaining of hit points – basically, a skum-transformation light, which you can add as insult to injury or lace into a less openly hostile spell for a nasty surprise. You will also note that the component use here actually sports a description on *how* it is incorporated into spellcasting. This may seem like a small thing, but it is a component that enhances immersion: Instead of an abstract casting process, the use of the components becomes relatable: We can imagine the act of casting this way. To me, that is a big plus, and one aspect of the book that most assuredly enhances my enjoyment of it.


Ala essence can be employed to enhance spells dealing lightning damage, imposing disadvantage on the respective save. Andrenjinyi esophageal fluid can render polymorphs permanent; using an angler worm webbing strand can render web-spells harder to discern. You can enhance your climbing speed granted by spider climb…and there are some truly distinct changes: When using, for example, a hair braid of Baba Yaga’s horsemen in conjunction with conjure fey, you tap into a central concept of magical thinking, namely the use of a component acting as a sympathetic link to the whole- you can call forth an aspect of said Horsemen, with proper stats provided. Some of these components actually radically change how a spell can be employed: When you incorporate a Bereginyas essence in your fog cloud, to give you an example, allows you to attempt to smother one creature inside per round you maintain concentration, adding a whole new aspect to the spell.


Employing blemmyes intraocular fluid can make your compulsions carry a desperate craving for meat. There are also components that extend the duration or reach of spells – with the right components, you can, for example, enhance the amount of targets affected by water walk or increase the duration of the spell. Using a buraq feather while casting blade of wrath, for example, provides a shining, radiant blade that only slowly fades once your concentration’s been broken. There also are instances, where a component’s use taps into the cultural perspective of a being: Using a chernomoi amygdale when casting fear taps into the evolved fear of wyverns and channels that into the way in which the spell manifests itself. Chronamental effects, predictably, can be employed to enhance time-manipulation spells, but show a keen insight regarding balance, opting to extend the range of the slow spell instead of the already very potent benefits granted. There are also components that have multiple uses: Employing a dragon eel heart when casting fire shield switches the energy damage caused to lightning, for example; alternatively, spells that inflict lightning damage can enhance the damage caused by lightning-based spells – and in a smart way, the amount of possible augmentations thus is contingent on spell levels.


As an aside, the annotations provided throughout add interesting notions: The prevalence of some exotic beings from the outer planes in Midgard, for example, is mentioned as a phenomenon, acknowledged within the context of the multiverse – a nice note that is, should you choose to, easily ignored…or that may end up being truly inspiring. Notes on how drake hide breaks your quills most of the time also made me smile. These notes, in concordance with the physicality implied by the components, significantly improves the sense of tangibility that is associated with the spells – an arcane eye becomes just so much cooler once you take an incorporeal creature’s eye and make that the magical facsimile eye, enhancing the efficiency greatly.


The book closes with a section on new magic items: Here, we can find the lightning arrow, which may leap to nearby, metal-wearing beings; wing blades made with eala feathers can alter their composition based on the eala from which they were sourced, and also burst into flames; darts made from spire walkers, the legendary ghostwalk leather (rendered with a fantastic artwork) and bota pouches are in here: The latter can contain liquids and transport them rather stealthily. Super stylish (I’d wear them as depicted in the artwork!) red boots of the fey can execute devastating stomp-shockwaves. Shadhavar flutes enhance inspiration dice granted and lenses of the lynx allow you to peer through fog. 4 neat magical item variants and mithril dragon hide as a new material finish the crunch-section, before the book ends with the well-written framing narrative.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious glitches on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to Tome of Beast’s elegant two-column, full-color standard with classic full-color artworks that fans of Kobold Press will recognize. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Daniel Marshall and BJ Hensley, with development by Stephen Rowe and Dan Dillon, provides a massive expansion to the Creature Component formula, one that I consider to be more than worth the asking price. Since I assume you’re already familiar with the previous book, let me talk a bit about a subtle aspect of this series that you may have missed. Do you recall my example given above, where a creature’s eye becomes the arcane eye, enhanced properly?


This example highlights a couple of aspects that explain the lasting appeal that this supplement and its predecessor have: One, it emphasizes the aspect of magic as a kind of technology-substitute, a crutch, if you will – magic is, much like modern, real life technology, a superb way to extend your senses, your power; but if Marshal McLuhan’s extension of Freud’s notion of the prosthetics god is to be believed, such tools also limit the individual.


Tellingly, in German, “watching TV” is called “fernsehen” – literally, “far seeing,” implying that you can see what’s far away…but not necessarily what’s nearby. Secondly, much like modern technology, magic in RPGs seems to conjure things ex nihilo; we are not cognizant of electricity flowing through our smart phones, conjuring images of our friends. Magic in RPGs, system-immanently, works along those lines – we don’t have the years of study or raw power our characters have. We do not understand magic in-game, just the sketch of the magical effects.


Modern magic in RPGs, as such, often by requirement of convenience, follows a design paradigm of simplicity that is hard to argue with: We don’t have the time or inclination to track minutiae of spell formulae, long strings of syllables to recite at the table or to track a huge amount of diverse components. Yet, this complexity is exactly what characterized historical approaches to magic. Even the process of thinking did ostensibly require purification, meditation, etc., as seen in the various mystic traditions inspired by religions, as well as the religions we have in real life themselves. Add to that the requirement for a variety of esoteric components, and we have something that is extremely arcane, in the classic sense of the word, hard to pull off. It has to be. After all, magic doesn’t work in real life.


There is, traditionally, effort required for magic to account for its scarcity, for its unreliability– phenomenal effort, in fact. We think of magic as rare and hard to master, even though, in the games we play, it’s anything but that, courtesy of the demands of the game.


Now, while a more “real”, a more “realistic” approach to magic would be unplayable and violate the design-tenets of actual usefulness at the table, creature components can provide a thematic bridge between the two extremes. Magic will still retain its functionality, its ease of use, the sheer accessibility that highlights it as a component of a game. However, at the same time, the use of these structurally-earned resources adds a sense of consequence, sequence and immediacy, of the real to magic – the benefits conveyed by the components, ultimately, make the magic that uses them feel more plausible. After all, the PCs know where and how they earned these powers, these extensions of magic beyond the functional default facsimile of narrative structures they usually represent. In a way, creature components allow for a dash of “real” magical feeling added to the convenience of the default spellcasting engine, and it does so without bogging down the game.


Or, you know, you could just be thinking “This is cool/like in some book I’ve read”; or you like the direct correlation of critter and reward, which makes it a rather easy and more interesting way to reward players without having critters carry gold that should not care for shiny metal.


Either way, the concept of Creature Components is amazing, and the notion of the harvesting being potentially hazardous adds a concise risk-reward ratio to the proceedings that I absolutely adore. In short, this is a great supplement, well worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and it is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018.


Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

DARK PLACES and DEMOGORGONS - Werewolf Sourcebook and other OSR games

26 June 2018 - 9:28am
Publisher: Bloat Games
Rating: 5
36 pages, color covers, black and white interiors.

Same size, but a step up from the Vampire book to be honest. There feels like there is more material here and I will admit I was surprised to see the page count was really the same.

We get a little background on werewolves as a horror trope. Different means of causing lycanthropy are also covered. There is also a section of infecting humans and how it alters their stats, including Player Characters. Now I would say that being a werewolf runs counter to what a GM might normally want to do with a DP and D game, I can see it coming up. Good for drama really.

Now anyone that knows me well knows I am "the Witch guy" and before that I was "the Vampire guy". So I was totally expecting this to be my least favorite book, but no chance of that! This is a great book and even better than the Vampire book.

There plot hooks, NPCs, monsters AND a complete adventure. The book is packed. Well worth the money spent.

IF you can only afford one of these books, Vampire or Werewolf, then I would put my money on the werewolf one. Plus it has some fantastic Jacob Blackmon cover art, so what could be better?
Categories: Game Theory & Design

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