May 182015
 

142516[1]By Endzeitgeist

The first book of the two-part Cyclopean Deeps-Saga clocks in at 198 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 192 pages of content, so let’s check this out, shall we?

So, let’s, for now, process as spoiler-free as possible: Do you remember the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide released for 2nd edition? It’s a timeless classic indeed and showcases a significant component of what I consider flawed with most modern underdark/underworld modules. Let me describe it from this venue – have you ever been spelunking? There is an appeal to the hobby that is hard to describe, but I’ll try – at the same time, you feel like you have entered a new world, a place where your civilization and all of its comforts do not stretch to. You enter a place wondrous that differs significantly, via all of your senses, from the tactile to the olfactory, from what we are used to – reaching the surface once again can feel a bit like a shock after some time – loud, bright…all those smells. However, accompanying this general sensation, one is (or at least I am!) constantly and keenly aware of insane amounts of solid rock, balancing precariously above one’s head – whether as a sense of foreboding or respect, caves and caverns elicit a different perspective. Now, recently AAW Games has captured the proper sense of wonder rather perfectly with their Rise of the Drow saga.

In Rise of the Drow, we saw an unprecedented sense of realism applied to the section of the underdark that is kind of akin to the surface world, if not in environment, then in its social structures – we have dangerous animals, humanoid cultures (most evil) vying for dominance – it’s the surface world on crack and the RotD-saga can be counted among the few that managed to instill this sense of wonder in the vivid pictures painted. However, there is another underdark – a place where neither light, nor surface-dwellers usually tread. If you’re familiar with the Dark Souls games, think of this as the place that would have come below the lowest, blackest gulch. A place, where even the underworld-denizens fear to tread, a place forlorn and forsaken by the light. Below even Rappan Athuk, thus extends this place, one that can easily be transplanted to any setting – courtesy of there simply being no comparable supplement or module that goes quite that deep – usually, places like this are hinted at in the equivalent of telling the PCs “Don’t go there!” So there the fools go – here dwell the things no man has ever laid eyes on, here is the Deep Horizon, here are the Cyclopean Deeps.

If the hex-sporting map is not ample clue – this constitutes a sandbox in the truest sense – that is, this a player-driven, old-school module with ample sample random encounters. Also: Know how old-school sometimes is used as a buzzword? Well, not so here. Indeed, this place is defiantly old-school and LETHAL. Even when compared to Rappan Athuk, the Cyclopean Deeps are deadly – very deadly. So yeah, if your group is looking for a challenge, a module worth winning – this is what you want. How nasty can this place be? Brutal enough to actually require no work on my part to make the module more challenging.

Want an example? All right, but to provide you with one, I’ll have to go into SPOILERS. Players should jump to the conclusion.

..

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Still here? All right! If you were one of the lucky ones, Rappan Athuk’s KS back in the day provided two teasers of this massive module – and one detailed Ques Querax, gateway to the Cyclopean Deeps, wherein strange minotaur golems guard the premises. The local temple sports 3 priests, always in the same position, unmoving, catering to the whims of a strange head – only if you resist the unearthly fear of this place do you receive healing – but you never actually see it cast – upon leaving the temple, the effects suddenly…happen. Curiosity, alas, much like in CoC, may kill the cat, though – and like in the old truism, turn it into a multidimensional horror with puckered tentacles that is coming right for YOU! (Yes, actually trying to find out *how* these guys cast spells may shatter your sanity and provide a neat new career choice as a terrible servant of the mythos. A tavern owned by a denizen of Leng, an intelligent giant slug slaver, a dog-headed perfume-creating alchemist – not only are plenty of these folk EVIL, they also are WEIRD in a rather uncanny, horrific way. And the interesting thing is – this is civilization in these parts. It literally does not become better than this, so the PCs better figure out means of making this place work for them – a dangerous, but moderately secure base is better than none! Have I btw. mentioned the living eye of Gaaros-Uaazath, arguably one of the most powerful and odd entities herein, secretly creating a mind-bending, centipede-like war-machine?

But beyond the gates of Ques Querax, beautiful and precious wonders await – finding e.g. gems worth thousands of gold may be a reason for joy – until you read the entry of said random treasure – it reads “kidney stone.” I am not kidding. The book *brims* with these little tidbits – and each and every one is tailor-made to come together in a vista exceedingly tantalizing and disturbing. From chain-bound jack-in-irons giants to mists of concealing, detection-blocking darkmist and the dark stalker/creeper enclave of Izanne, there are politics to be found, and yes, civilization – however, each veneer is distorted and odd, a threat underlying just about every step, every interaction – while never losing the evoked, profound sense of wonder that oozes from each and every encounter – and yes, some purists may scoff at decisions to smack down truly wondrous effects that lie beyond the capacity of spells here and there – but as for me, I love this decision – it drives home the need for care, the sense of magic…well, being truly magical. What level of detail am I referring to? well, what about a whole array of options, should the PCs elect to run across the rooftops of the fully-mapped Izanne? Or perhaps the PC’s friendly nigh-ghoul guide wants to sell them some slaves and palanquins from his third cousin – the resounding themes of civilization can be found herein, though they are twisted in a grotesque way – a fact that also is reflected by the copious missions provided – and in the messages, that partially are traps, partially are odd – but ultimately, are different. Unique aberrations and strange folk abound, demons trod the streets and even here, a sense of decrepitude, of civilizations most vile, fallen to magics even worse, suffuses the paragraphs, with details upon details drawing a picture of a world that could be another, a place so wildly different, yet familiar, that it could be considered an escalation of the concept of the uncanny.

What about spellbooks that have been folded into the fourth dimension, pods that may transmit memories, odd, singing crystals – there is a lot of wonderful, enigmatic stuff to be found; and if your players prefer making an impact, the nasty and inscrutable people, from serpentfolk to aboleths, are all actually playing their own games, with subquests, goals and the like handily organized for your convenience. Now if you’re not familiar with some old-school rules, you might be surprised to see e.g. a reference to percentile rolls and chances to decipher a lost language – this is a remnant of old-school gaming and should have been updated to PFRPG using the Linguistics-skill. And yes, some remnants like this can be found herein. However, in which other supplement are the players tasked (on an optional basis, of course!) to awaken a death god? Eat energy-bars of strange fungus or find out that the nice magic items they found are powered by energy infusions generated by constant sacrifice of sentient beings? It should also be noted that the NPC-builds, while sporting some straightforward ones, also feature some more complex ones.

But honestly, I don’t love this book for its mechanics – but where else can you find human-faced, giant ants, unearthly flowers and air, spatial distortions and ways of thinking (properly explained for the DM) that may seem starkly in contrast to our logic…and have I mentioned the importance of the Leng rubies?

Now if the nomenclature and overall array of options seemed confusing to you, a massive glossary should help. The new monsters herein are copious and weird, as are the short, fluff-only write-ups of the elder things. The appendices also contain the numerous unique items – though, much like in the crunch, there are some examples of old-school mechanics to be found herein – e.g. an artifact that requires you to roll multiple d6s and score below your attribute score. The pdf contains various, cool maps, all of which receive player-friendly versions – and there are hand-outs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to FGG’s printer-friendly, two-column b/w-standard and the module comes with A LOT of awesome, unique original b/w-art. The book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the cartography in b/w is neat.

Author Matthew J. Finch delivers quite frankly one of the most imaginative, awesome books in the whole Frog God/Necromancer Games-canon; much like the stellar Dunes of Desolation, this book constitutes a prime example of why I want to see as many new FGG modules as possible. I own all Necromancer Games modules, even the boxed sets, and yes, even the rarities. That being said, I do think that FGG’s modules surpass those of NG. Cyclopean Deeps Volume I is such a monument – this book reached a level of imaginative detail, of sheer creativity, that one only finds perhaps once in a blue moon. The literally only comparisons I could draw in that regard would be to the best of FGG-modules or to the 4 Dollar Dungeons-modules by Richard Develyn – and you probably by now realize how much I adore them. That being said, this book is far from perfect; the remnants of the conversion not being carried out properly in all cases do stick out like sore thumbs to me and formally, constitute a blemish that you should be aware of.

Then again, this massive book is intended for experienced DMs and experienced groups – beyond the lethality of the module, the sheer amount of sandboxing, of entwined things going on, means that A DM has to have some experience under the belt to run this. But know what? The complexity doesn’t faze me and neither do the conversion relics matter to me – for one, in some cases, one could chalk them up to mechanics simply working differently here as well. On the other, capable DMs can easily fix these minor problems. And none of those minor hiccups matter to me in this case – what would singularly break the neck of lesser books just falls under the rag here – the writing is THIS good. Beyond a level of detail that can only be described as excruciating, there simply is no other module, no other environmental supplement tackling anything like this; the only other underworld sandboxes that approach this in terms of complexity would be the second Act of RotD or the classic Open Design “Empire of Ghouls” and both have a wildly different focus, completely different themes.

This manages to elicit a sense of cultural wonder akin to the writings of the classic titans like Gygax, a breath of the magical and uncanny, while also breathing the spirit of the mythos and classic pulp fiction akin to Howard or Haggard. Cyclopean Deeps managed to evoke something I almost never feel anymore these days – a sense of jamais-vu. This is not yet another rendition of some tired old, much rehearsed tropes – this is the antithesis of exceedingly tired level 1 module with goblins and an ogre or shadow as the final boss. This massive tome breathes more unique ideas in a chapter than some whole series of books. Even when compared to Rappan Athuk et al., this tome dabbles in themes and topics far beyond the focus on demonic entities, creates a sense of wonder and, paradoxically, realism. As odd and alien the vistas portrayed herein are, they still feel uncannily organic, realistic and alive – which drives further home the point of this book being not only unique, but inspired in the very best way.

The formal hiccups here and there might annoy you, but if you are missing out on this monumentally inspired world/setting-building due to them, you are depriving yourself of perhaps one of the most captivating reads I’ve had in any iteration of a d20-based system. And if you don’t mind some old-school remnants or perhaps even enjoy them, then this should be considered a true milestone. I’ve been struggling with myself for quite a long time on how to rate this book, but as far as I’m concerned, the vast imaginative potential this book offers trumps just about any minor blemish or criticism you could field against it; to the point, where complaining would seem disingenuous and downright petty-minded. There are few books of this size that have managed to captivate me to this extent during the whole lecture of them and this massive sandbox should be considered a must-have addition to any DM looking for the deep below – even as disparate encounters and for the purposes of scavenging elements, this book is well worth the asking price. I thus remain with a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval, a nomination for the Top Ten of 2014, a longing for Vol. 2 and the regret that I am too poor to get this glorious tome in print.

Endzeitgeist out.

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May 182015
 

ahool By Endzeitgeist

This supplement clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We kick off this installment of the Underworld Races-series with an extensive history of the underworld’s genesis -a subterranean origin myth, if you wish – from the banishment of the infernal forces of HEL in earth’s core to the forging (and splintering) of the dwarven races to the rise and fall of the dracoprime and the arrival of the colloid (the contribution of your’s truly to the lore of Aventyr) , we get an interesting, well-crafted origin myth here, one supplemented by a full blown-table of age, height and weight tables not only for the ahool, but for all underworld races.

After this general overview, we delve right into the write-up of the Ahool -so what are they? Demonic interaction with mortal races tends to spawn new species -and thus, the Ahool were born and from these did spawn the ahooling -a race of blood-drinking, vampiric humanoids. Ahoolings get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int, are monstrous humanoids, a fly speed of 30 ft. (clumsy), SR 6+class level, darkvision 60 ft, resistance 5 to sonic and cold, a natural bite attack at 1d4 as a primary weapon, get +4 to fly-checks (here rather odd – the entry on this bonus mentions them as incapable of flying properly, which they can certainly do according to the flight speed) and suffer from light blindness. Rather weird here – fly speed versus vestigial wings – clumsy nets -8 to fly, the wings +4, so I *assume* a net skill of -4, but I’m not sure.

Apart from their moss caverns, the race also receives a significant amount of favored class options, which generally tend to be rather cool and cover most of the classes. However, a glitch has crept here in the option for the fledgling ahool racial paragon class: The FCO specifies that the race receives +2 ft. fly speed, which needs to be increments of 5 ft to work – so far, so good. But weirdly, the FCO mentions that there’s no effect if it has not been selected 5 times, which contradicts how the FCO works movement-rate wise – so which is it? Clarification would be required here.

We also receive two so-called racial archetypes, which essentially constitute of a select array of alternate racial trait-kits that can be applied to the ahooling – the Terrestrial and the Aquatic Ahooling – both receive change shape effects and alternate movement rates. Most interesting, though, would be the modularity that seeps into the racial paragon class – the racial archetypes influence the apotheosis granted by the class.

Now I’ve been mentioning this 5-level PrC, which nets full BAB-progression, good ref- and will-saves, d10, increases fly speed up to 60 ft., 2+Int skills per level, +3 natural armor bonus and the class allows the race to learn to blood drain, receive claws as secondary attacks and also learns to unleash obscuring mists, gusts of wind and finally receive a kind of apotheosis towards being closer to a full-blown ahool. They also receive a couple of appropriate proficiencies and the option to unleash a limited amount of sonic blasts on foes..

The ahooling may also opt for the Ironsinger PrC, which nets a 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 fort-save progression, +5 natural armor bonus progression and also DR 4/- over the 10 level-progression. The class also receives d8, 4+Int skills per level and increase the damage output of the sonic blasts granted by the fledgling racial paragon class. Beyond an array of thematically appropriate spell-like abilities, dazing and staggering sonic attacks and a capstone that lets them force targets to save multiple times to evade the lethal sonics.

Beyond these options, we also receive a total of 7 racial feats to improve bite attacks, flight and swoop down on foes, inspiring terror or reading information from the blood of those they consume. Speaking with bats and gaining fiendish familiars is also covered here. Rather weird here – flight is, once again, all over the place – one feat implies that the fledgling ahool only receives a limited amount of rounds of flight per day.

On the glorious side, a moss rope and net and bloodflow staunching moss make for cool alchemical items, whereas 3 magical items and 3 spells add further, nice options – throwing darts of obsidian that damage those without natural armor trying to use them, or the cool ahool crown make for neat items.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches apart from some italicization errors. Layout adheres to a drop-dead-gorgeous two-column full-color standard with rocky borders and awesome graphic elements, making this a beautiful, if not very printer-friendly pdf. The original pieces of full color artwork throughout the pdf are nice. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mike Myler and Julian Neale deliver a great race that is high concept and intriguing – but alas, one that partially falls short of the great promise of the race’s concept – the total and utter confusion regarding whether they get proper flight or not mars the ahooling somewhat, mostly due to unassisted flight usually being balance-wise restricted to some levels down the line. It’s overall somewhat hard to judge the race regarding this particular balancing, especially since the ahooling per se isn’t a particularly weak race in the first place – SR et al already make for a sufficiently powerful race at the higher end of the spectrum. That being said, this is not a bad supplement, the ahooling making for a compelling, unique race and the sonic-based PrCs and options generally make for a sufficiently unique race that feels like its own, unique culture, which is more than I can say about quite an array of creatures. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

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May 072015
 

darroBy Endzeitgeist

This installment of Kobold Press’ Advanced Races-series is 20 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, I’ll come right out and say it -I love the derro as a concept and as adversaries. There is something downright awesome…add a slice of Lovecraftiana and CoC/ToC-fanboy yours truly has not much to complain about concept-wise. However, this pdf goes one step beyond that, providing thoroughly unique concepts like the “Imposition of the Will” – which hearkens back to a certain other infamous real life statement and represents the strange surges of fads and concepts that grip the collectively insane derro culture. Which also brings me to another component of the fluff – if you’re like me and can’t turn off your critical reading skills, you’ll notice that the derro and their whole culture can arguably be read as a pretty black satire on mass media Web 2.0-culture – which fluff-wise provides the icing on the cake.

Now the central component of a derro would be the racial insanity, right? well, thankfully, this installment does provide some troubleshooting and concise advice for players who wish to play such a character and still retain the functionality of the group/character. The derro herein do receive full age, height and weight tables as well as favored class options for alchemist, bard, barbarian, druid, fighter, inquisitor, magus, oracle, ranger, rogue, sorceror and witch. All of the FCOs are thematically fitting and well-balanced and players also receive a nice selection of suggested, thematically fitting archetype/character concept choices.

Now I consider the RP-values of the ARG anything but functional, but even a cursory glimpse of the derro will show you that these guys are too strong for most groups – hence, as a player race, the lesser derro is introduced. These guys receive +2 to Dex and Cha, small, have a base speed of 20 ft., receive darkvision 60 ft., gain keen senses and light sensitivity and may cast ghost sound 3/day as an SP. They also receive familiarity with certain weapons and poison use. Know what? NOTHING to complain! Balanced between physical and mental, with solid tricks, this base race fits into EVERY campaign, even the most conservative of groups. Kudos! Now what this pdf does beyond that is interesting – it provides the racial traits to upgrade them to full-blown derro. Yes, this means that even high-power groups receive their due. Kudos! While there are cosmetic glitches in the presentation here (like Dex coming after cha or a “+” missing), these glitches are cosmetic and do not detract at all from the appeal of these base racial stat-arrays. Of course, either derro kind is mad and thus use their cha-mod for will-saves instead of wis and gains a minor madness. In Midgard, derro receive a status-penalty.

A total of 8 alternate racial traits allow a player to customize a derro to have less darkvision, but also no light sensitivity, better social skills when dealing with aberrations, chaos magic-synergy (see Deep Magic), more minor SPs, speaking to vermin. What about a mad obsession with a particular skill that increases all skill bonuses of +2 to the skill to +3 at the cost of an additional minor madness?

The Knowledge (Forbidden Lore) skill also receives a short introduction and then, we receive madness tables – 5 of them. Minor madness can point towards small objects, living creatures, delusions, physical effects -pretty awesome! Derro nomenclature is covered herein as well – fluff-wise, once again, absolutely awesome – and in opposition to the installment on gnolls, much closer to being a suitable player-race…at least so far.

A total of 6 new feats is provided – from the relatively standard verminspeaker (guess thrice what that one does…yeah) to gaining sneak attack +1d6 at the cost of more madness and a skill-bonus-feat to increase intimidate – and further boost that by taking wis-damage. Interesting! Cooler – what about being a compulsive hoarder who can scatter sharp objects as essentially a respawning caltrop array? Yeah, cool! On the metamagic-side, chaosfire makes for an interesting madness-influenced chaos magic and yes, there is a story feat – Pierce the Veil. Well, in order to fulfill that, you have to make contact with a cozy entity like good ole’ Nyarly. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Well, permanent SPs wink among those completion benefits…

Two cool traits can also be found in these pages, as can 3 spells: What about the gleefully random madfire? And yes, facemelt and skullsplitter are just as nasty as you’d expect them to be. Magical fauchards, the dread weeping poison, ghost bolts, foul statues of hateful gods and dread staves also speak a pretty clear language…

The pdf also sports archetypes, the first of which would be the Fist of Madness, who may use derro weapons as monk weapons, receives a modified skill list and instead of stunning fists, tehse guys can transport confusing madness with their attacks. The ki the class gains (powered by Cha, which also govern’s teh archetype’s AC-bonus btw.) can be used to temporarily grant defensive boosts and miss chances. The archetype may also poach among ninja tricks and later unleash confusion-causing bursts. Their ki strike is chaotic and instead of causing death at high levels, these guys can instill permanent mayor insanities. The capstone is also interesting -permanent circle of protection: law may seem lame…then you read that they can manipulate gravity freely in this area. Yeah. This is pretty awesome.

The second archetype is a small one, the monstrophile ranger, who instead applies his empathy to monstrous animals, unintelligent aberrations, vermin and oozes and the ranger also receives a vermin, reptile or amphibian companion…or an ooze companion!.GO CUBEY! Awesome.

The Shadow Antipaladin receives no heavy armor proficiency, smite law, an insanity/confusion-debuff aura, evasion and additional cruelties themed around insanity and sneak attack-progression. At higher levels DR enters the frame and the capstone renders the antipaladin into a constant source of insanity against all those serving law and order.

Finally, the pdf provides the new derro savant-bloodline, allowing for characters descendant (best not dwell on HOW) from the insane derro fetal savants. This bloodline is centered on knowledge and an entrancing gaze and receives a capstone for permanent enslaving of subjects.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – while I noticed some minor glitches, the pdf can be considered very well crafted in that regard. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ two-column full-color standard and the artworks provided, while probably familiar to KP-fans, are nice. the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Let’s get one thing out of the way – derro are insane. they are nasty and as a race, an unpleasant bunch. They are also a race I would never have allowed as a PC-race. I just didn’t want them “diluted” in their nastiness.

But unlike the installment on gnolls, this feels like it is intended for players – the archetypes universally have multiple interesting concepts going for them and do not require membership in odd cabals. They provide unique mechanical benefits. the pdf provides ample help for portraying the insane derro.

The new feats/content, in the vast majority of cases, is just cool. That, and the derro with their madness and fads, have a great rationale for why a certain derro might become an adventurer that helps a group/is a PC. Author Nicholas Milasich has improved SIGNIFICANTLY since the last pdf I read by his pen…and you can definitely see the writing of Kobold-in-chief Wolfgang Baur in this pdf. This AR is a great read; it is interesting, balanced and provides an array of more than solid options. Yes, I could nitpick some of the minor hiccups, but they remain just that – in the end, this is quite frankly one of the most inspired, awesome supplements in the whole series. Good enough, in fact, to allow this pdf among the available PC-races in my own campaign and revise my stance on “No Derro PCs.”

The final verdict, then, should come as no surprise: 5 stars + seal of approval. This exemplifies what the AR-series should be about, quality-wise.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Apr 302015
 

emerald_orderBy Endzeitgeist

This installment of Kobold Press’ Demon Cults-series 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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Apr 302015
 

139229[1]By Endzeitgeist

This module clocks in at 90 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 86 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now the first thing, before anything else, you should know that this literally is the only book you need to run the module – no switching to thousands of different books, not a full bag of supplemental material – this module provides more supplemental material than you can shake a stick at: First, we get all spells used in the book; then, there would be the rules-reference section, which includes all those handy special abilities, from ability drain to breath weapons, handily explained for your convenience. The same goes for magical items, btw. And yes, there even is a nice array of animal tricks explained for your convenience, rendering this module exceedingly comfortable to run. Beyond even that, though, we get something you can use even when not running the module – the bestiary-section does provide ample Knowledge DC-checks to deduce information on the respective creatures featured in the module. Oh, and the module does sport all artwork handily collated at the back of the book in the form of a collated appendix, allowing you to print it out as a kind of look-see-artwork-booklet.

Think that takes up too much space? Let me assure you, it doesn’t – the module, even after that, clocks in at a massive 52 pages – there is *A LOT* of content to be covered. It should also be noted that this module, like all 4$D-modules, does provide handy lists of CR, adversary, XP and treasure for each relevant encounter, including options for extra treasure, depending on your playstyle (and extra PCs – up to +2 PCs are thus supported without you having to do ANYTHING). You should also be aware of the vast amounts of maps – while not necessarily beauties, I’ve seen worse and EVERY relevant location is covered – the sheer amount of maps provided deserves applause, especially since they also come with high-res jpegs and player-friendly iterations.

It should also be noted that the unique town herein does sport an extra mini-gazetteer for the players and that a clue-flow-chart helps running the module.

So far for the formal criteria, now let’s take a look at the module itself, shall we?

Now before we dive in, this is the SPOILER-WARNING. Potential players should immediately jump to the conclusion. Seriously, you will be so sorry if you spoil this one for yourself.

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All right, so this module begins common enough – a drunk father and ratcatcher, bereft of his daughters (who have chosen the adventurer-lifestyle) have recently taken off and the grief-stricken father immediately tries to pick a fight with the PCs. However that works, in the end, the PCs will have been tasked by the man to track down his daughters and ensure their safety – and the trail leads into the aptly-named twisted moorland. Now if you have played the supreme “Journey to Cathreay”, you’ll immediately realize the sheer massive amount of detail you can expect from 4$D wilderness trips – and this module does feature just that – random weather-tables (with all relevant rules), random encounter chances by time – the level of detail is staggering and from lone guest-houses to the farm where the two adventurers hang out (sans the daughters, mind you, and very much hostile…), the level of detail provided is interesting indeed – take e.g. a druidic stone circle, where the devout PC may acquire a temporary elemental servant – not required by the story in any way, but it does add the sense of cohesiveness and realism to the magical world depicted herein.

Now whether on friendly or hostile terms with aforementioned adventurers, the PCs sooner of later will make the acquaintance of a dryad of a forest most dilapidated and desolate, who ahs struck a deal to ensure her survival – and in case you haven’t noticed, yes, there is a subtle theme at work here, but more on that later. Her combat tactics come with a level of detail scarcely seen and from TPKing to less lethal failure scenarios and the like, the encounter with the pragmatic, corrupt dryad offers quite an array of different options. Now, alternatively, the PCs may have found among the adventurer’s belongings a call for help in clearing out an evil temple or have been bluffed by them – in either way, the temple is just another elaborate anti-adventurer trap, much like the dryad’s gambit. If this does not look to exciting so far, rest assured that the way in which this is handled is superb – and the level of detail provided here is staggering as well – take a skeleton with a foreign pterodactyl bone rattling in its rip cage – and yes, this is a curious and intriguing foreshadowing of the things to come.

Either way, the investigation sooner or later will bring the PCs to the aptly-named town of Twisted Bridge, where a special kind of evil flourishes. The town is not a poor place; in fact, it is quite wealthy (and fully statted). However, it is a town rules by egotism and passivity- we have a macabre blending of gillmen working menial labor and a kind of aristocratic upper class, sneering at the irrelevant, marginalized people that do not belong to the illustrious crowd of the village’s people – here, everyone is in only for themselves and their immediate friends and family. Mind you, this is not a depiction of a town that is suppressed or “kill ’em all”-vile – it can be considered almost a subtle satire of a mentality that is all too real in our very world. Sounds too dreary? Players not into subtle, unobtrusive social commentary? No problem, just spring on them the top-hat wearing deinonychus currently running a errand for his master and they’ll be right back in the fold. And yes, this is one of the colorful sight &sound-style random encounters form the table. On a mechanical level, the mentality that considers “evil” behavior a matter of discussion and the townsfolk’s fun when looking at paladins whirling from all the evil they can detect is not only rationale and concise, it makes surprising sense and adds a whole new spin on the black-white-morality conundrums.

Twisted bridge itself is not only mapped, but also sports what essentially amounts to a lavishly-detailed gazetteer-section that had me reminisce about the weird cities in 3.X’s Scarred Lands, though, obviously, in less depth, Twisted Bridge definitely can be considered a town so unique and dripping with flavor and tangible magic, it exudes an allure that is difficult to describe – from undine sorcerors to lizardmen, from chocolatiers to female-only hair-saloons (aptly and humorously named “Rapunzel”), twisted bridge equally breathes a sense of decadence and wonder, of despicable passivity and carelessness and intoxicating wonders – and allows one to easily see how one can be sucked into the moral choices such a lifestyle may engender. The massive investigation-potential and related clues definitely allow for one glorious free-form investigation, set against one of the most compelling backdrops I’ve seen in quite a while.

The trail of the girl’s horses, though, can sooner or later be tracked to a farm – where matrons grow narcotics to allow the people in town to sedate their children, should they act up – have I mentioned, that, much like many a good fantasy or scifi novel, this module can be enjoyed on a consumerist perspective and still has some serious social commentary going for, should you be so inclined as to delve into it, all without shoving an ideology down your throat? Among the narcotics-inducing plants, though, jack-o-lanterns loom, including a moderately intelligent one, with whom the PCs can talk, alternating quickly between settings of potentially psychedelic horror and abject comedy – oh and then there is a level of detail that borders on the ridiculous, the ridiculously awesome, that is – the fields actually note which plants are grown where: From chai to chilies, the handout provides the detailed notes on this. Yes. *That* is a realism that can only be described as staggering -and whether you use it or not, it does add immensely to the sense of immersion. The trail, then, leads to the cathedral of bone, the macabre abode of the town’s de facto dhampir-ruler and aforementioned, top-hat wearing dinosaur companion. There *is* a macabre axe-beak skeleton to be found here, but whether or not hostilities break out depends very much on the PC’s actions – and yes, the reason *why* a friggin’ axe-beak skeleton is here, is also given – and the pterodactyl bone mentioned before may give the PCs away, so let’s hope their investigation skills are on par.

Among the weird places to be found (potentially via the nasty adventurers), an alchemist (vivisectionist) and the way golem he created as an automaton to sate the depraved desires of the townsfolk can also make for interesting encounters, the latter even for a potential cohort of the oddest kind. Tzitzimitle, the main antagonist of the module, currently resides in a clock tower most unusual – in that e.g. it sports a pool that is inhabited by piranha-level voracious, bad-tempered killer-goldfish. No, I’m not kidding. This is a thing – and it is glorious. My players actually started laughing as their PCs started to be chomped by the little buggers. The exploration of the tower, alas, yields no satisfactory results (apart from further leads and the satisfaction of destroying clockwork creatures and braving the traps with which the place has been laden) – and so, a further stop along the way may be the massive Necropolis of the town, where the bored, amoral gargoyle Gabriel, a picturebook sociopath, awaits – alongside Enya, one of the kidnapped girls, who is currently trapped within a mausoleum that is both warded and dangerously unstable – and hence, rescuing her will prove to be difficult.

Have I mentioned, that her statements (or the alchemist’s investigation) can lead them to essentially the same goals, namely the sewers, where the whispers of the dead abound and a worm-that-walks, the gaoler of Enya, provide further evidence of the horrible things to come: And it is at the very latest here that the pieces will *click* together – Tzitzimitl, an exceedingly powerful oracle (level 10) who has gleaned the circumstances of his death, but not the particulars, has entered an unholy alliance with a powerful wraith named Yetaxa – with combined efforts, they have not only engineered all those nasty anti-adventurer traps the PCs had to face; they have also introduced a truly decadent festival to the town, wherein the living dance with the wraiths under the control of Yetaxa – at the low price of just one innocent to be wraithified per festival – and who cares about strangers? Hence, the first of the daughters, alas has already been transformed by Yetaxa in the general rehearsal of the last festival -for today, shall be different. Wraiths cannot endure the sunlight, but a total eclipse renders a festival today possible – and also the only way in which Tzitzimitl’s prophecy of his own doom could come to pass – hence, he has engineered this rather elaborate plot to prevent just that.

Alas, the festival, detailed with a concise timeline and hearkening to a carnival, through a glass darkly, proceeds – and provides the PCs with an option to save Enya – provided they have been smart enough to provide her with an amulet they can acquire, which renders her impervious to Yetaxa’s cruel attempts of transferring her to undeath – so, in a finale both decadent and epic, the PCs will have to destroy Yetaxa in the catacombs – success frees the wraith and spawn from his control, resulting in a massacre and the prophesized death of Yetaxa, while also putting the PCs in dire peril, as they are shepherded into a dead end by now free, vast amounts of undead – only to be saved alongside Enya by the rays of the sun emerging from beyond the eclipse – and yes, if played right, this *is* one hell of a finale that also sees a town made uninhabitable by the undead – as well as killing the powerful Tzitzimitl and setting him up for potential sequels as a new undead threat to face!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though I noticed a couple of minor typos – “intimation” instead of “intimidation” can be found once, as can be “wont” instead of “won’t.” The language-geek in me also cringed whenever I read “coup-de-gras” instead of “coup-de-grâce” – that has nothing to do with fat, greasy or the like, but refers to the deathblow. Layout adheres to 4$D’s printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf comes in two versions, one for the US-paper-format, one in A4 for Europeans like yours truly – love that! The artwork provided is copious and I have seen none of the neat, old-school B/w-art before – really nice! The cover, as always, is also breathing the spirit of old-school awesomeness. The cartography is functional, as are the handouts, and make up for not being the most beautiful being provided for just about EVERYTHING.

Okay, let me get one thing out of the way – my complaint about the typos above? That is the only negative thing I can say about this module. At this point, all of the following things are a given: 1) Whenever Richard Develyn releases a module, my players want to play it asap, even if it means putting the main-campaign on hold. 2) I actually go to these modules when I require a break from reviewing; when I’m frustrated and need a reminder of why I actually do it. 3) Every module has a radically different style.

All of these hold true with Dance Macabre – even though formally, like the Key to Marina, it can be considered an investigation module. Alas, the way in which it works is pretty much radically different – less of a scavenger hunt, more of a detective tale, it reminded me in the best of ways of the first Gabriel Knight game in the atmosphere it evokes – what we have here can be called a blending of far-out fantasy with the underrepresented panache of proper, fantastic Southern Gothic. From the themes provided to the imagery evoked, the glorious sense of decadence oozes from each and every pore of the module – you can play this as pure entertainment…or emphasize the striking themes it evokes: If you want it to, this module can serve as a social commentary and a rallying cry against indifference and cold-heartedness.

The absurd amount of details provided help running the module immensely, and so does the flow-chart, though novice DMs still should read the whole module before trying to run it – this one is very much free-form in its flow. The true genius here, at least in my onion, would be the blending of the horrific and the absurd, of horror and comedy – and the optional nature of either. A competent DM can easily ramp up the comedy factor and make this module genuinely funny. Or utterly horrific. I ran this module twice prior to writing this review; the first time emphasizing a Ravenloftesque sense of horror for my mature players – and it worked perfectly. The second time around, I mastered this with a mixed group that contained some kids – and emphasized the fun and odd parts. Yes, there are some dark elements here, but nothing kids (talking about the 8 – 12-range) can’t handle – make e.g. the courtesan a menial laborer à la Cinderella and we maintain the message, but make the theme child-friendly – cosmetic reskin and that’s it. One of them surprised me when she mentioned that she had understood that fear of death can lead one to horrible choices, that one should instead do good and that the town exhibited traits of our own society – and that payback for such a behavior might come in some guise or another. Subtle themes, clearly understood – yes, this can actually be played as a morality play with some educational value.

Southern Gothic horror, absurd, but still exciting comedy or a means of teaching about the world – the module provides a lot of playstyles – and it ran completely differently both times I ran it, so it has replay value to boot! I *ADORE* this module. It is unique in every sense of the word and sports yet another facet of Richard’s capacity that sets him apart as one of the few authors who push the boundaries and raise the level in the art of adventure writing. And yes, this module, in my opinion, can be called art…or proper literature. It is excellent and while the odd typo here and there may be slightly annoying; it is mainly due to the exceedingly high level of quality of the whole book this catches one’s eye. Still, I implore you to get this awesome piece of adventure-writing. It is unique in all the right ways and acts as one glorious example of what adventures could be beyond rolling dice and slaying monsters. Highly modular, versatile and with replay-vale, oozing with details, this module once again receives my highest honors – 5 stars + seal of approval and since this was released in 2014, candidate for my Top ten of 2014-status.

Do NOT let this one slip by!

Endzeitgeist out.

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Apr 092015
 

aasimarBy Endzeitgeist

This installment of the advanced races-series clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement and 1 page SRD, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

We kick of this pdf, as always, with first a general look on the race of the aasimar as a setting-agnostic race before receiving excessive notes on how the work in the context of the Midgard campaign setting. Both do have something in favor for them – the first in that it treats aasimar less like humans with a tendency for goodness and more like nephilim – including more pronounced escalation, the latter for providing a spotlight on the different regions, including Shuppurak, where aasimar roam the streets – still one of the cooler concepts in Midgard in my book.

So after this fluffy introduction, we receive 6 new alternate racial traits for aasimar – these include exchanging one resistance for fire resistance 5, turning gaseous form for 3 rounds for every 5 character levels (with a missing italicization that extends to all traits of that style), blindsense 10 ft. or other spell-like abilities – searing light and 1/day dispel magic, to be precise. Now both gaseous form and dispel magic are somewhat iffy in my book – while not per se broken, do feature one unpleasant issue, namely that they provide very early counter-measures that usually are relegated to slightly higher levels. Nit-picky? Well, perhaps, but only for as long until you realize what you can do with gaseous form and that it can’t be counterspelled in this instance. There is also an Eagle’s Splendor version that deserves special mention – while also suffering from the flawed italicization, it does have a unique representation in a light-emitting, rather unsubtle halo upon activation – pretty cool imagery!

We also receive 6 new traits, 5 of them racial (though they do not note this) and one social – One is particularly…well, let’s not say overpowered, but rather circumstantially very strong: Blood Moon Born gives you a free Maximize Spell 1/night when under moonlight of a full moon. This would be what I’d call the “controlled lycanthrope conundrum” – lycanthropy is damn cool, but as soon as you can control it and there’s no risk, you’ll try to match the power-boost with your adventuring; This is something similar – while situational, it is very powerful. I think a less prohibited restriction and a less significant power boost would have made this a better trait. Child of the Living God is also too strong – +2 to intimidate, intimidate is always a class skill AND a +3 (wonky; usually +2 or +1)-bonus (untyped, as all of these bonuses – that should be trait bonuses) against creatures with divine, profane or channeling abilities. +3 to what? Atk? Saves? Intimidate? In the latter case, does it stack? No idea what this trait is supposed to do, needs a revision. (And no, didn’t mention all types of wonky wording in these…)

We also receive 4 mythic traits – here, the wording, alas, is not better – while one can *glean* what the author means by “All animals and magical beasts with an Intelligence of 1-3 are automatically moved one level of attitude in your favor”, this is NOT how starting attitude wording works. The Mythic Calm trait is also odd in that it allows the removal of the cowered condition as well as the frightened condition, but does nothing against panic or being shaken – the trait ignores negative condition hierarchy – an oversight? I don’t know. Mythic Mark falls completely off the rails in an almost tragicomical way – the trait allows you to generate a mark similar to a arcane mark, visible only to mythic creatures. This mark supposedly creates unease. The trait features this sentence: ”

All non-mythic enemies within 30 feet of your sigil are uneasy, whether they can perceive the mark or not, and their DCs on rolls to resist fear and Intimidate effects are increased by 2.”

Now I *know* what this ability *means* to do, but – read that carefully – as written, it would mean the creatures become more susceptible to fear AND harder to demoralize. This shows a basic ignorance of how demoralize works and makes it possible to completely invert the intention of the trait, creating confusion in spades. Urgh. Sensing mythic power is a cool idea as well, but one deviating significantly from how all comparable detection mechanics work – immediate awareness does not for a concise rules-aesthetic make here.

We also receive 4 new feats – and it’s a bit like a completely different author has written them – the overthrow-feat, for example, lets you use reach weapons to ground flying adversaries and does so with pretty concise mechanics – the mentioning of “stunning damage”, which does not exist, being the one issue in this one. I’d usually complain about the follow-up feat, which allows you to do that with thrown and projectile weapons, but the significant feat investment makes it somewhat work. There also are feats to increase your celestial resistances (BORING) that manage to not adhere to the same wording – while not wrong or problematic (and thus not subject to decreased rating), they are somewhat inconsistent – we once have an “increase by…” and once a “increase to” – yes, nitpicky, but that sort of thing does potentially create confusion.

We also receive no less than 8 mythic feats – granting DR is pretty solid, though one feat that specifically protects versus smite may be too circumstantial for many classes (unless the DM is even more smite happy than I am); Others….well, may overshoot their target goal; for example the very unfocused Angelic Scion: This feat (with moderate prereqs) grants you immunity to non-mythic poison and petrification, alter self at will, truespeech AND two slam attacks (no idea if primary or secondary, whether they follow the rules for natural weapons or not since they have a caveat “2 per round”…) and if you hit with both, the sucker on the receiving end has to save versus fort DC 25 or be stunned for 1d6 rounds. STUNNED. Yeah, I get the whole angel theme – still, that’s too much for a feat, has nigh no bearing on mythic tier/power, rules-wise, and is just all over the place. This needs to be broken down into multiple feats. Smite cleave, permanent amphibious template etc. may be strong and arguably, not very elegant, but can be defended. Beyond formatting issues, though, doubling your “first” (whatever *that* is supposed to mean…First attack? Smite’s damage bonus?) damage bonus (later triple and quadruple!) when smiting evil creatures. Ehem. I’m sorry, but has the author EVER seen what even a moderately competent smite can do? Even without an optimized build? If one class feature needed no upgrade to damage potential, it was friggin’ smite. +40, +60 and +80 to damage per attack via ONE feat. Not even gonna get near my mythic-adapted modules. Unfortunately, the other feats aren’t particularly inspired either, leaving me with not much nice to say.

Onwards to the archetypes, the first of which would be wis- instead of cha-using Celestial Rhymer. This bard casts divine spells and receives paladin spells as well and at later levels, they can spontaneously convert spells into healing spells, also receiving a domain at second level and even channel energy at 5th (though at least at level -4). Dirge of Doom is also modified – the archetype pays for that with versatile performance, well-versed and lore master. Yes. You heard right. I’m sorry, for I love the concept, but imagine me going full-blown Plinkett here and uttering “What were they thinking?” – so you remove any casting restrictions, add a bunch of spells from one of the strongest spell-lists (and take the spells, if they exist on multiple lists, on the lowest level), add channel and all the nasty tricks and spontaneous healing conversion as well as domains for THAT? Yes, the abilities taken away are neat…but they nowhere near justify this power gain. Plus: Wording issues. No, not gonna list ’em all. The Celestial Summoner also uses wis and once again, casts divine spells – seen that before in Will McCardell’s Celestial Commander, a powerful archetype one of my players uses, btw., so what does this one do? They may summon forth special celestials (with precise creature depending on HD) in a silent 1-minute prayer, with dismissal being possible as a standard action. These celestials adhere to pretty conservative healing rules and only one may be present at a given time – essentially, celestials as replacements for eidolons. While the ability is pretty complex, it gets rather close to working properly. It doesn’t fully reach that level, though. Celestial Summoners may only know, as mentioned x+wis-mod names of celestials to summon this way, with increased HD increasing the options available. So far, so nice – but do the numbers of true names known stack or do they simply increase by +1 when the celestial summoner increases in levels? Celestials are also vulnerable to “profane” spells and receive double damage from them. Issue here: There is no [profane] descriptor, not even profane damage, only profane bonuses. Unholy Blight, for example, deals untyped damage and channel energy deals negative energy damage. hence, this drawback needs complete rewiring. I haven’t even gone into some of the other issues here. At 18th level, 2 of these celestials can be in effect at a given time.

At higher levels, celestial summoners may sacrifice hit points to heal their summoned celestial allies and draw upon them to heal herself a limited amount of times per day. Here, a technicality is an issue – the wording implies that the hit points transferred heal the creature/summoner, when they should instead negate a likewise amount of damage. Why is this important? Because if damage kills the creature, it is sent back to its plane and can no longer benefit from the healing effect. A formality, yes, but an important one. The class also receives the benefits of partial apotheosis -which generally sounds like a solid choice – however, the “summoner’s racial energy resistances increase by +10″ – what if the archetype doesn’t have any due to not being an aasimar? There is nothing preventing non-aasimar from taking this archetype, so what about these guys? This is relevant due to multiple abilities using this mechanic and wording type. As a capstone, the celestial summoner may conjure forth one of the most powerful good outsiders – solars, animal lords, star archons – pretty awesome. Conceptually, a cool archetype, but one that does have some significant streamlining to do.

The purifier inquisitor archetype receives a 3/day scorching ray and a second domain for solo tactics and teamwork feat. They also receive a divine-energy only flame strike are and may summon a very limited array of celestials as a standard action. A pretty disjointed and boring archetype in y book – nothing special or interesting here. We also get two new subdomains, the angel (deva) and radiance subdomains, both of which are pretty solid.

Next up would be 14 new spells, most of which with mythic alternate versions and augment options. These allow you to polymorph into angelic beings, conjure forth magnificent mansion-like fortresses, receive a celestial herald to carry your message (or objects!), receive a bardic atonement (nice, though the DC 25 DC perform check at the end is ridiculous – any bard capable of executing 6th level spells should NOT have to roll to succeed at that skill check!), forced conversions for inquisitors…per se nice. Where things turn baffling would be with Hammer of Righteousness –this is essentially a copy of holy smite, which instead of good, uses lawful as the type. Know what’s funny? Order’s Wrath already does exactly that. Instead of causing daze, this one causes FRIGGIN’ PARALYSIS – no duration!!! BAFFLING.

A) Paralysis is one of the most powerful conditions in PFRPG – it needs a duration. B) There already *is* a 4th level spell called order’s wrath that does just the same thing, but *with* a balanced condition. This spell is condition-escalation, more sloppy than its base variant and generally should not exist. Kill it with fire. Speaking of yet another blatant and unnecessary escalation of power with worse wording than its original: Imbue with Divine Power – not only spellsharing, now also available for palas, druids and rangers (there is a reason this was cle/orc-exclusive, you know…) and it allows you to share channel energy as well – same spell-level, btw. Oh, and channel energy can only be used to “turn or rebuke undead” – which does require a FEAT in PFRPG. Baffling in its ignorance of basic spell-balancing with a CORE (!!!) spell (same level, MOAR power) and pretty basic rules-concepts.

A better goodberry that allows for condition rerolls may not be inspired, but is solid when compared to the rest. A mythic variant of the mount-spell is nice in general concept, but wholly geared towards aasimar, which it shouldn’t be – mythic power or no mythic power, no vile wizard should be able to augment a such a spell to generate a half-celestial mount… Summons with an angel theme and a bardic spell that nets a +2 sacred bonus to perform checks may be okay, but also boring.

There also are new magic items, all of them mythic – from powerful shields to urns that can store mythic power, the items here are solid and nice even, especially when compared to the rest of the pdf. One significant word of warning, though: I’d *STRONGLY* advise any Dm to be very, very careful when allowing mythic power-storing urns in the game and closely monitor their availability – let your PCs craft these things and all comes crashing down at high levels. Not perfect, but far away from the issues of the majority of the crunch herein. Now on the very much damn cool side would be the final 4 transcendent artifacts – these legendary items can bestow mythic power on their non-mythic wielders and are all intelligent. As artifacts, I won’t hold their vast power and game-changer-level effects against them – after all, that’s their clear intent. Now on a nitpicky side, how the interaction between the granted mythic tiers and existing ones of potentially different paths is handled is never explained and the item-type could use some more concise definitions in how their abilities interact with fringe-cases, but at this point, I’m beyond complaining about such minor issues.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is okay – there are various italicization glitches and on a rules-language level, the pdf falls on its face pretty hard. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ 2-column full color standard and the pdf does come fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork is a combination of re-used artwork, neat glyphs and the cover of KP’s awesome planar book.

What has happened here? I’ve read a bunch of pdfs by author Adam Roy and while he is not the most precise of authors out there regarding rules-language, I can’t really fathom what has happened here. The fluff and ideas herein are, as almost always in his writing, top-notch and inspiring and there are some true conceptual gems in here. I *do* enjoy the idea of making the larger-than-life nature of aasimar tied close to mythic rules and the focus on a more extreme aasimar-kind akin to myth’s nephilim is pretty awesome and I do like the concepts of the items…

Damn, I can’t find much more positive to say. The crunch herein is a total cluster-f***. Imprecise bonuses, wording issues, blatant power-escalation among spells, cloned spells sold as something new and archetypes and don’t get me started on the feats. If I didn’t know any better, I’d assume that this was the work of a total rookie. The fluff and often, the concepts herein – these are *awesome*, but balance is nowhere to be found herein and the crunch more often than not feels phoned in, like it cannot live up to the evocative concepts promised by the fluff…or like it did rule of cool everything. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for breaking the rules if it does add something to the game, but what is added should better be up to snuff. This is not. It should be noted for everyone NOT using mythic rules, that all components that do not suffer from massive issues are mythic. The sudden focus on the mythic rules, while thematically fitting, feel a bit awkward and may result in unsatisfied customers who assumed they’d get more non-mythic oomph, so caveat emptor.

Were it not for the items and the glorious fluff, I’d bash this down to 1 star, comme un beau homme sans merci. It is explicitly and only due to the great fluff and damn awesome concepts and cool item-ideas, I will instead settle on a final verdict of 15 stars, BARELY rounded up to 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

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