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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

Sanitarium - Adventure 4 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder

5 June 2018 - 4:26am
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
Rating: 5
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The much-anticipated fourth installment of the high fantasy horror AP by Micah Watt clocks in at 80 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page KS-backer-thanks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 74 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


As before, we get a selection of pregens, 5 to be precise, should you choose to replace a fallen PC or dive right into this. However, I do recommend playing the series; while deliberately slow in the beginning, the third module remains one of the best haunted house modules I know, and if this one can retain that level of quality, then we’re in for a treat!


Now, on a formal level, it should be noted that, like the previous adventures, we get EXTENSIVE map-packs: We get versions of the maps in b/w AND full-color, with and without grid, and with and without background parchment – where relevant. Smaller, room-sized maps come in player-friendly versions in full-color, accounting for the fact that they’ll be used by klutzes like yours truly that can’t draw, or by folks using VTTs. Seriously, though: Big kudos, particularly considering that Pyromaniac Press is a small and relatively new outfit – this sort of support should be standard!


The module, while intended for 6th level characters, sports scaling advice for 5th and 7th level; medium advancement track is assumed. Particularly when running this as intended, as part of the AP, it becomes important for the GM to note dynamics; system-immanently, at this point NPC-allegiances and the state of the metropolis Anduria can begin to diverge rather greatly due to the sheer number of variables. As such, the series no longer assumes certain things to necessarily hold true, which is a good thing in my book – freedom is preferable to being shoehorned into one story.


As far as rules-relevant content is concerned, the pdf is generally really solid, though there are a few hiccups: There is no unholy damage in Pathfinder, and it’s “Resistance 10”, not “resist 10” regarding the formatting of resistance in text. Oddly, in spite of being, according to the 5e-version, written originally for PFRPG, there is also a reference to a Dexterity saving throw that should reference to Reflex saves instead. These are the exception to the rules, though – as a whole, the module is solid and easy to run, and even the rare few glitches should not stump any GM.


There is another note: The AP, while NOT grimdark or particularly bleak, does feature mature themes. While *I* think that kids in their puberty should have no issues here, it should probably be noted that this is not a happy-go-lucky adventure. As before, the adventure provides ample and well-written read-aloud prose, so if you’re one of the GMs who has an issue with improvising text on the fly, know that this offers some guidance.


Now, the following discussion contains SPOILERS for the module and some aspects of the AP. I *strongly* recommend not reading further if you plan on playing in this adventure. Players should move to the conclusion.



..

.

Only GMs around? Great! Massive spoilers ahead! So, the Healing Hands are an order of monks devoted to healing in a godless city; their organization, though, does hide a horrid secret – you see, their powers stem from the divine essence of the fallen god Aether, used to cling to the ever-eroding power of the once mighty guild, left behind in the wake of progress and wealth. Alas, the overuse of Aether’s essence has had catastrophic effects on some of the best and brightest of the guild…and worse, the Seekers of Asmodeus have found out, putting the scandalous secret as a cocked gun to the proverbial head of the order…and thus, the power of a fallen god now lies within the hands of hell’s servants...this far we know as the GM, but in a nice way of unobtrusive exposition, this knowledge about the “alliance” of the two guilds, if not previously unearthed, is recalled by proximity in the opening scene: As the PCs are exploring the great market in the trade ward, they’ll bear witness to a seeress suffering from convulsions, tended by monks of the Healing Hand, while Seekers hold her down – it’s a small detail, but it’s this attention to the small details that shows the care that went into this.


PCs may well insinuate them, depending on the previous modules and their standing with e.g. the guard, into the investigation...or just notice a suspicious book while in presence of the convulsion-plagued, delirious seeress…and an old friend is not well. Thaddeus, previously plagued by prophetic visions via the medium of paintings, has produced something in his rather…dilapidated apartment atop a giant leech-restaurant: A picture of an angel and a devil hugging, which once more represents a type on unobstrusive, symbolic foreshadowing I very much enjoyed. Really cool: The artwork has been reproduced in the module and can be handed out to the PCs…and yes, it does represent a stained glass window. Both of these initial encounters can point the PCs thus to further trails – the book was purchased from the Faculty of Arcana, and a brief investigation should yield the clue that the scion of the noblehouse that produced the rather scandalous and heretical stained-glass window depicted in the painting actually has purchased the second, recently sold book. In golem study, the PCs can touch base with Adam, and just as they’re exploring the place, a detonation will rock the chemistry lab, with a couple of mephitis and an animated robe making for a light-hearted encounter.


In the aftermath of the investigation at the faculty, the PCs should have a good pretense to visit the Clayver manor – namely the fact that, in spite of William’s erratic behavior, tomorrow’s party is on track and, well, the place to be. The social event of the party will indeed be well-attended – Eria, Triast, Radiant Soul – this is a great way to catch up with allies and roleplay to your heart’s content. William, surrounded by vapid cronies, will at one point begin his demonstration, walking those interested past the security cordon to the sub-basement, where an old crone will “aid Wilton”, who, bereft of talent, seeks to sacrifice his brother in a ritual most foul! Any blood spilled will finish the ritual generating an unstable rift to R’lyeh! Being close to the nexus of the rituals, the PCs and those present are spared the hallucinations, as they hopefully stop William and the wicked witch that has used the foolish young man’s ambition and frustration for her dark ends…and the PCs should preferably succeed sans the emerging Gug slaying them all. In the aftermath, PCs can potentially escape the place, and yes, the module remembers the promise that Cthulhu et al. remains optional – the section has a note that allows for the removal of mythos-themes.


Having prevented Thaddeus’ dire prediction, the PCs may wish to return to their ally – but he I nowhere to eb found. Signs of struggle abound. The abduction was NOT a quiet one, and the locals will note that the monks of the Healing Hands and the Seekers were responsible. The trail, obviously, leading to the eponymous sanitarium! This is where the story kicks into high gear: The module accounts for a variety of PC inquiries and involving of key-NPCs in the subject matter; Virgil, a brother of the healing hands, may well provide his keys and note how to get to the restricted section of this place; Triast gets a massive character-development, as the PCs may well witness a rift between him and the High Seeker, who, according to Triast, has become tempted by the power of the Machine, losing sight of the goal of the Seekers. Triast is promptly imprisoned, which can, obviously, change the dynamics of the relationship with the PCs.


As the PCs infiltrate the Santarium, the PCs will find the extent of the corruption of the monks ever more apparent, with foreboding scribbles already telling of the dark shape of things to come and e.g. guildmaster Redgrave, insane, tending a garden of fleshy polyps of blood and viscera (represented by an amazing artwork) being testament to the level of corruption that the monks suffer from; exploration of the place will also yield the chance to break Triast from his Seeker-affiliation, obviously, and the horror of a magical drug and use of the mad god’s body (which may well be destroyed by the PCs!) will make for rather…well, interesting changes, with the components of the machine and a mad doctor and his golem making for bosses. Did I mention the sea-caves-level as an optional means to gain access?


You see, ultimately, the watch will come, and thus, the climax of the module will see a massive trial of the organizations, with the PCs are key witnesses in what amounts to a nice montage-style trial, suffused with a couple of rules-components and notes for reputation systems, if any, taken into account…The Seekers will be stripped of their de-facto watch-privileges, and the most trusted guild of the city will lie in tatters, though the mistreatment of the patients will be hard to prove. Still, the social structure of the city has been shaken to the core…and that is but a glimpse of the shape of things to come…


The pdf closes with notes on the magic items and the bestiary of the critters used.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the pdf sports a few hiccups, but nothing truly glaring – it can be considered to be good, bordering on very good there. Layout adheres to an elegant, nice two-column full-color standard. The adventure sports quite a few nice, original full-color artworks and the adventure comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is nice and, as mentioned before, the extensive support of different versions adds a big plus here.


Micah Watt’s Sanitarium is clever – I can see what the author is doing here. The adventure is setting up a lot of the themes and does so in an unobtrusive way, sans page-long exposition dumps. The massive changes to the social strata of the city make for a great twist and provides consequences for the actions of the PCs beyond what we usually get to see. As a stand-alone adventure, this is less focused than #3, but even if you are not interested in the AP as a whole, you could easily cut the module in 2 or 3 sections and scavenge these for your own purposes.


That being said, the adventure, particularly after playing the previous modules, makes for a compelling continuation of the unique themes and flavor that the series offers. With mechanics making use of terrain and smart foes on the mechanics-side, and also sporting a ton of roleplaying opportunities for players, the adventure can be considered to be a success, with various degrees of success and failure possible throughout. In short: This is, in spite of the difficult task this presents to the author, a well-crafted adventure that manages to be versatile and interesting. The few hiccups do not tarnish the structure or fun you can have with the module, and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Sanitarium - Adventure 4 What Lies Beyond Reason - 5th Edition

5 June 2018 - 4:24am
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
Rating: 5
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The much-anticipated fourth installment of the high fantasy horror AP by Micah Watt clocks in at 81 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page KS-backer-thanks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 75 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


As before, we get a selection of pregens, 5 to be precise, should you choose to replace a fallen PC or dive right into this. However, I do recommend playing the series; while deliberately slow in the beginning, the third module remains one of the best haunted house modules I know, and if this one can retain that level of quality, then we’re in for a treat!


Now, on a formal level, it should be noted that, like the previous adventures, we get EXTENSIVE map-packs: We get versions of the maps in b/w AND full-color, with and without grid, and with and without background parchment – where relevant. Smaller, room-sized maps come in player-friendly versions in full-color, accounting for the fact that they’ll be used by klutzes like yours truly that can’t draw, or by folks using VTTs. Seriously, though: Big kudos, particularly considering that Pyromaniac Press is a small and relatively new outfit – this sort of support should be standard!


The module, while intended for 6th level characters, sports scaling advice for 5th and 7th level. Particularly when running this as intended, as part of the AP, it becomes important for the GM to note dynamics; system-immanently, at this point NPC-allegiances and the state of the metropolis Anduria can begin to diverge rather greatly due to the sheer number of variables. As such, the series no longer assumes certain things to necessarily hold true, which is a good thing in my book – freedom is preferable to being shoehorned into one story.


There is another note: The AP, while NOT grimdark or particularly bleak, does feature mature themes. While *I* think that kids in their puberty should have no issues here, it should probably be noted that this is not a happy-go-lucky adventure. As before, the adventure provides ample and well-written read-aloud prose, so if you’re one of the GMs who has an issue with improvising text on the fly, know that this offers some guidance.


Now, as far as conversion goes, this is an interesting example: On the one hand, I could nitpick one instance of “Sense Motive” remaining, which should refer to Insight instead, and “Intimidate” in some statblocks should refer to Intimidation instead. Similarly, the statblocks, while bolding abilities etc. properly, do not italicize attack-names, for example, as well. So yeah, in the formal department, we have some unnecessary deviations. On the other hand, it is rather interesting to note that advantage and disadvantage are used properly, and that, by virtue of 5e’s design-aesthetic, the benefits that clever roleplaying may yield are more pronounced, which is a big plus for me. In direct contrast, I’d prefer how this version handles things. It’s a bit more challenging as far as I’m concerned. The rules-relevant components are per se well-crafted, with damage thresholds noted and damage types, as a whole, well-translated, though a few of deviations can be found regarding the paradigms can be found: There is no unholy damage in 5e and Wisdom damage is something that is quite scarce in 5e. That being said, these deviations are the exception, not the rule – poison and the poisoned condition, for example, are used properly. All in all, this is a well-made conversion, if not a perfect one.


Now, the following discussion contains SPOILERS for the module and some aspects of the AP. I *strongly* recommend not reading further if you plan on playing in this adventure. Players should move to the conclusion.



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Only GMs around? Great! Massive spoilers ahead! So, the Healing Hands are an order of monks devoted to healing in a godless city; their organization, though, does hide a horrid secret – you see, their powers stem from the divine essence of the fallen god Aether, used to cling to the ever-eroding power of the once mighty guild, left behind in the wake of progress and wealth. Alas, the overuse of Aether’s essence has had catastrophic effects on some of the best and brightest of the guild…and worse, the Seekers of Asmodeus have found out, putting the scandalous secret as a cocked gun to the proverbial head of the order…and thus, the power of a fallen god now lies within the hands of hell’s servants...this far we know as the GM, but in a nice way of unobtrusive exposition, this knowledge about the “alliance” of the two guilds, if not previously unearthed, is recalled by proximity in the opening scene: As the PCs are exploring the great market in the trade ward, they’ll bear witness to a seeress suffering from convulsions, tended by monks of the Healing Hand, while Seekers hold her down – it’s a small detail, but it’s this attention to the small details that shows the care that went into this.


PCs may well insinuate them, depending on the previous modules and their standing with e.g. the guard, into the investigation...or just notice a suspicious book while in presence of the convulsion-plagued, delirious seeress…and an old friend is not well. Thaddeus, previously plagued by prophetic visions via the medium of paintings, has produced something in his rather…dilapidated apartment atop a giant leech-restaurant: A picture of an angel and a devil hugging, which once more represents a type on unobstrusive, symbolic foreshadowing I very much enjoyed. Really cool: The artwork has been reproduced in the module and can be handed out to the PCs…and yes, it does represent a stained glass window. Both of these initial encounters can point the PCs thus to further trails – the book was purchased from the Faculty of Arcana, and a brief investigation should yield the clue that the scion of the noblehouse that produced the rather scandalous and heretical stained-glass window depicted in the painting actually has purchased the second, recently sold book. In golem study, the PCs can touch base with Adam, and just as they’re exploring the place, a detonation will rock the chemistry lab, with a couple of mephitis and an animated robe making for a light-hearted encounter.


In the aftermath of the investigation at the faculty, the PCs should have a good pretense to visit the Clayver manor – namely the fact that, in spite of William’s erratic behavior, tomorrow’s party is on track and, well, the place to be. The social event of the party will indeed be well-attended – Eria, Triast, Radiant Soul – this is a great way to catch up with allies and roleplay to your heart’s content. William, surrounded by vapid cronies, will at one point begin his demonstration, walking those interested past the security cordon to the sub-basement, where an old crone will “aid Wilton”, who, bereft of talent, seeks to sacrifice his brother in a ritual most foul! Any blood spilled will finish the ritual generating an unstable rift to R’lyeh! Being close to the nexus of the rituals, the PCs and those present are spared the hallucinations, as they hopefully stop William and the wicked witch that has used the foolish young man’s ambition and frustration for her dark ends…and the PCs should preferably succeed sans the emerging Gug slaying them all. In the aftermath, PCs can potentially escape the place, and yes, the module remembers the promise that Cthulhu et al. remains optional – the section has a note that allows for the removal of mythos-themes.


Having prevented Thaddeus’ dire prediction, the PCs may wish to return to their ally – but he I nowhere to eb found. Signs of struggle abound. The abduction was NOT a quiet one, and the locals will note that the monks of the Healing Hands and the Seekers were responsible. The trail, obviously, leading to the eponymous sanitarium! This is where the story kicks into high gear: The module accounts for a variety of PC inquiries and involving of key-NPCs in the subject matter; Virgil, a brother of the healing hands, may well provide his keys and note how to get to the restricted section of this place; Triast gets a massive character-development, as the PCs may well witness a rift between him and the High Seeker, who, according to Triast, has become tempted by the power of the Machine, losing sight of the goal of the Seekers. Triast is promptly imprisoned, which can, obviously, change the dynamics of the relationship with the PCs.


As the PCs infiltrate the Santarium, the PCs will find the extent of the corruption of the monks ever more apparent, with foreboding scribbles already telling of the dark shape of things to come and e.g. guildmaster Redgrave, insane, tending a garden of fleshy polyps of blood and viscera (represented by an amazing artwork) being testament to the level of corruption that the monks suffer from; exploration of the place will also yield the chance to break Triast from his Seeker-affiliation, obviously, and the horror of a magical drug and use of the mad god’s body (which may well be destroyed by the PCs!) will make for rather…well, interesting changes, with the components of the machine and a mad doctor and his golem making for bosses. Did I mention the sea-caves-level as an optional means to gain access?


You see, ultimately, the watch will come, and thus, the climax of the module will see a massive trial of the organizations, with the PCs are key witnesses in what amounts to a nice montage-style trial, suffused with a couple of rules-components and notes for reputation systems, if any, taken into account…The Seekers will be stripped of their de-facto watch-privileges, and the most trusted guild of the city will lie in tatters, though the mistreatment of the patients will be hard to prove. Still, the social structure of the city has been shaken to the core…and that is but a glimpse of the shape of things to come…


The pdf closes with notes on the magic items and the bestiary of the critters used.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the conversion is at once solid regarding the details and aesthetics, while sporting a few references that are relics – like a reference to Will saves that should refer to Wisdom saving throws. Layout adheres to an elegant, nice two-column full-color standard. The adventure sports quite a few nice, original full-color artworks and the adventure comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is nice and, as mentioned before, the extensive support of different versions adds a big plus here.


Micah Watt’s Sanitarium is clever – I can see what the author is doing here. The adventure is setting up a lot of the themes and does so in an unobtrusive way, sans page-long exposition dumps. The massive changes to the social strata of the city make for a great twist and provides consequences for the actions of the PCs beyond what we usually get to see. As a stand-alone adventure, this is less focused than #3, but even if you are not interested in the AP as a whole, you could easily cut the module in 2 or 3 sections and scavenge these for your own purposes.


That being said, the adventure, particularly after playing the previous modules, makes for a compelling continuation of the unique themes and flavor that the series offers. With mechanics making use of terrain and smart foes on the mechanics-side, and also sporting a ton of roleplaying opportunities for players, the adventure can be considered to be a success, with various degrees of success and failure possible throughout. In short: This is, in spite of the difficult task this presents to the author, a well-crafted adventure that manages to be versatile and interesting. The conversion is at once rather interesting and made with care, and on the other hand, sports a few unnecessary relics that could have been caught. This is what costs this version half a star, for a final verdict of 4.5 stars. That being said, in spite of these minor rough spots, this is still very much worth checking out, and flow-wise, I actually enjoyed this version a tad bit more – if you can look past them and have the means to choose versions, I’d go for this one, in spite of it being slightly less refined. Oh, and yes, I will round up for this one as well – this is well worth getting and rendered me absolutely stoked for the next adventure!

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

SoR2: Against the Slavers

1 May 2018 - 10:40am
Publisher: Casey Brown
Rating: 5
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second adventure in the „Shadows over Riverton“-AP clocks in at 58 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 54 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book. You’re seeing the review this soon because I received the copy prior to release to the public and thus had ample time to analyze and test it.


Now, before we dive into the meat of this adventure, let me talk a bit about the series: The author was one of the triad members of Living Greyhawk, and particularly involved with the Bandit Kingdoms. This module, in tone and spirit, thus breathes the legacy of Greyhawk, and indeed feels like a lost Greyhawk adventure with the serial numbers filed off. That is a good thing. The adventure takes place in the city of Riverton, the stage set in the first adventure of the series, and directly builds upon it – characters met and interacted with directly influence some of the proceedings and represent the main hooks. That being said, the adventure is VERY easy to adapt to other locales. As long as you can justify a humanoid slum (perhaps due to a lost war effort) in front of an otherwise more traditional city, you’re good. It should be noted that the Bandit Kingdoms-flavor that suffuses this adventure means that the town is grittier and somewhat more realistic than comparable settlements.


Now, if you recall my review of the first adventure in the series, you’ll recall some components I loved: For example, Riverton gets settlement statblocks for EACH QUARTER. These, if relevant herein, have their modifiers hard-baked into the challenges. This is just one the various components, wherein this adventure sets itself apart from the majority of modules. The second, and most important aspect here, though, would be the obsessively, meticulous detail that is provided for the GM. PCs follow their employer after the quest, due to massive paranoia? There’s a scene that covers it. Need an encounter for one of the myriad gangs in the humanoid-slums? There’s an encounter for that. Unlike most published adventures, I can’t see this one requiring much in the way of GM-expansion o account for players going off the rails, which is even more interesting and remarkable, considering that this is a pretty free-form investigation/infiltration!


Now, the adventure does another thing right that I really love: Rules-decisions, explanations and help for the GM is provided in a massive array of footnotes that further make handling the actual running of the module much, much easier. The adventure also sports a metric ton of statblocks, which render the challenges faced distinct and don’t leave you hanging dry when you’re looking for the stats of character xyz. This all conspires to make the adventure work in as much of a Go-Play-fashion as can be: While, being an investigation/infiltration and pretty free-form at that, the adventure works better (like all modules!) when you’ve read it prior to running it, but you won’t need to make many notes and GMs with at least a bit of experience under their belts should be able to run this without previously preparing it in detail. The adventure also presents an impressive array of read-aloud text, in vivid prose, bolds rules-relevant context so it’s easier to find (without violating formatting conventions)…and it eve sports an appendix, wherein effects of different lodging situations that the PCs find themselves in have significant mechanical aspects. The adventure also provides a handout.


In short: This is one of the most convenient to run modules I’ve seen in a while, and its attention to detail is impressive and really helps to set the stage and maintain the atmosphere throughout: It generates a sense of reality, an impressive achievement. There is, for example, a magic item that most groups will not find. It is pretty cool and relevant for a powerful figure in town, though – the adventure even devotes time to the negotiation process regarding the figure and the item! In short: There is A LOT of care poured into this adventure, and it shows.


All right, this is as far as I can go without diving deep into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.



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All right, only GMs around? Great! So, it’s been a few days since the PCs arrived – enough to have their accommodations in Riverton have an impact on their well-being. The Halfling Stefania, an acquaintance of the PCs from module #1, contacts them to meet up at a tavern – and while this may sound like the oldest trope in the book, it provides a great example for the case I made regarding details. The module takes into account that PCs may show up early and scan the area; it covers the discussion of the task at hand with both read-aloud text and bullet points for conversation, skill-use, etc. – and if they unearthed the connection of the goblins from module #1 to the slavers in the slums, that also plays into the proceedings. Misty is acting on behalf of one of the most powerful NPCs in the city, who comes to meet them: None other than Misty Homeagain. Now, in another module, the proceedings would just boil down to a read-aloud text. Here, Misty uses a custom spell to provide a discreet means to converse (and paranoid PCs are taken into account) before talking to them – it’s a small thing, but it provides a rules-based foundation to discreet talks that adds a sense of realism and authenticity to the matter at hand. Heck, as mentioned before, paranoid PCs stalking Misty may be in for a thrashing – they’re small things, yes, but they add to the immersion, and this level of detail is maintained throughout the module.


So, folks have been disappearing, and as the PCs found out in module #1, there may be a tunnel to provide egress to Riverton, past the corrupt, but at least nominally stringent guards. Thus, the mighty halfling wants the PCs to go to the humanoid slums before the city, to Beggartown, find the missing folks and rescue them. Sounds easy, right? Well, Beggartown is not a nice place to be – the rickety shantytown is characterized by lawlessness and the corrupt half-orc captain Llerdnig is one of the movers and shakers there. With orcs, tieflings, gnolls and goblins freely living there, some races like elves, dwarves, etc. may want to think about disguises. Nice: Stefania will accompany the PCs as a sort of GM-PC, and her input, well-meant, if not truly helpful, can help steer the PCs. If she does accompany them, they’d better make sure she gets out alive, though! Anyways, with incidents or without, the PCs enter Beggartown, where the trail does not really grow cold – instead, it becomes hot rather quickly, as the PCs are faced with a cool and diverse skill challenge/chase: The contact amidst all the squalor and misery of Beggartown seems to have just met his rather grisly end at the hands of gnolls, who see the PCs rather instantly, courtesy of Stefania. (Neat: This does help “sell” the chase as a not a railroad!) If the PCs succeed in catching up to the mottled gnolls, they’ll have a fight on their hands. But there is a pretty good chance the gnolls get away as well – so, how does the module handle that? Well, successful PCs can wring the location of the slaver compound from the gnolls, no problem…but if they failed…they don’t really have an issue.


Clever PCs will note that the mottled fur only is sported by one of the gnoll tribes in Beggartown, a tidbit of information that clever GMs can seed…and even if the PCs know where the complex itself is, they’re left with more than one issue. You see, the tribe is rather sizable. To the point where assaulting the compound sans doing legwork is not a smart move. But if they haven’t managed to pinpoint its location, we have no problem either: You see, the compound obviously needs to purchase goods, right? Well, one means of thinning the opposition (and potentially secure an ally for a coup-d’état of sorts) is to ambush said team! There are plenty of other ways to help weaken the gnolls, provided the PCs can survive in Beggartown, that is – random encounters for all of the diverse gangs in town are provided…and, indeed, if the PCs are smart, they may even manage to take down the Alpha of the gnolls prior to assaulting the complex: Growl, the rather huge (size Large) leader of the gnolls likes to spar in the Chapel of Slaughter, the ramshackle fighting pit/neutral ground of Beggartown, and the module actually talks, in detail, about the process of becoming pit fighters and potentially stopping the brute. No mean feat, but if the PCs manage to achieve success there, they’ll have a demoralized tribe when faced with the folks who defeated their champion.


Speaking of “Alpha” – where this, in another supplement, would have been just a moniker to denote the chieftain, here, we actually get a fully depicted hierarchy – and gnolls being gnolls, there is plenty of dissatisfaction and drama behind the scenes, including affairs and the like. Roleplaying savvy players may well be capable of destabilizing significant portions of the tribe before attacking the compound. Extensive notes on further development pertaining both success and defeat allow the GM to organically maintain the flow of the adventure. Oh, and guess what: Yes, the module accounts for the PCs buying the captives! Provided they have the funds, this would make for a smart move prior to attacking the compound, for example, as the PCs wouldn’t have to take care of the NPCs. Speaking of which: Hirelings and named NPC allies that have a stake in seeing the slaves freed may be recruited, and the adventure provides proper names, motivations and further adventure hooks for the slaves. Are you starting to see what I meant with “impressive details”?


The assault on the compound, should the PCs choose to undertake it, is btw. not a singular rail-road-affair – there are chances for folks not being there, and day/night does matter as well. Heck, the respective shacks etc. get full game-mechanics, should your PCs choose to smash through them! This is a bit like having terrain that can be damaged in a videogame. While, in pen and paper, you theoretically have that all them time, but flimsy construction of the shacks makes it really relevant here! Having stats for the frickin’ structures makes the whole complex feel more dynamic, and before you ask, the compound is fully mapped in pretty detailed color maps. As a minor downside, these maps do not come with a key-less player-friendly version, which is a bit of a bummer, considering that it’s pretty likely that the PCs will capture a gnoll at one point. That being said, the gnolls are amazing – there are plenty of archetype’d and template characters here that deserve the moniker: There would be, for example, a venerable gnoll who has become slow in her old age, the flavor represented by drawbacks; a crippled gnoll s who dabbles in fire breathing and makes use of goblin skull bombs, nearsighted ole’ Stinky…these gnolls feel indeed like they have lived. While rank and file beings exist, it is ultimately in these NPCs that the tribe truly comes to life.


I did mention an item, right? Really clever PCs may notice a magical shovel used near the trash pit, an unlikely treasure not identified by the gnolls – that would be the shovel of the final rest, which can yield PCs a nice financial windfall…if they don’t overly tax the goodwill of the guardian of the graves, that is. It should also be noted that XPs gained are contingent on more than enemies slain, so that’s another big plus as far as I’m concerned.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are excellent – Casey Brown’s professional background and experience in editing is quite apparent here. I wish I was as good at editing my own writing! On a rules-language level, the adventure is similarly impressive – though slightly less so: When e.g. a caltrop-trap references “slicing” damage that should be “piercing.” That being said, the module is actually more precise than PFRPG’s base rules here – caltrops inflict RAW, in a nonsense-decision, untyped damage, which clearly should be “piercing.” So yeah, my nitpick pertains something that the module does better than the core rules. Here and there, I could nitpick some minor rules-language in new content, but never to the extent where it would constitute a proper issue. The copious amount of statblocks are solid as well – I attempted to reverse engineer and encountered no problems. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The print version is b/w and sports a nice, matte cover; if you’re familiar with Raging Swan Press’ PoD-books, it uses that type. The lack of player-friendly maps represents my only somewhat valid complaint on a formal level against this module. The pdf version comes with a copious amount of nested bookmarks that render navigation comfortable and painless.


Casey Brown’s second foray to Riverton is amazing. It develops the strengths of his previous offerings and applies them vigorously to a module-type that is a) harder to pull off properly and b), wherein the application of this attention to detail is much, much harder. From a formal perspective, this is one of the easiest infiltration/investigation-sandboxes to run that I have ever read. So, it’s comfortable to run and provides plenty of gaming material as well.


The second strength of the module is one that is harder to describe and get right. Most folks would call this “old school”, but that term is, at this point, a flawed one. You see, “old school” does not equal “old school” – when we take a look at OSR-gaming, for example, we have e.g. the Advanced Adventures-line by Expeditious Retreat Press, which champions a slightly weird AD and D-ish feeling; we have the psychedelic nightmares of LotFP; we have Frog God Games’ fantastic Lost lands, which are a precarious, dark setting that always had, at least for me, a subtle sense of melancholia suffusing its books, a feeling of a world that is in the process of moving on, of empires fallen and a dark age impending; there would be Goodman Games’ DCC-material, which I always refer to “Metal-fantasy.” All of these, and many, many tastes more, are generally called “old school.”


There is another type of old school, one that you only get to see rather rarely – because it is really, really hard to pull off. You see, I could sum up this module as “PCs rescue slaves from gnolls in a slum.” I wouldn’t be lying. It’s a basic premise. The module does not throw some central weirdness in your face, it does not use some over the top shenanigans to distract you from structural shortcomings. It doesn’t have to. It is my firm conviction that unpretentious, Greyhawk-style fantasy sans a ton of high-fantasy stuff, with grit and detail and grime, is extremely HARD. You can’t rely on a catchy pitch that will make folks go “OMG, zis iz teh awes000m1111oneone!!” and you always risk the danger of becoming generic, forgettable. In fact, only your prose, your ability to evoke a concise, living, breathing environment, is what separates you from a “been there-done that” type of experience. You have to work in the small aspects, and when you botch the job, you’ll probably get a “soso”-review that can’t put the finger on *why* they were not engaged. That type of writing is HARD to pull off, very, very hard. Few publishers and authors manage to hit this precarious balance, this elusive sweet spot, with e.g. Raging Swan Press coming to mind as one of the few publishers that do.


You may have realized it by now: This module manages to hit the right mood right on the head. And it, in passing, serves as a perfect rebuke to the claim that complex systems like Pathfinder can’t do this tone. The module uses a TON of material from Pathfinder’s extensive mechanics to enhance the mood that is conveyed in the adventure, to underline the realities of the game-world. It represents an impressive synthesis of mechanics and flavor, all in the service of storytelling.


Why should you care? Simple. Because we frankly need more adventures like this. Because this atmosphere, this feeling, is precarious, hard to get right, and because, even if you prefer far out concepts, the weird ultimately does become stale if you constantly barrage the players with it. The wisdom inherent in this type of old-school sensibility is, that in order for the outré and fantastic to properly work, you have to ground it, contextualize it. And that is much harder than writing an adventure about 8-armed flying monkey/mi-go-hybrids with laser canons. See what I did there? I bet you thought “that sounds cool” – see, that is the elevator pitch I mentioned.


I can’t do the same type of elevator pitch for this module. Don’t get me wrong. I love far-out weirdness. But know what? Chances are, that if you buy this module (the price-point is btw. imho really, really low for the amount of material), you’ll start smiling upon reading the module. Because it draws you in. Because it feels alive and organic and plausible. Because it doesn’t rely on flash and bang and world-ending threats, instead opting for a more subdued theme – without becoming generic. It is interesting, once you start to think about it, that strange and weird concepts and high fantasy over-the-top superhero-esque gaming have become so prevalent that fantasy like this, grounded, grimy, and down-to-earth, has become fresh, unique, and a rare and treasured type of experience. I do get why, mind you – in the hands of a mediocre author/designer, this would have been boring. It’s not.


The second installment of “Shadows over Riverton” is an impressive, extremely flavorful, detailed, and most importantly, fun adventure that even relatively new GMs should have no problems with. In fact, it’s good enough to transcend the lack of player-friendly maps that most of the time prevents modules from reaching my highest accolades. This is worthy of 5 stars + seal of approval, and if Greyhawk and the type of module I mentioned above even remotely struck a chord with you, then give this a chance. If you never understood why those old folks lament the lack of proper Greyhawk support by WotC – look no further than this to understand it! (And, if you’re a fan of Raging Swan Press, check this out – same hold true for vice-versa, obviously!)

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Races of the Outer Rim: the Anarchane

30 April 2018 - 8:14pm
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
Rating: 4
This is a nice little supplement for the Starfinder role-playing game that offers about 10 pages of content on the Anarchane, a humanoid alien race with an affinity for magic that are tainted with a condition known as 'the Affliction', which leaves them frail and shortens their lifespan to about 30-40 years. The Anarcane have an interesting history--hailing from an planet outside of the Pact-Worlds run by a society that valued magical ability, they discovered that magic was fading from their world. The Anarcane sought to recharge their magical energies decades ago, and ended up saturating their world with magical energies that made it inhospitable and likely doomed their planet (not entirely unlike the planet Eox). Though the focus of this book is on rules for the Anarchane race, it does contain a backstory with some fertile ground for adventure hooks that can drive an entire campaign.
As for the Anarchane themselves, this book provides rules for a very interesting and playable race that is a good fit players who want to play a magic user. The Anarchane have some nice spell-like abilities and the power to draw energy from magical items to cure themselves of conditions and stamina damage--which has potential for abuse by players if the GM is not careful. They are exceptionally well-suited to be technomancers, though their abilities are a good match for other classes as well, and the book offers some suggestions on playing Anarchane of all classes. The book provides some nice feats unique to the Anarchane that really compliment their magic affinity, such as abilities that allow them to recall used spell slots, or to super-charge their spells (which comes at a cost for over-use). As well, the book includes a short list of spells that emphasize the Anarchanes' facination with the confluence of magic and technology. Some of these spells can be easily used by other races at the GM's discretion. In fact, this book contains a handful of technomancer spells that do things like prevent system access or cause a creature to suffer from a computer virus the next time they log into a system. These are great spells that really should be incorporated into your game whether the Anarchane are a playable race in your game or not.
Overall, this book adds nicely to the Starfinder rules, giving players and game masters more options. The only problem that I have with it is that I would like to see more of it. The planet Anarchane has the potential to be an interesting setting for a game, and it would be nice to see TPK Games publish a book on the setting at some point.
[Check out our weekly RPG review column and see the full review at Geeks a Gogo](https://www.geeksagogo.com/single-post/2018/04/12/Races-of-the-Outer-Rim-The-Anarchane----Game-Review)
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Secrets of the BBEG (Big Bad Evil Guy) (PFRPG)

24 April 2018 - 3:35am
Publisher: Rite Publishing
Rating: 5
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This April Fool’s release clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


*CRASH*

Oh boy. What was that?? Sounded like a bad crash. Sirens blaring. Focus, man.

Ähem.

This review was requested as a prioritized review by one of my patreons.

*Door splinters in a loud explosion*

“Move aside, you reviewer-git, I need to talk to my amazing fans out there! DID YOU MISS ME?? Don’t answer. That was a rhetoric question! Of course you did, it’s me, your favorite metadventurer, helping to make this bland snore-fest of a review suck less!”


Wait a second, man…I wasn’t done! Isn’t it enough that your unqualified dithering suffuse this whole supplement, commenting on the crisp mechanics and delicious rules?


“Nope, because that’s BOOORING!! Buckle up, folks, as we all established in the review of my amazing book, I have won Pathfinder. Everything released since and before that was just rules-bloat and utterly irrelevant, regardless of system.”


Yeah, right. Sounds like a hardcore-grognard speaking about anything past 0ed…


“Shut it, endy, or I’ll move back in. Behind your couch. With my bags of chips. ALL of them.”


Okay, okay…may I cover the basics at least? Talk a bit about the rules and stuff?


“All right, all right! Man, do you have something in your fridge, or do you still subsist primarily on coffee for your reviewer-robot-shtick? Seriously, folks, the amount of coffee he drinks is insane. I still have this theory that he’s the first German, coffee-powered replicant…”


Okay, while the metadventurer’s pillaging my meager supplies, let’s talk. We have to be quick. He’s uncannily fast at gobbling down anything with a nutritional value…


Ähem. So, know how a well-optimized team can make BBEGs just suck? I’m sure that, if you’re a moderately experienced GM, you’ve encountered it at least once. That time when your players started curbstomping all bosses from published modules. Well, there is an issue here: After all, we all know plenty of media, wherein a team of heroes faces down a super-powerful villain. Here’s the problem: In the games we play, that does not translate too well, courtesy of the restrictions of action economy.


“I’ll bum a smoke or 30, all right endy?”


“Yeah, yeah, sure, whatever!” Anyways, in Pathfinder, my go-to-solution is to use Legendary Games’ mythic rules and Mythic Monsters/Path of Villains/Dragons to upgrade builds and make boss fights more interesting. But perhaps you don’t want to learn mythic rules. That’s pretty much where this becomes your one-stop-shop. Since the CR-system, wonky as it is, doesn’t properly measure up here, we work with threat levels, which range from 1 to 5; CR-adjustments of the template are based on threat level. The pdf urges caution here, with the metadventurer cheering for a TPK and the fact that the first three letters of “funeral” are F-U-N. You get the idea. ;)


Anyhow, the template nets +1 hp per HD, +1 deflection bonus to AC and +1 to SR per threat level, and +5 to existing DR and energy resistance per threat level. Also, +1 to initiative, damage per threat level, +1 to atk per two threat levels. +1 to all ability scores per threat level. That, however, is not the main meat of the massive templates: That would be the colossal amount of BBEG abilities that make up the majority of the pdf. Saves versus these are governed by Constitution, just fyi. (As an aside – it should probably specify that Charisma is substituted for undead.) One such potent ability is gained per threat level, and they are brutal: Aggro, for example, allows the BBEG to move up to their speed and execute a full attack as a swift action.


“Endy, I’ve called my relatives from China while you’re writing this! Oh, and you really shouldn’t let your credit cards lie around openly… Ni hao!”


Urgh. Anyways, there are adaptive resistances, devastating, potentially disintegrateing waves of energy governed by HD, summoned creatures that detonate, the option to generate hazardous terrain that detonates, siphoning off life of meat shields…have I mentioned super-strikes at +20 to atk, which ignore concealment and auto-threaten a crit, increasing crit multiplier by threat level?? Yeah, these guys will WRECK even veterans when build smartly! Doubled hit points, a ton of additional AoOs…the focus here is truly to make a single being capable of standing up to a well-oiled group of adventurers. Really nice would be btw….


“So, endy, I’ve just talked to this nice gentleman from Nigeria and gave him your social security number and banking IDs. Oh, and when I arrived…that crash? I kinda may have totaled your car. Which I’ve hijacked. Also: You’re now all out of food.”


Damn, I need to finish this review, stat! So yeah, the abilities of the BBEG are amazing and deadly, and we actually even get two cool puzzle-abilities that require that the players use their brain to defeat the BBEG. And fret not if you’re new to the concept, or the pdf provides an extensive section to guide you in how to use these without being unfair.


This is not all, though, the pdf also…

*WHACK; sound of head crashing to desk*


“Dude, this pretentious git is really slow for his supposed IQ. Man, I even have a Goatee, dammit! So yeah, you probably realized it by now, right? I’m frickin’ evil! I am the *drumroll* BBEM! The Big Bad Evil Metadventurer! *DUNH-DUNH-DUNH* Don’t believe what this dumb pdf says, though – I’m not an archetype of the Metadventurer. He’s a wimpy, half-baked archetype of ME! Got that? Great!


So, like all cool things, you can only play me if you’re a GM, because screw players, amirite? We all wanna bask in their despair, bathe in their tears, as pages upon pages of lame background-story are invalidated by me being too awesome. So, I can use the GM’s OOC knowledge on PCs. I get BBEG abilities. I can treat allies and enemies as abettors with betrayal feats at 7th level. At 14th level, I treat my threat level as +5 for BBEG abilities. At 15th level, I get +5 to AC and saves from 3pp-supplements, because I’m cool and amazing and know the authors. Oh, and at 20th level, when you save versus my abilities and roll a 1, you obviously don’t deserve to live. Rocks fall, you die. No save, because that’s how I roll. Also, obviously, when I crit. Because I’m too awesome. Suck it!!



What? That’s all? Okay, so you need to bask in my glory a bit more, as I…”

*whack, thunk*

I gestalted vigilante, bastard!

Okay, I need to get rid of this bastard…before the *real* Metadventurer comes back to deal with his evil twin. I can’t deal with two of the sort.


So, in all brevity, my conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good on formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s old, two-column full-color standard. Artworks are full-color and amazing and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity.


Wendall Roy’s template and associated archetype are super-deadly tools for the beleaguered GM. While the writing is hilarious in the details and commentary, it should be noted that this pdf is very much intended for table-use. This is not a useless file that just plays it for the laughs. The template provided can amp up even the most pitiful of final bosses, and while it requires a responsible GM, I love it for what it offers. Indeed, it is my contention that this concept could carry a book of thrice the size on its own. Considering the low asking price, I can wholeheartedly recommend this pdf, rating it 5 stars + seal of approval.


Damn. He’s twitching. Gotta run, see you on the flipside, folks…that is, if the BBEM doesn’t retaliate…

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

April Augmented - 2018

23 April 2018 - 2:09am
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
Rating: 5
An Endzeitgeist.com review

It’s that time of the year again! Usually, I try to have the April’s Fool-product reviews done in time for April 1st, but this year, I got them all either on that day or after it, so yeah – please excuse the delay! This year’s April Augmented-installment by Dreamscarred Press clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, ½ a page editorial, leaving us with 9.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


So, first of all, we get a Bloodforge (Infusion)-style new race – the Doggo! And no. It’s not another anthropomorphized dog-race. It’s a dog-race. You know, like in M.I.B. and various other forms of media? You can play an intelligent, talking dog! And that awakened dog? Yeah, you can play him. Doggos are augmented magical beasts, Medium, have a speed of 40 ft. and get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int. Their language (beyond that of the awakener) is btw. called “Bork”, which made me grin. They get +1 natural AC, +2 to Survival and Acrobatics, low-light vision, scent and a properly codified primary natural bite attack (with size category-based damage noted). Classes that grant weapon proficiencies allow the doggos to wield weapons in their jaw, but casting verbal spells while having an item in your mouth is hard, imposing a 20% spell failure chance. The doggos are quadrupedal, gaining the appropriate benefits. They obviously lack opposable thumbs, which constitutes the properly depicted detriment of the race. There are alternate racial traits included. Instead of the natural AC bonus, they can get Skill Focus in a skill chosen from a list They can also get a movement rate of 50 ft. at the cost of decreased bite damage output. They can also be “Smol” (XD Yes. Deliberate.), being Small and gaining +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Int. The Acrobatics bonus may be exchanged with a swim speed equal to ½ land speed. We also get a racial feat, Slobbercaster, which lets you hold a spell focus in the mouth when casting verbal spells, sans incurring the spell failure chance. (I assume this also extends to material components.) The race sports no age, height and weight table, but come one! You can look these up online and tailor to your favorite dog breed.


Now, a serious section of the pdf is taken up by a new akashic veil and the ramifications of it – I am, obviously, talking about chef’s armory. Slot-wise,w e’re talking about Hands here and all veilweavers classify for it. The veil manifests a set of chef’s knives that are treated as masterwork daggers and that may be conjured and dismissed as a free action. The veil also allows for at-will ectoplasmic creation as a psi-like ability to generate non-edible kitchen utensils; additionally, create water and spark are gained as at-will SPs. The veil also lets you precisely measure weight and dimensions of stuff you pick up. Additional essence invested increases the damage output of the created weapons and the insight bonus. Wait, what? Yep, the veil also nets a +2 insight bonus to checks made to prepare or brew food/drinks and, if enhanced with weapon properties etc., the bonus increases.


“But…veils…weapons…did I miss a memo?” Nope, you did not. The pdf properly codifies the [weapon] descriptor for veils, which adds a GINORMOUS potential for further expansion of the much-beloved Akasha-system, one that I really hope to see expanded further! The chakra bind for hands of the veil, though, ticks off one of the things I consider problematic: It increases the critical multiplier of daggers made via the veil to x4, or by +1, whichever is higher. Yes, this allows you to bypass the usual x4 multiplier cap. Why am I not screaming bloody murder? Simple. We’re talking about daggers here. Not exactly the most PG option out there and doing the math should allow anyone to see why this, for once, in spite of the kneejerk reaction it may elicit, is totally cool with me.


Beyond the veil, we also obviously need to take a close look at AKASHIC COOKING. A creature benefiting from an akashic recipe can do so only 3 times per day, after consuming the whole meal, with only 1 benefit per 4-hour period – no stuffing yourself here! Unless otherwise noted, meals take an hour to prepare and require that the ingredients be present. Speaking of which: Ingredients are classified in 7 distinct groups, with “F” grade ingredients representing spoiled ones; “E”-rank ingredients can usually be foraged and anything better than that becomes REALLY rare. “A”-rank potatoes are e.g. grown in a specific demiplane, infused with mana, while the mythic and highest “S”-rank includes stuff like, to steal another example from the book, “milk from the primeval cow Auðumbla.” Yes, we actually get examples noted for each rank, and no A- and S-rank ingredients are usually not sold. But otherwise, we get concise guidance regarding prices. Recipes for akashic dishes can be purchased for 150 gp per recipe, and they can be developed at half price, though that takes a bit of time. In order to facilitate the creation of your own recipes, we get base DCs and corresponding effect levels as quick guidelines, and we even get suggested price-points for mundane ingredients – cool!


9 sample recipes are provided, listing DCs, ingredients and optional components, as well as effects. Eating Jumbo Gumbo can net a 1-minute expansion, as well as temporary power points. The Vegetarian consists of meat, meat and even more meat and nets temporary hit points. Water of Life is basically a tropical cocktail that heals you. Yes, paper umbrella optional, but oh so stylish! I’m going to be an insufferable chili-head prick regarding Ghost Pepper Poppers: Jalapenos are NOT the correct peppers – they aren’t even hot. The Naga (or Bhut) Jolokia would be the super-hot ones this should use. Anyways, the benefits are hilarious. Feed it to a dead person and they’ll come back temporarily to life, begging for water, allowing for an unreliable, but ridiculously fun chance to question the target before it dies again. And yes, fire breath can be found. Chicken noodle soup helps vs. diseases (minor nitpick: Fortitude should be capitalized.)


The akashic cooking experience can be enhanced further by two new feats: Apprentice Chef, which nets the option to shape the chef’s armory veil even for non-akashic characters, and Master Chef, which not only nets you recipes, but also allows you to bind it. Both yield a point of essence. Brave chefs can drink the vial of rotten food, which can affect them with poison and disease, but which can also fortify the chef’s armory veil. The blessed stone of hearth and flame improves the accuracy of the spark of chef’s armory for cooking and speeds up the cooking process. Traveling chef is a bag of spices that the veil can absorb, thereafter holding ingredients in the veil…and the veilweaver gets some degree of control over the flow of time for these ingredients, allowing for the quick aging of e.g. wines! And yes, synergy with Flaming Crab Games’ culinary magic is not hard to achieve here!


The pdf also includes a new feat, namely Catch These Hands, which requires Improved Unarmed Strike or Catch Off-Guard. These allow you to throw your punches. Literally. As in, they get the throwing property. Come on, that is weird, a bit icky, and hilarious!


Speaking of which: The pdf sports new spells, 4 of which are cantrips: Secluded recliner lets you conjure forth…just that. “Great for sitting on while sharing popcorn with your allies while watching the stalker bungle up their plan.“ Inform nets a +1 competence bonus to a single Intelligence based skill check, for 1 minute. Does not stack with itself. “This is typically enough to inform your party’s stalker on why exactly their latest plan is a stupid idea.” There is also create popcorn, which notes “Comes with salt and/or butter, although if the caster is of an evil alignment, it can also come with caramel.” Oh, and “Good for eating with the medic while watching your stalker enact their stupid plan.” XD Come on, that’s a hilarious visual! Oh, and there would be finger gun. Pew-pew-pew – you can fire one shot of a 1d3 non-lethal force damage with your finger, one missile per finger. Standard action to fire. There is a bigger, more damaging 2nd level version of the spell here as well. We also get the “Watch this Idiot” heraldry, which nets you inform at-will. Your unseen servants can use create popcorn and secluded recliner at-will. Amazing!


Oh, and I failed to mention the thing that made me fall almost off my chair, laughing my behind off. Know how much I adore the GLORIOUS Empath-archetype that DSP released? You know, perhaps my favorite archetype in all of Pathfinder? We get a new supreme Zeitgeist. “Ratbagger, the End.” XD Yep, that would be a little satire on yours truly. In case you didn’t know: I often talk about “kitten-tests”, abilities that “can or can’t be kitten’d” in the context of abilities that grant bonuses for defeated foes– this goes back to the “bag of rats test.” Can you accumulate insane bonuses by slaughtering a bag of rats? If so, it fails the bag of rats-test. This is one of single biggest pet-peeves in design and really rubs me the wrong way, as it can be mitigated and avoided in a variety of ways. Hence, at one point, I started using “bags of kittens” in my examples – after all, no one likes the idea of slaughtering those, right? Anyways, associated events for the zeitgeist would be endings of all kinds. All numbers you include in jokes must be in Base 13 and you may not explain why. Oh, and the goal is that, whenever something is finished, you must evaluate it and describe it to anyone who asks. I was laughing so hard while reading this!


Séance bonus applies to Knowledge (history) and Appraise and the psionic powers would be aura of decay at 4th, second chance at 5th and ex nihilo at 6th level, which is pretty damn funny, at least to me. The spirit bonus applies to things pertaining ends: Proficiency with butchering axes and scythes, and sickles are treated as having an x4 crit multiplier. You get guide the willing at-will. Oh, and you get “Quoth the Raven” – no, not that Ravenloft fanzine. “Quoth the Raven: You lose the ability to speak words, though you can still vocalize sounds—mostly high-pitched, squeaky ones, though. In addition, you gain a raven familiar, as a wizard of your level, and it furthermore has the ability to speak for you. It will not say the word “nevermore,” however, and trying to force it to will agitate it immensely. Finally, this raven cannot die—if it would do so, it disappears instead, only to return in perfect health the next time you contract with Ratbagger, the End” I almost fell off my chair laughing.

Seriously.

Cool: The ability: “A lifetime, no more, no less” lets you touch a creature. Once it perishes, it is treated as having died of old age, with the effect being only countered by wish/miracle and the like. You also are immune to disabled, dying and unconscious and are not staggered when using Diehard. Whenever a creature within 30 ft. dies, you gain an “ending”, which lasts for an hour or until expended. This includes yourself. Upon dying, you may expend an ending every round to continue acting, in no way inconvenienced. If the body is destroyed, you get the uncarnate feature, though sans option to become material unless you already have it. Once the endings run out, unless healed, you die. Drowning’s peculiarities are included.



..

.

And yes, I get it. The ultimate ability of the endzeitgeist zeitgeist is the ultimate bag of rats/kitten-exploit. Picture me laughing loud, slow clapping and grinning from ear to ear.

The joke here even goes so far as to use a font that almost looks like I’m allcaps-“screaming” about something. Every aspect of this is hilarious in some way, at least for me. And better yet, the zeitgeist is a damn cool addition to the roster of the superb Empath – just make sure to include a caveat for minimum Intelligence or HD to prevent rat-bagging/kitten-bagging exploits for…Ratbagger.

The absurdity is glorious! XD

I…can’t… stop…laughing. Well-played, DSP-crew!


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are almost perfect on a formal level, and super-tight, top-notch, on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a nice, comic-style artwork for the doggo. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Alex Stallings, Jacob Karpel, Jade Ripley, Anthony Cappell and Kevin Ryan, with dev-work by Forrest Heck provide an extremely usable and funny pdf. Each and every aspect of this pdf is not only patently funny and gonzo, they also are actually useful at the table! In fact, this pdf is PWYW and tighter in its rules than 99% of rules-books I review. This is a little masterpiece and whether you agree with my assessments or not, love me or hate me or anything in-between, please check out this gem. I am absolutely positive that you’ll find something thoroughly amazing within. You can laugh with or about me, play a damn cool race and add some akashic panache to your cooking – all for any price you’d like! Pure amazing, my final verdict will clock in 5 stars + seal of approval. I seriously have never laughed this much while reading a RPG-file. EVER. This gets my best-of-tag.


Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Elite Dangerous RPG - Super Traders Sourcebook

10 April 2018 - 7:08am
Publisher: Modiphius
Rating: 5
A lot of interstellar travel is going to be about trade, and this book is filled with resources to help those groups who want at least part of their game to be about furthering that trade - presumably as small-scale independents, given that the game is centred around individual spacecraft. With spacecraft ownership proposed on the scale that we own cars, these are probably the van-men of space in the equivalent of a step-van or small truck. It's also something that can be modelled well for someone wanting a solo game.

First up, Advanced Trading. If you are a role-playing group, a lot of trade will be relegated to the Between Adventures phase. Let's face it, commerce - however necessary and valuable - isn't really the stuff of adventure. However the rules as laid out in the core rulebook make for quite a lot of work, especially for the GM. Unless your GM has unlimited prep time, you probably want him to be creating exciting adventures not writing out price lists. So a more flexible system for working out prices in a given system based on what they specialise in and a bit of die rolling for that random element is provided, with the intention that (provided you like it) it will repace the version in the core rules. Interestingly, this includes an element to model a place that is good for trade being over-exploited, ensuring that the characters move on and don't just run a single profitable route without exploring anywhere else. You can make things more complex, but that really defeats the purpose of using this system.

Next comes New Spaceships. Everyone is always ready for a few more... and the ones presented include large bulk carriers - think 'container ship' rather than 'truck' - for those who want to take cargo-hauling seriously. There requite multiple-person crews, but come with 'hangers' for personal vessels, so characters won't have to abandon their pride and joy if they take service on one of these big boys (the price tag is likely too much for most characters to contemplate owning one). There are also smaller one- or two-man ships optimised to carry cargo at, of course, the expense of speed, manoeuvrability or weaponry.

This section is followed by another on Fighter Escorts - as the big cargo haulers are not able to fight well, they need to have escorts to defend them. The concept here is the small specialist fighting craft, carried aboard a larger vessel and loosed when the need arises. They are smaller than the regular personal vessels previously discussed in this game, basically a flying weapons platform - some are even controlled remotely rather than having a pilot aboard. They have limited life support even if designed to be piloted, and no Frame Shift drives.

Next up is It Takes All Sorts, a selection of backgrounds suitable for people who want to specialise in trade. People have all sorts of reasons for becoming independent traders, these provide some of them - often involving a desire (or a need) to escape the past. Additional Karma Capabilities round out this section.

The Eternal Foe comes next. This section talks a little about pirates before provided a selection of adversaries at spaceship, vehicle and individual scales... mostly pirates but also some other traders to provide a bit of competition!

Finally, this is all linked in to the Random Gemeration System (RGS). There's an explanation of how to use it to create a solo game - this dupliates notes in the Military and Espionage supplements, as you may not have them - of course if you do you can have a very varied solo game indeed! It then moves on to creating encounters suitable for a trading game, as useful for the GM wanting to create appropriate challenges as to the solo gamer, including pirate attacks, police boarding actions and general spaceway encounters. There's a selection of trade missions - all of which could be developed into full-blown adventures, with plenty of supporting notes. In places the other sourcebooks are mentioned, but alternatives are given for those who don't possess them.

There's a lot of good stuff here, particularly if you are on your own or want to run a game in which trading and commerce provides the background to the adventures you want to run. A lot would be useful whatever science-fiction game you run, even if it's not Elite Dangerous, but if you do it captures the very essence of the video game well.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Elite Dangerous RPG - Espionage Supplement

9 April 2018 - 7:03am
Publisher: Modiphius
Rating: 4
The opening pages (backed by an atmospheric double-page illustration) paint a world that's post-post-truth. Everyone knows not to leave secrets on computers where hackers can break in... so if you want those secrets you have to break in physically to steal them. Espionage is part and parcel of doing business, with corporations even more likely to indulge in it than nation-states.

Slightly oddly, the first section is addressed to Engineers, and talks about upgrading spaceships by tinkering with the systems - in flagrant breach of the warrantry if not the law. Pilots are advised not to fiddle, a case of 'no user-servicable parts inside' which to those of us who like playing starship engineers is anathema! It is considered best to go to a professional if you want to supe up your spaceship, and the first trick is to make contact with a reputable and competent one. In terms of game mechanics, use your Repair skill in the Between Adventures phase if you want to do it yourself. It's probably best to visit your tame professional engineer then as well, who wants to spend role-playing time waiting for your spaceship to come out of the shop? Either way it's going to be expensive. There are tables to roll on for various components, giving a chance of improvement... or of causing a fault (and sometimes both!).

Next comes a selection of New Spaceships. It's noted that agents tend to like ships that are speedy and agile, but which don't stand out in a crowded starport, then presents several new ships (each with variations) that may be chosen during character creation, or indeed picked up later on in the game.

The next section is Perks of the Job. This contains useful equipment that the best-dressed espionage agent wouldn't leave home without. Some are quite innovative - poisonous lipsticks or bodyspray for example (just remember to take the antidote before applying or you'll poison yourself!). There are weapons, cybernetics and othe gizmos as well.

Then we have The Perfect Agent where new backgrounds appropriate to someone wishing to enter the shadowy worlds of espionage are provided. These range from a former downtrodden worker-drone who knows in great detail how a corporation operates to security guards, and an 'insurgent' who may be a prankster, an activist or an outright terrorist. New enhancements and Karma Capabilities appropriate to these roles are also there.

After a rather creepy piece of fiction which I hope won't give any players ideas we move on to The Bad Guys, which provides a whole bunch of ready-made opponents. These come in both Spaceship and Individual scales and range from soldier/mercenary and security personnel to criminals, and of course assassins.

The final part of the book focusses on the Random Generation System (RGS) and concentrates on running solo adventures when you are without a GM. Of course busy GMs can also use it during planning or even mid-game if they need ideas in a hurry. There are infiltration challenges - complete with outcomes based on success or failure - and step-by-step paths through various types of espionage mission. Then there is a system for generating Corporate Bases through a series of die rolls.

There's plenty of useful stuff if you want to run espionage games, but the whole thing has an air of being thrown together, random nuggets added because they might be useful, rather than a coherent exposition of the espionage aspects of the game. It even manages to make espionage sound dull and mechanical... the very thing most people take up this line of work to escape! Pick out all the bits you want to use and throw them into the mix, remembering that the real excitement of an espionage-style mission comes with role-playing it, not just rolling dice!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Elite Dangerous RPG core book

4 April 2018 - 9:08am
Publisher: Modiphius
Rating: 5
The Preface and Introduction between them set the scene and evoke long-lost memories of early gaming in childhood (OK so I am a bit older than the author so there were no videogames to play with, and D and D didn't turn up until I was 18!). It all captures the magic of the alternate realities we inhabit as role-players, and gets you ready for this one, which you might have met before if you have played any of the Elite videogames. They were quasi-role-playing of themselves, but now with this game, that universe comes to life as a full-blown role-playing game. In a nutshell, your characters inhabit a universe where spaceship ownership is as common as car ownership is today, where there is vast inequality between rich and poor, weapons are easily available, life is cheap but opportunites for the brave and fortuate are endless...

There are basically three types of game that you can play. There are exploration games, espionage games (these include the police procedural ones like in the quickstart adventure The Worst Intentions that is bundled with the core rulebook), and military ones. Or in the true spirit of Elite itself, you can be 'Lone Wolf' individuals who nibble at the edges of civilisation to make your living. These are just ideas, of course, this is a rich canvas in which you may tell any story that you please.

We then dive straight in with Chapter 1: Character Creation. The process is summarised in a single page, but of course it's a bit more complex than that as you need to choose backgrounds and skills - even if you do get Trained Pilot background for free, 'cos zipping about in a spaceship is core to the game. You need to pick four backgrounds, which feed into the skills you bring to the game. These can be chosen or rolled for on a random table. A background generally gives you about four skills or their equivalent - some give eight and occupy two slots in your list of backgrounds. Each is described in a few sentences which build up to give an outline of your character's past.

One of the more interesting choices for a background is 'partner' - this gives you a whole other person who tags along with you, and has a character sheet of their own. It's suggested that the GM may role-play this individual, but another method - especially if several players in the group have partners - is to trade them amongst the group, playing each other's partners. One of the things coming out of the process already is a strong sense of 'You are the hero of your own story' and it's going to be interesting to see how this fits into the group or party oriented mindset of most RPGs, as characters are developed in isolation. There is a Karma point system which reiterate that 'You are the hero' view, with Karma Capabilities (you choose from a list and get Escape Death as a bonus one) and points which you can use to reroll a bad die roll... and all are consumed if you call upon Escape Death! They do regenerate, though...

Finally there are eight starships to pick from. They are all one- or two-person craft (if you have a partner you'll need a two-seater), or you can design your own with a 100.000 credit budget (which doesn't go that far...) if you prefer. But EVERY player-character has his or her own ship. You then need to give your character a name and decide what he looks like, and get some basic equipment. Then, adventure awaits...

Or at least it will once you've got through Chapter 2: Playing the Game. This begins by talking about the overall objective (to have fun and make a vast fortune whilst having exciting adventures) and the various GM-set goals you will need to achieve along the way. Several examples are given, all more or less open-ended as to what you're going to do about the situation. Then on to using those skills you just determined that your character has, a matter of deciding what skill you wish to use, getting a difficulty number to roll over and making your attempt by rolling a D10 and adding your skill bonus. If you use a skill, even if you are not successful, you put a tick beside it and at the end of the adventure you can raise it by 1 until you reach the level cap (40 for a starting character) - but only once per skill per adventure however many times you use it. There's a brief description of all the skills so that you can decide which one you want to use, and an explanation of how characters advance to higher levels - you don't want to go around labelled Harmless for ever, after all! This is done by amassing Rank Points, awarded by the GM for things like defeating a foe or succeeding with a skill that materially advances the adventure.

Chapter 3 is devoted to Combat, and it explains how combat works in space, between vehicles (planetside ones, that is), and in person. Combat in person is often conducted at a distance with firearms, but you can also brawl with fists or wave a sword around if you are feeling a bit mediaeval! When engaged in a fight, you may or may not choose to use a map - it depends if you like freeform fighting or a more 'miniatures skirmish' style. Both styles are accommodated here, it's really a matter of personal choice which your group will use. Combat proceeds through a turn-based system, with initiative determined by die roll. During your turn you can move up to ten metres and take an action, with numerous special cases according to circumstances. Note that artificial gravity has not been invented in this universe (although large ships and space stations can generate it through rotation) so characters will often find themselves in a micro-gravity environment. Most folk wear magboots, which keep your feet secure yet allow for movement: if you have them you can move normally in a low gravity environment - but if you're caught without yours movement can get a bit tricky! Wounds and healing are also covered here, before the discussion moves on to space combat. In this game, it's conducted at very close range - a few kilometers at most - and bears a lot of simularity to an aerial dogfight or naval ships in the age of sail exchanging broadsides with the added feature of fighting in three dimensions. A rough map does help here, whether or not you like them for personal combat. Again there is a whole range of actions you can perform both in preparation for combat and once the furball begins. It's also explained how you take (or deal out) damage and how it is repaired during combat. If things go too badly wrong, you might abandon ship by taking to the escape pods (if your ship has them). Finally vehicle combat is covered. It's similar to space combat except there are far more obstacles to crash into, and the ground limits the directions in which you can move.

Next, Chapter 4: The Galaxy is a guided tour of a spaceship, delivered as if you are taking delivery of a new one. This is followed by an overview of the galaxy itself, politically speaking. It's an amusingly ideosyncratic discourse, with an Empire and a Federation (both have advantages and disadvantages) and an Alliance of Independent Systems, as well as many independent worlds... quite a lot to take in but it all makes for a fascinating read. Under the guise of 'Good Citizenship in Space' it also explains what is acceptable behaviour out in the black.

Chapter 5: Personal Equipment follows, with details of all manner of items as well as the currency used. There are enough varieties of weapons to keep the most ardent gun-bunny content, with plenty of illustrations and descriptions as well as game mechanical information... and a selection of 'rare' items which could interest the collector or someone seeking a signature weapon. Armour - considered a bit crass to wear in public without very good reason - is also covered, as are cybernetic modifications, which again can have a negative effect on how people view the modified individual. Moving on to ordinary clothing we discover that in a very judgemental galaxy what you wear influences how others perceive you, via a Social Factor mechanic that quantifies the effect. There's all manner of other items of equipment here too, from communicators to cosmetics!

Next, Chapter 6: Spacecraft provides the lowdown on how cheap faster-than-light travel and the mass-production of ships has transformed the galaxy and the lives of inhabitants, with spaceship ownership akin to today's role of cars. All spacecraft come with weapons, as space piracy is rife. As already noted, it's a basic 'given' of the game that each player-character has his or her own ship, rather than the party sharing one as in most games. Here there are further details of the ships mentioned in the character generation section and of many more besides, and there are also rules for those who'd prefer to design their own ship from the keel up. A lot is based on the way the Elite: Dangerous videogame handles spacecraft, although some of the calculations have been simplified on the grounds that computers do sums a lot better than most role-players do! There is still an impressive amount to wade through if you do want to get into ship customisation, however. For the technically-minded, faster-than-light travel is empowered by a 'frame shift drive' although there's no real indication of what that does, just a few passing mentions of 'witchspace'. In normal space, thrusters are used. And yes, you can purchase a Docking Computer, which my husband, an Elite veteran, claims is essential as it takes all the bother out of docking with a rotating space station!

Chapter 7: Vehicles then does much the same for planetside vehicles as the preceeding chapter did for spacecraft. On normal inhabited and civilised planets, virtually all vehicles are autonomous and 'driving' consists of telling the vehicle where you want to go, however there are plenty places where the necessary infrastructure is not present and you still have to actually take control yourself. You do need, however, to make sure that your spacecraft has a large enough hanger to transport any vehicle you purchase... although no doubt it is possible to rent a vehicle for one-off use planetside. Some vehicles are designed for airless worlds, others operate in atmosphere while submarines and aircraft are also available.

That's it for the player section. We are now in to Gamemaster territory. It opens by explaining how daunting a first attempt at GMing can be... yet it's also rewarding and exciting as well. It discusses attitude and approach before getting down to mechanics like how to set difficulty numbers for task resolution... and how to handle the outcomes, good and bad, once the roll has been made. The discussion then moves on to the types of game you can run, with considerations as to how much preparation you can and want to do, how much you like freeform gaming compared to having a plot ready for the party to interact with and so on. Loads of ideas here. The first suggestion, for those who like very defined adventures, is a military or police campaign, then there's material about intrigue and espionage based ones. Then there's the major interstellar industry of exploring new worlds in search of places to exploit or colonise. There's frequent reference to the Random Generation System (RGS, detailed later!) which reduces the work of prior planning and preparation - it can even be used mid-game to create, for example, a new solar system even as the characters fly into it!

Yet the 'default' setting for a game based on Elite has to be the Lone Wolf one, with each character in his own ship - as laid out in the character creation rules - each working for himself, an independent operator. The constraints of a traditional role-playing group demand that they have to cooperate, but because they choose to do so rather than for employment reasons (be it military, police, exploration company or whatever). While these can be difficult to run, because the characters can go where they want and do what they want, there are certain frameworks that you can set, such as mission-based games. Perhaps they freelance for the aforementioned organisations, taking discrete jobs when the opportunity arises. Military, espionage and exploration missions can work well, as can 'cargo delivery' tasks. Or you can run a sandbox game: give them an area of space and a starting point and let them go where they like. It does take a fair bit of pre-planning, although the crafty will have a series of generic adventures that happen in whatever place the party has decided to go, or ones which are tagged to certain places but have no timescale, they'll occur when the party enters System X, be that the first place they go or the last. The RGS can help, but it's best if there is some kind of overarching plot. The Elite Dangerous galaxy has some 20,000 civilised star systems, but you don't need to design them all at once! Start with a dozen or so, and grow your galaxy over time. A lot of GMing will involve making things up on the spot, if only because the most unpredictable creature in known space is the player-character! Fortunately there's help available here about some perceived common occurences, many combat-related... but there are notes on all manner of things from hiring crew for a ship to making up new Backgrounds for people to use during character creation, and much, much more.

Then a concept of Between Adventures is introduced. This is a time for all the housekeeping, trading, ship- and character-improving tasks you don't want to role-play out but which do serve the progrssion of character and game as a whole. Perhaps the characters earn some money through independent activities in between the times they operate as a group. This can be abstracted - if you find too much detail sneaking in it may be worthy of some playing time, although some folks do like a reasonable level of detail even in their 'off-screen' time. The trick is to abstract the stuff you don't care to occupy role-playing time with, and use it to set up the things you do want to play out. It's quite a neat rationalisation.

But there's more. Chapter 9: Opponents provides advice about creating and using the opposition - individuals and organisations. At the most basic level, they come in three kinds: personal, vehicle and spaceship. These, of course, are the ones that the party have to fight - but the discussion soon moves on to creating encounters and provides pleny of examples at all three scales, grouped as military/mercenary, criminal, police/security and so on. Alien animals are also included for those venturing planetside; and finally there are drones for the technologically-inclined. Chapter 10: Rewards discusses how to reward characters appropriately for what they do, both in terms of cash and in terms of character advancement.

Finally, then, we reach the long-awaited Random Generation System. It's been mentioned enough in preceeding chapters, and now here it is in all its glory: an array of tables to help you generate systems, missions, just about anything you might need. It's equally useful for planning a game or in the middle of one when you need something in a hurry, and just reading the options available can often spawn ideas... and of course you can ignore the result of a roll when a better idea occurs, even if you started out setting something up randomly.

A raft of Appendices to aid in creative processes, then we are done. There's great potential here and it's playable irrespective of whether or not your group enjoys the Elite videogames. The concept of having each player-character running his own ship may be a bit of a challenge: do they travel as a pack, or when they get together do they dock their personal vessels and embark on something big enough for all of them? The entire game system is very open and adaptable, but the GM is going to have to do some groundwork - even if it's furious die-rolling against the RGS - before you are ready to go. Unless your group wants a police proceduaral in space game, the Quickstart that comes bundled with the core rulebook is more to introduce the system than to kick-start your campaign. Have fun, and keep your blaster handy!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

CE 9 - Both Foul and Deep

29 March 2018 - 7:45am
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
Rating: 5
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This DCC-toolkit clocks in at 53 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages SRD, leaving us with a massive 50 pages of content, though these are formatted for 6’’ by 9’’ digest size (A5), which means you can fit multiple pages on one sheet of paper.


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


So, first things first, in case you’re new to the series: The Campaign Elements-series is basically a collection of set-pieces supplemented with rules, intended to be dropped as is into an ongoing campaign…or to be used as a scavenging ground. As such, this sits squarely on the line between modules and setting supplements – while it can be used as written, it is just as useful as a file to supplement other modules; take e.g. “The Jeweler that dealt in Stardust” – the module assumes that the smartest way for the PCs to enter the locale would be via the sewers, but there isn’t much going on there. This is where an enterprising judge can employ this supplement, as we get a ton of material for sewers.


Wait. I know. Sewer levels/environments have a bad reputation. I can name, at the top of my head, a ton of modules that take place in sewers. Among these, 10%, at most, are worthwhile. But what if you want/need to run such a module? Well, this pdf pretty much helps dealing with that issue. We begin with a summary of different hooks to get the PCs down into the sewers. From there, we move on to general terrain features, the first thing a lot of modules in sewers fail to properly take into account. So yes, falling into sewage is a BAD idea – 6 different diseases can be found herein, ranging from mites and parasitic worms and scarlet rash. The second component many sewer-scenarios get wrong is that they depict, ironically, I might add, sewers as a mechanically sterile environment – this pdf does help here quite a bit: We get a d30 random encounter table, which brings me to one of the main components of this pdf.


You see, we not only get the usual people of the sewers (including secret taverns, cultists, etc.), but also a bunch of components we usually don’t see: Filthlarks, for example, the scavengers of the filthy places, gentlemen clubbers going to a clandestine meeting…and there are resurrection men; basically grave robbers in the name of science. Beyond those, we also get what amounts to a pretty massive bestiary section: We get albino alligators, aliens rats from another world, blood slugs, centipedes that seek to burrow into your flesh, carrion moths that spread hallucinogenic powder via their wings…even cooler: What about the cessceada? These swarming insects can cause the skin of those infected to slough off. There are beetles that can be sold to the dyer’s guild for profit, particularly agile drain runner foes, disgusting oozes, filth elementals… Have I mentioned the globlins that split by fission? Hellspore fungi and lamprey swarms are cool, and in the dark recesses, there also is the terrifying loathly one; there are phantom gentlemen…and more. This bestiary section is really cool, with each of the entries breathing some form of truly intriguing and captivating idea, in spite of the sometimes down to earth theme.


The pdf also provides the patron Squallas, mistress of the night soil rivers, but we only get the invoke patron table here – no custom spells, patron taint or spellburn, but all right. This would btw. be as well a place as any, there are quite a few really nice full-color illustrations throughout the pdf – particularly the sewer troll image is nice.


At this point, it should be noted that judges with an extensive library of books may find some nice easter eggs here and there – in the case of the troll, for example, a nod to the upcoming, Angels, Daemons and Beings Between II by Shinobi 27 Press. These nods are unobtrusive enough to not impede your enjoyment of the content, but certainly should be fun for quite a few judges…and they provide obscure and potentially easily ignored links you can further develop…but I digress.


Now, so far, I have mainly commented on the toolbox-y aspects of this pdf, but it is also an adventure locale. We get a solid b/w-map of the sewer-area depicted AND a player-friendly iteration, which is a huge plus, as far as I’m concerned. Now, the keyed encounter areas provided for the judge come with well-written read-aloud text (we have come to expect nothing less from Daniel J. Bishop!), but also feature unique hazards and creatures beyond the ones already mentioned – some are obviously intended as plot-threads for the judge to further develop, while others are just amazing; the image of a massive spider that carries its brood on its back is great, and just let it be known that just because corpses move doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily undead…which can result in a rather cool scene. Oh, and the line from the core book? Yes, there is a means to learn a spell from the mouth of a dead man…and how that phrase is twisted is really cool. I could explain all of the 9 keyed encounters here, but I’d frankly do the book a disservice.


You see, the series has traditionally a “squeezing it dry”-section, wherein you can find further suggestions to get the maximum amount of mileage out of the book – considering how strongly the toolbox/bestiary aspect is emphasized here, I can most definitely see judges employ this pdf’s contents far beyond the exploration of the sewers presented here.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard that is pretty printer-friendly. The full-color artworks are captivating, cool and deserve a big shout-out. The cartography featuring a player-friendly map is really cool. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with detailed, nested bookmarks, making navigation comfortable.


Daniel J. Bishop’s name on a book is, for the most part, a great indicator that it will rock – in fact, even if you do not play DCC, both new school and old school games can get something out of his offerings. There is a crisp quality to his prose, an overarching vision that not only gets the peculiarities of DCC, but, more importantly, really understands the tone and what makes it stand out. There is always an aspect of the weird here, one that feels like it was drawn straight from the greats. In fact, much like Leiber or Howard, he is adept at using precious few words to inspire; his fantasy, infused with a little dose of gonzo and the soul of sword and sorcery, has a distinct tone that is both grounded and wondrous, that retains this strange, captivating sense of plausibility. This booklet brings this aesthetic to sewers, perhaps the most maligned of adventuring locales, and elevates them. In short, this little booklet is one of the very few supplements/modules dealing with sewers that I’d consider superb – the monsters are so cool and interesting that quite a few may well warrant conversion. DCC judges, the primary audience of this book, should consider this a must-purchase anyway. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design