5.30.2011

EZG reviews two new TRIBES and a FREE critter

Hi everybody,

today I've gottwo new installments of the TRIBES-line for you:


Centaurs of the Bleak Moor



This pdf is 26 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page explaining how to read stat-blocks to novice DMs, 1 page back cover and 2 pages advertisement, leaving 18 pages for the centaurs, so let's have a look at them!

The TRIBES-line of Raging Swan has provided us with some great sets of monstrous tribes to set upon our PCs and this latest installment is a take on the roaming tribe of centaur. In tradition with the recent Raging Swan files, we get a cool rhyming verse on the ToC-page that serves as a nice bardic verse to introduce and sum up the tribe. After that, we get an introduction to the peculiarities of the tribe, including appearance - we get a little table to customize the individuals, which I consider a nice touch. Raging Swan products have a tradition of nice b/w-artwork and this one is no different - in fact, it goes further and features some beautiful, evocative pictures of the bleak moor, home to the centaurs and new setting beyond the tangled forest. Even better, we get a map of the new region. The write-up of the moor also includes extensive information on the terrain, serving as another proof that Creighton Broadhurst keeps in touch with his fan-base and continuously improves his products. The battle-feats to customize the individual tribes of the line have become a staple of the series, and this pdf is no exception - we get 5 new battle feats focusing on the centaur's giant eagles and devastating sling combat style. Fans of halflings might want to check this file out just for the sling-feats - from manystone to stunning hits and rapid sling loading, these new feats rocks. In contrast to other installments, though, we also get alternate class features for both the druid and the rangers of the centaurs and the full stats for their giant eagle companions. Furthermore, we get 4 new spells focusing on terrain control in the bog and a new magical sling as well as two kinds of enchanted sling ammunition and a new exotic double weapon (the double morningstar) for their berserkers. The sling and ammo get their own artworks.

The crunchy part of the pdf is separated into different section: Minor encounters, major encounters and characters.

Minor encounters feature the rank-in-file warriors, berserkers, druids and scouts as well as two sample groups. Major encounters include ready stat-blocks of both experienced berserkers, sling-specialists, veteran warriors and greater druids. They also come with two sample groups. Finally, we get the warleader of the centaurs, Corafel Ferareen (Advanced centaur barbarian 4/Moorland Ranger 3, CR 11) and Solavel Verynn (Advanced centaur druid of the bleak Moor 7, CR 11). Both get the raging swan NPC-treatment with mannerisms, distinguishing features, hooks, etc. However, Corafel, due to space-reasons, doesn't get much text. Solavel makes up for this by a cool adventure hook involving a debased fey. It also doesn't hurt that both get their own pieces of artwork.

Conclusion:

Editing is top-notch, I didn't notice any mistakes. Formatting adheres to the 2-column standard. Layout is clear, concise and printer-friendly and the deal includes an e-reader-friendly version of the pdf. The pdf is also extensively bookmarked for ease of reference. As has almost become tradition with Raging Swan publications, this pdf is extremely easy to use and endeavors to take as much weight as possible from the shoulders of the GM and easily succeeds in this. The sling-feats are cool, the spells rock, the fluff of the tribe is cool and rife with some nice ideas and the b/w-artworks of the moor are stunningly beautiful. Moreover, while it's a pity that the fluff of one of the NPCs fell a bit on the short side, the other one makes up for this and we get the quality statblocks we've come to expect of the series. The map and the potential connection to the upcoming minotaur-book is another factor in favor of this pdf. What else can I say? Raging Swan Press has once again surpassed its own by now ridiculously high standard, delivering an installment of the TRIBES-line that even surpasses the more than excellent Half-Goblins of the Tangled Forest. Ladies & Gentlemen, my final verdict is, as it should be, 5 Rudii - highly recommended, not only to people who want a tribe of centaurs.





And here are the dread rivals of the centaurs, the


Minotaurs of the Black Hills



This pdf is 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside front cover, 1 page sub-header, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC (including once again a great rhyme), 1 page back cover, 1 page advertisement and 1 page SRD, leaving 18 pages for the tribe of minotaurs. It should be noted that the pdf comes (as all Raging Swan books that are part of the dual format initiative) with an additional version optimized for e-readers.

Without further ado, let's check them out!

After the obligatory page explaining how to read stat-blocks to novice DMs, we get 2 pages of fluff text on the minotaurs. The question you all want answered, of course, is whether this installment of the TRIBES-series once again manages to add a different twist to a classic monster trope. To be frank: Yes, it does - the scarlet axe minotaurs are made unique via several ideas: First of all, they are rather civilized, eschewing the barbarism and rage usually associated with the horned beasts. Another distinguishing mark would be the minotaur's special breeding. Serving an elder race on the decline, the scarlet axes have an aptitude for sorcerous power due to the mingling with their dread Yith masters. Suffice to say, we also get lore sections on the tribe, their masters and even some information on the black hills, their home.

Following the tradition of the TRIBES-line, we also get a huge box detailing the environment in which the minotaurs might be encountered and several locations that might serve as nice adventure locales/hooks for further adventures. We also get a one-page map of the black hills & the bleak moor, the haunt of the minotaur's archenemies. I should also note that the hills get stunning original pieces of b/w-artworks, as do the minotaurs.

On the crunch-side, we get the new Yith-bloodline for sorcerors, a new ranger-variant and 4 battle-feats that help displaying the unique fighting style of the tribe. I liked the bloodline and had no problems with any of the feats. We also get 4 new sorceror spells focusing on maneuverability and taking on aspects of the Yith as well as two new magic items (boots and a quiver), complete with their own artworks and lore-sections.

After that, we get to the stats:

We get normal and elite warriors (CR 5 & 7), Scouts (CR 7), Sorcerors (CR 7) and 3 sample encounters. In addition to the sample ideas for minotaurs given in the fluff section, we also get 2 fully detailed NPCs that get the Raging Swan NPC-treatment, i.e. we get distinguishing features, mannerisms, hooks etc. In addition, the two NPCs get their own artworks. The final two pages are devoted to the bat-like humanoid masters of the minotaurs, the Yith, which get 3 variant spell-lists, full stats and e.g. ecology & society sections as well as their own artwork.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice a single mistake. Layout adheres to the clear and elegant standard established by Raging Swan Press. The quality of both writing, stat-blocks etc. is superb. If I had to nit-pick, I'd say that I didn't particularly care for the battle-feats or the variant ranger and that the Yith-artwork is "only" good. That's it. The b/w-artworks are STUNNING and belong to the best I've seen in quite a while and the tribe per se, once again, is almost perfect. For the lack of flaws and the excellent writing as well as the overall supreme quality, I practically have to rate this installment of the TRIBES-series 5 Rudii and add the Endzeitgeist seal of approval - once again, Raging Swan delivers an excellent quality product for a very affordable price.





P.S.: The Kobold-tribe has been updated with additional information on terrain.


All right, finally, I have a nice FREE critter by Spes magna Games for you!


The Baykok



This pdf is 3 pages, 1 page SRD, leaving 2 pages for the free critter, so let's give it a closer look.

Tha baykok is an undead hunter suitable for mid-to medium level parties that has a tremendous potential to be both creepy and memorable. Why? It has 2 cool signature abilities I haven't seen before: It uses invisible arrows and is invisible, even while attacking, to all but the target of its attacks. Now this makes for very cool predator-like encounters and awesome horror-potential. What about PCs trying to protect a target from a whole group of them? Awesome work. And it's free.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch and while there is no artwork, the fluff-text makes sure to adequately convey the coolness of the creature. Layout adheres to the printer-friendly two-column standard. Plus: This is FREE. You get a critter that is cooler than a lot of creatures you usually have to pay for and for the price diddly-squat. You have NO reason not to check this out. If there ever will be a Spes Magna monster book with foes of that quality, I'll be sure to pick it up. My verdict will be 5 Rudii.






All right, that's it for now from yours truly, next time, I'll have an adventure and a sourcebook for you!

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.

5.27.2011

EZG reviews Luven Lightfinger's Gear & Treasure Shop

Hi everybody!


I told you I'd have some equipment for your PCs this time and I'll deliver by finally reviewing

Luven Lightfinger's Gear & Treasure Shop



This pdf is 102 pages long, 1 page front cover, 3 pages editorial and ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page blank inside back cover and 1 page back cover, leaving 94 pages of content, so let's check it out!

So. A gear book. I'm actually taking a look at an equipment book. The last equipment book I bought was the "Arms & Equipment Guide" that actually disappointed me. Those of you who have been following my reviews, can easily guess why - I just hate the tendency to make magic items exchangeable commodities. Thus, even though there has been considerable hype about this book, I hesitated a long time. Also due to the fact that I wanted mundane & alchemical equipment from the "Arms & Equipment Guide" and didn't get a lot (or useful) content from it, I was rather hesitant to put this book in my cart.


The extensively book-marked pdf begins with martial gear, i.e. new weapons that range from variations of swords to suitably awesome and exotic weapons like the meteor hammer (Iron ball on a chain) or the wind and fire wheels, ring-like bladed melee weapons. The chapter provides more than just new weapons, but also new armors. More importantly, though, there is a nice innovation in this chapter: Armor components - you can actually customize armors and even combine and design your own armors, e.g. consisting of sabatons, gorgets and a bascinet. It should be noted that almost all items get their b/w-artwork representation, which is absolutely neat.


Chapter 2 contains all the new adventuring gear you always wanted, but never got from the core books - From aspergils, drinking horns, wigs, special silver henna up to different alchemical incenses and even a very cool siege weapon this chapter contains all the useful things your PCs have asked for and more. My very favorite item, though, is the chirurgeon's kit - the item enables one to revive fallen characters with mundane means/operations (within limits, of course) and the mechanics are so simple, so elegant, that I was impressed. This item, while not a substitute for resurrection-magic, it is GOLD for campaigns like mine (I've banned resurrection/raise dead in favor of e.g. RiP's Restless Souls) and just about any gritty low-magic campaign.


Chapter 3 has "Items of Home and Hearth", which sounds boring, but actually isn't. From several clothing materials over food (with a plethora of spices, flours etc.), drink (also containing drunkeness-rules), jewelry up to art and toys, this chapter contains just about anything your adventurers might need. Ever wanted to know what average towels cost? Diverse hats made from exotic fabrics? There you go. While this might at first seem like detail-overkill, it's not - How many times has it happened to you that PCs wanted to trade e.g. goods from exotic locales? I had to improvise saffron-prices and their availability in different countries in my campaign due to one of my PCs wanting to professionally trade in spices - this book, had I had it then, would greatly improved my efforts. The same goes for all the detail-crazy people among you who actually enjoy changing the appearance of characters, expensive shopping etc.


Chapter 4 features prosthetics for poor adventurers that e.g. don't have access to regeneration-spells (another one I banned in my campaign...) or want clockwork legs, iron limbs etc. From mundane/alchemical prosthetics to enchanted ones, this new class of items is pure gold for everyone, who, like me, thinks that the loss of a limb can both be iconic and dramatic and need not be the end, but rather a cool station in the ongoing narrative of one adventurer. This chapter alone, at least for me, was worth the price.


I dreaded chapter 5, I seriously did. The back room of the shop contains magic items. I steeled myself and got ready to yawn and while I was not impressed by the armors, I liked all the magic weapons and wondrous items (which of course, also mostly come with their own artworks - nice). My absolute favorite item is "Fletcher' Finkleberry's Fabulous Flying Feather" - a tongue-twister-powered feather that enables you to fly. Pure awesomeness.

This book is called "shop/inn & tavern" and while the book is interspread by Luven's IC-comments on the items, it is here where we actually get the stats for the staff of both Inn and shop. 4 completely detailed, beautiful maps are provided for shop and inn and all the characters get their own artwork to show to the players. I want to emphasize the stunning amount of detail of both locations, from DCs for individual locks to detailed descriptions, this rather large chapter actually contains enough information and a page of hooks to make the place a valid, awesome hub/starting point for adventures. Just to give you an impression on the amount of detail provided - even Luven's children get their individual statblocks, the bouncer/barkeep's mace has a name and, what impressed me beyond all expectations was that there are even menus for all courses. Wow.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, in spite of the length of the book I didn't encounter even A SINGLE glitch. Wow. Just wow. Layout adheres to the 2-column standard and is easy on the printer. Usually, equipment books are a complete bore to read, but the wealth of both the ideas and the associated rules and the aptly and concisely-written prose of Luven's numerous comments serve to deter from that convention and subsequently the book is a great read. With the stunning attention to detail, rules-information, numerous artworks and innovations, the book leaves nothing to be desired. Actually, the extensive appendix goes the extra mile for the DM to add another dimension to the whole book - granting you a great adventure locale in addition to all the equipment. Soooo...was there anything I didn't like? Ahem...well...I didn't like the artwork of the cover (I know it's old-school, I still don't like it.) but the interior artwork rocks.

...

...

That's about it. All the criticism I can muster. Yep. Nitpicky, equipment-book hating Endzeitgeist is stunned and just blown away. My final verdict will be 5 Rudii with the Endzeitgeist seal of approval - people, if you haven't picked this up yet, do it as soon as possible. You won't regret it.






Here's a little bonus-review:


Monsters of NeoExodus: The Chanting Queen



This pdf is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page counters, 2 pages of mini-sheets and 1 page combat & initiative tracker, leaving 4 pages for the Queen, so let's have a look at her!

All right. The Monsters of NeoExodus -line has provided us with some truly far-out creatures, but this one takes the "Wicked cool"-idea-cake: The chanting queen is the embodiment of a sentient spell that seeks to prolong and propagate its own existence by subverting the collective wills of people sent into a surreal paradise that solely exists in their minds by usage of said spell. The queen is a CR 19 foe, an incorporeal construct that is focused on utterly dominating her enemies and subverting them into the blissful utopia of her own addictive pseudo-reality. Once, her spell might have been designed to provide succor for the deranged and traumatized. Now, however, the chant may very well spread like an infectious wildfire of bliss and stupor and her mostly enchanting/dominating abilities reflect her non-lethal and yet deeply disturbing nature.

The Chant-scroll containing the rite of the old spell is also detailed and offers enough incentives for hard-pressed PCs to use the addictive scroll in spite of its risks. We also get information on DCs of Bardic knowledge etc.

Conclusion:

Layout adheres to the beautiful two-column full-color standard set by LPJr Design, formatting is top-notch, I noticed one minor punctuation error, but apart from that I didn't notice any glitches or problems with the abilities of the queen. Due to the low price, the cool concept and the additional information provided, I'll settle for a final score of 5 Rudii.








All right, that's it for now! Next time, I'll either do some free stuff or have a look at the recent TRIBES by Raging Swan Press!

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.

5.24.2011

EZG reviews A Pound of Flesh

Hey everybody!


Once upon a time (haha!), I wrote rather uninformative one-sentence-reviews of products I liked.

Today, after a rather exhausting review of a sub-par adventure, I felt like something different.

I hopefully have gone a long way with regards to whether my reviews can be considered informative and thus, today, I'm finally going to revisit one of the best investigation adventures I've ever read for D&D/PFRPG - if there is an adventure worthy of your time converting it to PFRPG, this is it. And if you're still using 3.5 - go ahead. I almost guarantee you'll like it!


Without further ado, I present my review of Tim Hitchcock's


A Pound of Flesh


This adventure for levels 1-3 is 58 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page back cover, leaving 50 pages for the plots afoot to unfold, so let's check it out!

The first thing you'll notice is that the adventure is extensively bookmarked, layout is clear and printer-friendly b/w.

That's as far as I can go without going into details. This being an adventure review, SPOILERS will now continue to abound - potential players, please jump to the conclusion!

....

SPOILERS

....

Still here? All righty, so let's check out what the PCs will be up against!

"A Pound of Flesh" is an investigation-heavy adventure that focuses on mystery and players acting smart and subsequently kicks off via several possible hooks, all centering on the PCs investigating disappearances in the dock ward. After some careful probing, their first lead (possibly provided by a half-orc pimp) is an old crone and her bugbear-lover, who are responsible for killing the missing persons.

This is where you'll realize that this adventure is both complex and cool - the NPCs have strategies to cope with investigators, secret light signals the PCs can analyze and even have a whole interrogation section. Have I mentioned that the PCs in this section might encounter a she-male warrior and a traumatized soldier. Oh, and there's this serpentine-affine guy and a noble in session with a dominatrix. Seedy, iconic locations abound and the lead sends the PCs to a seedy bar and the saltshacks, a dock of halfling houseboats. It should be noted that both the seedy bordello and the shacks and even a fish-processing boat get their detailed maps, which really helps envisioning the areas. The halfling-accomplice quickly rolls over and the PCs are led to a mortuary (again, with its own map) and which could see the PCs trying to escape with clues from the burning building. Moreover, if the players screw up, there are always more ways to get them back on track.


After the blaze, the PCs reach a supposedly haunted shipyard (again with a detailed map) and enter the dungeon/infiltration-section of the adventure. Via the sewers, the PCs can infiltrate a cult of cannibalistic, depraved hunger-cultists and infiltrate they should - the defenses of the cult are superb and smart, showcasing that NPCs don't have to be too mechanically strong when they fight smart. The cultist-temple and the grimlock-servants are supremely creepy, featuring e.g. harnesses with animated zombie-arms. How cool is that? Oh, if the PCs screw up royally, they can fight a cthulhoid, extremely deadly entity. And no, that's NOT the climax. The climax of the adventure actually starts with the PCs climbing from the cultist's base to participate in the masque-ball of the main antagonist, mingling with the guests while trying to root out cultists, not get assassinated by them and collect the final clues and confront the villain. Who actually uses INTELLIGENT tactics and is not just another stat-block. Suffice to say, both the cultist hide-out and the mansion feature their own detailed maps and the masquerade is among the coolest things I've seen in any low-level adventure.

On the rules-side, we get 2 new monsters, a new ritualistic spell, the cannibalism domain and 2 new items.

Conclusion:

Layout adheres to the two-column standard, the b/w-artworks are nice and formatting is, as far as I could glean, flawless. Editing is not, unfortunately: There are some minor glitches, that while not impeding the overall quality of the adventure, is the only thing that will sometimes rip you out of the brilliant writing. If you haven't gathered: That's my only point of criticism with regards to this adventure. You get an awesome piece of adventure writing, perhaps one of the best adventures ever released for 3.5, and a LOT of adventure. When PFRPG came along, this one was top-priority on my convert-list and both I and my players had a HUGE blast running this smart, well-crafted investigation chock-full with cool characters and disturbing details that are sure to be remembered for years to come. There simply aren't that many adventures out there that deserve the predicate "superb" and this is one of them - the enemies aren't too strong, but fight smart, the scenes are just plain awesome and the infiltration of the cultist hide-out rocks.

Hard.

This adventure gets the Endzeitgeist seal of approval and, for me, nit-picky as I usually am with regards to typos etc., a full 5 Rudii-rating. If you're concerned about ~10 glitches over 58 pages of awesome adventure, detract half a Rudii. If you haven't played it yet, give it a try. It's pleasantly different from almost any 1st-level adventure out there in both details, structure and genre. Smart players and ROLEplayers deserve more such adventures.





All right, that's it for today, next time I'll have some nice new toys for your (N)PCs or perhaps some free stuff!

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.

5.19.2011

EZG reviews Creepy Creatures & Complete Player's Reference for Kingdom Building

Hi everybody!


I've mentioned I'd have some critters for you this time and creatures I have - you probably know that I'm a big fan of rather gritty and dark adventures, monsters and settings and subsequently I couldn't pass on Alluria Publishing's Creepy Creatures, so let's check out how they hold up!


Creepy Creatures




This massive 115 pages full-color pdf has 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of the front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page explaining the glyphs that denote creature-types, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 107 pages for the content.

The first thing you'll notice is that this book is beautiful - full-color, cool artworks are provided for every monster and both formatting and layout are professional and adhere to the highest standards.

What do I seek in a monster-book? I want iconic beasts that are more than just another set of stats, that feature more than just variations of old tropes. I want the immediate impulse to use them in my games and, ideally, to yell: "Yeah, now that's it!" "Creepy Creatures" is a bestiary of rather horror-themed creature or at least bizarre ones, so let's take a look at some of my most and least favorite among them:

Rather lame ones:

-Adhaesus: Creature that clings to walls while fighting. The choker is much cooler and the artwork doesn't help the creature.

-Bisontaur: Centaur with Bisonlike-top. Boring.

-Hawkape: Owlbear-like creature. Owlbears are canon by now and while they never were my favorite creatures, Hawkapes are in my opinion unnecessary. Their abilities don't really set them apart.

-Centpede Folk: Centipede-like humanoids whose artwork unfortunately lacks arms.

-Frogodile: Another amalgam animal. Just as boring.

-Gibbering Terror: Incorporeal undead which feature the one truly boring/bad artwork of the book.

-Magma Kraken: Fire-elemental kraken creature. Disappointing for a CR 20 creature, this one has almost only elemental abilities.

-Star Jelly Ooze: This creature is a ooze-steed that looks like a long version of a Super Mario star with wings. I'm not kidding.

-Assassin Zombie: Assassins. Zombies. I don't think they go together or that you actually need a separate creature that fits this particular niche.

Cool creatures:

-Assassin Cat: A cat with brilliant abilities with supernatural abilities and a deadly toxin.

-Brain Wasp Swarm: Disturbing swarm of vermin.

-Clutch Hound: Cthulhoid dog with a great artwork.

-Corpse Worm: Shapechanger-worm - great variation of the doppelgänger-trope.

-Plague Dragon: Deadly dragon with cool abilities.

-Eye Parasite: One of the few truly despicable and creepy creatures in the book, this is a combination of a bodysnatcher and beholder-like abilities. Two thumbs up!

-Fleshwarper: Undead that drains charisma by warping flesh.

-Fungus, Ooze: Deadly plant that spawns oozes.

-Hair Golem: Disturbing Golem with a cool artwork.

-Hydra Grub: Multi-headed giant grub, delicacy for dragons.

-Terrorkin: Dream-demon that is half beautiful & half deformed - One of the best artworks i the book.

-Century Tortoise: Giant benevolent turtles that drain away the years of enemies.

-Fang Tree: Spiked, poisonous, carnivorous tree with a beautiful artwork.

-Windigo: Another version of the classic wendigo, this take on it has a mechanically interesting, cool snow and wind aura.

After the monsters, we also get information on the remarkable races (other Alluria products) and have the monsters listed by CR, roles, type, terrain and climate, which is nice.

Conclusion:
Layout and artwork are beautiful, editing and formatting are top-notch (I didn't notice any typos or glitches) and the pdf is extensively bookmarked. On the production-value side, there is nothing to complain. On the content-side, though, there are some problems, at least for me: I thought I'd get a bestiary of rather horror-themed critters and while the book delivers on "bizarre", it, at least in my opinion, does not deliver with regards to "creepy." Even more important: In contrast to e.g. Fey Folio, the monsters herein often fall in the rather bland category, be it fluff- or crunch-wise or just didn't capture my attention, which is a pity as some of them do rock. There are no lore-sections for the critters and most don't get too much fluff-text. More importantly, though, several of the background stories of the critters mention characters of races from Alluria's "Remarkable Races"-line. While I usually enjoy some plug-ins, I do think they went a bit over the top with regards to this book - some of the monsters are directly tied to the races and thus are harder to get or insert into your campaign than necessary. There is no b/w printer-friendly version and while the book is beautiful, it is also very taxing on your printer. While it's a long and beautiful book, it's also not too cheap. My final verdict, taking all of the above into consideration, will be 3.5 Rudii.







And now for something completely different - Jon Brazer Enterprises has recently released a godsend for all fans of kingdom building, mass combat and generally PCs creating more items than via craft rules, so let's have a look at it, shall we?


Book of the River Nations: Complete Player's Reference to Kingdom Building




This pdf is 52 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 blank pages on the insides of the cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page advertisement and 1 page containing both SRD and editorial, so let's check it out!

The first thing you'll notice when checking this pdf out, is the ToC with the accompanying introduction on the first page, the extensive bookmarks and the clear and easy to read two-column layout. This book is a compilation and expansion of the kingdom building rules for PFRPG's Kingmaker AP that makes the system more accessible for players. Due to probably not everyone owning the AP, I'll try to sum up the rules as we go. Thus, let's get to building our very own kingdoms!

The first 2 pages depict what is necessary to build a kingdom in the first place - exploration. After the concisely-written notes, we are introduced to the mechanics you need to run your kingdom - there are 4 phases in a kingdom's turn, upkeep, improvement, income and event. Almost all checks are related to a single mechanic and the player's decision, allowing for luck, skill and planning to determine and influence the success of a given kingdom. "But wait", you might say - "what about all the players in my campaign?" Fret not, each can fill a role in the kingdom and both the kingdom building and regular roleplaying are important. Especially when taking a look at city building, the next section of the book, in which you'll also find stronghold building guidelines and rules for the development of open spaces, the connections between PC- and Kingdom-level become fairly evident. Want an academy with scholars in your city? Well, buy one!
Edicts and events add a spicey touch to the building of nations and finally, there's the mass combat chapter in which the clash of armies, their equipment and special abilities, vassal armies etc. are detailed. Players in battle and the change from units to PCs and back is also mentioned along a selection of several sample armies.

On the rather-PC-centric-side, we get 17 feats mostly dealing with leadership and terrain-movement like swimming. For small armies of casters, we get so-called mass-combat spells, i.e. spells that can only be cast as long, huge rituals and subsequently be disrupted. Which, at least in my opinion, as a concept make for great instances when the PCs try to prevent the casting of a mass combat spell. There are some non-mass-combat spells here, too, just so you know. :)
Next up are two prestige classes, the devout healer, a healing-centered caster, the hidden sniper alternate ranger-archetype and the King's Eye, the kingdom's master-spies. There also are 2 pages of magic items, an exploration map, a kingdom sheet, a city district sheet, a sheet to keep track of notable NPCs and a mass combat army sheet. All the sheets are top-quality, easy to read and concisely presented.

Conclusion:
Layout is clear, adheres to the two-column standard and serves its purpose. The b/w-artworks are ok, though nothing to write home about. Editing is ok - I only noticed 2 mistakes on all the pages and both were minor typos. I only noticed one formatting error, a case of two capital letters in the beginning of a sentence. If you're reading this review, though, that's not what sparks your interest, but rather whether you should buy this book. To cut a long rant short: If you've ever entertained the notion of your PCs owning a keep, expanding it, ruling and participating in the complex notions of politics rather than just be henchmen of rulers, this book is for you - the rules from kingmaker are concise, cool and easy to grasp, but hard to master. And this book actually delivers all you need, compiled into an easy-to-hand-out reference that will make it even easier for your players to understand the rules and immerse themselves in the great prospects of rulership That being said, the book unfortunately is not perfect - while it's a great resource for kingdom & city building, the rules fall short when it comes to mass combat, at least in my opinion. Yes, they are good. Yes, they are necessarily abstract, but I'm spoiled by 3.5's "Cry Havoc" and would have LOVED to see an expanded take on the rules and more content in that section - more spells, monster rules, more special abilities for the units etc. I realize that this complaint might be unfair, but it's all that keeps me from all out declaring this the ultimate resource on kingdom & city building and mass combat. As it stands, I still love kingdom & city building and will continue to use my own rules for mass-combat. But that's just my preference. What's my final verdict, then? It's a great book, but it could have been the reference in more than being just a reference guide, but rather THE reference. Combined with the few typos, I'll settle for 4 Rudii and a hearty recommendation. Anyone who plans to run Kingmaker should get this for his/her players and the same holds true for anyone planning on having the PCs acquire a kingdom/city - for you this book is a must-have.





All right, that's it for now! Next time, I'll return to one of my first reviews, to the time when I only wrote one sentence. To when I was truly green. Revisit and finally do the product the justice it deserves. Oh, and I'll have some quality free stuff you might have missed.


Until then, as always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.

5.16.2011

EZG reviews 303 mid-level spells & a mad wench

Hey everybody,

I mentioned some time ago I would do them all and I always keep my word - thus, there we go!


101 4th level spells


This pdf is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 2 pages advertisements, leaving 27 pages for the 101 spells. So let's dive in!

After 4 pages of spell-lists, the new spells are introduced.
4th level has always been a peculiar one for my players and me: With dispel magic and the classic battle-spells like fireball and lightning bolt, 3rd level spells have traditionally been the ones my players anticipated. 4th level on the other hand...has almost always been one of the spell-levels that still has some spells left when the party rests. Subsequently, my players have not been too stoked about this level and thus, I'm hoping for this book to change that. Let's take a look whether it succeeds and which spells catch my eye, positive and negative.

Among the 101 spells were several that caught my eye, and I'll endeavor to give you some of the cool concepts contained herein: "Borrow Limb" lets you temporarily use an additional severed limb - creepy, cool, I love it. "Chaotic Blast" is a hasardeurs/chaos mages battle spell and extremely versatile. "Dying Vengeance" is a nice curse for bards."Fold" temporarily folds you into one square, making this an extremely cool plot/infiltration spell. "Foresight of the Just Warrior" is the first of several extremely cool paladin spells that caught my eye - it is feat-dependant, i.e. it can only be cast if you have power attack, but always makes your attack use the ideal amount of atk/damage exchange. "Hand of Time" speeds time for magic effects, essentially ending them faster - unfortunately also the beneficial ones. For all the people who want their paladin to become martyrs and make their character's ultimate sacrifice meaningful, we get "Last Act", which gives you one last round, even when you're dead, and "True Sacrifice", which sacrifices your life to resurrect another one. There were also some spells I didn't care too much for: "Boorishness" drops charisma of a foe to 1, essentially being a "save-or-suck"-spell for bards and sorcerors. "Sonic Blast" is a cone that deals sonic damage and just felt like filler. "Stomach Bloom" lets the target vomit up acid, damaging both him and an adjacent enemy. The damage is evenly divided between both. However, I'm not entirely sure, whether the target receives all the damage when there's no-one in vomiting range."Zone of Mishap" potentially makes casters fizzle a lot, but from the description I'm not entirely sure whether the caster is exempt from the spells effect or whether he has to check against his own spell.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any mistakes. The pdf is extensively bookmarked and layout adheres to the two-column-RiP-standard. The b/w-artworks are ok, though I've seen more beautiful ones in RiP-books. The quality of the crunch is top and I liked more spells than I didn't. 4th level becomes much more interesting thanks to this book and especially paladins get a LOT of awesome spells, though I would have loved to see the feat-concept further evolved. In spite of my praise, though, e.g. the 0- or 9th level installments felt a bit more imaginative to me. Thus, I'll settle for a final verdict of 4 Rudii - a good book of spells that helps casters make 4th level spells just as exciting as 3rd ones.







101 5th level spells

This pdf is 32 pages long, 1page front cover, 1page editorial, 1 page SRD and 2 pages advertisements, leaving 27 pages for 101 spells, so let's dive in!

After 3 pages of spell-lists we get the 101 spells. 5th level has traditionally been a level that made magic complex - abjurations, layered defenses and the first spells one can consider higher arcana - iconic. Instead of milling through all the spells, I'm going to tell you about the ones that grabbed my attention, positive or negative. Let's go! On the "cool-idea-side" we get "fell tree", which drops a tree on your opponents. Hilarious and kinda cool! "Flatten" makes you 2d, essentially opening a lot of creative potential for players to shine and use the spell in unconventional ways, especially in infiltrations.

"Pain Circuit" is a mechanically interesting spell - It opens up a conduct between you and your foe, making the foe experience your ailments and damages. My other favorite spell, though, has to be "Voice of Memories" - you can replace memories of the targets, change them etc. Story-writing gold for the GM and cool tactics for PCs, especially if they've screwed a given adventure up.

I've also noticed two spells I didn't care for: "Chastise" penalizes the enemy and deals non-lethal damage. If you've read some of my reviews, you'll notice that I'd usually love spells like that, offering to catch enemies alive. However, this spell actually gets the [evil]-descriptor. I get the "dealing unnecessary pain is evil"-argumentation, but this spell does not feel inherently evil, but could be arguably used for a plethora of "good" (e.g. NONLETHAL) ways. That's an easily corrected nitpick of mine, though. Of all the spells in the book, I felt that one was severely overpowered: "Spell Grounding". When within range of any rays and chain-spells (such as chain lightning), it is automatically drawn to you and is negated. I think the spell should only work for spells of level 5 or lower or at least offer an opposed caster-level check. That's about it with negatives, though. The only other negative thing I could say, is that there is a typo in the "Phantasmal Nymph"-spell, mentioning lich instead of nymph, an oversight from copying from the other cool phantasmal spell, "Phantasmal Lich".

Conclusion:
Editing is good, I only noticed one typo. Formatting and layout adhere to the b/w two-column standard by RiP. The file is extensively bookmarked and offers some very cool and imaginative spells for you. The b/w-artworks are also fine. Most of the spells rock, but I wasn't absolutely blown out of the water as e.g. with the 0-level spells. Due to my minor gripes with two of the spells and the aforementioned difference in coolness (at least from my point of view), I'll settle for a final verdict of 4.5 Rudii.




101 6th level spells



This pdf is 35 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 2 pages advertisements, leaving 30 pages for the 101 spells. Let's check them out!

6th level. The last level accessible to non-primary casters. An iconic level, a level that e.g. should offer a lot of nice stuff to e.g. the bard. Does it deliver? We'll see!
After 3 pages of spell-lists, we are introduced to the new 101 spells. I'll be following my format for these reviews, i.e. I'm going to tell you which spells I fancied and which ones I didn't like and try to give you a good overview of what you can expect from this installment of the 101-series.

All right, the first spell I loved, was "Aid Item", which gives an item 3 charges that can be used to activate the item faster. One of my absolute favorites in the book is "Bestow Major Curse", which offers a whopping selection of 14 (!!) new curses in one spell! By the way, have I mentioned that there are several other, really cool curse-like, permanent spells? The enchanters and practitioners of subtle magic like bards get some completely AWESOME spells - "Buried Suggestion" puts a suggestion into the target that cannot be detected until it is triggered. The bard's "Dance of Nakedness" does not make the target naked, but negates its items - however, the bard must keep moving AND stay close to the target - powerful, exciting and takes a seldom-seen mechanical edge to the spell. "Divide and Conquer" makes you a swarm of 300 tiny versions of yourself - damn cool. Fans of clerics get cool spells like "Excommunicate", "Exile" and similar spells that focus on their role not only as divine warriors, but also as spiritual and moral leaders.

There are also some spells that would make the chaos magic-fans and hasardeurs among you cackle with glee - I know I did: "Bouncing Boom" is a ball of changing energy - ever wanted to kill your enemies with an elemental bouncy ball? Glorious! There are also new scrying spells like "Scryingjack" that lets you take control of hostile scrying attempts and finally a spell to counter "Find the Path". There are also cool plotspells like "Kiss of Death" - kiss an enemy and get the ability to kill them in the next 12 hours - great idea to subvert parties and trick PCs. Spells I didn't like...well. Ă„hem. Sorry. This time, I didn't notice any balance problems, there is not a single filler spell in this book.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting is top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the two-column standard and the b/w-artwork of this installment is cool. Furthermore, I liked the spells. ALL of them. They are cool, imaginative and I've just given you a small taste of the great spells herein. Even in the good 101-spells-series, this one stands out as an excellent, supremely cool book of spells. I'll rate this a full 5 Rudii. If you like spells, go ahead and check this out.







All right, still here? I don't know about you, but I need some diversion from this crunchy overload, so let's check out the latest Faces of the tarnished Souk, ok?


Faces of the Tarnished Souk: The Mad Wench Maelgatryx




This 8th installment of the Faces of the Tarnished Souk series is 21 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 2 pages advertisements, leaving a whopping 16 pages of content - nice! Let's check it out!

As with all installments of the FoTS-series, we start off with a one-page introduction to the character, including information on dream-burning, a lore-section and a how-to-use sidebox for DMs looking to use the witch in their campaigns. Witch? Yep, we get full APG-support in this installment, further establishing this line to use more than just the relatively common core-rules. Just take a look at the cover. She looks mad, yes. And crazy. And boy, she is. Not in the nice mad-hatter kind of way, but rather in the potentially extremely deadly, unpleasant kind of way.She is truly a dastardly, drunken, mean-spirited proprietor of a place where the worst of the worse the Coliseum has to offer go to drink, battle and, perhaps even, die horribly.

Potential SPOILERS abound, thus I'd encourage potential players to skip to the conclusion.

Still here? All right.

Maelgatryx is actually the descendant of a VERY important major player of the coliseum and secretly wants to be accepted by this dreadful entity. Once again, her CR 20 incarnation is a beauty to behold (even when the coarse witch isn't) and gets two templates and a cool level that ensures that her drinking habit reflects heavily into her fighting style. She also gets a full stat-block for her cacodaemon familiar and a minor artifact weapon. Ready for some stroke of genius? There you go: Her signature weapon are the shrunken heads (!!!!) of a half-fiendish ettin (!!!) with whom she talks and which she uses as both a bola (!!!) AND a dire-flail. (!!!) Do I have to say more? I was cackling with diabolical glee all the time while reading this. We also get 8 new feats, centering on "witchy" stuff like creating shrunken heads and her familiar. That's not where the additional content stops, though: We also get a new witch's patron, "Dreams" and two new dream-traits, as per the Coliseum rules. Moreover, we get a new incantation (and I love incantations, especially when they're about adding insult to injury and consuming souls of fallen enemies!), 3 spells and 2 magical bodices for all the ladies, who, like mine, think that oxygen is for wusses.

Her mid-level incarnation also rocks, but, in contrast to other FoTS-installments, my favorite one is actually the low-level version, possibly due to her familiar at this level, "Mistah Eatey-Eye", an albino raven. Great and iconic idea. But that's not where this pdf stops: Rather, we get the rune-carved template and, more importantly, rules for variant tieflings: You can choose from 10 basic ability sets, depending on your fiendish ancestry, and yes, qlippoths and even onis are included. More importantly, you can roll (or choose if you take a feat) on a list of a whopping 100 abilities to customize the hell out of your tiefling.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the tried-and-true b/w-two-column standard and the B/w-artworks are nice. Writing adheres to the high and evocative quality we've come to expect from Rite Publishing and the amount of content for this price is rather unprecedented - we get so much more out of this installment than in even any of the other, chock-full pdfs of this series and the selection of e.g. cool items and support for incantations just rocks. Try as I might, I can't with any good conscience nit-pick at any part of this file. It's just a great little pdf and subsequently deserves ANOTHER 5-Rudii-rating, which makes this the 3rd 5-Rudii-verdict in a row for this series. Which is by the way the record for any rpg-product line I've reviewed so far. Congratulations!





Next time, I've got some cool critters for you.

A ll right, that's it for now, thank you for reading my ramblings!
Endzeitgeist out.