Jul 272014
 

mindjammerBy Paco Garcia Jaen

Mindjammer is a mammoth tome of an RPG straight from the mind of the talented Sarah Newton, experienced writer and designer with a catalogue of games that include Monsters & Magic, Legends of Anglerre and many others.

Mindjammer came to my attention for the first time years ago when the novel in which the universe is based was published. I devoured it. Knowing Sarah’s writing I knew it’d be good writing, but I was really unprepared for the story scope and magnitude of the setting.

As you can imagine I was gagging for the roleplaying game, and when I saw the book my heart both sunk and soared all at the same time.

I have a couple of things to say as means of disclaimer. Firstly I know Sarah very well. She’s a friend. Thus this review won’t be unpleasant and it will be a bit biased. Having said that, I will be as objective as I can.

Secondly I didn’t like FATE when I tried to read it. I had heard a lot of good things about it and I backed Evil Hat’s Kickstarter campaign. I got less than 1/2 into the book and I had to put it down. I just didn’t get it. That made me read this book a bit begrudgingly.

This review is not exhaustive either. This game is too large to review it in one go, so this is the first or two reviews.

My heart sunk because when I said earlier that it’s a mammoth tome, I really meant it. Clocking nearly 500 pages, this hardback is a mighty beast and a heavy one at that. Sturdy hardback with a *gorgeous* full-colour map courtesy of Jason Juta and 24 pages in full colour with the rest of the pages in black and white. I’m afraid I am not a friend of huge tomes anymore.

And it soared because I know the absolutely amazing setting Sarah has come up with and seeing the amount of work and material thrown to it made me very, very excited to find out what was inside the book. Also, to see the production value of the book was heart warming. It is really a fantastic quality game.

So with a fair bit of trepidation I opened the book and started to read. As suspected, Sarah’s writing is approachable and easy to get on with. That is helped by a great layout and a good choice of font that let your eye glide over the pages without a problem.

The book contains 25 chapters (I told you it was mammoth) and they cover everything from some basic introduction, the rules basics, character creation, rules, skills, stunts, cultures… all the way to appendices that contain a few character and environment sheets.

The Introduction and the Basics chapters are all the players need to get started. There is enough in those two chapters to give newcomers an idea of what’s going on and how to use it. It’s by no means enough to run the game, but it manages to convey the atmosphere and ethos of the game well enough to get you going.

Then we start with the heavy duty stuff…

Character creation is a doodle. It is suggested that the character creation process to take place during a session and do it as a collaborative exercise between all the players. I would certainly agree with that. In fact I think is something most roleplaying games would benefit from. In Mindjammer’s case it’s more poignant because of the scale of the game. Mindjammer is a space opera with the potential to host adventures at an inter-galactic scale and consequences that could affect entire civilisations. Creating characters synergistically will help the adventures not get out of hand.

Cultures, Genotypes and Occupations and the game start to shine. This is a setting placed 15.000 years in the future. Things are bound to be a bit different. And they are. Consideration has been given to genetic manipulation, evolution, transhumanism, alien contact… You name it, is there. And is there in a way that invites you to explore and create your own variants. Ideas kept coming almost effortlessly.

And then we got to the rules. And at last I can say I now get FATE. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Sarah has managed to delve into the FATE system in a way that gives sense to everything I couldn’t understand in the FATE core book. The abilities, compels, dice rolling, stunts, consequences, skills and extras are covered in the following chapters and now I get it. And I even like it!

Then the game shines a bit more. The technology episode is tremendous. Believable-sounding explanations that are actually based on a layer of real science grabbed me right away and, once again made me think about the possibilities. And there are many of them.

Playing and Gamemastering Mindjammer gets a thorough cover in the following chapters, and thank goodness for that. This game is immense and the scope for it to get too big is just as immense. Mindjammer is so huge that one could just stand and wonder “so what do I do” and not know what to do because of the magnitude. These chapters help with that. A lot.

The Mindscape is one of the pivotal aspects of this game. A network so vast that can hold the consciousness of billions of beings and the memories of anyone who’s connected to it. Vast and vastly powerful spaceships travel between planets to update the databases and make them available to all to access. Like our current Internet with a neural connection and so hugely vast we can’t really imagine its size. Of course you can get inside it and play as an entity directly interacting with any conscious being, virus, defence programs, firewalls… Like TRON but a lot better, bigger and more exciting!

Starships, Space Travel, Vehicles and Installations are probably the weakest chapters. Not because they’re weak, at all. They have some fantastic examples of ships, vehicles and weapons of all kind. It’s just that they’re the most predicable chapters. Admittedly it’s very difficult to come up with something truly new and innovative on that ground and, to be perfectly honest it doesn’t really need to be. There’s some comfort in the familiarity of space travel as we know it from Sci-Fi tradition. Also it leaves you, the player and GM plenty of space to come up with your own ideas, which is something Sarah tells you to do throughout the book.

I am going to stop this first part of the review here because the next chapter, Organisations blew me away and I rather leave it for the next instalment than add another 500 words to this one.

So far my heart is soaring with this game much, much higher than it sunk when I saw the size. Even if I weren’t interested in playing (I am) I would recommend this book for the advice, ideas and sheer amount of useful data it contains.

Second part of the review with my conclusions coming very soon!

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Jul 252014
 

128296[1]By Endzeitgeist

This Dungeon Dressing installment clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The first page is taken up by a short explanation of how to use this pdf and a d0-table that helps you determine on which table to roll and how often. And oh boy, do these table’s names already spell out the respective themes of the tables:

No.1 would “Utterly Worthless”, 50-entry strong (like all tables herein), features delightful things for adventurers to grab – a tangled ball of multicolored thread, a dried up snake. The left arm and head of a doll. A half-eaten shoe soaked in brine. A mouse stuffed with strange herbs. While this one (and the other tables) have entries for roll twice/thrice, in a cool twist, the resulted items are nailed together, glued together, dirty etc., adding more variety than a simple reroll otherwise would. Awesome.

“Broken and Battered” is probably better suited for clues, though the anarchic goblins have spared these in any way – lockets defaced with mustachios, sling stones with traces of gnawing, angel-shaped-pendants that have been bereft of their wings – disturbing and still funny and once again full of narrative potential.

Table number 3 is all about “Yummy tidbits” – with the roll thrice-entry commenting they’ve been made into a stew. Stew in pockets makes no sense? Pshaw, these are goblins we’re talking about! Meat with canine fur, honeycombs with bee-bodies, bird heads, cheese so covered in green fuzz it might run off at any moment… delightful, disgusting, fun.

Finally, table number 4 provides shiny treasures – like whetstones with holes drilled through the center. Small pairs of scissors to run around with. Collections of buttons, preserved eyes, ancient turnips, dented coins from obsolete kingdoms…once again, rather interesting entries. (Though gold, or rather, silver/copper values for some of them would have been appreciated…)

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with thematically-fitting, neat b/w-stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

I do not begrudge author Eric Hindley this task – goblins are hard to depict properly – on the one hand, they ought to be somewhat comedic, on the other hand utterly psychotic – plus, they are since Burnt Offerings the iconic humanoid antagonists that set the tone for Pathfinder (and made me, back in the day, start getting the books…) – what I’d like to say is: This assignment was probably hard…and fun. And the fun translates. I’m writing this review after a bunch of underwhelming, crunch-intense books that dragged down my mood considerably. (Contrary to what some of you might think – reviewing bad books is a ton of work and no fun at all…) After reading this one for the first time, my mood was back to excellent – you might not exactly need this book, but it enriches your arsenal when depicting goblins. And some entries are plain funny and made me smile. And there aren’t that many lighthearted supplements out there. Add to that the top-notch production values and this bland of the hilarious and horrific that so well reflects the goblin mindset gets 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jul 252014
 

Journey-to-CathreayBy Endzeitgeist

Journey to Cathreay clocks in at a massive 115 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 112 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The module begins with a massive explanation of the module for the DM – essentially, the module provides an extremely helpful explanation of the module’s structure, making the modification on the fly very easy on the DM. A total of 5 maps are provided and a table of all encounters with CR, treasure, XP to be seen at a glimpse. It should also be noted that the pdf also comes with a 25-page NPC-book that has versions of the NPCs of varying strength depending on the number of PCs your party sports – one statblock for 4, 5 and 6 PCs. Indeed, DMs have an extremely easy time with this book – a reference for all animal tricks, beasts, items, rules and spells used in the module is part of the deal – i.e. you ONLY need this book when running it. No book-flipping. (And yes, these take up quite a bunch of pages, but a massive 67 is still left, making this a long module. This being a journey-module, we also get a massive write-up of a caravan resting, with rules for slashing through tents and the like as well as stats for bisons and their handlers – and yes, we actually get multiple stats for guards and handlers, making these guys more versatile than what most modules would provide.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion – believe me, you’d hate spoiling this one.

Okay, still here? Roco P’loma is a man with a reputation for making the trip to the domain of the Crimson Khan a couple of times and bringing back curious wonders – and now, his guards have ran off, claiming the caravan’s haunted. P’loma, imbued with the power to negotiate by the Khan, offers a significant reward for the PCs and after signing the contract (yes, paperwork etc. would be part of the module’s realism, though you can skim over this fast) and after that, the first subplot immediately kicks off – Acomat, the brother of Tegana and an important part of the caravan, is about to have the time of his life with gorgeous gal named Daisy. And after that, the worst, and last time of his life. In truth a doppelgänger, the creature wants to infiltrate the Khan’s court and her plan is lavishly detailed. Know how usually in a module, such a plot works like “He is killed and replaced, the end.” Well, here we get a full write-up, step by step of the infiltration process and thus also ample opportunity for the PCs to foil the gambit. This level of realism (including, btw., plainly hilarious moments of unobtrusive humor) is mixed with an uncommon assassination weapon (a giant rot grub – yeah…nasty) for the best handling of such an operation I’ve seen in quite a while. Whether the infiltration works or not much depends on what you as the DM want to do with it and how perceptive and paranoid your players are. After this, the PCs will have to make a short 4-mile trek to a dwarven bison ranch and escort bison to the caravan – in a dynamic skill-challenge type escort. And yes, bison are not that easy to ride or lead and accidents may well happen… This journey already uses a level of detail nigh unprecedented – take potentially poisonous berries bison may or may not eat, a wizard practicing his fierball-spell and unintentionally creating a stampede

The journey hasn’t even started yet. Now if I go through the day-to-day things that happen, this review will become bloated beyond repair. So let me tell you: Yes, EVERY DAY of the 5-week journey has its own write-up of small things happening, landscapes changing, stops at settlements, interactions with ratfolk traders, taking down a fire drake so the caravan may safely progress (in its disturbing cave of 500 eyes) – there is a LOT going on and beyond these effects, it should be noted that 7 NPCs in here are of particular interest -interacting with them and driving forward their respective plots allows for maximum customization options for the DM. And yes, these interactions are relevant, but more on that later. Assaults by very smartly planned div-assailants and wonder galore await on this journey – what about an oasis, where peacock-feather-like reeds grow and turn towards those closer, making it look like the plants are watching you? (Including a neat, challenging combat here that makes nice use of the strange place…)

What about a Jiang-Shi that has managed to stowaway among the people of the caravan, making for yet another complex foreshadowing and multi-part plot that may see an innocent man and his goat exiled. Rescuing a desperate man from a cyclops? Crashing an arranged marriage via trial by combat and potentially winning the freedom of a lady by besting her less than enthusiastic husband to be’s champion? An Elk-hunting mini-game with a megaloceros? The wonders of the journey are plenty and varied indeed.

On day 32, the PCs finally arrive at the Khan’s winter palace to a roaring welcome party…during which, their employer bites of more than he can chew and unintentionally makes a bet with the Khan that he (or another of the NPCs with their various plots that the PCs unearthed during the trek) and the PCs can take on Sennacherib. What is Sennacherib, you ask? Well, it is a legendary Tendriculous. , dare I say, MYTHIC adversary. Yeah. And before you say anything – I’ve been using mythic foes as legendary adversaries in my campaign for quite some time and they make for superb bosses against non-mythic groups. However, they imho require proper foreshadowing and the module does a superb job – a fully depicted legend of the creature, extensive and superbly written, makes clear from the get-go that this beast is indeed something to be feared. Even the end of the creature, should the PCs and their NPC-ally prevail, is the stuff of legends. By the way, this is not the only legend provided in the module – remember the fire drake’s cave? I failed to mention that another legend the PCs may have encountered hides the true treasure of the place in an unobtrusive puzzle. Yes. This module has it all.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch – I only noticed 2 minor typo-level glitches à la “Ncps”. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column standard that is exceedingly easy to print out. The module comes with a handy NPC-book, varied stats, includes all the rules required to run it, is extensively bookmarked with nested bookmarks and has two versions, one optimized for the US-standard and one for the A4-default used in Europe – awesome! A total of 6 solid full color maps are provided, also as high-res jpgs and the artwork is provided, handout-style, in the back of the module, allowing you to print them out and hand them to your PCs. The artwork is solid, btw., and adheres to a very old-school aesthetic.

The last 2 modules by 4 Dollar Dungeons made my top spot of my top 10 list of 2013. “Horn of Geryon” can be considered an apex of the art of wilderness sandboxes. “Panataxia” is one of the best dungeons/planar modules I’ve ever read, regardless of system. Then this one hit my review-list and I was concerned – caravans? Urgh. Two massive potential issues seem to be ingrained in such a scenario – a) the caravan-rules introduced in Jade Regent just aren’t that good and b) such modules are by definition railroads.

“Journey to Cathreay” deals with both issues remarkably well – by ignoring the caravan-rules and replacing them with STORYTELLING. You know, with developments, cool wilderness-scenery and a ton of things to do. The second gripe is harder to handle, though – how do you change that up? Via great NPCs and subquests galore the DM can introduce on the fly, by providing varied challenges and options to amp up or slow down the pace whenever required. Then, there would be the potential issue with the final boss and its mythic nature (and no, you don’t eed mythic adventures to run this module – all rules required are provided) – the module manages to properly foreshadow it and makes for a truly epic final fight that is challenging, yes, but NOT unfair. Each combat, each encounter comes with round-by-round tactics, interesting terrain-features and at the end of each section, all relevant skill-checks/DCs are collated into a handy box, available at a glimpse.

Richard Develyn seems to be out on a quest to demonstrate mastery in all types of module possible – this journey breathes the spirit of wonder so often lost in fantasy, the sense of exploring a truly different world. The level of detail provided is simply staggering and the world feels ALIVE. It may be ugly at times, it may be hilarious – but over all, these NPCs and places feel like they truly exist, like you could just fall from this world and wake up in the pages of this module. The diverse choices of the PCs and how they matter, the simply astounding, great writing, the unobtrusive, realistic puzzle (that can be brute-forced), the bison-herding mini-game, the hunting mini-game – adventuring is not always a fight to the death and this module shows exceedingly well why one would embark on such a career. PCs actually get to do something that may be considered fun not only for the players, but also for the characters. Add to that the copious amount of read-aloud text, legends, ridiculously easy to use format, the fact that NOT ONE ENCOUNTER in here is boring/common, that creatures get smart tactics and actual background stories/reasons for their actions and we get a module that is on par with the superb predecessors, perhaps even beyond it.

Want to know how good this is? My players actually were sad when the module was over. They’ve been badgering me about more 4 Dollar Dungeon-modules ever since Horn of Geryon, and this module took them a long time to complete and unlike every caravan module I’ve ran before, not one of them lost interest even for a short time – invested from beginning to end, this module just blew them away. This beast is long and never loses its stride. When your players refuse to get up from the table at midnight, even though they have to go to work on the next day, when they ask for more roleplaying sessions because they are so into a module, then you realize you have one glorious beast of a module on your hands. This module cements Richard Develyn as one of the best, perhaps even the best, adventure-writers currently active for PFRPG. It’s hard to describe what makes this so impressive, how this quasi-realism and wonder go hand in hand – let it be known that there are few modules that breathe the spirit of old-school gaming to this extent and combine it with all that is great about new school gaming for a result that can only be described as master-class.

Modules like this make reviewing worthwhile. Seriously. And then there is the ridiculously low price, the fact that you need no other book to run this. And the rather interesting fact that this module surpasses its predecessors in length. If this review is short on the actual story of the module, then only because I want YOU to experience this beast like I did – with eyes wide open at the wonder that oozes from every page, chuckling at the humor, grinning at the smart encounters and all the details. The writing is so captivating, it also makes for simply a great experience to read and honestly, I’ve read a lot of fantasy novels I found less engaging than this.

You won’t find a better bang-for-buck-ratio anywhere. Seriously. This is, by any scale I apply, the apex – if there were 10 stars, I’d slap 10 stars + seal of approval on this book. This is the best caravan/journey-style module I’ve ever read. This is a must-purchase. This module makes me run out of superlatives to slap on it and, at least as far as I’m concerned, may actually surpass its predecessors. This is a hard contender for the number 1 slot of my Top Ten list this year and, barring the means to rate it higher, I’m going for the highest honors of 5 stars + seal of approval. I guarantee you’ll love this module if the idea of a caravan even remotely interests you, if you’re looking for this sense of wonder the old grognards always complain about being absent from most current modules – here is where it lives and breathes and has been blended with all the comfort we now expect.

Why are you still reading this ramble? Seriously, buy this.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jul 202014
 

120309-thumb140[1]By Endzeitgeist

This installment of the Tribes Most Foul-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

As always with the series, we are introduced to 3 different tribes, all of which feature their unique tribal member rosters, society, background, tribal lore, sample NPCs (both fluff-only and with stats) as well as gorgeously illustrated crests.

What would the first be? The first tribe of trolls would be the Bigbila Djranjarra: In hushed, sunburnt forests they roam – troll shapechangers infected with a strain of lycanthropy based on the six seasons instead of the lunar cycle, turning into flesheating, ravenous huge ECHIDNAS. And yes, the sample creature comes with both regular and hybrid stats – and I may have just had a nerdgasm – the prose is SUPERB, the concept astounding, each word breathing pure creativity and awesomeness! WOW! After all those supplements I’ve seen, blowing me away is hard- this did it.

The second tribe would be the Crew of the Fallow Harvest – riding a windjammer (a flying vessel), these Troll-pirates of the skies have highjacked the cloud giant’s preferred means of transportation for their raids – oh, and we get stats for the vessel and stats of a damn TROLL NINJA. Cloud-riding troll pirates? WHAT? How awesome is that! It stands up to the first tribe! Impressive!

The Third tribe, then, would be the Fleshwearers – ruled by a matriarch, they have taken to using their regenerative properties to trade limbs – the newborn for example getting the limbs of mother to help them fend of adversaries – their successful pooling of resources, i.e. limbs, actually makes this tribe sport a decent amount of old trolls and beings with a higher life expectancy. Once again, a GLORIOUS idea! Statblock-wise, this time we get a venerable troll cleric.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. furthermore, we get two versions of the pdf, with one being crafted especially for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out.

Over the course of the last year, one thing has gradually become more and more undeniable – David Posener should be considered a force to be reckoned with – in this installment, he weaves a yarn so chock-full of imaginative awesomeness it almost hurts and sets the bar higher for any such installment in the series or competing products – not only is the prose a joy to read, the ideas actually supplement superbly the vast narrative potential within these pages, making for an overall stellar purchase – these trolls deserve your respect, your fear and if you’re like me, reading ANY of the 3 will make you immediately want to insert them into your campaign – one superb offering indeed, well worthy of the highest honors I can bestow – 5 stars + seal of approval and being a candidate for my top ten of 2013.

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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Jul 172014
 

116679[1]By Endzeitgeist

The second installment of the “Tribes Most Foul”-series is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC/foreword, 1 page advice on how to read statblocks, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

As the first installment in the series, this one introduces us to new tribes, 3 to be precise. The first of these are the orcs of the bear’s hide – more in touch with serenity and calmer, but no less aggressive, these orcs coexist with owlbears and their less magical kin and we also get a full tribal roster, a lore section and fluff writ-ups of 3 notable NPCs – two of which get statblocks: The barbarian 7 Thalgas and the tribe’s mascot advanced owlbear Groot – oh, have I mentioned their potential leadership conflict or the fact, how they are slowly trying to expand their territory.

The second tribe would be the Orcs of the Shattered Shield – created from the remnants of a vanquished orcish horde, these survivors of failure have learned stealth the very hardest way and their ramshackle, different customs have blended together in a strange amalgam. And, having their genesis in war, are better equipped than one would expect from an orcish tribe. We again get a lore-section, a tribal roster and 4 fluff write-ups as well as the leader Maurg, a barbarian 2/fighter 2/rogue 1 build – nice when story is reflected in builds like this.

The final tribe then are the orcs of the silvered backs – and oh boy are they awesome. The first two tribes were good – this one oozes iconicity: Led by a savage orcish druid who has installed an awakened dire ape as the leader of the tribe, these orcs are feral throwbacks that would make for great, deadly jungle-style/dark wood adventure, working as a degenerate-seeming throwback of primal savagery. In an age where World of Warcraft has made the perception of orcs more civilized, this one brings the fear back – I love it! The tribe also comes with its tribal roster – including two fluff write-ups, a lore section and the statblock for the awakened dire ape ranger/barbarian.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adhere to RSP’s 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with nice stock-art that is thematically-fitting. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one of which is optimized for screen-use and one for print-use.

Author Ben Kent has created a great supplement with 3 orc tribes that feel distinct from your run-of-the-mill tribes and all come with their own cultural peculiarities, offering us glorious tribes for a very fair price. More unique than the last installment, these orcs provide all killer, no filler content and are well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

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