Jan 292015
 

usa-chanBy Endzeitgeist

Blessed and Hunted – The Story of the Usa-Chan is 4 pages long, 3/4 of a page SRD/editorial, leaving us with 3 1/4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We kick off this little pdf with a short origin-myth of the new race of the Usa-Chan – who are essentially bunny people in the style of Usagi Yojinbo (and if that does not ring any bells, google it!) and ties it neatly in with an alternate origin legend for the kitsune.

Usa-Chan get their own subtype, +2 Dex and Str, -2 Int, +2 to climb, -2 Disable Device & Sleight of Hand, +2 to initiative and run as a bonus feat, get a base speed of 40 feet, always treat as having a running starts, may move freely through any undergrowth and 1/day as an immediate action, these guys can enter a rage for +2 to Str and Con and will saves, -1 to AC, maintained for con-rounds.

As far as FCOs are concerned, we get those for barbarian, cleric, druid, monk, ranger and oracle and we also get alternate racial traits: Spell-like abilities (disrupt undead, guidance, stabilize, protection from evil OR detect poison, know direction, longstrider, pass without a trace) 1/day, +2 to acrobatics, no penalty to AC when raging, better shadow-bloodline/darkness domain cha-score/CL, two primary natural attacks at 1d3 or +4 to CMD versus bull rush and trip.

As a variant, some Usa-Chan are born with Black Furs – these are small, get +2 Cha and Wis, -2 Con, chooses two skills to always be class skills AND gets +3 to both, +2 to initiative and run as a bonus feat, +2 to climb, -2 to Sleight of Hand and Disable Device, normal speed AND burrow speed 20 feet and can move unimpeded through undergrowth. They also get their own FCOs for the cleric, monk, oracle, rogue, sorceror and witch-classes.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to ana easy-to-read, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with a drop-dead gorgeous piece of line-drawing b/w that is almost worth the price alone. The pdf comes sans bookmarks, but doesn’t need them at this length. The pdf comes with a second, hyperlinked version that sports the good, unobtrusive type of hyperlinks.

This is one of *those* races. On the one hand, the writing by Cleveland English and Jaye Sonia is awesome, the races are high-concept and cool. But damn, are they BLOATED AND OVERPOWERED. These guys mop the floor with just about all ARG-races. Yes, that bad. They are geared towards classes in stronger ways than the races of Rhûne (and this setting includes races that are literally made for certain purposes!) and overall feel like a typical Mary-Sue-race. One has this concept one loves, adores and all the cool stuff a character of this race ought to be able to do. Well, it’s NOT the job of a race to do that. What can’t be done via classes, feats etc. – THAT is what a race should do. And this one fails. The power is beyond tieflings, aasimar etc. – far beyond them. The superb mobility (Hey, let’s have them have the most useful power of a friggin’ druid in wilderness at low levels and devalue this class choice!), burrow speed at first level. URGH. Remember, that means EVERYONE of the Usa-Chan can do these things. To quote Sam & Max: Let’s all bow to our lagomorph overlords.

Another thing that irks me to no end would be the lack of an age, height and weight table: How old do these guys get? What branches can sustain them? Don’t know. Finally, if you’re halfway adept at Japanese, you’ll know that -chan as a suffix denotes something cute and is usually used in a patronizing way or to refer to e.g. a cute girl, a sister etc. For guys, you’d usually use -kun to achieve the same end, unless you really wanted to emasculate them. I know that in my game, my players would never, ever stop complaining about this, but let’s face it – in the presence of these overpowered races, that is a nitpick, though one I felt compelled to mention since some people might be annoyed to no end by it.

Personally, I only got fluff out of this book. I wanted to like it and ended up loathing the overpowered crunch. I’d strongly discourage all but the races-wise most high-powered games from using these fellows. The fluff is glorious, though, as are the production values and the artwork and bang-for-buck-ratio save this from being trashed to smithereens by yours truly. Since I have to take all of these into account as well as the possibility that you just might happen to be looking for this insane power-level, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded slightly up by a margin to 3. If you want to get this for a balanced race and not the fluff, though – steer clear.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jan 272015
 

sleeperSleepers is a conspiracy horror game published by Death Spiral Games and written by Ben Counter, veteran of many Warhammer novels.

This game has been in development for a number of years and puts the players in the shoes of agents with super powers who have just woken up after a long slumber and a post cold-war disaster that’s changed how the world works.

At the time of this recording this game is being funded in Kickstarter and it’s well on its way to get the money it needs to be printed.

The setting sounds good, the mechanics sound good, the book looks good… Is it worth backing it?

I spoke with Ben Counter to ask him a bunch of questions about the game, the campaign and where the company is going with this book.

Hope you enjoy the show!

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Jan 262015
 

10_paladin_magic_itemsBy Endzeitgeist

10 Paladin Magic Items clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We kick off this pdf with 2 new enchantments – harm’s way allowing you to intercept attacks on adjacent allies a limited amount of times per day, whereas the Patience enchantment is *very* interesting – it confers +2 to atk and +2d6 nonlethal damage if you or your allies do not execute the first attack in a combat encounter, thus rewarding *not* setting up a first strike ambush scenario. Cool way to reward paladins for behaving virtuously. That being said, on a slightly nitpicky side, the wording does refer to “the paladin” instead of “the wielder”, insinuating that the enchantments are paladin-exclusive when they aren’t. This does not impede their functionality, but it does constitute a minor glitch. This partially extends to the items.

In the tradition of the 10-series, we actually receive much, much more than the promised 10 items – with the exception of the new artifact and 2 items, all of the items herein come in three versions – a lesser, a standard and a greater version. Though, on an admittedly nitpicky side, some items instead differentiate between lesser, greater and superior versions for a slightly confused terminology. As far as I could tell, GP-costs are not a factor between deciding which terminology to use, rendering thus the chosen words just non-unified. Once again, this is a cosmetic glitch, but one that potentially could cause unnecessary confusion.

Enough nitpicking, onwards to the items: Boots of the Brave allow you to excel when kicking down the door and protecting your allies when covering their retreat (temporarily enhancing their flight-speed!), including an option that allows you to make combat maneuvers to shut down enemy movement. Pretty cool item, though the latter option to negate movement of target creatures may be a bit strong for the 18,500 GP price-tag of the superior boots. Bracers of Heroic Deeds allow you to catch allies about to fall – which is iconic. Switching positions with an injured or helpless ally should probably specify that the effect is a conjuration (teleportation)-effect and magically taking an effect or attack – all of these have a limited number of uses per day to balance them. Once again, extremely useful and damn cool.

Gauntlets of Remand hearken back to the exceedingly cool “Manalces of Idonis” from Rituals of Choice I, granting the character an extradimensional prison, with efficiency increasing over the levels – exceedingly cool and awesome to take foes alive, this also allows for pretty cool infiltration strategies. The heavenly helm (here, there’s only one) allows you to use lay on hands as a gaze attack a limited amount of times per day. While it’s called “layout on hands” once, that once again is a typo I can live with – it does not impede functionality.

The Ring of Honor’s Justice is also interesting -it penalizes foes that use poison or similarly cowardly tactics with scaling curses. Nice! The Tabard of Righteous Metamagic increases effective spell levels for spells with the [lawful] or[good] descriptor. On another nitpicky tangent, formatting of the presentation of the 3 variants deviates from the one established in the other item entries.

Vestments of Honor’s Virtue defines honorable attacks and allows a paladin to receive a powerful defense buff a limited number of times per day.

The final item herein would be the artifact Harngaul, “The Righteous Storm” is created from alchemical ceramic, a new material, and is a double-edged greatsword and also a legacy item – this would be Rite Publishing’s take on magic items that increase in power over the levels. a hint of the significant power is granted via an omen the chosen wielder experiences. The blade increases in power at 3rd, 6th, 8th, 10th, 12th and 15th level, with unconscious-rendering effects to grant foes mercy to increased smiting capacity, channeling spell-like or supernatural abilities via the blade to dimensionally anchoring foes and even making force-weapons to accompany your strikes and finally adding holy avenger-style abilities.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting of this pdf are its weak point – the pdf has a number of cosmetic glitches that render some rules slightly opaque and some typos are in here. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s 2-column full-color standard. The pdf comes with nice full-color artworks I haven’t seen before and is fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its short size.

I sometimes wish RiP-mastermind and author Steven D. Russell had more time on his hands for writing – Steven ahs a massive flair for creating iconic, cool things that just rock and this pdf is no different. Where other pdfs would have bored me with celestial pseudo-apotheosis number 3849 or bland numerical escalation 489, the items herein dare to be *unique.* There is not a single, lame item herein – this pdf is literally all killer, no filler in the content-department, offering powerful, cool tools for good PCs as well as great fluff in between the crunch. Were it only for the content, I’d immediately rate this 5 stars + seal of approval. However, the pdf does sport more glitches than usual for Rite Publishing and some of them could conceivably cause confusion on whether the item in question is paladin-exclusive or not. As much as I want to, I hence can’t rate this the full 5 stars, instead settling on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4. HOWEVER, personally, I love the items herein – they are often just godsend on the utility level and hence we have one of the rare pdfs here that receives my seal of approval in spite of not getting the full 5 stars – to denote how cool these items are, in spite of the formal glitches.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jan 262015
 

channelerBy Endzeitgeist

The Channeler is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

The channeler is an arcane casting class that casts spontaneous via charisma and gets no armor or shield proficiency, but may use simple weapons. Crunch-wise, channelers get 3/4 BAB-progression, full spellcasting (more on that later), good fort and will-saves, 4+Int skills per level and always 8 hp (of the d8) per level – uncommon, but makes sense when taking into account what the channeler essentially is about – casting via life-force.

Whenever a channeler casts a spell, s/he loses spell level x 2 hit points and channelers may additionally overcharge their spells, risking a percentile-based chance to become sickened or stunned. Unlike regular damage, the damage incurred by spellcasting DECREASES not only current hit points, but also the maximum hit points the class has that day – only rest replenishes the maximum hit points (and only rest can cure the aforementioned negative conditions incurred by overcharging) back to their usual level and no – temporary hp or those netted by con-increases can’t be used, nor can a channeler lower his hp below 0 or kill him/herself via casting.

The channeler gets a fixed number of spells, starting at 2 and getting up to 21 at 20th level. At 3rd level, s/he gets access to 2nd level spells, at 5th level to 3rd level spells, gaining access to higher levels earlier than e.g. the sorceror. The one limiting factor of the channeler’s spellcasting is the amount of hit points s/he has, which means taking two toughness feats allow the channeler to cast +1 3rd level spell or +3 1st level spells per day before the additional hit points of the feats for HD come into the equation – still, for the investment, a solid power that is not too strong.

Meta-magic can be added by the channeler for free regarding spell-level increase, but doing so deals constitution damage equal to the spell’s level-increase by the metamagic added, capping at 4 spell levels and this damage may, as other damage incurred from spellcasting, only be healed naturally.

The class also gets “Eschew Materials” as a bonus feat (though it features one of several typos, calling it Eskew Materials”) and may learn a favored spell of first level at 7th level, casting said spell 3 times per day sans hp cost and later gaining an additional favored spell of 2nd, 3rd and 4th level respectively. These favored spell uses may also be substituted for metamagic-powered con-damage on a one-to-one basis.

Similar to a sorceror’s bloodline, the channeler also chooses a source for his/her powers – at first level, each of these sources provide a unique power and a bonus spell at first level and over the levels bonus spells taken from the list provided for each source. A total of 12 such sources are provided – mostly focused on dichotomous basic concepts – light and darkness, life and death, creation and destruction, the classic four elements as well as chaos and nature – but surprisingly not law. Most of the sources net (with the exception of the elemental sources) the channeler an aura of 600 ft. that can be started as a standard action and maintained as a free action indefinitely, spanning a massive 600 ft. Creation e.g. nets everything within its aura DR 1/- and +1 hardness – affecting not only allies, but also enemies. Destruction auras would conversely add +1 to every damage roll versus creatures (but surprisingly not objects).

Each source also nets channelers an ability at 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th level and the abilities per se are interesting, allowing e.g. for the creation-channeler to spontaneously created animated object servants for a limited amount of rounds per day or net 3+cha-mod times per day, a bonus of +2 to AC against one attack or saving throw, even retroactively, increasing over the levels. Instead of auras, the elemental channelers get to use one of their attribute modifiers when determining the DCs and variables for their spells – which per se is fine – but earth using con feels a bit overpowered for my tastes, as it essentially takes away one of the two attributes the class needs – what was before cha and con is now only con – and that’s NOT a good thing balance-wise. Especially, since at 13th level, con may also be used in place of wis for will-saves. Speaking of things that are problematic – the aura of the light source is BROKEN AS ALL HELL.

It grants every creature in it BLINDSENSE 60FT. AT FIRST LEVEL. 600 ft. radius. Do I even have to tell you why this is broken? Especially with standard stealth-rules, this is bad and while Drop Dead Studios’ “Rogue Glory” can slightly remedy this via the closer and more detailed take, but as a DM, handling blindsense on such a vast scale makes a rather significant array of problems regarding not only modules, but also in-game logic – put one of these guys into your mansion’s vault as security and watch rogues despair.

The pdf also provides advice for using channelers in your game and a short paragraph concerning their roles in the world.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not as good as I’ve come to expect from Drop Dead Studios – I encountered more easily avoidable editing glitches than usual, though they did not impede my ability to understand this class. Layout adheres to a two-column full color standard and the artworks are nice for the low price point. The pdf has no bookmarks, though they would have been useful. It is extensively hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com, though there are some glitches, with e.g. the word “destruction” being linked to the spell, though it refers to neither the spell, nor an ability – and there are a couple of those in here. The pdf comes in three versions – standard, unhyperlinked and more printer-friendly.

The channeler per se is an interesting take on the full caster, offering not slots, but a number of spells known and thus also quite a bit of flexibility and offering a solution for the concept of life-force-powered casting. I am also quite a big fan of the concept of granting them auras, adding a unique option not tied to spellcasting, which especially at lower levels will give the class something to do besides burning spells. But…really, 600 ft. is a LOT of ground and at lower levels too powerful – a scaling formula that expands the aura over the levels would have worked much better here. I’m also not a fan of the attribute-substitution of the elemental sources, with especially the earth one being too strong, as it takes away all but one attribute’s necessity for the class. Another design decision I’m not a fan of would be the classes 3/4 BAB-progression – nothing is done with it. If the source-abilities required a plethora of touch attacks and the class didn’t get full spellcasting, I wouldn’t complain, but they don’t – and in the end, that means the class is better with touch attacks than wizards and sorcerors while getting the high level spells sooner than sorcerors.

On the downside, the class gets continuously weaker and frailer throughout the day, meaning they can nova hard, but have a hard time for longer adventure days. And that’s one of the classes detriments – it requires a lot of tracking on the side of the player and after a massive battle, the character will become easily killable, whereas before, the class could almost tank – which is interesting combined with its BAB-progression. This is hard to rate for me, but honestly, I can see several problems with some abilities and multiclassing could offer additional ones, especially when combined with HD-intense classes and high con-builds, showing imho that the class somewhat lacks a further limiting factor. Also, I think that a slightly broader spell-selection would have helped the class.

All in all, a solid class with minor issues, though personally, I wouldn’t use it analogue to wizards or sorcerors. For some campaigns, though, this will fit the bill just right. But why don’t I rate this higher? Because spellcasting is a limited resource – and unlike any other class, channelers have various ways of increasing their array of available spells – and more so than e.g. wizards and sorcs via attribute-dependant bonus spells, allowing for more ways of getting magical power. Still not thinking this might be a problem? Take one high con creature with many hp and slap one level channeler on them and compare that to the power-increase the same creature would get from a level of sorceror. Yeah. the result’s not pretty and system-inherent, not truly solvable – but still. The decision to make such a class also means that if such issues are not addressed, the .balance is off.

On the one hand, then, this class works – and does so well with a number of interesting options. Then again, it can imho be broken – more easily so than it should. DMs allowing this class should definitely beware and consider the results. Hence, in spite of me actually liking what the class offers, I have to take this potential for abuse into account and thus, combined with the minor glitches, arrive at a final verdict of 2.5 stars – still rounded up to 3, though, since the class does not deserve being cut down to 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jan 232015
 

next_great_american_gameThe Next Great American Game is a documentary movie conceived and brought to life by producer and director Douglas Morse.

In this documentary, we’ll follow Randall Hoyt as he pitches his game, Turnpike, to  publishers in order to get it published.

As you can imagine, that is a task easier said than done and in this movie we’ll get some very good reflection of what is like to try and break it as a game designer.

I spoke with the director and asked all sorts of questions from funding to how real the situations in the documentary are. With a very impressive cast of designers and publishers, this documentary is a must see for anyone who is interested in any aspect of boardgame and specially to those with an interest in game publishing.

Hope you enjoy the interview and you can find more information about the movie in www.tabletopmovie.com.

 

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Jan 192015
 

pic152084_t[1]Disclaimer: Wolf gave me beer.

Admittedly, that is not enough to sway my liking a company or not. And certainly not enough for me to like or dislike their games more or less.

Also, we’re talking about Eggertspiele here… they have some amazing games.

And they are one really friendly and lovely company and I can’t mean this enough. Seriously. Next time you go to Spiel give them a go. Tell them we sent you and they will treat you very well, play games with you and make you feel welcome.

And if you don’t believe me, watch this interview!

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