Apr 172014
 

120781[1]By Endzeitgeist

Adventure Path Iconics: Path of Undeath is 25 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with a total of23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

From the get-go, I feel the need to mention something – these Iconics are not for a traditional AP in the sense of Paizo’s published paths. They’re rather intended for the recently released Obsidian Apocalypse setting/campaign toolbox by LPJr Design. While the characters herein might work with Carrion Crown, they are ALL very uncommon races, i.e. those from Obsidian Apocalypse, meaning that they’re slightly stronger than the core races and that they, fluff-wise, tend to be rather monstrous. Personally, I draw a line between gothic horror and apocalyptic survival horror like Obsidian Apocalypse, so that’s something I *THINK* you should be aware of. The characters have been created with 150 GP starting gear and 20 point-buy. The characters also come with information to modify the characters to 15 and 25 point-buy as well as suggestions to improve them over the first couple of levels. Each character comes with a sample quote that gets you in the mood for playing him/her.

The first character herein would be Mik’Quol An-Str-Natk, an Osirian cleric of Zebadiah. Osirians are essentially dark-skinned humans that can tap into necromantic hellfire – which is much less impressive than you’d think – it’s essentially temporary fatigue-causing rays at will that act as disrupt undead against the undead. Per se, I have no gripe against the ability, though the very “cool” name and the rather puny effect would get a chuckle out of my group. Osirians also get some bonuses to skills, improved initiative etc. – but for racial info, please check my soon-to-come review of Obsidian Apocalypse. Saved from the deadly vampiric predators that roam the world of Abaddon by the legendary last, half-burned angel Zebadiah, Mik’Quol may not be the sharpest tool in the guerilla shed of Osirians, but he is an interesting character.

The second character in the array would be an infernal sorceror called Xasturian. As an Infernal, he is essentially one of the red-skinned tieflings of Abaddon and thus has natural claw attacks and makes use of the alternate racial trait that nets him +1 to all saves. The son of a succubus, he was raised by his now disappeared big brother – and as befitting of his bloodline, he is both adept at blast foes and charming the ladies. He also has a habit of speaking of himself in the third person. Generally, a rather cool build, though personally, I probably would have gone with one of the more interesting infernal racial traits. His statblock also suffers from a formatting glitch – the Offense-header is not properly highlighted against the rest of his statblock.

The third character is one I have a certain positive bias towards – why? Because Ilita Faara is a Khymer. What are these? Essentially, they are discorporated, corpse-possessing sentient puddles of psionically-charged, toxic blood that require fresh bodies to sustain their existence. They may also burn their body to enhance their psionics, increasing ranges, empowering powers or even regain power points. The latter has me a bit concerned, I might add. Personally, I’m also not a big fan of the fixed DC for the fort-save they have to make to determine whether this body-burning deals one or two points of con-damage – a more flexible DC would have made more sense to me. It should be noted, though, that at least regarding the psychic warrior (yes, Ultimate Psionics-compatible ) Ilita, this is not too relevant. She is an interesting character, striving to meet the demands of a forgotten code of conduct, buried in her memory by the cataclysmic event that transformed her species into sentient blood. Her choice of weaponry with slings and rapiers is not too interesting – but her power selection is solid with biofeedback and call weaponry, if not too creative. Over all, a nice character that comes with all required pieces of information to run the strange race and that also comes with nice angles for roleplaiyng in her propensity for wind instruments.

After that, the next character would be Treeshearer Snarltooth Swifttongue, a Lykian ranger. Lykians are essentially werewolf-like humanoids. Snarltooth uses an alternate racial trait that allows her to emit a howl 1/hour that can cause her enemies to become shaken. Lykians also get a primary bite attack at 1d3 that also comes with a dex-damaging disease rapid onset disease, usable con-mod times/day. Lykians also get 50% miss chance in concealment (but this increase does not make total concealment!) and generally are adept at stealth, but also suffer from double damage by silver weapons. Born to a Lykian pet of a powerful wizard who had to escape to the wild, her standing in the tribe was precarious and once when her animalistic rage burst forth, she once ripped a bigoted human apart – thus requiring her to leave the tribe behind – a tribe that never liked her in the first place. A gruff and hardened survivor, she makes for an interesting choice, though you should be aware that the Lykian race imho is more powerful than e.g. Osiriani.

When there are a special kind of tieflings, there better be also descendants of heavenly forces and indeed – in Obsidian Apocalypse, these beings are the offspring of the last angel Zebadiah and thus, these beings, known as Exalted, bear their father’s name – like Yeremil Al Zebadiah, the Exalted monk. Among the racial abilities chosen, Yeremil chose for cure light wounds and remove fear 1/day. As a character, Yeremil was born to a farmer’s daughter, who was first ostracized, then revered for her child. Yeremil believes in his preordained destiny -he is fanatic, an ascetic monk…and believes, he has a claim to godhood. He is per se a cool character, though his statblock once again has one header not properly highlighted – this time, it would be “defense.”

Setiphet Sir Lykash, the harrowed fighter, would also be interesting – first, by her race. The most reviled of the races of Obsidian Apocalypse, Harrowed are the results of the union of the living and the living death and thus, these beings are exceedingly hardy and come with some undead-like traits. Setiphet was born from a terrible tragedy involving the death of a true love and violations – but still, her mother managed to love her and provide what few harrowed get – a loving environment where they can develop a sense of right and wrong. Thus Setiphet has developed into an egalitarian champion of the downtrodden – a champion the ignorant fear and loathe.

Finally, there would be a Genesai rogue, Mouse. No, that’s not “Genasi”, it’s “Genesai”. Yeah. Not a fan of the name, but the race’s idea is actually quite awesome – born from the mix of angelic and demonic heritages, these beings contain the blood of both upper and lower planes, marking them with an unnatural aura, but also allowing them to create a blade of conflicting energy, the shattersoul blade, and damage foes with force damage bonuses. A streetchild born into poverty, her fate would have been grim in any other world – in Abaddon, this is doubly true. Thankfully, she was recruited early into a thieves’ guild – unfortunately for her, though, the Boss of the guild tended to lock her up, even though she proved a superb cat burglar. Breaking free, tipping off the guards and no, truly liberated for the first time in her life, she wanders the world. A cool, nice character, though her selections of daggers as weapons of choice isn’t that impressive.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect – I noticed a couple of minor formatting and editing glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a more printer-friendly version as well. All characters get DROP-DEAD-GORGEOUS mugshots by Juan Diego Dianderas and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Kalyna Conrad and Eric Hindley have created a nice array of characters here, with several diverse backgrounds and interesting histories. That being said, the per se vivid prose tends to feature some minor hick-ups here and there. Another slight issue would be that, if you’re looking for core-race characters, you won’t find any humans here and the Obsidian Apocalypse races aren’t perfectly balanced among themselves – e.g. the Lykians could be considered rather strong and among themselves, the characters have different degrees of efficiency in their choices of equipment, skills, etc.

That being said, the characters per se are well-written, if not as brilliant as some I’ve seen in the line – probably also due to the lack of an explicit campaign starting point, they don’t have much in the way of tying them together – one of the smarter things both this series and similar pregen-collections did. So yeah, get ready for coming up with a way why these guys and gals hang out together. This, of course, is partially the result of Obsidian Apocalypse being highly modular in its primal catastrophe.

I maintain, though, that by writing connections into their background, the value of these folks could have been further increased. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m complaining on a high level here, but another thing I won’t get used to is the amount of blank space – each character comes with 3-4 pages, 1-2 pages for the statblock, 1 full page of background, description etc. and on the final page, the rest of said personality/background information – which amounts sometimes to 2/3 of a page covered, which is nice…but also has instances, where one or two paragraphs are all that is on the page. Yes, this is graphically offset by a greyed image of the mugshot in the background and not TOO aesthetically jarring, but I caught myself thinking that all this blank space could have been used for something – more story, more distinguishing features/mannerisms, more level progression advice, variants…something. This phenomenon did show in other Adventure Path Iconics-pdfs, but in this one, it is especially jarring, with two characters (who have some tantalizing tidbits in their background that could use further development!) sporting using about 1/6 of their final page.

Now don’t get me wrong – this is by no means bad. In fact, It’s rather nice…but still, I found myself just not as moved by the characters as in other installments of the series. As pregens, though, they do a serviceable job that allows you to jump right into Obsidian Apocalypse and thus, I’ll settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Apr 142014
 

116416[1]By Endzeitgeist

Wilderness Dressing – Bandits is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC/foreword, 1 page stock art, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Unlike most dressing-pdfs, this one is rather statblock heavy, offering us 8 statblocks ranging from CR 1/2 to CR 4 and kicks off with a page of rank and file bandits, including a d10-table of names and short backgrounds for the bandits. Beyond that, we also get d4 half-elf backgrounds for the CR 1 statblock provided for them, while Half-orc bandits get 5 backgrounds.

We also get 4 sample statblocks for bandit leaders ranging from CR 4 to CR 1, featuring rangers, fighter/rogues, cleric/fighters and a rogue/enchanter as well as 8 sample backgrounds as well as 6 sample bandit groups from EL 3 to 6 and d12 hooks and complications that include having the bandits starving, having bandits having been ambushed themselves etc. – all well-written, as we’ve come to expect from RSP’s mastermind Creighton Broadhurst.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adhere to RSP’s elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer. Both come fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Creighton Broadhurst knows how to create neat backgrounds and the statblocks are nice as well – low level and not a challenge for experienced players or particularly interesting builds, but ones that fit well within the context of the role of bandit lords and easily integrated into a given setting. And yet, the pdf, while useful, feels like it could have used another format – one pdf stats and one fluff or a bigger book – like one that actually also features ambush tactics, traps, concealment etc.

There is nothing wrong with this pdf, but it’s a) short and useful, but not as useful as a collection of encounters (spanning more levels) supplied with fluff tables would have been. Thus, I’ll remain with a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform – unless you need bandits for the lowest levels. As written, this pdf offers nice content, but perhaps could have used another format to truly shine.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Apr 102014
 

the_sheriffBy Endzeitgeist

The Sheriff, an installment of the Player’s Option series, is 12 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

Mechanically, Sheriffs need to be lawful, get d20, 2+Int skills (the class could have used more skills per level, but oh well…), full BAB-progression, good fort-and will-saves, proficiency with all simple and martial weapons and all types of armour and shields, but not tower shields. They also get proficiency with swordbreaker daggers, or repeating crossbows or firearms as bonus feats at 1st level to reflect their training with weapons that can help bring in lawbreakers.

At 1st level, a sheriff chooses a so-called jurisdiction – a country or similar region for which s/he has jurisdiction. This results in a +1/2 class level bonus to diplomacy, knowledge (local), perception and sense motive while wearing his/her badge, but also a bad starting attitude when interacting with chaotic creatures. At 4th level and every 3 levels after that, her jurisdiction is acknowledged in an additional region – like famous investigators that develop fame on a scale that transcends borders.

Sheriffs at 1st level also need to decide on a precinct, which essentially provides them with guidelines and a code of conduct by which they operate. Each precinct nets additional class skills, bonus equipment and a particular special power. Furthermore, at 2nd, 8th and 14th level, they get an ability and at 3rd level and every 3 thereafter a bonus feat drawn from a precinct-specific list.

The sheriffs also learn taking others in alive and hence may choose from a selection of different +2 bonuses (e.g. to non-lethal damage, CMD to resist and CMB to perform dirty tricks etc.) at 5th level and again at 11th and 17th level. At 5th level, they may also declare a warrant on a foe, making him/her more powerful versus the targeted fugitive – not only combat, but also research-wise. This bloodhound-like tracking and investigating is further increased at 13th and 20th level, though the capstone’s insistence of “further growth” of the warrant feature when talking about being able to have an active warrant on 3 foes at the same time makes me believe that the +1 warrant for 2 active warrants at 13th level was somehow lost.

Now what about those precincts I mentioned? A total of 5 are provided and they come with quite a slew of abilities: Bounty Hunters are essentially somewhat akin to rangers and adepts at hunting down foes. Divine Justices get a powerful version of smite chaos that also protects them from foes and gain access to a very limited selection of paladin spells and finally may treat weapons for which they have weapon focus as axiomatic. Now if these seem a bit unbalanced in direct comparison, that’s mainly because skills and feat-lists as well as starting equipment are also balancing factors . uncommon, but not a bad decision. i actually like it! Some sheriffs are judges, jury and executioner in one person – these sheriffs are not trying to take you in alive – they finish the job then and there and, at 14th level, may for con-rounds make their weapon focus weapon vorpal for one round and reroll misses due to concealment. I’m honestly not comfortable with the vorpal ability at 14th level – but then again, I’m not comfortable with the weapon quality. Still, it seems a bit early for vorpal.

Long Arms of the Law are the firearm specialists – and don’t get grit – but do get one ingenious ability – starting at 2nd level, they may, as a free action, add their will-save to their touch AC versus firearms – I would have loved more “anti-grit” abilities like this – the design is solid, but could have been simply awesome. As provided, they are a solid, less risky firearm specialists.

Posse Leaders may deputize NPCs and are essentially capable of temporarily recruiting NPCs depending on their level and increase their abilities to lead others.

We also get 3 mundane items, 4 firearm modifications (different stocks – detachable ones, for example) and the stats for an executioner’s sword. We also get 2 different CR 3 sheriffs and 3 statblocks for different posse members.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to PDG’s 2-column standard and the pdf comes with nice full color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.

Author Sean O’Connor has created a good take on the sheriff-trope that comes with some rather cool precincts and features some abilities I’d really consider well-built and innovative. Taking for example the option to fortify against firearms or the posse leader’s recruitment – they are great, but choosing between more options would have made this even cooler. In fact, that’s the one thing I could hold against this class – apart from the a tad bit too weak bounty hunter and the potential problem with the vorpal-ability of the JJE-precinct, I enjoyed this class in spite of being relatively linear. In the end, the sheriff is a sufficiently distinct class that could have, with more room and e.g. archetypes and some additional unique powers (why not offer limited grit-access? Why not determine different bonuses based on jurisdiction [theocracy nets other bonuses than magocracies/rural areas...]?) become a true winner.

Within the few pages devoted to it, it works as a solid class that has some excellent ideas that hint at as of yet partially unrealized potential. Speaking of which – the class is, also rather linear when it needn’t be – why not tie jurisdiction to categories à la “tyranny”, “magocracy” etc. – all worlds tend to have these and providing exclusive modifications for the precincts would have made this class so much cooler and a more versatile experience. Don’t get me wrong – the sheriff is by no means a bad class, but it is one very linear one and probably more fitting for NPCs. That being said, we still get a solid offering for a fair price and hence my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform – unless you’re looking for an NPC-class – in which case you should consider this a round-up-file of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Apr 072014
 

Mythic_Monsters_DemonsBy Endzeitgeist

This is Legendary Games’ first collection of monsters upgraded to Mythic-level, focusing on demons this time around and clocking in at 30 pages of content, 1 page of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages how-to-use/introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of raw content, so let’s take a look!

We kick this pdf off with notes on mythic demons crashing through bindings, bargaining and possessing mortals before diving headfirst into the mythic demons provided herein – from humble CR 2/MR 1 Quasits over Babau, Bodaks, Glabrezu, Hezrou, Incubus, Kalavakus, Nabassu, Elite Nabassu, Shadow Demon, Succubus all the way to the CR 25/MR 10 Balor, we get quite a solid array of statblocks for the respective demons, all mythified for your convenience and with thematically fitting abilities to boost – whether it’s the succubus revealing herself in abyssal glory (potentially quite literally), thus making all crash to the floor growling (and take cha-damage upon shaking it off), an elite nabassus manifesting in conflagrations of fire upon being summoned (potentially turning those slain into mhorgs!) to the mythic klavakus that can use their mythic powers to command their slaves to commit suicide – these demons are NASTY with a capital “N” and come with appropriately twisted builds and abilities. Usually, the statblocks also mention where the non-mythic version of the demon can be found, though weirdly both succubus and shadow demon lack this specific information.

And then there is the Gulgerak – at CR 22/MR 9, these gigantic demonic siege engines are six-legged, two-headed wolves that sport chains on which lesser demons dangle for a both awe-inspiring and superbly deadly foe – including an origin-myth, description-fluff and an awesome full color artwork, the second apart from the cover artwork herein. An awesome creature that shows well why author Tom Philip’s name can be seen on various awesome supplements out there.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant errors. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ 2-column full-colour awesomeness and is a beauty to behold indeed. The two pieces of artwork are great and up to the highest standards of quality and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version.

This pdf provides awesome takes on those poor demons left out in the original Mythic Adventure book (which should have simply provided more paths and instead deliver a whole bestiary as a separate book, but oh well, that’s what LG is here for…) and covers a wide variety of demons – and I get why dretches don’t get a mythic equivalent. What does sour me a bit is that this pdf, while covering its targets well, does not cover…well, all demons. Call me annoying or nitpicky, but when I saw this one announced, I expected to see all demons covered that were left out of the MA-book – at least regarding Paizo’s core bestiaries. So where’s the Coloxus? The Shir? The Omox? The Shemhazian? The Vrolikai?

I could understand them being left out, but with the inclusion of the bodak (not a demon, but an undead), I can’t help but wish for the book being about twice the size and complete in its coverage at least as far as the bestiaries go. (Mind you, not starting with the demons from Book of the Damned 2: Lords of Chaos or the Worldwound-supplement…) Now I’m wholly and completely aware that I’m unfair here – but still, the absence of the bestiary demons weighs quite a bit on my mind. I understand that further demons would have increased the price, but personally, that increase would have been made up for by the comfort of having all (Bestiary-)Demons in one handy book/pdf. Perhaps if there’s a sequel I can print them all out and file them in the same folder… Still, at least for me, that’s a lost chance.

Don’t get me wrong: As provided, the statblocks are solid, the new creature rocks hard, the original mythic abilities are iconic and fitting and overall, I can definitely recommend this pdf to DMs looking for a mythic edge for the demons covered by this pdf. Still, at least to me, it feels not complete and, while I still recommend this pdf, can’t do so as unanimously as I would have liked. HOWEVER, at the same time, penalizing a book for something *I* would have done differently would not be fair and I have to take into account that several people out there may not mind not all demons being in one tome – hence, my final verdict will clock in between considering this book “good” and “excellent”, at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 since my gripes can’t be universally applied and since the content that is here, rocks hard.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Apr 072014
 

Legendary_Classes_Rune_MagicBy Endzeitgeist

Legendary Classes: Rune Magic is 25 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

So – what is Rune Magic? Basically, it is the force that initiated the calling on PDG’s much-anticipated setting of Porphyra, calling in the clash between two traditions, the New Gods to the world – and now you may harness this primal power. Runes, on a basic level, are essentially Words of Power as you know them from Paizo’s Ultimate Magic supplement.

The first way to do so is via the variant class (based on the alchemist, but honestly, completely different!) Runecaster: d8, 4+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort and ref-saves, proficiency with simple weapons and light armours, but not shields and wordspells of up to 6th level.

In order to harness the power of runes, runecasters pay a price – their voice. Instead of a voice, a non-illuminating script shows up as language over their heads – an interesting concept indeed and a nice fluffy instance – and yes, vocal components can still be cast, the component showing up in a similar way. An interesting unique display for their power. They start the game with one first level word spell per day and knowledge of all target words and the boost meta word as well as knowledge of 1st level effects or meta-words equal to 2+Int mod and may add one effect or meta word every level to his/her formula book. New words may also be learned as per the normal rules.

As a kind of analogue to the mutagens, runecasters may paint runes on their flesh starting at first level – a process taking 1 hour. Activating a rune (only one can be maintained at any time) is a standard action and while under the effects, the runecaster gets +2 natural armour and +4 to one physical attribute of the runecaster’s choosing for 10 minutes per class level, but also incurring a penalty of -2 to the corresponding mental attribute – i.e. Int for str, cha for con etc.

As those traditionally tasked with securing holds, runecasters may also create so-called wards. Painting such a ward takes a full round action and up to class level + int mod runes may be active at a given time, each lasting runecaster level minutes or until discharged. The damage of their 5-foot burst being based on 1d6 + int-mod, scaling up to a whopping 10d6 at level 19. And it is this ability that has been massively revised, now thankfully sporting a daily limit as well as a more concise wording that takes the time it takes to disarm these into account – two thumbs up! Oh yes, the disarm-DC now scales

Especially since that’s not everything wards can do: Starting at 2nd level and every two levels after that, the runecaster gets a so-called ancient secret, i.e. one of 40 (!!!) different talents – all of which also come with a handy table to give you an overview – commendable! And these do allow you to make some interesting modifications: E.g. you may exclude one of the basic creature types like “dragons”, “monstrous humanoids” etc. to never trigger your wards, or via another one, exclusively be triggered by a type – which makes for nasty ideas for DMs. Wards may also be laced with elemental damage, add negative conditions like blindness and confusion etc. to their wards. Not all ancient secrets are based on wards, though +4 counterspelling word-spells is also possible, as is making a word spell of up to 3rd level permanent. They may also increase wordpsells cast from scrolls to their casterlevel, fortify their bodies via fleshrunes, create a fleshrune that boosts your mental attributes at the cost of your physical abilities etc. They may also learn to heal limited amounts of damage each day via touches (which, when retained, automatically heals the runecaster when s/he is dropped as a nice type of contingency) or do something rather unique:

It is no secret that I LOVE Purple Duck Games and Rite Publishing’s Legendary Items/Legacy Items, i.e. powerful items that get levels with your character, and some abilities of the runecaster allow you to interact with these items to e.g. ignore a part of such an items prerequisites to wield. I should also mention that thankfully the more powerful options require either other secrets or minimum level prerequisites.

The class may also choose from 6 awesome capstones that allow the class to forge artefacts, become immortal or increase e.g. Int by 2, get fast healing 5 etc. – nice. The class also comes with a sample NPC at 1st level and 2 feast – one to increase the number of wards you can have simultaneously active and one netting you an additional ancient secret. In a superb example of 3pp camaraderie and support, the favoured class options are a thing of beauty: Beyond even core races, ARG races and PDG’s races, we also get e.g. favoured class options for e.g. Alluria Publishing’s Remarkable Races. And better yet – these favoured class options are actually distinct and imho balanced.

The second new class featured herein is fluff-wise slightly tied to the orcs, would be the Runereavers, a barbarian-variant that gets full BAB-progression, d12, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with martial and simple weapons as well as shields (except tower shields) and light and medium armour as well as good fort-saves. In the first round of battle, these fighters get a bonus to damage that starts at +1d6 and scales up to +1d12. They also get +1 dodge bonus to armour and +1 to intimidate when not wearing armour and scale these bonuses up by +1 for every six levels after the third and a second ability that nets them natural armour +1 when not wearing armour at level 7, +1 for every three levels after that. (Improved) Uncanny Doge can also be found among the class abilities, as can gaining character level+con-mod SR at 11th level. But what are the signature abilities?

Bloodrunes. At first level, he gets one, then at 2nd level again and every two levels after that. Activating blood runes is an immediate action that does not provoke AoOs. Runereapers get str-mod rune points and each activation of a bloodrune costs one such rune point. Now where things get interesting is in the fact that they do not replenish as usual via rest, but only via the defeating of foes -what constitutes ” defeating” being subject (THANKFULLY!) to DM-judgment (No, you can’t spar with your friends and have them take a dive!), but usually involving beating foes below 0 hp or sending them fleeing in panic. Unless I’ve miscounted, we get 36 different bloodrunes to choose from -

From enhancing single damage rolls to ignoring object hardness when sundering, rerolling failed fortitude saves or ridding yourself of exhaustion or fatigue up to using a rune to make a foe entering your square provoke an AoO – whether or not said adversary would usually provoke such an attack. Definitely interesting abilities, somewhat in line with the gunslinger’s grit – a truly interesting take on the mook-mower that should make for an interesting playing experience. The capstone is okay – the runereaper always moves first and gets a standard action every time s/he defeats a foe.

Beyond the class, we also get a sample level 1 NPC, a feat for +1 bloodrune power, one for +2 rune points and once again – a HUGE, massive and impressive list of favoured class options for just about any race you could ever desire.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good in the revised edition -while not perfect, I did notice no significant ambiguities anymore, just some minor typos. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard that is printer-friendly and comes with nice full colour artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Author Josh McCrowell has taken one damn complex (and arguably suboptimal) mechanic with the Words of Power-system – and it works. Approaching the system as one component of the class instead of its defining feature means that they actually work – so kudos for that. With the wards now working as they should, the class now actually makes me contemplate introducing these fellows in my game.

The Runereaver in contrast takes an interesting take on a barbarian-style melee-class with distinct mechanics. The rules-language of this class has been cleared up as well.

Purple Duck Games has vastly improved the original pdf and taken care of the rough edges, resulting in an improved experience for all using this pdf – while not yet perfect, I can know recommend this supplement as a good purchase, especially for all fans of words of power – my final verdict for the revised edition will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Apr 042014
 

in_the_company_of_medusaBy Endzeitgeist

This new supplement in Rite Publishing’s “In the Company of”-series is 19 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, so let’s take a look, shall we?

“We were born from blood and tears, venomous as jealousy.” If you’re like me, these words resonate with – as has become the tradition with Rite Publishing’s offerings, this pdf is written in in-character narratives, as told by characters to Qwillion of Queesthaven – and the prose here is…well AWESOME. The medusa-society is described in ample detail as per a schooling book/an instructor, including information on how to keep both scales and snake-hair proper and trim and keep the latter in control – fluff-wise, these paragraphs are pure gold; Take for example the mentioning of a bed of invisibility, hinted at , but never explicit elaborations of subtle and brute force ways of seduction… these pages reminded my pleasantly of Catherynne M. Valente’s Orphan’s Tales-series and author Liz Smith has indeed delivered pages that are not only a joy to read, but which breathe vast narrative potential for adventuring hooks, while, with the three dominant philosophies (Euryale, Sthennos and Medusa) covering all types of way of life/conceptions of how medusa act – kudos, but can the crunch live up to the fluff?.

Regular medusa get +2 to Con and Cha, -2 to Str, darkvision 60 ft., all-around vision, a secondary natural bite attack at 1d4, a poison (DC 10+1/2 HD+con-mod for 1d2, 6 rounds, cure 2 saves), immunity to medusa poison and the petrified condition with the exception of the own gaze and a petrification gaze – usable 1/day as a standard action, range 30 ft, save scales with HD and is based on cha. Said petrification, however, is not permanent until 11th level/HD and lasts until then 1 round per HD.

Greater Medusa get +2 to one ability score of their choice, darkvision 60 ft., all-around vision, 1d6 secondary natural attack with the same poison as their regular kin, the same immunities and petrification gaze, but also cannot be tripped due to a lower body of a snake – which conversely also precludes them from having a slot for feet.

We get age, height and weight tables for both and 15 (!!!) alternate racial traits – unfortunately, the very first would be alternate racial attribute modifications that have been mixed up – +2 Con and Cha, -2 Str replace..+2 Con, Cha, -2 Str? That ought to read something like +2 to Dex, at least judging from the text – unless, of course, said racial trait is intended exclusively for greater medusa – which I’ll assume due to in dubio pro reo, even though the specifically mentioned attribute-suite belongs to the regular medusa. Another alternate trait nets +2 Con and Int, -2 Dex and getting augury and later divination or commune in lieu of darkvision is possible as well. Archery mastery with a chosen bow type (in exchange for poison) can also be found, as can a trait that nets the hold breath quality of amphibious creatures, +2 to swim and two secondary claw attacks at 1d4 in exchange for medusa immunities and all-around vision. Another trait allows the medusa to gain a point (up to a maximum of 10+HD) whenever they roll a “1″ on an attack or saving roll, with the option to exchange a point for +1 on an attack or saving roll – nice for unlucky players. +2 to saves versus necromantic spells or cha-based skill checks (regular medusa only) as well as three traits representing aforementioned 3 philosophies can be found herein, as can one that sees a medusa ritualistically shave her hair in exchange for the extra hex or extra malediction-feat – cool 3pp-synergy here.

We also get a suggestion of suitable archetypes (nice, seeing how many are out there) and favored class options for Alchemist, Bard, Druid, hellion (by SGG), Magus, Malefactor (by TPK Games), Occultist (Pact Magic by Radiance House), Oracle, Ranger, Rogue, Sorceror, Shaman (by Kobold Press) and witch -Very cool to see this level of support for some of the finest 3pp-classes out there!

Of course, we also get 2 unique racial archetypes, with the first being the gorgonic shaman for the druid -these shamans are restricted in their choice of companion and get impeded wild-shape, but also learn to commune with the earth (making catching them by surprise HARD unless flying) to temporarily take on an improved aspect that allows them to temporarily enhance their own body with a variety of special tricks – from uncommon speeds to a temporary petrification stare up to natural weapons, this archetype allows other characters to take on a semblance of being medusa-like or medusa to offset some of the losses they may have incurred via the choice of their alternate racial traits – nice indeed, as it conjures up images of a society of servants striving to take on aspects of their mistresses…

Sorcerers may opt to become stone-eyed sorcerors, who may supplement their body temporarily with the fortification quality to nondetection and similar defensive qualities.

The star herein, though, is the racial paragon-class for the medusa – this 20-level class gets d10, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons plus longbow, shortbow, rapier, scimitar, shortsword, light armour and their own bite and tail if applicable (i.e. if the character is a greater medusa). The class gets full BAB-progression, good ref and will-saves and the poison of the medusa scales up from 1d3 str to 1d8 str as well as +4 natural armour at 1st level, +2 at 3rd level and every 3 levels after that. Medusa paragon of first level can fascinate foes not in combat within 50 feet by using the hypnotic wriggling of their hair as a standard action, learning to fascinate more adversaries at higher levels, also benefitting from improved reactions to them. And no, not overpowered since it doesn’t work in combat and upon a successful save, the ability stops to function versus that foe for 24 hours. Now if you were underwhelmed by the gaze attack of the base medusa races, you’ll enjoy the fact that petrification gazes vastly improved over the course of the class, gaining an additional use at 7th level and becoming continuous at 10th level. Rather cool, at even higher levels, their gaze can turn mud or quicksand into rock (think about it: vast planes of quicksand, with rocky palaces crafted in a waveless sea of sand), selective gaze (at 16th level) and may even animate the statues that once were the victims of their gaze to fight for them at 18th level – rather cool.

At 3rd level, they also grow to large size and learn to use their hair to manipulate or hold items (leaving hands free for e.g. two-handed large weapons…ouch…) and at 6th level, medusa may extend their hair to grapple foes at range (25 ft. +5/2 levels) – and you’d expect me to scream “OP” here, but the fact that moving or pinning foes is not possible as well as the fact that sunder-attempts versus your hair count as attacks versus you should limit the usability of this ability, though I do get some headaches when thinking about the hair extending from the body counting as part of the character and the potential for attacks on it – clarification on how to resume this/perhaps a scaling mechanic for sundering strands of hair would have gone a long way here – especially since at higher levels, constricting, pulling and even strangling foes garrote-style via hair also are possible and at this point, the range-grappling component, limited though it may be, gets rather complex.

As 2nd level and every 3 levels of the class after that, the medusa also gets one of the medusa talents from 20 talents – these include further ability growth, a bonus feat, blindsense, climb speed, the constrict special quality, may grow wings (and learn to use them as weapons) and learn to tail-slap (which is btw. required for grabbing, constricting etc.) as well as gain stone-related tricks and movement and gazes. The capstone is an outsider transformation, including DR 15/ epic good/evil, depending on alignment – but what about neutral medusa?

We also get a feat for an extra medusa talent and the half-medusa CR+1 template.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect, I did notice a couple of minor glitches. Layout adheres to a unique full-colour two-column standard with green, scaled borders and the pdf offers neat full-colour artworks -especially cool at this low, fair price-point. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Author Liz Smith has woven a yarn that ranks very highly indeed, with superb fluff drawing you deep into the race – even if you’re just looking for inspiration for a culture, this serves the role superbly. Crunch-wise, the offering is solid indeed, though the ranged grappling feel a bit problematic depending on your campaign’s power-level. The racial paragon class and the greater medusa both feel a bit like on the strong side of the power-level, with the class allowing you to become a true melee grappling/constricting threat that may rend foes asunder. That being said, I did not consider any part of the crunch herein broken or overpowered per se – the overall combination of them may be a bit much for some campaigns, though. The regular medusa, on the other hand, is completely fine with me and could potentially see uses in all but the most low-powered campaigns. The minor glitches here and there and the slightly high power-level for my tastes and the fact that the range-grappling could use some minor clarification are, however, the only complaints I can muster against this pdf – especially the superb writing offsetting these minor flaws in my book, thus seeing me settle on a final verdict of 4 stars – especially the proper implementation of snake hair and gaze attacks without unhinging the game deserving accolades for the author.

Endzeitgeist out.

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