Sep 042017
 

monster_movie_MatineeThis bestiary clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

So, as the introduction (accompanied by a ToC with CRs) specifies, this book constitutes a love-letter to monsters that pay homage to classic horror flicks – not the silver screen of old, but rather to the more recent creatures featured. The advice to let them build up momentum is something I, indeed, with years upon years of horror gaming under my belt, would also advise in favor of. So let’s take a look, shall we?

The first creature herein would be the CR 5 Aquamonstrosity, which is interesting in that it obviously is a fish-man creature, yes – but one with a powerful ability: By burning some hit points, these beasts can execute either an additional attack or an additional move action. Alas, the wording stumbles here – the example specifies that the creature can perform a full-round action and a standard action, when this directly contradicts the previous assertion that the creature can only get an additional move action or an additional attack: There are more full-round actions that full attacks. A rather annoying factor that unfortunately can be seen throughout the pdf, would be the fact that the racial modifiers for the respective monsters are not listed, which renders the question whether the skills are correctly calculated an educated guessing game. Granted, not in this instance, but still. At the same time, it is nice to see that the changed action economy’s impact on rend has been taken into account regarding the wording of the latter – kudos there!

The carnivorous mantrap with its domination-capability should also ring true as a classic, with the monster’s ability to understand languages – in spite of a lack of an Int-score, though I’m not sure I get the omission thereof. Somewhat problematic – the blood drain additional effect does not specify whether it applies to bite and tentacles or only one of these attacks. At CR 3, Grey Invaders get death rays and nitrogen dependency, making their suits important for their efficient functioning. An okay critter, if not a special one.

The CR 7 Jungle Predator obviously would be a  direct quote of the beloved scifi-franchise, including at-will fire blasts and invisibility. Oddly, I think there is something missing regarding the iterative attacks – at +11, +4 of which are due to Strength, they should have iterative attacks. Furthermore, the line seems to assume two-weapon fighting, which is dandy with me; alas, then the -2 penalty is missing. At the plus-side, I love the lethal self-destruct upon death. The Killer Clown, at CR 11, obviously is a call out to IT, with an ability to let it “not sink” (why not simply go the water walk-route? As written, the ability makes e.g. interaction with magma and slimes less than obvious – sink or no sink?) and a cool idea – the first kill a day increases the fear points of the creature, granting it bonuses; at 7 fear points, it becomes dormant. This essentially puts a nice timer on the creature and makes its actions make more sense, while also explaining the actions of the beast. It also heals whenever someone fails a Will save against its spells and abilities. Okay, the final form-giant spider (stats in appendix for your convenience) is a bit lame, but the blood-filled balloons…nice touch! And yes, this is a potential TPK for PCs acting less than smart.

Night terrors are manta-ray-like creatures with a barbed tail -and they can decrease lighting conditions, with more abilities overlapping, bringing darkness and a sneak attack that works even when foes have concealment. Interesting one – and +1 point if you can name the inspiration here! AT CR 9, Nightmare Stalkers would be the representation of Freddy et al., with the ability to shake off ongoing effects, change shape and have hallucinatory terrain. At CR 10, the Shark Tornado is odd – it does share several traits with swarms, but does sport deviations from it – due to the creatures in question being medium, the type is “animal”, subtyped as swarm. Over all, I really liked this take on the shgarknado-concept from a mechanical perspective – why? Granted, mechanically, the troop-subtype may have been the better choice than building a swarm with medium-sized animals. At the same time, the mindless destructive potential of the swarm *DOES* feel like a swarm – so yeah, good with it. The formatting has failed to use the correct font and style for the second half of the statblock’s tornado-ability explanation in a slightly annoying formatting glitch, though.

The Snatchoid, obviously, would be a nod to the cult-franchise Tremors – including improves damage on surprise-round grabs – pity we do not get the evolved versions of the life-cycle, though. The Unstoppable Maniac, with the machete as the weapon of choice, would be a nice rendition of Jason etc. – with some resistances, DR and SR, these guys are tough. They can also rise again at 1d8 HP (which is NOT much) upon being killed and yes, they can dimension door. Additionally, they may not be able to run, but they ignore difficult terrain, making it very possible that they catch up to players…sooner or later. Their damage-potential, though, is pitiful at only 1d6+6.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay – while I did notice some minor hiccups, I also noticed quite a few statblocks that sport no grievous issues and in total, this is the most refined monster-book I’ve seen from Fat Goblin Games so far. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with one downright beautiful original artwork for each creature – absolutely awesome, especially at this low price-point. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Author Eric Hindley provides quite a nice array of monsters here – though beyond the minor hiccups, I think this pdf does have a bit of an issue in theme: See, as any Ravenloft or horror-GM can attest, the creature is EVERYTHING in a well-crafted story in the genre; the same holds true for the monster movie genre. We do not cheer for the obnoxious stereotypes that are slaughtered – we like the monster.

The cultural ramifications for this are not as simple as one would think and lead far into the path of analysis – beyond the coming-of-age-imagery, the symbolism of sexual awakening inherent in the narrative is a complex one. And one, quite a few of the beasts herein can support.

At the same time, though, what we have here are arguably center-stage adversaries – bosses. BBEGs. And for that, there’s no two ways around it, they sorely lack staying power.

With the notable exception of the Killer Clown, the creatures herein do not have pronounced defense capabilities that would stand in the face of PCs of the respective CR. Additionally, the damage-output of some of them undermines the horror they generate – the Jason and Freddy-iterations especially simply don’t do that much damage, with the former lacking the regenerative feed-on-fear capabilities. While this may be me wanting “story”-monsters worthy of their inspirations, my playtest confirmed my suspicions – the creatures are not pitted versus hapless teenagers, but seasoned adventurers and these guys, alas, can make short process of most of the adversaries herein.

Thus, the issue of this pdf lies in a somewhat schizoid focus – on one hand, the creatures should be stars, creature-features if you will; on the other hand, they lack the staying power and capability to deliver on said promise.

The issue in horror roleplaying, especially with d20-rules, is that hit point loss alone is not creepy – it happens all the time. You need the threat of death, of crippling afflictions, of lethal attacks to transport fear to not only the characters, but also to the players. And here, this does not deliver. When some of the creatures in this book attacked, my players lost all respect for them. While in no way a bad supplement, this discrepancy does mar it for me.

Do not treat the monsters herein as though they can carry the final boss fight – instead, I’d suggest a modified appropriation of the concepts and statblocks and enhancing them, should you expect to truly frighten your PCs.

What remains, is a nice little bestiary with gorgeous artworks and a mixed bag of adversaries – not bad, but also short of its potential. 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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Aug 312017
 

Ability_Variations

This supplemental rules-pdf for Castle Falkenstein clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ ½ page of SRD, leaving us with 8.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, after a brief framing narration by Tom Olam (which resurfaces in the respective

sub-chapters), we begin with the first of several tweaks to the base engine of Castle Falkenstein – in this instance, we’re introduced to the Specialization variant: Instead of general Ability capabilities, the system allows you to take a Good or Great ability and trade it in for Specializations, a number equal to ½ the value of the traded ability, with Good being worth 3, Great being worth 4 specializations. Specializations can be applied to any Ability in which the character is Poor or Average – the specialization increases the Ability by one step for the purpose of performing Feats that relate to the Specialization in question. Thankfully, a massive table (greater than 1 page!) provides sample specializations and also provides synergy with the great Tarot Variation suits – so no, you’re not left guessing regarding how narrow you should design Specializations. It should also be noted that compatibility with Comme Il Faut is maintained.

The second

variation featured within the pdf would be the divorce variation, which once again features compatibility with the Tarot Variation. Each Ability is governed by a playing card suit, but with this variation, the Abilities allow for players making an argument of why a given suit may apply its bonus to a given task – in two variations: Half and full value. There is some value in this – you will probably be able to perform at an increased efficiency. However, while the Host remains the final arbitrator of what you can do, I really don’t like this one – it smells of FATE and competitive BSing to me, but, obviously, your mileage may vary and thankfully, we are the final instance that decides which of the rules herein to use and which not to – this will find its fans and it makes the game easier and while, as a person, I don’t care for it, as a reviewer, I can appreciate its appeal.

The final variation would be the improvement variation: In this variation, dramatic characters improve by spending Improvement Points. Hosts are guided in detail: You determine Deeds during the adventure, a kind of important waypoint and determine an Improvement Point value for such Deeds. Beyond the confines of adventures, dramatic characters may try to earn Improve

ment Points via Resolutions, which can be completed, but take time to complete, with each character getting one of these – the Resolutions can be similarly broken down into Deeds, with samples provided. The resolution allows, in a way, for downtime activity: Players really invested in their Dramatic Characters can thus be rewarded for e.g. writing copious amounts of prose – or you can simply control character power thus or provide an illusion of cohesion beyond the confines of the gaming sessions.

Once earned, Improvement Points can be spent to improve Abilities (cost being equal to the Ability’s new value). When also using Specializations, they can be used to purchase Specializations, which cost 6 points. An alternate for faster growth of dramatic characters can also be found, with decreased costs – and since the metrics are pretty simple, tweaking the variation remains very simple. If you’re concerned about justifying Improvement in-game, the pdf does provide guidance in that arena.

Conclusion:

Editing and for

matting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to fat Goblin Games’ elegant, really neat 2-column full-color artwork. The pdf features fitting stock-art and sports no bookmarks – due to its brevity, it does get a pass there.

Mister J Gray LOVES Castle Falkenstein – as much becomes evident in every single of his supplements. The means by which this establishes a continuity with the venerable original Castle Falkenstein books is amazing, and so is the quality. The variant rules presented herein for a measly buck allow you to t

weak the playing experience very well and net an interesting array of customization options for the game. I hope the Talsorian-crew reads these reviews and lets the Fat Goblin Games-crew update the Castle Falkenstein-core books in a new edition – if anything, all these variations really make me crave a big, new and shiny book. This is a fun offering, it is VERY inexpensive and thus gains a final verdict of 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Oct 272014
 

Skinwalking Shaman By Endzeitgeist

CLASSifieds: Skinwalking Shaman (Druid Alternate Class clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

Instead of nature’s bond, skinwalking shaman [sic!] can choose a domain from a limited list, but only receives the domain’s powers, no bonus spells. Furthermore, the shaman is treated as a full BAB-class for a round in which he only attacks with natural weapons/unarmed strikes. This replaces nature sense. Instead of a common wildshape, skinwalking shamans learn to turn into one specific creature from a list of 8 different choices for 1 hour/level (which should probably be class level…) and at second level and every two levels thereafter, the archetype gets +1 use. Now I *assume* that both the daily number of changes and time limit fracture in as limiting factors – if the time limit resets after every change, it becomes quickly rather meaningless. A nitpick, yes, but still – clarification would be nice. On the plus-side, the lineages do come with suggested sample creatures to wild-shape into.

Now you also need to know that you can choose a lycanthropic heritage, which locks you down to one form, or go with a non-heritage skinwalker who can freely choose each time, but if you do choose a heritage, at 4th level, you are treated as +2 class levels higher for purposes of proper wildshaping. Now as much as I do like the base ability, it breaks one of the balance tenets inherent in Pathfinder that is easy to overlook – turning into small bats at 1st level allows you to bypass the prohibition against low level unassisted flight, which usually only becomes available a couple of levels later. Whether that is an issue for you (compare the flight-hex, which only allows for flight at 5th level, for example!) or not depends, but for me it does present a balance hick-up.

Instead of wild empathy, skinwalkers may influence lycanthropes. Instead of resisting nature’s lure, skinwalkers learn to enhance their concentration on new moons and improved bestial prowess on full moons – nice idea, though moon phase tracking may become annoying. It’s also a slight shift from the established design paradigms regarding lunar ties, which usually penalize characters at one point – though this time around, I actually don’t mind this: Penalizing some days means that players will try to avoid doing anything then, which isn’t fun for anyone. As far as I’m concerned: Okay, if perhaps a bit paper work intense. Now to pay for the increased physical prowess, skinwalkers only learn prepared spellcasting via wis at 4th level and only get up to 6th spell level.

High level skinwalkers get lycanthropic DR, immunity to diseases and finally, full-blown lycanthropic ascension as a capstone. As a minor downside, it should be noted that 17th level is almost a dead level, with only a level 4 spell gained – which, at this point, won’t impress anyone.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are solid, if not perfect. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games’ beautiful two-column full-color standard ad the pdf comes hyperlinked with the good type of hyperlinks for your convenience. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Tyler Beck’s Skinwalking Shaman is an interesting alternate class – one focused on melee and on paper, it doesn’t look bad. Where balancing imho gets wonky is as soon as you play an heritage-less shaman – the choice and flexibility are very strong, especially seeing how many animal abilities like Trip (Ex) or Grab (Ex) usually outclass the respective feat options available for regular characters. Add to that the nerfed, but not neutered spellcasting and the full BAB when in beast form and we have a class that is too strong. Think pouncing barbarian with spellcasting. Yeah, you get why I consider this one too strong. I’ve seen what claw/claw/bite full BAB-characters do with opposition, even sans animal bonus abilities. Let me tell you: Not pretty. And yes, claw, claw, bite doesn’t work easily here, but the animal abilities do somewhat offset that…AND you can get claws and bites via feats and races… So personally, I think this class is too strong for most groups. Then again, it is not utterly broken and while some abilities could use clarification, the overall writing is relatively solid.

My final verdict will hence clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for the purpose of this platform due to the low price and the fact that for some groups, this will work.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jul 202014
 

121227By Endzeitgeist

Racial Ecologies: The Canidsis 17 pages long, 1 page editorial/front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

Canids are, surprise, canine humanoids that usually, much like man’s best friend, accompany other races – their communities usually exist in a kind of symbiosis with specific other humanoid cultures. Hard racial-trait-wise, they get +2 to Str and Cha, -2 to Int, low-light vision, scent, a 1d4 bite attack as primary weapon (or secondary weapon when wielding arms), get +1 to Bluff, Diplomacy and Sense Motive with their associated race (I assume a racial bonus, but the pdf doesn’t say), +2 to perception and survival, can run on all 4s when carrying nothing in their hands. This would net a +10 foot bonus to movement for run, charge or withdraw actions. They can only do so while having medium load or less – and I assume they don’t get a quadruped’s usual bonus to encumbrance. To reflect their racial diversity, they can pick one alternate racial trait or a racial trait of 2RP or less and they do thankfully have some limitations applied to the selection. Still, I’m not 100% comfortable with this variety – why? Because the race is well-balanced on the upper echelon of the power-scale sans these and the ARG’s system is notoriously broken.

On the alternate racial trait-front, we get to choose from 3 different ones – Bully build nest you the slow but steady racial trait and replaces the quadruped sprinting, whereas aforementioned diversity can be offset with a whopping +4 to CDM versus bull rush, trip, pull and drag. Finally, there are small canids that get, apart from their size-modifiers, +4 to stealth. We also get 5 race traits that allow you to run longer, drag something better (not the maneuver, the feat of strength), improved disguising, 1/day +2 to flanking and adaption to cold climates make for compelling race traits that manage to be useful without being overpowered and also offer a nice bit of fluff each – kudos for getting these right!

On the favored class option-front, all of the Paizo-classes (minus variants like ninja/samurai, but including the gunslinger) are covered with sensible options. Oh, and thankfully we get FULL AGE, HEIGHT & WEIGHT-tables, 6 entries for various physiques – neato! Also cool – a short lore-table is included!

We also get 6 new feats – improving bite attacks by one step and later, vicious bite allows you to chose to make your canid benefit from improved grapple when biting or gain the trip option. Finally, the third feat in the bite-chain allows you to inflict bleed damage or thrash bitten adversaries – the latter has a hick-up in the rules-vocabulary, when it allows you to either deal bonus damage or inflict the “shaken effect” – which should be “condition”. Also, the pdf fails to specify for how long the shaken condition lasts. Improved overland hustling is also a neat idea, as does the idea fit that canids may follow tracks at normal speed. The feat does have a hick-up, when it specifies that it allows them to follow tracks at twice their normal speed at -20 – one can already do that sans the feat. I assume, the penalty was supposed to decrease, but whatever, the correct new number, it’s not in here. “Scent the Impossible” on the other hand is rather awesome – not only does it improve the option to track by scent, it allows the Canid to be particularly familiar with specific scents – these can then be picked up even in olfactory nightmares and overpopulated places – a great idea, also regarding storytelling.

We also get 5 new mundane pieces of equipment – from dog whistles to muzzles, extra teeth, a weight harness and even a neck barrel. Among the two new magical items, we get a silence-inducing, damaging dog-whistle and a breath weapon granting hell hound tooth that may enhance a canid’s bite.

Now Canids are diversified and hence we get no less than 13 different variants, all with their own racial qualities:, ancestry, suggested starting languages and fluff

Ratters get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Int, +1 to CMD/CMB (+2 when surprised, flatfooted or prone) and while small, they still get a movement rate of 30 feet. Wardens get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, +2 to resist fear and demoralize effects and aforementioned grounded racial trait. Hunters get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Int, Hunt on the Run as a bonus feat and +2 to perception related to smell/scent. Dwarven Bullys get +2 Str and Wis, -2 to Dex, must take the bully-build racial trait and replace low-light vision with darkvision. I assume the default 60 ft. range for darkvision, but the pdf does not specify. Elven Hounds get -2 to STr, +2 to Dex and Int get a flat-out ovement-rate of 40 feet (and don’t get faster when going on all 4s – which is weird) and +1 to reflex saves and initiative. Goblin Curs get +2 to Dex and Wis, -2 to Str, are small, cause allergic reactions in non-goblinoids and get +1 to atk and damage versus other canids and dogs. Gnomish ratters get +2 to Dex and Cha, – 2 to Int, are small and get hatred versus reptilian and goblinoid adversaries. Hafling Borzoi get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int, Hunt on the Run as a bonus feat, exchange scent for 40 foot movement rate and +4 to see through nonmagical disguises.

Drow Demon Dogs get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int, darkvision and replace their quadruped ability with a base-speed of 40 feet – again, somewhat weird that the offshoot is not faster on all fours. They also get +1 to intimidate and +2 to saves versus disease, though they do pay the relative power with losing more basic canid racial traits. Kobold Warren Dogs get +2 Con and Cha, -2 Str, are small and still have a movement rate of 30 ft and replace low-light vision with darkvision (again not specifying the range). Orc War Mastiffs get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, replace low-light vision with darkvision (this time the 60 foot range is included) and they also get ferocity, but pay for that with losing access to racial diversity and light sensitivity. Painted dogs get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int, hatred versus Gnolls and hyena-like creatures and +4 AC versus Gnolls. Finally, the small Xolo get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Cha and these hairless dogs are under a constant endure elements spell-like ability (that does not specify an effective level and is not properly italicized) and may woodland stride in familiar jungles.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay – there are a couple of formatting glitches, which partially make the respective crunch slightly less clear than they ought to be. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the original pieces of full color artwork are simply awesome. This is one beautiful pdf. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf lacks bookmarks, which is an unpleasant comfort-detriment.

Author Nick Esposito has created an interesting race, slightly on the upper end of the power-scale, but not by much. While the racial diversity utilizing the broken ARG can be potentially problematic, per se the variants feel well-balanced and diverse, if admittedly not all of them are brilliant – more weird breeds with unique abilities like the Xolo or the Goblin Cur’s allergies would have elevated this pdf further. Per se we get a solid race that has a lot, but in practice is haunted by quite an array of typos and minor glitches. The rules-language, while for the most part non-ambiguous, features several flubs like lacking durations for conditions, calling conditions effects etc. – nothing big per se, but they do accumulate over time to a point where they stand out and show that a tighter editing would have helped this pdf. Beyond that and the missing bookmarks, there is not much to complain about – as presented, this pdf’s Canids are definitely useable and per se a relatively nice, if not always inspired race. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Apr 042014
 

Hargroths_FieldtripBy Endzeitgeist

This module for apprentice-level characters is 29 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial,1 page SRD, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

Still here? All right, since this pdf uses the apprentice-level rules for 0-level characters by Tricky Owlbear Publishing, the PCs unsurprisingly haven’t seen much action – in fact, none – until one fateful day, the local dwarven woodcutter and huntsman Hargroth wants to take them on a fieldtrip from their idyllic, remote village of Wood’s Edge. The basic village comes with a full statblock and quite detailed pieces of information on all notable NPCs of the town – nice amount of detail there!

Now Hargroth has promised the PCs he’d take them to the Crystal Falls – and on the way there, they’ll be glad the old dwarven ranger takes some healing potions along on the way – after all, the very first encounter already pits the PCs versus 2 wolves. While with Hargroth, the PCs probably won’t get lost in the woods, there still is a random encounter table and information should the PCs run off on their own. Beyond the addition of capability, the inclusion of Hargroth is smart since it allows the DM to actually guide the PCs through the module without being too imposing as an out-game entity.

In order to reach the falls, though, the PCs will have to follow Hargroth into the caves, where they’ll arrive at day 3 of their trip into the wild: There, a carcass of a kobold and a sudden attack is enough to break the old dwarf, who confesses, amidst sobbing, how he is a fraud and only survived his only adventure by hiding in the healing crystal falls while his brethren were slaughtered. It gets worse, though – beyond a viper nest, Hargroth actually breaks through a wooden plank and falls to his (almost) demise – severely wounded, the PCs have to stabilize the old dwarf and actually carry him to the healing falls – the thing is, the area is now home to a couple of kobolds. Beyond these menaces, they’ll have to answer a riddle (with a nice visual hand-out representation) and then finally manage to heal the old dwarf. When a ghostly knight appears and Hargroth takes up the mantle of guardian of the healing falls, becoming a spectral, immortal guardian – and providing some starting equipment for the character’s careers as future adventurers, ending with a bitter-sweet note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are ok, though I did notice a couple of typos while reading the module. Layout adheres to a beautiful, parchment-style two-column standard, but unfortunately does not provide a more printer-friendly alternative. The handouts provided would have been nice on a collated page in the end. Cartography is serviceable and does its job, though no player-friendly maps are provided. More significantly, the pdf comes with a baffling lack of bookmarks that make navigating the pdf a tad bit more complex than it ought to be. Artworks are mostly fitting stock – no complaints here.

Marc Radle knows how to write modules – and he keeps it down-to-earth and personal for this one – which serves in its advantage. I get that one can’t weave epic yarns at this level and by keeping things personal, tragic even, a compelling narrative can be told.

That can be said on the positive side. On the downside, the 0-level approach also requires a certain amount of guidance to prevent the deaths of the fragile PCs and while Hargroth helps in that regard, the module still is rather linear. The one crucial flaw the module has beyond that is, though, that the characters at one point need to carry a significant burden, the exact weight of which is absent- and especially with new characters/inexperienced players, that is a problem. DCs to get this burden up an obstacle, carry it around etc. would have greatly helped here. It is due to the accumulated issues like the lack of bookmarks and this rather crucial hole that make me settle for a final verdict of 3 stars – a solid offering, though not a perfect one.

You can get this 0-level module here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jan 062014
 

classifieds_the_saintBy Endzeitgeist

This pdf is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, ~1/2 a page editorial, leaving us with 1 1/2 pages of content, so let’s take a look at the saint, shall we?

Saints need to have the same alignment as their deity and get d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with the deity’s favoured weapon and simple weapons as well as shields and simple armour, but not tower shields. Saints get prepared divine spellcasting via wis of spells of up to 6th level from their own spell-list , 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref and will-saves and one domain from their patron’s available list. Regarding their spell-list – the list has been modified and has lost, among others, expeditious retreat, moment of greatness, timely inspiration, vanish, gallant inspiration, control summoned creature, litany of sloth, litany of defense, litany of eloquence, litany of righteousness, glibness, litany of escape, litany of sight, primal scream, commune, litany of vengeance, getaway, veil but gained sun metal and reprobation– all in all, still a strong spell-list with some exclusives, but not as broken as it was before.

Aforementioned domain deserves special mentioning, for it does NOT add the respective spells to the spell-list, instead converting them into spell-like abilities that can be cast interchangeably (essentially like the domain is cast spontaneously via a pool). The save-DC for said abilities is 10+1/2 level + wis-mod and are cast from essentially a pool: 3+Wis-mod cats per day, with spells level 1 to 3 costing one use, level 4-6 spells costing 2 uses and higher level spells eating 3 uses per day. A rather interesting expansion of the spellcasting capabilities – though I’m not comfortable with the increased DC – domain spells tend to be rather powerful and further increasing their DC might propel them towards regions I’m not wholly comfortable with – especially since they can’t be counterspelled. While before they ignored some of the costs, now saints need to provide costly components… which violates how spell-like abilities work: They have neither somatic, verbal, or material components and require no focus.

Saints add their class level to diplomacy and intimidate-checks versus unbelievers and get bonus feats at level 5 and every 4 levels after that – and that’s the only ability to help the fluff-concept of a negotiator/peaceful agent of the gods. That’s not the signature trick of the saint – said component would be favour, of which the saint gets wis-mod per day. They can be regained by vanquishing challenging foes with the deity’s favoured weapon and non-combat ways of gaining favour, like converting others and proving your loyalty are also included – essentially, we thus get a version of grit based on faith. And I love the idea. Seriously, my one complaint with divine spellcasting always was that it didn’t FEEL like wonders bestowed by a god – but rather a class feature analogue to the one of arcane casters. Tying a class ability to a deity’s favour feels distinctly divine to may and makes this a rather neat decision – so kudos to designer Tyler Beck for that!

Unfortunately, the disclaimer comes in the fineprint here, but more on that later. A Saint’s favour caps now at wis-mod. Furthermore, several graces may award temporary favour, of which a given Saint may have a maximum of one at any time and they only lass for class level rounds

Also: Beating foes unconscious may net them favour as well or would – instead Saints have to beat foes into negative HP to get a favour. Yes, the class penalizes non-lethal damage-dealing instead of rewarding it. In order to gain the favour-point, saints have to keep clobbering unconscious targets down to negative HP – saintly behaviour indeed. /sarcasm

Where there’s something like grit, there’ll better be some mechanics akin to deeds, and we get them in the guise of graces: At 1st level, 3rd level and every 4 levels after that, the saint learns new favours, of which a total of 18 such favours are provided. Thematically, akin to deeds, there are some favours that require the expenditure of a favour point, whereas others are passive and work as long as you have at least one favour point in your pool. The favours per-se are interesting – one for example, nets the saint access to the bodyguard feat and expands it if the character also has combat reflexes, making it usable dex-mod times per day – really nice to see such interwoven rules. Since the grace no longer allows for the regaining of favour, no more complaints on my side. Another grace allows the saint to temporarily (for class level rounds) make his deity’s favoured weapon merciful and when s/he manages to render a foe unconscious with the weapon s/he gains a point of temporary favour. One minor nitpick here would be that the Saint could hand said weapon to an ally – while not getting the temporary favour, I’m not 100% sure that was intended. No penalty-points for this very minor ambiguity, though, since either interpretation isn’t too strong. Favoured Dodge has been purged and no longer exists.

There is also the so-called favoured onslaught – an array of attacks that requires the expenditure of one point of favour, but nets the saint an additional attack at his/her highest BAB with the penalty of -2 applied to all attacks. As a caveat that makes this more viable regarding the saint’s less than stellar BAB, favored onslaught uses a full BAB to calculate the attacks at -2 and also requires the use of the favored weapon of the deity and while it can be used in conjunction with two-weapon fighting and similar attacks, it does not stack with haste-based effects. This is essentially the saint’s signature offensive ability and it can be combined with two weapon fighting. I applaud the courage of this decision, as most designers won’t touch the mess that is something like flurry of blows with a 10-foot pole, much less potentially combining it with TWF. The ambiguities that hounded the previous iteration of this ability have been thankfully cleaned up.

At 3rd level Saints benefit from the “In Harm’s Way”-feat as long as he has at least one favor point and gains a temporary favor point whenever he takes an attack for an ally. They may also use a bard’s fascinate ability. They may also spend favor to increase the DC by + 2 when casting spells that influence the target’s attitude – note that per the wording of the ability, this means that the domain spell-like abilities cannot be enhanced this way! (Otherwise you’d have me complaining about a high DC being increased even further…)

At 7th level, Saints may spend favor to cast cure-spells on allies at range, with one point making the range 15 feet, 2 points increasing it to 30 feet. To heal e.g. dhampirs, he can use this ability in conjunction with inflict-spells, but either application may not be used offensively. Wording-wise, this ability is slightly ambiguous since e.g. heal and similar conjuration [healing]-spells probably should be covered as well. That’s nitpicky, though. Saints also may, as a swift action, spend a favor point to bypass up to 5 points of DR (unless it’s DR/epic) with his/her favored weapon or add for one favor silent spell to his/her spells sans increasing the spell level. Unfortunately, no action-type is given for this application of favor and the ability can be added to spell-like abilities, which makes no sense since last time I checked, spell-like abilities had no verbal, somatic or material components.

At 11th level, Saints learn to spend favor to channel energy as a cleric of his level, but NOT power this ability via temporary favor. Furthermore, the Saint always may choose whether to channel positive or negative energy and always uses the variant channeling rules from Ultimate Magic, halving dice, but adding an effect depending on the Saint’s chosen domain. Also at this level, the Saint gets bonuses when s/he interposes him/herself between allies and foes and further increase the amount of bypassed DR when using the righteous strike grace, dealing bonus damage, which even multiplies on crits.

At 15th level, saints may sacrifice all remaining favor and take 1d6 points of damage on ALL physical attributes – but also save an ally that would otherwise perish. VERY cool last second save ability that comes with enough of a drawback to be considered well-crafted! The saint also gets a now fixed protective aura that slowly increases over the levels. Saints may also spend favor to pay for expensive components of their domain spell-like abilities…which makes sense in the context of these domain-spell-like-abilities, but it should be noted that the domain-casts per default are spell-like abilities and thus would not require material components in the first place – hence also my complaint in the original review (and here again) that these are slightly too powerful. Essentially this whole grace is moot.

At 19th level, the Saints may use divine vessel with favor for class level rounds, further improves righteous strike and shorten the casting of a spell from standard action to swift action via 2 points of favor – thankfully not working on the domain-casts.

As a capstone, we get an outsider-transformation, that nets the celestial or fiendish template, with neutral saints being able to choose as well as smite like a(n) (anti-) paladin 1/day and essentially sees the saint turn into a herald-like figure of the deity, including some exclusive casts that may only be used if they pertain their divine mission.

We also get three new feats: Expanded Favored Weapon, which allows you to use abilities that would usually require wielding your deity’s weapon to the weapon’s whole group (As if the basic ability wasn’t powerful enough already…) and one for +2 favor points per day. The final feat adds +2 uses for the domain spell-like ability pool.

The pdf also features massive lists of favored class options for ALL core races, featured races and uncommon races -kudos, since some of them actually are very unique: Kobolds e.g. getting 1/4 ranger trap fits nice with their racial theme.

The updated version also has two archetypes for the Saint, first of which would be the Temple Guardian, who gains no spells, but retains the domain spell-like abilities (with all the issues they entail). They do get access to ranger traps, though these may only be placed close to places of worship. Instead of favored onslaught, the Temple Guardian gains access to a monk’s flurry of blows as long as he has at least 1 favor, useable freely with unarmed strikes and the favored weapon. Problem here – sans improved unarmed strike, flurry of blows using unarmed attacks is a bad idea at best. Temple Guardians also learn to spend a point of favor to create an aura that makes foes shaken (later frightened) on a failed save, consecrate areas via favor (allowing them to use ranger traps). They also get a sense on a limited area of 10 ft./level and can determine the presence of non-believers. So….do heretics count? What if an area is high? As written, the ability is 2-dimensional. Also: What type of action is designating the area in question? No idea. At 19th level, the temple guardian can meditate 1 hour to create portals to the nearest temple of his/her deity, a portal only he can use. So…can this portal be blocked by teleportation-hampering/redirecting spells/effects? How wide is it? Does it have a CL, if so, which one? Why is it SU when it does what spells do? Can e.g. a siege engines drawn by designated horses go through? Is there a limit on the amount of beings/material that may pass through? Could he create a portal to empty e.g. a small sea into a temple by designating that the water may pass? Can such a portal transcend planar boundaries of demiplanes or full planes? Many questions and alas, no answers.

The second archetype would be the Dark Apostle: Instead of favored bodyguard, these individuals get a rogue’s sneak attack of up to +6d6 as long as s/he still has at least 1 favor remaining. Dark Apostles also get the poisoner (ex) quality and may gain temporary favor by poisoning creatures of a CR of at least their HD-2. Due to the cap of temporary favor still okay in my book. They may also spend favor to have their weapon weep a special profane poison (which is rather potent at DC 10+1/2 level, wis-mod rounds frequency, 1d3 Con and 2 required consecutive saves) and spend favor when sneak attacking foes to set them up for easier disarm attempts. At 7th level, one particular ability is hardcore broken here – Forget Secrets. As a SUPERNATURAL ability, the Apostle may cause nearby foes to forget the last minute, dazing them. While only usable once in 24 hours on a target, the ability ISN’T mind-influencing: No protections, no counterspells. That’s insane and would change how many organizations work This needs to be (sp) and mind-influencing. At higher levels, Dark Apostles may spend favor to make extra attacks against foes they sent into the dying state, shadow jump. At 15th level, the Apostle exudes an aura that causes non-allies to forget to forget all that happened inside the aura after 1d4 minutes – since this counter does not start upon leaving the aura, this is a permanent amnesia-machine. This is so insane. The aura requires no conscious effort and is maintained as long as the Apostle has at least one favor – an apostle could steal YEARS with this ability, by mere continued presence. Again, no protection since it’s supernatural and not mind-influencing. Oh, and the Dark Apostle gets 1/2 class level to disguise,. bluff and sleight of hand as well as a modified spell-list.

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Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, while not perfect, can still be considered very good – I didn’t notice significant typos. Layout…is DROP-DEAD-GORGEOUS. I mean…beautiful. Evocative. Awesome. The full color artworks also help here and make this pdf a true beauty to behold. The pdf has no bookmarks, which I’d usually complain about – but this pdf is extensively hyperlinked: With the good kind of hyperlinks – you know, the ones that take a lot of effort. Where a hyperlink actually pertains to the right content -even the dispel alignment-spells are properly hyperlinked and you won’t see e.g. “will” hyperlinked to will-saves when it does not refer to them! My hat’s off to Fat Goblin Games for getting this right and for the significant increase in production values they have achieved since the last pdf I’ve read from them!

So this is author Tyler Beck’s second shot at the Saint and he has learned from his last beat-down – with cleared-up rules-language, vastly improved abilities and better balancing, the saint now actually works as intended thanks to the introduction of the concept of temporary favor. The DC for the domain-casting is still too high, though, and he unfortunately did not get the mechanics of spell-like abilities right, which extends to some of the graces.

So no, the new saint is not perfect, but it’s a VAST improvement, with the newish/modified graces kicking ass. What about the new content? Oh boy…well…I’m sorry to say it, but I wouldn’t allow either of the archetypes in my home-game. The Temple Guardian is rather weak and his limited ranger traps do not pay well for the loss of spell-casting. Add to that the fact that some of the archetype’s ability require further and that one falls through for me. The Dark Apostle is just downright broken: Poison, spellcasting and the insanely powerful amnesia as well as the ability that is an all-but-de-facto guaranteed kill on downed foes conspire to make this archetype too powerful. Add to that the fact that the aura requires clarification and we get an archetype that gets so much more than it loses.

So… how to rate this? Well, the base-class is *MOSTLY* fixed, but unfortunately, the archetypes require some work. There still are no bookmarks in here, but the hyperlinks are great. Were it only for the class, I’d settle for a final verdict of straight 4 stars, but with the massive issues of the archetypes, I’d have to go down to 3.5 stars, rounded down. My final verdict will be in-between, at 3.5 stars, with a recommendation to ignore the archetypes. Whether you round up or down much depends on your personal preference, personally, I’ll round up.

Endzeitgeist out.

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