May 212015
 

1314906812115123483do20not20touch20sign_svg_medBy Paco Garcia Jaen

This is something that’s happened to me recently and it wasn’t a pleasant experience, so I thought I’d share some advice with you: When a player leaves a group temporarily and leaves a character behind, leave it alone.

Do not play with the character, do not take their things and do not mess with it.

Let me put this into context a bit.

Recently and for family reasons I rather not go into here, I had to leave my group for a few weeks. We had been playing the Pathfinder Rise of the Runelords Campaign. We are not the fastest players and we had been at it for nearly two years… To get to half the campaign.

Yeah… we take our time.

I was playing a halfling ranger. A cute little thing with as much dexterity as ability to be annoying; 21. Yes my friends, he can do the splits and then some.

Anyway, Higgsbottom found a horse after a few encounters just after starting the adventure. Not just any horse, but a war horse the size of a small house. And they became friends. The halfling learned to ride and got rank after rank after rank in riding so I could actually ride the horse. I got the feats I needed and when it levelled up I got Animal Affinity so, you know, I could relate to Shadowmist.

And I was having a *great* time with it.

Meanwhile there was some bewilderment among my friends because how could a halfling ride an animal that big? It didn’t make sense.

Because I was having fun and I didn’t really care what anyone had to say, I kept playing with the horse and it became a really important part of my character.

Until I left.

My GM arranged for a scene to take place so Hhiggsbottom could leave the group in a congruent manner and still be able to rejoin when I returned. I was going to stay behind in a keep we had cleansed many months ago creating a school of fighting. I thought that was amazing and I was super excited.

Then the problem happened. Something had happened to Shadowmist. I thought it had died in a fight, or maybe the party had taken the horse with them because some of the other members could do with having a horse. And I was cool with that. It would be a suitable use of an asset that was useful to the party.

However what happened is that someone decided to sell the horse. Not use it for anything else other than get a few coins.

Suddenly the animal I had been working on and with for nearly two years disappears. Not the replaceable ring of protection, or the amulets or magic weapons. The horse. Because a halfling is not meant to ride a horse. Dragons are cool and fireballs are perfectly reasonable, but halfling on a horse? Nah… too much.

So when the player leaves the character in stand-by for a few weeks, what do you do? Sell his most valuable possession.

Not cool. At all.

So, please, take my advice, if a player decides to leave their character behind, do not touch it. Do not do anything, and i mean *anything* that will change that character for then the player comes back. And if you feel you want to do something, and you need to do something with that character or any of their possessions, talk to the player first.

Developing a character is not just about the character itself. It’s about making that character evolve and change in a manner that makes it special to you as a player. It takes a lot of effort and work to do that and, even though it’s just a game, it’s also an investment of time and emotional charge that doesn’t deserve to be casually destroyed just because you think it’s going to be “funny” or add “drama”.

Let me assure you, when that character’s player get upset, they won’t be over-reacting. They will be rightfully angry just like you’d be angry if someone decided to delete your favourite apps in your tablet or delete some of your photos because “you look bad in them”.

Indeed not cool at all.

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May 182015
 

142516[1]By Endzeitgeist

The first book of the two-part Cyclopean Deeps-Saga clocks in at 198 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 192 pages of content, so let’s check this out, shall we?

So, let’s, for now, process as spoiler-free as possible: Do you remember the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide released for 2nd edition? It’s a timeless classic indeed and showcases a significant component of what I consider flawed with most modern underdark/underworld modules. Let me describe it from this venue – have you ever been spelunking? There is an appeal to the hobby that is hard to describe, but I’ll try – at the same time, you feel like you have entered a new world, a place where your civilization and all of its comforts do not stretch to. You enter a place wondrous that differs significantly, via all of your senses, from the tactile to the olfactory, from what we are used to – reaching the surface once again can feel a bit like a shock after some time – loud, bright…all those smells. However, accompanying this general sensation, one is (or at least I am!) constantly and keenly aware of insane amounts of solid rock, balancing precariously above one’s head – whether as a sense of foreboding or respect, caves and caverns elicit a different perspective. Now, recently AAW Games has captured the proper sense of wonder rather perfectly with their Rise of the Drow saga.

In Rise of the Drow, we saw an unprecedented sense of realism applied to the section of the underdark that is kind of akin to the surface world, if not in environment, then in its social structures – we have dangerous animals, humanoid cultures (most evil) vying for dominance – it’s the surface world on crack and the RotD-saga can be counted among the few that managed to instill this sense of wonder in the vivid pictures painted. However, there is another underdark – a place where neither light, nor surface-dwellers usually tread. If you’re familiar with the Dark Souls games, think of this as the place that would have come below the lowest, blackest gulch. A place, where even the underworld-denizens fear to tread, a place forlorn and forsaken by the light. Below even Rappan Athuk, thus extends this place, one that can easily be transplanted to any setting – courtesy of there simply being no comparable supplement or module that goes quite that deep – usually, places like this are hinted at in the equivalent of telling the PCs “Don’t go there!” So there the fools go – here dwell the things no man has ever laid eyes on, here is the Deep Horizon, here are the Cyclopean Deeps.

If the hex-sporting map is not ample clue – this constitutes a sandbox in the truest sense – that is, this a player-driven, old-school module with ample sample random encounters. Also: Know how old-school sometimes is used as a buzzword? Well, not so here. Indeed, this place is defiantly old-school and LETHAL. Even when compared to Rappan Athuk, the Cyclopean Deeps are deadly – very deadly. So yeah, if your group is looking for a challenge, a module worth winning – this is what you want. How nasty can this place be? Brutal enough to actually require no work on my part to make the module more challenging.

Want an example? All right, but to provide you with one, I’ll have to go into SPOILERS. Players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

Still here? All right! If you were one of the lucky ones, Rappan Athuk’s KS back in the day provided two teasers of this massive module – and one detailed Ques Querax, gateway to the Cyclopean Deeps, wherein strange minotaur golems guard the premises. The local temple sports 3 priests, always in the same position, unmoving, catering to the whims of a strange head – only if you resist the unearthly fear of this place do you receive healing – but you never actually see it cast – upon leaving the temple, the effects suddenly…happen. Curiosity, alas, much like in CoC, may kill the cat, though – and like in the old truism, turn it into a multidimensional horror with puckered tentacles that is coming right for YOU! (Yes, actually trying to find out *how* these guys cast spells may shatter your sanity and provide a neat new career choice as a terrible servant of the mythos. A tavern owned by a denizen of Leng, an intelligent giant slug slaver, a dog-headed perfume-creating alchemist – not only are plenty of these folk EVIL, they also are WEIRD in a rather uncanny, horrific way. And the interesting thing is – this is civilization in these parts. It literally does not become better than this, so the PCs better figure out means of making this place work for them – a dangerous, but moderately secure base is better than none! Have I btw. mentioned the living eye of Gaaros-Uaazath, arguably one of the most powerful and odd entities herein, secretly creating a mind-bending, centipede-like war-machine?

But beyond the gates of Ques Querax, beautiful and precious wonders await – finding e.g. gems worth thousands of gold may be a reason for joy – until you read the entry of said random treasure – it reads “kidney stone.” I am not kidding. The book *brims* with these little tidbits – and each and every one is tailor-made to come together in a vista exceedingly tantalizing and disturbing. From chain-bound jack-in-irons giants to mists of concealing, detection-blocking darkmist and the dark stalker/creeper enclave of Izanne, there are politics to be found, and yes, civilization – however, each veneer is distorted and odd, a threat underlying just about every step, every interaction – while never losing the evoked, profound sense of wonder that oozes from each and every encounter – and yes, some purists may scoff at decisions to smack down truly wondrous effects that lie beyond the capacity of spells here and there – but as for me, I love this decision – it drives home the need for care, the sense of magic…well, being truly magical. What level of detail am I referring to? well, what about a whole array of options, should the PCs elect to run across the rooftops of the fully-mapped Izanne? Or perhaps the PC’s friendly nigh-ghoul guide wants to sell them some slaves and palanquins from his third cousin – the resounding themes of civilization can be found herein, though they are twisted in a grotesque way – a fact that also is reflected by the copious missions provided – and in the messages, that partially are traps, partially are odd – but ultimately, are different. Unique aberrations and strange folk abound, demons trod the streets and even here, a sense of decrepitude, of civilizations most vile, fallen to magics even worse, suffuses the paragraphs, with details upon details drawing a picture of a world that could be another, a place so wildly different, yet familiar, that it could be considered an escalation of the concept of the uncanny.

What about spellbooks that have been folded into the fourth dimension, pods that may transmit memories, odd, singing crystals – there is a lot of wonderful, enigmatic stuff to be found; and if your players prefer making an impact, the nasty and inscrutable people, from serpentfolk to aboleths, are all actually playing their own games, with subquests, goals and the like handily organized for your convenience. Now if you’re not familiar with some old-school rules, you might be surprised to see e.g. a reference to percentile rolls and chances to decipher a lost language – this is a remnant of old-school gaming and should have been updated to PFRPG using the Linguistics-skill. And yes, some remnants like this can be found herein. However, in which other supplement are the players tasked (on an optional basis, of course!) to awaken a death god? Eat energy-bars of strange fungus or find out that the nice magic items they found are powered by energy infusions generated by constant sacrifice of sentient beings? It should also be noted that the NPC-builds, while sporting some straightforward ones, also feature some more complex ones.

But honestly, I don’t love this book for its mechanics – but where else can you find human-faced, giant ants, unearthly flowers and air, spatial distortions and ways of thinking (properly explained for the DM) that may seem starkly in contrast to our logic…and have I mentioned the importance of the Leng rubies?

Now if the nomenclature and overall array of options seemed confusing to you, a massive glossary should help. The new monsters herein are copious and weird, as are the short, fluff-only write-ups of the elder things. The appendices also contain the numerous unique items – though, much like in the crunch, there are some examples of old-school mechanics to be found herein – e.g. an artifact that requires you to roll multiple d6s and score below your attribute score. The pdf contains various, cool maps, all of which receive player-friendly versions – and there are hand-outs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to FGG’s printer-friendly, two-column b/w-standard and the module comes with A LOT of awesome, unique original b/w-art. The book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography in b/w is neat.

Author Matthew J. Finch delivers quite frankly one of the most imaginative, awesome books in the whole Frog God/Necromancer Games-canon; much like the stellar Dunes of Desolation, this book constitutes a prime example of why I want to see as many new FGG modules as possible. I own all Necromancer Games modules, even the boxed sets, and yes, even the rarities. That being said, I do think that FGG’s modules surpass those of NG. Cyclopean Deeps Volume I is such a monument – this book reached a level of imaginative detail, of sheer creativity, that one only finds perhaps once in a blue moon. The literally only comparisons I could draw in that regard would be to the best of FGG-modules or to the 4 Dollar Dungeons-modules by Richard Develyn – and you probably by now realize how much I adore them. That being said, this book is far from perfect; the remnants of the conversion not being carried out properly in all cases do stick out like sore thumbs to me and formally, constitute a blemish that you should be aware of.

Then again, this massive book is intended for experienced DMs and experienced groups – beyond the lethality of the module, the sheer amount of sandboxing, of entwined things going on, means that A DM has to have some experience under the belt to run this. But know what? The complexity doesn’t faze me and neither do the conversion relics matter to me – for one, in some cases, one could chalk them up to mechanics simply working differently here as well. On the other, capable DMs can easily fix these minor problems. And none of those minor hiccups matter to me in this case – what would singularly break the neck of lesser books just falls under the rag here – the writing is THIS good. Beyond a level of detail that can only be described as excruciating, there simply is no other module, no other environmental supplement tackling anything like this; the only other underworld sandboxes that approach this in terms of complexity would be the second Act of RotD or the classic Open Design “Empire of Ghouls” and both have a wildly different focus, completely different themes.

This manages to elicit a sense of cultural wonder akin to the writings of the classic titans like Gygax, a breath of the magical and uncanny, while also breathing the spirit of the mythos and classic pulp fiction akin to Howard or Haggard. Cyclopean Deeps managed to evoke something I almost never feel anymore these days – a sense of jamais-vu. This is not yet another rendition of some tired old, much rehearsed tropes – this is the antithesis of exceedingly tired level 1 module with goblins and an ogre or shadow as the final boss. This massive tome breathes more unique ideas in a chapter than some whole series of books. Even when compared to Rappan Athuk et al., this tome dabbles in themes and topics far beyond the focus on demonic entities, creates a sense of wonder and, paradoxically, realism. As odd and alien the vistas portrayed herein are, they still feel uncannily organic, realistic and alive – which drives further home the point of this book being not only unique, but inspired in the very best way.

The formal hiccups here and there might annoy you, but if you are missing out on this monumentally inspired world/setting-building due to them, you are depriving yourself of perhaps one of the most captivating reads I’ve had in any iteration of a d20-based system. And if you don’t mind some old-school remnants or perhaps even enjoy them, then this should be considered a true milestone. I’ve been struggling with myself for quite a long time on how to rate this book, but as far as I’m concerned, the vast imaginative potential this book offers trumps just about any minor blemish or criticism you could field against it; to the point, where complaining would seem disingenuous and downright petty-minded. There are few books of this size that have managed to captivate me to this extent during the whole lecture of them and this massive sandbox should be considered a must-have addition to any DM looking for the deep below – even as disparate encounters and for the purposes of scavenging elements, this book is well worth the asking price. I thus remain with a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval, a nomination for the Top Ten of 2014, a longing for Vol. 2 and the regret that I am too poor to get this glorious tome in print.

Endzeitgeist out.

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May 182015
 

ahool By Endzeitgeist

This supplement clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We kick off this installment of the Underworld Races-series with an extensive history of the underworld’s genesis -a subterranean origin myth, if you wish – from the banishment of the infernal forces of HEL in earth’s core to the forging (and splintering) of the dwarven races to the rise and fall of the dracoprime and the arrival of the colloid (the contribution of your’s truly to the lore of Aventyr) , we get an interesting, well-crafted origin myth here, one supplemented by a full blown-table of age, height and weight tables not only for the ahool, but for all underworld races.

After this general overview, we delve right into the write-up of the Ahool -so what are they? Demonic interaction with mortal races tends to spawn new species -and thus, the Ahool were born and from these did spawn the ahooling -a race of blood-drinking, vampiric humanoids. Ahoolings get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int, are monstrous humanoids, a fly speed of 30 ft. (clumsy), SR 6+class level, darkvision 60 ft, resistance 5 to sonic and cold, a natural bite attack at 1d4 as a primary weapon, get +4 to fly-checks (here rather odd – the entry on this bonus mentions them as incapable of flying properly, which they can certainly do according to the flight speed) and suffer from light blindness. Rather weird here – fly speed versus vestigial wings – clumsy nets -8 to fly, the wings +4, so I *assume* a net skill of -4, but I’m not sure.

Apart from their moss caverns, the race also receives a significant amount of favored class options, which generally tend to be rather cool and cover most of the classes. However, a glitch has crept here in the option for the fledgling ahool racial paragon class: The FCO specifies that the race receives +2 ft. fly speed, which needs to be increments of 5 ft to work – so far, so good. But weirdly, the FCO mentions that there’s no effect if it has not been selected 5 times, which contradicts how the FCO works movement-rate wise – so which is it? Clarification would be required here.

We also receive two so-called racial archetypes, which essentially constitute of a select array of alternate racial trait-kits that can be applied to the ahooling – the Terrestrial and the Aquatic Ahooling – both receive change shape effects and alternate movement rates. Most interesting, though, would be the modularity that seeps into the racial paragon class – the racial archetypes influence the apotheosis granted by the class.

Now I’ve been mentioning this 5-level PrC, which nets full BAB-progression, good ref- and will-saves, d10, increases fly speed up to 60 ft., 2+Int skills per level, +3 natural armor bonus and the class allows the race to learn to blood drain, receive claws as secondary attacks and also learns to unleash obscuring mists, gusts of wind and finally receive a kind of apotheosis towards being closer to a full-blown ahool. They also receive a couple of appropriate proficiencies and the option to unleash a limited amount of sonic blasts on foes..

The ahooling may also opt for the Ironsinger PrC, which nets a 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 fort-save progression, +5 natural armor bonus progression and also DR 4/- over the 10 level-progression. The class also receives d8, 4+Int skills per level and increase the damage output of the sonic blasts granted by the fledgling racial paragon class. Beyond an array of thematically appropriate spell-like abilities, dazing and staggering sonic attacks and a capstone that lets them force targets to save multiple times to evade the lethal sonics.

Beyond these options, we also receive a total of 7 racial feats to improve bite attacks, flight and swoop down on foes, inspiring terror or reading information from the blood of those they consume. Speaking with bats and gaining fiendish familiars is also covered here. Rather weird here – flight is, once again, all over the place – one feat implies that the fledgling ahool only receives a limited amount of rounds of flight per day.

On the glorious side, a moss rope and net and bloodflow staunching moss make for cool alchemical items, whereas 3 magical items and 3 spells add further, nice options – throwing darts of obsidian that damage those without natural armor trying to use them, or the cool ahool crown make for neat items.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches apart from some italicization errors. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full-color standard with rocky borders and awesome graphic elements, making this a beautiful, if not very printer-friendly pdf. The original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Myler and Julian Neale deliver a great race that is high concept and intriguing – but alas, one that partially falls short of the great promise of the race’s concept – the total and utter confusion regarding whether they get proper flight or not mars the ahooling somewhat, mostly due to unassisted flight usually being balance-wise restricted to some levels down the line. It’s overall somewhat hard to judge the race regarding this particular balancing, especially since the ahooling per se isn’t a particularly weak race in the first place – SR et al already make for a sufficiently powerful race at the higher end of the spectrum. That being said, this is not a bad supplement, the ahooling making for a compelling, unique race and the sonic-based PrCs and options generally make for a sufficiently unique race that feels like its own, unique culture, which is more than I can say about quite an array of creatures. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

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May 072015
 

darroBy Endzeitgeist

This installment of Kobold Press’ Advanced Races-series is 20 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, I’ll come right out and say it -I love the derro as a concept and as adversaries. There is something downright awesome…add a slice of Lovecraftiana and CoC/ToC-fanboy yours truly has not much to complain about concept-wise. However, this pdf goes one step beyond that, providing thoroughly unique concepts like the “Imposition of the Will” – which hearkens back to a certain other infamous real life statement and represents the strange surges of fads and concepts that grip the collectively insane derro culture. Which also brings me to another component of the fluff – if you’re like me and can’t turn off your critical reading skills, you’ll notice that the derro and their whole culture can arguably be read as a pretty black satire on mass media Web 2.0-culture – which fluff-wise provides the icing on the cake.

Now the central component of a derro would be the racial insanity, right? well, thankfully, this installment does provide some troubleshooting and concise advice for players who wish to play such a character and still retain the functionality of the group/character. The derro herein do receive full age, height and weight tables as well as favored class options for alchemist, bard, barbarian, druid, fighter, inquisitor, magus, oracle, ranger, rogue, sorceror and witch. All of the FCOs are thematically fitting and well-balanced and players also receive a nice selection of suggested, thematically fitting archetype/character concept choices.

Now I consider the RP-values of the ARG anything but functional, but even a cursory glimpse of the derro will show you that these guys are too strong for most groups – hence, as a player race, the lesser derro is introduced. These guys receive +2 to Dex and Cha, small, have a base speed of 20 ft., receive darkvision 60 ft., gain keen senses and light sensitivity and may cast ghost sound 3/day as an SP. They also receive familiarity with certain weapons and poison use. Know what? NOTHING to complain! Balanced between physical and mental, with solid tricks, this base race fits into EVERY campaign, even the most conservative of groups. Kudos! Now what this pdf does beyond that is interesting – it provides the racial traits to upgrade them to full-blown derro. Yes, this means that even high-power groups receive their due. Kudos! While there are cosmetic glitches in the presentation here (like Dex coming after cha or a “+” missing), these glitches are cosmetic and do not detract at all from the appeal of these base racial stat-arrays. Of course, either derro kind is mad and thus use their cha-mod for will-saves instead of wis and gains a minor madness. In Midgard, derro receive a status-penalty.

A total of 8 alternate racial traits allow a player to customize a derro to have less darkvision, but also no light sensitivity, better social skills when dealing with aberrations, chaos magic-synergy (see Deep Magic), more minor SPs, speaking to vermin. What about a mad obsession with a particular skill that increases all skill bonuses of +2 to the skill to +3 at the cost of an additional minor madness?

The Knowledge (Forbidden Lore) skill also receives a short introduction and then, we receive madness tables – 5 of them. Minor madness can point towards small objects, living creatures, delusions, physical effects -pretty awesome! Derro nomenclature is covered herein as well – fluff-wise, once again, absolutely awesome – and in opposition to the installment on gnolls, much closer to being a suitable player-race…at least so far.

A total of 6 new feats is provided – from the relatively standard verminspeaker (guess thrice what that one does…yeah) to gaining sneak attack +1d6 at the cost of more madness and a skill-bonus-feat to increase intimidate – and further boost that by taking wis-damage. Interesting! Cooler – what about being a compulsive hoarder who can scatter sharp objects as essentially a respawning caltrop array? Yeah, cool! On the metamagic-side, chaosfire makes for an interesting madness-influenced chaos magic and yes, there is a story feat – Pierce the Veil. Well, in order to fulfill that, you have to make contact with a cozy entity like good ole’ Nyarly. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Well, permanent SPs wink among those completion benefits…

Two cool traits can also be found in these pages, as can 3 spells: What about the gleefully random madfire? And yes, facemelt and skullsplitter are just as nasty as you’d expect them to be. Magical fauchards, the dread weeping poison, ghost bolts, foul statues of hateful gods and dread staves also speak a pretty clear language…

The pdf also sports archetypes, the first of which would be the Fist of Madness, who may use derro weapons as monk weapons, receives a modified skill list and instead of stunning fists, tehse guys can transport confusing madness with their attacks. The ki the class gains (powered by Cha, which also govern’s teh archetype’s AC-bonus btw.) can be used to temporarily grant defensive boosts and miss chances. The archetype may also poach among ninja tricks and later unleash confusion-causing bursts. Their ki strike is chaotic and instead of causing death at high levels, these guys can instill permanent mayor insanities. The capstone is also interesting -permanent circle of protection: law may seem lame…then you read that they can manipulate gravity freely in this area. Yeah. This is pretty awesome.

The second archetype is a small one, the monstrophile ranger, who instead applies his empathy to monstrous animals, unintelligent aberrations, vermin and oozes and the ranger also receives a vermin, reptile or amphibian companion…or an ooze companion!.GO CUBEY! Awesome.

The Shadow Antipaladin receives no heavy armor proficiency, smite law, an insanity/confusion-debuff aura, evasion and additional cruelties themed around insanity and sneak attack-progression. At higher levels DR enters the frame and the capstone renders the antipaladin into a constant source of insanity against all those serving law and order.

Finally, the pdf provides the new derro savant-bloodline, allowing for characters descendant (best not dwell on HOW) from the insane derro fetal savants. This bloodline is centered on knowledge and an entrancing gaze and receives a capstone for permanent enslaving of subjects.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – while I noticed some minor glitches, the pdf can be considered very well crafted in that regard. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ two-column full-color standard and the artworks provided, while probably familiar to KP-fans, are nice. the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Let’s get one thing out of the way – derro are insane. they are nasty and as a race, an unpleasant bunch. They are also a race I would never have allowed as a PC-race. I just didn’t want them “diluted” in their nastiness.

But unlike the installment on gnolls, this feels like it is intended for players – the archetypes universally have multiple interesting concepts going for them and do not require membership in odd cabals. They provide unique mechanical benefits. the pdf provides ample help for portraying the insane derro.

The new feats/content, in the vast majority of cases, is just cool. That, and the derro with their madness and fads, have a great rationale for why a certain derro might become an adventurer that helps a group/is a PC. Author Nicholas Milasich has improved SIGNIFICANTLY since the last pdf I read by his pen…and you can definitely see the writing of Kobold-in-chief Wolfgang Baur in this pdf. This AR is a great read; it is interesting, balanced and provides an array of more than solid options. Yes, I could nitpick some of the minor hiccups, but they remain just that – in the end, this is quite frankly one of the most inspired, awesome supplements in the whole series. Good enough, in fact, to allow this pdf among the available PC-races in my own campaign and revise my stance on “No Derro PCs.”

The final verdict, then, should come as no surprise: 5 stars + seal of approval. This exemplifies what the AR-series should be about, quality-wise.

Endzeitgeist out.

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May 042015
 

pic1732644_t[1]I bought Boss Monster two years ago and just now I’ve managed to do a review. I know… I know… lazy bugger I am.

It’s even worse because the game is very good and fun to play (though annoying at times too).

This a dungeon builder game in which the players take the role of the bosses in a retro videogame from the late 80s and early 90s. Said dungeon is built by placing cards beside the boss and completing a dungeon of 5 rooms that will deal damage to the brave adventurers who will risk their lives to loot the newly made villainous homes.

And now, after quite a few plays, I can tell you what I thought about the game in this quick podcast.

Hope you enjoy the show!

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Apr 302015
 

emerald_orderBy Endzeitgeist

This installment of Kobold Press’ Demon Cults-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 10 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

“A Demon Cult? Urgh.” If that was your response, then you’re pretty much like me and oversaturated by bland “doing it for evil’s sake”-idiot-plot-device adversaries. Thankfully, Kobold Press seems to have taken up the mantle to make secret societies and organizations no longer suck and actually have a distinct identity – at least that’s the goal. So can the Emerald Order fulfill it?

Well, for once, the Emerald Order is not actually a Demon Cult – worshipping Thoth-Hermes and having deciphered the secrets within the Emerald Tablets, the members have managed to attain increased magical prowess – alas, as per the truism, power corrupts and the Emerald Order, in the time-honored tradition of secret societies, is exerting significant influence of the bodies politic in the realms wherein they have established themselves. Guided in that endeavor are they by their fully statted CR 15 sample character, the middle-aged master of the order, who sports no less than all ten levels of the new PrC, but more on that soon. The statblock is nice to see, though AC the non-flat-footed AC seems to be off by 1 point – now the statblock itself remains functional for the DM and hence, I won’t complain too much about such minor hiccups.

The PrC covers 10 levels and is called Disciple of Emerald Esoterica. It requires 2nd level spellcasting and 3 ranks in some skills for relative early access, making the fluffy requirement of acknowledgment by the order to most important component. Formally, the PrC nets d6, 6+Int skills, 1/2 BAB-progression, 1/2 will-save progression and full spellcasting progression. The abilities themselves, sporting colorful names like “Key of Wisdom” and the like, deserve special mention -aforementioned first ability allows for the stacking with cleric levels for ability purposes or skill bonuses to wis-based skills that increase based on ranks akin to lesser skill focus-style benefits. Similar benefits are provided for arcane casters and oracles at higher levels (the latter working out surprisingly well re balancing builds) and beyond that, each level nets some sort of limited spell-like abilities than scale in their daily uses per day. Resistances can also be found herein among the abilities granted and disciples may, at higher levels, act in surprise rounds and later even learn e.g. final revelations, bloodline abilities et al. or, yes, grand discoveries. A basic glance will show you that this renders them accessible much sooner, which means that yes, imho you should keep this PrC out of player-hands…UNLESS you actually want them to enjoy those apex-level tricks for longer. It should also be noted that the order learns to chip away emeralds from the artifact-level tablets (which get a full write-up) to make a DR-granting ioun stone and that over all, its rules-language is pretty precise. Several SP-granting abilities sport a duality-theme, which is nice, but doesn’t really mitigate the fact that these aren’t as cool as e.g. the forewarned ability versus surprise rounds mentioned before – I would have loved some more esoteric abilities here – ironic, considering the focus of the order. And yes, the PrC, generally, can be considered rather solid.

Furthermore, disciples may create the Smaragdine golems, unerring trackers and magic absorbing sentinels – that, much like aforementioned leader, receive a glorious, high-standard visual representation in a beautiful piece of artwork. Where the pdf truly fills its role, though, would imho be in its numerous adventure suggestions involving the order, all grouped handily by APL – these range from kingdom-destabilization to polymorphing afflictions and should drive home rather well the diverse methods employed by this cabal. I loved this section and each, but one of the hooks has its first sentence bolded, thus allowing you to take in the premise of the hook at a glance! Fans of Midgard should also be aware that there is indeed a box helping you use the order within the context of said world.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a modification of Kobold Press’ beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with the borders evoking the theme of the gorgeous front cover. The original pieces of artwork are drop-dead gorgeous. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jeff Lee’s Emerald Order is a surprising first choice for a Demon Cult in that is feels more like an esoteric order as popularized by the pulp novels – the pdf manages to quote he themes of implied supremacy, of strange orders offering powers beyond the ken of the uninitiated and thus creates an organization that can be considered interesting indeed. Now while I’d be rather careful about allowing PCs to take the PrC herein, the added edge my provide interesting mechanics and while not suitable for every campaign, I can see an order PC working in some campaigns – rather well, actually!

Now this installment may not be perfect, but it is a more interesting book than I imagined – while I’d expect fame/reputation mechanics for cults and organizations intended for player use, as a mostly NPC-focused order that could potentially double as a player-expansion, I will not hold this omission against the pdf. I would have liked somewhat more detailed information on suggested resources at the order’s command, on how they handle threats and the policies of the cabal, but that is my personal preference – there are a lot of ways to run such conspiracies and while a general inkling of the like is provided, the non-alignment-specific nature of the order (though they are strongly geared towards evil, the PrC is not…knowledge itself is neutral…) means that here, a bunch of cool choices and options at their behest could have been highlighted – don’t get me wrong – this stuff is hinted at and generally covered, yes – I just wished the pdf was slightly more concrete and the same goes for the means of advancement within the order’s hierarchy This is me nagging, though. The Emerald Order is a cool organization, one that oozes the spirit of pulp and classic weird fiction and for the low asking price, you receive a nice organization to throw into your games.

When all is said and done, this can be considered a good first installment of the series and one that makes me look forward to the other installments, which I will cover as well…and rather soon! My final verdict for this one will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform since it over all feels to me like it could have gottn slightly more out of the order’s awesome visuals and style.

Endzeitgeist out.

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