Feb 162015
 

MechromancerBy Endzeitgeist

The Mechromancer: A Theurge Tinker Prestige Class is 5 pages long, 1 page front cover,1 page SRD, ½ a blank pages, leaving us with ~2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

Mechanically, the Mechromancer is a 5-level PrC that has a slow BAB-progression, gets d6, needs to be not of a good alignment and gets good will-saves. As to be expected from a class offering a theurge-approach, it offers +1 level of spellcasting and +1 level invention-usage per level, meaning mechromancer-levels stack with tinker-levels for the purposes of determining maximum number of available build points per blueprint, max amount of blueprints, inventions known and maximum invention level known as well as effective level of inventions and automatic HD-progression. I’d also comment of the amount of skill points per level, but unfortunately, the pdf lacks this crucial information. – Especially relevant since the PrC only offers two class-skills – this might have been intended as a means of balancing the class, but I can’t ascertain that.

Now fluff-wise, the Mechromancer is a blending of necromancer and tinker – i.e. of the two classes offering the most minions. Prerequisite-wise, this is reflected in needing to be able to cast animate dead as well as having an alpha. Now the first ability already had me chuckle “Blue Screen of Undeath” allows you to resurrect an automaton that has died within 1 minute mechromancer class levels times per day. Said revived construct only persists for a limited duration and counts as undead for the purpose of what affects it without gaining the undead traits. The reanimated automaton also can be directed sans using actions. Unfortunately, the ability fails to specify whether said reanimated automatons count towards the maximum amount of automatons a tinker can have deployed at a given time.

At 2nd level, the mechromancer learns to add one single mechormantic graft to each of his/her blueprints, including the alpha, which, at 4th level, gets a second graft. A total of 15 such grafts are provided and they range from a stomach that allows an automaton to heal 10 HP when digesting food for an hour to +3 natural armor via the addition of a skeleton, +5 to perception, an increased reach (only for combat maneuvers by 5 ft.) or the option to be healed by negative energy – but harmed by positive energy. There also is a graft that replaces the damage dealt by the kamikaze invention by negative energy – including a minor typo that speaks of “Customkaze”, but oh well. More significant are other glitches: Take adding a mechromantic brain-graft: It allows for the addition of a brain to an automaton – at the cost of counting as two deployed automatons. The automaton does deactivate when leaving the tinker’s master’s presence radius, though, paying thus for being autonomous. However, this does entail some peculiarities, as does the existence of reanimated constructs: Do these automata (either normal undead or those with a brain) get the awareness to make AoOs? What about combat maneuvers? Can automata with a brain be revived temporarily via Blue Screen of Undeath? The text mentions “irrevocable shutdown”, which makes me not so sure.

Another issue would be that adding a lymph system adds channel resistance +3 as well as +3 to fort-saves for the automaton – per se nice. However, channel energy usually deals damage to the living or undead – not constructs. It requires the variant channeling provided by the Forge portfolio to heal constructs via channel energy and damaging them via the channeling of an opposing energy is impossible until the mechromancer reanimated the automaton – prior to that, constructs are neither harmed, nor healed by positive or negative energy since they are neither living, nor undead. – i.e. channel resistance only applies once the automaton has been revived – prior to that, the ability implies that automata can be hit by negative or positive energy, which they RAW can’t.

Mechromancers may also add a secondary bite attack to their arsenal, I assume at the standard 1d4 for small creatures, but actually listing the damage said attack deals would have been helpful.

The Mechromancer’s Alpha also starts to radiate a permanent aura s per the desecrate spell and later adds the channel resistance provides by unhallow to its array, but not the other abilities of aforementioned spell.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not up to the level of quality I’ve come to expect from Interjection Games – from the missing skill points per level to non-italicized spells and minor typos, for such a short pdf the amount of glitches is too high for my tastes. Layout adheres to Interjection Games’ neat 2-column b/w-standard and the product does feature some nice b/w-stock artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

I really wanted to like the mechromancer- it really caters to my sentiments and has a delightful mad science-feel in concept. In execution, though, I think it unfortunately falls rather flat: From the missing skills per level to the uninspired capstone, the PrC feels a bit raw and less imaginative than its concept deserves – while the necromantic additions to the automata are great, as is the option to temporarily revive them, they do suffer from some problematic uses of the rules-language and over all require more clarification regarding when/if they count as undead, constructs etc.. And they only cover one half of the equation: “Theurge” implies a duality and this pdf misses the awesome chance of adding inventions to the undead – the class essentially is a one-way street, only one side of the coin, and feels honestly cut down, like it was supposed to be so much more. Were it only for unrealized potential, I wouldn’t have rated this pdf down as much – but with the glitches that actually severely impede the functionality of the class, I am left with no choice in spite of liking the concept of this PrC: My final verdict will clock in at a final verdict of 1.5 stars, rounded up to 2 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Feb 162015
 

131124[1]By Endzeitgeist

Islands of Plunder: Spices and Flesh is 28 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/how to use, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Wait, before we go into the details – what is this series about? Well, essentially, the Islands of Plunder-sub-series is a part of expansions intended for the Skull & Shackles AP, providing sidetreks etc. on an island per island base – they can essentially be considered island-focused mini-adventures that work just as well within the context of a Freeport campaign, Razor Coast or Savage Tide – if it’s remotely pirate/island-themed, these will work – and probably beyond that, but that I’ll take a look at on a case by case basis. This Island of Plunder-module is intended to be run for level 4 characters during #2 of the Skull & Shackles AP.

Hence, since this is an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players are strongly advised to jump to the conclusion.

When the PCs board the Tamarind (fully mapped in gorgeous full color!), captain Batholomew Shaw immediately surrenders his weapons -alas, things are not as easy as they seem. While the captain sports minor enchantments, the module does mention this and provides excuses for the DM to rattle off – nice to see obvious PC capacities taken into account. Beyond the magic, astute and observant PCs can notice quite a few discrepancies in the Tamarind’s make up that should make them aware of the potential issues with the craft -if they fail, though, they may very well be subjected to non-lethal poison that may knock them out and put them at a severe disadvantage.

Whether they are imprisoned and need to escape from the secret cargo (including slaves) hold or whether open hostilities break out – the PCs will have a conflict on their hands -and one that is not too easy. While it is my personal opinion that the ship’s alchemist’s buffed AC at 20 isn’t too bad, the module does sport advice for extremely low-powered groups to prevent frustration. Searching the ship, the PCs promptly stumble across the legend of Shayonna and a hinted trade planned by the pirates; Said being, though, is now known as the legendary Gaunt. Embarking towards her islet, the PCs are soon greeted by a less than friendly merrow strike squad.

Despicable PCs may well sell the slaves for an excellent price, but more heroic PCs will have to brave coral flensing traps, ravenous urchin swarms and worse before finally facing down legendary Shayonna, who has the strange power to transform regular beings into merrow – and yes, she is a mythic threat and one that will challenge the PCs to the utmost. It should be noted that her legend can be gleaned by the PCs, making sure they know they do not have a regular adversary before them and her stats, fully provided herein, contain all required rules to run her.

The pdf concludes with player-friendly versions of the maps, including Shayonna’s islet. Going above and beyond, the underwater tunnels do not show on the player-friendly map – AWESOME.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Each named NPC receives his/her own artwork, which is awesome. Even better, both island and fortress come in lavishly drawn full color maps that also sport player-friendly maps to use as handouts – kudos to the cartographer! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Matt Goodall and F.D. Graham have provided a neat sidetrek here – with smart adversaries, a nice, short, concise story and fitting consequences. The BBEG is neat as well, though her foreshadowing does not match that of a similar module. The cartography is neat, quite some advice is given that helps run the sidetrek and the module’s gorgeous original artwork and cartography help make it a nice, unpretentious sidetrek. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t have to – easily dropped into just about every kind of nautical campaign, this one has the potential for massive expansion, should a DM choose to do so. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Feb 162015
 

Necropunk-BestiaryBy Endzeitgeist

Necropunk Bestiary for Little Red Goblin Games’ SUPERB, intelligent dark-scifi-setting necropunk clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 40.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

This pdf kicks off with the new alien type and all required information to create more aliens – and these creatures are more colorful than you’d imagine – weird, yes, but also pretty organic. Resonating the themes of Necropunk, the aliens provided herein often hearken back towards strange insectoid beings or creatures that look like they may have spawned in an alternate evolution, so kudos. Attack Bug Swarms, gigantic clusters of nanomachines that can scourge and disintegrate foes, dissipating seamlessly upon facing too pronounced a danger -the adversaries herein are distinct and awesome and fit well not only within the context of Necropunk, but also within the frame of another setting.

Strange, squishy gas drifters with three tentacles, off aliens that look like a cross between a tapir and a kangaroo that can drain confidence with a mere gaze (including an improved, higher CR variant), deadly orbital crustaceans (that can leap hundreds of feet, generating deadly shockwaves upon impact), behemoth-like all consuming scoop mouths…or what about crosses between multi-eyed felines and hammerhead sharks? Yes, these creatures are alien and odd, but they are believable and have unique abilities and fitting full-color artworks. They also make good use of bulletproof defenses, evasive maneuvers and similar unique tricks, though, admittedly, I would have loved for them to make more use of Necropunk’s unique rules-assets like social combat, phase combat and the psychic system. A further downside for those of you who want rock-solid stats – I did notice some (minor) glitches in the statblocks themselves.

Now I feel obliged to mention that the statblocks herein adhere to an unnecessary diversion from presentation standards – special abilities are presented not below the ecology section of the statblock, instead showing up right below the offense-section, before the statistics – this pulls the whole statblock unnecessarily apart and, while not impeding functionality, it does require some getting used to.

Beyond creatures, though, this pdf also provides us with Necropunk iconics, all with their own artworks and sample builds for level 1, 5, 10 and 15. A Total of 5 such iconics are provided and mooks, from mass-produced ghouls to security agents also help the DM.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect – the non-standard formatting of statblocks, while consistent, is unnecessary and makes them slightly harder to read and the minor glitches beyond that remain a blemish on the file. The pdf adheres to Necropunk’s printer-friendly two-column standard in full color, with most monsters receiving their own, unique artworks with a thoroughly distinct style. Kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Scott Gladstein, Jeremiah Zerby, Caleb Aylesworth, Maverick Bishop and Dayton Johnson have created a bestiary perhaps my favorite scifi-setting right now – I find myself craving a TV series, novels, more supplements for Necropunk on a rather regular basis and the innovative rules inherent to the system have found their way in one form or another in many facets of my home game. The aliens provided herein could have easily wrecked the distinct style, the hard to grasp cohesion of the setting’s superb atmosphere. They didn’t, so that’s a massive plus for me. Instead, like many good scifi creatures, whether those encountered in George R.R. Martin’s lesser known scifi stories (Necropunk meets Meathouse Man would be pretty interesting…) or those provided by classic scifi/pulp authors, they feel alive and believable. They also sport a diverse selection of unique abilities and tricks and the sample NPC-builds spare both players and DMs a lot of time. That being said, as much as I’d like to, I can’t remain mute on the minor glitches in the statblocks, the unnecessary formatting decision that makes them harder to read. These constitute detrimental factors.

On the plus-side, though, this bestiary is cheap and makes sense in non-Necropunk-settings as well. Still, try as I might, I can’t rate this bestiary higher than an enthusiastic 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 since the pdf is too good for a mediocre rating.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Feb 162015
 

Feats-of-AcrobaticsMythic Minis 31: Feats of Acrobatics is 3 pages – 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, let’s go!

  • Cartwheel Dodge: Your movement below 1/2 base movement does not provoke AoOs, any excess movement of up to your movement rate does. Use mythic power to take an ally along for the ride at the cost of 1/2 your speed. See this is the level of awesomeness I love to see in this series!
  • Disorienting maneuver: +1/2 mythic tier to acrobatics checks to move through enemy squares. Also increase bonuses granted. Okay, I guess.
  • Duck and Cover: Better bonuses, also depending on shield type, and use it even without adjacent allies. Nice.
  • Sidestep: You do not have to remain in the threatened area of an adversary when sidestepping. Additionally, sidestep as an immediate action within the threatened area for a bonus to AC. More uses per round for mythic power. Cool!
  • Improved Sidestep: Withdraw as an immediate action when an opponent misses you. + dodge bonus; for mythic power, move 2x movement rate.
  • Landing Roll: Stand up as part of the immediate action, provoke no AoOs while doing so for mythic power. Alternatively, move half movement rate before falling prone. Power slide, anyone? Nice!
  • Passing Tricks: Feint as a free action rather than as a swift one. Use mythic power to feint opponents against which your acrobatics check failed regarding moving through their squares.
  • Swap Places: Allies may move as free action when swapping, enable allies that don’t have the feat to use it as an immediate action; this can be executed as a swift action. use mythic power to decrease this action economy-wise to a free action each. Complex, tactical, hard to get right, awesome!
  • Underfoot: Numericla escalation; decrease size-bonuses against your movement and use mythic power to keep moving even after an AoO, but not through an opponent’s square. Nice!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ 2-column full color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Tork Shaw and Jason Nelson manage to do it this time around – the magic that the best of Mythic Minis-files exude does suffuse each and every feat herein -not one is a straight, boring numerical escalation. They are complex and utilize complex stratagems to deliver new tactical options that are glorious indeed. One of the best Mythic Minis to date and an easy 5 stars + seal of approval recommendation!

Endzeitgeist out.

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Feb 062015
 

Mythic_Monsters_Devils By Endzeitgeist

Mythic Monsters: Devils clocks in at 34 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages on how to use, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

In the tradition of Legendary Games’ Mythic Monster series, we kick off with an uncommon piece of introduction – multiple pages of glorious, actually awesome to read in-character prose in vernacular – rather awesome and sets well the mood for the dreadfully efficient and lethal Devils to follow! The section also provides a cool template-expansion for Bestiary 4’s Devilbound creature template, including types of devil the basic template failed to cover – glorious.

Now I know, you’re here for the creatures, so let’s take a look at the CR 4/MR 1 Accuser Devil may replay information witnessed and influence targets with dread visions of the torments of hell – interesting variation of the base creature that opens some new storytelling potential in spite of its low MR – neat.

At CR 13/MR 5, Mythic Hamata (or barbed devils – both monikers are provided for each creature herein), these guys can use mythic power to add caltrop-like barbs to their casts, fling barbas and their defenses and reflexive damage make these creatures appropriately lethal. At CR 6/MR 2, the Bearded Devil can easily be made into a truly frightening foe – not that these glaive-wielding guys with their lunging sweeps and battle frenzies weren’t deadly – but add a nasty polearm build on top and you get something truly frightening.

CR 12/MR 5 Contract Devils may utterly negate attacks with mythic power, gaining essentially an immediate action lesser time stop! Even before the improved contract abilities, this one is EVIL. The Erinyes, one of my favorite devils, clocks in at CR 10/MR 4 and not only is an even better hunter than her mundane brethren, she also receives deadly animated ropes to hassle and catch her quarry while she pelts them with her deadly arrows.

The CR 17/MR 7 Handmaiden Devil may contain foes in her writhing tentacled, lower body and truly prevent the escape of adversaries with superb grappling powers. CR 15/MR 6 Heresy Devils may belch forth deadly, unholy and acidic, clinging bile and assault foes va flying, infernal glyphs. As a nice supplemental information, we also receive the new Robe of Lead item. Mythic Imps a CR 3/MR 1 are okay, and the necessary Mythic Improved Familiar options are provided, including a proper codification for trying to soul bind the master upon death. Still, I would have enjoyed a unique, new offensive trick.

The CR 20/MR 5 Cornugon deals deadly types of bleed damage with all attacks and a look at the potential damage output of these guys is nasty indeed -these engines of destruction will plow through lesser foes like a knife through butter. Now we all know that there will be this one star here – the CR 25/MR 10 Pit Fiend. OMG, cremating foes slain, blasting resistances and immunities to smithereens, making lemures into other devils, consuming souls to heal and regain mythic power – these titans of infernal might are damn impressive brutes that will provide ample challenge even for the most mighty of mythic heroes.

At CR 9/MR 3, the Vengeance Devils (aka Salikotal) are the true assassins of hell – with Death Attack, additional effects for those slain via Murder Curses, the ability to mark targets for death and even an ugly death throe, these guys are imho very strong for their CR – and that’s a good thing in my book. The CR 9/MR 3 Levaloch Warmonger Devils can call forth areas of razor-sharp, entangling chains, masters of their nets and glorious tacticians in the well-oiled war-machine of hell.

The new creature herein, the serpentine fallen angels called Lisslefer, or Temptation Devils, clock in at CR 7/MR 3 and are about seduction – bartering mortals of their souls for wishes, changing shape, infusing wis-damage dealing poison into targets (which also impedes spellcasting) and the array of spell-like abilities (focused on illusions and enchantments) and the option to swallow corpses to heal (and get rid of evidence) make fpr a well-crafted adversary with a cool artwork to boot. If this creature had one problem, it would be that the last mythic Monster-original beast set the bar exceedingly high.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard and the book comes with two neat full color artworks of top quality. While the pdf is studded with the good type of hyperlinks, annoyingly, no bookmarks are provided.

Jason Nelson, Alistair Rigg, Tom Philips and Jonathan H. Keith have crafted an array of damn cool devils – that require a second glance to get why the builds are good. Much like the Devils herein, the builds are more subtle than those of Demons – less in your face, with many small pieces interacting. Unlike in some Mythic Monster-books, we are not squashed by an awesome array of new and unique signature abilities (though each creature still at least gets one!) – instead, the abilities, new magic capabilities and feats combine into making some downright brutal adversaries. The devils herein intended for combat – you can see hell’s efficiency in them. The seducers – they’re subtle and codify all those bargaining abilities usually left for the DM to handwave, which is neat as well.

I won’t lie – at first, I was somewhat underwhelmed at a high level – I expected more flashy abilities here and there. Then I started analyzing these builds and realized how deadly they actually are. So take a deep breath and read the fine print of these statblocks – they are actually very awesome. Still, while there is nothing per se wrong with this installment, I would have enjoyed something a tad more flashy here and there, especially in the new creature, which, while still far above average, didn’t blow me as far away as the best of the original beasts.

Hence, my final verdict will “only” clock in at 4.5 stars, still rounded up to for the purpose of this platform, for the builds in the end are too deadly, too lethal not to like. So show your PCs how deadly the forces of hell truly are! They’ll be begging for incursions into the Worldwound and fighting Demons instead…

Endzeitgeist out.

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Feb 062015
 

Islands of Plunder: Raid on the Emperor's Hand By Endzeitgeist

Islands of Plunder: Raid on the Emperor’s Hand is 28 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/how to use, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Wait, before we go into the details – what is this series about? Well, essentially, the Islands of Plunder-sub-series is a part of expansions intended for the Skull & Shackles AP, providing sidetreks etc. on an island per island base – they can essentially be considered island-focused mini-adventures that work just as well within the context of a Freeport campaign, Razor Coast or Savage Tide – if it’s remotely pirate/island-themed, these will work – and probably beyond that, but that I’ll take a look at on a case by case basis. This island of plunder is intended for 8th level PCs, which render is appropriate for just about every pirate-themed campaign

Hence, since this is an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players are strongly advised to jump to the conclusion.

Captain Alban Thekros is back from a lucrative trade-run to the South -he’s been drinking heavily, and, to be honest, he’s not used to steering vessels of the size of the Emperor’s Hand. Subsequently, he ran the massive ship aground a sandbank. While fortunately, the ship was damaged to sinking conditions, but the warship escort ships were not signalled and thus, sailed on. Now, things become interesting -the PCs have a massive treasure trove right before their noses – but they will have to hurry!

The massive Emperor’s Hand is fully mapped and in order t take their spoils, the PCs will have to defeat the vessel’s crew – and then it’s looting like there is no tomorrow! The big issue becomes soon apparent – if the PCs are to try their hand at ransacking the boat, they better hurry: In order to win here, speed is the key – and hence, this module uses a massively detailed ransacking mechanic to count points – this includes using extradimensional storage, creatures, etc. and on the combat-side, troop subtype adversaries and cool archetype’d, versatile builds for the NPCs make the whole thing more interesting as well. Have I mentioned that the vessel has 6 (!!!) levels, fully mapped? This massive caper has all the makings of a cool heist indeed and sports easy ways for the PCs to actually come up with ways to efficiently plunder! Better yet, a DM can easily think about ways to make the misfortune of the Emperor’s Hand the work of the PCs for a full-blown heist module!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches, though e.g. one reference to the “King’s Hand” instead of the “Emperor’s Hand” could be consider a slight confusion-causing blunder. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Each named NPC receives his/her own artwork, which is awesome. Even better, both island and fortress come in lavishly drawn full color maps that also sport player-friendly maps to use as handouts – kudos to the cartographer! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Matt Goodall and Joshua Root have created one fast-paced, highly uncommon sidetrek – the looming return of the escort, the high-adrenaline escape, the unconventional focus of this sidetrek -all of these conspire to make this module fun and uncommon, eliciting a nice sense of jamais-vu. This Island of Plunder is very uncommon, fun and just exciting – well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

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