Jun 172015
 

megacities_of_neo_neoBy Endzeitgeist

This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so what happens if the gritty cyberpunk future of Shadowrun, minus magic, gets utterly and thoroughly one-upped? We receive cities sprawling continents and oceans, suffused with a constant overpopulation and stimulation, facilitated by the omnipresent MegaWeb that requires your ping every half a second to continue to cater to your needs. The look into this world is at once fascinating and disturbing – when the vast corporations like Uni-Goggle or the Kocha-Cola corporation have suddenly influence over just about everything, including the reality show to you by those thrifty, cool Enhanced Reality goggles, when all food and consumables come with mood enhancers and medical support similarly is tied to implants, chips, etc., you’ll be clamoring for the quaintness of the Rhine-Ruhr or Seattle megasprawls of Shadowrun.

This vista portrayed here is frightening for its winking proximity to our very own world, its relative believability – genetic tailoring, body-modification and similar complex cultural codes prosper, while the MegaWeb and its advertisements and influence on the minds of the populace reminded me of Andri Snær Magnason’s dystopian novel LoveStar. Beyond the omnipresent might of corporations, Mars as a truly red (read: communist) planet makes for a no less disturbing alternative, while a mega-powerful set of insurrectionists under the command of mysterious Zeus try to bring down a foe that outnumbers them more than a billion to 1. And then there would be the sentient AI Yuki, CEO of the Sen-Zaibatsu and avatar of eidolon (fully statted, btw.), well aware of the asset/threat that Lords and Ladies of Gossamer and Shadow represent… (Can I hear Renraku arcology, anyone?) Short rules for acting in the web can also be found – alongside one last refuge – Australia, protected by the strange Uluru-effect, blocks electromagnetic waves and could either turn out to be cataclysm or salvation for the world…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of a blend of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.

Matt Banach’s Neo_Neo unabashedly pays homage to Shadowrun and the cyberpunk genre in a vast array of its ideas and concepts – and then cranks them up a notch. If you’re like me and considered the change of the matrix and magic-systems a spellplague-level disaster, then this pdf will bring a smile to your face – what we have here, would be a less magic-infused take on what Shadowrun could have become. And I mean that as an honest compliment. If you’re like me and enjoy a bit of cyberpunk once in a while and were looking for an easy way to use all of those Shadowrun books in your LoGaS-game – well, here you go. And even if you just get this for a short visit, the concepts alone are inspiring, yet detailed enough to provide you for more campaign-fodder than you could ask for. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval…now let’s hope our children never get to see 64-lane-highways…

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jun 172015
 

emerald_orderBy Endzeitgeist

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jun 152015
 

age_of_electrotechBy Endzeitgeist

Age of Electrotech clocks in at 100 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 94 (!!!) pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

So what is this book? Well, it can be thought of as a huge campaign-template akin to LPJr Design’s Obsidian Apocalypse – the age of electrotech has dawned and now, super-science and magic exist side by side, with electricity-based gadgets and the like influencing how everything is run. A fitting analogy would be a kind of Tesla-Punk – how to integrate this (e.g. just one country – à la Golarion’s Numeria or Ravenloft’s Lamordia) to the full world – all depending on the DM’s whim.

The book kicks off with the Technician base class, which receives d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor, simple weapons and shields, 3/4 BAB-progression, good ref-and will-saves and a so-called maximum tinker-level scaling from 1st up to 6th. The class also receives 1 battery point, scaling up to 105 at 20th level…but what does all of that mean?

Well, first of all, obviously, technicians receive Electrotech Proficiency as a bonus feat as first level and they also receive + class level to Craft (electrotech)-checks analogue to alchemist et al. High intelligence increases the battery points the class has and battery points recharge after 8 hours. They are essentially the technician’s resource, which powers his gadgets, tinkers and similar devices. hooking up a device to the battery pack requires 1 minute. Technicians may construct so-called gadgets – these can be used by paying their base cost, upgraded by allocating additional battery points. At 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the technician can craft progressively better upgrades from +1 battery point cost to +5 at 13th level. Gadgets take up one of the item-slots – chest, hands, head or feet and equipping/removing them requires 10 rounds, with the option to hasten it at the chance of rendering the gadget broken. Effect generated by gadgets are extraordinary effects, but unlike most such abilities, they are subject to SR and can potentially be counterspelled/dispelled – we have full system-transparency here.

Tinkers on the other hand are devices that can be wielded like wands to duplicate effects, functioning pretty much like spellcasting. Unlike spells, though, a tinker may be charged with battery points to increase the daily amount the tinker can be used. The formula for their creation are marked in a tinker manual, somewhat akin to a spellbook. Now beyond this exceedingly flexible base system, the class ALSO sports so-called innovations – gained at 2nd level, +1 every 2 levels thereafter, these constitute the talents of the class and allow for even more options – for example combining multiple gadgets into one, on-the-fly reassignment of battery points etc. Better driving-skills (more on that later), weaponized tinkers, better weakness analysis of foes – this is very much a scientist-class – but the technician does NOT stop there – at 1st level, the class also decides on a trade (though, again, this can be modified by innovations!) – trades work somewhat akin to oracle mysteries or bloodlines in that they provide a trade skill as class skill, a bonus-feat selection and a linear progression of special abilities gained at 1st, 3rd, 9th and 15th level. Sounds like a bloodline, not a mystery? Yeah, but I also evoked mysteries due to one fact – each trade add certain, exclusive innovations to the array the technician can choose from. The trade provide for a focus on crafting, firearms (including grit), junker’s jury-rigging, vehicle/driver-specialization, soldier, tinker, trap and symbiont specialization – more on that later. And yes, were I to go into details regarding these options, this review would bloat beyond belief. More than one page of favored class options can be found herein. It admittedly took some time to properly analyze this complex class…and know what? It WORKS. Superbly so. One note – if you’re using Interjection Games’ Tinker or Gadgeteer-classes, I’d suggest renaming the technician’s tinkers and gadgets. 😉

The technician’s flexibility does NOT end here, though – beyond the absolutely astounding flexibility provided by the base class, we also receive archetypes for the class – beyond providing more than superb crunch, these guys cover quite literally everything cool I would have wanted from technician archetypes – Cyborg? Check. Electromedics (who needs clerics?) – check. Pact Magic-crossover occult esotechnicians? Check. Grenadiers? Check. Holotechnicians? Check. Necrotechnicians creating techno-undead? Friggin’ yeah and check! Transmogriphiers that specialize in transmuting and mutagens? Check! At this point, picture me drooling wide-eyed and grinning at the screen.

Now a complete subsystem of items and a class should render it no surprise that the pdf also sports quite a significant array of different feats. These include metatech feats (guess what these do…) and the usual improvements for additional uses of limited daily use-abilities etc.

At this point, the 32-page mark, we enter the electrotech gear chapter – yes. I’m not kidding. So, the weapons. The table covers a whole page. And yes, modifications like double barrels can be added to e.g. nucleonic rifles, while sawridge shields and splinterhail grenades as well as stock prods breathe the spirit of scifi, super-tech, tesla-punk…however you want to call it, the chapter is glorious. Beyond these implements of death, several defensive items and household items can be found herein as well – chamber lamps, air stabilizers, heaters, iconographs, phonographs – it may seem like nothing special, but without these, the book would be missing vital pieces that really help get into the mood of the material Specialized tool and skill kits also help portraying a society that has moved beyond the traditional confines of medieval society.

And then, there would be madnesses. These truly go off the deep-end and constitute technical wonders beyond what is readily available in a default society – what about e.g. a pod that can modify your age, pigmentation and even gender or race? Stasis pods? Helms that can be used to stimulate or hamper a character’s performance? Hypnotist’s helmets? Color-coded mind-influence? The equivalent of an atomic bomb? A machine to purge foreign subjects from a target? Pleasure-hazes creating orbs, with truly nefarious extensions? A chair that allows you to extend the reach of your magic to miles? Röntgen booths? Machines for forced alignment changes? Yes, these essentially artifact-level wonders run the gamut of traditional scifi and weird fiction, making me constantly envisioning my favorites of the classics – I am not engaging in hyperbole when I’m saying that EACH of these items can change a campaign, nay can even power a whole campaign. They’re this iconic, this interesting.

Of course, classic science-fiction is, more often than not, also defined by the fantastic vehicles sported within – especially Jules Verne has become pretty much the default association just about anyone would have in that regard. And yes – from flying saucers to hover-vehicles to jetcrafts and tanks – vehicles upon vehicles, all ready for your perusal…oh so AWESOME!

Now I mentioned gadgets – these do not simply pop up, as one could have expected – instead, concise and easy to grasp rules for research and crafting them can be found within these pages alongside comprehensive tables of gadgets – from ant-inspired better carrying/less armor issues (and even wielding oversized weapons) to blasters, jetpack-like vastly improved jumps, the gadgets are surprisingly versatile – and, more often than not, do something utterly, completely UNIQUE. The gadgets alone would be cool – but combine their neat basic premises with aforementioned, rather interesting special tricks AND the 5-step upgrade system for maximum customizability and we have a system that ends up as not only flexible, but downright brilliant. And yes, we get grappling hooks, bionic commando style, scanners, magnifiers…even personal translators! Beyond these, there are symbionts – and, as an old Venom fanboy, I was pretty much looking forward to them, their concise rules and implementation. And yes, these symbionts are rather interesting – though surprisingly, and somewhat disappointingly mundane though they turned out to be. What do I mean by this? Well, first of all, there is nothing wrong with the symbionts – there rules are concise, their benefits unique and they make for a very cool way to reward players even in campaigns that sport no electrotech – just explain it via aberrant stuff etc. and you’re good to go. That being said, they are pretty much one note-augmentations – no detrimental effects, no symbiont-highjacks – nothing. Again, this does not make them bad and their acquisition, recovery and death-rules are concise, but especially when compared to the rest of the book, they feel very static and ironically, inorganic when compared to the vast panorama of options provided by gadgets et al. One deserves special mention, though – the animan symbiont can transform normal humans into an animal-like race called mutamorphs, one of two new races.

The base mutamorph race receives +2 Con, -2 Cha, count as both mutamorphs and humans, receive -4 to all cha-based check and get low-light-vision. Additionally, they may select one of 8 basic sets, which align them with e.g. bears, wolves etc. and influence thus their movement rate, a further +2 bonus to an attribute etc. Here, the rules-language could be a) slightly more precise and b) balancing is off. Natural weapons fails to specify whether they’re primary or secondary and bite attacks, for example do not adhere to the standard damage for medium creatures. Additionally, we have unassisted personal flight at 1st level for e.g. Bat mutamorphs, which can be a problem in quite a few campaigns. The second new race, the raccoon-folk Nashi receive +2 Con, -2 Int, are small, slow, receive +1 to diplomacy and Knowledge, low-light vision, +2 to Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering), Appraise, Perception and Spellcraft as well as early firearm proficiency. Okay race. Both races receive full arrays of favored class options. Nashi can also select a bunch of alternate racial traits, some of which are pretty strong and replace bland +2 bonuses to skills – which renders them pretty much a no-brainer. Not a particular fan of this decision.

Character traits, new skill uses for old (and new skills) etc. also make an appearance

After the rather sobering racial write-ups, we’re back to form – with technician background generators akin to those found in Ultimate Campaign as well as *drum-roll* KIMGDOM-BUILDING SUPPOORT! Electroplants, hydroworks, MONORAIL TRACKS (!!!), radiation sickness, airfields, broadcasting towers – even in completely unrelated settings, the content provided here is gold. Better yet, new rooms and buildings for my beloved downtime system are also provided for – including airfields, factories etc. – and there it is again, the manic, stupid grin that was on my face for most of the time while I was reading this book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed next to no glitches – quite a feat for a book of this size. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read, printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf has copious amounts of awesome, original pieces of b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Radiance House does not publish books often, but when they do, they tend to rank in the upper echelon – indeed, so far, I have yet to be truly disappointed by a given book. Dario Nardi and Alexander Augunas did not break this trend. Instead, they deliver something special: I expected this to be a PFRPG-book of the Electrotech-world detailed in other supplements – instead, I received a thoroughly concise campaign-overlay. With the content herein, you can easily introduce electrotech in any doses you deem appropriate into your campaign – from full-blown all-out scifi to fantasy with fallen spacecrafts to anything in-between. Whether you’re playing Rhûne or Pure Steam, Iron Gods or any other even remotely steampunky/science-fiction-style setting, this delivers. In fact, if you’re aiming for a magic-less system sans deities etc., this answers the healing question. From hardcore scifi to teslapunk, in small doses or in buckets – the Age of Electrotech is an absolute must-own publication. The technician is one of the coolest classes currently available and its massive customization options are downright beautiful to behold. After some tinkering, I am proud to say that I could not flaws with this exceedingly versatile class – which is quite a feat. Indeed, this is quite probably the best gadgeteering class currently out there – and one for which I really hope I’ll see more material. Making a technician is simply an immensely rewarding experience and the playtesting does show – even more impressive then, that a class of this complexity is so utterly easy to grasp. Kudos indeed!

My criticism towards the symbionts should be considered nagging at a high level, and thus, we only remain with the racial write-ups not being on par with the otherwise exceedingly high quality of this book. But that also pales before the VAST array of utterly inspiring options contained within these pages – from the Ultimate Campaign-support to the vehicles, this book is a joy and one I definitely will get in print as soon as my finances permit it.

Before I gush even more and start to sound like a complete fanboy – the Age of Electrotech should be considered a must-have addition to any game that likes to introduce a bit of the uncommon into their fantasy – the content’s rules alone, heck, the class alone maybe worth the asking price. Add to that the fact that you can easily reskin the fluff to treat this as magic, steam or whatever, and we have a massive book of glorious crunch, with inspiring fluff sprinkled in that can eaisly be summed up with the words “must have”. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and I nominate this as a candidate for my top ten of 2014 – this book deserves your attention and delivers excellence for its price.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jun 112015
 

144643By Endzeitgeist

Demon Cults 4: The Hand of Nakresh clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 11 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The fourth Demon Cult the series offers would be the Hand of Nakresh – who is Nakresh, you ask? He is the forty-fingered simian demon-god of thieves, with his lower left hand reserved for his most daring of thefts – it is this hand that gives this cult its name. The leadership of the cult is firmly in the hands of the Five Exalted, which receive full-blown statblocks herein – a kobold alchemist, a gnoll trapper, a derro sorceror, a tengu cleric and a roachling sanctified rogue make up this illustrious party, which could pretty much be run as an opposing adventurer party, a rival group, should you choose to. Beyond the basics, you should be aware that the members receive background stories and minor, loving tidbits – like the roachling’s mutation, which nets him 4 hands. Small special features like this and the superb equipment (yes, influences CR) set a group apart. Well done!

As always, the pdf does sport a significant array of exceedingly detailed adventure hooks involving the cult, grouped by rough APLs and once again, the hooks go beyond the boring default, establishing some rather cool and inspired ideas and providing enough fodder for DMs to base multiple adventures around the cult. Midgard-aficionados will be glad to hear that we receive advice for using the cult in Midgard. There is a new spell herein, a variant of mirror image, wherein the duplicates run in random directions if you move – I do like the concept and the spell is functional, but I would have liked to see interaction with damaging terrain – do the images running over such terrain ignore it? I assume so, but this conversely makes finding the true culprit easier.

The magic items sport a demoralizing aklys and a magic monkey’s paw for luck – and an artifact. This one is a beauty: The Ley-line absorber can tie in with the agendas of some members, aiming to steal magic and absorbing it for a vast power-gain of the operator – now that is a high-profile heist!

“But wait”, you say – “I don’t use the Midgard-setting or ley lines!” Perhaps you are wary of the ley line magic rules or perhaps it doesn’t fit your concept. Well, the artifact comes with a second version, one for ley-line-less settings! Now *this* is care! Oh, and then there is the new vehicle provided herein. Nothing I could write would drive home the awesomeness of the concept better than the one line before the devices’ stats: CLOCKWORK SIEGE CRAB!

Conclusion:

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

Jeff Lee’s cabal of master thieves is awesome – whether as a rival party, as high-class thieves or as elite criminals, I really, really like this installment. The writing of the fluffy hooks retains the significant quality established in the series and the artifact is a cool plot-device. While the new spell did not wow me and while I wasn’t too excited about the solid new items (though I love the minimalistic style of the pulpy monkey’s paws!), there is this level of detail of the characters I enjoy. We have nice little tidbits, resources worthy of such an elite force…and we have a CLOCKWORK SIEGE CRAB. Say it with me: “CLOCKWORK SIEGE CRAB.” Hell yeah!

Before I ramble on – there is nothing truly wrong with this pdf and while not all components blew me away, there is a lot that did incite my imagination to run with it. My final verdict will hence still clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Now excuse me, I need to get my villains a new ride…

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jun 112015
 

142668By Endzeitgeist

AaWBlog Presents: Armory of Adventures clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page back cover, 1 3/4 pages of SRD, leaving us with 24 1/4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

No, you haven’t misread. This many pages for a buck. And yes, the content herein premiered on the AAWBlog before, but ultimately, I’m a dinosaur when it comes to devices – I ban them at my game since I have had the experience of them being constant sources of distraction.

So what exactly do we get? Take the ashenbone axe: A lavishly-illustrated (btw., like most items herein!) axe that emits a light – so far, so bland. Where things become mechanically interesting is with the caveats: When a character is raging (via barbarian rage, a racial ability or spell), the damage increases by +1d8; conversely, when not raging, the damage-output decreases by 1d4. I really like the sentiment of this weapon, though its execution remains somewhat flawed – as written, this will be the axe the barbarian draws while raging, otherwise leaving it sheathed and thus eliminating pretty much the unique drawback. The axe also should explicitly specify that it only conveys its bonus damage while the wielder is subject to a rage-effect, not just “In the hands of a raging character” – since this could be read as a minor ambiguity. A simple solution would be to make this a cursed axe. A further plus, again, one that extends to all items herein, would be the flavourful description of the axe itself provided, as well as the scaling amount of information one can glean from researching it.

A ranger’s hunting axe, poison-spraying locked gauntlets, an evil arcanist’s angel-hunting crossbow, a greatsword that lets rangers with swamp as favored terrain breather underwater (alas, sans proper CL for the underwater breathing) – some interesting options here. What about a vicious blade that only reflects damage back upon the wielder 50% the time if he is pure at heart, but also illuminates such beings in radiant, stealth-negating harmless fire? Whips that can be used to entangle (alas, at a very low DC to escape) and nunchaku that make flurries of blows more effective are also among the interesting options provided herein.

Those familiar with a certain Hrólfr Kraki may be rather pleasantly surprised to find the almost-artifact level Skofnung herein. And yes, I freely admit to having a little “Heck yeah!”-moment here. There would also be a shield that allows for the substitute of hypnotism as an alternative to shield bash damage. There also is a very powerful, nasty ring that makes a character potentially a quasi-vampire. An enchanted spyglass, a dance-compelling gel, enchanted golden dentures (!!!) that fly out to attack foes, puzzle-boxes of holding – there are quite a few downright fun items to be found herein – all for a single buck!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not necessarily perfect. Layout adheres to a beautiful, yet printer-friendly 2-column full-color standard with a surprising amount of pieces of original artwork as well as some stock art. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a bit of a comfort-detriment. The pdf does sport hyperlinks to d20pfsrd.com, though they are not provided for every spell in a list and thus sometimes are a bit inconsequent in what’s linked and what isn’t.

Mike Myler, Jonathan Ely, Brian Wiborg Mønster, Jacob Michaels, Joshua Taylor and Eric Madsen have delivered perhaps one of the most inexpensive pdfs I’ve seen in a while – the artworks and lore-sections alone render many of the items worthwhile. Now granted, there are some magical items to be found herein that are plot-items pure and simple, but that is not in itself a bad thing -I’d rather have an interesting plot item than a boring +1 flaming thundering keen rapier… Ultimately, this collection is an inexpensive, convenient collection with some downright nice ideas. Now yes, there are a few examples like the one in my picking apart of the ashbone axe, where one can arguably complain about the wording not being 100% tight. Still, at such a fair price-point, I still consider this a worthwhile purchase. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jun 022015
 

145589-thumb140[1]By Endzeitgeist

The collector’s edition of Gibbous Moon clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages editorial/intro, 1 page ToC, 1 page foreword/author bios, 1 page of advice for using the adventure, 1 page advice for reading statblocks for novice DMs, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a page providing an introduction, we receive a new and rather well-drawn one-page illustration and then dive into what sets this edition apart from its previous iteration: Barlow. What is Barlow, you ask? Well, essentially, the module has been expanded to provide a full-blown village backdrop for your convenience – no longer is the default village considered to be an opaque place to drop the module into. Instead, what we have here amounts to a full-blown installment in Raging Swan press’ beloved series.

In case you are not familiar with my reviews of the series, this does mean that the town not only receives lavish cartography, but also a statblock, a market section for magical items, sample names and yes, dressing habits of the local populace. This also covers sites of interest and in this case, mroe sample statblocks for villagers. Law and Order and daily routine of the local populace are touched upon as well and PCs doing the legwork can unearth local village lore or dive deep into the box of tricks that does contain whispers and rumors which may or may not eb true and can be considered a great spray of local color/adventure hooks. Furthermore, a selection of short, local events helps you bring the picturesque village of Barlow to life – and alive it is: What started as an isolated druidic enclave has seen a recent influx of dwarves (originally rescued from redcaps), who brought with them a sense of modernity not known in the rustic place.

Now if you expect yet another nature vs. progress-struggle, breathe a sigh of relief – no, the dwarves are not the bad progress-guys here – they actually do submit to the village’s way of life and thus thankfully deviate from the stereotype. The conflict at the heart of this place is one of change versus tradition – and as we all know, change is inherently painful, but sticking to tradition may lead to stagnation – a kind of subtle leitmotif that is part of the whole module. Oh, and have I mentioned that there is an actual dryad in the center of the village? Alas, in the last couple of months, some cattle have gone missing and racial tensions rise, while a grumpy hermit at the wondrous local Clear Water has been less than cooperative.

Going above and beyond, we even get a mini-woodland dressing for the trek from the village to the hermitage…

Since this is an adventure I’m reviewing here, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

All right, still here? The adventurers are led to the Clear Pool hermitage after unearthing some additional pieces of information via social skills etc. in Barlow. Once at the hermitage, they can find not only the grisly remains of sheep, but also encounter a savage dire boar. The hermitage, located in cliffs near a waterfall, is presented as series of natural caves with RSP’s trademark attention to detail being reflected in a table of carvings, carcasses to find etc. Speaking of grisly finds – in one of the caves, Viljo, lone survivor of his adventuring team, awaits – he was also sent to this place to recover saintly bones, but his companions have been slaughtered by the resident of this place, a man named Dunstan who subsequently made zombies out of Viljo’s former companions.

Dunstan, himself once an adventurer and necromancer, was infected with were-boar lycanthropy and is responsible for the cattle thefts – he stole the livestock to quench his lycanthropic hunger and prevent the beast inside from turning upon the local populace. The moral dilemmata in confronting Dunstan are evident. While the man has acted to keep innocents from harm, he has resorted to theft to do so. Moreover, he has slain Viljo’s comrades, animated them and infected the poor man with lycanthropy as well. He’s not evil (yet) though, and while he is a necromancer, he’s not one of the insane kind – so what do the PCs do? Kill him? Try to negotiate a deal between him and the village? Try to cure him? What is the right thing to do? This openness of the module is commendable and DCs to broker a non-violent solution, a cure for lycanthropy of his particular strain and multiple hooks for further adventuring are also included.

The pdf also provides 6 pregens for your convenience.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. Layout adheres to RSP’s concise and crisp standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions – one optimized for screen use and one to be printed out. Both files are small enough to not be a burden on mobile devices. The b/w-artworks and cartography are nice indeed.

So, the original Gibbous Moon was a solid, nice little sidetrek centered around a moral question and sporting a fun little dungeon with excruciating details. But it didn’t manage to capture me to the extent that most RSP modules do – why? Because it felt a bit color-less in comparison to other supplements by RSP. Well, the collector’s edition sweeps all of that away. We not only get a massive array of supplemental content, Creighton Broadhurst and Jacob W. Michaels deliver an utterly superior version with this module’s expanded edition. The more detailed context lends a new unique leitmotif and sense of gravitas to the module that any DM worth their salt can develop into a full-blown awesomeness of consequences. Can a certain individual be reintegrated into a society already on the verge of change? Exciting and awesome, with resonating themes that surpass what one would expect from a short module like this, the collector’s edition receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval. Even if you have the original, the village backdrop-installment added to the module still makes this a valid purchase.

Endzeitgeist out.

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